Healthy Competition at Work

By Crystal Wilson 

Last year we realized that, in a lot of areas of our business, procedures, workflows, etc were more oral tradition than documented resources.  Of course, we also realize that this is not best practice, and so we committed to rectifying it by the end of this year.  Some departments have had no trouble with this but some have struggled.  I think there are two reasons for this.  


  1. There is always something that feels more urgent 
  2. It's pretty boring 


So, the leaders of the foot-dragging departments enlisted a tactic that we know works for Flow staff - we made it a competition.  The department that has moved farthest along the documentation journey, along with a few other qualifiers, wins bragging rights at the end of the year. Bragging rights?  Sign me up!  That's all I need to see on the table in order to step up my game, and I know that to be true of a lot of my teammates as well.  


Flow Office Wisdom - Healthy Competition


Research tells us that, typically, competition is effective motivation for about 50% of the population, causes 25% to crumble under the pressure and means absolutely nothing to the remaining 25%.  With this in mind, here are a few key things to keep in mind before throwing down with your team:


  1. Don't make it mandatory - if it's only going to be a direct source of enjoyment or motivation for half your team it makes no sense to force it on everyone.  It could actually prove detrimental. 
  2. Consider what will motivate the masses.  What is valuable and worth the effort to the folks you are working with? A cash prize won't motivate someone who strongly values quality time as much as an extra day off will.  And if you work with someone like me, they will put in just as much effort to be able to say "I wonnnnn!" as they will to get a gift basket or a wad of cash. Base the reward on the players. 
  3. What is your desired actual outcome? Be sure to get clear on this before deciding on how the competition is designed. If you want to foster collaboration, consider that.  If you want to encourage creative thinking consider that. 

Do you enjoy incorporating competition at work?  How have you done it successfully?  What have you learned not to do?  Let us know!