Our Favorite On-Screen Workplace Nemeses
The late actress Bette Davis once said, "I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business." It seems Davis -- who counted one-time co-star Miriam Hopkins as her life-long arch-nemesis -- was on to something.
Though most of have had the occasional office enemy -- the superior who takes credit for your work, the gum-snapper that sits across the hall -- it seems like small-screen stars take work feuds to a whole 'nother level. From the bitter battles of talk show hosts, to the fictional fights of sitcom stars, here are our favorite battles of on-screen co-workers. (Plus a little professional advice to help them settle their disputes, from relationship expert Susan Shapiro Barash, author of 'Toxic Friends," and "Tripping the Prom Queen.')
The fun foes
Jim Halpert vs. Dwight Schrute, 'The Office'
The feud: The fictional employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company have been rivals from the beginning. Most episodes of the show highlight at least one prank that Jim pulls on Dwight. A few examples:
- Jim put Dwight's stapler in a Jell-O mold
- Jim convinced Dwight it was Friday when it was actually Thursday
- Jim replaced all of Dwight's pens and pencils with crayons
- Jim sent Dwight a fax from himself in the future, i.e.
To: Dwight Schrute
From: Future Dwight
At 8AM today someone poisons the coffee. Do not drink the coffee. More instructions will follow.
Dwight then tackled one of his coffee drinking colleagues in an attempt to save him from the poisoned coffee.
The expert says: "Dwight has to face that Jim is bullying him, perhaps in the name of 'friendship' or 'humor', but it is still blatant bullying and a mind game. Although Dwight might benefit from confronting Jim about how this is unacceptable, it will only fuel Jim's antics and give Jim satisfaction to see that Dwight is perturbed. It's better for Dwight to ignore Jim, so that Jim gets no charge out of his antics. When a 'friend' is doing something reprehensible -- which these antics are -- it's best to remove oneself. Ignoring a prankster is often effective and mitigates circumstances."
The passive-aggressive feud
Erin Kaplan vs. Olivia Palermo, 'The City'
The feud: The slightly passive-mostly aggressive relationship these two colleagues share on the MTV show brings back "mean girl" memories of high school. As co-workers at Elle magazine, Olivia's "incompetence" angers Erin, who is often left cleaning up after Olivia's mistakes. The girls are locked in a constant state of passive-aggressive tension, leading Erin to become so fed up with Olivia's behavior, she gives her boss an ultimatum, saying "It's her or me." Her boss convinces Erin to stay, and the two continue to be work nemeses.
The expert says: "Workplace scenarios where one colleague feels she is 'carrying' another are tricky because the power is unequal and few of us want to leave our jobs (especially in the downturn). It would improve matters if Olivia had something to offer Erin, because then there is a mutual self interest and the two colleagues [would] support one another. Short of this kind of profitable trading, the friction will continue as new situations will arise because it is the nature of the relationship."
The all-out war
Elisabeth Hasselbeck vs. Rosie O'Donnell, 'The View'
The feud: Hasselbeck, the show's conservative voice, has a long history of vehemently defending her right-wing views against those of her more liberal co-hosts on the talk show. Yet her disagreements with O'Donnell were fierce, often resulting in verbal on-air fights between the two women. Their feud came to a head when O'Donnell called Hasselbeck "cowardly" for not defending her in the media. The heated argument that followed was even dubbed "nuclear Wednesday" and "the epic battle" by the media. Days later, O'Donnell left the show for good.
The expert says: "When the situation becomes toxic and escalates, there if often little recourse but to let the friendship go. At this point, a conversation about what happened and the possibility of renegotiating the relationship seems unlikely. However, if there is a history or a bond with the friend, I do suggest that you try to have a conversation/renegotiation. But expect that it probably won't help matters. We leave friends or colleagues when the interchange becomes too demanding or self destructive, when loyalty and trust are missing. Nonetheless, letting go of these connections isn't easy and women, in particular, based on my study, struggle with such a final decision."