Let Workplace Competition Motivate You

Reviewed Oct 5, 2017

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Summary

  • Compete with yourself to improve your own performance.
  • Use another’s success to motivate you.
  • Work with others to turn competition into collaboration.

Competition in the workplace is a double-edged sword. Used correctly, you can get results; used ruthlessly, you can kill morale.

Old-school competition

Consider the famous scene from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which a tough sales manager tells his team: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest … First prize is a Cadillac … Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

This old-school approach to competition might fit a war zone and certain do-or-die sports philosophies, but it doesn’t fit today’s diverse workplace with many personality styles and cultural differences. In fact, this style of competition can terrorize employees and cost the company in turnover and lost productivity.

Nevertheless, competition continues to exist both formally and informally in the workplace—formally in terms of contests, and informally in terms of rivalries.

Challenge yourself

Some people despise and fear competition, and some managers can misuse it. But, if viewed correctly, a healthy dose of competition can keep you on your toes, make you ratchet up your game, and inspire growth. In other words, competition can challenge you to “be all that you can be.” And competition as part of a team can help you learn to work with others to succeed.

The trick is to compete with yourself to do better.

Seeing someone else succeeding at a higher level or producing work of greater quality doesn’t have to lead to envy or jealousy. It can inspire you to grow, to explore, to learn more, to try harder. This is positive competition in action.

Instead of feeling bad because someone may be doing better than we are, we can up our game because we feel inspired and motivated. Sometimes we’re inspired and motivated out of fear—fear we may lose our job or the account. And sometimes we’re inspired and motivated because we admire quality and the rewards of success and want to produce quality results as well. 

It’s the “run your best race” philosophy. And in order to run your best race, you need to be in top form. You need to continually challenge yourself to improve and not get complacent.

Try to learn from someone achieving more than you. Maybe they could mentor you. In that way competition melds into collaboration and then you and your company will see the benefits.

Things to remember

  • Learn from your competition’s achievements as well as their mistakes. Don’t see him or her as the enemy. Remember, there may be a time when even the fiercest of rivals need to ally to face a bigger battle.
  • Differentiate between outside competition (other companies that you compete with) and inside competition (the workplace). Keep internal competition healthy by using another person’s success to motivate you. Don’t follow a “destroy” your competition philosophy because then you’re “destroying” a co-worker, and it takes many people to make a company successful.
  • Look for mentors to challenge you to better your performance, and be a mentor to others.
  • Focus on the big picture and view getting results as being good for your department and company, as opposed to being good only for yourself.
  • Keep an up-to-date record of your achievements and be able to communicate your overall value.

For managers

  • Be careful of prize systems in the workplace, especially if your company requires teamwork to thrive. These kinds of incentives may work in certain sales jobs, but they also can lead to bitterness and burnout.
  • Keep contests short, focused, objective, and fun for everyone, with a variety of rewards. Contests need to be about the long-term benefits for the business, and not about anointing someone “king of the hill” for the day.
  • Be aware of how different ages, genders, and cultures respond to various styles of competition.
  • Foster an environment and rewards system in which people compete with themselves. For example, challenge individuals to compete against past performances and goals, not with the person sitting next to them. 

Resources

Motivating People for Improved Performance. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

Motivation Theory and Leadership: www.money-zine.com/Career-Development/Leadership-Skill/Motivation-Theory-and-Leadership/

By Amy Fries

Summary

  • Compete with yourself to improve your own performance.
  • Use another’s success to motivate you.
  • Work with others to turn competition into collaboration.

Competition in the workplace is a double-edged sword. Used correctly, you can get results; used ruthlessly, you can kill morale.

Old-school competition

Consider the famous scene from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which a tough sales manager tells his team: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest … First prize is a Cadillac … Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

This old-school approach to competition might fit a war zone and certain do-or-die sports philosophies, but it doesn’t fit today’s diverse workplace with many personality styles and cultural differences. In fact, this style of competition can terrorize employees and cost the company in turnover and lost productivity.

Nevertheless, competition continues to exist both formally and informally in the workplace—formally in terms of contests, and informally in terms of rivalries.

Challenge yourself

Some people despise and fear competition, and some managers can misuse it. But, if viewed correctly, a healthy dose of competition can keep you on your toes, make you ratchet up your game, and inspire growth. In other words, competition can challenge you to “be all that you can be.” And competition as part of a team can help you learn to work with others to succeed.

The trick is to compete with yourself to do better.

Seeing someone else succeeding at a higher level or producing work of greater quality doesn’t have to lead to envy or jealousy. It can inspire you to grow, to explore, to learn more, to try harder. This is positive competition in action.

Instead of feeling bad because someone may be doing better than we are, we can up our game because we feel inspired and motivated. Sometimes we’re inspired and motivated out of fear—fear we may lose our job or the account. And sometimes we’re inspired and motivated because we admire quality and the rewards of success and want to produce quality results as well. 

