Rivals at work: their moves, your career

February 27, 2010

“Can I request your advice on something that has been a concern for sometime in my profession? How do you deal with jealous colleagues who are bent upon sabotaging your career? It has happened to me time and again and I am at a loss as to how to deal with this.” This was an email I received a few days back from a friend. Often people complain of being pulled down by some of their colleagues. Though it may not fit all situations, I feel the following approach may be worth trying:

1. Ask yourself: why a particular colleague does not like you? Conflicts generally are of two types: conflicts of behaviours and conflicts of interest. If behaviours are not compatible, people may not get along. And, then there may be conflict of interest like two colleagues eying for the same position/career enhancing opportunity etc. An assessment of the nature of conflict will help in dealing with the situation.

2. Make a sincere effort to communicate with such colleagues and engage with them. Find areas of common interest – sports/games, films, books, music, shopping etc.  Once we find a common area of interest, it will be possible to spend time with each other, understand each other better and communication gap will reduce.

3. In most situations, such colleagues behave like this due to their own sense of insecurity. They oppose more competent colleagues in different ways. They create bottlenecks, pass remarks and may not give credit for the work done.  If it is possible to simply ignore them, do it. If it is not possible to ignore them, then be proactive – anticipate their moves and take necessary action. Important point here is not to lose focus on your work. A top performer sees his goal, not hurdles. Don’t get distracted. By continuing to do work with sincerity and dedication, you will be noticed by those who matter. I know it is not good for self-esteem to hear constant criticism but if we know that it is coming from insecure people, it should not matter.

Finally, remember that you need to respond in a professional and dignified way always. I really like what someone once said, “If you fight with the pig, you are going to get dirty and the pig really likes that”.