Monday Motivation: Making competition…less competitive.

alex for kununu

Dwight vs. Jim on The Office.
Employees vs. Bosses in Horrible Bosses.
More episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia than we have time for.

Workplace competition. It makes for good entertainment, but IRL? A little too real. For better and for worse, people seem to have a deep inner drive to be better than the next guy. Competitiveness at work is all but inevitable. What’s the best way to harness it?

  • “Winners Take All” = A Recipe for Fear:

This Harvard Business Review article recommends encouraging a “Darwinian Workplace,” a “winners take all” system in which stronger performers are granted all the best work, and everyone is aware of their place in the pecking order—because you make everyone’s performance public.

Every business promotes its best workers (or tries to). That’s normal. But making every day a cutthroat competition for higher sales, better tips, and more output is a recipe for fear and misery.

  • Best Bet: Keep it Positive

We much prefer Kristi Hedges’s Forbes piece. Workers already know they’re competing with the person next to them: better to keep things positive and uplifting, instead of “creating a culture of fear.” How does that actually look in real life? How to create, in Forbes’s words, “cooperative competition”?

  • Create a “Shout-Outs” Forum

Try celebrating the wins rather than punishing the losses. By employing an email chain or group-chat channel for mentioning workers’ successes in a lighthearted way, everyone knows who’s doing well, and might be inspired to emulate them. Employees will feel more appreciated and motivated. Even if the bosses aren’t taking the lead with such a plan, you can send celebratory emails yourself—hopefully others will join you!

  • Branch Outside the Business

You can also bring competition to non-business areas, like a low-stakes fitness contest, or a silly trivia challenge.

Competitiveness at work isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make it fun!