Competition is a double-edged sword, my friend!

No competition, no progress

Competition on anything is good, because it makes everybody better

There are tons of such “motivational” quotes that are just spread over the internet, books, videos and also in our work culture. Companies take competition as a blessing in their lives. They are in competition with their rivals, their employees are in competition with each other and their functions/departments are doing the same thing.

It is a common belief that competition will evolve a sense of doing better among all the employees. They think that people will try to break the bars every day. So they tie everything related to employee satisfaction to competition. Performance appraisals, company awards, who gets a better seating arrangement; you name it. But does it really help employees to do better and produce better results? In some cases, it might.

But, in most cases, it causes the reverse effect. Let’s think this from two perspective:

  1. There are some really exceptional people who have been trained their entire life to thrive on competition so they try to do better every time. These people when face a setback, do not generally react well and the consequence of this will get reflected on their work almost instantly.
  2. There are people who try to work hard but might remain unfortunate with their work outputs in the initial couple of times. Such people when see that they not getting rewarded for their hard work, lose interest to generate better outputs deliberately because a sense of hopelessness gets into them.

So, who is really getting rewarded in this whole process? It’s only the companies. They are doing nothing but messing up with their employees’ minds periodically. No wonder people working in today’s world are having hard time keeping themselves mentally well. Just a couple of decades back, the workers used to spend their entire career in a handful number of companies. Now, the first thing a person thinks about on joining a new company, is about alternative career choice. They see everyone around them as a competition.

Although this is not going to change any time soon, the companies must ponder over this fact quickly. Otherwise, their need to look for talent will increase exponentially and they will have a hard time in retention. The quickly the companies realize that competition is not going to give them ultimate success that they want, the better. There is a great message in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One,

Competition means no profits for anybody, no meaningful differentiation, and a struggle for survival.

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