Anyone who has worked corporate knows the term. It is the mean and distorted outcome of some good and desired concepts. On the one hand, the natural desire of people to grow, compete and be recognized; and on the other hand, a culture of meritocracy in organizations. Both concepts, correct and desired.
However, that race to thrive in corporate and to get a promotion often turns into a fierce and silent battle between colleagues for a role that helps them climb that organizational pyramid where the higher, the fewer positions. The expression rat race sums up the unbridled pursuit of achievement, in many cases, without a sense of true purpose and with a very high the emotional price to pay for.
Unfortunately, that circumstance can lead to organizational Darwinism or turn the process of building a career into a live reality show, daily from 9 to 5, into a kind of corporate big brother with the entire organization as witness and, in some cases, side-kick players taking an active role in either ‘team John’ vs ‘ team Dina’.
The winner takes it all and the losers have no choice but to leave for another company where ‘I can really be valued’ or to start chasing their dreams (remember the GE post-Jack Welch successions?). Witnesses in the organizations are not immune to its effects and many end up jumping from business to business to find a rat race escape that they eventually find in their own ventures (one of top factors for entrepreneurs).