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Your Job Is a Game-Make Your Opponents External

Harrison Barnes
By May 16,2024
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In this article Harrison explains how you can ensure success in your career by externalizing your opponents. Your job is like a game; if you work hard, play by the rules of the company and are seen as part of the team you will be viewed as a valuable player for the company. The most significant part of any game is the presence of an opponent. Don’t look for an opponent among your co-workers. Never speak negatively of your team members. Instead, concentrate on the external opponents. External opponents bring you and the team closer as you work towards a common goal. In order for you and your company to succeed it is important to have an external opponent. Harrison advises people to consistently work hard and not participate in the politics. This is a sure way to score big in your career.

After being in the workforce for many years, I realize that all of our jobs are, simply, games. In every job you have ever had, you are part of a game. Your ability to play the game and be part of the team will determine your success or failure. The ability of your employer to externalize the game and the opponent will determine the success or failure of the enterprise. Games comprise rules, freedoms, barriers, and opponents.

Every organization has a certain set of rules by which it operates. These rules determine how you should do your work. If you violate these rules, they can kick you out of the game (fired) much like a soccer player can be ejected from a game for doing something improper. Your employer will typically have a set of rules for when you are supposed to be at work, how the work is to be done, and the number of tasks they require you to complete (in a sport we might call these points).

Every organization and business also has a series of freedoms and barriers. The freedoms are the actions you can take and the things you may do. The barriers are the things you cannot do. The freedoms are given much like a sport assigns different freedoms. For example, in soccer, the goalie is the only one allowed to touch the ball with his hands (a specially designated freedom), while the other players may not do so (a barrier). In corporations, different people typically have different rights, depending on their given position within the corporation.

The most significant part of any game is an opponent. If you don’t have an opponent, it’s not a game. It’s just practice.

One of the most interesting things I have seen in the workforce is that organizations have opponents who are both external and, unfortunately, internal. A business and its people are “fired up” and motivated primarily by outside opponents and the need to overcome them. Businesses and their people also become more cohesive by coming together against their opponents. If this does not occur, the organization most often fails.

Most companies have a series of external opponents. For example, Yahoo!’s external opponent would be Google and vice versa. Amazon’s would be Barnes & Noble. Apple’s is Microsoft. The presence of external opponents serves to bring people within corporations together to fight for a common purpose and to motivate the people in the company to work hard and believe in what they are doing. Fighting the good fight helps motivate people to get up in the morning and to get excited about going to work.

Organizations operate under the belief there is an external opponent to be fought (i.e., the “established company”) in a space. However, if there is no established force for the organization to fight against, problems often develop.

Another issue that develops in virtually all companies–especially companies with no external opponent—is that people inside the company manufacture internal opponents instead of external ones. This most often occurs in companies without well-defined external competitors. The internal opponent phenomenon is among the more important things to understand with work and your success in both getting and keeping a job.

Several years ago, I started getting calls from associates in a large law firm in Los Angeles that was called Troop Meisinger. This was a very successful law firm that was also considered a wonderful place to work in Los Angeles. While I am not aware of the specifics of how the firm was run, many parts of the firm had been pieced together from many other law firms (i.e., groups had joined from other firms or through mergers). When these groups joined, they were often viewed as competitors for the firm’s work and profits and were treated as outsiders by the senior staff attorneys. Eventually, the firm became a group of many factions that were all working against one another. Instead of competing against outside law firms, these factions were competing against one another.

The calls that came to me from the firm’s associates were always about a different internal opponent within the firm. With so many internal opponents, the firm eventually imploded. When many of these groups found new jobs at other firms, they started creating the same sort of problems out of habit and did a lot of damage to the firms they joined.

As the adage states, “Two is company and three is a crowd.” This is often true. A group of two people often collaborates better than a group of three. I think what happens in a group of three is two of the people will find a slight to major fault with the third person and, as a result, will come together to exclude the third person.

The same thing happens in many organizations. Someone always seems to be on “the outs.” When people are on “the outs,” they become an opponent to the group. It is like an athlete who is playing badly. The team members talk about how this player is harming the team’s overall chances for success. The team may decide to sideline the player unless he or she changes and rises to the occasion.

I read somewhere that every year General Electric ranks its employees, and that the employees in the bottom 10 percent each year are given one year to improve. If they fall into the same bottom 10 percent the next year, they are dismissed. This is a method by which the company ensures that people who are not performers are eventually excluded from the team.

Unhealthy organizations can also find opponents in a paranoid way from time to time. These organizations allow rumors to flourish and enemies proliferate. If a manager arbitrarily fires people (that is, whether they have been playing by the rules), people in the organization may manufacture internal opponents. No one knows who can be trusted in unhealthy organizations, and the process can get out of control.

This brings us back to you, and how you can find success in your career. You do not want to imagine the people you are working with as opponents, but as teammates. Externalize the opponent. Don’t look for an opponent among your coworkers. You want to ensure you are playing by the rules in your company and that they always see you as part of the team. If you’re not, then the team will quickly turn against you.

When you are interviewing for a position, you need to stress you’ll be part of the team, not someone who will be excluded from the team. When you are doing a job, you need to do everything within your power to ensure you’re always winning favor with the team and that you are an asset. This means you should do things publicly that show you’re trying to help the team. You should also never speak negatively of your team members.

