Rivals, a stressful figure at work

Rivals, a stressful figure at work

The "rivals" are those colleagues whom, while maintaining a more or less cordial relationship, we know we cannot trust because they can betray you. Do you feel identified?

Rivals, a stressful figure at work

Last update: January 24, 2022

Rivals are figures that we find in every work environment and with whom we establish an ambivalent relationship. We can get along with them, work alongside them, and have friendly conversations. However, it is impossible to trust them because something tells us that they can betray us.

There is an inner voice that repeats to us over and over again "be careful, watch your back". They are personalities that run in a gray space in interpersonal relationships and that we all know.

It is very easy to identify true friends, those who offer light and well-being. We also have our well-cataloged enemies at the other extreme. Whoever is in the center brings us a certain complexity in defining them.

They are not threatening profiles like an enemy, they do not set themselves up as allies and accomplices of everyday life. The rivals are men and women who can be friendly today and criticize us behind our backs tomorrow.

Who are the rivals?

We can live with our rivals, but we know that at any moment they will think about their interests and betray us. It is common to have them as colleagues, although it can also be a friend and even a family member. They are those figures that gravitate around us and with whom we collide from time to time.

It is good to understand that these bonds are not harmless. The impact they can have on our mental health is quite intense and sometimes even harmful.

Aesop said that "an uncertain friend is worse than a declared enemy". We don't know what to expect in these cases and insecurity, such as mistrust, makes us feel as if we are moving on unstable ground.

Psychology has recently focused on these "gray areas" of our social relationships. Figures who are neither friends nor enemies have turned out to be very harmful, according to scientific research.

We cannot escape from all the people who generate mistrust in us

In the case of people who bring more worries than moments of calm, it is normal to think it is better to distance yourself from them. However, this is not always possible. We live in evolved social ecologies in which we are forced to live with each other.

Beyond that, another obvious phenomenon appears. Friends are the most frequent figures in our daily life. Good friends can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and enemies are also generally quite rare.

The links that belong to the gray and ambivalent zone, on the other hand, are the most frequent and they also generate very complex feelings of love / hate.

There are colleagues with whom we manage to live together, with whom we achieve goals and one day we even go out with them for dinner. However, it is clear that these people will occasionally criticize us behind our backs and, if they can, will cheat on us to get a promotion. Situations that inevitably generate high stress.

Rivals are defined by passive-aggressive behavior: there will be times when they will seek our complicity and, later on, they will end up betraying us.

The rivals are against us

One of the most interesting books on human behavior, social relationships and evolution is Evolutionary Psychology by David M. Buss.

In this paper it is explained that rivalries are common in human nature, because we are social creatures who compete with each other.

In other words, people can be both allies and enemies in almost any scenario. Siblings can love each other, but at some point they can also end up competing.

The same happens with some friends. However, the rivalries manifest themselves above all in the workplace following the evident context marked by competitiveness.

On average, rivals always try to maintain a friendly attitude towards us. They know that it is always better to be cautious, to keep harmony and appearances.

However, we are aware that this closeness is selfish and who basically sail in resentment, hypervigilance and even jealousy.

Not knowing what to expect from your rivals and, therefore, having to always be alert makes you live the situation with stress and anxiety.

Ambivalent relationships cause stress

Rival colleagues are the main source of stress at work. Human beings need social bonds based on trust. When this does not happen, it is not perceived and does not exist in any relationship, we are always alert.

Research work conducted by Brigham Young University focuses on how ambivalent relationships affect physical and psychological health. Working with someone who criticizes us behind our backs, but then praises us and invites us to lunch is exhausting.

Having a family member or friend who we appreciate but who ignores or lies to us from time to time ends up mentally and emotionally exhausting us. And we insist, the solution is not always as simple as distancing oneself from these controversial and ambivalent figures.


In many cases we are forced to gravitate, to move around our rivals. Relational uncertainty, not knowing how certain people will behave, not being able to trust those around us is a common phenomenon that is not talked about enough.

We are obliged to coexist and manage our rivals. Reduce our expectations of them and safeguard our emotional limits is the key to neutralizing them and staying afloat.

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