• Resolving Problems

My career-focused friend isn’t putting any effort into maintaining our friendship

Published: June 11, 2014 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
Should I save my friendship or end it if my friend doesn’t put forth the same effort?



I am fed up with my best friend. We met at work three years ago where she was my colleague/mentor, then boss. It was an instant bond – we became very close, like sisters she once said.

She is very career-focused and (in her words) not the best friend as she puts work over everything, like her friends and husband. We’ve tried various ways to have regular “friend time” at work and off work, but she always lets work take over.

When we worked together this wasn’t (too) big a problem as we met with each other often. Seven months ago I moved to a different department and we were happy we could focus all our time on being friends. Lately, however, I realize I do the heavy lifting in maintaining our friendship: stopping by her office to chat, booking lunch or dinner dates, etc. and I finally just got sick of it.

Four weeks ago I quit doing all of that, after being told one too many times she’s too busy for a chat, or failing to schedule the lunch we agreed on. It kills me to do it but if she won’t make an effort, neither will I.

I’ve read about expectations on your website and have considered if mine are too high. But consider this: our office is very small. It would take her 10 seconds to walk to my desk just to say hi, but it never happens – she’s too busy. How can I – or should I – save this friendship? Am I doing the right thing by cutting off my efforts? If my expectations are too high, how do I let go?

Thanks in advance.

Signed, Ella


Hi Ella,

I hear your frustration.

It sounds like your best friend is ambitious and more engaged in her work than you at this point in your lives. You seem to place more of a priority on your social relationships and thus, put more effort into making plans. No two people live their lives the same way, even close friends.

This imbalance has been going on for some time and It sounds like even if your friend tried, she would have a hard time extricating herself from her work. I doubt that there is much you can do to make her change her ways.

If I were you, I wouldn’t want to totally dismiss an otherwise satisfying friendship, especially with a colleague you have to see from time to time in the workplace. You seem to “click” and friends like that can be hard to find.

Have you had a discussion with her, outside of the office, about how you are feeling about the friendship?

If so and it’s gone nowhere, your only recourse is to step back a bit and become less dependent on this one best friend for meeting all your social needs. Why not reduce the number of overtures you make to her and spend more time nurturing other relationships, perhaps outside the office?

Also, try not to take this too personally. This is more about her and the way she is—than it is about you.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (8)

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  1. Tracy says:

    I had a 25 year friendship go down the tubes because of her work. It drove me insane when she would take the time to type an email or text response to tell me she only had xx amount of time to talk to me…etc, down the the minute! The amount of time she spend texting me this she could have been catching up with me!

    The saddest part of all is she never ever explained to me what happened to our friendship. She told a mutual acquaintance that she didnt have what it takes to maintain our friendship. Im not sure if that is a compliment or a complaint.

    I have let it go, for the most part, but holidays and certain milestones that come up over the years always makes me think of her.

    It does say more about her than me, and I do regret confronting her via email in a defensive tone when I was at the height of my pain over this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Alberta and Amy F. Your friend’s showing you where her priorities are. It is very possible that you put more emphasis and value on this friendship than her which then becomes a boundary issue. For example, a friend thinks that she is best friends with someone when in reality, the other person doesn’t feel that way at all. Your friend sounds independent as Alberta said and she may be drawing that line because she wants personal space and time. She might feel like you’re crossing boundaries when you ask her to a lunch or to chat often. Perhaps, she’s not interested in pursuing a friendship at the level you’re seeking. The more you try to pursue a friendship where a friend isn’t interested in meeting up and chatting with you, the further you will push her away because you’re only invading her space and time in her perspective. Take a step back from the friendship as everyone else has mentioned here and enjoy the life you have outside of this friendship. She may come around. She may not. If she doesn’t then you know that it’s a friendship not worth pursuing.

  3. Denise says:

    You made enough effort to be able to step back without feeling guilty. Even putting work above her husband shows where her values are: work is First and everyone else, everything else, maybe gets leftovers. I feel worse for her husband if he’s feeling forgotten. She’s thinking of herself too much to have time for others. Go ahead and find others to be with and one day if she slows down she may realize she misses you and make plans with you. It’s sad and hurtful when people we care about change this way.

