Do I confront my friend about this betrayal?
November 30, 2017 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently on the job market, as is a friend in the same field. I found out today that she secretly applied to my dream job with my dream company, and they offered it to her. How do I talk to her about what I perceive as a major betrayal of trust?

Friend and I have known each other for about six or seven years. She actually recruited me to come to this current fellowship a few years ago (she had already been there two years) but neither of us are looking to stay. We've been good work friends blending into social friends -- getting together with our families for dinner or brunch about once a month, I've babysat her daughter, that sort of thing. We're pretty open with each other.

We both previously worked at a different company in a different part of the country; let's call it Place A. I have been very clear that I want to go back to Place A -- my family is nearby, I love the city and consider it my home. I left on really good terms with all the people there; the only reason I left was because they didn't offer further fellowship training in the area I wanted. I stayed in close contact with the group there, including working from afar with them on two papers and a grant. My friend also, I think, left on pretty good terms. She has no ties to the area other than having lived/worked for that company for a few years.

When job searching started, I mentioned to my friend that I was going to apply for the open Teapot Making position at Place A. She volunteered that she wasn't going to, partly because she previously dated someone in our field who still works there, and partly because her current husband would not be able to find a job there in *his* niche. She encouraged me to go for it, as many of their strategic initiatives align with my own career values.

I made it through two rounds of interviews, including a formal presentation to the entire department. While I was preparing the presentation for the second interview, I got a text from another friend who is still working for Place A, saying "[Friend] was just down here. Are they hiring for two positions?"

Reader, they are not hiring for two positions.

Anyway, I tried to put it in the back of my mind, gave my presentation (which was very well attended, multiple people afterwards congratulated me on how it went), met with key stakeholders, started negotiating with the hiring manager (I mean, we discussed salary and specific evaluative metrics and who would be my mentor, very concrete stuff). I got very positive responses to my post-interview thank you emails. I thought things had gone well.

Then it was Thanksgiving week, so things got quiet as I expected. The hiring manager sent me an email on this Monday saying he was planning to meet with the search committee early this week and would be in touch shortly. Silence again.

Today as I was walking back in from my lunchtime walk, I turned a corner and overheard my "friend" excitedly discussing her offer from Place A with another person. As soon as she saw me, she got really quiet.

I walked straight past her, shut my office door, started crying, and ended up taking a half-day of sick leave to come home early.

I fully understand that job searching is terrible; I'm living that nightmare. I don't begrudge her getting an offer. But I'm extremely upset at my "friend" for saying that she wasn't going to apply to Place A, then applying anyway without saying anything. We've talked over coffee multiple times about how travel and interviews are tiring and how we both want this process to just be done. She's been upfront about other places she has been, as have I, so I don't think it's just her not wanting to jinx the job search or something. Her response when she saw me today makes me think she realizes how much this affects me.

I can't change the fact that the job itself is out of my hands right now, and I'm continuing to move forward with my backup plan. (Which really did feel like a backup, except now I guess it's my first choice by default?) But I am really stinking mad at this person who I considered a good friend. Do I talk to her about it? How do I even begin to broach this? Or if not, how do I forgive? Our field is small enough that she and I are likely to run into each other at conferences and other events, and will likely collaborate on projects/grants, so I can't just ignore her for the rest of my career.
posted by basalganglia to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How do I even begin to broach this? Or if not, how do I forgive?

You can do both, and I reckon you'll have to if you want to move past this.

I think you can let your friend know that you have really mixed feelings about this. You're happy a good friend got a job. At the same time, you're confused and hurt that your friend did something that (a) they said they wouldn't do and (b) went directly against your clearly-stated desires. And you ask them to give their side of things, and hopefully you talk it out.

You'll still be hurt - I reckon this'll sting like hell for a long time given how much you had invested in it - but hopefully it won't be the same hurt that comes with wilful, deliberate, spiteful betrayal, which is how it must feel now.

But it's possible they were always going to apply for the job but they balked when they realised you were too, and maybe thought they weren't going to get it so it wouldn't matter, and now...well, here you both are. Which isn't a great way to behave, but it's understandable, because we're human.

Our brains really are super shit at managing this sort of thing. Given the choice between telling you the truth back then, and crushing you, and lying to you back then and crushing you later, good ol' brain will push that loss as far away as possible, even though it'll end up being the worst possible outcome. It's really, really hard to fight that instinct.

And it'll be equally hard for you to take, and eventually relish the high road, where you let bygones be bygones and see what new direction your life heads in. You've been hurt. A lot. But the only one who can keep hurting you is you.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

This hurts, I know. I remember when a colleague of mine got a dream job I thought I was going to get, and I didn't even know she'd applied. It was a gut punch. I really thought that job was mine and I thought I deserved it more than she did.

But here's the thing. Your friend... just changed her mind. You didn't give her something in exchange for not applying. She never lost the right to apply just because she thought she wasn't going to at some point. And she didn't owe you an update on her job applications.

She didn't tell you because she figured it was borrowing trouble unless she got the job; and she was right.

Your job is now to put a brave face on it, congratulate her as sincerely as you can, DO NOT confront her in any way (she did nothing wrong!) and - crucially - keep the contact warm, so that you have an "in" there for the next role they open. (Which by the way is how it went down with me. When dream company was next hiring, my former colleague was my inside reference.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2017 [123 favorites]

Trying to be charitable here:
Is it possible that she actually meant it when she said she was not going to apply, but then changed her mind, and didn't tell you about it because she felt bad about saying one thing and doing another thing, or about doing something that went against your interests? I can see how that might have been hard for her to talk about, especially because she knew (or could know) that it would hurt you.

