Career Advice

10 Signs a Coworker Is Competing With You and How to Handle It With Grace

Competition in the workplace is never pleasant. A survey showed that 55% of workers felt undue stress and reduced productivity when faced with a workplace rivalry. This can create a toxic work environment

But how do you know if a coworker is competing with you? Well, I’ll show you the 10 common signs a coworker is competing with you. Moreover, I’ll tell you how to handle the situation gracefully. So let’s get straight to it!

Read More: 20 Alarming Signs You Are Being Sabotaged At Work

10 Common Signs a Coworker Is Competing With You

If you want to know for sure that you’re dealing with an overly competitive coworker, here are 10 signs a coworker is competing with you at work:

  1. They take credit for your work
  2. They always respond negatively to your ideas
  3. They don’t share information with you
  4. They don’t act like a team member with you
  5. They will try to dominate the conversation when talking to clients, managers, etc.
  6. They’re rude to you
  7. They spread false rumors about you
  8. They criticize your work, looks, or personality
  9. They’re overly competitive
  10. They’re sarcastic 

1. They take credit for your work 

One of the signs that a coworker is competing with you is that they try as much as possible to take credit for your ideas. Let’s say you talked to them about your brilliant proposal. The next thing you know, that coworker has announced your idea to everyone – and pretends that they were the ones who came up with it. 

Elizabeth Perry, the Senior Coach Community Manager at BetterUp, gives her take on this issue:

This dishonesty is a backhanded compliment: your work is so good they want to present it as theirs. But this behavior can have serious professional repercussions, as it prevents you from getting the recognition you deserve.

Read More: Coworker Trying To Take Over My Work: 10 Tips I Used To Manage Them  

2. They always respond negatively to your ideas

On the opposite end to that, a coworker may feel threatened by you if they constantly respond negatively to your ideas. Sure, it’s fine if they respond negatively once or twice, after evaluating it carefully. 

However, if every single idea you bring out is met with negativity, even before measuring it up, then you can assume that they’re trying to compete with you. Since they’re a jealous coworker, they’ll try all they can to undermine your work. 

And if your proposal is particularly good, it’s usually met with a lot of hole-picking. In other words, the coworker finds flaws or points out perceived weaknesses. If so, you need to be prepared to defend it. 

3. They don’t share information with you

Another one of the signs a coworker is competing with you at work is if they withhold important information from you. Maybe you depend on an updated sheet to complete your task and meet deadlines. Well, the jealous coworker might purposely “forget” to send you the sheet – so you miss the deadline. 

Besides that, this can also mean that they never help you, or if they do, they will try to mislead you. They will do whatever they can to make you look bad and make them look great. Since they are threatened by your success, their mission is to see you fail. 

4. They don’t act like a team member with you

Did you know that great teamwork ups performance and productivity by 50% (according to a Stanford University study)? So what does it mean to be a team member? Let’s quickly go over some qualities:

Well, if someone is none of that to you, this is a sign your coworker is threatened by you and so treats you as competition. You might be able to easily spot them as they communicate with everyone but you. They help others but never you. They respect each team member except you

5. They will try to dominate the conversation when talking to clients, managers, etc.

A coworker who’s competing with you finds ways to manage the conversation and doesn’t allow you to speak. They want to assert their authority and control the narrative. 

Let’s say you all gather for a team meeting or you’re assigned to meet a client together. Well, expect them to interrupt you frequently or overshadow your input. Or, they might ignore what you say and bring up something else. 

With this, they want to prove one of two things (or both). One is that they are smarter and thus more valuable than you. The other is that they are dominant over you.  

6. They’re rude to you

Yes, everything I mentioned so far are examples of a coworker being rude. However, in this section, I’ll focus more on rudeness that is not related to workload.

Now, this can start off small through changes in body language. Maybe they avoid eye contact, cross their arms whenever you enter, or turn away from you. 

Some coworker’s behavior may be more aggressive. They stand so close to you that it gets uncomfortable. They challenge you with a constant glare. They may even clench their fists and jaws whenever you walk by. 

Yes, their rudeness can escalate into verbal hostility, which we’ll look at next…

7. They spread false rumors about you

Gossip in the workplace is very common. In fact, research done by the Harvard Business Review saw a whopping 96% of employees engage in gossip at work. And that can be harmless enough. 

However, it becomes a problem when a coworker purposely spreads rumors about you. They want to put your name in a bad light so that they will be more favored and win their so-called “competition”. 

And I can tell you now that rumors can be damaging. If it doesn’t affect the way your colleagues and managers see you, it will certainly affect your morale, productivity, and emotional well-being. 

Someone from Quora gives us one common example of a false rumor:

They like to spread rumors that you achieved this just because you are your supervisor’s favorite.

