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First Psychology – The Pros and Cons of Workplace Competition

Posted: 23rd March 2022

Whether it’s to gain recognition, promotion, pay rise or work-related bonuses, competition in the workplace is almost inevitable. While for some, competition may arouse excitement, for others it can be a source of stress and anxiety. Depending on the individual, this can cause people to act in different ways. In an article published by Harvard Business Review, the research says that “when employees feel excited, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions. When they feel anxious, they’re more likely to cut corners or sabotage one another.”

The Pros
Competition in the workplace can provide many material benefits to employees as well as having a positive impact on mental wellbeing. However, this is dependent on how the individual feels about it – do they see this as additional pressure or an opportunity to prove themselves in their role? For those who feel excited about the challenge, they may benefit from the following:
• Sense of achievement
• Increased self-confidence
• Pay increases and performance-related bonuses
• Promotion
• Respect from colleagues and management
• Increased motivation
• Improved mood
• Increased creativity

The Cons
Not all employees are going to thrive on being competitive and it could have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. These are some of the disadvantages that certain individuals might experience:
• Increased stress and anxiety
• Lack of motivation
• Decreased self-confidence and self-esteem
• Unhealthy relationships with colleagues
• Fear of failure

10 ways to create healthy competition
To ensure that all employees can take part in healthy workplace competition without it having a negative effect on their wellbeing it’s important to do the following:
1. Make sure that employees understand what healthy competition means by offering reassurance that they will be given help to succeed and not threatened by ridicule or, even worse, job losses.
2. Ask employees what would motivate them and offer rewards that are meaningful to them.
3. Put competition rules in place that prevent any negative behaviour such as ridicule, underhand tactics, or workplace bullying.
4. Employ management that can lead by example and demonstrate principles that promote healthy competition.
5. Recognise employees’ efforts as well as achievements as this will help maintain motivation.
6. Involve employees when setting personal achievements and agree beforehand what they should be.
7. Practice clear communication at all times and offer help when it’s needed.
8. Hold regular performance reviews with constructive feedback as this will maintain motivation levels and promote trust.
9. Run team building activities inside and outside of the workplace. This will strengthen bonds between employees and help prevent any animosity.
10. Encourage open discussions where employees can air their thoughts in a non-threatening environment. In a study by Gallop, it revealed that open discussions are the best way to resolve any conflicts and reduce stress and anxiety about the competition. According to the study, when employees believe that their opinion matters, it increases productivity and decreases turnover rates.

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Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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