Once again, Diane delivers excellent advice about a difficult and complex situation to navigate. Workplace situations require finesse. Beautifully done Daily Muse and Diane!
Being buddies with your co-workers can be one of the best things about a job. But, it’s also not always easy. When you throw job stress, competition, and other workplace relationships into the mix, it’s not uncommon to feel some tension in your office friendships from time to time.
That said, there are also some behaviors you really shouldn’t have to put up with. Here’s how to recognize when your work friend is towing the line between friend and not-so-much, and how you can handle the situation.
1. Your relationship feels like a competition
Example: “You snagged a new client? Nice. I landed two last week and I’m about to close another one.”
How to handle the situation: Sure, a little healthy competition among friends and co-workers can be a good thing. But if you feel like everything from how many hours you’re spending at the office to how many compliments you’ve received from your boss is being logged on a scorecard, it can create a big wedge in your friendship. Set aside some time to talk to your friend, and let her know that you’re concerned things might be getting competitive between the two of you. Listen to her perspective, too—it’s possible she didn’t realize how she was coming across, or that she’s feeling insecure about something. She may apologize, or she may become defensive, but regardless, she’ll know that you’re paying attention.
2. She purposefully excludes you from activities or makes excuses for why you can’t attend—before consulting you
Example: “Oh, I know how busy you’ve been, so I didn’t want to stress you out by inviting you to happy hour.”
How to handle the situation: No, you’re not always going to be invited to everything, but if a friend has excluded you from events with mutual friends or colleagues more than once, it’s more than acceptable to point out her behavior. Sit down with her, verbalize that you’re feeling excluded, and tell her that you’d prefer to decide for yourself whether or not you attend social events. Again, it’s entirely possible that she was acting with good intentions, but clearing the air will make sure there’s no confusion or miscommunication in the future.
3. She’s a pro at delivering backhanded compliments
Example: “Congrats on the job interview! It’s awesome they called you back, even though you’re totally underqualified.”
How to handle the situation: You know a backhanded compliment when you hear one—even if some of the words coming out of her mouth sound nice, the overall sentiment makes you feel like crap. And that’s something you should never have to put up with from a friend! If you feel like you can address it calmly when it happens, do so (otherwise, wait until later), and say something like, “I’m sure you meant what you said as a compliment, but it felt pretty harsh to me.” Explain what you heard and how it made you feel, then give her a chance to apologize. She may not even realize how her comment came across—and if she did, you’ll let her know it wasn’t acceptable.
4. She always has something negative to say about other people
Example: “Ugh, I’m having dinner with Julie. She’s being so annoying lately—and can you believe how obviously she’s flirting with Mike from finance?”
How to handle the situation: Unfortunately, someone who complains about her good friends to you is more than likely complaining about you to others, too. And while you can’t change what she says when you’re not around, you can call her out on her negativity. If she starts gossiping, change the subject completely, or say something like: “I’m surprised to hear you say that—I thought Julie was a good friend of yours.” If you directly address her behavior, your friend might think twice before saying something negative, either to you or about you.
Everyone blurts out things they don’t mean or things they shouldn’t now and then—so if a friend says something less-than-friendly, it’s usually worth it to give her the benefit of the doubt. That said, if these types of behaviors are becoming the norm, it may be time to let the friendship cool. Remember that your friends are there to support you, cheer you on, and make you feel great—not the opposite.