Amid football playoff season, my approach to supporting teams mirrors a shift in how we can foster positive dynamics within our professional lives. When the Steelers head to Buffalo this weekend, I’ll cheer on a team I love. That is not always the case when a game involves any two others. Sometimes, I find myself cheering for a team not out of genuine affinity but rather as a strategic choice to support their opponent, driven by some calculated dislike. If that team loses, i feel a sense of satisfaction.
That experience is called schadenfreude, where we derive pleasure from other’s misfortune. When actress Lori Loughlin and clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli were convicted of paying to get their daughters into USC on a fake soccer scholarship, people smiled and said they deserved it and were glad they were headed off to jail.
Of course, in business and in leadership, favorites don’t always win the Superbowl, and sometimes they self-destruct. It isn’t always celebrities who we enjoy watching fall from grace, but sometimes colleagues who have success that we may be jealous of because we do not have that same level of achievement. We may smile at someone who doesn’t get the promotion or fails to meet their sales quota.
It’s time to embrace schadenfreude’s younger and healthier brother, “fruedenfreude.” This notion entails finding pleasure in another’s success and recognizing that we can all get behind someone’s victory.
On the news the other day was a story of a disabled teenager playing with his basketball team, who makes an incredible shot to win the game. He’s a big fan of Steph Curry, who plays for the Golden State Warriors. The broadcaster mentions that this young man dreams of meeting his hero on TV. A few weeks later, there is a follow-up story of how Curry invited the kid to a game, had a shoot-around, and gave him lots of bling. Easy to have freudenfreude on that story.
In Strategy-Driven Leadership, which I co-wrote with Michael Couch, we share that research shows that high performers in organizations, among other qualities, contribute to the success of others. Recognizing strengths, offering support, and celebrating collective achievements are integral to effective leadership. Translating these principles into our professional lives requires a shift in supporting and uplifting our colleagues.
In her research at Ursinus College, Catherine Chambliss developed a program to strengthen Freudenfreude that can be used in the workplace.
- Follow-up on success: Display a genuine interest in a colleague’s success by asking detailed questions and fostering a supportive environment, such as “Tell me how you influenced your buyer to see your perspective?”
- Share Joy: Actively acknowledge and celebrate the success of team members. Simple and genuine congratulations and even a comment about being proud of someone’s efforts are on target support.
- Give Credit: Share the contributions of others when you succeed. No one does a task alone, and singling out team members and identifying their contributions helps them remember their efforts.
- Brag on Them: Intentionally share words of recognition for others’ successes. I encourage people to send a note to a colleague’s manager sharing about a particular accomplishment or action they took in support of the business.
By incorporating these practices, not only do we foster a positive work environment, but we also establish a foundation where all celebrate the success of one another. I often find that supporting one’s success makes it easier for everyone to support other’s victories.
In the spirit of recognizing excellence, it’s only fair to acknowledge that Tom Brady, the former quarterback of the New England Patriots, is the GOAT (greatest of all time). Good job, Tom and the Pats, on all those Super Bowl wins.
© Richard Citrin 2024