Is Friendly Competition a Healthy Way to Improve Productivity on the Worksite?


When productivity declines at the office or on a job site, a bit of friendly competition can help get things done more effectively. After all, it adds a fun challenge and a personal incentive to win. Often, it doesn’t even need to be overly complicated or costly. The reward, (or consequences) needs to be enough to push you to succeed. For example, something as simple as a lunch wager with a coworker could help you maintain focus and push yourself to think critically. In the end, one of you gets a free meal, both of you grow from the experience and the combined efforts enabled your team work more efficiently.

Friendly competition sounds good in theory, but does it work in all industries? Whether you are in a sales role, working on a construction jobsite or teleworking from home or a remote office, the answer is absolutely, yes. Often, it just takes a little forethought. The following seven best practices can help you or your team establish fun and friendly contests in order to increase your productivity while on the job.

Seven Suggestions to Consider When Establishing a Competitive Worksite

1. Establish Ground Rules

Any competition you propose must be done safely. Rushing to get work done is a recipe for disaster, especially in a workplace such as a construction site. Competition should be set in an effort to maximize productivity and get results, but we always want to strive for a safety-first mentality.

2. Level the Playing Field

Competition should be between co-workers of the same approximate abilities and responsibilities. If one of your team members is much more skilled or experienced than the other, the “better” participant won’t be challenged and the “lesser” is likely to get discouraged and give up. To ensure “healthy competition” be sure to have a level playing field between individuals, to bring out the best in each person!

3. Keep it Fun

Worksite competition is supposed to be fun. If other priorities bubble up and co-workers must step back or bow out, don’t overreact when their focus shifts. Alternatively, if you notice individuals becoming overly-competitive, use this as an opportunity to realign why you are conducting a friendly competition in the first place. The main goal is to maximize productivity and better enable the business to succeed, while bringing out the best in everybody involved. The last thing your worksite needs is additional arguments due to the drive to improve, or decreased morale from feelings of frustration or failure.

4. Keep Actual Responsibilities & Goals Top of Mind

Avoid getting so caught up in winning, that you forget about your job’s responsibilities. Competition can be fun, but it’s easy to fall victim to tunnel vision when you start something new and engaging. For example, you might be reluctant to help a teammate or take on new challenges if it could interfere with the competition. This type of behavior could ultimately defeat the goals of the competition in the long run, and hinder your development with the company. Evaluate each situation, and adjust your priorities, to ensure you that you are not too hyper focused to continue doing what is needed at work.

5. Consider Any Downsides Before Deploying this Ideology

If getting things done quickly is made a singular priority, or if an overwhelming emphasis is placed on speed of competition, it could impact the quality of work. Avoid sacrificing quality for speed by placing significance on all behaviors that should be encouraged by leadership and focused on by the team throughout the completion of a task or assignment. This might require a couple of additional ground rules, but the end result will be worth the extra effort.

6. Address Any Hard Feelings

Competitions have winners and losers. Watch for signs of hard feelings and resentment. If anything comes up, avoid brushing it off without learning more about what took place. Something concerning, such as unethical or questionable behavior, may have taken place during the contest. Address the issues to understand what happened and to help your team let go of any resentment. If that isn’t possible, but someone else won fair-and-square, simply use any hard feelings to power you forward during the next competition.

7. Promote Teamwork

In most healthy workplaces, team members work together toward a common goal. When you introduce competition into the mix, it can hinder team dynamics, spread resources thin and (in the worst cases) lead to harmful behavior. If left unchecked, team cohesiveness may suffer drastically. Avoid long-term consequences by encouraging teamwork when possible, and (if necessary) creating consequences for those who engage in disruptive actions or questionable tactics.

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