5 Most Competitive Co-workers

Robert Half International

In a survey by Robert Half, almost half of senior executives said they believe employees are more competitive today than 10 years ago.

Why is it harder than ever to hear the strains of "Kumbaya" among workplace colleagues? The uncertain economy may be part of the problem: When people are concerned about job security, they are more apt to want to prove their worth to employers, and the pressure to perform can result in employee rivalries.

While it's true that a bit of healthy competition among staff members can increase motivation and productivity, too much tension can stand in the way of collaboration -- and good team results.

Consider these five familiar workplace competitors and ways to deal with them when working together:

1. The Speeder

This colleague wants to win the race, at just about any cost. When your manager asks the team to submit ideas for a new project, for example, she's always the first to respond.

When working with a Speeder, make sure you have a chance to review her work. The person's tendency to race through projects means she doesn't always give assignments the time and attention they deserve. An extra set of eyes will ensure the tasks you tackle together are always error-free.

2. The Loner

This person is highly secretive and guards his ideas like they're the crown jewels. He tends to want to complete projects on his own, and he doesn't like to collaborate.

When working with a Loner, give him some space but make sure you remain in the loop on key milestones and deliverables. Check in with this person more frequently than you do with other colleagues; a quick e-mail asking for a status update or offering to lend a hand is usually sufficient.

3. The Superstar

No challenge is too great for this employee, who lobbies to take on the highest-profile projects. While her can-do spirit is helpful, what she really wants is the visibility that comes with taking on the most difficult assignments.

When working with the Superstar, consider letting this person take the lead. You might suggest she present the group's ideas at the next staff meeting, for example. As long as your role doesn't disappear completely, you can help motivate your colleague and build an ally.

4. The Weightlifter

This individual always offers to take on an extra project in order to look good to his manager.

You might be able to learn something from this workplace competitor. His actions not only help him in the eyes of his manager but also allow him to learn new skills. If you follow in his footsteps, just be careful you don't take on more responsibility than you can comfortably shoulder. Trying to do too much can make the quality of your work suffer and lead to burnout.

5. The Saboteur

This person will do anything to get ahead, like taking all the credit for a joint project. Such unsportsmanlike conduct really speaks to insecurity in this individual's own abilities: By making others look bad, she thinks she makes herself look better.

Be on the lookout for the Saboteur and keep your distance from this person. If you feel a colleague has deliberately undermined your work, immediately speak to your manager about the situation.

Here are some additional tips that can help you navigate an overly competitive workplace.

First, focus on your own performance instead of the actions of your colleagues, and make sure your manager is aware of your contributions to the team. You'll distinguish yourself in a positive way and maintain your integrity by avoiding workplace drama. Also try not to worry too much about the actions of your co-workers. Indeed, keep in mind that workplace competitors can ultimately be their own worst enemies.

If a colleague takes it a step too far -- by not offering you the information you need for a project, for instance -- then you need to address it. You can set up a private meeting to discuss your concerns with the person directly, or, if you're uncomfortable with that thought, talk to your manager.

Moreover, remember to pick your battles. If a co-worker is seeking credit for a relatively minor accomplishment, let it go. Don't get so caught up in the competition for credit that you overlook the importance of teamwork.

A final piece of advice: Be flexible. Learn to adapt so that you can effectively communicate with challenging co-workers. You don't need to change your behavior completely; just remember that a different approach can often help you reach the same goal.

Next: How To Deal With Difficult Co-Workers >>

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.rhi.com/.

Copyright 2008 Robert Half International, Inc.

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