It can be frustrating when every task at your job feels like a competition. This is especially true if there is an overly competitive worker at the company who leaves you feeling as though your work isn’t good enough. Outside of work, if someone is overly competitive and not fun to be around you can just take your ball and go home. However, you cannot do the same thing at work. At least not without quitting your job. Even then, you could find that the competitive spirit follows you pretty much wherever you go.
There are ways of dealing with overly competitive people at work. There are mindsets that you can adopt that will make them less annoying. In this post, we’ll break down some of the reasons that you shouldn’t let competition feel like a bad thing and what you can do when employees take it too far. By the end of it, you’ll be prepared to take on the day and be a happier and more productive version of yourself.
The Good and the Bad of Competition
Healthy competition is a good thing for a work environment. Psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. explains, “Competitive people get things done and have much self-discipline, perseverance, and stamina, typically not giving up easily in the pursuit to be the best at whatever they are aiming for. Because competitive people are frequently very motivated and perform at a high level, they can often inspire others to function and perform to the best of their abilities as well”
The problem, she says, comes when people become so competitive that they are unable to turn it off. Indeed, there are times when a team needs to come together and work as a unit. Someone who is hypercompetitive may impede that from happening. This can have the opposite effect that healthy competition has, making the team less efficient and decreasing morale.
How to best deal with this depends on the competitive person’s relationship to you. Far different strategies need to be employed if the person is your boss than they do if the person is your employee. Let’s take a look at some ways to deal with overly competitive people from a variety of different relationships.
Dealing With a Competitive Manager
The power dynamics of dealing with a boss can make it difficult to work with them if they are hyper-competitive. While you may be able to talk things out with an equal co-worker, your boss will likely not be receptive to complaints about their demeanor. The job of a good manager is to be a leader. Managers that are overly competitive are not particularly good at being leaders, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help them along.
The first thing to do is to understand that it is rarely personal. The boss has a certain level of performance that they are expecting and you must try to match or exceed that performance. Pay attention to how your co-workers deal with the boss. Are there any that get along well with them? If so, try to emulate their demeanor and work ethic.
If none of the employees get along with the manager, then you can certainly attempt to be the first. Remember, the manager has expectations that their competitive nature has kicked into overdrive. Try to put aside your own perceptions of your performance and understand their perspective. Figure out exactly what it is they want from you and try your best to give that to them.
Dealing With a Competitive Co-Worker
If a co-worker on equal footing as you is being competitive, the first thing you must do is determine the nature of the competition. Remember, some competition is good. If your would-be nemesis is being competitive simply because he or she wants to be the best at their job, then you should see this as an opportunity to step up your own game. After all, your own career is only advanced when you show yourself to be one of the best at your job as well.
Sometimes though, a co-worker’s competitive nature gets in the way of teamwork. In these instances, you must try to remind the person that they are a part of a team. It can be as simple as responding to their competitive nature by speaking collectively. “That’s a great idea! It’ll really help us meet our goals!” is an example of the type of language that can gently remind them that their work is a team effort.
If that is not enough, and the co-worker is still not quite getting the hint and is bringing down the morale of the team, try being a little more direct with them. Remind them very explicitly, but politely, that you are all in this together and that things will go much more smoothly if you all work together.
Dealing With a Competitive Employee
As stated earlier, one of the key roles of a manager is to be a leader. If an employee is being hyper-competitive, it is likely because they are trying to get ahead. They want to advance in their careers, but their behavior is creating friction that will impede their advancement and act as a detriment to the productivity of everyone who works with them.
In other words, this employee needs guidance on how to best manage their career. This is the perfect time for you to step in and act as a mentor to them. Explain to the employee that you appreciate their enthusiasm. The goal is to get them to tone down the competition, not crush their spirit. After that, let them know that their behavior is too much and that by working more cohesively with the team they will be a larger benefit to the company, and therefore on a faster track for the advancement that they desire.
Learn More About Traversing the Competitive World of IT
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