• Keeping Friends

An unexpected workplace betrayal

Published: March 7, 2017 | By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
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After a workplace betrayal, can a long-term friendship survive?



I have a friend whom I’ve known since I was 17. I’m now 62. I’ve had some life threatening illnesses over the past ten years. We worked together at the same place. Anyway, I was having lots of trouble with my health at work and started to slow down. My friend knew this.

She went to our boss and told her I was not doing my share of the work and was sitting around too much. Yet she still appears to act like she wants to remain friends. She doesn’t know that I know she went to our boss. Now I don’t work there because I had to finally retire due to my illness.

She still comes around and acts like she’s my friend. Sometimes I think of what she did and feel angry but I don’t say anything. I wonder why she did that and whether she could really be my friend?

Signed, Margaret


Hi Margaret,

It’s tough to cope with a life-threatening illness. At times like this, we expect our friends to rally behind us. It must have felt devastating for you to find out that your friend went behind your back and complained about your productivity, whether or not your work was suffering.

She did have the option of letting you know that her work was being affected by yours—so you could figure out a solution to address the problem together (which might have included you speaking to your boss).

After a betrayal like this, do YOU still want to remain friends? Can you trust this friend anymore? If you do want to maintain this friendship and let go of your anger, you will need to speak to her about what happened. Depending on her response, you may decide to forgive her or that her actions were unforgivable.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Previously on The Friendship Blog:

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Category: Communication

Comments (7)

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  1. LaurenM says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I am sorry to hear that this hurtful thing happened to you, especially when you were feeling unwell and had serious health issues. That type of action by a friend really hurts, especially when you have worked with her and been friends for so many years.

    It is sad that she did not talk directly to you as Irene said and try to find a way to solve the issue with you directly and in a compassionate open way, with tact and understanding considering your serious health issues.

    I know that some people can be thoughtless and callous when dealing with a friend who is ill. I am a cancer survivor and I found that some people (certainly not all), but some people were callous and thoughtless with me at that time. I don’t understand that type of rude, callous behaviour and mean comments, but that’s life.

    I wondered if possibly AFTER she went to your manager and complained about your work performance and your “sitting around too much”, she THEN felt secretly sorry, regretful and ashamed of what she had done to you and how she had done it.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, afterwards she felt really sorry that she had handled it in a rather sneaky way (to put it mildly) upon reflection after she had *done the deed*. Then she wished that she had handled it more maturely and more compassionately, on a post facto basis.

    Possibly she really regrets her questionable and sneaky behaviour. Maybe that is why she is being rather nice to you now, and spending time with you and trying to be a friend. Maybe she is trying in her way to secretly make up for what she did to you.

    Also, she may suspect, but not know for sure that YOU KNOW full well about what she did to you. This uncertainty may cause her to be reluctant to broach the subject with you. It is possible.

    Alternatively, maybe she was not quite so mean-spirited as it first seems when she went to see the manager and complain about your work performance. Perhaps the manager explained it to you rather bluntly, when in actual fact she may have approached the manager and explained it in the spirit of concern, caring and compassion for you. She may have felt that she was doing it kindly and out of concern for you and your health issues. That may be possible.

    Whatever her motivation for going to the manager about you, whether it was out of kindness and concern or in an angry, callous and thoughtless way (and now filled with regret, or not), I think that you should talk to her about it when you feel cool calm and collected and ready to deal with the subject in an objective way.

    If you do not talk to her about it, then you may continue to feel such inner anger to her that you can no longer be her friend. And even if you do talk to her about it, you may find out that she feels and believes that she had to be harsh with you, and that will be very hurtful to you also. However, she may feel sorry for that way it was handled and apologise sincerely to you. So be prepared for any outcome of the talk that you may have with her. It may heal the rift, and result in an even stronger friendship or it may not. Be prepared for any outcome.

    I hope that you are feeling healthier and stronger now and that you are well on the road to a full recovery from your illness. I wish you good health and strength.

  2. Amy F says:

    Do you know for sure that she went to your boss and said you weren’t pulling your weight in those words? Is it possible she talked to your boss about your health in a more compassionate way (like “Margaret has been having health problems, so please be sensitive with her and don’t judge her work too harshly”) and it got relayed back to you differently. I’ve seen situations like that before cause a lot of angst until conversations between friends have smooth things over. Since you’ve known her for so long, I don’t see how talking to her about what you think she said has a downside. Making an incorrect assumption can kill a friendship. I don’t know many managers who would say, “Margaret, your friend Michelle said XYZ about you.”
    Even if the situation happened the exact way you believe it did, giving your friend your friend the benefit of doubt, perhaps she didn’t know how to approach you, which would not be an excuse, but an explanation that could give you some peace.

    • Sandra says:

      Amy F — that’s an excellent good point. It’s worth asking the friend what really happened.

    • R. Davidson says:

      I think Amy F. makes a good point about suggesting the boss may have relayed the message in a way that wasn’t intended. It is
      a shame to feel hurt. You may want to discuss the matter with
      your friend instead of stewing over this unpleasant situation.

  3. Sandra says:

    In my opinion, that is a major violation of trust. I agree with everything Dr. Irene said in her response to you. You have every right to question whether or not you can trust this friendship, even though you’re not working together. There’s no reason for YOU to feel the need to be loyal to someone like this.

    To begin with, I would distance myself from her if I were you, to get a break from the situation. If she approaches you about getting together, you should tell her, first, that you need to have a talk. Tell her that you know she talked to your boss. Tell her that you are having difficulty trusting her now, and that you need to work on that if you are to continue being friends.

    Even then, I would still keep my distance. Be kind and courteous, but don’t put your trust in a friend who seriously betrayed you by risking your job. Find other friends who treat you with the respect you deserve, and take care of yourself.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree 100% with your post. Do you really think this so called friend will tell you the truth? I say no. She will try and make it someone else’s fault. This is such a betrayal, I couldn’t trust her again, and if I can’t trust someone, I leave this person behind. You deserve so much better in a friend.

  4. Irene (the other one) says:

    It’s difficult to wholly trust someone again who’s not been entirely honest and straight with you. I should keep her as an acquaintance, rather than a friend. Say ‘hello’ when you meet, but, unless she comes clean about this, keep a certain distance. She should’ve spoken to you about this first.

    For your own sake, I would suggest finding a hobby that gets you out and about. You may get to know people in the same situation as yourself. Being less reliant on the ‘friendship’ of this other woman may show to her that she’s not the only one in your life.

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