Has it ever crossed your mind that the co-worker you grab lunch (and share juicy workplace gossip) with may not actually have your back? According to a study published in the Journal of Management, these types of ambivalent relationships with co-workers who may or may not be real, loyal friends — aka frenemies — have a bigger impact on us at work than you might realize.
Jessica Methot, a Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations associate professor and co-author of the study, looked at whether or not workplace relationships that are considered “hot and cold” affect our emotions at work and consequently our job performance. And wouldn’t you know, she discovered that these relationships often create mixed feelings among employees in the workplace, which is likely to lead to job performance that is also unpredictable.
Surprisingly, though, there is a bright side to that unpredictability. While most of us know that relationships with people we love to hate can cause stress that's bad for our health, chances are, they can also motivate us to do better at our job.
In a review of the findings in Rutgers, Methot says, “prior studies have shown a link to increased stress, high blood pressure and rapid aging — suggesting that 'frenemies' are worse than enemies. Yet, ambivalent relationships are also associated with greater creativity and higher productivity, perhaps because they fuel a competitive spark.”
Sound familiar? Personally, I can definitely attest to some pretty kick-ass projects finished after a confrontational run-in with a work frenemy…
If nothing else, Methot’s findings reaffirm what many of us who have been on the other end of these love-hate relationships already know. Relationships with co-workers are some of the most complicated interpersonal interactions we have. Hopefully, if yours are on the ambivalent side, you can use any stress that may cause to your advantage rather than letting it drag you down.