We all knew a “Regina George” in high school—one of the popular Mean Girls you loved to hate; the one you fake smiled at in the hallway so she didn’t make your life miserable. Hey girl! (cue the eye rolling)
I went to the same parties as the “Regina” in my school because our boyfriends were friends. And unless I wanted to commit social suicide, I had no choice but to be her frenemy—a person who is both your friend and enemy, someone you are friendly towards, but actually dislike.
Luckily, after high school it’s a lot easier to drop the fake act. Now I only hang out with people I like (for the most part). But still, whether it’s in the workplace or that friend of a friend you can’t stand, there are some relationships in life that you just have to put up with.
Friendship at work can be tricky. They are the people you spend the most time with, so there’s a good chance you have a lot in common with them. Or not. So they can either be your best friend or enemy—or in some cases, a combination of both. Fortunately for me, I love the people I work with and I’m not just saying that because I know they will read this. They’re awesome. And I’m lucky. But I know that for many people this is not the case.
As it turns out, having a frenemy isn’t the worst thing in the world, according to research. Love/hate relationships at work can be good for you—if you know how to navigate them.
A frenemy is better than an enemy. The relationship may be exhausting, but imagine if you openly hated each other? Even if it’s something as minor as making small talk in the morning, it’s better than nothing. Don’t dwell on the fact that he or she isn’t your BFF.
Take the opportunity to work together
It may seem counterintuitive, but working alongside a frenemy might actually improve your performance. Think about it: working with your best friend can be distracting, and working with an enemy is uncomfortable. Researchers found that in ambivalent relationships (frenemies), you are more likely to be motivated and work harder to prove yourself.
“Participants in our two studies who experienced ambivalent relationships were more likely to engage in perspective-taking as well as motivate themselves to succeed in both the task they were facing as well as in their organizational relationships,” reports Shimul Melwani and Naomi Rothman for the Harvard Business Review.
If your frenemy is a friend of a friend…
Keep it classy
This one is easy. Unlike work, you don’t have to be in their face if you don’t want to be. For example, if you’re both at a party with a group of people, be polite and say hello. But just do the bare minimum—no need for the exaggerated Hey! fake hugs, and forced conversation. You’re doing both of you a favor by skipping the theatrics.
A frenemy is the type of person you can only handle in small doses, so it’s important to set the tone from the beginning. For example, if she inundates you with texts about the latest gossip, don’t reply for several hours or don’t engage after a certain time at night. This communicates that you won’t allow her to monopolize your time, and it defines the relationship on your terms.
Remember, don’t take it personally if you don’t click with someone. Accept the fact that not everyone is going to like you. Forget the haters. You know you’re awesome.