I can see why you're feeling bad about all of this. But I'm not sure that she actually lied to you, other than by omission.

I'd give her a wide berth for now, and give the whole thing some time to cool down. Allow the dust to settle. She may very well come to you and explain herself or at least ask how you're doing and show some sympathy.
If she does, please try to have an open mind and listen.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:09 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

First, I'm sorry. It sucks enough to lose a job you wanted, but to lose it to a friend who lied to you about it? Ugh. That's terrible.

You can't avoid her for the rest of your career, yes, but you can avoid her for now if that's what you need to do. It sounds like you are in academia, so I assume she'll be there at your current employer for a few more months at least? If so, you have time to let your feelings and thoughts settle and see how you want to proceed with her. Don't feel like you need to rush to smooth things over. She's the one who messed up. Let her extend the olive branch.

It sounds like she deals with potentially stressful and conflict-ripe situations by avoiding them, which I would guess is why she lied to you. So she may not extend an olive branch at all, even though it's really on her to do so at this point.

If it gets to be too awkward to not be talking to her, or you do feel like you need to talk and she doesn't come forward, I think it's fair to send her an email or sit her down to talk in person and just let her know how you feel. That you won't let it disturb your professional relationship, but that you feel hurt and let down that she lied to you. And let her decide if she wants to take steps to mend the relationship, and let yourself decide if that's what you want.

By the way, I've had things like this happen a few times with work friends - where I spend some social time with a coworker, start to think of them as a friend, and then they show that they can't be trusted, usually in a way that was totally unnecessary. Based on this, I've started being a bit more reluctant to think of work friends as real friends until they prove themselves trustworthy. It's not like I don't socialize with coworkers, but it's more like I think of "work friends" as something that is a bit different from "close friends." This allows me to remain work friends with people who have done some kind of shitty things (because capitalism forces people to do shitty things sometimes, or because we're all human and imperfect) but whose company I still occasionally enjoy, or with whom it's helpful to have a friendly relationship. A few years down the line, this friend you're dealing with right now might be that kind of friend - not someone you'll trust again, but someone you can have a drink with at a conference, or loosely collaborate with on a project.
posted by lunasol at 3:10 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hmm, ok, reading some of the other responses, I'm getting that my judgment of your friend is harsher than other people would judge her. I do still think it was immature and ultimately really unfair of her not to tell you she was applying. But it's up to you whether or not you think this is worth confronting her over. Either way, I still think the rest of my advice stands - give yourself some time to think about how you want to interact with her, give her space to extend the olive branch, but also allow yourself to open up communication first if that's what feels right to you.
posted by lunasol at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2017

I'm not clear—did she find out about the open position through you? If so, that seems like a salient difference between her having sort of told an injudicious white lie without consideration of your feelings under the possibility that has played out, and slightly more sleazy behavior edging into unethical.
posted by XMLicious at 3:21 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

But I am really stinking mad at this person who I considered a good friend.

You know her character. Did she not bring it up because she's afraid of confrontation (not ideal, but perhaps forgivable), Machiavellian and felt it gave her an edge (not cool and probably time to downgrade to acquaintance), or thoughtful and trying to not psych you out by changing her mind(perhaps she was mistaken about that, which can also hurt, but forgivable in my mind).

Even if you think she deserves the benefit of the doubt, you don't have to be super fake happy right now. If you trust her good character, I'd probably email or have a brief talk about how you're happy for her, but sad for yourself and hurt that she kept it from you even if you believe her intentions were good. She should then probably understand if you take a short time out from hanging out a lot until you can work through your feelings.
posted by ghost phoneme at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2017

I’m not really seeing this as a major betrayal. I get that you’re really upset right now and you may view this differently in time. But I’m wondering how you would have reacted if she told you she was applying. I get the sense from your letter that you feel that this job somehow “belonged” to you because you wanted it so much. If she got that Impression too, I can see how she wouldn’t want to tell you she was applying, especially if she originally didn’t plan to and then changed her mind. But job hunting is super tough and it completely makes sense to apply for every job you’re eligible for. I can’t fault her for applying for this one.

Work envy is super tough, and I have totally been there. If you need to take some time , that makes sense. She would probably understand that. But for the sake of your career if not your friendship, don’t burn any bridges here, which would include accusing her of betrayal. She might be able to help you if another position comes up. And this internet stranger sees her action as at most a minor and understandable transgression., even though it’s really painful now.
posted by FencingGal at 3:31 PM on November 30, 2017 [33 favorites]

Guess I'm in the minority, but that friend would be dead to me. I wouldn't confront her or talk to her at all, not even a slow fade; I'd just ice her. I mean, theoretically, they could've picked someone else instead of you, but the fact that you've talked about it so much with her and you've expressed your desire to be near your family again and blah blah blah. She told you she wasn't applying there; that looks like a betrayal to me. She had plenty of time to tell you if she changed her mind, but didn't. Backstabber. With friends like that, who needs enemies.

Keep applying to other places. I bet you'll get something soon. Good luck!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:47 PM on November 30, 2017 [34 favorites]

I would tell your friend that you are having two somewhat contradictory reactions: 1) you are so excited *for her* as your friend that she is getting dream job. You're thrilled for her. 2) You are devastated *for you* at losing out on a dream job and having to undo the mental planning you had started doing when you thought the job was yours. It just happens that these are the same job. I'd let her know it stings because you thought she wasn't going for the job while you know logically that her going for and getting it is not a betrayal of you, the surprise of learning it the way you did stings and it just needs to run the course of healing.

