• Other Friendship Advice

Friendship at Work: Work trumps friendship

Published: September 23, 2016 | By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
If a friendship at work begins to fray, don’t place your job at risk.


Hi Irene,

I have a coworker whom I consider my friend. He is older than me but we have worked together for a year and spent a lot of time in and out of work together until now. It was a good time mostly.

Suddenly, a few months, he started to change. There was a lot of tension in our relationship at work. Mainly, he wanted distance and to deal with each other just like coworkers.

Generally, he is nice and has a good heart. But sometimes, I feel he gets angry about little things, mostly work-related. When I confront him about his behavior, he says I exaggerate issues (although he behaves the same or worse).

I generally like him and want this relationship to continue. I still feel he is a good person but his behavior is related to some kind of low self-confidence and jealousy of others successes while he has a hard time achieving success. We work together and even if we cannot be friends, I have to deal with him at work as a tough coworker.

Can you give some advice please about this friendship at work, specifically, about how to deal with him as a friend and/or a coworker?

Signed, David


Hi David,

It can be tough negotiating friendships in the workplace. You haven’t told me if you and your co-worker are at the same level in the organization, if you are at different ones, or if one of you supervises the other. This could have some bearing on the difficulties you are having and how to approach them.

In general, my advice in a situation like this: Since you depend on your work for your livelihood and your first responsibility in the workplace is to your employer, I would make efforts to smooth out the relationship at work. That relationship is primary.

If your friend has moved away from you and wants distance from you in terms of a friendship, you probably should do the same.

In terms of the professional relationship:

  • Can you overlook some of the things that make him angry since you think they are related to his feelings about himself, and not take them so personally?
  • Are some of them significant enough or does this happen often enough that you should have a heart-to-heart to see how you can diffuse this problem?
  • Are the work problems so extreme that you need to discuss them with your supervisor and get ideas on how to resolve them?

If you can re-establish an amicable relationship as co-workers that may offer a path to friendship in the future.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: OTHER ADVICE, Workplace friendships

Comments (1)

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  1. LauraSL says:

    Be cordial and concentrate on your job. This is not worth agonizing over. You can’t focus on fixing this the way you might a non-work friendship because it will adversely affect your engagement and focus with your job.

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