By 6.3 min read

There’s toxicity eating away at your team’s dynamic, and it may be causing your business more damage than you think. Leave it to fester too long, and you’ll start seeing the impact. What is it? Success comparison.

Success comparison in the workplace can cause stress, burnout, and strained team dynamics. To tackle it, you must understand what causes it and how to spot the signs before it goes too far.

Read on, and let us show you how to build a new team dynamic for better collaboration and not comparison.

TL;DR summary

Success comparison harms teams, leading to stress and burnout. An overly competitive culture breeds negativity. Combat this by fostering deeper collaboration, celebrating individuals, promoting mental well-being, and accessing resources for a healthier workplace.

The pitfalls of success comparison

Success comparison, though a common phenomenon in workplaces, often goes unnoticed. It’s the silent disruptor of employee well-being and team cohesion. The consequences can be profound when colleagues continually measure themselves against one another’s achievements.

The dangers of success comparison

Keeping an eye on your coworker’s promotions, projects, or accolades might seem harmless. However, this can quickly spiral into a dangerous comparison game. Employees begin to gauge their worth solely on how they stack up against their colleagues, leading to an environment where everyone is in competition and no one is genuinely collaborating.

Stress and burnout

This relentless comparison can trigger stress and burnout. When individuals constantly feel the pressure to outperform their peers, it takes a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. The fear of falling short or the anxiety of being left behind can be overwhelming, affecting their job satisfaction and overall happiness.

Strained team dynamics

Additionally, success comparison erodes the healthy dynamics of a team. Instead of working together harmoniously, team members become guarded and reluctant to share their ideas or support others for fear of being overshadowed. As a result, this creates a toxic atmosphere that hinders innovation and productivity.

How does all of that manifest itself? And how can you spot success comparison in the workplace? Let’s take a look.

The overly competitive culture (a snapshot)

In many workplaces, success comparison often goes hand in hand with developing an overly competitive culture. This culture can be so pervasive that it permeates every aspect of the organisation, and its repercussions are far from positive.

Competitiveness can breed negativity

  • Unhealthy rivalries – An overly competitive culture fosters unhealthy rivalries among employees. Instead of collaborating, they view each other as adversaries, constantly vying for recognition and rewards.
  • Diminished team spirit – Team spirit takes a hit in such an environment. The sense of unity and shared goals dwindles when everyone is primarily concerned with individual success.

Consequences of an excessively competitive workplace

  • Decreased productivity – Paradoxically, an overly competitive culture can lead to reduced productivity. Employees may hoard information or hesitate to offer assistance, fearing it will give others an advantage. Here’s a guide on how to measure productivity so you can track your staff’s output.
  • High turnover – The stress and negativity of constant comparison can contribute to high employee turnover rates. Talented individuals often seek more supportive and collaborative work environments. If you are in this spot, here are some practical tips to help you measure and tackle high turnover.
  • Innovation stifled – In a competitive atmosphere, innovation is often suppressed. Employees may be reluctant to take risks or propose new ideas, fearing potential failure.

The path forward

Recognising the detrimental impact of an overly competitive culture is the first step towards change. And it’s a big one. Acknowledging your problem allows you to dig deeper – where is success comparison lurking, and can you spot any potential triggers for this behaviour?

Before we get there, it’s essential to understand how your staff are feeling.

The psychological toll of success comparison on individuals

Success comparison doesn’t just impact workplace dynamics; it also affects employees’ psychological well-being. Let’s look at the hidden consequences of constantly measuring oneself against others.

A Blow to self-esteem

  • Low self-worth – Constant comparison can lead to feelings of low self-worth. When individuals believe they fall short compared to their colleagues, their self-esteem suffers.
  • Imposter syndrome – Success comparison often fuels imposter syndrome, where individuals doubt their abilities and attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than competence.

Mental health implications

  • Increased stress: The stress stemming from success comparison can be overwhelming. It may manifest as anxiety, sleep disturbances, or even physical health issues.
  • Burnout: Employees who constantly compare themselves to their peers are at higher risk of burnout. The pressure to excel can lead to emotional exhaustion and reduced job satisfaction.

Okay, so we have a starting point. We understand that we have a team issue, and we can start seeing toxicity signals through employee satisfaction. Now let’s consider strategy – How do we tackle the psychological impact of success comparison?

Strategies for tackling success comparison and improving employee well-being

We can do many things to help our employees through this time. We don’t need to lose them to turnover statistics to reset team dynamics.

Here’s where we suggest you start – the individual.

  • Encourage self-compassion – Promote self-compassion among employees. Help them understand that it’s okay to have setbacks and imperfections and that their achievements don’t solely define their value.
  • Provide mental health resources – Offer access to mental health resources, such as counselling services or stress management workshops. You can do this through your Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Creating a supportive workplace for employees to seek help is essential.
  • Recognition and feedback – Emphasise the value of recognising employees for their efforts rather than just their accomplishments. Constructive feedback that fosters growth is critical.

Next, it’s time to empower your team.

  • Synergy – Teams that collaborate effectively often achieve more than the sum of their contributions. Synergy arises when diverse skills and perspectives come together.
  • Shared goals – Encouraging employees to work towards shared goals fosters a sense of unity and purpose. That can boost motivation and job satisfaction.

Finally, it’s about the role of leadership.

  • Lead by example – Leaders always play a critical role in promoting collaboration. When leaders model collaborative behaviour, it sets a precedent for the organisation.
  • Clear communication – Effective communication is the backbone of collaboration. Leaders should ensure that expectations, goals, and feedback are communicated clearly.

What happens as a result of building a collaborative workplace

Collaborative environments tend to be more innovative. Employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, knowing they won’t be met with competition but support.

When employees feel their contributions are valued and consider themselves part of a team, their engagement levels rise.

Tackling success comparison – Shaping a healthier workplace culture isn’t easy, but it is 100% possible.

An excessively competitive workplace can hinder productivity, innovation, and employee well-being. For individuals, it affects self-esteem, mental health, and overall job satisfaction. All of that isn’t good for business.

But even if you find yourself in that toxic situation, as a leader, you can rebuild. Not everything is lost. The key is reimagining your work culture to foster a space where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to collaborate.

Don’t feel pressured to rush the process. Put the simplest but biggest win solutions in place first, and then work with your team to develop your new dynamic over the long term. Collaborate. This openness could be the catalyst you need.

In your journey toward shaping a healthier workplace culture, explore the resources here on the Kind Mind website. We provide employee wellbeing software, guidance and support to help you build a more connected team.

Categories: Culture

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