PS... until you have a rejection, you don't know for sure she got the job! Maybe she is excitedly talking about the offer in the same terms you have? I wouldn't suggest you hoping that is the case, but I will be hoping that for you!
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 3:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

On review, I see that you're still likely run into her at events and such. The key here is to maintain a polite, but icy distance. If you ever have to work with her in the future, strictly business. I wouldn't chit chat or socialize with her at all outside of work. She can't be trusted.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I do think this was crappy of her to not tell you she was applying. It doesn't sound to me, based on your question, that she found out about the job from you, but it does sound like you talked to her about your application process and she continued to stay quiet about the fact that she was in the same process. So, I think you do have the right to be mad.

I don't know if you make a big deal out of this, though, for two reasons...

1) I think part of your hurt and anger is just the fact that you didn't get the job. This was your dream job at your dream company and you missed out, and now you're displacing some of your being upset at her. But more than that, I think what made it far worse is that you didn't get an official rejection without knowing who got it -- you learned you didn't get the job because you heard her talking about her offer. That's a harsh way to find something like that out so you're probably reeling even more. If you had merely gotten the rejection and found out later she got it, you might not be connecting your disappointment + her getting the job so closely.

2) You thought this person was a good friend. Now you know that she's not as good of a friend as you thought. You know her character now. So keep being cordial, keep maintaining a good relationship for the sake of your career and the field you're in, but think twice about what you tell her or how much you trust her. Unless you were best friends with a history, where there's something seriously worth saving, I think all you can do is just accept who she is and adjust accordingly. Hopefully you won't have to work together in the future.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:54 PM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

If it were me, I'd cry a lot. But it's just business, what happened. If she were a relative or a dear, close friend of many years, she would have been obligated, imho, to tell you that she was applying too. But she is just a regular-level friend, and imho a disclosure would have been NICE and DECENT, but certainly not obligatory. I'm so sorry about all this. Hang in there. It's just business.
posted by 8603 at 4:09 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I dunno that I would think about this as a betrayal, personally. Your friend is totally allowed to apply for any job she wants, and totally allowed not to share that info with you or anyone else unless she wants to.

I know it sucks when you don't get a job you want, and someone you know does. But this friend didn't do anything *to* you - she applied for a job. I also think you are presupposing you would have got this job if not for her, but you have no idea knowing if that's true.

I can understand why your friend wouldn't say anything - why would she, if she didn't think she'd get it.

Perhaps a way of reframing this in your head would be to think about how you would feel if she applied, and didn't get the job - would you still be so pissed off then? Would you still be pissed off, if she applied and you got the job instead of her? I suspect not, or at least not to anywhere near the same degree.

So you are really channeling some of your frustration and sadness at not getting the job to your friend - but that is one aspect that really wasn't in her control. Feeling sad about missing out is natural and very understandable, but I would be wary of constructing a narrative here around betrayal.

Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 4:11 PM on November 30, 2017 [16 favorites]

I'm a phd student in a slightly weird STEM adjacent academic field where many of us are very interdisciplinary. I'm watching my friends apply for the same jobs right now (it doesn't help that many of us want to stay regional, which we know is difficult in academia, but Reasons. I'm prepared to bail from academia, but that's another ask for another day). Heck, two of them are applying for the same job at our esteemed institution (one has been away doing the VAP thing for a year, one is in a temp line with us). I think the friendships are going to survive and everyone's going to land somewhere good - in part because we're all being open and everyone knows what's going on.

If someone said they weren't going to apply for a job in our group of friends, then "changed their mind" (I'm not sure I can be that generous, given your end of the story), then applied for the job in secret, got it, and then started talking about the offer AT WORK WHERE YOU WERE BOUND TO OVERHEAR OR GET TOLD BY THE THIRD PARTY SHE WAS TALKING TO (seriously, is she that short-sided? What are we, 12 and “accidentally” arranging for us to catch us kissing our bestie’s boo?) then it would Be A Thing, A Friendship Ending Thing.

As one internet stranger, I think you’re totally right to be mad; in small industries, where you’re friends and coworkers and lovers and everything in between with people at the same time, I think there’s different rules of engagement than perhaps in some other situations.

Now, what do you do with that? That’s a good question; I’m kind of rubbish at forgive and forget, and I’m not sure, given her actions, that its worth it (I think Apple Turnover is spot on with adjusting your expectations of her as a person). She’s been short-sided twice, since in a small industry, she may need a favor from you at some point.

If you don’t want to be friends with the person, don’t. If you want to maintain a professional, sure, I’ll have a drink at conferences with you relationship, do. But there’s nothing that says that you have to maintain the friendship you thought you had with her; you just have to be professional and cordial at work. The green likes to tell folks in relationship advice asks that it is totally okay to end a relationship for any reason, including that you just don’t want to be in it. I think sometimes we forget that the same applies to non-romantic relationships.

Good luck! You’re going to land somewhere great.
posted by joycehealy at 4:13 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

How do I even begin to broach this?

This just happened today and you left immediately, so I would give her a few days and see what she does. I do think she owes you an apology and an explanation, and if she is a true friend, you'll get one.

Personally, I would dial way back on the friendship even if she does apologize, because I have no time for "friends" like this . You can keep the relationship polite and professional, without burning any career bridges.
posted by Shal at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

I would probably frustrated, too, but I think my perspective would change once I got a job. I think you should avoid doing anything to burn the bridge, because your friend may be in a good position to help you get a job there when the time is right.

