The Workplace Hunger Games


Do you ever feel like you’re sitting in a room full of tributes separated by cubicles? If you’ve not read or seen The Hunger Games series, I hope you’re okay and have recovered from being trapped under that rock for so long. Essentially, The Hunger Games depicts a dystopian society wherein children fight to the death in a televised yearly competition. There are no rules, some competitors have sponsors that help them along the way, and you’ve got to have skills to survive. The last contestant, or tribute, standing receives great fame and fortune.

If you’re sensing some real commonalities between that scenario and the office you go to everyday, you aren’t alone. Competition in the workplace is a common occurrence for companies large and small across all industries. Whether you’re in banking, manufacturing, or even the non-profit world, odds are you’re competing with your workmates for recognition, bonuses, and promotions. And may the odds be ever in your favor… Sorry, back to the topic at hand. Healthy competition can motivate employees, inspire them to be more innovative, and deliver strong results. Unfortunately, if executed poorly, competition can create a toxic environment with questionable ethical practices and poor employee morale.

When companies foster an environment where job stability and compensation are based on ranking employees against each other, employees understandably feel fearful and insecure. In order to survive, they may resort to hoarding information, falsifying records, or leaving poisonous berries in the office kitchen daring their cube mate to steal their food one more time. (Just kidding, this is a Hunger Games reference. Please don’t hurt your coworkers). Poor office relationships, though, are certainly a consequence of a hyper-competitive environment.

Most good competitors know that the best results come from competing with yourself. It’s great to benchmark your performance and set goals based on your coworkers’ achievements, but getting better at anything requires assessing your own abilities and working from there. Also, working together with your team, instead of against them, is essential to achieving the best results. [SPOILER ALERT] Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark both survived against all odds because they chose to work together.

Competition can be fun when done right. Katniss and her friend Gale had the best of times hunting together in the woods and sharpening their archery skills. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re in a competition arena with carnivorous monkeys and jabberjays, maybe you should volunteer to leave.

Hannah Barfield Spellmeyer on Linkedin
Hannah Barfield Spellmeyer
Hannah Barfield Spellmeyer is an Executive Recruiter for Stott and May, an international technology-focused recruiting firm. Hannah serves on the Board of Directors for The Family Effect and The Upcountry History Museum as well as edits the Junior League of Greenville's biannual magazine, VISIONS. She's is a proud member of Leadership Greenville, Class 43 and was named one of Greenville’s Best and Brightest Under 35 in 2015. For more blogs and information, visit

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