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Conflict – What Happens When Your Friends at Work Become Your Frenemy?

Conflict – What Happens When Your Friends at Work Become Your Frenemy?

Having a frenemy at work can complicate the job and impact your personal life. A frenemy is an individual who you share a friendly rapport with but have an immense dislike for each other. And when it comes to working with frenemies, things often spiral out of control. The trick is to be calm and professional when dealing with frenemies at the workplace.

Whether it’s an in-person or virtual work setting – there is a good chance you’ve run into a frenemy. The fact of the matter is that almost every workplace environment has employees that end up working against each other. Of course, it sets a bad precedent for loyal and new employees.

Mixing Business with Friendship

The common saying that friendship and business should not mix is true when you’re dealing with frenemies. But the personalized approach to work makes the employees more productive, collaborative, and communicative. It also makes it more challenging to deal with a frenemy at work.
When you give employees deadlines, projects, and set long meetings – it is bound to build friendships. But not all friendships at work are healthy. In fact, some are more than willing to subvert the information and compromise your work status.

Believe in ALL the Signs

When someone at work shows red flags, you have to take all the signs for granted. So, the next time you interact with a frenemy, look for insecure and fearful behavior that drives them. Now, you may not be able to completely build trust with a frenemy.

But once you learn about their behavior and notice all the signs – you’ll start to get more discerning. And this perceptiveness will protect you from the scheming and backstabbing of a frenemy. Most employees believe that you cannot altogether avoid frenemies.

Instead, you have to figure out the best ways to minimize damage and steer the ship in the right direction. For instance, if you don’t want to get caught in the cobweb of a frenemy, don’t engage in petty issues that might rile you up. Instead, follow your own path and use your energy to achieve organizational goals.

Protect Your Ideas

One of the most practical solutions to deal with a frenemy is to keep your innovative ideas about a project to yourself. And that’s because a frenemy might try to get credit for your project idea. The best course of action would be to present the project ideas to the boss or team leader on your own. Even if you have a small project idea, be cautious about who you share it with.

Don’t Encourage a Frenemy

As a skilled and committed employee, the last thing you want is to feed the flames of fire that stem from gossip and other destructive work activities. In an abrupt moment, you might feel like agreeing with your co-worker to not come across as disagreeable. But it would give your frenemy more fuel to get you involved in a non-professional and non-work-related activity.
When the conflict gets severe, people often lose their temper, and there is no return from that behavior. Understand that words are powerful and meaningful and may get interpreted differently by different employees. So, choose your words wisely and maintain a neutral position rather than take sides or retaliate.  


Don’t Participate in Gossip

Conflict resolution with frenemies is about not participating in gossip and keeping your personal opinions to yourself. Oftentimes, employees end up spreading gossip indirectly that leads to social, emotional, and physical consequences for other team members. And if your team leader finds out about your involvement in spreading the gossip, you probably won’t get in the good graces of your boss. So, avoid gossip at the workplace that can cost you in the long run and compromise the value of your position.

Exercise Professionalism

You may not be aware of it, but there are degrees of professionalism. And handling yourself in the most professional manner can save you a lot of trouble. It also helps you avoid potential confrontations and remain private. In fact, a frenemy might not even approach you for gossip if you’re highly professional and have a strong work ethic. You can use kind words to talk about others and then walk away if a frenemy is steering the conversation in the wrong direction.

Keep Yourself in Check

Whether you’re working for a small company or a large corporation, it is important to keep yourself in check. You can become your best critic and model the behavior that can work for diverse co-workers. And if there is a frenemy at work, model behavior that can influence positive changes rather than building a toxic work relationship that can lead to devastating consequences. 

Understand the Motivations of a Frenemy

It is normal to laugh, converse, engage, and eat with co-workers. However, a frenemy with hidden motives can derail your professional career and hamper your standing in the workplace. Never forget that even a common lunch gossip can have a long-lasting impact.

If there is an issue of bias and unfairness at work and a frenemy wants to take your opinion, provide an honest assessment and recommend reaching out to the HR and manager for a prompt solution. Naturally, you don’t want to take matters into your own hands and get accused of direct involvement.

Build High Tolerance

You need a thick skin to avoid and tolerate the harmful attempts of a frenemy to destroy your standing in the workplace. If you encounter gossip or destructive activity at work, don’t get triggered or offer your opinions in the heat of the moment.
It can be daunting to deal with your adversaries at work who poses as your friends. And the worse thing is that you cannot afford to confront frenemies or lose your temper at all costs. One of the best ways to deal with a frenemy at work is to assume more control over the situation.

And that means ensuring your behavior is not escalating a situation, provoking a frenemy, or making matters worse. Practically, the simple solution is often the best solution. In this case, be a professional to come across as pleasant and tolerate frenemies at work.


In the context of frenemies, it often feels like there is no escape from office politics, and that’s fair. It is vital to realize and recognize that a work frenemy finds it difficult to collaborate with others. Your objective should be to follow useful tactics that can help you deal with frenemies at work. 

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