Working with the ‘Frenemy’
Keith Major

“I’m sorry about the your father’s death, but we have to talk. Cynthia said that you…” My blood boiled with instant fury at the insensitivity of my manager and the lies my coworker had told about me. I can’t even tell you everything he said next, because when I demanded that my accuser be invited into our meeting to explain herself, it all went away quietly. Days later, I was left reeling. I’d had my first encounter with a frenemy at work.

I was caught off guard the first time I encountered a workplace frenemy. Cynthia and I had gone to lunch together, shared a few personal stories and even spent time together outside of the office. So her attempts to undermine me at such an emotional time in my personal life shocked me. I was hurt, but I learned the important lesson that work is work and it is your responsibility to make sure you don’t blur the lines when establishing friendships in the office.

A few months ago we discussed “Friending Wisely,” and I provided tips and strategies for navigating frenemies in our personal lives. But after an interview on GOOD DAY in Dallas recently, I realized that dealing with frenemies at work requires a somewhat different approach.

I couldn’t cut Cynthia out of my life, because our roles required that we work together closely every day. The only thing I could do was to set the record straight with my managers and let them know that I expected them to speak with her regarding the deliberately misleading statements she’d made about me. On a personal level, I learned to address frenemy behavior immediately. Going forward, throughout my professional career, I was intentional about being direct and positive as my modus operandi.

If you have a frenemy at work, here are some tips for navigating the relationship:

1. If You Don’t Want Copies, Don’t Create an Original: The lure of our relationships with a frenemy is that when they are not throwing us under the bus, we actually have a good time with them. Unfortunately, personal feelings shared during those good times can become ammunition later. Whatever you don’t want repeated or used against you, don’t share with your frenemy. 

2. Establish Boundaries: Many people think you have to claw and climb to get to the top. It is possible that your frenemy only knows how to engage in unsupportive behavior. Although it can feel personal, try to view their actions from another perspective.

Regardless of their motive, you have to address your frenemy. Confrontation does several things. First, it teaches you and others to respect your brand. Secondly, it opens the door to the possibility of change. Finally, until you confront your frenemy, you can only make assumptions about their actions. You have to communicate to get to the truth!

Be sure to reference specific scenarios and behaviors that concern you. Then let them know how you think things could have best been handled. Avoid using language that engenders defensive—words like “always and never”—instead, own your emotions and say “I feel…”

3. Stay Above The Fray: Don’t let a frenemy’s potential for poison create smallness in you. Despite their actions towards you, continue to do your job and contribute your best to your team. Model the loyalty you expect and deserve.

Do Your Work: Identify any current or previous frenemies at work, how did you deal with them?

Define Your Wealth: Affirm, “I will be, do and give my best at all times because that is who I am.”

Recently named the “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Felicia T. Scott is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who empowers her clients to turn their Worth into Wealth as she partners with them to DISCOVER their WORTH, DO the WORK and DEFINE their WEALTH.  Get more insight, download the FREE “8 Choices Winners Must Make” seminar MP3 on her website.

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