If you want to protect your own career in a working environment, competitiveness is a topic you have to take into account.

Not every office is fairy-tale with close-knit teams, where each “gear” is well oiled and happy of its own role and tasks. Mostly, different treatments, different salaries, and wrong behaviors bring anxiety and issues among people who are more attached to their professional path. Why is that? Because on this path they have invested money and time and they don’t want any obstacle to it.

When people start to compete with each other, creating this way a tense and toxic working environment, it can be useful to know how to deal with these moments and turn them into benefits for your own personal and professional growth.

Looking one more time at the sports world, where competition is a basic and natural element of the system, we can see how a healthy management of these situations can be not only possible but also beneficial and desirable for the performances of the two competitors.

One of the shiniest archetypes of “positive” rivalry can be found in the Basketball panorama of the eighties. “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird were, for many generations coming, a great example of two talented but very different players, both on a technical and a human level, whose diversities were an incentive to each other improvement.

These two legends started to compete since they were in college when Magic and his Michigan State won against Indiana University – guided at the time by the fabulous Larry Bird – in a final match that can be remembered as the prelude to the following fifteen years of U.S. Basketball.

Later, “Spartans” playmaker signed a contract with L.A. Lakers, fierce enemies of those Bolton Celtics who decided to acquire in their roster that very same player of French Lick, Indiana. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

The two of them, for more than a decade, met each other in multiple final matches, both gaining Victories and defeats that contributed to Build the legend around them. Their passion and rivalry gave them the strength to face any hard time and never give up, not taking for granted or glorify their successes.

The dedicated competition between these two champions made possible their professional growth and, most important, gave them the chance to become great friends.

The will to reach goals every day more ambitious and a deep sacrifice for a personal growth are two aspects you can easily find also in a working environment.

Let’s think about two different employees, same age, same intention to succeed: they see each other as a threat to the launch of their careers.

In this case, the worst reaction you can have is trying to give your colleague a very hard time with unfair tricks. By doing this, the rest of your colleagues will see you as a problematic piece of the puzzle, you will lose their collaboration and your manager won’t consider you as a team player, a value that companies really love.

Taking the cue from Larry and Magic, we believe that your most competitive colleague is also the one who can push you to improve your skills over your limits, the one that makes you and your know-how stronger and stronger every day more.

Envy is a useless feeling, don’t let it take you, instead, try to follow this path step by step:

– ANALYSIS: analyze the added value this colleague is giving to the company

– DETERMINE YOUR JOB: make a road map of the skills you want to improve (such as a better analysis, a better data reporting, faster execution of the tasks, etc…)

– STUDY: never stop learning, boost your knowledge and be prepared to your manager requests

– TALK TO YOUR MANAGER OPENLY: don’t be afraid to ask how to improve your performances. Some humility is always appreciated and you will show a sense of belonging to the company.

– ASK FOR FEEDBACK: After all the analysis, studies and new strategies, it’s now time to ask yourself: does this new approach please my working expectations?

Bird and Magic left a huge footstep in Basketball era, but for sure they couldn’t have become great champions one without the other.

More recently, another good example is the competition between two of the greatest tennis players in history.

Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, thanks to their talent, gave us unbelievable shows during almost twenty years.

One more time, searching for perfection while respecting each other, made a constructive strategy possible: their will to be as great as each other was the strongest weapon they could deploy to face difficult moments in their careers.

Nadal and Federer, after dominating tennis courts and tv screens for years, both had to deal with the inevitable breakdown that every single sportsman face in his career. Injuries, lack of confidence and new competitors: all these elements questioned their strength and love for tennis. Not a coincidence if they finally recovered and found their physical and mental energy in new matches and spectacular games where they played against one another.

The constancy of these two champions shows us how, even in business, you can reach your goals by firmly focusing your strength and attention on what you want and have to do.

Practice your skills, keep on studying, embrace a new approach to your job and see how your career can take advantage from these changes. If you manage to do this, a highly competitive working environment won’t be an obstacle anymore, but an incentive to a never-ending career growth.

So, remember what Kipling said in his poem “If” and Wimbledon took as a statement:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 

And treat those two impostors just the same