Pitfalls of Workplace Gamification

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Gamification is rapidly gaining popularity in management circles, but like most tools, its advantages are directly tied to its application. Without a solid strategy in place behind it, gamification may even do more harm than good.

By keeping a few key concepts in mind, managers can eliminate most of the potential for adverse effects, and capitalize on the best elements of workplace gamification techniques. Here are some of the upsides and downsides to watch out for when implementing a system like this: 

Gamification at Work


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70% of workers are not engaged in their jobs.

This is a serious issue that managers cannot afford to ignore. In an attempt to mitigate this alarming trend of disengagement, company leadership across the world have turned to gamification. Although it can boost employee productivity and happiness in some cases, it's important to understand workplace gamification's potential drawbacks as well.

At its best, gamification offers


  • Real-time performance feedback
  • Visible progression to higher levels
  • Points/an easy-to-use scoring system


  • Insights and data on employee performance
  • Improved productivity on some tasks
  • Visibility into employee interactions

Gamification drawbacks and side-effects to watch out for:

Although gamification can offer several benefits, there are some key considerations management must take into account.

At the end of an 18-month period, participation rates at companies using simple gamificaiton were 50% lower than companies including a peer recognition element. It's important to understand the different offerings in workplace gamification, and how each might fit your team.

Employees who don't consent to participating in mandated games often become frustrated. Their productivity can suffer.

Some platforms are poorly-designed, poorly-implemented, or both. Gartner predicted that by 2014, 80% of current gamified apps will fail to meet business objectives, due to poor design.

How to implement gamification effectively

Before gamifying, think about what you can do to make work interesting to begin with. 90% of surveyed workers stated that a fun environment is very, or extremely motivating.

Consider platforms that offer experiences that emphasize collaboration. 76% of employees find praise from their peers to be extremely motivating.

The secret to avoiding the frustration of employees being subjected to a game they don't consent to is making participation voluntary, but irresistible.

Emphasizing feedback and progress will not only encourage participation in a workplace gamification platform, it will encourage participation in most any work activity.

Gamification is a powerful tool, but like any tool, results depend on the skill and thoughtfulness of its application.


Originally published on February 13, 2015 → Last updated April 18, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