I am struggling with a competitive colleague

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers words of wisdom to help with whatever is troubling you


I am struggling with a competitive colleague

Q. I share a role at work with another member of staff. The job was originally meant to be for one person but it was given to us both. My colleague is highly competitive and was extremely disappointed when the position was made a shared responsibility. I find her really difficult to work with. She often tries to micromanage me and can be abrupt, not only to my face but in emails which involve the team that we manage.

I’m finding this draining. I am not a competitive person. Do you have any suggestions to help me manage this situation? Name supplied

A. I don’t want you to manage this situation. Let’s not fall into the trap of agreeing that it’s a competition where someone is right and the other person is wrong. We are looking for win-win.

The phrase ‘win-win’ takes me back to a self-help book that has stood the test of time – Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. You are already practising his first principle, which is to take responsibility. His next suggestion is to ‘start with the end in mind’. What was the purpose when this job was given to two people? Could you connect with the decisionmaker and review how their plan is working? What do you want to be able to say about yourself when this job finishes and you move onto the next?

The third practice Covey lists is encapsulated by possibly one of my favourite questions of all time: ‘What one thing could you do – which you aren’t doing now – that if you did regularly, would make a tremendous difference?’ I honestly don’t know the answer, because it will be specific to you and this situation, but I’m willing to bet that something pops into your head. Keep it small, taking less than five minutes each day, and make yourself accountable somehow (perhaps writing it down in a specific journal). Try that one small thing every day for a month.

I truly would love to hear how you get on.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

Photograph: iStock

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