By Sophie Stones

If you’ve ever thought “I could murder my co-worker!”, you aren’t alone. In fact, a slightly terrifying icebreaker to replace “how was your New Year?”; the 3rd leading cause of workplace death in America is homicide, many of which were committed by disgruntled employees.

Richard Deneberg, who studied ‘The Violence-Prone Workplace’ and wrote a book on the phenomena, found that “many of the cases that we noted in our book on the violence-prone workplace resulted from garden-variety problems that were allowed to fester.” His theory lies on the presumption that it is dysfunctional workplaces to blame, not inherently lethal ‘employees’, and although homicide is an extreme example, and although the UK’s figures are much more friendly, toxic relationships between employees are still rife, causing all sorts of problems.

Total Jobs recently compiled a whole ream of research surrounding workplace relationships and unfortunately the results were less friends and more frenemies, with 62% of UK workers admitting to have at least one ‘work enemy’, compared to only 2 in 10 who have a close workplace friendship. These statistics, although they may not turn Jill from accounting into Patrick Bateman, do drastically affect morale, reducing productivity and becoming a real concern with regards to mental health.

Splitting the workforce, men and women not only react differently to a work enemies’ behaviour (6 in 10 women say they cry, whilst the same number of men say they isolate themselves), but they are also likely to be disliked themselves for differing reasons. If you’re a man, you’re going to want to avoid being NSFW and making sexist comments or risk being unfriended, and for women, key bad behaviours are gossiping and ostracising colleagues. However, whichever gender you are, 60% of workers gave the same 2 reasons as their top trigger; bending the truth to make themselves look good; and commenting on others’ performance.

When it comes to work enemies, like with work confidantes, we’re more likely to gravitate towards those who reflect our own qualities, with 71% claiming their arch nemesis is the same age and 65% the same gender. So, what is it that makes us turn against those we work with?

Further research has been conducted into the correlation between location and relationships, with Londoners more likely to have a work best friend than not, however they are also more likely to suffer when presented with an enemy employee. Experts suggest that this may be due to the Souths culture of after-work activities encouraging friendships, leading the worker to feel disconnects more harshly. In fact, 85% of those with workplace enemies say that the relationship began well before turning sour, leading to feelings similar to a romantic breakup. In order to resolve these conflicts, it’s suggested that we don’t abolish work events but rather adjust them, turning away from one-on-one competitive activities and instead focussing on bonding group pursuits, like pub quizzes or charity challenges, such as Sleep Out.

Having a bad relationship at work doesn’t need to be the end of the world and although 30% of us lose sleep over an enemy employee, there are those who see a light at the end of the tunnel. The possibility of reconciliation means that a small minority of people would still be sad to see their rival leave. So next time you feel a rage bubbling up, why not take your frenemy for a Bloody Mary, instead of daydreaming about a bloody nose?

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