Dear Coach: Do I Beat Them or Join Them?

February 23, 2024   |   Lesli Mones

What’s the Problem?

Dear Coach,

I have a problem that I can’t seem to resolve. 

My workplace is very competitive and siloed. Since joining the team, I have tried to bring in a different way of working, one that is closer to my style. I’ve been transparent with my colleagues and tried to make my team more collaborative, but I feel like a voice in the wilderness. All my peers just continue to look out for and protect themselves and their teams, resist sharing information, and basically make a very limited effort to collaborate, particularly around things that matter most.

I feel I’ve reached my breaking point.  

I seem to be the only one making the effort to collaborate, and I just don’t see any benefit for myself, my team, or my organization. I feel like a doormat, with other people getting ahead because of my help or getting promoted before me, and I’m over it!  So, even though it might sound bad, I’ve decided to take care of myself and my team first, do the best work we can, and let the chips fall where they may. 

I was talking this over with my partner, who works in another company, and she disagreed with my new strategy completely. She says that I’m sacrificing my integrity out of spite and that it won’t end well for me.

She might be right, but quite frankly, I’m out of ideas. 

What do you think? How else could I possibly move forward without sacrificing my own career growth and sanity?


At The End of My Rope


What Do We Think?

Dear “At The End of My Rope,”

What you’re describing – a siloed and competitive workplace – is tough. 

Sometimes, employees create silos out of a sense of competition or a scarcity mindset. Other times, it comes down to “the way we’ve always done it.” While we agree personally with your tendency toward openness and collaboration and believe sharing information makes everyone’s thinking better, we think you need to dig a little deeper to find a solution for yourself.

First, your question tells us that:

  • You are experiencing an inner conflict. Even though you say you’re ready to make this abrupt change, you wouldn’t be asking us for our opinion if you truly were. 
  • You work in a competitive environment, and the leadership team is enabling this behavior – whether consciously or unconsciously – by a lack of attention to these dynamics. 
  • You’re out of ideas for how to manage this siloed, competitive environment. 

So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? We think:

  • You’re not able to shift the culture the way you wish by communicating with your peers and having teams work and share information better together.
  • You’re making a decision out of anger and frustration, and it might backfire. As we like to say, a reactive leader is a powerless leader.
  • Your desire to be collaborative and lift everyone up is a reflection of your personal power. We see this as a leadership moment. Having insight into this issue, in our minds, makes you responsible for surfacing it and helping others grow and change. This may feel unfair, but it does belong to the role of leader; it’s a challenge to use your personal power to bring others along.


What’s the Solution?

Here are a few things to consider before you act: 

  • When you look at your company and the world at large, recognize that very few people know how to use their positional power effectively. You have an opportunity to choose: to either take the easy route or cultivate the kind of leadership that is good for you and the world. 
  • While it may be true that ruthless people can and do get promoted, you have to decide if that’s the path you can actually take. Remember that no decision is a standalone one, and there will be a series of cascading decisions and actions that follow, as well as the consequences to your reputation, credibility, and your ability to work effectively if you abruptly drop your authentic and collaborative work style.
  • Ask yourself honestly, are you truly out of ideas, and this is the only solution you can find? Or are you just angry and reactive?  Are you acting from a triggered state, or is this thought process coming from your highest, best self? 

If you are feeling triggered (that’s our interpretation!), then you need to take some time before jumping to rash decisions or making big changes. 

Get some feedback from people you trust, do some reflecting, and get yourself back to a clear and calm state so you can access your best thinking. From there, you can come up with some ways forward that will be good for you and the company while allowing you to stay true to yourself and succeed in your role. 

You’ve got this!


Each month, we answer questions we often get from the leaders we work with and unpack how, at the end of the day, every problem is a power problem. If you have an issue you just can’t solve, get in touch! We’d love to answer your questions in an upcoming Dear Coach post. Find us at [email protected], or on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter.