Dealing With Workplace Rivalries
By Fahd Pasha
Like it or not, competition is everywhere. We find it when we call “shotgun” to score the front seat in the car ride to the movies, to making sure you get that last slice of pizza when out for dinner with friends. As a job-seeker, this competition comes through when you work to secure a job interview with your dream company, standing out amongst countless others. It’s part of our daily lives.
Rivalries can exist in our jobs, too. In fact, research suggests that competition increases the levels of chemicals like testosterone, which prepares the body and mind. This pushes employees to go that extra mile and achieve results. On the contrary, over-the-top workplace competition can create unhealthy rivalries or even unethical attempts or shortcuts to succeed. This can result in workers resenting one another, producing anxiety and create conflict.
There is no denying that some industries are more inclined to competition than others. For instance, the sales field is typically more competitive than say, the engineering field. So, what do you do if you’re in the midst of a workplace rivalry? Here are some steps to help you weather the competitive storm.
- Don’t get distracted.
Look around your office, you are (probably) surrounded by talented individuals where rivalry is bound to occur. At this point, balance is key, and focus is essential. Use that to motivate yourself to perform your best and work towards your end goal. Focusing on self-growth can elevate you to new heights over competing with a workplace rival.
- Be quietly confident and classy.
They say actions speak louder than words. Lead by example. If you are handling a passive-aggressive co-worker trying to outshine you, keep your cool and your head down during these moments, and let your work speak for itself. Even if your personality leads you to naturally engage with others, don’t take part in conversations that could potentially portray another colleague in a negative light.
- Find allies.
If you’re competing with someone that is ruthless, it may be worth growing your reputation and cultivating strong relationships with other coworkers. You may want to seek those that aren’t hyper-competitive, complimenting them on their achievements while becoming a respected and important member of the team.
- Step back.
In a tense and hypercompetitive environment, it is natural to lose sight of your end goal and see everyone as the enemy. At this point, it’s appropriate to take a step back and realize what you were all hired to do. Remember, you and your workplace rivals are all working towards a common goal, so it may be worth looking to them as allies instead of enemies. If you’re constantly competing in a negative way, chances are you have individual agendas, and will not meet the core objectives of the team or department.
- Don’t take things personally.
There is no point in getting your head turned by jealousy. If your colleague starts acting hostile? That means your achievements are what’s motivating the competition; a sign to keep doing what you’re doing.
- Acknowledge part and parcel of life.
There is no other way around of it. Competition pushes us, and allows us to learn more about our own strengths and weaknesses. While it’s easier said than done, you shouldn’t be stressing over it. Try to allow it to flow naturally and face it head-on with maturity.
Now, if you are still having negative feelings and experiencing a toxic atmosphere, it may be worth extending an olive branch. You could try to work with your competitive colleague, rather in competition with them. Ask them to tackle a challenge or issue you may be struggling to face. Find some common ground through sports, TV shows or hobbies. This may help alleviate some pressure to compete.
On the other hand, if you are working with a sneaky competitor who may be trying to sabotage or take credit for your work, that requires a different game plan. If the competition is disrupting your work, consider raising this with a trusted senior colleague, such as your manager, to keep them abreast of the situation and ensure they’re aware of your contributions to the team. Ensure your manager is aware of the steps you have already taken to address the problem and how the situation is negatively impacting your work.
Ultimately, if workplace rivalries are affecting your ability to excel in your role, it may be worth exploring options and finding something better – whether that’s in a different area of your organization, or a new company.
For more workplace tips, visit career-advice.monster.ca