Whether you’ve landed your dream job or you’re gritting your teeth every time you sit at your cubicle, workplace relationships can be complicated. Coworkers can act like your confidant one second and then tear you down when the boss comes around. The nice term for these people are frenemies. Researchers have actually looked into our workplace relationships and come up with some interesting psychology behind why we act the way we do at work.
Firstly, let’s define what might be going on with your coworkers. “Ambivalent relationship” is the technical term for love-hate relationship. You know, those relationships with people who you get along with but also harbor a few underlying negative feelings toward. Almost half of our important social network members are classified in these types of relationships. So obviously, it’s not just the workplace: Parents, in-laws and even significant others all can fall into the ambivalent relationship category. Why? It’s easy to stop calling a friend, but it’s much harder to avoid staying in touch with your mother or avoiding coworkers. In other words, when you’re stuck in a relationship, there is likely to be ambivalence present.
So what does this mean for you? You might expect positive relationships to have positive outcomes and negative relationships to have negative ones, and you’d be right. But ambivalent relationships are, as expected, a bit more complicated. Research has shown that love-hate relationships are associated with more stress and higher blood pressure (no surprise there). But researchers have also found that there are some benefits to these stressful relationships, such as more creative problem solving and better group decision making.
So could love-hate relationships be good for you and your work? The answer is yes. Even if there is more stress surrounding relationships with frenemies, you’re also more likely to try harder to make the relationship work. Here are a few tips from the relationship experts at Harvard Business to take these bonds in the right direction:
Focus on the positive: No matter how frustrating the relationship is, you still want to keep it friendly and not have an enemy. Maybe share a funny personal anecdote that happened over the weekend to build up a sense of trust and maintain the emotional benefits from having a friend at work.
Try to work together on an important project: Friendly competition can make you and your frenemy a power couple when it comes to motivation and creative thinking. Plus, the extra time together might help you reach a more friendly level of connection.
Turn your enemies into frenemies: When it comes to that one person at work you cannot stand, try your best to make things better. You don’t need a toxic relationship at work that is constantly affecting your own personal success.
There are good things about ambivalent relationships, but you shouldn’t want all of your relationships to be love-hate. Make positive relationships a priority: Send your mom (and mother-in-law!) a pretty DIY gift or take the time to tell someone you take for granted how much they mean to you.
How do you handle love-hate relationships at work? Share your stories and advice with us in the comments below!