Competition in The Workplace

Whether it’s on a sports field, race track, or a friendly pub quiz with friends and family;
people love to compete. Fact: We compete against ourselves all the time.

Earlier this year I achieved my black belt in Taekwondo. It felt great for a short period, then I found myself thinking, ok maybe I can start training for my 2nd Dan? You see as human beings it’s how we evolve. Maxwell Maltz describes us as ‘success seeking beings’.

You need only think about technology and how it’s evolved over the last 20 years since we had the world wide web. First, we had mobile phones, now we can print with wireless and driver- less cars are being tested as you read this.

It’s competition that’s driving innovation and the quest to keep improving. It doesn’t matter if it’s personally growing or a company’s desire to improve their products or services.

There is a debate however about whether competition in the work place is a good thing or not, with the exception of course of sales teams.



According to research cited in Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing about:

  • 25% of people are unaffected by competition;
  • 25% wilt in a competitive environment;
  • ……and 50% benefit from competition.


Here are some key points to consider when deciding to use competition within your teams and business.

What Are the Positives?

Healthy competition can be a positive incentive in the workplace with studies showing competition fuels creativity and even improves the quality of the work produced.

With performance management common place in many companies the idea of being regularly  compared to colleagues is a significant motivator to encourage individuals to keep challenging themselves to become more effective and efficient.

If you combine increases in; creativity, quality of work,effectiveness and efficiency. It’s a safe bet to say that a business will see an improvement in results which will impact both turnover and profit.

So far then it’s all sounding good, so what might be some downsides?



What Are the Downsides?

Depending how competition is used, it can result in employees focusing on themselves rather than colleagues and their team.

There can also be times when at its extreme an employee will be so focused on achieving their own goals that they stop looking out for their company’s best interests. 

Competition can also cause stress. If you are regularly competing against peers you can forget things like collaboration and sharing best practice. Eventually this is going to create a culture where people who thrive on team working underperform and decide to start looking for a company whose culture matches their strengths and ways of working.

With the upsides and downsides in mind, how can competition be used in a positive way?


How Can Competition Be Effectively Used?

When you need collaboration, use team competition

The overall aim must be to drive your business forward. If you’ve got people who need to collaborate on projects, then it isn’t going to work if team colleagues are competing against each other, self-interest can kick in and cause conflict within the team.

However, what does work is to introduce competition between teams working on different projects. This results in teams working together, being creative exploring ways to increase their productivity and effectiveness to deliver projects on time and within budget.



Avoid ‘losers’ being demoralised

There are winners and losers in any competition. It’s a fact of life and one that anyone working within renewable energy and the building services sectors knows all too well.

Being on a losing team will be demoralising for some, while the fear of losing can mean that sometimes a team may take a low risk option and avoid challenging themselves.

To avoid this, ensure that the competition is light and fun so that you gain the benefits of competition. Remember to keep the competitions short such as weekly or monthly and vary what the criteria is for winning.

This way you will find team members are able to stay motivated as they have regular opportunities to win. Long competitions can leave team members feeling that all their hard work over an extended period of time hasn’t been valued.

Competition is a valuable tool to use in any workplace. The key to success is how it’s used.

If you are looking for your next career challenge call us on 01743 247774 or email us here.

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