Competition in the workplace is very much a double-edged sword – carefully implemented it can be an excellent motivating force, shaking up the most stagnant of teams and yielding incredible benefits. The other side has the power to demotivate, divide and ultimately, irrevocably destroying a team or workforce. Left unchecked, when competitiveness becomes the only motivating force, subterfuge and unhealthy rivalries soon begin to appear. So how can employers ride the fine line between steering competitiveness from descending into destructiveness and reap the benefits of healthy competition?

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Define your goals clearly and carefully

When the steel magnate Charles M Schwab wanted to boost productivity at Bethlehem Steel, he simply wrote in chalk on the floor the amount of steel the day shift produced. Upon seeing this, the night shift workers increased their efforts in order to beat the number – victoriously writing down their higher achievements at the end of the shift. This soon became the culture at the steel mill; with both shifts desperate to win bragging rights over the other. This also served to bond each shift together due to their common goal and shared achievements and the winners and losers were so temporary that morale never took a nosedive.

All of this was achieved without one single word spoken from management – a true stroke of genius from Schwab!

When finite goals are set that pit colleagues against one another in a winner takes all situation you see the opposite effect of what Schwab implemented. By defining a sole winner you are also branding losers. Without a shared goal that members can work together towards for the greater good, a toxic atmosphere can quickly develop. When chasing solitary achievements that can only be attained at the expense of co-workers, mistrust and unhappiness soon become the overriding emotions.

Give teams the tools to succeed!

Setting impossible goals will never yield results and only serve to demotivate and discourage, equally, the same is also true of goals that are too easily met. Instead, setting the bar just slightly out of reach tends to be the best motivator and always delivers the most surprising results from a well-bonded team. It is also crucial that alongside the clear definition of well thought out goals that your teams can perform to their absolute best ability. Proper instruction and training is key to reaching maximum productivity. No matter how willing your employees are, without solid advice and coaching, anxiety and doubt will start to creep in when under pressure.

Let teams benefit from their achievements

Whatever incentive programme you may implement, it’s important for employees to feel rewarded and see the benefit of their labour. A continuous drive forward without some form of recognition will rapidly run out of steam and enthusiasm.

A healthy competitive workplace can work wonders for your company and make it a rewarding, fun place to work. The key is constant supervision and responding effectively to any unwanted changes in the dynamic of your teams.

To find out more about what events might work well for your team, both competitive and non-competitive, please feel free to give us a call on 0845 975 0728 or e-mail events@teambuilding.co.uk