One of the best ways to tell if someone will be good at a job is to look at their employment stability. This is even more important than where someone went to school, how well the person did in school, or even how prestigious a last employer was. Employment stability shows the ability to be a successful team player. Working successfully with most employers is like avoiding a fiery ball that is always moving around. If the ball touches you, you will lose favor with the team and you’ll be ejected from the game. The best workers are always the people who have the most stability and who are able to consistently avoid the furious ball. I think this has a lot to do with the simple fact they’re able to work well with a team.

The people who have the most employment stability have very similar profiles. These people join “teams” rather than get jobs. When they are looking for a new job, it is usually because the owner of the company retired, or because of some other factor beyond their control. When they are hired, it is almost like their presence alone brings positivity to the organization they are joining. I have seen the résumés of people who have joined one company after another that failed. I’ve hired people like this and it’s as if they’ve brought a cancer to our company. They are negative and polarizing. I wonder sometimes if extremely negative people inside a corporation can actually cause that company to fail.

When I observe people who’ve had a lot of employment stability, I notice they never take part when people spoke negatively of others. They simply do not get involved. I’m amazed at how well they navigate the waters and stay employed when others around them do not. It is also worth noting the people who do well are also the people who consistently work hard and play by the rules. The team always views them as valuable players.

In order to become employed and stay employed, you want to be part of the team. You do not want to be on the outs with the team. Instead of talking about internal opponents, find external ones to concentrate on. External opponents bring you and the team closer as you work toward a common goal. For your company to succeed, it’s important it has an external opponent to drive it toward victory.

My career advice is to leave it to other people to get involved in the political innuendos and other negative goings-on in your company. Work hard and do not take part in the politics. This is a sure way for you to score big in your career.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

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10 Responses to “ Your Job Is a Game-Make Your Opponents External”
  1. Avatar Chirag says:

    Thanks for helpful information you catch up us with your instructional explanation. I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. Avatar Shaheenul says:

    I actually don’t think much of a exception between what I do and what an entry-level person might do on a typical day. This may in part, reflect our non-hierarchical approach to organization. But I’m sure it also reflects the simple fact that we all pitch in on whatever we’re doing – we need to as our resources are, as everywhere, stretched pretty tight. But, whether entry level or not, we all do much pretty much the same types of work (I just seem to attend more meetings). But more on that in moment.

    There is no typical day; our schedules vary depending on the time of year and student needs. Yes, I know that’s an unsatisfactory answer – but, nevertheless, an accurate one. A “typical” day for me might include 2 to 4 individual one-hour counseling appointments with masters or PhD students; a stint (usually 2 hours) handling walk-in appointments (10 to 15 minute meetings with students that do not require an appointment – usually to discuss a draft resume/CV or for interview prep); preparing or delivering a skills-based workshop or hosting a faculty, industry, or alumni panel; the usual administrative work and, of course, responding to e-mail. Somewhere in there, we have to make time for learning about new careers or job market developments, planning, employer and faculty outreach, and the organizational work that comes with larger scale or more complicated events such as career fairs. Right now we’re spending a good deal of time on planning and coordinating programming for the fall semester – and on preparing workshops. Where I might focus more on planning and outreach (to potential employers and faculty/alumni), a more entry-level person might concentrate more on counseling and workshop development and delivery. But there are no hard and fast rules.

  3. Avatar Roma says:

    yes, I agree,
    and if you realize that the team is “not right for you”, – NEWER FOLLOW THE TEAM, AND DO NOT BE A PART OF THIS GAME,

    look for another team until you find the right one, and than TOGETHER WITH THE RIGHT TEAM PLAY THE GAME AGAINST EXTERNAL COMPETITION

  4. Avatar vshamu says:

    yea,This is an nice column.I agree with your writings.It is helpful for the job seekers.Any one can find enough information from this article.Thanks for your nice writing.

  5. Avatar Jahid says:

    The people who have the most employment stability have very similar profiles. These people join “teams” rather than get jobs. When they are looking for a new job, it is usually because the owner of the company retired, or due to some other factor beyond their control. When they are hired, it is almost like their presence alone brings positivity to the organization they are joining. I have seen the résumés of people who have joined one company after another that failed. I’ve hired people like this and it’s almost as if they’ve brought a cancer to our company. They are negative and polarizing. I wonder sometimes if extremely negative people inside a corporation can actually cause that company to fail.

  6. Avatar LitonKhan says:

    Today’s competitive world job is dream to all. People try to get job but it is not so easy.But job searching sites doing a very important job for finding jobs. There are millions of job searching sites. But all of them are not reliable. Very few of them doing effectively and efficiently. “HarrisonBarnes” is pioneer among them. They are reliable and trustful. I am telling this because I have some good experience about them.

  7. Avatar teching job in physical education says:

    i would like to know about teching job in physical education

  8. Avatar Sarah says:

    I agree that you should work hard and stay away from the politics. However, others may be jealous of you and may start a mud-slinging campaign against you so they can be promoted and not you. Therefore, in order to protect yourself from “bad politics”, I suggest you make healthy alliances within your organization right from the beginning of your career. Introduce yourself to others and offer to help them.

  9. Avatar iraj says:

    This is very good

  10. Avatar Morris Max says:


    A job is always a challenge in which we have to be successful at any cost without any failure. In any job your opponent always try to mislead you but it is our duty to stick in firm decision. Thanks. :)


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