Are You a Friendly or Cut-Throat Competitor?

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Have your coworkers been less helpful or willing to offer input on your designs? Are some starting to take credit for your ideas? If you’ve noticed a change in the air, you’re not alone. In a recent survey by our company, nearly half of the more than 1,000 senior managers interviewed said they believe workers are more competitive with each other today than they were a decade ago.

It’s not so surprising given the current job market, where good creative jobs can be hard to come by. Internal rivalries are apt to arise when employees feel pressure to prove their worth and are evaluated against each other.

While competition among colleagues can be healthy and spur stronger individual performance, it also can lead to problems if gamesmanship goes too far. Following are some signs that the level of competition among your teammates has become more corrosive than beneficial:

  • You’re hesitant to share your ideas because you’re scared they’ll be stolen.
  • You’ve caught yourself resorting to unseemly tactics (gossiping, boasting, withholding information) to gain an advantage over your colleagues.
  • You hesitate to take time off because you worry a coworker may temporarily step into your job and do it better than you.
  • You don’t ask for advice or help out of fear you’ll be perceived as inept.

If the examples above sound familiar, here are three ways to maintain your competitive edge in a healthier fashion:

  1. Strive for personal bests. It’s smart to take note of the habits of your team’s star employees so you can model those behaviors, but it can be dangerous to benchmark your goals against them. Chances are, you have talents they don’t, and vice versa. Continually challenge yourself to improve, but measure your progress against your own past performance.
  2.  Don’t fall victim to turf wars. Showing passion for your job and taking ownership of your projects are positive qualities, but there is such a thing as being too protective of your work. Don’t be so territorial that you isolate yourself from fellow in-house designers. Be generous, share your knowledge, and be willing to ask for feedback and assistance, too.
  3. Monitor your motives. It’s one thing if you and a coworker push each other to raise your respective games. But if you’re becoming more interested in outshining a particular colleague than helping your company or department reach its objectives, it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Rivalries help no one when they turn rancorous.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at