Different Types of Competition
When people think of competition, they typically think of negative competition, which leads to hostility, negative attitudes, and a “winner-takes-all" mentality. However, contrary to popular belief, there are two types of competition: positive and negative. Therefore, it is critical for businesses and project managers to recognize the differences between the two types of competition and learn how to foster positive competition while reducing or eliminating negative competition.
Before explaining the differences between positive and negative competition, it is important to understand what competition is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, competition is the act of competing or an effort of two or more independent parties to achieve a desired result. In a project team situation, internal competition can take one of three forms:
- An individual team member competing against another individual team member,
- An individual team member competing against the entire team, or
- An entire team competing against another project team within the same organization.
The desirable form of competition is often referred to as positive, healthy, or cooperative competition. As the name suggests, positive competition promotes an “everyone wins" attitude where team members work collectively toward a common goal and the reward is communal. In positive competition, individual team members can also compete to improve their own placement within the team, but in a cooperative manner in which there is mutual respect and pleasant interactions that do not jeopardize other team members.
The undesirable form of competition is commonly referred to as negative, unhealthy, or destructive competition. This form of competition is similar to a zero-sum game, in which the success of one independent party depends entirely on the failure of the other involved party. This type of competition seeks to benefit one party while damaging the other, which promotes fear, hostility, anger, and decreased respect and teamwork.