Competition in the workplace can increase, or kill, enthusiasm.
Motivating workers to excel is an effective tactic. Alienating them with a winner-takes-all workplace environment isn’t.
Lean toward the latter approach, and you may find you’re dealing with declining employee satisfaction levels — and an eventual employee mass exodus.
Some organizations actively encourage a competitive workplace environment. Former GE CEO Jack Welch recommended offering employees who feel in the top 20 percent category admiration and financial rewards, and dumping the bottom 10 percent.
In 2011, deal service Groupon’s CEO also told investors the company planned to let the bottom 10 percent of its sales staff go.
Nearly half of managers feel competition in the workplace has increased in the past decade in the U.S., according to a survey from staffing service OfficeTeam — which also noted office rivalries can encourage employees to work harder, or simply cause a stressful workplace environment, widespread conflict and reduced productivity.
If your organization has considered launching a cutthroat coworker campaign, inspiring healthy competition in the workplace instead, in the following ways, may prove more effective:
Validate employees by encouraging them to contribute. Rewarding employees for successful efforts may leave some feeling lost in the shuffle; every worker can’t be a top earner or producer. Companies can, however, engage and motivate those who are still striving for a high status by providing opportunities to impact the organization’s workplace environment, in addition to its bottom line.
Call service provider Invoca, sponsors monthly meetings to praise high-achievers — and also encourages employees to add workplace environment improvement suggestions to an in-office whiteboard. If an employee’s idea is chosen, according to an Entrepreneur article by its co-founder, Invoca instructs the employee to aid in its execution.
Provide personalized goals. In some cases, that may mean highlighting individual incentives. Although labor is one of the largest expenses in the restaurant industry, a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, which notes that employers haven’t historically focused on employee engagement or retention, cites a interesting example — a restaurant chain that utilized software to determine a wait staff member who sold a specific amount of martinis, appetizers and salads on a mid-week shift would earn $125 more in tips than other servers. With personal productivity goals, employees may not feel a sense of direct competition in the workplace — but may be motivated to work harder.
Shut down coworker competition that has turned into conflict. Some workplace environment issues – such as gossip or common courtesy complaints – may require a specialized approach. If the workplace environment has just generally gotten too intense, interpersonal rivalry can be diffused by bringing in an outside party from the team who has a more objective view, according to a 2008 that analyzed workers’ attitudes about conflict in nine countries in Europe and the Americas.
If employees are struggling to get along due to competition in the workplace, finding new ways to encourage and engage them may help. Consider increasing individual employees’ responsibility level to test their skills and help them increase their knowledge base.
If you aren’t sure if your workplace environment is supportive or overly aggressive, getting an enterprise-wise view of how workers feel will tell you. Find out how to craft an employee survey that’ll obtain the answers you need in our blog post on creating the most effective employee value proposition.