Journal Article

What data on Formula One crashes suggests about workplace rivalries

Harvard Business Review
Henning Piezunka, Wonjae Lee, Richard Haynes, Matthew S. Bothner (2018)
Subject(s): Human resources management/organizational behavior, Management sciences, decision sciences and quantitative methods
Keyword(s): Competition, conflict, social networks, status, tournaments
JEL Code(s): D74, J28

Although we are often drawn to colleagues with whom we have much common, when we are too similar to someone - especially in terms of status - that common ground becomes turf we feel compelled to defend. Status-similarity threatens our uniqueness, fostering an urge to compete with and out-perform a would-be workplace "twin." Our study of collisions among Formula One drivers, from which we offer leadership insights in this article, shows that when two drivers are very similar in terms of status, they are especially likely to engage in dangerous competition that escalates into a collision. In the workplace, if you feel a twin is sizing you up and trying to usher you into a "game of chicken" on the corporate racetrack, remember that crashing will take you both out of the race, so take steps to steer clear of escalating the conflict. For instance, ahead of a meeting with a workplace twin, you can practice anticipatory self-discipline: prior to your encounter, make a deliberate choice to stay aligned with your core values. Then, stay aware of your antagonist, but without being obsessed with them. This way, you won’t get seduced into a boardroom "car wreck." Protect your lane, while keeping your eyes on the finish line.

ISSN 0017-8012 (Print)