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Motivating Employees In A Team Environment

Managing difficult employees and teams in the workplace can be a difficult task. It can be an even greater challenge to find ways to make sure that each of the team members is properly motivated. It is common to see companies use competition as a way to increase motivation at the expense of job security. It’s an effective tactic; however, going too far in that direction can start to have the opposite effect. Below, we will go over what the risks and rewards are with this approach.

The Tradeoff Between Providing Employees With Job Security Vs. Competition

Competition in the workplace is a great way to provide motivation for your employees. This is particularly effective in team settings. When there is something at stake, coworkers will tend to set aside their differences in order to produce the highest level work that they can.

In order to understand how to motivate workers and increase competition, there must be something for the employees to lose. Sometimes, companies put their jobs on the line. Another way to do this is to provide huge incentives. An example of an incentive may include a large bonus or a promotion. In either case, the company is increasing motivation to competition at the expense of job security.

Leaders That Provide Security To Their Top Level Employees Can Hurt Motivation

When you treat job security as an expendable commodity, it can end up having a detrimental effect in the workplace and make managing difficult staff an impossible task. It may motivate coworkers to sabotage other team members in order to give themselves a leg up on the competition. It rewards team leaders and punishes passive supporting team members. When you have an entire team of people competing amongst each other, it can turn bad quickly.

How To Avoid Creating An Overly Competitive Environment

An effective way to avoid this problem while still providing motivation for employees in a team is to take an individualized approach. Instead of putting coworkers against one another, focus on creating an environment that will make them want to do their very best without worrying about competing against one another.

In order to pull this off, we suggest working from the ground up and ensuring that the most basic needs of your employees are met first. This will free them up to focus on doing their best for their company and team. Below, we used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to explain this in more detail.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

In the 1940s, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid of what boils down to the five most basic human needs. He developed this pyramid while studying the motivational systems that drove people to work towards rewards. During his studies, he was able to differentiate why certain achievements and rewards took priority over others with people. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a pyramid that he developed to prioritize or rank these rewards in order of the party that people will sort them in. In general, the most basic needs such as food, water, and safety will take priority over self-fulfillment needs, which are found at the top of the pyramid.

How Each Level Applies To Employee Motivation

The first two levels of the pyramid are psychological needs and safety needs. These needs are usually fulfilled with income. The basic and physiological needs include food, water, sleep, and basic comfort. The second level includes security, safety, and peace of mind. A basic wage can satisfy the majority of these needs. Once these needs are fulfilled, a person will be able to focus on other goals and rewards.

The third level involves social needs. In a work environment, the employee will prioritize social factors with their superiors and coworkers above other aspects. If there is a conflict in the workplace between coworkers, or if there is difficulty between an employee and their superior, the employee will place an emphasis on resolving these issues above all else.

The fourth level of the pyramid involves self-esteem needs. This includes prestige within the company and a sense of accomplishment. Employees need these types of rewards to give them the motivation to push above and beyond within their company. If there are no esteem rewards for their competence, they will be unmotivated to achieve accomplishments that are beyond the minimum expectations for them as an employee.

The fifth level is about self-fulfillment. This includes the employee’s motivation to reach and exceed their potential. It fuels their creativity and encourages them to aim for goals that are beyond what is expected from them. Employees will typically not be motivated to achieve these goals unless the four levels of their needs are already met. If the employee is struggling to earn enough money to pay their rent, they are not going to place an emphasis on any of the levels above that.

How To Use Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs To Motivate Employees In A Team Environment

As a team leader or superior, your goal should be to have as many team members prioritizing the top level of the pyramid as possible. In order to do this, all team members must have their basic and psychological needs met. This means ensuring that they are not underpaid, they are provided with a cooperative and comfortable social environment, and they are recognized for their hard work.

By meeting these needs for all of your employees, you will allow them to focus on reaching and exceeding their full potential. This will encourage creativity and it will help your team and company come up with new and innovative ideas.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs teaches us how to motivate team employees without pitting them against one another. This is critical if you want the members of a team to stay motivated without sabotaging each other.

By ensuring that the basic and psychological needs of your employees are met, it will reduce any unnecessary distractions and motivate them to put their best work into all their projects both individually and in a team setting. While providing incentives is a great way to motivate employees in town, it can cause unforeseen issues that can otherwise be avoided by taking this type of approach.