Competing Employees Inhibit Social Growth

pillars_smallOne of the pillars of a social business is the sharing of knowledge. This is supported by the free flow of information (a second pillar) and transparency (a third pillar).

We need these pillars in order to be successful in our mission to socialize a business. But, what if our organised and planned disruption gets disrupted by ever increasing competition among employees.

A study done by Tempo-Team (Dutch text) in the Netherlands showed that, according to one in three employees, the tension and individual competition was worse than in 2012.


The perpetuating financial crisis in Europe is cited as the main cause for this negative disruption.

Employees face a greater workload and greater job insecurity. This, inevitably leads to more stress and competition. The personal crisis doesn’t end when the employee leaves work either, the stress is brought home where it gets a chance to build up.

This leads, in some cases, to people taking sick days, or worse, burn outs. Which can be very costly for employers.

Vicious Cycle

Because the employees are more pessimistic about their future they tend to view their colleagues as rivals, instead of collaborators or peers. The company doesn’t see this, because its focus lies elsewhere (survival?).

The chain reaction which is set off by this behaviour is devastating for a company and the individual employee.

Here’s the cycle:

  • Bad times leads to higher work pressure
  • Higher work pressure leads to stress (and sickness)
  • Chance of being laid off leads to (negative) employee competition
  • Employee competition leads to:
    • Hoarding of knowledge
    • Withholding expertise
    • Office politics
    • Less communication

You can imagine this doesn’t end well.
For the company all this means:

  • More sick days
  • No problem solution
  • No innovation
  • No constructive discussions
  • No flexibility
  • Top employees leaving (bad employee retention)

It’s undeniable that one thing leads to another. And when negatives are reinforced, the downward spiral becomes bigger and stronger.

You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Anderson…
– Agent Smith –

Turn It Around


When a crisis hits, some companies dig a trench, put on a helmet and hope for the best. Ride out the storm. Others invest, take the opportunity to change for the better.

It’s the latter you want to be. And for that to happen you need the support of your employees. Their commitment to your company will make the difference between success and failure. Competing employees only leaves you with small enclaves of knowledge, stuck on a thumb drive or in somebody’s head.

Becoming a social business can prevent you from making tough decisions during a crisis. Instead of competing employees, you will have co-operating employees.

The Hive

It may sound Utopian or maybe scary (Borgian), but the collective mind of a company will always know more than any individual (including top management).

A collective can also be more flexible, more intuitive, more aware and more responsive to critical questions from management.

Let’s face it, when a company is in dire straits, the chances of finding solutions within the company hive-mind are far greater than finding outside help or any individual within the company.

Just Ask

The difficulty lies in the beginning. We don’t want to change unless we are forced to change. The current crisis is a good example for a reason to change. And yet, many companies do not.

You can turn things around without to much pain. Just ask your employees what to do, or what they’re willing to do and under what conditions are they’re willing to do it.

If you don’t ask, you don’t know. It might look weak, but good leaders ask for as much input as they can get.

In a solid social business environment you don’t even have to ask. Issues will get noticed and reported somewhere down the line. Then, co-operating colleagues might find a solution before the issue becomes a problem. Preventing that problem from becoming a crisis.

Just think about it.., it makes sense.

Author: Rogier Noort

Digital Transformer | Thinker | Listener | Speaker | Podcaster | Writer | Blogger Twitter or LinkedIn.

4 thoughts on “Competing Employees Inhibit Social Growth”

  1. It is unfortunate that, when in desperate times (or perceived as desperate) that employees will undermine the others. I try to do the right thing by the customer and stand on that high ground. Of course, the high ground can be a very lonely place… but my integrity is not for sale at any price (monetary or stature or spotlight – I don’t care.) My goal is to be successful by helping my colleagues, customers, and business partners be successful. Isn’t that enough? 🙂

    1. I believe it’s an unintended side effect from ‘bad times’ and ‘old school business’. You’re attitude is admirable and even desirable. Imagine employees having this attitude as default.
      Then yes.., that would be enough…

      Thanks for dropping in Maureen.

  2. It depends on the metrics you’re asking people to compete on though doesn’t it? In any social business there will be behaviours you have to measure, and of course the kind of social feedback on performance delivered by crowdsourced performance appraisal and gamification do this on a daily basis.

    The key therefore is to pick the right behaviours to measure and ensure that they’re collaborative ones rather than individualistic ones. I agree wholeheartedly that many of the metrics used in companies now are inhibiting social business, but that suggests the need for new metrics rather than the removal of competition, which is a pretty human characteristic.

    1. Yes, that makes sense, a lot of it too. Applying positive encouragement to a basic human characteristic makes the differences. The mindset in order to achieve this is what we strive for.

      Interesting Adi, very interesting.

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