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Healthy Competition Could Be Ruining Your Company's Culture. Here's How to Stop It

Jade Yourth
Industry Insights

In-house rivalry is likely costing you more in turnover than in growth.

 

Competition is integral for businesses to thrive. Rivalry often pushes people to be better, work harder, and strive for more. Most entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders thrive in these environments. It's what has led to their success, and will continue to do so well into their careers.

There's no denying that competition is a key motivator. The skills that make someone great at what they do are based on an innate passion to win. That's why it may seem only natural that leaders encourage healthy competition at the office in order to spark their staff to perform better. 

 

However, not everyone thrives off this kind of pressure. There are some people who do their best work in high-stakes environments. Others do not. In fact, it has the complete opposite affect. 

If you're actively rewarding those who reach individual goals rather than push team achievements, the repercussions could be incredibly costly. Here are three reasons why competition could be ruining your culture, and how to stop it. 

1. It creates distrust. 

When everyone's out for themselves, you create division. Knowing that the person who sits beside you is vying for the same client or bonus as you, you have every reason to be paranoid and weary of ulterior motives. 

In this kind of environment, people can hoard information out of fear. It's easy to develop tunnel vision, putting themselves first, the company second, and your customers last.

Trust is the foundation of a collaborative team. Without those in place, the office will become a place of tension and paranoia, rather than support and camaraderie. 

2. It makes a homogenous workforce. 

Some people love to work independently. They are much better at their job when they have individual goals rather than team targets. It's these types of personalities that love working for leaders that encourage 'healthy competition'. 

However, not everyone enjoys this type of environment. In fact, it can have the complete opposite effect. The stress and pressure that goes along with being the best can be too much to handle. Instead of reaching their full potential, they recoil.

 

To create a truly innovative and cohesive culture, you need a diverse group of people with different ways of thinking, working, and collaborating with one another. If everyone in your team thinks and acts the same way, you'll never achieve the level of innovation you need to keep developing the brand. 

3. It promotes jealousy. 

When someone is recognized for beating out their peers, you're starting a chain reaction of jealousy. Any chance you had of creating a strong culture crumbles. If someone is making more money, has more clients, and is getting high five's by higher management, it's easy to become envious. 

From there, it's a chain reaction. Envy leads to resentment, resentment leads to anger, and anger leads to resignation. In the process, performance suffers and the office atmosphere becomes toxic.  

You're also creating a pressure cooker, where staff care more about keeping up appearances to show they're not being outdone by their peers. Inflated talk is damaging in so many respects, as it means leaders will have false realities on what results are actually being achieved. 

Trade Healthy Competition for a Healthy Culture 

In-house competition has been the traditional mode of operation for a number of industries, in particular sales, law and real estate. Who has worked the most hours, signed the most clients, or done the most deals is typical water cooler talk. Leaders may think this is what it takes to drive growth, but it's likely costing you more in employee turnover. 

 

There are a variety of strategies you can implement to start shifting a dog-eat-dog culture into a more cohesive and supportive environment. The first is to stop rewarding and recognizing individual wins, and start setting team targets. When the group achieves the goal, they'll all be equally rewarded. This approach may drive even higher performance, as each person doesn't want to let the other members down. 

Another idea is to acknowledge staff who help one another out. When you praise them for the act, they'll want to continue to do it. Soon others will follow suit, and relationships based on support rather than rivalry will start to form.