When a close friendship with a boss suddenly ends

Published: April 19, 2012 | Last Updated: April 19, 2012 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

I was recently dumped by one of my
closest friends, whom I loved dearly. I am devastated, sad, hurt and
disappointed. But I have an extra big problem: my ex-friend is my direct boss.
I am an administrative assistant, her right hand person at work. We see each
other on a daily basis and our jobs are intertwined.


We met two years ago when I started
working with her and immediately connected over many things we have in common.
We both love our work and have similar points of view about life. We spent the
first half hour every day talking in her office, and sharing our deepest
thoughts and feelings, before we started working. I know her mind and her
heart, and she knows mine.


I was there for her when her husband
was diagnosed with cancer. I read about cancer and about how to give support to
a person with cancer and to his family. I educated myself about that type of
cancer, so I could help her. I gave her the telephone number of a relative of
my husband, who suffered the same type of cancer, so that she could hear a
similar experience that had a happy ending. Her husband is much better now.


I also supported her when some
co-workers started a "war" against her at the office. She was so
lonely, and the situation at the office was very tense. I was there
for her all the time, and I didn’t allow anyone to badmouth her. In fact, I
defended her, and that has brought me some problems (enemies of hers are now
enemies of mine). I have been a real friend and a good assistant, and
never let her down.  

Recently, we had a couple of
arguments that were both work-related. Nothing personal. We tried to talk about
it and solve things, but it seems as if we couldn’t agree. After the first
argument, she suddenly told me that she didn’t want to spend more time in the
morning talking to me because she was very busy. It was our special time,
before everybody else arrived to work, before the busy hours began—and
suddenly she wanted to end that relationship. She didn’t tell me clearly that
she didn’t want to be friends anymore; she said we would talk at other times.
But it’s not possible, because the rest of the workday is hectic. So, now we
are not talking anymore.  

One week ago, some co-workers (the
ones who had been in "war" with her, we call then "the
beasts") came to tell her that I wasn’t doing a good job. That I was
making a lot of mistakes, and that the situation was serious. They even told
her that they had a list of mistakes. My boss asked me to go into her office,
and reprimanded me. I told her I was not aware of these mistakes, and I didn’t
even know what she was talking about. She still said that it had been a general
complaint and was very serious.


After that conversation, I went to
talk to "the beasts" and asked them politely to tell me what those
mistakes were. They were unable to tell me what I had done and there was no
list. A couple of days later, I told my boss and she was shocked, insisting once
again that they had told her they had a list of mistakes.


I told her I was annoyed that
she had believed them so easily without giving me a chance to respond. She
said, "You should have heard how they said it". But it doesn’t
convince me. I still think she should have relied on me—at least she should
have investigated before reprimanding me. Especially knowing who these people

A few days ago, she again had big problems with "the beasts". The
problems escalated and even the president knows about the rebellion of
"the beasts." She is in trouble. I sent her an e-mail offering her my
support. I enclosed a few nice and sweet pictures (.gifs) showing her that she
could count on me, and telling her that everything would be all right, and that
the good people will always win. She just said, thank you. That’s all
she said. But I know she re-sent it to her personal e-mail account. So perhaps
my e-mail meant something to her? At least she wants to keep it.  

I have been crying for nearly one month. In two or three occasions, even crying
on my desk. How can I still work with my boss, with my dear friend who is not
my friend anymore? How can I work with her on a daily basis, sitting in her
office and preparing documents and meetings, helping her with computing issues?
How can I survive this situation? What can I do? Must I try to salvage the
friendship? Must I let go? Must I be kind and cordial, but not a true friend?

I am trying to keep professional, to
do a good work, to be a good person—not to badmouth her—and to act
ethically. But I feel overwhelmed. Thanks for your advice.

Signed, Bethany



Dear Bethany,

My heart goes out to you. It’s a
horrible to have a falling out with a friend when you have to work together
every day, especially if the friend is your supervisor.


It sounds like you were loyal to her, both in and out of the office. It’s hard to guess why the
relationship began to sour. Your boss may have become
uncomfortable after the disagreement and realized she wanted more distance
between you. Another possibility is that she may have realized her "special
relationship" with you was creating problems for her with other subordinates in the office.


That she would call you or anyone
else on the carpet without thoroughly investigating the facts is unfortunate. I
can’t explain that at all and it sounds like a lapse in judgment.


