Competition fosters greater trust among employees

The greater the reward, the greater the trust

Competition fosters greater trust among employees

When the stakes are high, employees gravitate to one another and cooperate.

Workers in a competitive environment tend to collaborate and trust each other more than they would in less risky situations, new research showed.

This pro-social behaviour – likely rooted in humans’ evolutionary past – is good for business, the researchers said in a study published in Science Advances. Competition benefits the group and pushes members to be productive.

The researchers looked at survey data to identify the most competitive industries: sales, law, and finance. The team also conducted laboratory experiments to mirror competition in the real world and to test the findings in a controlled set-up.

Experiment subjects were required to play the public goods game where they were made to contribute financially for the benefit of their group and thus share in the rewards. As the game became more competitive, the participants demonstrated greater trust in their fellow members.

Data from the experiments thus reflected the findings from various competitive industries. The results suggest employees who face greater rewards and greater risks tend to rely on each other.

“Increased competition across firms exposes subjects to increased group beneficial behavior on the part of their co-workers and increases their own such behavior,” the researchers said.

“In competitive markets, firms unable to elicit this cooperative behavior are likely to be outcompeted by firms that are more successful in doing so, leading to the proliferation of firms exhibiting cooperation. Workers in these settings experience, and themselves internalize, more cooperative norms.”


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