How Healthy Competition Improves Productivity at Work

Encouraging competition inside a team can be a risky strategy. On one hand, it motivates individuals to perform at the best of their abilities but, on the other hand, it can give birth to discord and disagreement.

How Healthy Competition Improves Productivity at Work

If competition among teammates becomes too fierce, there can be dramatic consequences in terms of team dynamics, which will eventually affect teamwork and overall results. People lose sight of the fact that they have a common goal, and mentality changes from one for all and all for one to each on their own. Instead of building together, team members keep pieces for themselves, trying to build the highest tower when obviously they would do so much better together.

So how can you motivate your employees to be more productive, without ruining their team spirit? How can you encourage competition while also promoting collaboration? Read further for some useful advice for team leaders and managers.

Six mantras for a healthy workplace

We’ve put together six tag lines to answer the questions above.

1.Team always comes first

This is the mantra everyone in the group should know and value the most. Every time they are performing an action, members of your team should be asking themselves: is this going to have a positive effect for the team? And only keep going if the answer is positive.

There is nothing wrong with following a personal agenda as long as it will benefit the team as a whole. For the same reason, internal competition should always be kept within the lines of mutual respect.

2. Achieving individual goals

Individual goals are important for each member of your team. Workplace should be an environment where people are encouraged to grow personally and professionally. However, it is important to acknowledge that working towards achieving individual goals should never undermine or come against other members of the team. Helping each other grow can bring a lot more benefits for everyone involved.

As a team leader, you should be aware of the professional goals of your people and guide them in the right direction. Assigning tasks that would strengthen the right skills is crucial. Also, encouraging teammates to practice mentoring each other could tone down the competitive spirits, with positive outcomes for everyone.

3. Stars are important, but so are the others

Even though star employees might bring more business and better results, constantly appreciating a small number of employees while neglecting others might trigger unwanted effects. Not only that other employees might turn against the top performers, but they could also lose their motivation. If the same person is constantly winning, what is the point in even trying to compete?

Research shows that peers feel threatened and try to undermine top performers in companies and teams where resources are limited. When resources are shared and everyone benefits from working together, peers tend to support star employees.

Therefore, you need to make sure you also encourage and praise the performances of underdogs and keep the stars shining without totally eclipsing the others. Think of a bonus system that gives everyone a piece of the prize and motivates them to perform at their best.

4. Give constructive feedback to all

Giving feedback is one of the primary responsibilities of a team leader. But that is not always easy. Negative feedback can damage employees’ self esteem and trust. Positive feedback can create a false image of self, especially when undeserved. That is why it is very important to keep a balance.

The sandwich method is a known and widely used recipe: packing negative feedback in a positive shell. Even though controversial, it is so widespread because it actually works. Employees get to understand your expectations and the reasons why they are not meeting them, while also feeling a sense of accomplishment that keeps them going.

However, don’t always leave feedback for the moments you have to criticize your employees. Giving positive feedback each time you are proud of someone’s work is an extremely powerful motivation for that person but also for the ones around. Who doesn’t want to have their efforts publicly recognized?!

5. Make a game out of it

Everybody loves playing games. Some of us are more competitive than others, but even the most calm and introverted person likes a good challenge from time to time. Work must be taken seriously but there is no reason why we shouldn’t have fun while doing it. Actually, it has been demonstrated that happy employees are more productive, so keeping spirits up is definitely a winning strategy.

Organize friendly competitions among teammates that involve a fun and less official prizing system. Sometimes the smallest gestures can motivate employees even more than salary and benefits. It is the reason why many companies have the employee of the month system. A picture on the wall and a honorary diploma can be enough to spark some competition, while keeping it within healthy limits.

6. Best competition is against yourself

Some of the most competitive persons are in an endless competition with themselves. Always doing their best to improve previous results, always going bigger and better, always wanting to do more, to win more. This is the key to self-improvement and the healthiest kind of competition.

As a leader, you can help employees in their pursuit of self improvement by making sure you keep challenging them. Competitive individuals might lose their edge when stuck with boring and repetitive tasks that don’t represent a real stimulation.

Get to know your people in order to make sure you always pick the right person for the job and don’t allow competitive spirits to get wasted.

Competition benefits everyone

Encouraging a healthy level of competition among your employees might bring a lot of benefits.

Incentives push people to become more creative and find new ways of doing things. Competing with each other inspire people to put in more effort, work harder, and become more productive. It helps managers spot top performers and decide on promotions. Ultimately, competition helps the company by bringing in more revenue than the cost of incentives, which is why it makes it all worth it without a doubt.

Is there a healthy level of competition in your company or within your team? Apply the advice discussed above and share your results with our readers in the comments section below!

About This Author


  • Hi,
    I will rather consider it on a physiological level to gain some clarity. Our Body conuntains multiple layers of teamwork on a cellular level. Competition is not what makes the immune system different cells relevant, the timing, the connexions, and the multiple forward and feed back make the system get rid of, cleanse, or repair. Dr Bruce Lipton who has made extensive researches in cytology says the cancerous cells are those who “grow competitive” they disconnect. As you mentioned “they would lose sight of the end goal”.. I think we should be more creative and less competitive in a team, trying to express to the max individual strength to the benefit of the whole team. I love to listen to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird who were the leaders of the 1992”s gold medal winner basketball dream team, they said once they stopped compete against one another they started to play as a team and create the results they would have never dreamed of otherwise. I think Competition is good when it is designed to find the best version of the self, I think cooperation and a big Vision make people want to do more, and offer their best.

    6 years ago Mulumba Jean-Serge

  • This article says truth! We use similar approaches at our work, and here’s what brings the best feedback:

    Gamification: Game-based performance management systems helped us boost business outcomes. People earn points of experience for the job they’ve done, which then transform into levels.

    Personal satisfaction: we have the latest data on our people’s achievements in one place. We’re able to track how people grow at any point in time, what they learn and like. This allows us to apply people’s knowledge to the projects which they like.

    We encourage people to share how they learn and grow professionally. E.g., as soon as someone finishes a course, the team gets a notification on their chat channel.

    3 years ago Aleksandra Vovchenko

Comments are closed