Is Workplace Competition a Good Motivator?

In a memorable scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, the somewhat beleaguered employees of a real estate office get a rousing speech from Alec Baldwin who all but tears them apart, saying, “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” Some companies try to almost bully their employees into competing against each other, to bring in the best numbers, the highest sales, the biggest clients. However, when done thoughtfully, a little healthy competition can actually motivate employees to produce and innovate beyond what they might usually do.

  • Make it a team effort. When a team competes with itself to do better than last time, using cooperative competition, that group motivation raises everyone up, encouraging them to work together to improve. This will also get employees to examine what they did for their last project that worked and what didn’t, possibly leading to new ideas and strategies for success moving forward. Plus if each person on the team sets up a personal goal or “best” to achieve, his teammates will support him. You may even consider a chart with each person’s goal on it; this way they can brainstorm what will work best to help achieve that personal goal.
  • Keep them on track. If you create an office-wide competition to hit a certain sales goal, for example, make sure to chart progress and continue to cheer on each team. Positive reinforcement always trumps negative: “You’re getting closer to your numbers…get together this week to plan your next step!” versus “You’re not moving forward — what can you do so you don’t miss your goal?” You may want to have regular check-ins as well; this allows people to assess what they’ve done and what they still need to do in smaller increments rather than going for one giant push at the end, like cramming for a final exam. The prizes don’t have to include money, but something of value such as a gift card to a nice restaurant, can also be motivating.
  • Keep it fun. Sometimes competition can happen outside the workplace; at a team retreat where each group has to complete a scavenger hunt or do a local version of The Amazing Race for your employees. It can be as silly as putting on sumo wrestling suits or a three-legged race…all of that helps engage in friendly competition and support. Or stage a world’s worst opening for a novel contest and send the “winners” to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest. Contests like these bring people out of their shells and let them show a side they might not get to in everyday office life.

As long as you can keep it positive, healthy and motivating, consider a little friendly competition to get the office going. For advice on your next hire to keep your company competitive, reach out to the recruiting team at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks today!