#2 Competing with your co-workers for a promotion

In this blog series, I take common challenging scenarios in the workplace and give you my insights on how best to handle them from over 25 years of experience in workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Are you at the point of thinking it is time to take that occupational leap? Are you ready for the next thing to come? Job promotions are exciting but can also be daunting too. Opportunities for promotion may not come around that often, so when they do, you may want to be prepared. And you may not only need to consider how to best present yourself, but often you may find yourself competing with a colleague or a few for the same position.

In many instances, things may get messy or complicated. There are cases of backstabbing, putting other colleagues down, or a sense of bitterness. Or maybe there is jealousy or occasions of social comparison, which can do our mental health a disservice causing feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Job promotions can come at the cost of workplace relationships. But, believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that way! So, what can you do to best manage this journey?

The short answer is that I advise trying to keep yourself in check, making sure you are coping okay, while bearing in mind those around you.

More specifically, I’ll summarise what I would do below.

Don’t ignore the fact that there is competition. It may be tempting to avoid having a conversation with your colleague when you find out they are going for the same job. It will only make things harder if they know you are their competition. In actual fact, I would suggest doing the opposite. Don’t let the awkwardness bubble and overflow. Simply, checking in and saying something like, “hey, I heard that you’re also applying for the manager role too. I put my application in on Monday. I think you would be great as well!” By doing so, it creates a positive team culture that diminishes any uncomfortable feelings or tension. Furthermore, it addresses the elephant in the room, and as a result, you will probably be more relaxed throughout the process.

Don’t play dirty. It may seem tempting to undermine your competition in the hope of pushing yourself forward, but do not do it! Even if you think they are doing it to you. Be the bigger person, which should shine through to your boss at the end of the day. Playing dirty is only going to end in one way: as a poor reflection on you. Whether your boss sees right through you straight away and thinks you are too immature for the role or you lose a workplace friendship over the matter, it isn’t worth it. Channel your energy toward presenting yourself as the best candidate, rather than being caught up in putting the other candidate down.

Don’t be a bad winner or loser. Yes, it can be difficult to compose yourself when you hear really great news that you were hoping and striving for. Just as it is extremely challenging to keep it together if you honestly believed or thought the job was yours, but it was given to someone else. But, take a moment to process and reflect on the situation before saying or doing anything in the heightened emotional state. If you’ve obtained the job, bear in mind others’ feelings and the fact that they may have really wanted the job. Rubbing it in to the other person is not nice, whether it is intentional or not. And it does not reflect well on you as a leader or as someone who can emotionally regulate. On the other hand, if you have ‘lost’ this time around, maintaining your dignity will only serve you well. After all, who knows what is around the next corner?

It is important that during this process of applying, waiting and receiving news, that you are kind to yourself. Remind yourself that it is okay to be frustrated if you missed out this time. But redirect that energy to work on yourself. How can you be the best that you can be? What do you need to work on – within reasonable means – to develop your skills and development? In addition, reflect on whether you are coping okay as going for a job promotion can be stressful! Take some time out to debrief with a friend or your manager, where appropriate, and spend some time for yourself where you can detach yourself from the workplace and recalibrate.

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