Do You Think Competition is Good in the Workplace?

John Krautzel
Posted by in Career Advice

As a business professional, you research new ways to motivate your employees all the time. When your tried-and-true tricks don't work, it's time to research a new workplace motivator. What do you think about an employee competition? It could foster better employees, but it might break down the team's collaborative efforts. Some workplace experts feel as if competition isn't a once-size-fits-all solution.

Top Performers

In the book "Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing," the authors explain that 25 percent of workers don't respond well to employee competition. Another 25 percent aren't even affected by competing with others. That means a full 50 percent of your team probably wouldn't get anything out of going head to head with others on the team. In fact, only the top performers revel in the glory of winning.

Proponents of employee competition say that it challenges people to work outside their comfort zones and grow as individuals. However, there is one major flaw with that line of thinking: In a contest, there must be winners and losers. You want all of your employees to think of themselves as winners — with no losers. With no middle ground, the losers may feel added stress and develop negative feelings toward the winners.


Although 20 percent of your staff might feel like winners in the employee competition, what happens to the other 80 percent? Consider that employee engagement could take a major hit, leading to job dissatisfaction and higher turnover rates. Rather than fostering everyone's abilities on the team, your idea of a workplace motivator might actually cost your company in the long run due to time spent hiring replacement workers.

The major difficulty with employee competition is that it revolves around self-esteem. Workers might feel as if their self-worth at the office depends solely on winning or losing. Instead of motivating people with external factors, managers and supervisors should find internal mechanisms within each employee for motivation while fostering long-term success on the team.


Rather than pit teammates against one another, you can get the most out of your employees by focusing on giving everyone a sense of accomplishment. To do this, managers must cater work goals to each person. Everyone should have a goal to achieve something independent of other people on the team. Whereas Jim might have a goal of increasing his sales by 20 percent within a month, David's goal might revolve around landing one extra client every quarter to build up his client base. Achievements are never the same with each employee, so managers must determine how to motivate the team as individuals and as a single unit.

Supervisors can develop an achievement system through daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Set concrete and abstract goals for each team member, but also remember to constantly evaluate everyone's progress. At the end of each goal, offer some kind of reward.

Employee competition is about improving internal abilities. Think of motivation as you would golf or bowling, which are based on an individual's pure abilities, rather than tennis or football, in which outcomes occur due to the reactions of the opposition.

Photo courtesy of renjith krishnan at


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  • Joseph Fabian
    Joseph Fabian

    Respect each individual, let them know they are unique, and they have unique talents.

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