Volume 23: Parasitic Relationships

RoyAccording to Wikipedia, a Parasitic Relationship in nature is one where, “one species, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host.” [1] For instance, the relationship between fleas or tapeworms and a household pet would constitute a parasitic relationship. The fleas and tapeworms reap benefits, while doing harm to your cat or dog in the process.

We all deal with these parasitic relationships in some form or another.

Bad Team Members can be Parasitic Relationships: Professionally and educationally, these relationships can spring up.

I hear all the time from my daughters that one member of their group-project team hasn’t carried their weight and it hurt the rest of the group. One lazy team member benefits from the work of everyone else, while contributing nothing and forcing the others to work harder and longer.

This phenomenon doesn’t stop in school either, with one bad egg bringing down an otherwise solid team in many work places. The poor teammate benefits, while the rest of the team is forced to work harder, longer, and sometimes more dangerously, in order to achieve the same goal. This can harm the good team members in a variety of ways: less time at home can hurt one’s family, and if someone isn’t doing their job in a box plant, that can be a dangerous situation that results in an accident.

Parasites from an Employee/Employer Perspective:

From an employer/employee standpoint, a relationship can be parasitic as well.

Fortunately, I have a great team around me here at Oberg and Associates, LLC, but that’s not the case everywhere.

As an employer, if a recruiter on my team wasn’t producing, but is being paid a salary and taking advantage of the benefits and company resources that I provide, that’s a parasitic relationship. That recruiter is benefiting from employment, but if he or she isn’t producing, that employee is harming my company by wasting resources that could go to benefit those on the team that are producing.

The same works the other way, though.

As an employee, one just wants to be properly compensated and have the promises made by one’s employer met.

So, in situations where an employee is being forced to work longer hours for the same salary because the plant is understaffed, that’s going to hurt their home life and become a parasitic relationship pretty quickly. Another example of a potential parasitic relationship is if a company doesn’t invest in proper safety equipment or set up proper safety protocols and puts its employees in unnecessary danger.

One side benefits from saving money, while the other is hurt, either in their home life, or in a much more literal, physical sense because of an avoidable accident.


Because of the many relationships we all form and interact with every day, we all have our fair share of parasitic relationships.

My advice would be to take a moment and think about what relationships are benefiting others at your expense, and, through Open and Honest Communication,see how you can rectify the situation and turn it into a relationship based on Mutual Respect and Hard Results.

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