The office is a tense place.
Everyone just wants to get through the week and make it to Friday afternoon.
Coworker drama can make the week feel one hundred times longer.
As the fifth and final installment in the career series, I share tips for how to deal with the most common and most frustrating coworker problems.
How to Deal with a Jealous Competitive Coworker
I’ve experienced all of the following types of coworkers.
I’m sure these look familiar to you too.
The Coworker Who Tries to Make Me Look Bad
The Coworker Who Tries to One Up Me
The Coworker Who Tries to Sabotage Me
The Coworker Who Tries to Track My Time
Honestly, dealing with these types of coworkers is so frustrating and for a long time made me super unhappy.
Then, I figured it out!
While you can’t change a hyper competitive coworker, you can change your perspective and your actions to better handle the situation.
Think Like the Boss
When your coworker is trying to compete with you or make you look bad, remember this simple fact.
Your boss doesn’t want one person to be the best and everyone else to suck.
If your boss is perceived to have a weak team, they will get dinged in their performance review.
I used to get all freaked out when a coworker was trying to make me look bad.
Now I realize that my boss doesn’t view it as a zero sum game where one person wins and the rest lose.
Our boss wins when we all win.
Train Your Coworkers
Making those around you better seems like the opposite of what you want to do to stand out, but it’s the best thing you can do.
When I was a manager, there was one person on my team who would go out of their way to help the new and more junior people.
I always saw him stopping by their desks or sitting with them at their computers, showing them how to do things.
He readily helped his peers too.
As a manager, this person made my life so much easier.
Helping Your Peers Helps You
Training is a huge problem for managers since they have limited time and outside training isn’t as effective as training with a coworker.
Most employees dislike training a new coworker though.
First, they have to take time out of their already busy day to explain things.
Second and more importantly, they see little reward in it.
They’re worried the new person is getting paid more than them or worse, they could train this person and then the boss perceives them to be better than they are!
This scarcity mentality will hold you back.
Don’t be afraid to help or train your coworkers.
Improving those around you will put you in a better position since you’re helping your boss solve one of their greatest problems.
Don’t Let Your Coworkers Fail
When I was first promoted to manager at my old job, one of the other managers seemed unsure of me.
There seemed to be an unspoken competition between us and it was uncomfortable.
Every Friday morning, she would send out a report to our business partners but one Friday morning, I didn’t see the report go out.
She had a long commute and I assumed she forgot about it that week.
I knew this was my chance to get on her good side.
Don’t Do It For the Credit, Do It For the Relationship
I created the report for her, just in case, and reached out to her via text to ask about it.
She responded that she completely forgot about the report and was super stressed that morning.
I said “Don’t worry, I created it just in case” and sent it to her.
The report went out and no one knew differently.
I covered her and she was so grateful.
No one ever knew I sent the report, but she knew, and that made all the difference.
From then on, I had her back and she had mine.
Our boss rewarded us both and we were both considered top performers on the team.
Have Your Coworker’s Back and They’ll Have Yours
We’ve all been in situations where we see another coworker screw up.
Many of us have looked the other way instead of helping that person out out of jealousy or insecurity.
I was guilty of this for a long time.
Don’t let your coworkers fail.
They’ll be there for you when you need them too.
Create a Team Atmosphere
People like being part of a team, even though they may not say that.
Stanford researchers found that just feeling like you’re part of the team increases motivation on challenging tasks.
Here are some ways to foster a team identity and squash unhealthy competition in the office.
- Host fun events during work hours.
There is nothing more of a buzz kill than work disguised as fun.
Work events during work hours though are always a good way to bring people together.
- Invite coworkers out to lunch or coffee.
Create a culture where relationships are built and valued.
The time out of the office will be returned in spades through better teamwork and collaboration.
- Make all team meetings interactive.
No one likes boring team meetings where people sit around a table and mindlessly give status updates.
Try to make team meetings fun.
If you’re not a manager, gently suggest an idea for a team meeting to your manager.
Team meetings might be boring because they don’t have time to plan them.
(All managers have been guilty of this at some point).
- Positively reinforce teamwork.
When you see someone being a good teammate, recognize it publicly.
Positive reinforcement works wonders to keep a team happy.
- Offer to help out in a specific way.
“Let me know if you need help with anything” means nothing unless it’s specific.
It’s one of those things people just say like “how are you?”
You know what your coworkers do for the most part.
Offer to help them with something specific when you see they need it.
What to Do When Your Boss Plays Favorites
Ugh, this is the worst.
I was always the person quietly doing a good job but with a major chip on my shoulder since I was never the favorite.
I then figured out that people like other people who make them feel good and there is something about the way the popular, fake-nice people carry themselves that everyone digs.
This could be the reason why your coworker is getting all of your boss’s attention (even though you may be better at the job).
- Put Yourself in Your Boss’s Shoes
People just want interaction, talk to them!
Coaches, bosses, and teachers are people too and exchanging pleasantries goes a long way.
- Remember that there could be some HR issues going on
If it seems like the boss is letting someone leave early all the time or seems to go easier on someone, there could be a reason why.
Perhaps this person is going through a hard time at home and needs a break or they have a medical issue.
There could be some reason you’re not aware of that would explain the special attention.
Workplace Competition is Not Healthy for Anyone
An environment where you feel hyper-competitive with your coworkers is not good for you or the company.
Unhealthy competition in the workplace can lead to stress, turnover, and low performance.
Sometimes even if you try all of the approaches above, you can’t fix the problem.
One of the keys to getting ahead in your career is knowing when to find a new opportunity.
If you can’t change the culture, cut your losses and go.
If you liked this post, check out other posts in the Career Series:
Have you ever dealt with jealous or overly competitive coworkers? How did you deal with it?
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