In Buckert et al’s article, “How Stressful are Economic Competitions in the Lab?”, Buckert et al show through experiment that economic competition in the workplace leads to an increase in stress levels and does not always maximize productivity.
The “winner-takes-it-all” format of economic competition is very common in the workplace, and has often been used to provide motivation for employees to reach maximum productivity. It has ignored however the repercussions that come from the stress of competition, including negative health impacts and at higher levels a decrease in performance. In Buckert et al’s experiment, the subjects never reached a stress level high enough to cause an increase in cortisol. I believe however that in the workplace where stakes are much higher than Buckert’s experiment, passive coping styles are much more common, where the stress of economic competition will not only decrease performance, but also negatively impact health.
The economic competition outlined in this article relates nicely to the article on competition in education by Nelson and Dawson that we analyzed earlier. Students competing for the highest mark or a limited number of scholarships is very similar to the competition set up by the workplace. I believe that if a similar experiment was done on students who were vying for a university acceptance or an A+, in many of the students there would be significant health impacts. Anxiety is very common in the modern education system, and it seems logical that this would come from a passive coping style to stress, where competition causes a decrease in mood and an increase in cortisol.
Economic competition is currently a grey area. @dcorrech goes into depth about the 3rd round of the Buckert et al experiment, where the test splits those who choose to compete further from those who choose a piece-rate style. While there are many individuals who jump at the sign of competition and are pushed to their limits competing with others, those with a passive coping style work much better in a competition-free environment. More experiments like Buckert et al’s need to be undertaken in order to find out if there is a better way to increase productivity in the workplace without compromising health.