How to Take On the Super Competitor

BY Kathy Crosett
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The pressure to compete is part of the modern workplace, especially if you’re in sales. Some folks thrive on friendly competition, and when that happens the organization benefits. But, competition can also take a nasty turn. Check how Sue Shellenbarger recommends handling an out of control competitor.

In her article for the Wall Street Journal, Shellenbarger encourages readers to answer a few questions to determine their own level of competitiveness. For example, if it bothers you to lose an argument or if you will go to extremes to ‘get the edge’, you’re likely extremely competitive. What’s fueling this behavior? Researchers trace the intense focus on competition to a need for status. If you detect this behavior in yourself, tone it down to keep from alienating your co-workers.

If you’re dealing with a super competitor in your office, you need an effective way to manage the person. Your reactions to this person's posturing and downright aggressive moves, Shellenbarger explains, will be based on genetics and conditioning. Folks who are shy and quiet will have the hardest time with a competitor. But if you sit back and do nothing, the competitor in your office will score the best accounts while your own career goes nowhere.

The first step in these situations is to recognize what’s happening and then make a plan. Keep in mind that super competitors aren’t necessarily out to get you. They’re out to win at all costs. So don’t take their behavior personally.  If you have a decent working relationship with the person, consider taking them out to lunch or coffee and explain specifically how their behavior is bothering you. Another option is to explain the situation to your boss, but if you go that route, make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re complaining. Try to find a way to show how the super competitor’s behavior is harming the organization. That strategy will be the best way to induce change.

A little competition can work wonders in an office, but everyone should keep the killer instinct in check in this environment. You’re all working toward the same goal and it’s best to reach it together.