Given these recent events, my advice would be to keep the relationship purely professional.
Don’t count on her friendship but you should expect her to be a fair and reasonable supervisor. Don’t send her any more emails of a personal nature and try to stay
removed from the politics between her and the "beasts." If your boss isn’t able
to maintain a professional demeanor, you may have to speak to someone above her
in the organization about a reassignment for you—but you should only do this as a last


You will survive this loss if you
focus on strengthening other friendships outside the office and by making sure
you maintain a healthy work/life balance. I know it will take time to get over
the hurt but it sounds like you are on the right track. I hope you have someone
else to vent to, in confidence, outside the office because that might help too.

Best, Irene










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Comments (7)

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  1. Emma says:

    Bethany, did you and your boss become friends again? I am in a similar situation, my boss was one of my best friends and after I challenged one of her processes she barely talks to me. It’s really hard, especially when she pursued the friendship to start with..

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hello I know this is a late comment BUT I have to say that you must not take the blame for this. It is her problem. Keep it professional yes but one day she will see it was wrong to do that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your response. It’s appreciated.

    In my situation, the interesting thing is that my friend actually said that I’m a “great person” and I have a “heart of gold” after she dumped me but for a reason that remains unknown to me she refuses to be friends anymore. If she truly didn’t like me anymore, it would be a bit easier but the fact that she still thinks I’m a great person and kind is hard for me to take. I think, on some level, she doesn’t think she’s a good friend for me. The thing is, I appreciate that we’re different and that we’re each better at different things. I value our friendship tremendously but I have to realize that my hope may be misplaced at this point as it’s been a year now. It is uncomfortable when I see her at the workplace. I wish you well in your experience and in your continued interactions with your former friend.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My heart goes out to you. It’s very hard to see your ex-friend on a daily basis, and to be reminded daily of the ended friendship. It’s more difficult to forget and move on. You sound like a very loyal person, you were still waiting for her to reconsider her decision, month after month.
    I honestly don’t understand some people (like your co-worker and my boss). I value true friendship so much, and I can’t understand why some people dump true friends who really love them. After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that perhaps some people don’t value true friendship. Perhaps it’s not so important for every one.
    My boss knows that she made a mistake when she reprimanded me without a previous investigation. She has investigated the story “a posteriori”, and I showed her all the evidence I had -dates, finished tasks, sent and received e-mails, and even a thank you note I got from a client. In fact I have a very good relationship with all of our clients, and with other departments of our organization. Nobody has ever complained about my performance. She started to investigate after I showed her the evidence, and now she knows what really happened. But she never apologized. And she doesn’t want to be friends again. 🙁 Many thanks for your reply, and I hope the best outcome for you

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad you’ve had a good outcome. I had a similar situation at work, where I became very close to a colleague. We had a tried-and-true friendship for seven years until I was dumped. There was no outright reason offered for dumping me, which has been a source of sadness for me. It’s been almost a year since I was dumped. Throughout the year, I hoped (every month less than the one before) that one day she’d see the light and want to be my friend again. Alas, that hasn’t happened. The hard part is working together…every day I see her I’m reminded of what we had. I can count on one hand how many close friends I have. It’s one less now that she’s no longer one of them. I’m glad you are able to be cordial with each other. I’m trying and it’s getting better but it’s still a sore spot some days. All the best.

  6. Irene says:

    Thanks so much for filling us in on the next chapter. So glad that things are going better for you. Irene

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, Irene. I think you are right.

    I think my boss started to feel uncomfortable because she realized that our close friendship was creating a difficulty to stick to her opinion when we had an argument. She wanted to stick to her opinions as a boss and professional, but she didn’t want to argue with me as a friend. So one day, she decided to set more distance. 🙁

    After some time, the situation seems to be improving somehow. I have managed to show everybody that the accusations were false, and I have regained my reputation as a professional. 🙂

    My relationship with my boss is less cold. We are not friends anymore, but we are being civil and in some moments, even cordial to each other. I am trying to keep professional, to do a good job, and to be cordial if possible, and things seem to be getting better.

    I am a bit more calm. Sometimes I still have sad moments when I remember our friendship, but I am beginning to get used to the new situation. I am trying to establish a new rhythm in the relationship. Professional and cordial, but respecting her decision to set some distance.

    We’ll see what happens. I think it’s not impossible that our friendship can have a new beginning in the future, perhaps when we are not working together anymore, we can reconnect. I don’t know.

    Many thanks for your help.

    Best wishes

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