I no longer want to be friends with my friend/co-worker. What to do?
March 16, 2015 10:41 AM   Subscribe

How should I handle a work relationship after having gone on a 7-day vacation where my friend and co-worker revealed herself to be selfish and inconsiderate?

I just came back from a 7-day vacation with Maria, Tina and my husband. I work with Maria and Tina and had agreed to go on this trip as we are all friends at work. Before the trip, Tina and I had started becoming closer friends outside of work.

We all stayed in the same house and after the first day, Tina revealed herself to be inconsiderate, selfish and manipulative, a real drag. Halfway through the trip I had to straight talk her on her shitty behaviour, after which things improved marginally. However, she continued to do more inconsiderate and selfish things, right up to the last hours of our vacation. I no longer want to be friends with her, however, I would still like to maintain a respectful working relationship. Has anyone gone through this, any advice on keeping things civil and functional despite my not liking this person anymore?
posted by KathyK to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Slooooooooooooow faaaaaaade.

Only talk to her about work stuff, as necessary. Keep any other discussion to surface-level niceties that aren't any deeper than the weather. Rebuff any attempts to get together outside of work with your very busy life. She'll get the hint, eventually.
posted by xingcat at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2015 [31 favorites]

If straight talk doesn't really work with her, I think you're looking at slow fade and being more busy and unavailable when it comes to social stuff. For work stuff, friendly at arm's length is fine. If you have residual anger, you'll have to find a way to get rid of it so that you can be dispassionate about the situation.
posted by quince at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you were friendly enough to go on vacation with Tina, and liked her enough that you were in the process of scaling up your friendship with her until [???] over the course of a short time in an unfamiliar environment, you might want to pause and wonder about scenarios in which Tina could have been in the midst of unmentioned personal trauma, or otherwise not quite in Tina's usual happy Tina place.

Which is not to suggest that you need to keep on with the friendship, just that this might be best filed under "That is unfortunate for Tina" rather than "That is unfortunate for me." You don't need to do anything besides being civil and functional. The less you think about it, the better, if you are clear in your mind that you are done with Tina.
posted by kmennie at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

The Jane Austen approach might be to set up a regular lunch date with a group, including one or two people whom you believe might enjoy Tina's company. Fostering a tight bond between Tina and the new folks would be the work of a few lunches, some fun but friendship-building plans from which you must unfortunately remove yourself at the last minute, and perhaps the occasional quiet-but-honest whisper from you to the ears of the receptive. After which, your job would be to reassure Tina that you are really completely fine with her and her new friends making plans without you, as you are clearly so busy with several important projects and a blissful romance of your own.
posted by amtho at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think a slow fade is fine here, but you could also consider simply dialing back your friendship to whatever level it was at before the vacation. It sounds like you guys enjoyed being friends in whatever non-vacation context you had (i.e. drinks after work, dinner, going to movies, whatever it was you did before this vacation). Perhaps you could continue doing those fun things and just decide not to go on vacation together in the future, because in that context you guys are super non-compatible.

As reference, I have friends who I love dearly and truly value/enjoy spending time with, but who I would never in a million years go on a vacation with. Just knowing our personalities, I know we would not mesh well in that sort of environment. So, I keep our friendships in the happy place where they can thrive and not lead to conflict.

It would probably help to know whether the problems on the trip were more in the "vacation-related incompatibility" context or the "serious moral failing, this completely changes my view of you as a person" context. For example, there is a big difference between, for example, someone who gets all micromanage-y and annoying on a big expensive trip or someone who is really messy in a vacation house versus someone who chooses to actively hit on your husband and try to seduce him or was caught rifling through your things and stealing cash (just for example). The micromanager or the messy person problems can be avoided by simply not vacationing together, the seductress/thief is someone you probably want/need to cut out of your life. I would try to figure out which category this is in.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

It wasn't a work relationship, but I had a similar experience with a fellow student in my fairly small major, and I dialed back the friendship after an annoying week and a half trip(or what turned out to be a really really slow fade).

I was "busy" for a week or so while I cooled off, and I reframed the relationship in my head: she was a fun person on the periphery, but I shouldn't rely on her for anything. So it looked a bit like amtho's approach: instead of making plans to hang out with just her, I'd invite her out on plans I'd already made with the mutual friends. This gave me a buffer if she did show up, and something else to do if she didn't. I also made sure I only had projects with her if it was part of a larger group: more buffer, more witnesses, and more people to pick up her slack. This may or may not be applicable/possible with your working relationship.

It helps that the problems on the trip weren't truly hurtful (just some pointless lying and flakiness), so YMMV.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:40 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

If she experienced the same trip you did, wherein you "straight talk[ed] her on her shitty behavior," (scolded her?) you're probably not in danger of her ramping up the chumminess back at the office.

Close quarters and travel hassles can really and truly make minor lifestyle differences seem like moral failings. Are you certain you weren't hyper-focusing all your close-quarters travel anxiety onto her? I know that if I'm anxious or irritable, once I let someone get under my skin, thereafter they can do no right.

I think the best solution here will depend on what she did, and you haven't given any examples. So, did she like not grill enough steaks for everyone because she thought dinners were on-your-own, in which case scolding or lecturing an adult is the bigger offense, IMO? Or did she like get drunk and tell you you looked fat in your swimsuit and use all your expensive moisturizer and hit on your husband? In which case, I guess just dial it back to Work Acquaintance and get too busy to be social in or out of the office for the foreseeable.

In any event, I think you should give each other some breathing room for a bit before you make any permanent decisions.
posted by kapers at 12:05 PM on March 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I once went on a ten day trip with a coworker turned friend.

At the end of those ten days, we did not talk for two weeks. At the end of the our second day back at work, I approached her and said "sorry. I haven't meant to avoid you. But ten days is a lot for someone I'm not dating." and she laughed "I was doing the same thing. No hard feelings."

A week long vacation can break up serious couples. It's okay to hit pause and then ease back to a level you're comfortable. I'd also work hard to re frame your dissatisfaction as one of her being a flawed person unworthy of your friendship. She's human, and it turns out you are totally incompatible vacation buddies.

It might be a white lie. But she's not going anywhere soon, so work hard to really believe it.
posted by politikitty at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

You said you discovered her to be "manipulative." That would be solidly into dealbreaker territory for me, too. When people have shown themselves to be manipulative, in my experience talking it out with them hardly ever has the desired result. Slow fade her as a friend, but keep it super cordial at work. And be careful: ex-friends make bad coworkers, which is why "don't be too close friends with your coworkers" is pretty much standard advice around here.
posted by hush at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your insights, they are appreciated. And for those of you who wanted to know what she did, just trust me. I have decided on slow fade with an initial pretence of friendliness to get the situation over with quicker. Wish me luck!
posted by KathyK at 9:50 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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