• Other Friendship Advice

When a workplace friendship gets complicated

Published: December 5, 2016 | Last Updated: February 10, 2017 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
A workplace friendship that places work at risk needs to be reexamined.


Good day,

I’m a married male. I have a female (divorced) coworker who is also a close friend. We used to support, help and listen to each other. When she had social or other issues, she used to find me, share things and ask for help.

Suddenly I found her ignoring my calls, messages and emails concerning business we do together. She also ignored my request to discuss things face-to-face for a couple of weeks. Then she told me she had good reason for doing that. I told her she better have a good reason or she’s gonna spoil it.

Suddenly she blocked me and stopped talking to me. After two weeks, she asked a common friend to speak to me and tell me that she wants to apologize and fix things. I accepted. She said that she’d been rude, apologized and wished I would forget about it. She wanted our relationship to recover and get back to normal.

After two months, during a friendly face-to-face chat, I mentioned that she was still blocking me. She refused to respond in person but sent me an SMS five days later. She apologized but wouldn’t remove the block and she isn’t acting as she did before.

There was a month when I was texting her too much (she was texting me back) but she was the one who asked for help. When I told her that whenever she needs to talk she just calls, she ignored me and told me I was the one pushing her to call me by telling her incomplete issues so she had to call me!!!

Finally she said I treat her as I treat my wife. She and my wife are friends and she was in love with a common friend. I was advising and helping her get to know him better but it did not work.




Hi Blake,

I’m not sure what you’re asking but your note suggests that this friendship has gotten far too complicated. You mention:

Suddenly I found her ignoring my calls, messages and emails concerning business we do together.

This should be a red flag alerting you that your personal relationship is jeopardizing your work. You mention, too, that you may have been texting your co-worker/friend too often.

Putting the most positive spin on this as I can, your friend is ambivalent about her relationship with you. Perhaps she feels as if she was too dependent on you in the past, or she feels that the relationship became too intense. Maybe she felt threatened when you told her she was going to “spoil it.”

Regardless of what happened or why, my suggestion would be to back off from the “friendship.” Instead, focus on negotiating a viable professional relationship with your co-worker. If you need emotional support or someone to vent to outside your marriage, it isn’t prudent to do that with this co-worker.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Workplace friendships

Comments (4)

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  1. mary says:

    It almost sounds like there was an *emotional* affair, especially the reference to the wife. I realize that may be a stretch for some people, but emotional affairs are very real and some articles say they are as dangerous as a physical affair.

    Your friend is clearly conflicted (or convicted). Based on what you shared, it sounds like she needs space from you to sort through her feelings and emotions, even if she isn’t entirely sure that she *wants* space from you. Honor her new boundaries that she attempted to enforce. You don’t have to understand them, although that would be nice. Blocking you was likely an attempt to help her sort through emotions. From a career angle, the most important thing is that you can salvage a good working relationship with her after this personal drama.

    Going forward you would do yourself a favor to keep work relationships as work-related as possible, avoiding personal relationships at work. Speaking from over 30 years experience.

  2. Irene (the other one) :) says:

    Blake, reading your post I can’t help thinking she may regard you as being needy, as indeed she too may be. I should be careful not to push this relationship, in one sense she may only want it to continue as long as she needs you, on the other it may be that you have become a little controlling. As you say, you were hoping to get her together with this other man, but this may not be welcomed by either of these two individuals. Introducing two people to each other is fine – after that leave it to them. Chemistry is a funny thing, it doesn’t always work out as one might hope.

    • Blake says:

      Dear Irene,
      Well, actually I do not push them, they’re interacting withbeach other.
      The weired thing is that my coworker put things backnto normal and released the block and the boundaries as she claims that she was depressed during that period of time.
      All I’m trying to do is to keep it (professional) as much as I can. Thanks for your advice

  3. Amy F says:

    It sound like you overstepped the boundaries of what felt comfortable go your coworker-friend, then she lacked the communication skills to set appropriate boundaries to tell you. No matter what the details of your friendship and how this happened, this is a signal to keep the relationship purely professional. Don’t use people as go-betweens. If she tries to, shut that down. This could harm both of you professionally if it becomes more dramatic

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