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There’s no avoiding competition in the workplace, and we all know we’ve got to be competitive to get to the top—and stay there.
But in some cases, competition can wreck havoc on an otherwise ideal working environment. Sound familiar?
Let’s look at how competition among co-workers can help you at work—and then we’ll look at how it can hurt you.
The benefits of competition
1. Increased productivity and motivation
Competition can make you more efficient and make you try harder to excel.
To be a constant winner in the eyes of management, you’ve got to become known for being productive. And don’t just focus on quantity when thinking about productivity; the goal is quality, too. A boring routine and lack of challenge breeds less motivation, so appreciate the fact that competition helps stoke your natural desire to be recognized and acknowledged.
2. Wider focus
It sounds like a catch-22: competition often means a narrow focus on the one area where you want to succeed at the expense of a broader view.
But competition can teach you to widen your focus in a way that will benefit your career. How? Success in business means keeping your eyes on more than just your own role. Learning about a company’s products and services or about competitors in the same industry will put you in a better position to spot weaknesses and opportunities.
3. Better teamwork
A little inter-office rivalry can mean everyone is working their hardest—and at the end of the day, that means higher profits. Competition also nudges you to think differently, and thinking differently means you’ll stand out. An environment where everyone thinks the same doesn’t foster innovation.
The downsides of competition:
1. Anxiety, stress and too much pressure
Your desire to do well in a competitive environment could, not unexpectedly, lead to working longer hours—which can have its own physical and emotional side effects. Do what you can to keep this in check, because if you don’t, it will become counterproductive. A bad mood or exhaustion will not help you do your best work.
2. Undervaluing teamwork
If you’re in a work situation where only individual achievements are valued, competition pushes you to work only for your own sake—which isn’t all bad, except when it leads to you to block out your coworkers’ suggestions or attempts at collaborative efforts.
This is okay if you have to reach a sales quota without helping other members of your team do the same. But in most work environments, isolating yourself won’t help you get ahead.
3. Getting caught up in drama
Competition can bring out a beast in some people: insecurity. Focus too much on the coworkers who are outperforming you, and you’ll say goodbye to your morale and enthusiasm. You also might end up blaming others, making excuses and even lacking faith in your abilities.
Avoid creating a situation where management has to get in the crossfire to deal with personal issues between employees.
Do you enjoy a little competition at work, or do you think it hurts morale?
Alexis Thompson is a graduate of Martin College in Australia, where she earned a degree in marketing. An avid backpacker and mother of two, you can follow her escapades on Twitter at @alexisthomp198.