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Tips for Dealing with Toxic Competitiveness at Work

The work environment is generally characterized by high competition among the people who work in a company. This competitiveness can be very positive when people work harder and achieve professional growth, personally and in their work teams. However, when competitiveness becomes toxic, it can have serious consequences for workers since it will be an element that hinders all team activities.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

According to a UNAM Faculty of Psychology study, 85% of companies have toxic work environments, with poorly distributed workloads, negative leadership, workplace violence, and aggressive or toxic competitiveness being its main characteristics.

In a healthy work environment, people help each other achieve their goals and collaborate with the collective goals to the extent of their responsibilities. Positive competitiveness has a very good impact on group productivity. On the contrary, toxic competitiveness gradually undermines people their professional relationships and deteriorates their productivity to the point of making the company’s objectives seem unattainable.

Toxic competitiveness is characterized by forgetting the importance of collective work and by trying to stand out from peers at all costs, resulting in questionable practices to achieve this goal. People who begin to develop attitudes of toxic competitiveness pay more attention to the performance of their colleagues than to the way they do their work, thus becoming negative elements for the team, and that can have an impact contrary to what is necessary for the team. Achieve company goals and objectives. Some signs of people with toxic competitiveness are:

  • They minimize or cancel co-workers. They speak ill of them and even ridicule them in front of others.
  • They sabotage the work of others. If they have the opportunity, they will put up obstacles so that others do not fulfill their responsibilities.
  • They try to win at all costs without caring about others. Their only goal is to stand out and position themselves in the minds of their bosses as the only ones capable of doing the job well. They usually have a double discourse with their co-workers and a different one with their superiors.
  • People with toxic competitiveness have an inflexible mind that makes it difficult or sometimes impossible to negotiate with them. They tend to be extreme in their relationships and see things black and white: friends or enemies.
  • They have narcissistic personalities by seeking collective admiration at all costs, even though the manipulation of others. However, this is one of the less common characteristics.

In the essay “Enemies,” from the “Hackers and Painters” collection, the expert Paul Graham explains that when we are successful in what we do, there will always be people who criticize us and even hate us. The disgust of these people for what we do is characterized by creating an image of you that is much worse than reality. For them, everything you do is bad, just because you do it, and they will make it known to everyone. These people are precisely those who generate toxic competitiveness in the workplace.

Getting rid of toxic competitiveness depends on who leads the work teams. A leader must know how to eliminate it, and here are some tips for doing it:

  • You must create a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one. The conditions must be established so that all team members can give the best of themselves and participate in achieving the objectives.
  • To create a healthy work environment, you must model the behavior you want to achieve in your team members. You must lead by example by listening and taking everyone into account.
  • Rewards should be focused on team achievement rather than individual achievement. In this way, you will create a collaborative environment.
  • You must characterize the projects to be carried out as activities that require diverse perspectives and skills. Each member can contribute something from their perspective, knowledge, and skills.


Act with justice and transparency in your relationship with others, you should also avoid favoritism.

For its part, to overcome any record of a toxic or aggressive competitive environment in your company, I recommend that you train your employees to act in a certain way when faced with it, for example:

  • Protect the work of each of the employees with separate accounts and under passwords.
  • Establish trust and the instruction to report bad practices among colleagues to intervene in time.
  • Prohibit humiliation and ridicule among employees under sanctions applicable to all workers equally.

On the other hand, you must gradually build a healthy work environment so that the interventions are minimal and preserve the well-being and mental health of the workers and your own.

How to build a positive work environment?

According to a study by PsicoSmart, a personnel selection agency, the work team members are 38% more likely to perform above average when they are in a positive work environment and are committed, but how to achieve it? ?, do what I:

  • Promotes staff training: In this way, everyone will have the same opportunities to grow, and competition will be healthy.
  • It opens up feedback: This way, everyone can give their ideas, and it will give rise to improving the company’s processes, including those that have to do with the assignment of responsibilities.
  • Work and personal life in balance: The imbalance in an employee’s personal life due to excessive overtime or too much responsibility also leads to problems in the work environment, as there will be more dissatisfied and stressed people. Make sure you give your employees the rest they need.
  • Create meeting spaces: There is nothing like dialogue to strengthen trust and foster good relationships between team members. Create spaces where they can interact with each other. Talking about topics far from the work routine has a profound positive impact on the creation of healthy relationships.

The next time you face a situation similar to the ones described here, keep these tips in mind so that you can create a healthy, productive work environment that, above all, allows people to show their full value as part of a team. Work.

Written by Emily Rella

Emily Rella is a news writer at Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media, covering entertainment, pop culture, lifestyle, entrepreneurship, and business.