Competition in the Workplace

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Posted July 24, 2014 by Carolyn Stroud in On the Ladder
young woman at computer

If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty competitive in nature. You read the latest career guidance in order to stay focused, you pay attention to how professional you appear, and you’re on the fast track to success. This also means you’re watching what everyone around you is doing. You’ve got one eye on the new guy who’s trying to hog the spotlight and the other on the corner office. And this is a good thing! Competition keeps us sharp and motivated. It helps us see what we could do better and reinforces what we already know to be true. But the farther we climb up the corporate ladder, the more likely we are to encounter not only a better pool of talent, but a more competitive set of cohorts. There’s no better time than the present to harness your competitive nature for success instead of letting it derail you and your career aspirations.

  • Be a Leader and Build Consensus. Nothing sets you apart more than becoming a leader. Whether it’s among your small group of coworkers or within the entire company, being a thought leader, taking on new projects, and seeking cooperation instead of competition will set you apart from the pack. Your hard-working nature and accomplishments will stand out from the crowd when you bring everyone together to solve problems. Some workplaces are more completive than others, but there is always room for leadership and consensus building. Whether it’s coming up with new solutions to everyday processes or getting everyone on board with a project, you will shine without having to draw attention to yourself.
  • Own What You Know. You have gotten this far because you are experienced, intelligent and charming. Trust your intuition when it comes to doing your job, your way. Pay no attention to someone else’s work style when yours is clearly working. There is always room for improvement, but never forget what makes you uniquely you. Your panache, skill and knowledge will continue to lead you in the right direction if you don’t go off course by trying to be someone else. Don’t waste your time second-guessing what you already know.
  • Don’t Take Competition Personally. It’s not you, it’s them. Someone’s competitive reaction to you is a reflection on them, not on your behavior. Plus, they’re more likely challenged by your abilities, than your personality. So keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be on your way to success in no time. If you’re having particularly strong feelings toward one person or set of actions, assess your own insecurities so that your reactions are not out of proportion. Being the bigger person is always the professional answer, even if it means taking a step back to gain some perspective.
  • Be Patient. Don’t let the Envy Monster In. It’s so easy to let the comparison bug get to us and make us feel insecure. To be jealous of someone else’s spotlight and to envy everyone who gets to work on the bigger, more visible projects is natural. But rest assured, with a bit of luck and whole lot of hard work, your time shall come too. Patience, diligence and determination will get you farther than wallowing ever will. Keeping jealousy at bay will lead you to success and fulfillment every time. So acknowledge that competition will inevitably exist at some point, and hone it to your own advantage.


About the Author

Carolyn Stroud

Carolyn Stroud works in finance at a commercial real estate firm in Chicago. Her previous experience includes mortgage banking, leasing, running a start-up and captaining an adult co-ed kickball team. Originally from Detroit, she has an undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Carolyn is a voracious reader and passionate about growing outside her comfort zone. She recently completed her second marathon and is always up for a challenge.

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