“I have a staff who is always throwing things out of proportion. Every small issue is immediately passed to my senior boss with graphical details, often exaggerated. By the time I am passing the correct information a wrong image has already been formed. Actually most of these things do not need to get to the bosses. They are normal work place issues that we can handle at our level.” The manager said, I could see the frustration in his eyes. “To make it worse this employee is my junior but he has personal connection with my boss.” He continued.

We have all come across these types of employees. Mostly colleagues at our level who are trying to get ahead of us by all means or a junior staff who is trying to make a name for themselves. They will gather the smallest detail about your work or department and twist it to work against you. They will deliver the information to the higher office showing how you are not in control. They even have ideas on how they think the situation should be handled better.

These employees will offer to buy you lunch but with a sole purpose; to pick your mind on something. To gather ideas on what you are up to next. To know what you are ‘struggling with’. The only issue is; they are picking it for their own advantage. This information will be used against you in another office. These are the people who can spend days analyzing your personal life from all angles just to pick a flaw. They are your great silent followers; they know every bit of your personal life. They could actually pay to get this information. They could get your social media or E mail hacked or analyzed just to get to know about your life.

These colleagues will have all the right points in a meeting when the boss is around. They will have money to pay for lunch when the boss is dining with you. They will however have nothing useful to contribute on the boss’s absence. The interesting thing is they will also bad talk the boss to you as well. They will make you think they are on your side when the boss is away. They will also make the boss think you are the bad or incompetent person when you are away. They have two amazing faces; very nice on your face but very poisonous on your back. They will get you fired then offer to help you get a job.

In a world where competition is overrated, people forget the value of being a good human being. One manager gave me an interesting scenario though. In their organization they had a colleague who you could not delegate your work to when you were away. He was known to check through people’s documents, E mails and any information that he could come across. He would then look for gaps to share with the senior management to show your level of ‘incompetence’. It was even worse because most managers were expected to take a month’s leave. Knowing how much one can dig in a month, they opted not to leave him in-charge when they were away.

This manager however decided to teach him a lesson. He offered him a chance to be in charge when he was away. He however compiled tasks that needed to be completed when he was away. He knew that this person will need to consult him as the manager or other colleagues for him to complete this work. He however let him know that the only reason he was leaving him in charge is because he trusted him. He let him know that this was his only chance to prove that he was worth the trust. By the end of that one month he realized how hard it was to sit in that office. He realized that he also could not get it perfectly done. He took a back seat and stopped witch-hunting the managers.

Sometimes it may not be that easy though especially when working in a highly politicized culture: A culture where the one who speaks loudest is considered right. A culture that thrives on rumors instead of facts. If you believe in ethics and integrity this culture will drain you. You will lose every bit of respect to the people propagating it. You end up in a work place where;

  1. You have a battle of egos – People compete to outsmart each other not to improve the outcome of the entire team. Some even take credit for other people’s work.
  2. People hoard information – One hoards information to massage their ego and use it to defeat the competitor.
  3. People form unhealthy alliances – People form cliques with the purpose of promoting a certain leader. The clique is committed to soothing the ego of the leader at the expense of the company and other team members.
  4. Sabotage is the order of the day – If someone cannot shine over the others by having brilliant ideas, they embark on a sabotaging journey in which any new ideas or chances of others succeeding are quickly extinguished by whatever means.
  5. There are too many meetings – They are however a waste of time with poor decision making. It’s a result of distrust and insecurity; nobody wants to take responsibility.

Nobody wants to stick around this place, there is no fulfillment. As you think of your next move you will still need to survive in this kind of workplace. Here are a few survival pointers;

  1. Maintain high quality work – Use the competition to produce higher quality work than before; do not overwork yourself though just don’t give them a genuine reason to blame you.
  2. Show appreciation – Overly competitive people have a fragile self-esteem that fluctuates based on recent achievements and being admired by others. Appreciating them will make them feel more confident and create a relaxed interaction.
  3. Protect yourself – Office politics can turn nasty. Keep your documents and your work safe to make sure no one can claim it as their own. Keep records of your achievements and regularly inform your bosses.
  4. Talk to the person – If someone belittles your work, sabotages you or takes credit for what you do bring it to their attention. Remain objective and professional. Listen to their side of the story and see if you need further intervention.
  5. Go your own way – Changing a workplace culture by yourself is practically impossible. You dint have to give in or let it demotivate you.
  • Find other winners in the organization and surround yourself with them. Create success stories for your next role whether within or outside the organization.
  • If you can’t find other winners; engage yourself in side hustle or passion outside work; it will have a positive spillover on your functioning at work.
  • Stay under the radar or in stealth mode, make yourself visible when you are becoming a magnet for other winners. Let the competitors chase the wind in the name of competing with you, before they know it you have a concrete plan to rise or exit.

“Life is not a competition, it’s about helping and inspiring others so we can each reach our potential; If you continuously compete with others you become bitter but of you continuously compete with yourself you become better.”

2 thoughts on “Navigating Unhealthy Work Competition”

  1. Momanyi Boaz says:

    This a well thought out piece. Great insights. I am truly enlightened.

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