In my many jobs over the years in various industries I have encountered a person who I call, The Scorekeeper, in almost every single place. The Scorekeeper spends untold amounts of energy keeping track of what others are doing. I’ve seen scorekeepers keep track of other people’s sick days, how many hours other people were stationed on cash registers, reference desks and other service desks. I’ve seen Scorekeepers who track how many hours other people spend in committee meetings, how much money they get to spend from acquisition budgets and how many times another person came in late, took breaks, took personal phone calls and a whole host of things that are really not their business. I’ve even seen one scorekeeper keep track of how many treats other people took from a shared plate of brownies, cookies, bars, etc.
In personal relationships, I’ve had conversations with friends/family where they have told me about “injustices” they have encountered while keeping score on household chores, budgets, sick days, hours spent at work, time spent with children and even details of their relationships with intimate partners.
I’m am going to make a proclamation that is wholly unproven; but, substantiated by a mountain of anecdotal evidence.
Keeping score creates suffering and no one ever wins.
I know. It may seem unfair if you are the one that ALWAYS gets up early to take the dog for a walk or at work, it may seem unfair that you have more responsibilities for the same pay as a coworker. In the for profit sector , you could just go in to your boss’s office and ask for more money. In the public sector, with unions and civil service rules, this is just not possible. So, what do you do? Stop keeping score. Just stop.
I’m not talking about big injustices such as discrimination or illegal activity. I’m talking about the little things that seem unfair and could drive you crazy if you let them.
I have found that where there is in imbalance not in my favor, there is frequently another imbalance that is in my favor. In the 19 years, I was with my ex, I can honestly admit I doubt I did laundry (by myself) more than two dozen times. That is a lot of laundry. On the other hand, I doubt my ex made dinner for us more than six times a year, if that. Early in our relationship, we quickly learned that keeping score benefits no one and only becomes fuel for arguments over stupid things.
The same can be true in the workplace. The Scorekeeper in a workplace is NEVER happy. Oh, I’m sure there are moments of happiness when they think they’ve won in some way; but, I’m going to guess that it doesn’t happen very frequently. In most places I’ve worked, The Scorekeeper is the least happy person. I don’t think this is a surprise. How could they be happy? They are constantly monitoring and measuring everything around them instead of focusing on what they can control: their own tasks and goals.
If you are a scorekeeper, I think there are a couple of things you can do to start giving up that role.
Remove the following words from your vocabulary: “always” and “never”
If you find yourself thinking “she always….” stop yourself. If it’s a thought related to work, ask yourself this: what can I do today (at work) to have a good day? It might be that you need to feel a sense of accomplishment. It might be that you need to get out of the building at lunch and take a walk. Think about the things you can do to stop worrying about what your coworkers are doing and just focus on YOUR workday. I find that list making can help. Make a list of the things at work that are important to you. It could look like this:1. finish next week’s schedule 2. check with Jane about software issues 3. schedule community room for computer class 4. contact potential volunteers 5. ask Sally how her dad is doing
If you find your mind noticing that a coworker only has one hour on the reference desk and you have 3, tell yourself: this is not my concern. That is outside my control. I only need to be concerned with my own job duties and the things within my control. And then think about those duties. Think about how you are going to use your time at the reference desk. Distract yourself from the score. Remind yourself of how the flexibility in your workplace allows you the freedom to enjoy your work. You will naturally gravitate towards the parts of your job you enjoy and gladly take on a bigger burden for those tasks. I would much rather help people with computer problems than talk with people doing genealogies or researching local history. So, I handle more of those questions and I get to pass on the history questions to a colleague that enjoys those. If we were keeping score this would not happen.
Scorekeeping in the workplace generally makes administrators/managers tighten their enforcement of rules and policies. Life is not black and white. It just isn’t. There is grey in-between and sometimes grey creates judgement calls. These sorts of tightening usually result in lose/lose/lose. The original complainer loses. Their coworker loses. And management loses too because now they have to be rigid and that only ticks people off.
When I was little and my sister and I had scrapes we would, of course, mess with the scabs that formed and my mother would say: if you keeping picking at that, you’re going to make it bleed.
That’s what scorekeeping is: picking at something until it bleeds.
I guarantee that you will enjoy work more and be happier in general if you make a commitment to stop keeping score at work and in your personal life.
As a former scorekeeper, let me tell you–this is so true! It’s amazing how many things had to happen to me (not that I’m keeping um…count) before I could finally see this.
Wonderful post. I wish I could make everyone here read it. Thank you
Thank you! I think that it requires a will to break out of this kind of thinking; but, it can be done. And it’s such a relief not to have to keep score.
Thanks for the reminder-I can see how I can apply it to both my personal and professional life.