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How to Win at Everything: The Rules of Healthy Competition

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It sounds stereotypical, but studies show that some women tend toward covert competition -- gossiping about, ostracizing, and withholding information from those they perceive as professional or personal threats. For example, according to research by Judith Briles, PhD, 75 percent of women said they'd been sabotaged by another woman in the workplace. What drives this tendency? "An increasingly competitive culture that nevertheless still tells women it's inappropriate to compete openly for status or recognition," says Briles, author of Woman to Woman 2000: Becoming Sabotage Savvy in the New Millennium (New Horizon Press, 2000).

You're more likely to default to sabotage when you don't acknowledge, even to yourself, what you want in the game, says Briles. For example, you'll question the qualifications of a colleague who applies for a promotion without expressing your own interest in the position, or undercut a woman who's flirting with your current crush when you don't have the nerve to ask him to coffee.

If you find yourself treating someone unfairly behind the scenes, consider: Are you and she competing for power, position, popularity? If so, admit it, inwardly at least, says Briles, and resolve not to engage in backstabbing. "Sabotage may be effective in the short term, but it usually comes back to roost," says Briles. "If you get a reputation for being two-faced or undermining, no one is going to want to share confidences with you or keep you in the grapevine." Indeed, more than a third of respondents in eight of Briles' studies said they'd prefer not to work with women.

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