Culture Bites - 005 I Have a Competitive Teammate - Help

Published on 17 May 2018

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In this episode of the podcast, we answer a listener's question about how to deal with a teammate they think is being competitive with them. 

If you have a question you’d like us to answer, email – we’d love to help.

Dear Culture Bites,

I recently started working with a new company – I’m part of a small team of three. From the time I started, I found one of my colleagues was quite distant - she never reached out during my on boarding as most people would for a new teammate.

Recently our manager resigned, and now my colleague’s behaviour has changed from being distant to being very aggressive and competitive: she asks for updates on projects she was never involved in, requests to be in meetings she doesn’t need to be in, and gives strong opinions on everything I do. During meetings with higher management, she jumps in the spotlight by presenting what I’m working on and doesn’t involve me in giving the presentation.

She told me that she has applied to the team manager role. Our General Manager is aware of the situation and has said that my colleague may not be ready to lead. However, I also know that recruitment is challenging, so there is a good chance she could get the role. I’m worried about my career prospects if she becomes my future manager. What should I do?

Microphone Key Takeaways and Ideas

Separate Facts from Interpretation:
When we don’t like someone’s behaviour – we try to understand it by making some stories, judgments, and assumptions. In this case there is a belief or perception that the person is being competitive, that they are trying to manage the listener, and that they are trying to steal the spotlight. The problem with doing that, is that once you have that thought in your head then you will find the evidence that backs up that opinion. It may be true, and you might be right, but you might not be too. Until you have the conversation you won’t get clarity.

Be Clear About What You Want:
Be clear about what’s bothering you and ultimately what you actually want to see change. Ask yourself, what is the type of working relationship you want to have? Do you want a cohesive relationship where you work together and bounce ideas off each other? Whatever it is, be clear on what the desirable outcome looks like.

Ways to have the conversation:
Talking about the situation – and being respectfully straight – can be difficult, but that is the only way you’ll get clarity on what is really going on. It can also be a major relief to get the issue out in the open rather than holding onto it and breeding resentment.  

 One way of having that conversation: “I’ve been with the organisation 3 months, up until recently we’ve had little to do with each other. Now that we’re waiting for a new leader to come on board – this is a great opportunity for us to work together a bit more closely and understand how we can work together to best effect…”

Another way to have that conversation: “It feels like you have moved into managing me – and I’m confused by that behaviour. Can we talk about it?”

Be Committed to Preserving the Relationship
In order to have a constructive conversation, you have to remember to be committed to preserving the relationship. If you have a commitment to make sure that you walk out of the conversation still as colleagues and still with the relationship intact – that changes your direction and approach to the conversation. Check that your mindset isn’t about ‘winning the point’ or ‘putting them in their place’ as that mindset is going to lead to conflict and a broken relationship.

Do you have a question you need some help with? Write into us at

Previous Episodes:
001: Kick Starting a Passive Team
002: Dealing with Delegation
003: Telling Someone They have a Blind Spot
004: Whats Wrong with Being Competitive?

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