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When work and friendship create a lose-lose situation

Published: October 17, 2016 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A woman feels like a friend is putting her in a lose-lose position because of their work relationship.


Hi Irene,

I am in a position where I commission work from artists. I have commissioned quite a lot of work from a friend because he is talented (although difficult to work with) and needs the work.

In fact, he is the artist we work with the most. Recently a client cancelled a commission. My friend sent me an angry e-mail accusing me of not fielding enough work his way, and putting him on commissions with unreliable clients (all are clients are unreliable in the sense they can decide to cancel things at the last minute). His complaints are just not true.

I am seriously fed up with dealing with this friend as an employee but know he is in a tight spot financially. I have approached this subject with him before without any results.

I feel he is putting me in a lose-lose situation: Either no longer work with him, lose a friend and feel guilty, or work with him and have to put up with his bad behavior. I just don’t know what to do.

Signed, Nicole


Hi Nicole,

Mixing work and friendship can get messy. Commissioning work you need from a talented friend is a win-win situation. But your friend seems to have overstepped the boundaries of friendship, getting angry at you over things beyond your control.

He does have the option of working for someone else. Even as a friend, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the problem of him being in a “tight spot financially.”

Is it possible for him to simultaneously work for you and other companies? This would lessen the friction in your friendship and give him an additional source of income. If so, you might let him know that he can’t depend on your company entirely and should seek out other commissions as well.

Or is there another person in your own company who could substitute for you and assign work to your friend?

Also, I would tell him once again that you aren’t going to allow him to make you the target of his anger and frustration. If he can’t treat you professionally, you’ll need to sever your work relationship.

If you can’t resolve this conflict, you and your friend may need to choose between remaining friends (without work interfering with the friendship) or remaining colleagues (without your friendship interfering with the work).

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Workplace friendships

Comments (3)

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  1. Sandra says:

    I agree: friendship and business don’t often mix successfully. First, in this case, this artist should be GRATEFUL to you for giving him the opportunity to get his work out there. You are not under obligation to do that for anyone, as a gallery owner or a friend. Getting commissions isn’t easy for any artist to do — and most are grateful to have the opportunity, period. If your so-called friend turns around and accuses you of not “fielding enough work” his way — well, that’s really bad behavior in my book.

    I appreciate Dr. Irene for bringing up the topic of mixing business and friendship. It needs further discussion. Whenever I feel “used” by a friend for business or professional reasons, my first instinct is to back away slowly. Speaking from a recent personal experience — on a much smaller scale — there’s a woman in my social circle who works for a gift boutique in my community. She is constantly sending me texts and emails in attempt to get me into the store to buy things. She works on commission and the owner of the shop puts pressure on her to get her friends to come in all the time. It is wearing thin. I want to support my friend, but I cannot go broke to help her with her job.

    I’m sure there is a way to balance business and friendship — but it’s very hard. I hope you will have an honest and open discussion with your artist-friend, and stand your ground.

  2. Amy F says:

    Mixing work and pleasure is always risky. Forget that he’s your friend, he acted unprofessionally in response to a business transaction. Anyone who commissioned him might use that as a reason not to use his work again. I’m sure you have the works of many others you could use in his place. I’m not one for ending friendships over a one time incident, but I’m not sure he will be able keep the boundaries between work and friendship since he’s already violated them. I do not know if your friendship will survive.

    • Mary says:

      I agree with Amy.

      As a hobby artist, I see a lot of professional artists with abnormal anger…. angry at the world, or society, or the wealthy class …..you name it. It baffles me that theis group of artists think they have the right to openly vent anger to the point of mocking and disrespect of others. These are usually rather snobby artists as well.

      OP, if your friend is in this category, they are very hard to be true friends with. You may be seeing their true colors. I’m sad for the loss of a friend but glad for the truth to surface. As others have said, your friend can commission their services in several places. This would take pressure off of you.

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