Is It Time to Get Your Sh*t Together?
Ceremonies, Rituals and Work

What Can You Learn from Your Frenemies at Work?



Do your frenemies have something to teach you? 

In some email conversations with folks lately the idea of frenemies has been coming up. You know who I mean--those people you work with whom you're friendly, but with whom you share a rivalry or who drive you nuts. 

We've all had them in our careers. Sometimes they help drive us to greater accomplishments. The friendly competition keeps both of you on your toes.

I tend to see this dynamic more often with men, but also with women who have been involved in sports as they grew up. I think there's something about what happens on the playing field that supports that kind of friendly rivalry. You spur each other on to greatness. 

But I also see the frenemy dynamic in the people who make us crazy. In those circumstances, we often feel more of the "enemy" part of frenemy. These people annoy or frustrate us and we and are only friendly to the extent that we have to be in order for things to go smoothly at work.

But really, the people who are making us crazy could help us learn a lot about ourselves and what we aren't owning in our personalities. And what we aren't owning can be both good and bad. 

I had a business partner for a few years who I'd first met through my last job. He really drove me crazy. Very self-promotional (to my mind), very "pushy."

Later, after we'd both quit to work on our own, he contacted me to help with a project he was pursuing. I resisted, remembering all my negative feelings about him, but he was persistent and I agreed to meet with him.

We ended up partnering on several projects and I started to see where his "pushiness" was something I needed to own in myself if I was going to be a successful business person. Watching him, I learned a lot of things about what I did/didn't want to do. 

What changed the dynamic was me being willing to take a friendlier approach to him--to embrace the "friend" part of being frenemies so I could learn from what was making me crazy.

As it turned out, he learned some things too, especially about developing empathy and knowing when the "soft sell" would be more effective than the hard sell. It was embracing that frenemy relationship that helped us both grow. 

Today, look around and ask yourself about your frenemies, especially those who drive you crazy. What would happen if you approached them as a friend? How could you learn from them? What could they learn from you? How can your frenemies help you build your resilience? And if you have a story about frenemies at work, feel free to share in comments. I'd love to hear about it!




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Hmmm. Nice try! I have a few folks who aren't frenemies or enemies--they're people I have no respect for. They either are incredibly unproductive (got a narcissistic slacker who is patted on the head by a group that shares a certain social background) or they are damaging to our clientele given certain measures of social obtuseness.

I have only learned that I am more professional than they are.

Well, "frenemy" definitely implies that there's some level of friendship there. :-)

The person I referenced in my original post, though, was actually someone I did NOT feel friendly toward, but I could see where there were some things he did better than I did and that we could learn from each other. Sometimes you have to dig a little, but in my career I've found that when I'm willing to do a little work with people like that, it ends up paying some good rewards in the end. And I usually find out that my original opinion of them was somewhat unwarranted.

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