Why Comparing Your Employees to Each Other is a Bad Idea

Joe Weinlick
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Learning to manage the personality types on your team is just as important as making leadership decisions. The success of your team depends on how well you motivate people and create an environment where employees can develop their strengths. While it might seem harmless, comparing employees may lead to unhealthy competition and hinder teamwork. Here are common ways you can damage employee relations by frequently drawing comparisons between team members.

1. Discourage Innovation

Employee recognition is a good thing, but not when you repeatedly hold someone up as an example of excellence. Singling out a star employee's performance over and over sends a clear message. Only one work style or personality type has value to your team, and every other approach is substandard.

Reflect on your reasons for giving or withholding rewards. Do you react positively toward workers who think and behave the same as you and negatively toward people who have different perspectives? Employees are less motivated to be creative or share fresh ideas if they don't expect support and praise for taking risks.

2. Create Toxic Competition

Competition is healthy when the focus is on self-improvement. Workers have different personality types, strengths and motivations, which you can harness by helping your teammates set attainable goals.

Competition turns toxic and kills team morale and personal relations once you pit employees against each other in an effort to boost productivity. By nature, workplace competitions divide your team into winners and losers, and they tend to favor the strengths of top performers. Many employers also make the mistake of rewarding results without regard to overall quality or behavior. Employees lose motivation and self-esteem when their diligent efforts never seem to measure up.

3. Suppress Individuality

No two people are the same, so it's pointless to urge one worker to imitate another. You can't force analytical and intuitive people to think alike or expect independent and team-oriented employees to do their best work in incompatible environments. Fortunately, having a range of personality types on your team is a good thing, as it encourages good communication and collaboration.

As a leader, you have major influence over an employee's self-worth. You make it harder for workers to build confidence and bring their individual talents to the table when you push them to work against their personality type. Comparing your employees doesn't accomplish your real goal, which is to help your teammates develop good personal relations and productive habits that work for them.

4. Destroy Employee Engagement

Social comparison is closely tied to self-confidence and perception. Instead of driving employees to do better, comparisons tend to trigger negative, self-criticizing thoughts and lead to poor performance. You spread resentment, rivalry and self-doubt throughout your team the more you praise certain employees for possessing traits that others lack.

While it's perfectly fine to give public compliments, try not to portray some personality types as superior to others. Telling Paul Peacekeeper to be aggressive like Gary Go-Getter ignores his inherent value as a mediator while suggesting his performance isn't up to par.

Tailor your leadership style to different personality types, rather than trying to remold your team. Employees trust leaders who recognize their strengths and provide actionable feedback on how to succeed. What other advice can you offer leaders who want to improve employee relations? Share your experiences.

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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