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NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Competition among employees is worse today than it was a decade ago, according to a new study. An Office Team study found that 49% of senior managers believe employees are more competitive with each other today than they were 10 years ago.

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"Rivalry between coworkers can often become more intense when the economy is uncertain and people feel pressure to prove themselves," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Although it's natural for employees to want to stand out among their colleagues, it shouldn't be at the expense of others."

Co-worker competition can be magnified by postings on social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

"Jealousy in the workplace exists, and it can create significant tensions between workers that are supposed to be colleages and collaborators, which goes back to what you share with your co-workers and the world on your Facebook page and who you friend or follow," said Reynol Junco, a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Posting a photo of yourself on Facebook holding up a new iPad could be perceived as a flaunting behavior by others depending on facial expression and pose, according to a new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research (and also straight-up common sense).

"The results indicate that Americans don't like approval seeking behavior," said Rosellina Ferraro, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. "We want to think people use a brand because they like it not because they are showing off."

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This "Look at Me! Look at Me! Conspicuous Brand Usage, Self-Brand Connection and Dilution" study surveyed various posts with and without photos.

"In our study, we use a post versus a post and photo for the non-flaunting and flaunting conditions, respectively, but this does not mean that a post without a photo cannot involve flaunting," said Ferraro, a co-author on the study.

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Whether online or in real life, the difference between flaunting and not flaunting can be as simple as using an iPad stand or not.

"There's a very fine line," said Ferraro. "Flaunting involved how the person held the Tiffany bag and her facial expression. If you have a Tiffany bag, hold it naturally."

The study further reveals that it's not about jealousy or envy on the part of others but rather dislike, and that flaunting can be facilitated by Facebook.

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"Facebook gives people an outlet and a wider audience to flaunt that they didn't have before," Ferraro said. "Flaunters think they are getting status and approval from others when in fact they are being perceived negatively."

Global Career Expert Dana Manciagli coined the term "flauntland" when referencing excessive boasting and bragging on Facebook.

"I don't think people know when they have crossed the line into flauntland," said Manciagli, author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job (Authority, 2013), which includes a chapter on social media. "And if your friends perceive your sharing photos of purchases as flaunting then are they truly friends?"

Consider the expert tips below to avoid flauntland

  • 1. Use Facebook settings to restrict who can view your branded toys.
  • 2. Refrain from posting photos of your recent trip to Davos or exclusive events. "You don't know how your Facebook audience is reading it or what preconceived notions they are bringing to their interpretation of the content," said Junco.
  • 3. When you do feel the need to flaunt, be humble. Manciagli advises: "I splurged and although I can't afford it, I couldn't resist nabbing this new luxury sports car. Call it a midlife crisis."
  • 4. Unfollow and unlike co-workers who in reality are acquaintances not friends.
  • 5. Tell a story about the item. "I'm excited! I just got a new laptop that I can so easily write with on trains, planes and automobiles in Madrid," suggests Manciagli.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet