My co-worker and I had a horrible blowup last week. She invited me over to dinner. After dinner she told me she needed me to go with her to human resources to complain about our supervisor. She told me a third employee had already agreed to do this and said the three of us will be what’s needed to show HR our supervisor needs to be fired.
I don’t want to. I’m not a troublemaker and don’t have a problem with our supervisor. I told my coworker I couldn’t do it. She blew up and told me I had no guts. I told her it wasn’t guts, it was that I didn’t mind how our supervisor is. She got even angrier and told me I’d “led her on” because I’d always acted like I had the same issues she did, that I’d always listened and nodded.
I said I’d just been listening. She then called me unfeeling and uncaring, saying that the fact that he treats her like “s—” should be enough for me to help her after all she’s done for me. She said I’d betrayed her. I didn’t know what to do and the night ended on a sour note.
She’s given me the cold shoulder ever since, as has our other coworker. I fear I’ve lost her friendship and that I have betrayed her. She befriended me when I got my job here, just before Christmas. Because I had been out of work for two months and didn’t have a lot of money, she lent me thirty dollars so I could get my son something he really wanted. When my car was on the fritz, she picked me up for work and after work drove me to my son’s school to pick him up and take us both home.
How do I make this right?
What does your inner compass say? Friendship doesn’t mean you need to let a friend control your actions to the point you lose integrity. If you complain about your supervisor because you feel obligated, or because you fear losing your workplace friendship, you succumb to emotional blackmail.
The fact that she says you “led her on,” and you report you just listened, means you never told her you saw your supervisor differently. If so, you fell into a common co-worker friend trap, that of silently listening to someone venting, allowing the coworker to think you agree. Worse, by seeming to agree, you reinforced her belief she was right in her views. Genuine friends take the risk of helping each other see their blind spots.
Since you see your mutual supervisor differently, can you help her see him differently — even establish a better relationship with him?
If it’s too late for that, because she and your other coworker won’t talk with you, continue to treat them warmly and professionally despite how they now treat you. Sincere friendship means giving without “you owe me” strings attached. It includes treating someone as a friend without punishing them for seeing the world differently. Finally, it involves cutting friends slack when they temporarily act poorly.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.