There's other stuff that may make your friend's change of heart understandable, like maybe something happened to dissipate the awkwardness with her ex who still works there, something could have changed about her needing her "current" husband to be able to find a job in that area, or one of the people she knows who still works there could have talked with her and convinced her to apply because of things that wouldn't have been obvious at the time you talked.

I'd view this differently if it was a place neither of you had worked at before, but she still knows people there, and they sound like other friends whose opinions could have factored into this. She's got a strong connection to the company that's independent of your interest in working there.

Also, she could have changed her mind about applying, but not told you because she had some sense that you'd react poorly to it. She may have done this to give you a shot of either getting or not getting the job on your own merits, without the stress of knowing you were up against her being a factor.

That's an extremely charitable explanation for your friend's behavior. Maybe you know information that contradicts it that isn't in what you wrote, but I would try to step away from the situation, see how your friend responds to you in the coming days, and try to look for a perspective where you're not so much at the center of things.
posted by alphanerd at 4:34 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Clearly there are varied opinions here, and it probably boils down to details that are not in evidence, including how competitive the job really was, whether you realistically would have gotten it if not for her, whether she found out about and applied for the job because of you or not, etc.

But generally speaking, I don't see this as a "betrayal", unless she did something to actually torpedo you (lied about you to the hiring committee, etc.). It's semi-shitty that she didn't tell you she was also applying, but there are a bunch of reasons that could have been, including perhaps she didn't think her chances were any good. I'd give that the benefit of the doubt as likely conflict-avoidance if nothing else.

It sucks that the hiring committee chose her over you, but ultimately that was their decision, and I don't really think that it's wrong of your friend to have thrown her hat into the ring. You can decide however you want to react, but I'd caution you that if you are in a relatively small or specialized field, this sort of thing is going to happen again in the future—you're going to end up in the running for jobs alongside other people who you know. If you start taking it as a personal affront that other people apply for the same jobs that you do... I don't think people will be very receptive to the idea of "calling dibs" on a job posting.

It's okay to be disappointed and it's okay to be hurt that your friend decided not to tell you, for whatever reason, that she was applying. But I'd be cautious in how you react, lest you come across like a sore loser. That's unlikely to help your future prospects if the career field is very narrow.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:36 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think the issue is not so much that you and a friend were competing for a job and your friend got it, but that your friend hid the fact that you were competing for a job while simultaneously playing the role of supposed cheerleader for you during this process.

There's nothing wrong with two friends competing for a job. That happens all the time. I've been in situations where I've been up against friends for jobs, grants, awards, what not. There's no avoiding that if you want to have friends in whatever industry you're in.

But it's not okay for a friend to behave so deceptively. And her behavior indicates that she doesn't know how to engender trust in a relationship and doesn't know how to have talk about difficult issues with people she cares about, doesn't know how to offer honest support. Those are all important friend skills that she is lacking.

I would find it hard to remain friends with someone who doesn't know how to be a friend.

Whether or not you want to give her a second chance or clear the air or try to rebuild the friendship is entirely up to you. I do think that whatever you decide it can be helpful TO YOU to clear the air and let her know that her behavior feels like a betrayal and hurt you a lot. Then feel free to slow fade or cut her off.
posted by brookeb at 4:37 PM on November 30, 2017 [21 favorites]

Obviously there are a lot of different opinions here. Personally I would be sad and frustrated about not getting the job, but I don't view this as a huge betrayal. Maybe that's because I work in a super competitive field where most people are pretty close-to-the-vest about where they're applying and what stage they are in the process until things are more certain? But I have definitely ended up applying for the same jobs as friends and we haven't realized it until quite a bit later in the process. And, I've been on a hiring committee when friends have applied, and not been able to give them as much information as I always wanted to because of confidentiality reasons. So I do feel like friendship + hiring mixed together can be quite tricky emotionally, but also it's important to try not to personalize it unless someone actually has done something truly awful.

Obviously this case is somewhat different in that you guys had talked about this particular job posting and your friend said she wasn't applying. But, I think it's just as likely that your friend figured she wasn't all that likely to get the job anyway, and so might as well not bother hurting your feelings over a long-shot application. It doesn't sound like she actually did anything to actively sabotage your chances -- if you knew she'd been talking shit about you to the hiring committee or shredded your application before it could get mailed out, those are things I would consider to be in the betrayal category. But just applying for a job? I feel like you don't get to call dibs on one particular job opportunity just because it is one you're especially excited about.

Anyway, what I would do in this situation is let myself be sad, lick my wounds a little, and vent to people who are NOT this friend or mutual friends. And then let yourself move on from this. Honestly, I don't think your friend did anything wrong in seeking to advance her career through a job opportunity she was apparently very qualified for. And in any case, she could remain a valuable professional asset for you -- perhaps putting in a good word for you if another position opens up (it sounds like she already helped you land your current job!), or helping with networking in other ways. That becomes much less likely if you make a big fuss and try to lay claim to a job that really didn't belong to you, even if it felt that way from an emotional standpoint.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:01 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

When job searching started, I mentioned to my friend that I was going to apply for the open Teapot Making position at Place A. She volunteered that she wasn't going to, partly because she previously dated someone in our field who still works there, and partly because her current husband would not be able to find a job there in *his* niche. She encouraged me to go for it, as many of their strategic initiatives align with my own career values.

This is just odd! She encouraged you to go for it, volunteered that she wasn't going to apply for it...and then went through the application and interview process (which is not local to where you two are) and didn't mention any of it. Whew.

Keep your distance from this one. She is not a friend to you, and she is not trustworthy.

