Posted: May 31 2016

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There will always be a place for competition in the workplace, however, depending on how it is played it can help your staff become team players and increase productivity, or it can be the root cause of distress and hostility. The way in which competition in your business plays out depends entirely on team management, competitive strategy and their understanding of game theory.

While many argue that competition in the workplace is a positive way to incorporate team building into business around the UK and the world, citing that it fuels creativity and efficiency, as well as improving the standard of work produced; others would suggest that it can demoralise staff and lead to a ‘blame culture' for those that continually miss out on winning.

Game theory and competitive strategy states that there are two ways to incorporate the challenge into the workplace: direct competition and co-operative competition.


Direct competition tends to be situations between two individuals in a head to head for reward - usually extrinsic rewards such as money and promotion. Studies suggest that direct competition is a good way to increase productivity but it often comes at the expense of morale and staff motivation. Missing out on the top spot, coming second in a two-horse race, losing - these are all negatives for the competitor and thus, your workforce. Losing is demotivating, and can lead to ill feelings towards others on the team, as well as reduced productivity.

That being said, direct competition where the reward is intrinsic - such as praise and recognition from management, is often much less harmful to the losing party. The winner gets that feel-good factor; productivity improves and the loser simply brushes off the loss and works towards the next challenge.


Co-operative competition calls for teamwork and communication, with each party pushing others in the team towards goals - producing stronger results in the process. As well as this, the brain releases feel-good chemicals when we work in groups, which makes bonding and motivation much easier, leading to a happier team overall; win or lose..

The negative aspect of co-operative competition is that cliques can form and individuals may get left out or feel isolated, which can dampen team spirit.

When it comes to co-operative competition, it is always best for management to choose teams with equal gender splits. Where this is not possible, male versus female will work, too. This is to ensure there are no advantages to either gender or feelings of minority within a team.

If done right, competition in the workplace can deliver you staff that are willing to push boundaries, trust their own instincts and solve problems effectively. Done wrong; it can kill morale and be a cause for stress. Full pros and cons can be found, here.

Incorporate competition in the workplace as a means of team building, or take a day out from the office and choose a corporate team building day with Team Challenge Company, for the greater good. We operate across the UK and are ready and willing to help you organise the event that will change the way your staff work.

For more information, please call us on 03300 04 09 03.

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