How Do I Deal with Younger, Competitive People at Work?

Hi. I am seeking some advice in regard to strong personality types in the workplace. New staff have recently joined our organization, and a majority of them have strong personalities. By this, I mean they are overbearing, they have a sense of entitlement, have a strong sense of self-belief, are seemingly self-confident, zealous in their approach to their work, and vocal. They are competent individuals. The "softer" personality types, myself included, are finding the strong personalities challenging to deal with in a work setting, due in part to their overbearing and competitive nature. My workplace style is noncompetitive, but rather cooperative. I am gregarious and genuinely care about people, and some of these new colleagues seem to demand attention and are seemingly self-serving. Their age range is roughly 25 to 40, and we are all equal in rank, perform the same tasks, work in a team of 12, and work in a cultural/tourism environment. Most of the "softer" personalities are over 40. Any tips you can provide on how I can best deal with this matter would be very much appreciated. —All Worked Up
Dear All Worked Up,

You describe yourself as cooperative, gregarious, and caring. These are the strengths I hope you will use to help yourself and your colleagues—the old ones and the new ones—so you can work together to develop a new work family system.

It is very difficult when a few new people join a workplace at about the same time, especially as they may seem to have more in common with one another than with the longer-term employees. You write that their age range is roughly 25 to 40 and that they are younger than you and your “softer” friends. I’m guessing there is a generation gap, and that different styles and ways of being are in conflict. If so, it might help to talk things out together, perhaps with a professional mediator if things get too hot.

Perhaps those people who have been working at your office longer may feel that their status is threatened. This is not an uncommon response to change in the workplace. The task for each and all of you is to find common ground so you can work together and get along.

You describe the new people as strong personalities with a “sense of entitlement” and a zealous approach; overbearing but also competent, equally competent to you and your friends. Is there parity in your compensation and benefits? I am curious as to all the reasons they seem so “other.”

You have a lot to offer, and can use your personality, experience, and wisdom to nurture the new arrivals and help create a warmer work space.

I wonder, too, if the new people have new ideas, new approaches, and new ways of doing things that may seem to challenge the more established procedures. This can be annoying and shake things and people up, but you can all also benefit from their “newness” by seeing things from a different perspective, which might be an asset. If the new crowd has new ideas, it would benefit everyone to give those ideas a forum where they can be explored and perhaps even worked out.

So my advice is to take some deep breaths and take a step back. You have a lot to offer, and can use your personality, experience, and wisdom to nurture the new arrivals and help create a warmer work space.

You’re describing an “us vs. them” situation, which never works. I’m hoping that your “softer” personality may be just the thing that helps people work together and blend the lines between the “old” and the new.

Best wishes,

Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • Leave a Comment
  • meredith

    September 18th, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Become the leader in your office that I suspect you were born to be!

  • Lucinda

    September 21st, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    I hate to even say this but there might come a time when you have to fight for your job because all of these new go getters are going to try harder and harder after a while to come after yours. It doesn’t seem fair but those who make the most noise are the ones who are going to be heard. This is what your employers are going to see and quite frankly it could be the kind of environment that they are in some ways rooting for. I say that it’s time for you to get loud and be heard as well.

  • Moore K

    September 22nd, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    If you want to keep your job then this is one thing that you are going to have to learn to live with and deal with.

    the work environment has changed a good bit over the years and one of the things that I have noticed is that fellow workers are not as apt to try to support you today as they are to try to knife you in the professional back.

    Everyone is looking out for themselves and so if you are going to survive it then you are going to have to get a little more cutthroat too.

  • Kathleen

    September 23rd, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    I will admit that I am pretty much intimidated by this new set of kids in my workplace.

    They come in acting all entitled to bigger pay and better benefits and I just want to tell them that these are all things that the rest of us have worked hard for for a very long time.

    They just seem to expect that this is how it is going to be, and if you don’t like it then shove off.

  • robert

    September 24th, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    Change is hard for all of us.
    Believe me, I work in an office where I hear a lot of people say that they don’t like change just because this is the way we have always done things so why the need to change things up now.
    But times change and people do too, and that should be viewed as something that we can learn from and not something that we feel defensive about.

  • BB

    September 28th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    Show then that you are older, wiser, and that you mean business

  • Cristalexi

    October 21st, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Unfortunately, this is the way it is today. People are just out for themselves and don’t care about anybody else. I, too, am an older worker and I find the behaviour of people at work today absolutely disgusting. No manners, no courtesy, nothing. Just commands which when not met elicit anger. For example, the firm were arranging to paint the offices and we were told to clear out our personal belongings from the room. I was absolutely shocked when I saw how angry they were getting when asked to do this. In fact, I showed by irritation at their behaviour and pointed out that the painting would benefit them, to which they replied that they didn’t think it needed to be painted. After that I just left them alone to themselves but later I did notice they all started to move their stuff from the room.
    When I was young, we would happily do it and, in fact, used it as an opportunity to interact on a personal level, other than just work. People years ago were happy to help out for each other. I’m not surprised so many people today are in therapy.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.