A recent report by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that women are less willing than equally able men to compete against other people, but are more likely to compete against their own targets. In fact, only about 22% of women chose to compete against another woman.

No disrespect to the researchers at the university, but many women can recall a time when someone competing against them took things a bit too far… Where things got rather nasty. From colleagues giving you the silent treatment, to people talking behind your back in the office or people mysteriously falling silent when you walk past the water cooler.

However, this is not to say that competition is all bad. Competition in the workplace is not a terrible thing. Jason Bernic, a life coach, says the important thing to do is to identify the difference between healthy competition and unhealthy competition.

“Competition anywhere and everywhere is healthy. The competition has to fall under certain rules and guidelines so that it is not overwhelming or intimidating,” he explains.

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Bernic says competition should not be of a nature where it puts someone out of their job or it forces them to exit the competition and resign from the picture. Not resign from the company,  but resign mentally from their jobs.

The culture of an organisation is important in determining the usefulness of competition.  In order to prevent pettiness and smearing to thrive in an organisation, Bernic says it is important for management to play a monitoring role.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of unhealthy competition. You need to ask yourself if engaging in the petty squabbles is worth it for you says Bernic.

He advises that you take a step back, outside your environment and take an objective look in.

“We are often so caught up with what is going on in our immediate environment that we forget that we are a cog in a wheel. The important thing to do is to step back,”

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Bernic adds that: “If individuals are feeling the pressure of competition, just focus on what they do and how they do it,  as long as they are doing the right thing for the right reason and the right people- they will come up on top.”

If you find that someone is intentionally targeting you and being unpleasant, the best thing to do is to breathe before responding.  Bernic says waiting for seven seconds or taking ten deep breaths will help you objectively assess the situation before reacting on instinct.

Before joining a company, it is also important to speak people who used to work at the organisation or are currently there to find out what the vibe is like:”This will help you understand whether you would resonate with that environment,” he ends.