Cultivate your distant politeness. Do not confront. She knows what she did, and confrontation isn't going to change any of that.
posted by 41swans at 5:10 PM on November 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

My reaction here is the same as LuckySeven in both respects. In my heart? Dead to me. In person? Polite but chilly, no fake chumminess but no confrontation and a sliver of plausible deniability -- maybe it's just a big coincidence that you suddenly reverted to being (nothing more than) a polite work colleague at the exact time that this happened. Maybe you never were more than that and it was all in her imagination.

Of course you don't have dibs on the job, and it's important to be clear that some significant portion of your bad feelings here are due to not getting the job (or at least not the first offer), but someone who is going to listen to you over all that time and never tell you they applied and let you find out like that, while you're there interviewing and trying to be on your game -- or even when you're walking down the hall at work -- what kind of friend is that?? It's not that she applied for a job that would mean more to you than to her; it's that she hid it. And for all you know, she used everything you said to outcompete you -- any strategic thoughts you shared, she got the benefit of that insight. That's so enraging! How could you trust her in the future?

The nice thing is that she doesn't definitely know you know. I think I'd continue to "be under the weather" so you have an excuse for being anti-social and wait to see how she handles this. I do have the kind of soft spot that if she came to me with an earnest desire to process this, an explanation that touched my heart, and a level of awareness that was beyond what I currently think she's capable of, then there's a chance the friendship could recover. It's highly doubtful. If not, then I probably would do the world's fastest slow fade because what's the point? But for peace of mind, I'd have to know what I was going to say if she brought it up or if I felt I needed to say something. I'd probably say, "congratulations, you must be so excited," and then if more did need to be said, then I'd add "I'll admit I was pretty surprised to learn that you applied." Leave it at that, be polite, keep your dignity, and just move on from having this person in your life as quickly as possible.

If it helps with forgiveness (which, no need to rush into things!), I think brookeb is exactly right in what this could mean about your friend's ability to be a good friend. It has to cripple her ability to have real intimacy in her friendships, if not in all her relationships, in an ongoing way whether she realizes it or not. What must this say about her youth and or teen years? Maybe it will catch up to her one day; maybe a situation will allow her to learn those skills; maybe she'll come back to you in 15 years having finally understood what really happened and why and ready to build a real friendship; maybe not. But yeah, it's not you, it's her. Just handle this with as much self-compassion and public grace as you can as you hang in there. Sorry. :(
posted by salvia at 5:38 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

It's clear that you mentally thought you had some right to this job, or were owed it because it aligned with where you'd planned your life. But there nothing to indicate your friend betrayed you at all, she's got just as much right to apply for it as you. She probably wasn't planning on it but then changed her mind.

And if she didn't warn you that she was going for it, well, given your reaction, why would she tell you when here's a chance she wouldn't even get it and you'd act like this anyway?

I'd compare it to two people who see a man they're interested in, and one claims him first and tells the other they're not allowed to approach him. But the man has his own ideas and asks out the friend instead, so now they're both dead to the the lovelorn person. You can't claim dibs on a person and you can't claim dibs on a job, the interviewer has the ultimate say in who they want.

And the biggest assumption of all that you're making is that if your friend hadn't applied for the job, you would have got it. You simply can't know that, there's every chance there were other more qualified applicants too.

I'm sorry, I understand that this sucks and it's a blow to your ego and your plans, but it's not your friend's fault. Try to be gracious and if you can't be gracious, just keep a low profile. Your turn will come.
posted by Jubey at 5:56 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

This really, really sucks. And I get it, because I've been in your position before, and it does feel like a betrayal, and your feelings are valid. It's ok to be upset by this. But, it was an open job listing and she had a right to apply for it if she wanted. Just because you got far into the interview process does not mean you were guaranteed to get the job if only she hadn't applied. And she has no obligation to apologize or try to make you feel better about it.

Personally, I would no longer consider this person a friend, and I would stop speaking to her. There's nothing to be gained by a confrontation.
posted by a strong female character at 6:15 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am going to focus on this part of your question: How do I talk to her about what I perceive as a major betrayal of trust?

I think one thing you can usefully do is sort out your own feelings first and decide exactly what elements of her behavior suggest that what she did is a major betrayal of trust.

When job searching started, I mentioned to my friend that I was going to apply for the open Teapot Making position at Place A. She volunteered that she wasn't going to, partly because she previously dated someone in our field who still works there, and partly because her current husband would not be able to find a job there in *his* niche. She encouraged me to go for it, as many of their strategic initiatives align with my own career values.

If during this initial conversation she had instead said, "I'm thinking about applying for that position as well," would you have considered that a betrayal? Do you think, as a friend, she should have passed on the opportunity based on your strong interest in the job and connections to Place A, or is just the failure to tell you about it that's the problem?

If it's the latter, ask yourself what you would have done differently if you had known all along she were applying as well. If her silence specifically (rather than her competition for the job at all) damaged your chances of being hired, then it's easy to understand why that silence qualifies as a major betrayal of trust.

If not much would have changed had you known you were competing with her, it may be that your feelings of disappointment about not getting the job are causing you to experience an otherwise trivial lie by omission as a major betrayal.

One way to think about it is imagine how you would have felt if the job were not one you were applying for, but just another position outside your current company. If she volunteered in conversation that she wasn't interested in it, and then you found out weeks later she had successfully applied, without discussing her changing decision in the meantime, would that feel like a major betrayal or a big lie?

