Why Having A Work Frenemy Is Actually A GOOD Thing (Says Science)

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A little competition goes a long way.

We don't sit at an office all day together, but my coworker frenemy is a college friend who works in the same field. We text a lot and gripe about the challenges of writing, but there is usually sometime in the conversation where we have some awkward misunderstanding and we then get competitive.

Someone usually gets defensive. The other tries to make a point that what they're doing is the right way to make it in writing, and the other is wrong. There usually isn't any resolution and we move on to the next subject.

Is this type of frenemy relationship hurting me or helping me? According to a researcher, this is actually good thing!

Shimul Melwani, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studies frenemy relationships, however the scientific term is "ambivalent relationships." You may assume that ambivalent means you don't care about the other person, but it actually means you have negative and positive feelings in the relationship.

Melwani conducted two experiments with Naomi Rothman of Lehigh University. In one of them, they collected 120 undergrads and paired them off. Melawani and Rothman made sure half of them had built a friendship through asking strictly positive getting-to-know-you questions to each other. The other half built and ambivalent relationship by asking competitive questions like "what's your GPA?"

They then gave all the undergrads the task of editing each other's blog posts. The blog posts were the same and written by the researchers but they told them that it was their partner's. The ones who had ambivalent relationships with their partners competitively caught more errors than the ones who have positive relationships with their partners.

This makes sense. You don't necessarily want to be buddy-buddy with all the people you work with because you will be scared to criticize them and your work suffers. A little competition means you will push each other to be better.

I guess this means that I should give my frenemy more of my writing to critique. Along with that, we should have a lot more awkward debates…yikes!


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