It’s the “run your best race” philosophy. And in order to run your best race, you need to be in top form. You need to continually challenge yourself to improve and not get complacent.

Try to learn from someone achieving more than you. Maybe they could mentor you. In that way competition melds into collaboration and then you and your company will see the benefits.

Things to remember

  • Learn from your competition’s achievements as well as their mistakes. Don’t see him or her as the enemy. Remember, there may be a time when even the fiercest of rivals need to ally to face a bigger battle.
  • Differentiate between outside competition (other companies that you compete with) and inside competition (the workplace). Keep internal competition healthy by using another person’s success to motivate you. Don’t follow a “destroy” your competition philosophy because then you’re “destroying” a co-worker, and it takes many people to make a company successful.
  • Look for mentors to challenge you to better your performance, and be a mentor to others.
  • Focus on the big picture and view getting results as being good for your department and company, as opposed to being good only for yourself.
  • Keep an up-to-date record of your achievements and be able to communicate your overall value.

For managers

  • Be careful of prize systems in the workplace, especially if your company requires teamwork to thrive. These kinds of incentives may work in certain sales jobs, but they also can lead to bitterness and burnout.
  • Keep contests short, focused, objective, and fun for everyone, with a variety of rewards. Contests need to be about the long-term benefits for the business, and not about anointing someone “king of the hill” for the day.
  • Be aware of how different ages, genders, and cultures respond to various styles of competition.
  • Foster an environment and rewards system in which people compete with themselves. For example, challenge individuals to compete against past performances and goals, not with the person sitting next to them. 

Resources

Motivating People for Improved Performance. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

Motivation Theory and Leadership: www.money-zine.com/Career-Development/Leadership-Skill/Motivation-Theory-and-Leadership/

By Amy Fries

Summary

  • Compete with yourself to improve your own performance.
  • Use another’s success to motivate you.
  • Work with others to turn competition into collaboration.

Competition in the workplace is a double-edged sword. Used correctly, you can get results; used ruthlessly, you can kill morale.

Old-school competition

Consider the famous scene from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which a tough sales manager tells his team: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest … First prize is a Cadillac … Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

This old-school approach to competition might fit a war zone and certain do-or-die sports philosophies, but it doesn’t fit today’s diverse workplace with many personality styles and cultural differences. In fact, this style of competition can terrorize employees and cost the company in turnover and lost productivity.

Nevertheless, competition continues to exist both formally and informally in the workplace—formally in terms of contests, and informally in terms of rivalries.

Challenge yourself

Some people despise and fear competition, and some managers can misuse it. But, if viewed correctly, a healthy dose of competition can keep you on your toes, make you ratchet up your game, and inspire growth. In other words, competition can challenge you to “be all that you can be.” And competition as part of a team can help you learn to work with others to succeed.

The trick is to compete with yourself to do better.

Seeing someone else succeeding at a higher level or producing work of greater quality doesn’t have to lead to envy or jealousy. It can inspire you to grow, to explore, to learn more, to try harder. This is positive competition in action.

Instead of feeling bad because someone may be doing better than we are, we can up our game because we feel inspired and motivated. Sometimes we’re inspired and motivated out of fear—fear we may lose our job or the account. And sometimes we’re inspired and motivated because we admire quality and the rewards of success and want to produce quality results as well. 

It’s the “run your best race” philosophy. And in order to run your best race, you need to be in top form. You need to continually challenge yourself to improve and not get complacent.

Try to learn from someone achieving more than you. Maybe they could mentor you. In that way competition melds into collaboration and then you and your company will see the benefits.

Things to remember

  • Learn from your competition’s achievements as well as their mistakes. Don’t see him or her as the enemy. Remember, there may be a time when even the fiercest of rivals need to ally to face a bigger battle.
  • Differentiate between outside competition (other companies that you compete with) and inside competition (the workplace). Keep internal competition healthy by using another person’s success to motivate you. Don’t follow a “destroy” your competition philosophy because then you’re “destroying” a co-worker, and it takes many people to make a company successful.
  • Look for mentors to challenge you to better your performance, and be a mentor to others.
  • Focus on the big picture and view getting results as being good for your department and company, as opposed to being good only for yourself.
  • Keep an up-to-date record of your achievements and be able to communicate your overall value.

For managers

  • Be careful of prize systems in the workplace, especially if your company requires teamwork to thrive. These kinds of incentives may work in certain sales jobs, but they also can lead to bitterness and burnout.
  • Keep contests short, focused, objective, and fun for everyone, with a variety of rewards. Contests need to be about the long-term benefits for the business, and not about anointing someone “king of the hill” for the day.
  • Be aware of how different ages, genders, and cultures respond to various styles of competition.
  • Foster an environment and rewards system in which people compete with themselves. For example, challenge individuals to compete against past performances and goals, not with the person sitting next to them. 

Resources

Motivating People for Improved Performance. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

Motivation Theory and Leadership: www.money-zine.com/Career-Development/Leadership-Skill/Motivation-Theory-and-Leadership/

By Amy Fries

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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