Competition in your marketplace is part of the drill when it comes to doing business. When your employees start to compete with each other in potentially destructive ways, however, your business can quickly suffer.

As a manager, it's key to shape your policy so that team success always overrides the personal gain of the employees who work for you — so how do you handle the personnel conflicts that aggressive individual team members can cause?

Let science help you out. Try these research-tested strategies for decreasing competition among your staff:

Mix up your team demographics.

Korean researchers report that when people in similar age groups with similar statuses work very closely together, they often compete and clash, taking more unwise risks because they are trying to establish superiority.

When assembling a project team, vary the positions and age range of the staff members you pick — not only can this cut problems caused by competition, but it will provide a good mix of perspective and opinion as everyone works together.

Watch how you offer incentives.

An interesting study found that winning a reward by beating the competition can make people more likely to be dishonest in future interactions — even to the point of stealing money rather than earning it.

Let your employees know that achieving an individual set goal is the way they will earn an incentive. Avoid pitting your employees against each other and your team will function in an ethical and productive manner.

Avoid too much team decision-making.

Research from Michigan State University found that a highly competitive environment can cause people to make decisions too quickly, leading to mistakes. Working in a less competitive atmosphere, though, allows people to be more thoughtful and research their decisions thoroughly prior to making them.

Don't overload your teams with staff members who all have decision-making powers — establish one key member who will make the final choice in order to curb your workers from making hasty moves.

Emphasize a positive approach.

Counteract employees who may be cutthroat by nature by making it clear that everyone should contribute to achieving a positive, supportive work environment. Establish clear guidelines for discipline if employees violate this standard of behavior.

Walk the walk.

Are you naturally competitive yourself? Keep that tendency in check in order to be a good role model; don't get obsessed with what other companies are up to every second.

When your employees see that you run your company by concentrating on your strengths first, they'll rise to meet your example. Remember: when you focus on yourself only, you automatically focus on doing your best work — that's the best way to rise to the top.