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Working with friends: A double-edged sword

Published: June 9, 2011 | Last Updated: May 14, 2020 By | Reply Continue Reading
When friendships turn sour, working with friends can get complicated  


Hi Irene,

Well, I just had a heart-to-heart with a new friend. We’ve been friends for about one year now and I’ve just hired her to work in my office. She asked if she could talk to me (after work) and informed me that I’m too harsh in my everyday attitude with others. I guess I made a comment that offended her but I didn’t think it was bad.

When we met, we both liked each other’s goofiness and joking personality. I made a comment that I don’t drink alcohol because someone needed to stay sober to make fun of the drunk people. I don’t see anything wrong with this comment but she was offended maybe because she is more than a casual drinker.

I told her I would be more sensitive to her feelings and told her if I say something in the future and she is offended to please let me know and I will try to “check” myself, and vice versa. I still don’t think I did or said anything wrong because when I made that comment I was joking. Am I setting myself up to be criticized always or should I just say this is who I am and I shouldn’t have to defend myself?

Signed, Mindy


Dear Mindy,

It sounds like you hit a nerve when you mentioned your friend’s propensity to get tipsy. If this is the only example of your being “harsh” that she offered, I think she was being defensive and over-reacted. You handled the situation as well as you could have by discussing it and clearing the air.

However, I’m concerned that given this recent incident, she may not take kindly to you supervising her or others in your office. She might interpret your supervision as overly harsh and critical, too, since she has painted you with that broad brush before.

You need to sit down with your friend/employee and explain that to maintain a good working relationship, you need to set some boundaries in the workplace at the onset. My suggestion would be to back off the friendship a little bit now, especially the goofy part, so you can figure out a way to work well together.

Working with friends can be a double-edged sword. It’s always nice to have supportive people you like in your environment but when friendships turn sour, the problems are more complicated than if you were simply co-workers.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Some prior post on The Friendship Blog about mixing friendship and work:

Have you taken a look at the new Friendship Forums where you can chat with others about your friendship problems and quandaries?

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Workplace friendships

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