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How to Compete With Coworkers Without Sacrificing Teamwork

Aha moment: It’s possible to compete with coworkers and still be wholly invested in your team.

The idea of competing with the people who are on your team seems counterintuitive, right?

Teamwork is all about building each other up and working together toward a common goal.

The reality is you can still be an all-in team player and remain competitive in your organization.

Actually, it’s what you need to do.

Because, to get ahead and keep your professional upward trajectory, you have to compete.

Think of it as “coop-etition.”

This perfect marriage of cooperation and competition is all about managing your brand.

Here’s how you can strike the right balance of coop-etition.

1. Differentiation is subtle competition

Your team as a whole will be known for certain strengths.

Determine what skills you personally want to be known for and market them.

Own the unique abilities that differentiate you from your coworkers – and market them.

You’re being a team player but also subtly competing for a higher role in your organization.

2. Position yourself as a leader

Do things that allow you to rise above the group dynamic while still being fully invested in the team.

To subtly position yourself as a leader, volunteer for tasks that others don’t want to do. Take on some of the jobs that are necessary but behind-the-scenes.

You should also offer to do some duties that are more overt, like asking to present or lead a meeting.

Draw attention to yourself as someone who can handle a multitude of various tasks on your own initiative – just like a leader would do.

3. Network outside your circle

Maintain your relationships with your own team members, but get to know coworkers in roles at the next level to build a strong network of people who know you.

For example, you could go to lunch with those who work in different departments or ask to be mentored by someone who’s in a higher position than you.

Expanding your network beyond your team will open potential new paths for your career in the future.

4. Pay attention to the boss

Be intentional about your relationship with your boss.

Pay attention to how he or she interacts with the other members of your team, as well.

The goal is to develop a relationship that causes you to stand out as a natural #2 to the Big Cheese.

Be proactive and ask if you can accompany him or her to certain meetings so that you can be the one to do the follow-up.

Ask for high-profile work or more challenging assignments.

You can compete by showing your boss why you’re indispensable.

5. Be eager to help your team

Find a way to help each person on your team with something – personally or professionally.

Be a resource without being asked.

Set yourself up in their minds as someone who they want to champion for a promotion and when you have the job, they’ll see you as an advocate.

6. Always be improving

Find ways to continuously improve on your work and others’ work.

Solicit and offer feedback so that you’re seen as a collaborator as well as an improver.

Know the work your team is doing and position yourself as someone who knows best practices and helps others improve.

However, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between being intrusive and being helpful – the line between subtle competition and overt competition.

Be aware of how to compete

It’s possible to compete for a higher position and still be a team player – you just have to know the right way to compete.

Make your unique skills stand out, position yourself as a leader, network outside your circle, and be aware of your boss’ relationships.

You should also maintain your status as a team player by being an eager resource and helping your coworkers improve.

When you compete well, you’ll propel your career forward with the support and respect of your coworkers.

Which of these tactics do you think is the most challenging for you personally?