Nice to Beat You—Four Ways Workplace Competition Pays Off

October 14, 2015

Dale Carnegie once told a story demonstrating how powerful competition in the workplace can be.  To incentivize workers in the Charles M. Schwab steel mill, Schwab wrote the quantity of steel that the day shift had produced on the floor.  The night shift worked extra hard to top the day shift’s number and soon both teams were constantly competing, vying for the top spot.  Production soared.  “The way to get things done,” Schwab said, “is to stimulate competition.”


One of Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principles is to, ‘Throw down a challenge,’ because competition encourages people to step up and achieve what they never dreamed possible.  Here are four ways competition pays off in the workplace.

Competition pays out.  Whether working harder to attain specific goals or simply to ensure you are keeping up with peers, a little competition goes a long way to improve performance.  Odds are that by being competitive, whether with yourself or others, your overall work output will improve which makes raises, promotions, etc. more easily attainable.

Competition fosters respect.  When employees are vying for the top spot, they typically try to emulate the behavior of top performers.  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, after all.  This appreciation is a form of respect—as long as everyone is competing in an ethical and professional manner.  As your performance improves, you will garner others’ respect. 

The same can be said for competition between teams in that members of the same team tend to learn from one another which reinforces respect; and competing teams respect each other’s strategies, methods and ideas over time.  According to Inc., rivalries don’t have to end with one loser and one winner; rather mutual respect and even strong friendships are often the results of healthy competition.

Competition increases productivity.  While too much pressure can be detrimental to an individual’s or team’s success, moderate amounts will increase an employee’s overall productivity, or an entire department’s if several people are competing against each other.  Another by-product of competition, in an effort to be more productive, is to try new ways of doing things.  Employees are forced to go outside out of the box and gain fresh perspectives in order to out-perform their colleagues or the other team.  Many big ideas—simplified processes; streamlined customer experiences; new and improved products, etc., are the result of healthy competition.

Competition breeds teamwork.  Forming a team and establishing goals encourages employees to work together to attain goals—especially when rewards are for the taking.  Even employees who may have experienced interpersonal challenges with each other in the past realize that they must overcome their differences and align their efforts to accomplish the same goal. 

Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”  No employee nor team will win every competition, however losses can also benefit employees and their employers because they will be more likely to put forth more effort next time.

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