Home » The psychology of difficult people – Unfriendly rivalries

The psychology of difficult people – Unfriendly rivalries

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 in Emotion, Mental Health No Comments


“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln

In a workplace where employees strive to do their best and get ahead in their careers, it’s not uncommon to come across the occasional rivalry. While having an opponent may sound exciting to some, there are studies, such as one cited by Chad Brooks, a senior writer with Business News Daily, that have concluded that workplace rivalry created undue stress and hurt productivity. Some research subjects even reported trouble with management. Only 6 percent recounted positive effects of a workplace rivalry.

Mary Ellen Slater, career advice expert for Monster, claims that a sense of competition doesn’t have to hurt productivity. Instead, she says workers should use the rivalry as motivation to improve rather than give in to jealousy.

“If you can’t get the tension under control, find ways to distance yourself from your adversary,” Slater said. “Explore your options — from switching desks to switching companies — and remember that living — and working — well is the best revenge.”

Gavin J. Kilduff, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management and organizations at New York University and his colleagues studied rivalry in a paper called “The Psychology of Rivalry: A Relationally Dependent Analysis of Competition.” In their research, they found “competitors’ relationships [were] determined by their proximity, attributes, and prior competitive interactions, influencing the subjective intensity of rivalry between them …”

Rob Asghar, a management consultant and contributor with Forbes, provided advice for “handling your rivals, critics and other villains in your life:”

  • Look to others for inspiration – “It usually turns out that some people get along famously with the person whom you find to be a menace. Perhaps you feel bullied by Natalie; yet Zara may not at all feel bullied by Natalie … You can learn from that and slowly rewire your relationship with Natalie,” Asghar said as an example.
  • Lie for a good cause – Remaining polite with a rival can keep tensions at bay, Asghar remarks. Providing occasional praise beyond the norm can actually blunt the hatred or malice toward the aggressor.
  • See the rival as a blessing in disguise – Sometimes polar opposites can provide a new perspective, Asghar claims, as rivals can be too unkind to filter negative – but much needed – feedback.
  • Humanize, not villainize – Asghar asks people to consider the hardships facing difficult people. Every person is facing their own battles and may need compassion and patience instead of hostility.

Sovereign Health Group is ready to help patients facing many kinds of conflicts causing mental health problems. To learn more about how we can help with mental health and addiction probles, feel free to contact us online or over the phone at any time.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer

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