How to manage healthy competition in the workplace

Wednesday August 4, 2021

Have the Olympic games put your people in a competitive mood? From PBs to World Records and medal podiums, the Olympics make some truly inspirational and motivational viewing this year.

Whilst you may not be training Olympic athletes for the world stage, you are likely managing a diverse group of people; all with different dreams, drives and motivators.

Overall, they should have a common goal. That is to collectively achieve and maintain the success of your business. However, depending on a few variables, such as opportunities and personalities, there may be times when they are at odds, and find themselves to be in competition with each other at work.

How competition arises in the workplace

Competition between co-workers happens, even in the unlikeliest of competitive working environments.

A typical example of this may be when a new job opportunity arises, and you decide to open it up to internal applicants. If multiple employees voice that they want to apply, you may start to see some competitive behaviour.

This can be a good motivator for employees to push themselves, but keep an eye out for any untoward behaviour at the expense of others. A fair internal recruitment process will help to ensure you choose the right person for the role.

It’s also important to provide feedback to any unsuccessful candidates in this situation, to help quash any feelings of resentment.

Another cause for competition in the workplace can be targets, especially if there is a financial motivator such as bonus commission, which is often the case for sales teams.

Targets and remuneration are useful motivators, but they should be achievable, implemented fairly, and monitored regularly to avoid conflict.

If a dispute involving targets arises between co-workers, take some time to gather all the facts before finding a solution. If you’re managing driven employees, team targets can help to curtail a dog-eat-dog atmosphere.

Competition in the workplace can be healthy when it’s managed well. When it’s not, it can cause all sorts of problems from envy to sabotage. So how can you encourage and manage competitive employees in your business?

Nurturing and managing competitiveness at work

Competitive employees are often driven to achieve, and usually not just for personal gain. To avoid them turning everything into a competition with their co-workers, think about how you can channel their drive and energy to benefit their personal growth and the wider workforce. For example, could they become future leaders, spearhead new projects or train up new hires?

Just as you’ll want to encourage your high achievers, don’t forget about those who give it their all but have to settle for second place. Re-positioning failure as an opportunity to learn and grow can be just the motivation they need to keep trying their best.

Make competition fun and inclusive by providing opportunities for non-work-related contests. Think baking, sports, or quizzes. Why not put it to the floor and ask your team for suggestions? It’s a great way to get to know each other in a relaxed and fun environment.

Lastly, be sure to remind your staff of that common goal we talked about, and how a win for a colleague can equate to a win for the wider team. Being able to show support for co-workers is a desirable attribute and can help them all to grow and succeed in the end.

Preventing People Problems

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