Do Christmas quizzes bring out the best or worst in us?

A black background with neon red quiz and neon blue night with a few red and blue neon stars

Christmas is a season of joy, celebration, and togetherness. A time for sharing goodwill, gifts, and, of course, indulging in a variety of festive activities. Among these activities, the beloved Christmas quiz has become a staple in many workplaces, even if we had plenty of work quizzes during 2020. 

The Christmas quiz is an opportunity to bring colleagues together for a friendly test of knowledge and wit. “At WPG we hold an annual quiz on all things Christmas-related, including all Christmas songs, foods and traditions. It’s always very interesting to see the different behaviours displayed, and who the most competitive are – it’s not always who you’d expect!” explains Sarah Stott our Quiz Master. However, might these quizzes inadvertently bring out the worst in us? Do they ignite an unhealthy sense of competitiveness, potentially tarnishing the festive spirit in the office?

Some of the WPG team doing an online quiz via Microsoft Teams

Competitiveness in the workplace

We recently surveyed our team members, asking them to rate their competitiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. The results were eye-opening. 22% of our colleagues rated their competitiveness above 7, while 11% admitted to having a competitive streak of less than 3. For the majority (67%), we sat very much in the middle. 

As a relatively uncompetitive bunch, it got us thinking, is competitiveness a harmful trait in the workplace, or can it be harnessed for the greater good?

Competitive teammates can be a force for good

Competitiveness, in moderation, can be a driving force for productivity and success. Certain competitive traits can be linked to factors that contribute to success. Leadership and negotiation skills are both traits we associate with high achievers and a healthy dose of competition may motivate some individuals to excel, set and achieve goals, and constantly seek self-improvement. 

When it comes to some job roles, organisations may be looking for traits that are interconnected to competitiveness. Our Director, Dr Máire Kerrin explains “often organisations think they are seeking competitiveness – however, when you drill down into the behaviours and skills that they are actually looking for in the job role, it is often other related attributes that can be better defined, assessed and developed.”

There’s a fine line between healthy competition and destructive rivalry.

The dark side of competitiveness 

When competitiveness escalates beyond a healthy point, it can have detrimental effects on workplace dynamics. Colleagues may become more focused on outperforming one another than on collaborating for the benefit of the team. This not only erodes teamwork and trust but can also lead to stress, anxiety, and even burnout. 

Such excessive competitiveness can expose the uglier sides of our personalities, often leading to unproductive conflict and a toxic work environment. Moreover, motivators at work that are based on competition often rely on extrinsic motivators, which research shows are not as effective over a longer period on outcomes such as employee engagement, turnover and job satisfaction.

Protecting psychological safety

Employers have a crucial role to play in fostering a psychologically safe workplace. Psychological safety refers to an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks, sharing their ideas, and challenging the status quo without fear of negative consequences. Excessive competitiveness can undermine psychological safety, as employees may fear ridicule or backlash if they don’t meet the high standards set by their colleagues.

To protect psychological safety in the workplace, employers can implement the following strategies:

Encourage a growth mindset. Promote a culture that values learning and personal development over always being the best. Acknowledge that mistakes are part of the learning process.

Establish clear expectations. Ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the parameters of competition within the workplace.

Encourage collaboration. Foster a collaborative environment where teamwork is celebrated, and employees are motivated to support one another’s success.

Offer support and training. Provide resources and training for managing stress and competition-related challenges.

Quiz responsibly. Remind colleagues that nothing is riding on a Christmas quiz, except, perhaps a box of Quality Street. 

Christmas quizzes, and workplace competition, in general, are not inherently harmful. A healthy level of competitiveness can be a powerful motivator for success. However, employers must be vigilant in preventing excessive competitiveness from damaging teamwork and psychological safety within their organisations. Employers must strike a healthy balance that encourages competition while also promoting collaboration.

Remember, always quiz responsibly! 

Always quiz responsibly with a graphic of a leaping and smiling cartoon santa