The Friendship Doctor

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Working with an ex-friend: Should she stay or should she go?

Stay clear of friends who see the world only in black and white~

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I started a job approximately a year ago and met a woman with whom I became friends immediately. She was fun to be with and an interesting person. The only drawback was that she seemed to constantly talk about people and write off friends the minute she felt they had done her wrong. She also tried to tell me how to run my life. I finally told her that I felt she was out of line and it was not her place to tell me what to do.

There was a part-time position in her department and I applied for it. In fact, she was instrumental in making sure I got hired there. Now that I am there she treats me awfully. We actually had it out and she told me she was mad because I previously had told her to stay out of my business. I said to her, "You have me come to work with you and then treat me like this?"

I told her I felt betrayed and was sorry I had told her so much personal information about myself but that I hoped we could get past this and work together. I no longer want the friendship but would like to keep my part-time job because the money is good. But it's been extremely stressful. My question is should I stay or should I go? I'm ready to call my manager.

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Signed,
Stephanie

ANSWER

Hi Stephanie,

I hate to tell someone that they should have but in your case, you have gotten caught in a bit of a friendship mess and a work morass as well.

You really should have heeded the warning signs of a colleague who gossips and sees the friendship world in black and white, where people are either friends or foes. It would have been best not to get too close too soon.

When you felt like she wanted to run your life, you probably should have not been as blunt. Considering you had to work with her, you could have stepped back from the relationship a bit without a confrontation.

Before you signed on to work in her department, you probably should have anticipated it might be uncomfortable doing so.

It sounds like your once-friend is holding a grudge. You should have told your friend that you merely want a decent working relationship at this point----and I'm glad you did!

From your letter, I'm not sure how your co-worker is continuing to make your life miserable. If she is sabotaging your work in any way, it's totally appropriate to discuss this with your manager. If the way she is being awful is in the sense of being cold, distant or rejecting, discussing it with your boss may only add fuel to the fire and exacerbate the problem.

Should you stay or must you go? Only you can answer that. The considerations are financial and emotional. Your best option to reduce stress and keep your paycheck is to focus on your work and relate to your ex-friend as a colleague only. If this feels impossible, find a way to extricate yourself from this situation on your own timetable and at your own convenience. Perhaps you could ask for another internal reassignment or find a job that is just as good or better without the complication of working beside an ex-friend.

I hope this is helpful and wish you good luck.

Best,
Irene

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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