Ok. So you admit you might have one or two evil thoughts about a co-worker or female boss – you’re secretly hoping she’ll stuff up just like the little girl in the middle playing elastics. How do you overcome its limitations?”Empathy and compassion,” is Rachael’s answer. “The key to dealing with competition is to find empathy and compassion and before you can find empathy and compassion for anyone else you have to find it for yourself,” Rachael advises.

“The next really important thing is to accept. To realise you can’t have it all – you can have some of it some of the time and it’s cyclical,” she says.

“The key to dealing with female competition is to acknowledge its existence and be thoughtful, be clear with yourself and set yourself boundaries with girlfriends and co-workers,” Rachael says. “Speak up in a calm and thoughtful way.”

US author Leora Tanenbaum (Catfight: Women and competition) advocates cooperation in a work environment. “If there’s a woman above you, tell her how much you respect her, maybe she’ll see you as less of a threat,” Tenenbaum told a Fast Forward journalist.

“If women were to cooperate on a person-to-person level, we could change things that are inequitable to women. If we felt more inclined to unite with one another, we could make workplaces more women and family friendly,” she said.

Rachael says dealing with female competition in the workplace is about speaking out, which many women are disinclined to do.

” If you’re in a meeting and another woman starts sprouting your ideas and you feel yourself getting angry, Rachael advises you stop and recognise this as a “trigger moment”. Don’t obsess about the comments (sound familiar?), just say to yourself ‘I accept I feel competition, I will deal with it after the meeting, but for now I’ll stay in the present’,” Rachael says. “After the meeting, bring it out in the open and speak to your colleague in non-confrontational language.”

And whatever you do, don’t go and bitch to your work girlfriends.

Rachael says women in the workforce need to be clearer about what they want and what they don’t want. “Ask yourself how far you’re willing to go to support others and realise the point where it becomes self sacrifice,” Rachael says. “Women can give too much and they’re actually cutting off their nose to spite their face.”

And next time you recognise yourself sizing up a fellow female, remember Rachael’s words: “you can’t have it all, you can have some of it some of the time”. Accept that she’s got great legs, but you’ve got a great butt – so move on.

Story by Lisa Bjorksten, acting editor of CareerOne – www.careerone.com.au

Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing: editor@careerone.com.au