As HR leaders, we’re always focused on culture in the workplace – measuring employee engagement on a cultural level, improving morale and the culture that our employer brand represents. Particularly in the tech sector, competition has become hard-wired into so many company’s cultures, including hack-a-thons and internal time to market goals, leaderboards, and awards for being the fastest, best and most innovative. But what does this do to the culture of our workplace?
Episode 255 – When Competition Is Bad in the Workplace with Ariel Ezrachi (@ArielEzrachi)
This is exactly what I asked Ariel Ezrachi, the Slaughter and May Professor of Competition Law at the University of Oxford and the Director of the University of Oxford Centre for Competition Law and Policy. He is the author of Competition Overdose: How Free Market Mythology Transformed Us from Citizen Kings to Market Servants.
Ariel said that “the assumption is that competition will always deliver the best results, so we have this notion when we face any problem in our modern life, if we don’t have another remedy, then just unleash competition and the wonderful and mysterious market forces will optimise. We will get lower prices, better outcomes, more efficiency, more innovation.” In his book, Ariel explains, “we explore instances in which competition just does not deliver. We look at the way competition works outside the workplace, and then very often we assume, well, if this can deliver more when we look at markets, surely it can deliver more when we apply it inside the workplace. This is when the assumption of greater competition actually collapses within the organization and not only does not deliver, it also becomes toxic.”
There is no single definition of what competition is. This creates a simplified narrative that competition is always good, but there are many ways to look at it. We’re so hard-wired to be competitive, it’s like a religion. You have a lot of examples in your book about what happens when competition becomes negative…