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How to Handle Overly Competitive Colleagues in Five Easy Steps

How to Handle Overly Competitive Colleagues in Five Easy Steps

A little competition is healthy, but what should you do when it goes too far?

Luckily most of the coworkers you ever encounter won’t have a severe competitive streak, but every once and a while, you can find yourself on the losing side of things. If strategies like collaboration and inclusion don’t help, go on the defensive. Of course, the best rule of thumb is to ignore your colleague; don’t give them the power to detract from your time and energy. But if you do need to take action, consider these steps.

  1. Remember that your performance speaks for itself.

This is especially true if your competitive coworker is more of an annoyance than a threat to your productivity and success. There is a big difference between bragging about getting the most sales for the quarter, and borrowing your Rolodex to steal clients from you. So unless your colleague has resorted to unsavory tactics, try to relax and see how things play out. Your work isn’t suffering, so why should you?

  1. Focus your energy on cultivating friendships and professional rapport among other colleagues.

Create some space between you and your problem colleague, but also get closer to others in the office. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and form alliances and devise plots; rather, let your other colleagues get to know you. Gain their respect. Offer positivity, praise, and collaborative effort. They will be able to see that you’re a dedicated employee who encourages others’ success.

  1. Speak up.

If you see that credit has not been given where it’s due, or that your competitive colleague has taken credit for someone else’s work, speak up. Try to do so eloquently and not in front of clients, as doing so could harm your company’s reputation (and we’re all on the same team here, right?). So be assertive, but maintain an air of calmness and professionalism.

  1. Have a frank discussion with your colleague.

It’s unlikely that your colleague’s intentions are malicious. Chances are, they aren’t out to destroy you. They probably aren’t even aware that their competitiveness is causing you grief.

Try inviting your colleague out for coffee during one of your breaks. Choose a comfortable space, where you can have a private conversation on neutral ground, like at a small café before the lunch rush. Be polite and ask your colleague how work is going. Per basic rules of conversation, they will probably return the question. There’s your window. Let them know that work has been tough for you because of reasons a, b, and c. Even if you know that other colleagues feel the same way, don’t name names — keep the focus on your own experience.

  1. Pay your Human Resources department a visit.

If you’re fortunate to work at a company big enough to have an HR department, you can enlist their help. Some HR departments will try to mediate tension between employees, while others may choose to speak to the employee-in-question privately (and without disclosing who made the complaint). Find out what your options are.

If you don’t have an HR department, find out if there is a designated mediator on staff. As a last resort, take the issue to your boss. Be clear and professional when addressing your boss with this problem, as you do not want to make a bad impression. Stay solution-oriented and don’t let your emotions drive the conversation. Suggest some team building exercises or professional workshops, and be open to your boss’ ideas.

After you’ve exhausted these steps, let’s hope your colleague’s competitiveness is no longer a force to be endured. But if all else fails, you can resign. Sounds pretty blunt, right? Perhaps. But there is no shame in leaving a work environment that doesn’t bring out the best in you. If you’re going to spend half of your waking hours at work, you deserve a job that you are excited to go to each day. That said; it’s still your best bet to just ignore your colleague. As our friends across the pond would say, “Keep calm and carry on.”

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Mary Frenson is a Marketing Assistant at, a new source of information on UK companies. Mary is always happy to share her marketing ideas and thoughts on business issues. In her free time she enjoys handicrafts.

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