Has this ever happened to you?
You’ve been assigned a project, maybe a key presentation, and your colleague is tasked with helping you collect important information or even do the research. As the project gets closer to the due date, you notice that your colleague is behind on the critical data necessary for you to complete and present the work. Any efforts to move forward or make progress are blocked by a colleague who stalls at every opportunity to connect with you. On the day of the presentation, he offers to finish the key slides for you (how helpful) and then manages to present the material himself.
Every office has at least one. The hypercompetitive employee who’s dead set on getting ahead, even at the expense of everyone else.
These people go far beyond wanting to get ahead and turn every assignment into a competition. Whether it’s intentional or not, they trigger strong reactions in colleagues that run the gamut from fighting back to shutting down.
So why does it happen?
Sometimes, your colleague is just a self-destructive and will end up sabotaging himself soon enough. This is not someone you want to spend time with trying to find resolution. Most times, however, there’s an underlying factor involved. People can become competitive when they feel threatened by someone else’s success or if they feel that they have to fight for limited opportunities for advancement. Certain misperceptions of fear or limitation can cause people to be more likely to start conflicts and be unwilling to do what is needed to end them.
What to do about it?
First, figure out what kind of reaction this competitive person ignites in you. Do you fight back by acting out or complaining to anyone who will listen, or do you just shut down, trying to avoid the conflict you know will arise when you speak up for yourself? Your style of dealing with this kind of conflict says a lot about how you will regain control of the situation. Either way, there are two important steps to take to reestablish your authority and take back your power. You just have to align it with your conflict resolution style.
Don’t fall in the trap
Understanding the dynamic between you and your colleague will help you craft a thoughtful and strategic response to this person’s behavior. Take a minute to step back and get a bigger picture of what’s going on. Sometimes your colleague will actually try to compete with you for something they’re afraid you will take away from them even if you don’t want it, like a certain promotion. Getting a better understanding of the problem instead of reacting emotionally will help you diffuse any rivalry, real or imagined.
Speak up for yourself
This one’s tough but important. If you want that promotion, make sure your boss knows early and is working with you to craft the career experiences you need to advance professionally. If someone is trying to sabotage your efforts, feel free to talk to your boss, but only if you can have an open conversation along with your colleague and the three of you can sit down and discuss a solution. Come prepared with a solution. It’s not your boss’s job to solve your problems for you, and your boss will appreciate the fact that you’re a problem-solver who tackles difficult problems head-on.
Unhealthy competition can breed other problems, like bullying, passive-aggressive behavior and resentment, which all contribute to a damaging and unproductive work culture. If you want to stand out and shine in the workplace, and your career, dealing with conflict effectively is critical.
Need help to develop your conflict resolution style? Reach your maximum leadership potential by breaking free of the ties the bind you. Contact me today.