Competition can be an excellent tool to encourage and enable creativity – when used the right way. If you use internal motivation to pit coworkers against each other, it can cause hurt feelings, secrecy, jealousy and more amongst your team. As a manager, how can you motivate your employees through healthy competition?

When competition is good

If implemented correctly, a little competition helps your team bring their A-game to work. When your employees are encouraged to bring new ideas to the table, it helps the whole team – and your business –continually learn and grow. Healthy competition can make a workplace challenging (in a good way!) and even fun. It helps your workers become the best versions of themselves, and ultimately your bottom line benefits when your employees make bigger contributions.

When competition rears its ugly head

When used incorrectly or too often, competition can make your workers frustrated and angry. They may become exhausted always trying to move ahead of their counterparts. Too much competition can lead to a me-first environment where everyone is trying to one-up everyone else. This keeps new ideas secret so they don’t get stolen. When competition is bad, it smothers teamwork and idea sharing in the name of bolstering individuals, rather than the organization as a whole.

Five ways to support healthy competition

Don’t break up the band by focusing too much energy on the lead singer. History shows that just never works out! Instead, follow these tried-and-true methods to use competition in your work place.

  1. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. The single best way to use competition is to use it sparingly. If you have a big company challenge to solve for, offering an incentive for the best idea will work as a means to an end. Beware: too many situations that pit employees against each other are bound to crumble your supportive infrastructure.
  2. There’s no “I” in team. Ideally, your business should be in full support of teamwork that focuses on the good of the organization, not the good of the individual. When everyone is working together towards a common goal, the camaraderie that forms is much more motivating than trying to get ahead personally. Therefore, it’s best to use competition when rolling out a challenge that everyone must solve together.
  3. Maintain a supportive culture. During meetings and brainstorming sessions, let your employees know that all ideas are welcome. Then, when discussing those ideas, ensure everyone keeps an open mind for a positive, supportive atmosphere.
  4. Encourage employees to compete against themselves. Personal growth is still important, as the needs of each individual help make the team stronger as a whole. Competition is well-utilized when employees keep track of their professional growth and are challenged to become the best they can be.

Have fun with it!

Upbeat, fun company cultures are what top employees seek out. Even in the spirit of competition, keep it light, supportive and fun!

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