Competition in the workplace has been shown to increase employee productivity and motivation, but how much is too much? Some companies rely on a competitive culture to motivate their employees, especially if they are contributing to a fast-moving industry that is over-saturated with qualified workers. A bit of healthy competition can certainly motivate employees but too much can cause anxiety and fear of being laid off.
Christopher Taylor, author at The Muse, suggests that employees work to reduce competition by evaluating the playing field and considering their individual strengths. He tells employees, “Think of your peers as a team with each person playing their own position. Notice who excels at what. Instead of comparing your abilities to theirs, make an effort to embrace, honor, and applaud their efforts. …A solid, well-rounded team flourishes most when there’s a diverse range of skill sets.” If employees feel that they have something unique to contribute to the company, they will feel more comfortable collaborating with team members in a productive way.
Employers can also help to promote a collaborative culture by recognizing when employees perform well both individually and as a team. When you do recognize team members’ individual accomplishments, however, make sure you’re recognizing at least one individual accomplishment for everyone on your team so no one feels left out.
Assigning your employees tasks that cater to their specific strengths and interests can also help to reduce competition. Contrarily, you may have two employees competing because they have a similar skill set and are equally qualified. You might encourage them to learn something new together or work on a project to improve their collaboration skills.
Competition is healthy when employees are motivated to compete in order to learn something new or produce work of a higher caliber. Actress Katrina Kaif once said, “There’s competition in every field, and that’s healthy. It makes you work harder and be your best. Competition, not in terms of money or number of projects, but in the quality of your work is very healthy.” When actors, employees, or anyone else is forced to compete for profits or quantity of projects, they may feel that the creativity they put into their work isn’t valued. Encouraging employees to both compete and collaborate in order to improve the quality of their work, however, supports creativity and thinking outside the box in the workplace.
The Disadvantages of Individualistic Work Culture
There’s no doubt that America is an individualistic nation that values independence and self-sufficiency. Employees have different work styles and it’s natural for companies to cater to them. Companies that offer flexibility and remote work are respected by employees, but a lack of collaboration can be an unfortunate side effect of remote work. While it’s important for your employees’ individual accomplishments to be recognized, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and engage in collaborative projects that might expand their skill set can be extremely valuable.
Your employees need to feel like they are part of a team and to actively see the impact that their teammates are making. Understanding how a team’s contributions come together to generate profit—or, in the case of non-profit organizations, social impact—can go a long way to making your employees feel like their work has value.
Creating A Team Atmosphere
Jimmy Minhas, Founder and CEO of GerdLi recommends scheduling regular team meetings so everyone can share their accomplishments and concerns.
“Whatever we do at GerdLi, we do as a team. Everyone knows that it’s counterproductive to compete against each other when we’re all striving for the same goal. When we host team meetings, I make sure that everyone feels comfortable giving their input and brainstorming ideas to help us get where we want to be as a company. It’s easier if we work together, and once a team mindset is established, employees will be more likely to help each other. If one of our employees isn’t able to handle his or her work, my team will notice that one of their coworkers is struggling and will offer help rather than blame.”
While raises and promotions are natural incentives to perform well at work, Rachel Reid, CEO of Subtl Beauty suggests offering additional incentives to reward your employees for working as a team.
“One of my favorite ways to encourage collaboration and a team attitude is to offer rewards for project completion. I always offer rewards on a team basis and not an individual basis. Every one of our employees contributes in their own way so it’s important that everyone recognizes our accomplishments as a team effort. I always recommend food incentives—because who doesn’t love food? Treating your employees to food from a nice restaurant or ordering lunch for everyone at work are both great options. If you want to go above and beyond, you could potentially offer incentives like TVs, iPads, or another piece of fun tech.”
Encouraging Friendly Competition
While competition motivated by profit or quantity of work can breed a toxic work environment, Susan Shaffer, President of Pneuma Nitric Oxide recommends engaging in friendly competition with your team members.
“I would suggest that teams struggling with too much competition blow off some steam with an office contest or two. These encourage competition in a healthy way and can also improve your team members’ skill sets and creativity. A scavenger hunt, photo contest, trivia game, or raffle related to your industry or current project could be a lot of fun.”
Set Your Team Up For Success
Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO of Nue Life encourages teams to make sure they have processes in place that foster communication and collaboration.
“If you want your team to collaborate, you have to make sure they have access to spaces that are conducive to that. You might consider using a cloud like Google Drive so all of your team members can center their creativity and brainstorming in one place. Platforms like Slack and Monday.com are also helpful in encouraging communication among your employees.”