Co-Workers' Competitive Streak Heats Up Credit: Arm wrestling image via Shutterstock

The competitive spirit around the office has been kicked up a notch over the last decade, a new study finds.

The survey by OfficeTeam revealed that nearly half of senior managers believe employees are more competitive with each other today than they were 10 years ago. Overall, just 4 percent saw competiveness decline.

A little friendly competition in the office is healthy if it inspires great individual and team performance, according to Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.

"Rivalry between co-workers can often become more intense when the economy is uncertain and people feel pressure to prove themselves," Hosking said. "Although it's natural for employees to want to stand out among their colleagues, it shouldn't be at the expense of others."

[New York is the Most Competitive City]

OfficeTeam has identified five types of workplace competitors that take things too far and offers tips for working with them effectively:

  • 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.
  • 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 a manager or the human resources department to the situation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Marathoner: This person goes 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 and sharing sensitive information with office gossips.

The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

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