Competition in the Workplace? Compete With Yourself Instead

The inspiration for this article came from my experience while managing a career development leadership program. During this six-month program, I worked closely with a student named TJC. TJC and her peers soared like an eagle as they began to finalize their project. I likened them to a caterpillar — transformed into a beautiful butterfly or a better version of themselves.

At their recent graduation ceremony, TJC and her classmates were given the opportunity to speak for two minutes or less of their experiences during the program. Though all of them were unique in their own way, TJC talked about competing with herself instead of the competition.

The Competition or Crabs in a Bucket?

Competition among employees may be inevitable. Employees compete in job announcements. The problem is that some people spend enormous amounts of time and energy to see us fail.

The Crabs in a Bucket mentality is a description of a person who does everything in their power to destroy the ambitions of those among them who wish to improve themselves. Workplace rivalry is futile. Avoid the crabs and the rivalries as best as you can and focus on competing with you. Here are some ways how.

Competing With You

The best version of ourselves requires intellectual enhancement, excellent work, servant leadership, and an important characteristic of all — kindness. Unparalleled to subtle sabotage and kicking our colleagues down in a variety of ways; sharing knowledge, developing others, kindness toward our coworkers can strengthen our character and workplace credibility.

According to Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” So, we are going to claw ourselves out of the bucket, leave those crabs behind and begin to launch the best of who we are?

Launch Your Best Self

Learn one (perhaps two?) new thing a day. It’s not that difficult. Today, a co-worker asked me how to create a distribution list in Outlook. It was a simple teachable moment. Yet, she learned something new.

Practice Gratitude

We can say thank you for the simplest of things and most of the time those we thank will appreciate our display of gratitude.

Call or Text Family

I spent many years in the military and was detached or estranged from my family. With WhatsApp and other ways to connect, I now call and text my family every day, simply to say good morning. Recently, I transitioned into recording and recognizing birthdays.

Build a Crew

Years ago when I relocated, I established a group of friends, FOCUS (Friends Offering Understanding & Support). Although we are no longer active, we existed for 14 years and remain a source of support for each other. A similar crew can be built in the workplace.

Create Goals

An element of the leadership program is an IDP or an individual development plan. An IDP is ideal for our personal and professional lives. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at a University in California, researched and discovered that individuals who wrote down their goals regularly achieved significantly higher than those who did not. Dr. Matthews also found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals and dreams, simply by writing them down. Get to writing or use your Notes App on your smartphone.

Seize the Moment

Take full advantage of life’s opportunities whenever and wherever they present themselves. Last summer, I was shared information about a local college needing adjunct professors (on my bucket list). Although I would have to drive over 30 minutes on a stretch of deserted highway, I chose a crew member and seized the moment. When we recognize those moments — seize them!

Better Than Self

Each year in my home state, the developers build a better subdivision with more amenities than the previously constructed community. LG, GE, Whirlpool and others make their appliances better each year, Apple creates the new version of iPhones with awesome features that makes some of us do things out of the norm, to have the new version.

The only person we should be in competition with, according to TJC, is ourselves. Similar to the iPhone, we should forget the competition and consider becoming the better version of self.

June Cox is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a Human Resource Specialist, Human Resource Development (HRD) with a federal agency. She has a masters degree in education and provides employee training and development to federal employees. June is a certified workforce development professional and a member of the National Association of Workforce Development (NAWDP). She has trained and developed hundreds of employees. She values investing in others. You can read her posts here.

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Thank you for sharing! As a former athlete, I have competition in my blood. But as a working professional, I find that when I compete it’s really to become a better version of me and to help those around me get better. Not surprising that my top strengths are achiever, positivity, realtor, learner and developer. We can all shine and win and help each other!


Thanks for your feedback Nicole. According to Steven Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; there is enough in the universe for all of us to be successful.


Thanks for your feedback Blake. Learning to reframe and subsequently reframe is a great strategy for all of us to strive for.