How to deal with workplace ‘frenemies’

How to deal with workplace ‘frenemies’ Having a frenemy is better than having an enemy

 

Co-workers who encourage you may also disparage you in front of others

Co-workers who encourage you may also disparage you in front of others

 

Friends at work who are trusted confidantes may sometimes turn around and gossip about you. Co-workers who encourage you may also disparage you in front of others. How can you navigate these relationships with “frenemies”?

1 Focus on the positive: Having a frenemy is better than having an enemy. No matter how exasperating this relationship is, keep in mind that it still provides emotional benefits that are often hard to come by at work. So focus on these positives.

Start by sharing some personal information and building a small degree of trust; even if these relationships don’t ever make it into a “friend” zone, they have some unanticipated benefits.

2 Try to work together on an important project: frenemies are a source of motivation, and working alongside them will make you work harder to prove yourself. Plus the time you spend together will help you understand each other better and perhaps even develop some empathy.

3 Turn your enemies into frenemies: Negative relationships are toxic. Aim to transform your worst relationships not into friendships but into ambivalent ones, which have more benefits in terms of your motivation and personal success. You can do this by getting to know your enemy better and focusing on their more positive characteristics.

4 Appreciate your varied social ledger: remember that it’s not just you who feels ambivalent toward others at work. Stop feeling guilty about these uncomfortable feelings and appreciate that you have a wide range of relationship types at work, as does everybody else.

Despite the benefits, we don’t want all our relationships to be ambivalent. There is much more to be gained by having as many positive relationships as possible – and that’s where your priorities should lie. But navigating relationships at work is complicated, and not only are love-hate relationships unavoidable, but having a few is good for us. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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