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Here’s Why You Should Never Keep Score at Work

Topics: Work Culture

No one wants to be taken advantage of at work. We know we have to do our part, but it doesn’t seem fair when our part appears to be bigger than everyone else’s.

If you find that you’re constantly asked to go the extra mile and your coworkers aren’t, or you’re always picking up slack for others, you might start to become resentful. This can easily lead you to start keeping score in your head, tracking what you’re doing and what others aren’t. While this might be a natural response, it’s also a really bad idea. Here’s why:

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Image Credit: Death to the Stock Photo
  1. It’s bad for professional relationships, just like it’s bad for personal ones.

It’s easy to understand why keeping score in our personal lives and relationships isn’t a good idea. For example, if you tallied up every single errand, chore, favor, responsibility, etc., exchanged between yourself and your spouse, you’d drive yourself (and your partner) nuts: “We saw the movie I wanted to see last week, but you did the dishes last night, so I’m not sure who should clean the bathroom!”

Also, even if you did manage to find a system that worked, things would never ever come out even. Some weeks (OK, maybe some years) one person just seems to end up putting in more effort than they receive in return, and that’s actually perfectly all right. Perhaps the other partner contributed in ways that weren’t noticed, or maybe the tides will turn and it will all come back at some point down the road. No matter what the case may be, a relationship does not benefit from this kind of focus or mentality. Instead, partners should act because they want to act, and for the good of everyone involved, not because they want to receive something in return.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

A score-keeping mindset impacts your relationships, be they professional or personal, in negative ways. Instead, when you contribute without expectations or conditions, you’re not only coming from the right place, you’ll also inspire others to follow your lead. This is true whether you’re at home, or at work.

  1. It’s based in manipulation, so it’s terrible for teams.

These days, we all have to work as a part of a team. When you keep score, you’re working against that. Always being on the lookout for who’s doing what compared to everyone else, or engaging in “chip management” as it’s been dubbed, is time-consuming and it take a lot of energy. Healthy teams don’t function this way. Members of a team should contribute when they’re moved to do so, and in ways that play to their strengths and interests, not to even a score. Team members need to work to build trust and respect, and score-keepers destroy that process by setting up a tit-for-tat exchange instead. Helping others because you want them to help you in the future, or even because you think you owe them, is more manipulative than it is self-protective, and this kind of thinking won’t benefit your team in any way.

  1. It’ll make you unhappy.  

The thing about score-keeping is that it’s rare for someone who engages in it to ever feel as though they have come out even with just about anyone. Instead, they’re often feeling slighted and as if they’ve been treated unfairly and are getting the short end of the stick, once again. Maybe these folks have missed something, and others are contributing more than they give them credit for or even realize. But, even when a score-keeper is right to feel as though they contributed more than others, thinking of this as “unfair” only makes them miserable.

In general, comparing ourselves to others make us unhappy, and keeping score at work is an ugly manifestation of that. For the sake of the business, the team, and your own happiness, just don’t do it.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know anyone who keeps score at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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