Why workplace frenemies are our most stressful colleagues - Deepstash
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The Friend Who Is Also An Enemy

Among immediate colleagues, it’s easy to spot two groups of people: genuine friends, who make each workday a little brighter; and sworn enemies – the people who will deliberately make your life hard for no reason. But what about all those people in the middle?

These colleagues may offer a sympathetic ear to your woes, but then go and gossip about them behind your back. Or they’ll defend you from criticism, but then take sole credit for a joint project, erasing your contributions without a backward glance. They help and they hurt too, they are frenemies, or “ambivalent relationships”.


129 reads

Friendship At The Workplace

There is no doubt true friends bring enormous benefits to our overall health and wellbeing. A huge scientific literature now shows our social connections can raise our self-esteem and help us to recover from stress more quickly. This not only reduces our risk of mental illness , but also reduces risk of physical disease and death.

Unsurprisingly, the wholly negative relationships in our lives have the opposite effects: research shows that psychologically abusive colleagues or family members can be enormously detrimental to our overall health.


95 reads

Frenemies At Work

If frenemies, in general, have been understudied, then their role in workplace politics is even less well understood. This is a shame, since many job environments may be particularly ripe for the creation and maintenance of ambivalent relationships. 

Organisations often force us into interactions with people we wouldn’t choose to have in our social networks.


99 reads

Game Of Thrones

It is the sense of professional competition that injects negativity into the working relationship. You may find your colleague to be very likeable, for example, and you would happily go for a drink with them.

Yet you feel betrayed when they apply for the same promotion as you. It’s normal that people want to get ahead but also get along with their colleagues at the same time.


84 reads

Intensely Good And Bad

 A study questioned US retail employees about their colleagues. She found that the nature of the ambivalent relationships depended on people’s desires for closeness. The more people wanted to establish a connection with their frenemy, the more likely they were to both help and hinder their partner in their work. 

In other words, the positive intentions meant that every element of the relationship – good and bad – was more intense. “It makes the ambivalence more salient.


60 reads

The Bottomline

Your desire for closeness will amplify the ambivalent feelings.

And so, if you are starting to feel too stressed by the relationship, you might aim to become a bit more realistic in your expectations of what your frenemy will provide, without necessarily cutting them out of your life altogether.


68 reads



"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”- John Maxwell


The Friend Who Is Also An Enemy

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