Career Coach Tips: How to Handle a Copycat

Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? That your efforts are being copied by the competition? Maybe you feel disconcerted by a colleague that’s taking all the credit for your hard work. Or annoyed that your style, approach, or words are being emulated by another? It happens all the time and though it’s very frustrating, it’s also very flattering.

I have a client who’s making great headway in advancing her career. Because of her efforts, she’s been noticed by people who can help her reach her goals. Unfortunately, she’s also being monitored by a colleague who appears to be not only taking advantage of my client’s good nature but taking credit for her hard work. This “copycat” is being pretty crafty in his approach and his behavior is taking a toll on my client’s wellbeing. The stress of performing at her peak, while watching over her shoulder is affecting the quality of my client’s efforts. In our recent coaching session, we worked on a strategy on how to handle a copycat.

Control What You Can. The best way for my client, or anyone who has a “copycat”, is to pull away from obsessing about the other person’s activities and focus on what you can control.  Keeping your game going and focus less on the competition, but rather on what is important. This is where your energy and time should be spent. What is in your control is the great work that you’re producing, so keep it up. And give others credit enough to recognize a “knock off” or “grade grubber” when they see one.

Partner Up. When you catch a copycat taking advantage of your resources, good nature and efforts, it’s typically a cry for help. So don’t be affronted be opportunistic (in a good way). Considering addressing the individual and asking how you might be of help or how you could partner up and double your impact. This is also a great opportunity for mentoring. Instead of avoiding, partner up and make it a win-win.

Watch Your Back. Unfortunately, a copycat can have sharp claws. Don’t be lured by false agreements or ploys. When people are desperate they act out in pretty scary ways. If a competitor comes on too strong, it might be time to ask for help. But please avoid gossip, retaliation, complaining or blame. Instead, take the high road and approach the powers that be with a strategic plan that outlines this current threat. Brainstorming with a supervisor about how you can best achieve your goals while surpassing obstacles is the admirable approach.

Celebrate the Copycats. We all have our copycats. I do, too! But what is great about these imitators is that they are reinforcing what we are doing right. They are also challenging us to be better, unique and to work harder everyday. They are also ‘sweet’ confirmation of our worth as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.



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