Even if you didn’t see the Oscars, you might have heard about it. What struck me was the excitement for others. Here we are at an event where everyone is competing against each other, and yet they are also cheering on each other. How does that humanity show up in our everyday culture at work?

We often hear about high-performance cultures being cut-throat and competitive; we hear about power plays, the lack of support between team members, and even sabotaging each other’s ability to get work done by being disengaged or downright working against someone. This kind of work environment is the reality that many live through each day. And no wonder it’s burning us out. We are fighting a fight we cannot win because it’s not about being good at our work.

The Oscars is about high performance, but what we saw this year wasn’t cut-throat; it was supportive. Every person nominated wants to win but is still able to celebrate the winner if it’s not them. This is how competition and care work together. The person is more important than the award. Humanity is more important than accolades. 

I did love that several of the winners were considered later in their careers, especially in a culture where youth is favored it’s important that we are not driven by the fear of being irrelevant but rather wanting to continue to contribute. Especially at work, where we are going to see up to five generations working together, it’s a must that we start to see beyond the surface and into the human advantage that we all have, which is also what connects us instead of separating us.


At the end of the day, in a toxic environment where competition and striving to be better or do more is how we survive work, we need to pause and realize what we care about is essentially what drives us as human beings. And it’s something we share at the core of who we are. The hopes and dreams and striving to make something of ourselves, create something that matters to others, and be part of the change we want to see in the world, is not a competition; it’s care.

Essentially competition can come from care, or it can come from fear of not being good enough, not making it before a certain time or deadline, or not reaching your goals. As we just saw at the Oscars, these actresses and actors, who received and achieved awards, were all driven by care. They did not take the parts because they were afraid they would not get another one; they did not take the part to make sure no one else got it; they took the part because it represented something they thought was worth doing. And then they put their heart and soul into it, making it even better because the best of their humanness showed up.

Instead of the Oscars being a toxic environment of competition and tearful loss, we saw the care and tearful joy. We saw people sharing in the joy of those who won because at the end of the day, we are all in this together. We are all human beings at work, and we all want to do our best work, be seen and acknowledged for what that is, and we all want to be included. Care is the key that unlocks that.

It’s time we recognize the power of we. Like Jamie Lee Curtis said, “I’m not standing here alone, I stand here as 100s of people because WE won an Oscar today.” And then there was Ke Huy Quan who said, “Mom, I just won an Oscar.” We don’t go it alone, even if it can feel like it sometimes.

Next week I’ll be diving deeper into a toxic culture and why it will not get us where we are going and what to do when we are stuck in one.