These questions could reasonably go either way, and how you feel is how you feel. But in terms or talking to your friend, taking the time to carefully unpack you own feelings before you talk to her and understanding exactly how much of the hurt you are experience actually comes from her behavior is going to be helpful.
posted by layceepee at 6:22 PM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've been in this position, and the simplest resolution is to swallow your pride if you're willing. It's done. People are as complicated as can be. So are their motivations. Move forward. Be angry, simmer, and then talk to your friend if you still want to when you've simmered long enough to think at less than a boil. Human relationships might not be harder to find than much desired jobs, but, as time passes, the value of the former tends to eclipse the latter.

Be well, and I'm sorry that you've met with such a disappointment. For what it's worth, my absolute best friend on earth "snatched" my dream job from me 16 years ago. I don't even think about it in those terms until conversations like this one come up. I remember the hurt, but then I remember everything else that's come to pass in those 16 years. Thank god she's still here with me.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks to those who have responded so far. I'm obviously still trying to process this. Betrayal is perhaps too strong of a word -- I'm not upset that she applied and got an offer (we all need jobs! and she's good at what she does; I'd hire her myself!), but rather upset that she let me blithely natter on about how great my first interview was, how great my job talk was, and not even drop a quick, "Yeah, when I was down there, I met with So-and-so, he seemed good to work with" She was/is totally fine sharing her impressions of other interviews -- just yesterday as we were walking in, she shared that she'd just come back from another place which was apparently a drag. So I'm guessing she got the offer either yesterday afternoon or this morning.

I don't think she actively sabotaged my chances, or stole my job, or anything dramatic like that. I'm just hurt that she saw how excited I was about this job (and how personally meaningful it was for me) and didn't even mention that she was interested as well. And yes, I'm really hurt to find out in such an unexpected way that I didn't get the job.
posted by basalganglia at 7:04 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Before you bring up this conversation with her, wait to hear from Place A's hiring manager. Who knows, perhaps there are two openings after all.
posted by jamaro at 7:14 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm just hurt that she saw how excited I was about this job (and how personally meaningful it was for me) and didn't even mention that she was interested as well.

Don't overlook that this could be exactly why she didn't tell you.

There's something else to remember in all this: You might not have gotten the job even if she wasn't a candidate. It's not a you-or-her situation, as much as we often make these things out to be.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:15 PM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't discuss it with her. I'd note that she's not to be trusted and then be professionally friendly (only) so that you don't burn bridges in a small field. But, even though her behaviors may be open to rationalization and be technically OK, I would not keep this person in my inner circle. Nope. She allowed you to believe that she was a trusted friend and confidant and didn't give you the chance to make an informed decision about how much to share with her. She may not have used what you shared with her to advantage herself, but there's no way to know that. She wasn't straight with you when she had many opportunities to be and that's enough to be cast out of trusted friend status. I'm sorry. This must be really hard.
posted by quince at 7:22 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

This would infuriate me. I would cease to initiate conversations with her and if we happened to encounter one another I would drip a few sugary pleasantries and then gently disengage. I would never say another honest word to her again.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:55 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

I agree with Don. She's not your friend. That's a brazenly unfriend-like thing to do.
posted by tremspeed at 7:58 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think that you should consider that you may be dodging multiple bullets due to this turn of events and that as horrible as it is, patience and politeness needs to be your party line for the next week until you get more info

Something better is in store — and I think her suddenly doing this is going to be the catalyst to get that better opportunity to you
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:41 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

First: it isn’t over until yada yada. People turn down offers all the time. I have a few possible reads on this. Maybe some additional context or subtext will tell you that one seems more likely.

1) If she knew she was going to apply when she encouraged you to, and she really wanted the job, she thinks she’s more qualified than you, that you weren’t a threat, and was being patronizing. Everything after that followed from mostly disregarding your candidacy for the job. I’d drop her immediately.

2) if she knew she was going to apply when she encouraged you BUT IT WASN’T a job she really wanted, it was a backup, so it didn’t matter that she was applying so she didn’t think it was worth mentioning at all. I’d put this in “not making you worry unnecessarily” territory, which is a sympathetic white lie of omission. Maybe she won’t take it if something else comes/has come through, or maybe she was excited because her top choice fell through and now she really needs this one. Or maybe you read more excitement than there really was, or maybe it wasn’t “I got an offer an I’m going to take it” excitement, just validation excitement,

3) if she didn’t think she would apply when she encouraged you, probably her circumstances changed to where it became desirable or necessary for her to do so. She would have felt bad about having unknowingly lied to you, so she kept it on the d/l hoping that it wouldn’t be an issue, that you’d get it or neither of you would. And still, maybe she won’t take it.

I’d be hurt (but only internally; it’s not her fault or her responsibility) but I like to think I’d be outwardly congratulatory and keep her as a friend in situations 2-3.
posted by supercres at 9:38 PM on November 30, 2017

I'm not upset that she applied and got an offer... but rather upset that she let me blithely natter on about how great my first interview was, how great my job talk was, and not even drop a quick, "Yeah, when I was down there, I met with So-and-so, he seemed good to work with"

Right!? I would feel the same way. I don't see where some of these comments are coming from: you don't sound like you felt entitled to the job or thought that she should stand aside or anything.

It's just ... weird. It's kind of like when you realize that the cell phone connection got dropped and that you've been talking to yourself when you thought your friend was listening. It's like thinking that someone is in the audience cheering for you as you run a race but then see them dash from behind you and cross the finish line in front of you. If there are enough spots that both people can "win," then it's weird because why didn't you guys do aspects of the run together, like take the shuttle out to the starting line together? And if there aren't enough spots, then it's doubly weird because she knew she was competing against you without giving you the same information.
posted by salvia at 10:46 PM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm just hurt that she saw how excited I was about this job (and how personally meaningful it was for me) and didn't even mention that she was interested as well.

