In this day and age, it seems competition is everywhere we look. Whether it’s comparing ourselves to the people we follow online or staying late at the office to “outwork” your colleagues, we have a tendency to compete.
Why is that? While some professionals might find inspiration in having a goal to work against their coworkers, wouldn’t it be better to work as a team? Instead of seeing what others have as something to work toward, wouldn’t we all work better if we focused on appreciating what we have?
Competition in the workplace especially leads to stress for everyone involved–your manager, your coworker, and of course, you. Ultimately, competing and comparing yourself and how you stack up against your coworkers leads to a negative environment, both in your headspace and in your office.
Glassdoor spoke with Laura Weldy, women’s life and leadership coach at The Well Supported Woman, to learn some insights on how we can squash competition with our coworkers.
1. First, look inward
Instead of focusing on competing with your coworker, Weldy says you need to first dedicate some time to inward reflection. If you pause to analyze the situation and determine why that colleague is bringing out this competitive edge in you, then you’ll find the answer you need to stop.
“What’s the need that you’re trying to fill by being ultra competitive? What do you think you’ll receive as a result of being the first one to complete the project, or the one to receive the lengthy email shout-out from your boss? If what you’re looking for is respect, fulfillment, or recognition, then it’s up to you to figure out a way to give yourself those things in a healthier way,” says Weldy.
2. Now, consider why you feel the need to compete
Take a moment to ask yourself the following: Why do you feel the need to compete with your coworker? Are you jealous of their position or think they have a better relationship with your boss? Are you afraid you’re going to lose your job? Does your coworker make more money than you?
Weldy says these negative thoughts are the result of “imposter syndrome,” or the fear that we are doing something wrong. “We’re always worried that someone is just waiting to call us out for not doing things correctly, and we use comparison as a way to make sure we’re on track,” she explains. “The problem with this is that it also squashes innovation. You’ll never do or create something truly innovative if you’re only allowing yourself to take actions that have been validated by the people around you. Comparing yourself to your coworkers is a quick way to create more doubt and more boring work, rather than the confidence you’re craving.”
3. But can competition be healthy?
Some of you might be thinking, “But competition with my coworker makes me work harder and smarter,” and while it’s true that some rivalry can be healthy, it really depends on whether or not it’s beneficial for everyone involved. You have to keep in mind how your competitive tendencies are treating others–is your coworker being alienated, or are you causing them stress because you feel the need to compete? Or vice versa? This is where you need to communicate with your colleague and be honest about your intentions.
“There’s no reason that those motivated by competition can’t embrace it, while those who are frustrated by competition are allowed to pursue a different method,” suggests Weldy. “If you’re unsure whether competition is a motivating factor for you or for your coworkers/staff members, consider having the team take a personality test like the StrengthsFinder together. It’s designed to help you identify your unique strengths, challenges, and your motivations–and might help you to make the whole environment more inclusive and inspiring.
4. Confidence is key
At the end of the day, having and recognizing your confidence will ultimately help you stop comparing yourself to your coworkers. As Weldy mentioned before, “Comparing yourself to your coworkers is a quick way to create more doubt and more boring work, rather than the confidence you’re craving.”
Try replacing the confidence you have in competing with your coworker with confidence just in yourself. If you channel all that energy you’re putting into trying to outwork or outsmart your colleague and instead put it into focusing on your own work, you’ll find that all you are really after is the knowledge that you are good at your job–and you don’t need validation from anyone for that.