How To Encourage Healthy Competition In The Workplace

Competition in the workplace increases productivity and performance. But, how can you encourage competition among employees without ruining the team spirit? How to motivate individuals to give their best performance and shift their mindset from “me first” to “team first”?

The best answer is to encourage healthy competition in the workplace. In a healthy competitive work environment, everyone has a chance to win. Employees are more eager to show enthusiasm towards setting goals and achieving them.

According to the Harvard Business Review, competitions where people stood to lose something, created anxiety and negative results. Whereas, competitions where people stood to win something, drew excitement.

Healthy competition is based on incentives, such as bonuses. Detrimental competition is based on losing something, such as missing out on a promotion or being put down for failing.

In short, healthy competition isn’t scary. It’s exciting! Here are some ways on how you can encourage healthy competition in the workplace:

Set the “team first” mantra

People tend to be more creative when given freedom, especially when it affects their team and individual KPIs. However, it’s best to remind your employees that the team always comes first to make better decisions.

For example, employees should ask themselves if their initiatives would positively impact the team before putting them into action. This approach creates healthy competition among employees and encourages them to contribute to the team.

Make the competition fun

Instead of using a regular whiteboard or sharing a Google sheet, why not gamify the competition? Gamification is the application of game strategies to a non-game environment. You can decorate the whiteboard and add scores, points, bells, beers and rewards.

For instance, split the sales department into a few teams. Ask them to appoint a team leader and give them a target to achieve. If your sales department consists of a few teams serving different countries, you may set different targets for each team to be fair.

Whenever a team is getting closer to the target, team members may ring the bell and enjoy free beers after office hours. This way, you’ll boost employee competition  at work.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Did you know that diversity and inclusion could promote healthy competition at work? It makes employees feel equally involved, supported and have an equal chance to succeed.

They experience no discrimination as their contributions are acknowledged and feedback is heard. As a result, there’ll be no resentment and employees will be more confident in giving their best at work.

Create team activities

Encouraging healthy competition in the workplace doesn’t have to be about work all the time. Team activities such as fitness challenges, karaoke nights or trivia nights are designed to bring people together.

These approaches have a positive sense of competition. They help employees to be more innovative, think creatively and believe in the power of teamwork.

Encourage open communication

A company that encourages open communication has established the foundation of healthy competition at work. This working environment inspires employees to share their opinions, engage in constructive debate and healthy conflicts, learn from each other and be proactive.

Give constructive feedback

Giving constructive feedback helps individuals to fix things in their blind spots and improve their performance. Be it positive or negative, feedback must always be constructive and honest to build trust.

Don’t wait for someone to achieve something super great or create a disaster to give feedback. Give positive feedback each time you’re proud of someone’s work – even better, do it publicly!

On the other hand, provide negative feedback in private once you notice it before the matters get out of control. Indirectly, you’ll enhance competition among employees to perform better.

Give non-monetary rewards for short-term competitions

Too many cash-based incentives may trigger jealousy between employees. If you’re already providing a bonus to your employees, what about giving non-monetary rewards for short-term competitions?

Some examples of non-monetary rewards are free staycation, Netflix subscription and grocery vouchers.

Have more than one winner

After all the hard work you put in, how would you feel that you miss out on the reward only by a few points behind? Would you be keen to participate in the next competition and give all you got, like the first time? Probably not. Having only one winner restricts healthy competition at work.

Instead of having just one winner, follow the Olympic Games by having a winner, runner-up and third-place. Perhaps you can even create a podium and give medals (or something similar) too!

Focus on the process too

In 2016, Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for illegal banking practices. Apparently, their employees secretly opened around 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards that customers may not have authorized.

Many current and former Wells Fargo employees said they felt extreme pressure to open as many accounts as possible and were motivated by the compensation.

Before announcing the winner or handing out the rewards, remember to regularly check their progress and process to ensure your employees stick to the work ethic.

Celebrate the “winners” and appreciate the “losers”

Healthy competitions focus on the reward, and it doesn’t humiliate the losers. Please don’t call out the losers for not performing or insulting them. These actions may result in anxiety and stress. Employees will prosper in a positive environment and the company is responsible for providing it.

Don’t force it

Not everyone is competitive by nature. Hence, you shouldn’t force competition on all individuals. Competition may work well for the sales department, but it may create issues within others.

All in all

Encouraging healthy competition in the workplace benefits both companies and employees. Competition inspires people to put in more effort, work harder and become more productive.

As for the managers, it helps them to spot top performers and decide on promotions. However, it’s good to remember that competition isn’t for everyone and all departments at once.

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