Career Advice

How to Cope With an Annoyingly Competitive Coworker

Three competitors running in a forest at an endurance event

Some people might thrive off competition in the workplace, but in most cases, rivalries at work lead to a negative atmosphere that causes a lot of unnecessary stress. Whether you work directly or indirectly with your annoying, competitive co-workers, learning how to cope with those personalities can help you flourish without feeling the need to spark or join a competition.

Wondering how to get through the days when your co-worker won’t stop one-upping you or bragging about their sales numbers? Here’s what to do.

1. Don’t add fuel to their fire

Your co-worker is probably annoyingly competitive because they get a kick out of your emotional response. If they’re always going out of their way to tell you about their achievements or the high-fives they got from the boss, just give a friendly smile and move on with your day. It’s better to be polite and civil that to stir things up. If you try and compete with them or respond with a list of all the things you’re working on–it just adds fuel to their fire.

In this scenario, the best way to cope is to not edge the on.  If they want to be competitive, that doesn’t mean you have to participate.

2. Be direct that you don’t want to compete

If your co-worker won’t stop bother you or is constantly making you look bad in front of your boss or fellow employees, it’s time to be direct and handle the situation. It can be nerve-wrecking if you’re not the most direct person, but you will feel so much better after opening a conversation with them and it’s the best way to get them off your back.

Some people might think competition is an unspoken thing in the workplace, so maybe your co-worker is being annoying because they actually think you are trying to complete with them. If that’s the case, the best thing for both of you could be having a direct conversation about how you can work together without a competitive feeling.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager

Whether or not your manager is part of the problem, it’s always a good idea to loop them in on how you’re feeling at work. If your competitive co-worker is stressing you out or makes you feel inadequate, you’re not wrong for wanting to talk to your manager about the situation. After all, they are there to oversee your worth ethic and having unnecessary stress form someone who is on your same team is something they will want to know about.

4. Focus on yourself

When you work in a competitive atmosphere, it can sometimes be hard to not be competitive, especially if you feel the urge to one-up the person who keeps one-upping you. Rather than compete, consider taking the high road and shifting your focus to your projects.

Try to avoid your competitive co-worker and don’t converse with them about your projects. Instead, try to keep to yourself and just focus on doing a really great job and working toward moving your company forward. Doing so will not only take the stress of competition away, but it will likely result in a better work ethic–and your boss will surely notice!

5. Consider their motive

Lastly, a great way to help you cope with a competitive worker is to take a moment and try to understand why they are trying to be your rival instead of your teammate. Consider what factors could lead them to behave in this way: maybe they’re an older employee who is worried that you are going to replace them; or they’re dealing with stress at home and feel pressured to get a promotion; or maybe their job is on the line and their way of coping is to try and compete with their co-workers.

Once you take a step back to consider that, though it might not change their behavior, it will help you look at the situation from a new perspective. And with that in mind–open up a conversation with them and see if you can really figure out what’s going on. Then, instead of competing with one another, you can hopefully discuss how you can work as a team so the two of you can continue being productive employees.

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