Law is, by nature a competitive profession. The adversarial nature of litigation tends to put everyone on a competitive edge, and this sense of competition is often fostered in law school or legal support education programs.
While a competitive nature can help lawyers and legal support professionals succeed, it can also harm office culture. Teams may suffer, experiencing undue stress as they find themselves pitted against one another unnecessarily.
To start changing a toxic competitive culture, keep these steps in mind:
The first step to any change in behavior is to understand what you are currently doing, how it impacts others, and what you could do differently. To change a competitive culture, then, it’s important to foster self-awareness in your team members.
Start by talking to your team about the competitive atmosphere and its effects on them and their teammates. Encourage people to share their own experiences without judgment, and ask them to imagine different approaches to the same problems.
Encourage Communication and Discourage Penalties for Communicating:
Strong communication on a team helps build a sense of “psychological safety,” or the knowledge that one can share ideas and make mistakes without judgment or punishment. When teams practice communicating, and when they can share ideas without fear of penalty, they are more likely to have a sense of psychological safety with one another.
Empathy, or the ability to see situations from another’s perspective, help teams better understand one another. It helps them see when another team member needs help, and it helps them determine which team member can best help them with a problem.
Encourage team members to put themselves in one another’s shoes. What would they do in the other person’s situation? Avoid discussing how the other person could have prevented the situation in the first place; instead, start with what has actually happened and move forward.
Seek Assistance When You Need It:
Sometimes, the best way to understand an internal office culture is to gain an outside perspective on that culture. For example, you might reach out to a staffing firm to help you better understand the causes and effects of competitiveness on your team and how to reshape that culture into a more effective one.
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