As a leader, it's your responsibility to foster a healthy environment that encourages growth among many workers and personality types. Your employees should feel confident embracing their strengths and acknowledging their faults without worrying about being overshadowed by a team member.
"It's natural to compare people to one another," said Nate Regier, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Next Element and author of "Conflict Without Casualties" (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017). "It's human nature to look around and see what others are doing … If you've ever made an example of someone, you have utilized comparison to try and achieve something. [But] while the motives might be positive, the consequences are often negative."
If you're constantly making comparisons, you'll run into issues that could've easily been prevented. Here are the dangers of comparing your employees to each other.
1. Discourages individuality
You can't compare an orange to an apple, just like you can't compare two completely different employees. Doing so will only discourage your workers and force them to wear hats that simply don't fit.
"Humans are motivated differently, have different strengths, and are led differently," said Regier. "Comparing them implies that what works for one should work for another. It simply isn't true in many cases."
For instance, if you compare an introverted worker to an extroverted worker, two totally different types of employees, you will only take away from the good that each provides, and motivate them to be someone they're not.
2. Breeds unhealthy competition
Healthy competition is good in the workplace. It increases productivity and motivates workers to do their best. But if competitiveness interferes with your team's dynamic, it can do more harm than good.
"[…] it creates a culture of competition around 'me' instead of a culture around 'us,'" said Nick Glassett, owner of Origin Leadership Group. "The environment will get very competitive indeed, but a large part of the culture will be about holding others down so they look better, or at least wishing others to fail so as to look good in comparison."
3. Prevents collaboration
When people are competing against each other, they often fail to work with each other. Because of this, innovation often halts or slows.
"The collaboration goes away, the teamwork drops, and everyone starts to try to score points all by themselves," said Glassett.
In this type of environment, productivity might increase in the beginning, he added. But after some time, the culture becomes toxic and unsustainable. Instead, employers and employees alike should celebrate strengths and pair up teammates who complement each other.
"This will create collaboration and a team dynamic instead of a bunch of mavericks running around trying to one-up each other," said Glassett.
4. Damages self-esteem
When an employee feels like they're required to live up to another person's standards, they may begin to doubt themselves and struggle with self-esteem issues.
"Self-esteem is a slippery slope," said Regier. "Social comparison boosts (or breaks) self-esteem. Self-esteem is not a robust predictor of behavior because it connects a person's worth to how they stack up to others."
Instead, Regier said, leaders should encourage high self-efficacy, which deals with a person's confidence to meet goals, respond to demands and become a better version of themselves. To achieve this attitude from your team, you must be a leader who celebrates the individual strengths of each employee. This will motivate them to be the best version of themselves.