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Why Competition Isn't Always a Great Workplace Motivator

Why Competition Isn't Always a Great Workplace Motivator
From Recruiter - March 1, 2017

Does employee competition have a place in the office? Depends on whom you ask.

Proponents of competitive work environments say that competition provides a necessary challenge that pushes employees beyond their comfort zones. Opponents argue that competition puts undue stress on employees and fosters negative feelings among team members.

While some top performers may thrive on competition, their opponents have a valid point. Competition isnt good for everyone. In fact, according to the bookTop Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, 25 percent of employees wilt under competition and another 25 percent arent affected by it one way or the other.

Competition isnt a one-size-fits-all motivator, and when you apply it without thinking of the consequences, you may be actually harming your business, says Gal Rimon, CEO of digital motivation platform GamEffective.

When theres competition, that means there are winners and losers. As Rimon points out, encouragingsome employees to see themselves as winners of a competition means also encouraging other employees to see themselves as losersregardless of whether you realize it or not.

It may be great to have those top-performing 20 percent of employees, but how should the remaining 80 percent think of their performance? Rimon asks. Would their perception as losers cause them to feel disengaged and begin looking for another job? Some people arent that tuned to competition and prefer not to take part when targets are expressed in overly competitive terminology. Some people actively disengage when they think they cant winand a winning business needs middle performers to shine, because there are so much more of them compared to top performers.

Rimon cites an experimentin which people given a bonus performed better brieflybut then, a week later, their performances dropped below their pre-bonus levels. Rimon also points to the work of author and motivation expert Daniel Pink, who argues that because competition is an extrinsic motivator, it is less likely to encourage people in the long run. Its better to depend on intrinsic motivators for long-term engagement.

Competition is complex, tied to self-esteem and to how we understand success, Rimon says. Presenting one version of competition at work may create a conflict for employeesone theyll resolve by resisting workplace competition.



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