How To Get Ahead When Dealing With Aggressive Colleagues

Sometimes you need to know how to sharpen your elbows at work
Sometimes you need to know how to sharpen your elbows at work
Image Credit: Lennart Tange

A little competition in the workplace can’t be a bad thing, can it? Generally speaking, no; however, as with all such things in life there are some exceptions. One such exception is when you find yourself facing a hypercompetitive coworker. You know who I’m talking about: it’s that person in your office who wants to win at all costs. What are you going to do when you come up against them?

Understanding The Hypercompetitive Coworker

If you are going to be able to successfully use your IT manager skills to deal with a worker who is completely focused on winning at all costs, then you are going to have to take the time to understand them. What you need to understand is that this type of person has gone far beyond striving for success. They view every opportunity as a competition no matter if it is really meant to be or not. The presence of this type of worker in the workplace does not go unnoticed and can generate strong reactions in the other people in the office.

When we encounter an hypercompetitive coworker, we may react in different ways. Some of us will get ready for a fight and some of us may shut down – there is no real IT manager training for this kind of situation. I’m not saying that competition in the workplace is a bad thing. Rather, it often helps us develop our skills and allow us to reach shared goals. However, when it comes to ultracompetitive coworkers, this competition thing has gotten out of hand. They have a win-at-any-cost mindset and they are more than willing to ignore the decisions and perspectives of the people that they work with.

Studies of hypercompetitive workers has revealed that they are more focused on obtaining status over getting work done. They have no problems putting their own interests over those of others. Our reactions to hypercompetitive colleagues varies. In the best of cases, we may view them as a challenge and we end up trying harder. However, for some of us we may view them as being a threat and we end up retreating into anxiety and fear.

Dealing With The Hypercompetitive Coworker

When you encounter a hypercompetitive coworker, unless you are a magician you’re not going to be able to make them go away. Instead, you are going to have to find ways to deal with them. If what a hypercompetitive coworker is doing at work is starting to interfere with either your career goals or the IT projects that you are currently responsible for, then you are going to have to take action.

Once you become aware of your own reactions to what the hypercompetitive coworker is doing, you need to confront them. You need to tell them to stop undercutting you or the members of your team. What you are going to want to do is to start to gather specific examples of this coworker’s bad behavior and the reactions in others that it has caused. You are going to have to be able to explain to them how their behavior is hurting the team and the company.

Prior to this confrontation, you may want to take some time and practice what you will be saying. You may need to write out what you want to tell them so that you don’t forget anything in the heat of the moment. You need to understand that during the confrontation, ultracompetitive people will do everything in their power to get you off point. Give them examples of what they have done wrong and then explain to them the kind of behavior that you’d like to see from them in the future.

What All Of This Means For You

I think that we’d all be willing to agree that a bit of competition in the workplace is probably good for both ourselves and our IT team building. However, if we encounter an ultracompetitive coworker things can quickly get out of hand. Their desire to win no matter who gets hurt can damage a team and may end up damaging your career.

When we encounter an ultracompetitive coworker we need to understand that success is no longer what they are striving for. Instead, they now need to win at every chance that they get. They have a win-at-any-cost mindset and they really don’t care who they hurt as they strive to cross the finish line before anyone else does. How we react to these types of workers can vary from gearing up for a fight to simply shutting down. If an ultracompetitive worker is derailing your career, then you are going to have to take action. You are going to have to confront them and then you are going to have to show them what they’ve done wrong and what they should be doing.

Dealing with an ultracompetitive coworker is not an easy task. They may appear to be very successful to others, but you understand the damage that they are doing. You can’t let things continue on as they are. It is your responsibility as an IT manager to take action. You can get along with an ultracompetitive coworker, you just have to make sure that it’s done on your terms.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you encounter an ultracompetitive coworker, do you think that you should tell your boss?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you go to work every day, you do the best job possible using the IT manager skills that you have, and you hope that your boss notices the good work that you are doing. We all hope that when a more senior position in our company opens up, because of the good work that we’ve been doing, we’ll be selected to fill the role. However, sometimes the position does open up and we are not the one who is selected to fill it. What should an IT manager do then?