Nearly Half of Managers Say Coworker Competitiveness Has Increased in Last Decade

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Cynthia Kong
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MENLO PARK, CA -- As athletes from around the world prepare to compete in London, workplaces in the U.S. appear to be hosting competitions of their own, a new OfficeTeam survey suggests. Nearly half (49 percent) of senior managers interviewed said they believe employees are more competitive with each other today than they were 10 years ago. These results mirror those from a similar survey of senior executives conducted in 2008.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than
1,000 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. 

Managers were asked, "In your opinion, are employees more or less competitive with their coworkers than they were 10 years ago?" Their responses:

Significantly more competitive
Somewhat more competitive
No change
Somewhat less competitive
Significantly less competitive
Don't know

*Responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

"A little friendly competition in the office is healthy if it inspires great individual and team performance," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Rivalry between coworkers can often become more intense when the economy is uncertain and people feel pressure to prove themselves. Although it's natural for employees to want to stand out among their colleagues, it shouldn't be at the expense of others."

OfficeTeam identifies five types of workplace "competitors" that take it too far and provides tips for working with them effectively:

  1. The Pole Vaulter. This person jumps to nab all of the high-profile assignments, leaving the less visible work to everyone else. To get the plum projects, proactively make your interests known. Volunteer for key assignments and acquire hard-to-find skills that make you indispensable.
  2. The Boxer. This worker has a jab for everyone -- whether it's a snide remark during a staff meeting or a sarcastic email. Don't succumb to this person's negativity. Remain professional when interacting with him or her, and try to work out your differences. If the behavior doesn't stop, alert your manager or human resources department to the situation.
  3. The Sprinter. This person tries to curry favor by working quickly -- even if the results are sloppy. Don't cut corners to compete with this individual. Instead, become known for delivering quality work.
  4. The Gymnast. This employee bends and twists the facts, sometimes taking credit for others' work. When collaborating with this colleague, be sure to share your original ideas and contributions with your manager. Document the designation of duties and other critical conversations to avoid finger-pointing down the line.
  5. The Marathoner. This person can go the full distance when it comes to spending time at the water cooler, sharing rumors with anyone who will listen. Although it can be useful to have a sense of the political undercurrents in your firm, avoid associating closely with office gossips, and don't share sensitive information with them.

About OfficeTeam
OfficeTeam is the nation's leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals. The company has more than 315 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at