Work Enemies


At a glance

Packed with surprising insights and dynamic visualization, this scrolling editorial story explores why and how we fall out with our work colleagues. There’s a hidden Easter egg too…

Illustrated header for round 1

Colleagues in crisis

Do you go to work? Then you probably know what it’s like to have a ‘work enemy’. Are you reading this at work? Then there’s a good chance you can see your work enemy right now…

We worked (very amicably!) with Totaljobs to explore another fascinating aspect of working life: what happens when working relationships turn sour.

Our goal? To create an enlightening, entertaining piece of digital journalism that would inspire stories in the media and drive traffic to Totaljobs’ website.


The survey, the secrets, the stories

To uncover the secrets and psychology behind this rarely-spoken-about subject, Totaljobs surveyed more than 7,000 UK workers.

The results instantly delivered a big discovery: 6 in 10 UK workers feel they have a ‘work enemy’, a colleague they just can’t get along with.

Now it was time to dig deeper into the raw survey data, searching for revealing patterns and unexpected stories that could be picked up by journalists.

Image of a visualized statistic: "62% of over 7,000 UK workers surveyed admit to having a work enemy
Illustrations used in the visualization

Enemy intelligence

As we analysed the data, we discovered a wealth of curious, surprising and newsworthy insights.

We found that your work enemy is likely to be the same gender as you. That men and women dislike each other for different reasons. And that nearly a third of people have lost sleep over a work enemy.

There were plenty of oddities, too.

Some people think having a work enemy actually boosts their performance at work. And 297 people (hopefully not the same people) claim their work enemy clips their nails at work *shudder*…


Three stats showing that work enemies are 71% same age or older, 65% the same gender and that 68% are interacted with daily

Designing the data

To visualize many of these stories, we’ve used bar charts that grow dynamically as the reader scrolls.

When a topic throws up some particularly rich data, we let people  explore for themselves.

We’ve also added an interactive scatterplot that lets people toggle and hover to reveal more about work enemies’ most-disliked behaviours.


Data visualization showing the least disliked and most disliked behaviours

Human interest

Psychological insights from workplace experts Good&Co, snappy video content and thought-provoking quotes from survey respondents all add a human touch to the narrative.

This rich mix of content also helps entice people to keep scrolling and discover more.


Animation showing the space invaders game

Serious story, light touch

When a relationship with a colleague turns toxic, it’s complex and personal for those involved. So we needed to investigate with a light touch.

We wrote the editorial with this in mind, keeping the tone curious and sensitive rather than sensationalist.

We also used the 8-bit arcade-game aesthetic to capture the subject’s themes of competitiveness, adversaries and tension, while providing moments of playful delight for the reader.

Playful, literally, in shape of a secret Space Invaders game hidden inside one of the visualizations…

Massive in the media

Work Enemies proved a big win for Totaljobs.

It sparked press coverage across numerous national broadsheets and tabloids, from the Guardian and VICE to The Sun, The Daily Mail and the Metro.

Digital engagement was particularly strong, with hundreds of comments from readers of the online articles.