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Choosing the correct archnemesis

Just like a ‘work wife’, everyone needs an adversary in the nine to five. Here’s how to single yours out.

Choosing the correct archnemesis

First things first: you need a workplace enemy. Someone you can sneer at through glass walls, ignore in the lifts, mock with your cronies during downstairs coffee meetings. Worklife isn’t worth living without one.

But you have to make the correct choice here. Pick someone too far down the totem pole and it’s workplace bullying. Pick someone too agreeable and your rivalry will be strangled in the cradle. No, you need someone who will give as good as they get, drawing you ever deeper into a cat-and-mouse game where the cat is playing chess, the mouse is playing go and there’s no quarter asked or given. Yahtzee!

Ideally it’ll be someone who has wronged you, allowing the moral high ground to be your home field. Maybe they’re jealous of your popularity and tried to badmouth you after you moved to a different department. Perhaps their incompetence has cost you dearly and it’s time to ensure you’re never in a position of weakness relative to them again. But sometimes you can’t wait for them to make the first move.

You fingers are steepled, you have schemes to set in motion and all that’s missing is someone to narrow your eyes about whenever their name is mentioned.

That’s when it’s time to look through the names and titles of everyone in your orbit and choose wisely. Don’t just walk up and tell them, though. Reveal your burning hatred by inches, meeting by meeting, group email by group email. And await their response to your underhanded overtures. The game… begins.

What’s the point of all this, you non-sociopathic readers ask? Having an enemy gives you focus, because you’ll be striving to defeat them at every turn – both by doing better work than them and foiling their insipid schemes. You’ll be honing your strategycraft, gaining transferrable skills that are useful in overcoming the challenges posed by rival companies. And you’ll have something to talk about during downstairs coffee meetings with your cronies.

But how does this thing end? One of you moves on. One of you dies and the other delivers a eulogy dedicated to a worthy foe. You both grow old and appear together, two warhorses, in an ad together about why Australia should become a republic.

Or, if you’re anything like me, you share six rounds of beer at the local and realise they’re not such a bad person, meaning you have to start the whole process of finding an archnemesis all over again. It’s tough being so affable and gregarious, believe me.

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