8. They criticize your work, looks, or personality

If a coworker criticizes your every move, it could mean they have a competitive behavior towards you. Because they’re competing with you, they try to bring you down however way they can. 

Suppose you gave a presentation during a team meeting. Your coworker criticized it by saying it lacked detail and clarity. They went on to suggest significant revisions. 

As for your looks, they can give unnecessary comments about how tired and unkempt you look. Or maybe they criticize the way you’re dressed – saying you’re overdressed or underdressed for the workspace. 

Then there’s criticizing your personality, too. Let’s say they make snide remarks that you’re too loud or you’re an attention seeker. They might even bring down a good thing like your positivity or loyalty. 

9. They’re overly competitive

When I say a coworker is highly competitive, I mean that everything is a competition for them. Yes, even with things that don’t matter. 

They compare who has a healthier lunch, who drives a better car, who wears more expensive clothing, who arrives earlier, etc… More than that, they go the extra mile to prove that they’re better. 

For this, they make sure they arrive earlier and leave later than you. It’s true, they might even start dressing up more to outdo you in looks. Here’s what Elizabeth Perry says about the overly competitive coworker:

They might be looking for ways to feel better when you’re coming out on top in the metrics that matter.

10. They’re sarcastic 

Let’s say the coworker isn’t as daring or bold. If so, it’s harder to be aware of the signs a coworker is competing with you. But you can spot them in their sarcasm. 

They might not bother with your workload, but they sure love to be sarcastic about it, whether to your face or behind your back. This is their passive-aggressive way to undermine your contributions, assert dominance, and give you low self-esteem. 

So if a coworker is always sarcastic about you, it can be a sign of jealousy, threat, or competition. They want to bring you down while elevating themselves in a more subtle way. 

How to Deal With a Coworker Who Is Competing With You

If you experience any of the signs a coworker is competing with you, your reaction might be to do the same to them. Another reaction could be you become depressed and unproductive. Again, here’s what Elizabeth Perry says:

Being on the receiving end of bad behavior doesn’t feel good, especially if it’s affecting your performance.

Don’t do any of that. Instead, you should know how to handle the situation with grace. Here are 7 strategies that can you follow:

  • Ignore them. The main reason a coworker is trying to compete with you is that they see you as a top performer and they’re either threatened or jealous or both. So one way you can gracefully handle the situation is to just ignore them. If you do this, their bad behavior won’t affect your performance and mental health. 
  • Continue to do your best. Remember that it’s a compliment if someone is trying to compete with you. It only means you’re doing a great job. So instead of focusing on these toxic coworkers, you should focus on your work, tasks, and projects. Besides, it’s not them that you need to please – it’s your managers, supervisors, clients, customers, and employers. 
  • Understand the psychology of envy. OK, I’ll admit that it’s hard sometimes to ignore someone who’s trying to ruin your name. If you’re struggling to keep yourself from retaliating, it’s a good idea to understand more about envy. An envious person usually has strong feelings of fear, shame, insecurity, and low self-esteem. If you can relate to these feelings sometimes, it will help you empathize with that coworker and help you keep from hurting them back. 
  • Compliment them. Just because a coworker is competing with you doesn’t mean you’re competing with them. You can be the bigger person and try to wipe their insecurities, fears, or low self-esteem away. For that, you can compliment them whenever they do something good. Who knows, this just might produce mutual respect between the both of you. 
  • Be humble. A coworker might feel the need to tear you down as they think you’re on a high pedestal and perfect. You do everything right the first time. But if you’re humble, you can be open about your mistakes and how you learned from them. This will show them that their perception of you is not true at all. If they see that you’re human, they might not feel so negative towards you. 
  • Talk to them about it. Open communication is one of the most important aspects of teamwork. So if you want to work as a team, then maybe it’s time to talk to them about their attitude and behavior towards you. Of course, you need to do it privately and compassionately. If they don’t want to talk, then that’s when you can just ignore them. I mean, at least you tried. 
  • Talk to human resources. If this coworker has gone beyond the limits and you can’t handle them gracefully anymore, don’t take matters into your own hands. You don’t want to play their game. The best thing to do is consider talking to HR. It’s also a good idea to write down your complaints. Let them handle the case and the coworker. 

Final Words

Sure, workplace competition can be healthy. Most of the time, though, it’s not. It’ll only bring you down and cause unnecessary stress. 

So if you spot any of the 10 signs a coworker is competing with you, the best thing to do is to handle it with grace. If you try to do what they’re doing to you, then you’ll add even more stress and you might not be able to stay focused on what really matters – your work. So follow the strategies that I listed here to make it a better work environment for everyone. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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