How to deal with competition with your coworkers

You can’t advance in your career at work without expecting at least some level of competition with your coworkers – whether it’s open and outright, or subtle and unspoken. And because your coworkers are often also friends, in many cases, competition gets really awkward and downright uncomfortable! Here’s how to stand out in a crowd without losing allied coworkers, workplace friends or your positive reputation in the process.

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Recognize all of the directions your career can take

Just because you and your coworker(s) each have career ambitions, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically hinder each other. Sure, others might deem you and coworkers who are in your same department or role responsibility level “workplace competitors”, but that doesn’t mean you have to, especially if you’ve each got your eye on different career directions.

For example, two assemblers in a manufacturing plant can each stand out above the rest and both receive promotions: one to assembly supervisor and one to welder in training, for example. In most organizations, there is the potential to grow in more than one direction, which means you aren’t directly competing against another employee as much as you’re competing to be better than you were yesterday.

Take the high road

In cases when you’re literally competing with your coworker(s) for a promotion within your company, be honest about your areas of improvement, own up to your mistakes, and speak only positively or constructively about your colleagues. Get to the top by being the best version of yourself, not by throwing others under the bus or brushing your dirt under the rug. That way, when it’s your time to shine you’ll know that you did things with integrity.

Cheer for your colleagues

If you’re working alongside other ambitious coworkers and one (or many) gets promoted or rewarded before you, put your pride aside and cheer them on to demonstrate your leadership mentality and emotional intelligence. Everything happens for a reason, so learn from their successes and apply what you’ve learned to your own career path. If your manager and/or leadership team is observant and fair, they’ll definitely take notice.

Rely on your relationships

Build relationships with as many people in the company as you can, so that you can 1) build a network of coworkers with whom you can give and receive support, 2) demonstrate that you’re a team player who is committed to the broader company and not just your own benefit, and 3) save yourself from the stress of being lumped together and compared to the same person or people (intentionally or unintentionally). You could even set a goal for yourself to ensure 30% of your contacts are outside of your own department, which falls in line with networking best practices. Leverage these relationships to improve collaboration and teamwork between departments, and help you protect your own sanity against workplace competition!

Stop hiding and apologizing

Many employees are afraid to admit their ambitions out loud, instead feeling obligated to appear humble and satisfied where they are. But being so humble that nobody knows your goals and career ambitions might prevent your name from coming up when an opportunity presents itself. Be clear about your career goals inside and outside of the organization. Don’t be afraid to talk confidently and unapologetically about what you’re doing to grow and develop yourself, and about where you hope all of your efforts lands you.


All of these tips can help you be more competitive in your career without sacrificing your influence and relationships. Even in the face of fellow coworkers who don’t have your best interest in mind and who make workplace competition obvious and painful, stay focused on your goals, continue to work hard and innovate, and always show respect, professionalism, and humility.

This article originally appeared on Kununu. 

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