6 Ways to Foster Healthy Competition at Work

6 Ways to Foster Healthy Competition at Work

Workplace competition can help make your staff more productive, more engaged and more energized. However, it can also stress them out, crush their confidence and lead to lasting resentment. Some people are naturally competitive and thrive in competitions, while others aren’t and will cringe at the mere idea of a contest. How can you create healthy competition at work while avoiding any potentially harmful effects? Here are some tips.

Creating Healthy Competition at Work

Make it Fun

Work is naturally competitive: Everyone wants to do well in his or her job, be recognized and get promoted. Don’t add to this stress by making your workplace competitions deadly serious. Keep a lighthearted and fun element to the contest.

Monitor the Effects

Pay close attention to how your workplace competitions unfold — not just in business results, but also in human terms. Are tempers flaring? Are people snapping at each other or becoming uncooperative? If a competition starts to go off the rails, call a halt to discuss the problems and, if you have to, end the competition.

Compete in Teams

Competition among individuals has the most potential to go wrong. It can lead to a dog-eat-dog environment where everyone is out for number one. In general, team competitions are healthier, and also encourage collaboration, which is vital in today’s workplace. Try to balance the teams as much as possible by choosing team members with different strengths. Not only will this create more effective teams, it will also give the members opportunities to learn from each other while competing.

Encourage Competing with Yourself

Competitions that focus on achieving a “personal best” instead of beating others can be highly motivating, while avoiding the downsides of one-on-one competition. Individuals can compete with themselves, such as sales reps trying to raise their sales numbers each month. Teams can compete with themselves, too: For instance, you could measure your shipping department’s average time per package and see if they can get faster every month.

Stay Focused on the End Goal

It’s great when employees get excited about the competition, but sometimes they get so excited they forget about the ultimate goal. For example, if your contest measures how many calls your customer service reps handle in a day, they might get so focused on speed that they start rushing through calls — and service quality declines.

Provide a Reasonable Reward

The reward for workplace competitions can vary depending on the nature of the competition, your business and your people. For example, at some workplaces, the winning team might be content to receive a silly trophy and recognition at the weekly meeting. Others may be motivated by something more tangible, like getting to leave early on Friday afternoons. Still others will need larger rewards to motivate competition — such as salespeople, who are often rewarded with bonuses or vacation packages for bringing in big sales.

How do you encourage competition at work (or do you)?

Trophy Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.