4 Mistakes to Avoid When You and a Colleague Vie for the Same Promotion

In the course of your career, you’re bound to reach the point where you’re looking to be promoted. Not only can a title change open the door to new opportunities, but there’s more money to boot.

That said, promotions can be difficult to come by, especially if there’s fierce competition. In fact, it’s not unusual to find yourself up against a colleague for the same position. And that can be a sticky situation. You don’t want to lower your chances of getting picked by being overly supportive, but you also don’t want to compromise your relationship with a person whom you’ll probably continue working with closely.

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There’s no reason not to fight for a promotion you want and feel you deserve. Just be sure to avoid these mistakes as you do.

1. Playing dirty

When there’s a promotion at play that you feel you’re so close to snagging, it can be tempting to use unscrupulous tactics to undermine your competition, whether it’s sabotaging key projects your colleague is working on or starting rumors that portray your colleague unfavorably. Don’t do it, though. It’s unethical, and if your manager finds out what you’ve been up to, you’ll not only wreck your chances of getting promoted, but also quite possibly put your current job on the line.

Furthermore, if your colleague finds out, you can count on that relationship being damaged beyond repair. So while you should feel free to talk up your own accomplishments in the hopes of being picked for that promotion, don’t actively seek to ruin your co-worker’s chances.

2. Avoiding your competition

When you’re vying for the same promotion as a colleague is, the idea of working with that person on projects can seem less than appealing. But if you and that colleague have a tendency to collaborate, don’t try to get out of doing that because you think it’ll help your chances. If anything, your boss might start to wonder whether you’re the team player you claim to be, and that right there could ruin your chances of getting that new title.

3. Not acknowledging the elephant in the room

Wanting the same promotion as a colleague can be uncomfortable for both of you. So don’t pretend that isn’t the case. Rather than avoid the topic, sit down and discuss the fact that you’re both hoping to be picked. At the same time, pledge to support each other once a decision is made, and agree that you’re going to go about your business as usual until that time comes. It’s a far better bet than awkwardly dancing around the topic whenever it comes up.

4. Holding a grudge

If your colleague does indeed edge you out for that promotion, one of the worst moves you can make is responding unprofessionally. Difficult as it may be, slap a smile on your face once the decision is announced, and accept the news graciously.

This isn’t to say that you can’t ask your boss for a follow-up meeting to discuss the reasons why you were passed over. There’s nothing wrong with soliciting that sort of feedback as long as you do so respectfully and professionally. At the same time, make it clear to both your manager and your newly promoted colleague that you accept the decision at hand, and that you’re not looking to change anyone’s mind, but rather, get some answers.

Finally, remember this: In the course of your career, there will hopefully be numerous opportunities for a promotion, so don’t let a single competition ruin a good relationship with a colleague or drive you toward unsavory behavior. Keep doing the great job you’ve been doing, and with any luck, you’ll get the promotion you deserve eventually.

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