It sounds wild: Advising you to make frenemies at work? What could possibly be the benefit? It sounds so conniving, karma is sure to haunt you! Relax. I'm not talking about an actual enemy, just a frenemy. Dictionary.com defines "frenemy" as "a person or group that is friendly toward another because the relationship brings benefits, but harbors feelings of resentment or rivalry." Now, I'm not suggesting you hold grudges or grow resentful - that is poison, both personally and professionally. But there are real benefits to having a good relationship with someone who's also a real rival.
This kind of relationship can be healthy, if you built it properly. There shouldn't be any backstabbing, plotting, or subterfuge among coworkers anyway, so hopefully that won't require a big change from you. When that kind of toxic energy is present, the whole company is impacted negatively, not just the coworker you target. Instead, think of them as sports teammates with whom you're competing for a starting spot. Remember that when you perform well, your company performs well - everybody wins!
Here's why making more frenemies might just be the key to your path to career success:
1. When you go home, you'll disengage from work more quickly.
When people are overly emotionally engaged with their work and their workplace, they often bring it home with them. This is not healthy for your or your family. You need breaks, like time with your kids and annual vacations, to keep yourself fresh, sharp, and motivated. Further, your family doesn't want to hear about the same drama every day. Instead, they want you to be relaxed and happy, which you can't be if you're dwelling on tension at work. Even if you're overly emotionally engaged because you love the people you work with, it's important to have some space between your home life and your work life. Building more frenemy relationships can solve this problem. You like your colleagues, and enjoy working with them, but you're not caught up in petty, unproductive matters. When you leave the office, work stays where it should.
2. The competition will keep you stimulated.
Many humans are naturally competitive animals. When you work hard, you help your own career advance and help your company perform well. But sometimes, you need a little extra daily motivation to put in the extra effort. Lots of people get bored by the monotony of work, or get tired and uninspired. If you look around, though, there's plenty to keep you going - your colleagues. If they're working hard, you look worse by comparison, and they just might nab that promotion you've been eyeing. It's not that you don't like them, it's that you can use their dedication as a stimulus to rededicate yourself.
3. It's good practice for working with clients you don't love.
There's another way frenemies can benefit your performance at work: it gets you used to working well with people you'd rather not work with. Sometimes you run into clients that are important for your business, but full of people who aren't your favorite. They're not dishonest or corrupt or producing a bad product, it's just that your personalities don't mesh well. It's an unfortunate reality that isn't going away. You'll be better capable of dealing with these challenging clients if you've had to rehearse similar behavior with colleagues. Having a civil and peaceful working relationship is just fine!
4. It will keep you on the lookout for risk.
When you have frenemies, you may find yourself peeking over you shoulder a bit more than usual. If your fears of treachery are real, then you're working in an environment that isn't healthy to begin with, and you should see if you can remove yourself. But checking who is behind and beside you isn't in itself a bad habit. That slight spark of paranoia that frenemies can inspire can help keep you meticulous, thorough, and on the lookout for pitfalls. Thinking comprehensively from all angles and considering all approaches will make you a better employee and a better colleague, and will help your company grow.