Many organizations encourage their employees to be cut-throat and competitive with each other in order to succeed. These organizations believe that a cut-throat, high-pressure work environment is necessary to get employees to be productive and do their best work.

However, research has shown that a competitive environment is actually damaging and ultimately detrimental to an organization. That’s because cut-throat environments don’t lead to greater productivity. Rather, they encourage the following:

  1. Illness – Employees working under these types of conditions are at a much greater risk of getting sick and staying sick longer than employees working in a supportive environment. They’re more likely to have accidents at work, suffer from debilitating stress, and experience long-term health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
  2. Disengagement – Although a competitive, high-stress work environment can make employees feel engaged in the short-term, it doesn’t last long. Research has shown that employees working in this type of environment quickly start to feel detached and unhappy.
  3. Lack of loyalty – When employees don’t feel engaged or happy, they don’t tend to feel a lot of loyalty towards their organization. Thus, turnover is often very high. No amount of employee perks (such as free food, an office gym, or a liberal work-from-home policy) has been found to make any difference.

So what works better than competitiveness? Researchers have found that the most productive employees are those who work in a compassionate environment. This is the type of environment in which employees feel supported by their managers, are kind to one another, are accepting of other peoples’ mistakes, and treat each other with respect. Employees working in this type of environment are healthier, happier, more creative, and more effective in their work. And organizations with supportive environments are the most likely to succeed.

Seppälä, E., & Cameron, K. (2015, December 1). Proof that positive work cultures are more productive. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: