A lot of people have a competitive streak in areas such as sports but not at work, which is strange as the same drive should exist in the office: a place where you’re getting paid to be productive. There is nothing remotely wrong with a bit of healthy competition, especially when it comes to your career. Seeing someone else achieve recognition or praise should encourage you to be more ambitious and get you out of a work rut. But how do you inspire healthy competition in the work environment without creating enemies? Here, we outline five positive ways to be competitive at work.
1. See yourself as your own competition
It is important to reflect on your work and all the accomplishments you have achieved and figure out ways to outdo them. See which project has given you the most satisfaction and how you can go beyond that. Rather than focusing on other people, focus on improving yourself by setting goals to achieve, then try to surpass these goals because that is the only way to build yourself up. Competing against yourself will also lead to a much more positive and enjoyable time at work. Remember to make the goals attainable—for example, write two more extra articles this week, study for two more hours this weekend, or interact with someone new at work. Whatever it is, always try to go a little bit beyond your goals.
2. Use competition to encourage bold moves
Use your competitive spirit to get out of your comfort zone. If you see colleagues who excel and take risks that you have always been hesitant about, use that to encourage yourself to cross some lines. Making bold moves always comes with risks, but if you see that these are going to take you even further in your career, you should be ready to accept the risks. Competition will not only create an exciting work environment but also a challenging one. Take the bold moves: put in overtime to perfect an idea or project, pitch innovative ideas, or spend weekends on research. All of this will push your skills and limits—and that’s when you grow.
3. Be more unique than your competition
Healthy competition comes when you can see your own strengths and use them as leverage. See the abilities at which you excel and grow in those abilities without stealing other people’s successes. Even though you are doing the same job as the others, you can be better in different areas and at the same time bring more value to your company. Differentiation is important when it comes to distinguishing yourself: by making it your mission to develop your own unique strengths, it will certainly get noticed and—you’ll be the first person they look to for certain skills.
4. Learn from competition
Observe your competition—especially those who excel—and see what they have been doing to make them such assets to the company. Instead of getting jealous or talking bad behind their backs, channel your energy into paying attention to them as they could end up becoming your best teachers. It could be that they have good time-management skills that enable them to finish projects on time, or the habit of listening to certain podcasts that make them creative. Or maybe they are active in certain organisations or classes that help them improve their skills. Grab some coffee with them, learn their habits, and see if you could use them to improve yourself. Or better yet, ask them to collaborate, because in that way, you will not only learn at close range the kind of productive habits they have, but also by treating them as a team member or friend you will feel so much better.
5. Invest in yourself
There are plenty of ways to enhance your skills, and usually they require an investment of time, energy, and/or money. Don’t expect the company to help you with your own professional development, because most of the time this is an unrealistic expectation. Investing in yourself doesn’t have to be expensive: a personal development book, or attending classes, free seminars or webinars are not all that expensive. Create an annual budget for your professional development and use it, because it will definitely pay off over time.