Exactly what good would this have done you?


I thought this story was going to involve her gaining some kind of competitive advantage through your not knowing about her application, but, no, I don't think you can point to a single thing you would have done differently if you'd known at that point that she had also applied. Your strong feelings in themselves don't impose responsibilities on her.

The more you talk about the basis of your reaction's being your excitement, the meaningfulness of the job, the way it fit your goals, the more you make it clear that you're not primarily hurt because you thought the two of you were close enough that you'd share all the ups and downs of the process with each other--no, you're just angry she didn't step aside and let you have what you wanted. You may have trouble acknowledging this openly to yourself because, even in your anger, you can see what an unreasonable expectation that would be for just about anyone in your life. But, if you're in a small field, this kind of situation is going to crop up again and again. You have two choices here: either become sufficiently better than everyone else that you don't lose to them fair and square, or learn to accept that you're going to compete against people you like and talk to, that they are allowed to decide for themselves how much of their own process they want to share with you, and that sometimes you're going to lose.

Either way, don't go talking to this woman until you've better sorted out the tangle of emotions here. I think in a few days you may feel less crushed and more able to be reasonable about how her behavior may actually have hurt you (mostly by showing that you misjudged the intimacy of the friendship, which is legitimately painful even if it's not anyone's fault).

(I would guess, by the way, that she changed her mind about applying because her husband worked out a way that the job might be compatible with his own career.)
posted by praemunire at 12:04 AM on December 1, 2017 [16 favorites]

Lying is lying. To quote Eleven: Friends. Don't. Lie.

She lied to you about her interest in the job, and regardless of whether or not she felt intimidated because you wanted it so much is moot. If you're expected to be an 'adult' and get over the fact that you lost a job offer to her, as many here are suggesting, then the same could be said for her. She should have acted like an adult, and said; 'yes, I saw that listing and I am considering going for it, too.' And then, she probably still would have got the job, you would have cried and felt awful and yeah, still probably hated her a little, and not really been justified to hate her, and then probably have gotten over it soon after and your friendship would still be intact.

Instead, when prompted about this job listing, she told you concrete reasons she was not interested, and outright said she wouldn't apply. Not only was this an untruth, it was a potential conflict of interest-- what if you'd told her interview questions for an interview she had not already had? That would have given her an unfair advantage over you. Moreover, this was a continued untruth that lasted through mutual interviews, etc. Not once did she stop, to tell you the truth. Even if she was 'scared' because she knew you were excited-- again, you're adults here-- and friends-- and it is because of your investment in the position that she should have owned up and said, 'hey, I applied too, for reasons,' even if she doesn't want to talk about it, and is a private person. At the very least, if she was a private person, then she could have made it ambiguous and said, 'I don't know, I may apply,' when asked about this position.

Again, when offered this choice: SHE LIED.

I can't stress that enough. And I'm so sorry, but this person is not your friend. If anything, they seem pretty ugly and manipulative. It would put into question every heartfelt interaction I had with this person. I feel your feelings of betrayl are justified. I don't know why they did what they did, but I'm not sure why the consensus here is to 'be the better person,' when she couldn't even tell you, 'look, I'm going for it too,' -- in the weeks it took to go through the process.

I wouldn't confront her. It won't have the reaction you hope for, and will probably backfire. Besides, she knows what she did, because she has been lying to you for weeks about it, and goes quiet when you enter the room, etc. She knows.

I'd scale back this friendship significantly. I wouldn't burn a bridge, because again, you want to work at this place too, and nobody wants to dance around the two people that obviously hate each other, at work, etc. It's disruptive, and it could cost you a future job offer, too.

So I'd just try and forgive her. Despite what I said, I don't think this person is evil or anything--just flawed and selfish like most people. Once you get over this outrage and shock, (partly fueled by pinning your hopes on this position), you can hopefully let go of this hurt and be begrudging friends again. Try and be happy for her. Again, I wouldn't consider her a close friend any more, and I certainly wouldn't tell her what I'm doing and planning professionally (we still don't know if she found out about the listing from OP) any longer.

Also, I don't know, I advise you to not consider it your 'dream job' -- doing this attributes way more significance and meaning to it, like winning the lottery. I get it's a really attractive job offer you wanted, but calling it a dream makes it hurt 10x more if that dream does't become a reality. It makes it feel once-in-a-lifetime. It isn't. There will totally be other, better jobs out there, maybe even one on the horizon. It's a cliche for a reason: When one door closes, another one opens. So hang in there.

Good luck!
posted by Dimes at 8:22 AM on December 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've read permutations of this several times in this thread:
" reasonable about how her behavior may actually have hurt you (mostly by showing that you misjudged the intimacy of the friendship, which is legitimately painful even if it's not anyone's fault)."

I don't understand that take at all. Is contemporary friendship getting redefined by reality shows? Because that shit was exactly the behavior of an "I'm not here to make friends" reality show schemer. OP was a good enough friend to be entrusted to care for the schemer's children. That's a pretty strong indication that the friendship was intimate. She could not have correctly judged the intimacy of the friendship because she didn't have the facts. Now she does! No more babysitting, no more lunches, no more conversation but at work and about workstuff, not another honest word. Nothing but freezingcold blessyourheart poisonsugarsmiles forevermore.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:57 AM on December 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

Because that shit was exactly the behavior of an "I'm not here to make friends" reality show schemer.

