Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 Ways to Deal With That Co-worker Who’s Always Trying to One-up You

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Remember that friend in high school who was constantly trying to prove that she had the hotter boyfriend, the cooler clothes, and the better car? Yeah, you do.

The good news: You can now easily block her brags on Facebook. The bad news: That kind of behavior can’t be as easily removed from your life in the workplace. In fact, you can find it in almost office in America—I call this person (dun, dun, dun) the one-upper.

If you’ve ever dealt with a co-worker who always attempts to prove he or she is better than you, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with my fair share of one-uppers over the years and in the process learned how to make sure they don’t affect my routine.

1. Think About Motives

I once worked with someone who tried to out-do me on everything. If I had a good idea, he’d blurt out five to prove the point that he had more. If I mentioned I was going to arrive at the office at 9 AM, he’d come at 8:59 AM to show that he was more dedicated. You get the picture. What at first I thought was healthy competition became increasingly absurd.

After spending a few weeks getting angrier and angrier, I began to think about why he was so aggressive in his one-upmanship. And once I took a moment, it made sense: He was older than me, he had been working for that employer a lot longer than I had, and he truly felt like he was due for a promotion. It was less about me specifically and more about him vying for the next big opening.

While my realization didn’t necessarily change his behavior, it changed how I viewed it. And once I stopped taking it personally, it made it much more tolerable.

So, before you take any action, find the motives behind why someone’s constantly trying to out-do you. Does it even have anything to do with you? In most cases, it’s not about the players; it’s about the game.

2. Don’t Try to One-up the One-upper

A lesson I’ve learned from personal experiences: Don’t waste your time trying to one-up the person who’s attempting to one-up you. It turns into something out of Bride Wars, with two people perpetually sabotaging each other.

As tempting as it is to be passive-aggressive or rude, remember that neither of those things will further your career. When it comes to ultra-competitive people, you may win the battle, but you won’t win the war. (And trust me, it’s not a war you want to win.)

Instead, choose what you spend your energy on when it comes to a one-upper. For example, do you really need to call out the fact that he or she keeps trying to best your weekend stories in the group chat? Probably not.

3. See if It’s Affecting the Team

Unlike other office offenses, it’s hard to go to your boss and say, “She’s constantly one-upping me!” without sounding whiny. Additionally, it’s nearly impossible to confront the offender—after all, what can you really say without coming across as paranoid or overly sensitive?

Before you do anything, consider how this person’s competitiveness is affecting your work and the team as a whole. Is the constant desire to prove something holding back important tasks, or is this person more annoying than anything else?

If it’s a serious issue that’s truly affecting your responsibilities, it’s easier to go to your supervisor with your concerns. But hold off until you have something concrete to prove that this person is creating a harmful work environment. The more people affected, the easier it is for your supervisor to feel the need to get involved.

However, odds are that the person’s just going to have to be written off as one of those frustrating aspects of your job that you have no power to change. You can, however, change how you view and react to the situation—and that, I promise, improves it immensely.

Yeah, I know: One-uppers are pretty annoying to deal with. But it’s important to take the high road in this situation. After all, who can one-up class?

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