The psychology of workplace frenemies




I am curious about frenemies. Always have been, especially since I watched a Sex and the City episode (season 3, episode 16) where Carrie introduced us to her frenemy.  By the time one is 35, I believe one will have had at least one frenemy. They are everywhere and anywhere. They appear in an instant and disappear, at times, just as quickly.

Here are a few I have managed to identify in the workplace.


The enemy of my enemy. Here in the United States we saw the ultimate frenemy bond when Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich somewhat got together to counter Trump’s candidacy.  They are still both competing against each other for the ultimate prize but decided not to compete fully against each other.   Truces or arrangements like these occur all the time in the workplace. They are a necessary evil at times.  You don’t feel great about it but it’ll do.

The Temp.  There are frenemies that come about for just a set moment in time. You have a working relationship and you end up at opposite ends of a deal or project. You fight hard but maintain some level of public civility and then at some point it all dissipates. You may even , one day, become friends. Although, that frenemy past leaves a lingering taste. You can never fully trust that Temp frenemy but you can certainly move on enough.

Newman. Like in Seinfeld’s frenemy. Newman was Kramer’s friend and Kramer was jerry’s friend. They orbited each other’s circles. However, there was outright disdain on both parts. They couldn’t hide their dislike and spoke in very hard tones showcasing their low level of tolerance for each other. However, because they were in each other’s circles, they occasionally banded together. You can never trust this person but at least you know that up front.

The true chameleon.  This person really doesn’t like you for whatever reason it may be. It could be that they wanted your job, they feel they are better than you or hate that you are prettier. It could be all of that and more.  Either way, they hate you. Truly do. They see you as the bane of their existence. But they manage to put up a front to enough people (although probably not all) to make it seem you co-exist in the same space. They, at times, put up a united front but they secretly try to sabotage you every step of the way. This person may be a chameleon to other staff, but you can sniff them out but the look in their eyes. There is always that one moment where their hatred flickers in their eyes. Never, ever, let your guard down around this person.

Do you have a frenemy? Of course you do. The question is what type?  Go ahead look into their eyes.

5 replies »

  1. Love this post! I remember that SATC episode about frenemies. You categorized the different types well 🙂


  2. I have for sure had workplace frenemies and could probably identify more than I realized at the time by use of current 20/20 hindsight. There may even be more types than those you have described here. Do I sound paranoid?


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