  4. Lauren says:

    Hi Ella,

    I see that you said at the beginning of your post, “We became very close, like sisters, she once said.”

    The part that caught my eye was,”she ONCE” said”. Then you go on to say that since you moved to a different department, she doesn’t follow through with lunch plans, etc., and the friendship is fading.

    As you said, you seems to be doing all the heavy lifting in this friendship. Things have changed, and that’s sad. But it’s now time for you to step back, and really back off now. Actually, the ball is in her court now. It is up to her to show some overtures to the friendship, if she cares to do so.

    As he others here have said, it’s time to focus on other friends, family members; and like her, focus more on work. Who knows, maybe a promotion for you will come out of this!

    Try not to feel bad, as not all friendships last forever, and from what I’ve seen and heard, not too many friendships last forever (except on TV sitcoms and Hollywood movies).

    Think of all the good things that came from that friendship, and stay polite and courteous to her, as after all, this is a work-based situation, and thus your livelihood is also very important.

    In your mind and in your heart, retain all the good things that you experienced and learned form this friendship, and take that with you as you move on.

  5. Alberta says:

    To add another perspective?…. your friend works and is not ‘at’ you for support, calling you every day – gives you space to live your own life and enjoy your other friends and family – she is honest – no subtle game playing that she makes plans and is late all the time or cancels. Also, you know where you stand with her – she sounds independent rather than co-dependent which many friendships turn into if boundaries are an issue. It could be that, instead of small talk, wants to have a long meaningful conversation and quality time when you do spend time together.

  6. tanja says:

    I agree with the advice above. I would take a step back and pursue friendships elsewhere. There is not much you can do. It hurts, but time will make it better and who knows who you could meet in a day, a week or a year from now?

    People come and go and just because people were there for you at a time you needed them the most, doesn’t mean it will always be like that. I thank everyone who was in my life for a brief time period and are no longer there. It happens and the one constant thing is family, children, siblings. I have learned those are the people you hold on to. But, most friendships are fleeting, but they all served a purpose at a time.

    Good luck.

  7. Amy F says:

    You and your friend may be incompatible. She told you from the get go that she puts her career ambitions above her relationships, so feeling hurt when she does that to me seems to be having unrealistic expectations.
    You place a higher importance on socializing, including during the work day. While you think it’s only two minutes to walk over and chat, that idea of probably not even in her sphere of thought, as she’s concentrating on work, not her relationships. She’s focusing on the tasks at hand, not ignoring you purposely. This is not a reflection of your importance, but of her priorities, which she’s made quite clear.
    You can choose to step back from the friendship, but don’t expect her to change her personality, considering she told you she also puts career above her husband. Try not to judge her for having a different style than you, as Irene says, there’s no right or wrong way to approach career or relationships. If she sees you as judgmental or too demanding, she’ll probably become less available.
    In the meanwhile, if you can seek out other friendships so you’re not focussing all your energy on her, you’ll probably be happier.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Ella, I don’t blame you for feeling hurt and annoyed — and I agree with Irene’s advice. If I were in your shoes, I would definitely redirect my “social energy” toward making new friendships or rekindling old ones.

    I’ve always believed a good friendship is worth saving, but it sounds like you’ve put strong efforts into keeping this one alive — only to be told by this friend that she is “too busy to chat” or schedule a lunch. If that kept happening to me, I would be inclined to back off, too. How much more can you do without being overly aggressive or forcing the issue?

    While your friend seems to be focused on career advancement, I’d also consider the possibility that there’s something else going on with her. Good friendships require effort — on both sides — and if your friend is suddenly unwilling to meet you halfway, like she used to, something is off. Maybe the friendship has expired?

    When this sort of thing happens to me, I tend to back off and get busy with other people, other activities. Later on, you might try again. If she really cares about preserving your friendship, she will step up and make a point of spending time with you again. If she doesn’t, you might want to question the friendship.

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