Competitors: Who’s Trying to Bring You Down?

“Healthy Competition is good for all. Dealing with wins and losses in any competitive arena is like getting an immunity shot against disease.”

Ever heard the saying, Never underestimate your opponent? Naturally, everyone wants to be ahead of the competition. A bit of healthy competition in the workplace never really harmed anyone, but when it turns into a full-blown war, you know you have a problem on your hands.

Workplace competition is on the rise, with managers encouraging coworkers to go head-to-head for the next promotion or end-of-month bonus. A competitive environment can encourage coworkers to continual improvement, using each other’s performances as inspiring guides. Some leaders view competition as a technique to maximize production, however, it can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. A great manager understands how competition affects all employees and how to build competition in a positive way.

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Competition comes in two flavors. Direct Competition is a one-to-one experience that produces only one winner. Cooperative Competition occurs when a team works together to achieve a goal for the good of the group.

Direct Competition

A competition between two individuals can be destructive — if there can be only a winner, then there is always a loser. Too much competition in the workplace can lead to lower productivity, hard feelings, and loss of focus. Anger and even hostility can arise to a point where people or teams won’t accept others’ ideas.

The question among many leaders is, “Do I praise them or raise them?” Offering bonuses for work well done has always been part of the business climate. Some research suggests that praising an employee in front of his peers motivates him or her more than money. Of course, either approach may be better for a particular individual

Cooperative Competition

Working together as a team and helping each other release brain chemicals that enhance motivation, pleasure, and bonding. Working a personal best is also a healthy cooperative type of competition. Collaborative groups support each person’s quest to excel. Together the team brainstorm ideas and implement strategies to pursue their goal.

Research suggests that team composition works best if teams are divided by gender or have an equal gender split. The feeling of being a minority in any team is a problem. For instance, a team of four men and two women often results in women contributing less. Mixed teams generate better ideas than single-sex teams. All-male teams are more likely to become overly competitive.

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Competition between employees is an unavoidable part of most people’s work lives. Whether overtly or otherwise, most companies create a dynamic in which employees compete against each other for recognition, bonuses, and promotions.

“Working together and helping each other releases brain chemicals that enhance motivation, pleasure, and bonding,”

Marilee B. Sprenger, author of The Leadership Brain for Dummies

Competition can motivate employees, make them put in more effort, and achieve results. It also increases physiological and psychological activation, which prepares the body and mind for increased effort and enables higher performances. But if leaders want to ensure that competition unleashes creativity and not unethical behavior, they must resist the temptation to lead through fear.

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