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How To Encourage Positive Competition Amongst Employees

Competition in the workplace isn’t always a good thing, but it can be. If you’re looking for a way to engage your employees and boost productivity, we've got some ideas for you.

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Justworks
Sep 17, 20225 minutes

Competition in the workplace isn’t always a good thing, but it can be. If you’re looking for a way to engage your employees and boost productivity, try encouraging friendly, positive competition — it can be both powerful and productive. Positive competition can energize and motivate employees, inspire innovation, and help push your team toward bigger and better ideas.

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Benefits of Positive Workplace Competition

Are you considering some good-natured competition for your workplace? There are quite a few benefits to promoting positive competition between employees:

  • Inspired performance - In the spirit of friendly competition, employees often inspire each other to go above and beyond, resulting in increased productivity.

  • Creative problem-solving - Competing to come up with new ways to deal with challenges or meet goals can lead to fresh and innovative problem-solving.

  • Employee development - Constructive competition can encourage employees to gain new skills as they seek advantages to help them excel.

  • Increased interest - Positive competition can help renew interest in their day-to-day tasks as employees look for ways to come out on top.

  • Empower engagement - The desire to win a workplace competition can boost employee engagement, leading to many positive outcomes for the employees and the company.

Ways to Create Healthy Competition at Work

Positive competition can lead to positive results, but negative competition can lead to — you guessed it — less positive results. If you’re introducing (or even just considering) competitions in your workplace, consider these tips to bring out the positive side of colleague competition.

Establish a Clear Focus

Nothing leads to unhealthy competition faster than a contest without a clear focus. The rules, guidelines, and goals need to be clearly outlined and communicated to everyone involved, including the participants and those selecting the winners. Without a shared understanding of expectations and parameters, a competition can quickly lead to negative results.

Word of mouth is a great way to communicate about a workplace competition, but don’t stop there.

Word of mouth is a great way to communicate about a workplace competition, but don’t stop there. Reduce the risk of misunderstanding by coming up with clear, easy-to-understand guidelines that everyone can easily access, and make them available to review before the competition begins. Go over the guidelines in detail with everyone who’s participating and give participants a chance to ask questions.

Vary Competition Types

Your employees don’t all have the same skills or interests, so it’s important to include contest options that will appeal to all of your employees — not just a few. For example, if all of your company’s contests involve presentations and there’s a superstar public speaker on the team, others may not be as excited to participate. Competition isn’t fun (or beneficial) if everyone knows who’s going to win before the competition even starts.

It’s fine, of course, if some contests to involve presentations, but just remember that they shouldn’t all require using the same skills. To generate a variety of competition options, encourage employees to submit their ideas that will help drive results for the organization. They’ll appreciate being asked (especially if there are rewards for the selected ideas), and you may just come up with some truly innovative competition ideas.

Encourage Teamwork

When team members work together, they often achieve much more than they ever could on their own. However, some competitions focus so much on individual outcomes that they end up hindering teamwork. When an employee is focused on making sure they get credit for their work, they may be reluctant to share information with their colleagues or work with them to complete tasks. That’s not great for the team or the company.

When team members work together, they often achieve much more than they ever could on their own.

It’s always important to promote and encourage teamwork, even when there’s a competition between individuals going on. Yes, everyone’s competing against each other. But don’t forget the bigger picture, and what you’re working towards as a whole. When designing competitions, look for ways to boost both individual and team success.

Consider including teamwork as part of your competitions. For example, leadership could select three finalists based on results, and team members could then vote to determine first, second, and third place. You could also include an “Employee’s Choice” category in which the winner is determined solely by employees.

Reward Without Punishment

The prospect of winning or being recognized with a reward can be a powerful motivator for employee participation. In any competition, those who participate know that everyone won’t win the top spot, and that’s okay. The chance of being rewarded in the spirit of friendly competition can be more than enough to motivate people to put in their best efforts.

Competition with any kind of threat attached to it is not recommended.

However, punishment and fear have no place in healthy competition in the workplace. There’s a difference between “not winning” and being punished for not coming in first. Competition with any kind of threat attached to it is not recommended. If employees who don’t “win” the competition might face losing income, getting fired, or being publicly humiliated, there’s risk of damaging the team and provoking unethical behavior, among other concerns.

Don’t Tolerate Unhealthy Competitive Behaviors

Positive competition can be a great thing, but it can damage the company culture if it provokes negative behavior. No matter how clear and equitable the rules are, there’s always a chance that unhealthy behaviors could emerge in a competition. Make sure employees know they have to win fairly and that unethical competition will not be tolerated.

It’s important that employees understand exhibiting destructive behaviors won’t be tolerated. Taking credit for other’s work, sabotaging teammates, cutting corners, tampering with results, or other unethical practices should be met with disqualification. If any employees step out of line with inappropriate behavior in their quest to win the competition, it’s important for leadership to step in.

Keep Competition Positive

If you’re looking to boost your company’s results in a creative way, workplace competition might be a great strategy to implement. You might find that a bit of healthy competition is just what your employees need to achieve amazing things. With proper planning — and quick intervention if negative behaviors develop — it’s not difficult to foster positive competition. In the end, the potential benefits are often well worth the effort.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.