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Ready, set, go! Everything about competition in the workplace

Ready, set, go! Everything about competition in the workplace

Artwork by: Aleksander Kostenko

  • What is competition in the workplace?
  • What are the pros and cons of a competitive workplace?
  • How should you deal with competition at work?
  • What if someone is a little too competitive?
  • Key takeaways 

Competition in the workplace is a fact of life. You can’t escape it, so you must learn how to handle it. We’ll give you some great information on healthy and not so healthy competition in the workplace.

Human beings are competitive by nature. Some more than others, but we all have competitive tendencies. Competition in the workplace mirrors this and is what drives most businesses to succeed. Everyone wants to be the best and beat the competition. 

In this article, we’ll explore competition in the workplace and answer some basic questions:

  • What is competition in the workplace?

  • Is competition in the workplace a good thing?

  • How do you handle a competitive workplace?

What is competition in the workplace?

When you perform a task or effort intending to be better than someone else (or a group or team or company) to achieve a goal, then you are in competition. The goal may be to get a prize or an award or, in business, to make the most money.

Companies are always in competition with other companies to make more money. That is the nature of capitalism and economics, but let’s focus on individuals. How does competition show up in the workplace on a person-by-person basis? A business is the cumulative effort of everyone working for the company. So, for a company to be competitive in their market, they need all their workers to produce the most they can to beat their competitors. Management wants to encourage employees to constantly do more. This leads to internal competition between departments, teams, and individuals.

What are the pros and cons of a competitive workplace?

Competition in the workplace can be a good thing, but it can also bring challenges. Most people are naturally competitive, so having competition at work is a very typical situation. Let’s look at some of the positive and negative effects of having a competitive work environment.

Why is it good to be competitive at work? Driving to achieve goals and be the best at what you do is a very good thing for yourself and the company. The competition also motivates people and creates a productive environment. If your workplace has incentives based on performance, then you are competing with yourself to do better and improve your work. There could also be rewards for excelling on your team, within the department, or even at a company level. All of these things create competition that can benefit the organization.

What’s bad about competition? Not everyone likes to compete. A lot of people prefer to do their jobs and be measured by what they do and not how they compare to others. A heavily competitive environment at work can demotivate and frustrate these people. Competition in the workplace can create a winner-versus-loser mentality. Highly competitive people can lose sight of the true goals and objectives of the company and get caught up in the struggle to win. In the worst cases, some people may even undermine or sabotage other peoples’ work, so they can win. These things can create a hostile work environment and lower morale across the board.

How should you deal with competition at work?

Working in a competitive workplace can be exhausting, but competition is what drives every business. You need to learn how to deal with it and thrive. But how should you handle competition at work? And how do you deal with an overly competitive coworker? Tough questions. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

If you find yourself getting stressed out or overwhelmed with competition in your workplace, then the first thing to do is take a step back and look at the big picture. First off, examine your role and what you want to accomplish in your job. There’s always going to be someone that is better or works harder. Don’t focus on them, look at yourself. How can you improve? Maybe you need more training or education. If you need some guidance, seek a mentor. You can’t control what other people do, but you can control what you do.

Next, don’t try to handle everything yourself. It’s not an every-person-for-themselves battle. Find people that you can work with to achieve common goals. Working as a team is always better than individually. More heads are better than one, right? This doesn’t eliminate the you-versus-them scenarios, but when you find yourself working towards the same objectives, why not work together?

What if someone is a little too competitive?

If you encounter one or more people that are just a bit too enthusiastic about competition at work, don’t fight them. Try to work with them. Be polite and professional, and do your best to be positive. But, if you do run into someone that you just can’t work with, then be careful. Look out for people that will try to steal your work and take credit for it. Keep meticulous documentation on everything you do and make sure your data is secure. And when you do catch someone trying to take advantage of you, call them out on it. Always be respectful, but don’t let them get away with it.

The company must strike a balance between fair and positive competition and unfair or unhealthy competition. Competition should be used to motivate employees, promote professional development, and encourage collaboration and open communication between staff and managers. If competition exists to merely drive profits or push non-performing employees out, then it will create a toxic culture that will eventually lower morale and overall productivity. Knowing how to spot the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy competition in your workplace will better equip you to make the most of it.

Key takeaways 

  1. Competition is inevitable, but the workplace environment should remain positive overall. 

  2. Stay positive and focus on what you can do to get better. It’s not always about competing against others.

  3. Don’t get bogged down by overly competitive coworkers.

  4. Make the most of the competition and learn from it. 

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