Ways To Manage Having a Competitive Coworker

We’ve all been there: Your big idea’s stolen by a colleague at a meeting, or you were upstaged in front of the boss.

Competition happens in most work environments, whether friendly or intentional. People from different backgrounds are working closely, which can lead to great collaboration, but also to different opinions or outright competitiveness.

In the cases of an intentional co-worker who’s purposefully trying to drag you down, I’d recommend speaking to your manager (and here are tips on how to do that). But I also understand that’s not always the best move on your part.

What is a competitive coworker? A competitive coworker is an employee who focuses on outperforming their peers and ranking their work against others’. Rather than acknowledging the success of others, competitive coworkers feel threatened by other employees’ achievements and recognition.
  1. Don’t add fuel to their fire. Your co-worker is probably annoyingly competitive because they get a kick out of your emotional response. …
  2. Be direct that you don’t want to compete. …
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager. …
  4. Focus on yourself. …
  5. Consider their motive.

How to Handle a Competitive Coworker: 3 Tips

What is a competitive coworker?

A competitive coworker is an employee who focuses on outperforming their peers and ranking their work against others. Rather than acknowledging the success of others, competitive coworkers feel threatened by other employees achievements and recognition. They are motivated by being the best or being in the lead.

Signs of a competitive coworker may include:

Ways to manage having a competitive coworker

Here are eight ways to address having a competitive coworker:

Be direct

Consider addressing your coworker about their behavior. Explain how it is affecting you and the team in terms of morale and the work environment. Initiating open communication in the workplace helps identify any misunderstandings or assumptions. A conversation with your coworker may reveal motives or vulnerability that you did not anticipate.

For instance, perhaps your coworker came from a highly competitive environment where friendly teasing was common. Or they are an older coworker worried about being replaced. Speaking with one another can help you both express your feelings and how youd like things to be. Discussing your concerns honestly and calmly can lead to solutions.

When talking to your coworker, focus on how their actions make you feel, rather than making accusations. For example, you might say, “In the meeting, you said you never received a status update from me, but you actually responded to the email I sent a week ago. That made me feel undervalued.”

Extend kindness

Rather than participate in workplace competition, be kind to a difficult coworker. Acknowledge when they have performed well, congratulate them on their success and ask for help on a challenging assignment. Your coworker will see that you are not interested in “winning” and would rather everyone do well. You might try something like, “That was a great presentation, Joe. The graphics really helped me understand the figures better.” You could also say, “Do you mind helping me with this marketing report? Your reports are always polished, and I could use help with the formatting. Ill add your name to it.”

If your coworker is not responsive to these efforts, simply smile and try to keep your distance.

Develop relationships

If one coworker is creating negativity, you can reach out to other colleagues to develop healthy, professional relationships. Rather than focusing on a single person that may be unpleasant, instead focus on several others who can enhance your work environment through collaboration, encouragement and accountability. Cultivating strong bonds with peers may even inspire your coworker to act friendlier and less adversarial.

You may ask other employees if they feel the same way you do about a competitive coworker. If other employees are also experiencing disruptions in their work due to one person, that warrants a conversation with a supervisor. Avoid gossip by using examples, such as “Hank took credit for the new wellness initiative, but that was actually an idea I suggested to him. Has he ever done anything like that to you?”

If your colleague does reach out, accept them into your group instead of excluding them. A healthy, supportive atmosphere can lead to more productive, happier employees.

Do your best

Try to stay focused on your own responsibilities and use friendly competition as a motivation to produce high-quality work and even improve or develop new skills. Using some workplace competition to push you to reach personal goals is a healthy way to cope with the situation. Consider taking a course, attending a workshop or obtaining a certification in your field. It is always valuable to enhance your resume and qualifications, no matter who your coworkers are.

Maintain your integrity

Control what you can control in the workplace. This means that you cant be responsible for coworkers behaviors, but you are responsible for how you conduct yourself. Employers in every industry value integrity, honesty and responsibility. Commit to acting honorably in all situations, and that will reflect positively on you.

Avoid engaging with a competitive coworker. Instead, be cordial and polite, but keep details of your work to yourself to discourage competition.

Keep records

Keep any emails, text messages or voicemails from coworkers that demonstrate a lack of professionalism. If your coworkers behavior becomes threatening, report it, and include your documentation. When you keep records of incidents, your concerns appear less like opinions and can be demonstrated with facts and examples.

Speak to a manager

If confronting your coworker directly does not resolve the situation adequately, consider speaking with your boss. Be honest and include specific examples as references for your concerns. Try to focus on how the other employees behavior is affecting your work and productivity more than how youre being treated. This gives your boss more of a reason to address the issue rather than dismissing it.

Additionally, making someone else aware of what is going on provides official documentation of the incidents should things escalate. To avoid singling out your coworker, consider asking your boss to address the whole team or department about the appropriate ways to behave and communicate at your company. This reminder may help your coworker understand the expectations and standards in the office.

Move on

You may also decide to request a transfer or relocation, especially if your company has other offices nearby. Removing yourself from the same physical space as a competitive coworker can help ease tensions and limit distractions.

If none of these steps work to improve a situation with a competitive coworker, consider applying for a new job that will benefit from your professionalism and skills.


How do you deal with an Oversteping coworker?

Talk About Overstepping Boundaries

It can be a stressful and uncomfortable conversation to have, but if your coworker is constantly stepping on your toes, you need to let them know. Remember to be polite, but stern, and use specific examples in your conversation so it’s clear to the coworker what you’re talking about.

Is it unhealthy to compete with coworkers?

When competition gets out of hand, it becomes unhealthy and ends up hurting the entire team. As a leader, it is your role to ensure that you encourage just enough competition to enable the entire team to grow and that individuals do not tear the team apart.

Is it good to be competitive at work?

Some research studies suggest such competition can motivate employees, make them put in more effort, and achieve results. Indeed, competition increases physiological and psychological activation, which prepares body and mind for increased effort and enables higher performance.

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