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Competition bites team spirit

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Almost half of all workers believe that competition amongst co-workers is responsible for destroying team spirit.

Over a third of employees surveyed on behalf of Investors in People, the development standard claim they work with colleagues who are very or fairly competitive in the workplace whilst a quarter admitted that they actually find themselves competing with people they work with.

Just one-fifth believe competition in the workplace is a positive thing.

Spotting competitive workers is easy, say respondents. Sixty per cent say it’s someone who is always trying to get the attention of senior managers. Half believe it is someone who only picks up work when there’s something in it for them and brags about their achievements. Forty-eight per cent cite workers that claim other people’s work as their own as signs of an employee who is competitive rather than collegiate.

Simon Jones, acting chief executive, Investors in People said: “Employee ambition can have a positive impact on the workplace, driving both personal development as well as business performance. Managed effectively, such ambition can create healthy competition – a quarter of employees surveyed who think there is competition in the workplace said that it can lead to others upping their game and a further quarter said it can improve productivity.”

But, warns Jones, a balance needs to be struck between personal progress that supports the business and excessive competition that can undermine it.

“Left unchecked competition amongst employees can be divisive, damaging team spirit and breeding a culture of mistrust in the workplace. Managers need to be alert to the symptoms, particularly those that suggest employees only have their own interests at heart. Agreeing clearly defined objectives will help managers ensure that employee ambition and energy is channelled into delivering for the business, rather than wasted on watching what colleagues are up to.”

Over a third of respondents said managers are the root cause of the problem believing they are responsible for playing colleagues off against each other. Male workers are more likely to see competition in the workplace as positive and important for advancing their career.

Pollsters YouGov surveyed 1,986 workers on behalf of Investors in People.

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Annie Hayes

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