Take The High Road: Working With Former Workplace Enemies Again

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enemy coworkerBy Justin Thompson


One day you come into work merrily sipping your coffee, mentally preparing to make the best of the day ahead of you. You'd heard rumors that a new person is starting, and you're excited for a new addition to your team. It means your workload will be lessened, and you'll be able to focus on accomplishing more important tasks. But when your boss stops by to introduce you to your new counterpart, your stomach drops.

As if ripped from the pages of a soap opera script (or perhaps your favorite telenovela), you're standing face-to-face with a workplace arch nemesis from a previous job. Two thoughts cross your mind: "Oh @@##" and, "Okay, try to make the best of this awkward situation."

The likelihood of this happening may be slim, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. It's common to leave a job to escape a bad work environment or mean-spirited co-workers. But what do you do if, when you left, you made your not-so-loving feelings clear to your unfriendly co-workers, only to face them once again in your new job?

"Eat crow" as they say.

As much as you can sit at your desk and claim that work is work, and you're not there to make friends, it's not that easy. You'll have to either mend the relationship or put on your game face and make the best of an awkward situation.

Kaley Warner Klemp and Jim Warner, authors of "The Drama-Free Office," conducted research with more than 3,500 CEOs and their executive teams worldwide on this workplace quagmire.

"You might start this new relationship by offering the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps both of you have grown in your maturity since you last worked together and can shift to have a productive, collaborative relationship this time," Klemp says. "The best place to start is by ensuring that you stay out of drama: Take responsibility, practice creativity and collaboration, empower others and enforce your own boundaries. Hopefully this other person will follow your lead."

Great advice. This is the moment in your career when you have to make the conscious choice to take the high road. It's your chance to get beyond any past issues you've had with this person and commit to starting fresh. But even in your best attempt to start anew, what if the other person wants to continue the war?

Klemp says that you have to stay true to yourself and your other new colleagues.

"Strive to remain understanding and compassionate toward your drama-prone 'frenemy' without feeling obligated to rescue them," Klemp adds. It's true; when you are able to take the high road and put your differences into perspective and come to the realization that you're all working together toward a common goal, you can make your life at work that much easier.

Do you have workplace drama? Take one of Klemp and Warner's assessments for tips on how to resolve issues in the workplace.


Have you ever worked with a former frenemy? If so, how did you work through the awkwardness and focus on moving forward?



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