You spend about one-third of the day, for about forty hours a week, or even more with your colleagues. You will achieve personal growth with supportive coworkers, and the company will thrive due to the collective output. It will, in turn, contribute towards the growth of everyone associated with it.
Unfortunately, not all coworkers think that way. You would find coworkers who would constantly compete with each other to get any benefit that might come from the work. They would only be concerned about their promotions and perks rather than contributing as team members.
While healthy competition is very good in a workplace, as it keeps everyone motivated, it can easily take a nasty turn if not kept in check. The competition may lead to a rivalry that can easily sabotage the work.
Hence, detecting whether a coworker is competing with you is a good idea. It will help you navigate office politics in the best possible way and help you stay ahead of the competition.
Why Would a Coworker Compete With You?
A coworker may compete with you for several reasons; not all are directly connected to you. However, it will affect your performance if it stays that way.
It’s the primary reason why a coworker will compete with you. They do not understand that competing with you won’t get them closer to their goals unless they strive for excellence.
A coworker with a feeling of insecurity would consider you a threat concerning promotion and other allied benefits.
The competing coworker needs to understand that improving their quality of work will automatically increase their chances of a raise rather than competing with you.
For some, the increase in designation accompanying promotion and the increased pay scale mean everything. So, if there are only a few promotions each year, they will want to get ahead of you by hook or crook so that they can leave you behind.
3. Low Self Esteem
Some people have low esteem and feel their contribution won’t be considered good enough or valuable when measured against someone else’s. They need to realize that every employee has something unique to contribute. You will prove invaluable to your company only when you do your job well.
On the contrary, they feel that if only if they appear better than their colleagues, the employers will value their worth.
4. Fear of Rejection
Some employees fear rejection and feel they may be in line for termination if they constantly do not prove they are better than their colleagues.
Again, this arises from their insecurity. They will do anything to show that they are doing more than their colleagues. When you make a mistake, they use that as an opportunity to point fingers at you rather than working on their areas of expertise and excelling in them.
Signs That a Coworker is Competing With You
If you believe your coworker is competing with you, here are some signs to help confirm your suspicions.
1. Working Overtime
You will find that your coworker constantly works overtime to prove they are better and more productive than you. They will try to show that they are more capable as an employee and they work harder than you. Doing this makes them feel that the employer will notice them more and promote them over you.
2. Bossing Around
Your competing coworker will try to boss you around. They will try to imply they can do the job better than you and will constantly tell you how to do your job, especially with the earshot of a superior. By doing this, they will try to appear more competent than you and will be rewarded for it.
3. Spying on You
If your coworker is competing with you, they will try to spy on you because they would be keen to know about your projects and the tasks assigned to you. They will constantly judge and compare and follow your moves. They will feel that by monitoring you closely, they will be able to know your shortcomings and will use them as leverage for their own gains. However, by doing this, they will only neglect their work more.
4. Finding Faults
Your competing coworker will always try to find faults with you and criticize you in front of others. They feel that by putting you down before others, they can remain a step above you in the eyes of the employer.
Sometimes they will find faults with you, even if you haven’t committed a mistake. They may also go so far as to create hindrances so that you fail in your tasks or make mistakes.
5. Making Enquiries
A competing coworker will always try to enquire about you, starting from everything to the projects assigned to you to your personal life.
You have to be very careful about what you share with them and ask your colleagues not to divulge too much information about you if they ask questions behind your back. A toxic coworker can even use this information against you.
6. Stealing Credit
Your competing coworker will try to steal credit for the tasks you have accomplished. They will probably take credit for doing the bulk of the work, even though they may have contributed almost nothing.
They will often draw comparisons in an attempt to highlight their achievements. It’s a way to show off before their superiors to get noticed.
7. Causing Hindrance
Your competing coworker will cause hindrance in your work by making things difficult for you. They may withhold important information from you, delay replying to your messages, fail to pass on important messages or create other work-related hindrances. It will increase your chances of making mistakes or delaying your work; your coworker will love that.
8. Spreading Rumors
Another thing that your competing coworker will do is spread rumors about you. They will either say something that will diminish your value before the employers or try to tarnish your character so that people become wary of you. It’s bound to create some emotional tension and might even provoke you, leading to mistakes.
9. No Acknowledgement
Your coworker will try to maintain distance from you and act cold towards you. They won’t act with compassion and understanding. Hence, they will not acknowledge your greetings or will not congratulate you when you do well. Also, they will be reluctant to socialize with you after work.
10. Constant Comparison
Your competing coworker will constantly try to pitch themselves against you and compare your achievements with theirs. It could be because they want to highlight their achievements and see who has more support.
Situations like the above might happen when you work in the same designation and vie for the same promotion, and your manager’s approval becomes crucial.
11. Demotivating You
Lastly, your competing coworker will always try to demotivate you. Instead of appreciating your efforts, they will point out how you could have done it better or earlier.
You must be careful and recognize the signs to avoid second-guessing yourself. You will lose confidence, and the only way to combat this problem is to have absolute clarity about your work and capabilities.
How to Deal With a Competing Coworker?
Dealing with competing coworkers may be tricky, and you will need some diplomacy. You would want to maintain your professional relationship and ensure everything runs smoothly within the team. Here is what you can do.
Take them aside and speak to them conversationally about some signs they have noticed.
- Give them a chance to explain themselves.
- Please do not get defensive to make them feel the competition disconcerts you. It will make you a soft target, making them even more competitive.
- Try not to speak to your boss in the initial stages of conversation unless they have done something malicious.
- Ask them if there is any way in which you can help them out. Convey to them through actions that you do not mean to overshadow them.
- Do not reciprocate if they try to accuse you, spread rumors about you, or tarnish your image. Or, they might want to steal credit for all your hard work. You can speak to your manager about it if things become too problematic.
However, keep a trail of their actions; if they jeopardize your work, you can speak to your superior. Do this only after you have exhausted all ways of reasoning with your coworker.
How to Know if a Coworker is Being Toxic or Competitive?
When your coworker first starts competing with you, it might be difficult to understand if they are being competitive in a healthy way or are engaging in toxic behavior because of their inherent insecurities. It could be a while before you understand the difference between the two.
Healthy competition will not get you into trouble. Your coworker will try to excel in their task and achieve better performance. But they will not do anything to discredit or malign you.
Your coworker will also not do anything that will compromise the quality of work you put together as a team or individually. While your mistakes will be an advantage for them, they won’t go out of their way to cause hindrance in your path. Nor will they complain to your boss behind your back or point out your mistakes deliberately.
Most importantly, if your colleague engages in healthy competition, their competitiveness will only be visible during work. At other times, they will behave cordially and professionally with you. They will not misbehave or try to turn others against them, which is downright toxic behavior.
In an ideal scenario, you would have no troubles at work. And yet, the reality can be quite different as you may encounter a lot of stress related to work and workplaces. A helping coworker can be an asset in such cases. But things can become difficult if your coworker competes with you in an unhealthy manner.
In such cases, look for the signs and try to mitigate the issues as much as possible while concentrating on your work and mental health. Your excellence and calm demeanor may make them rethink and regulate their behavior.