The Corporate Shrink

By Kerry J. Sulkowicz
Featured on FastCompany

I am one of several independent contractors who do long-term consulting for a company. I’m a very competitive person, and when our contracts come up for renewal, I tend to do whatever it takes to win–but that bites me in the backside when the other consultants see me as a threat. What is your advice? (issue 106, page 105)

As a consultant myself, I can relate to the pressure you feel to sell extensions of your engagements. This doesn’t present a conflict when a client genuinely needs your services, as they often do. On the other hand, there are situations in which the company really should be able to handle your role internally. If that’s the case, you should let the weaning begin.

I admire your competitiveness, but if you truly do “whatever it takes to win,” there’s good reason for rivals to look askance. It’s one thing to assertively pitch a client to renew your contract and another to actively muscle other contractors out of the way. If you’re doing the latter, I can’t blame them for trying to block your path. Sell yourself on your merits rather than by tearing down or interfering with your competitors. There might be room for everybody–and even if there isn’t, dialing down your competitiveness could help preserve your reputation and relationships.

Dr. Kerry J. Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and founder of The Boswell Group LLC, advises executives on leadership, management, and governance. Send him your questions about the psychology of business (