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Walking on eggshells after a workplace friendship ends

Published: August 18, 2014 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
When a workplace friendship dissolves, it can often be a source of upset and distraction.



There is this lady I work with and we were once really close—like two peas in a pod. It was going okay towards the beginning of the year but over the last few months, it’s like she doesn’t want anything to do with me. It’s like I don’t exist. I don’t know why I haven’t really seen her much this year.

I haven’t said anything or done anything to upset her and she seems okay with everyone else in the office. It’s just with me and I don’t know why. I’m worried if I did start to walk up to her that she will just get up and walk away.

Should I wait and see if she comes up to me? I just don’t know what to do. I really miss talking to her. When I see her at her desk she doesn’t look at me or doesn’t say hello.

Signed, Fran


Dear Fran,

It’s always upsetting when a friendship drifts apart, especially if it is one-sided and you don’t know what led up to it. This discomfort is compounded when you have to see that person each day in the workplace. It’s almost like sharing a home with an ex- who has decided to leave without telling you why. The silence can be deafening.

Yes, it is very peculiar that someone you considered a friend has done a 180-degree turnaround without giving you a clue about why. The most likely thing is that she is upset with you for some reason.

Since you don’t want to create a scene in the workplace, perhaps you could write her a short note that reads something like this:

Dear xxxx, 

It seems as if you have been avoiding me in the office and I’ve been reluctant to make you even more uncomfortable by questioning you about it. 

I respect whatever decision you have made but if there is anything that I have said or done to upset you or undermine our friendship, I wanted to let you know that it was unintentional and I truly am sorry. 

I hope we can maintain a civil relationship in the office and treat each other with mutual respect. If you would like to chat about this after hours, don’t hesitate to give me a call. 

Sincerely, Fran 

After you have done this, you can hold your head up high about reaching out and having given your colleague the opportunity to remedy any misunderstanding. Beyond that, you need to focus on your work and other relationships, both in and out of the office.

Don’t let this awkward situation distract you from your responsibilities in the workplace. Allowing it to affect your performance or losing your job over it would be another loss.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: Workplace friendships

Comments (5)

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  1. Denise says:

    When I read stories like this I feel sad and wonder what makes people drop others like this. I’d bet you’ve done nothing and it’s all her–unless someone has started lies and rumors about you to cause trouble. Hopefully, if your work involves communicating with her, she won’t want to sabotage you, because then you may have to involve the manager. Otherwise, continue to be polite or neutral and watch for changes or openings to address this. I wouldn’t send a note or email because you’ll never know if she read it and if she’s angry enough might find a way to use it against you. If someone can turn on you so quickly, you just don’t know what can happen.

  2. lottie says:

    Hi Fran,
    A similar thing happened to me years ago. I got a person a job where I worked and then they did a dirty uncalled for trick on my husband and me which would have cost us an amount of money. I found her out just in time. Everybody else like me had fallen for her smiley goody two shoes manner.The boss was smitten with her. She made me feel so uncomfortable I nearly handed in my notice. The silent treatment went on for weeks.One day we came face to face in the office so I asked her could we be friends at work just because it was causing an atmosphere and I knew I would get the blame even though she had done the dirty dishonest trick.She smiled apologised for what she had done and we were friends or so I thought for a few years.She used the boss to get promotion,got found out for something else and the next thing was out of work.
    She changed her number and the boss who did everything to help her never saw or heard of her again. The boss and I are still good friends but we both know what IDIOTS we were, even though neither of us mention it.
    My advice is to hold your head high and speak directly to her.A letter may never get a reply and you might not want to be kept anxious waiting.An email like AmyF suggests would be good but not if it keeps you on pins waiting for a reply. I would go for it and speak directly you nothing to lose. Good luck Lottie

    • Laura says:

      An email could also be forwarded, so all the more reason for face to face, especially since you don’t trust her at the moment.

  3. Laura says:

    Fran doesn’t say exactly what happened to cause her to conclude the friend doesn’t want anything to do with her. I would ask her to lunch to “cathch up” like nothing’s wrong and see what happens. Face to face is best, so you can see 1st hand her reaction.

  4. Amy F says:

    I like Irene’s suggestion about reaching out through a note or email. I’d send that communication with no expectation of a response, that way if she doesn’t respond you won’t feel let down.
    I’m going to give you a different version of the letter I’d send.

    Dear X,
    It’s been a white since we’ve talked, and I miss you. (That way you’re showing some vulnerability and that you care about her without sounding needy)
    If I’ve done anything to upset your, it was unintentional and I’m sorry. If you want to talk about this over lunch or after work, I’d much like to hear your thoughts.
    (you’re showing her that you’re willing to listen)
    If you no longer want to be friends, I will respect your wishes and we can just be work colleagues.. I want nothing but the best for you.
    (This is showing that you respect her boundaries and will care about her from a distance)

    I hope things work out in the best way they can for you. When you handle difficult situations with respect and grace, you know you’ve done the very best you can to have a successful outcome. That’s all you can do, that’s all any of us can do. And, like Irene said, hold your head high.

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