It would be if it had had any effect on the outcome, or even given the other person an advantage. It didn't. It seems quite unlikely that the friend even told the lie/failed to correct a later misimpression with the intention of getting one over on OP (that is, with a malicious intent that failed to materialize). I can't speak for others, but I'm not a reality-show schemer or admirer of same, I'm someone who tries to think rigorously about ethics and recognizes that hurt feelings in a relationship do not necessarily entail misconduct on anyone's part, but can just as easily arise from mismatches in expectations. If I thought the woman had deceived OP on purpose to gain some advantage, or even found herself being given some unexpected advantage by OP later due to OP's incomplete information and didn't correct it then, my analysis would be very different.

OP was a good enough friend to be entrusted to care for the schemer's children. That's a pretty strong indication that the friendship was intimate

In my world, grownups distinguish between the friendly and professional aspects of their lives when it's possible, precisely to limit the degree to which professional competition can hurt a personal connection. Only the very very closest of friends can expect to know everything about my professional plans, especially if there is any potential competition with them involved. In my actual field, I don't think there's one person with whom I'm that close, and that includes the people whose weddings I've attended and who I knit baby gifts for, people with whom I've shared certain personal traumas and the like. I believe they would say the same about me.

She could not have correctly judged the intimacy of the friendship because she didn't have the facts. Now she does!

And those facts are (at least, based on what's been said here): (1) this woman competed with OP on a fair basis for a job they both wanted, and (apparently?) won; and (2) she didn't inform OP when she changed her mind about applying, but remained emotionally supportive of OP's efforts. Given the rhetoric OP is using, I really think (1) is what's most bothering her. When I ask myself what OP's reaction would have been if the woman informed her the minute she decided to apply for that dream job, that deeply personal, deeply meaningful job she was so excited about, I think that OP would have been mad and hurt on the spot. Which means that disclosure is not the main issue here. While, of course, it's understandable to be upset about losing, it's something that she is just going to have to learn to cope with if she wants to have friendships in her field. (2) tells her that OP is not going to share her every professional move with her, but is going to be supportive of her even when they are in competition. It is, of course, OP's prerogative to decide she wants to demand complete transparency from her friends in the field. But that's going to be very limiting and, I think, is more likely to lead to poisoned relationships.

Betrayal requires a responsibility or loyalty to be forsaken. In the end, OP's passionate desire for this job did not call one into being where it previously did not exist. OP is allowed to be sad about not getting the job and about not understanding that she was not as intimate with this woman as she thought she was. If her feelings are hurt badly enough, there's no reason why she has to keep associating with this woman. Sometimes that's how feelings work out even when it's no one's fault. But when judging this woman morally, it's important to try to think clearly about the actual standards of conduct that one can reasonably expect. She didn't tell OP she'd changed her mind about applying for a job. Barring the other circumstances discussed that didn't actually apply, I don't think it's fair to decide that this action makes her a bad, untrustworthy, reality-schemer friend.
posted by praemunire at 10:45 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stepping back in to respond to some of the comments by praemunire, Jubey, and others.

At no point did I think I was a shoo in, or otherwise entitled to this job. On the contrary, I got really excited because it seemed like for once, my personal and professional desires were actually aligned. Those in academia will understand how rare it is that a tenure-eligible position opens up in the place you want to live, and with the interdisclipinary resources I'd need to actually have a shot at tenure with my interests. So yes, I got emotionally invested and a part of my pain is the pain of being rejected for something I really wanted.

But the larger part of pain is that someone who I considered a good friend and a support, turned out to have a hidden agenda. Again, I'm not upset by the competition or the fact that this awesome person got an awesome job. In a small field, especially in academia, competition like this among friends and coworkers is common. Ever time I've been in this situation in the past, with other people, we've sat down, discussed things, were genuinely supportive of each other's successes, and everyone stayed friends. This time, I thought we were doing the same thing every time we commiserated over rejections and congratulated each other over a new interview invite, but apparently I totally misread her interest in my experience interviewing at Place A. I marked brookeb as best answer because they seem to have hit the mark on why I felt to viscerally betrayed by this.

Would I have done anything differently if I'd known she was applying and proceeding to final stages? My candidacy and hers were separate things, so probably not much I could have done would have changed this outcome -- at the end of the day it's up to the search committee. I still think I put my best foot forward, and I'm still proud of the fact that the chair told me I'd rocked my job talk. I might have focused my application and interview responses on some of the things I do differently from her, rather than the hot topic we are both working on from different angles. I definitely would not have shared interview specifics and salary negotiation with her. Major lesson learned there. So in some ways, yes, her inability to be open, and my own naïveté, gave her an edge. Again, she's a stellar candidate on her own terms, but apparently not such a good friend as I thought.
posted by basalganglia at 10:50 AM on December 1, 2017 [9 favorites]

You know, I get it. I think there's a lot mixed up in there, but it's not unreasonable to feel that a decent person would have said something to stop your confidences in them about the interview process at the point when they'd applied to the same job.

I can also understand how it would have been a very awkward thing to bring up and that she figured it wasn't worth making a scene about it. Maybe she thought you were sure to get it.

But yeah, you're not wrong to be inwardly writhing at the memory of telling her all about your interview process, and wondering at what point she knew she was in direct competition with you on it. People have said there's nothing you'd have done differently, but obviously you would not have confided in her about it if you'd known you were in competition. At some point she did have that information and withheld it from you, and let you go on confiding in her, and that's ugly.

Still, do not confront her, do not do anything other than congratulate her. Nothing good can come of that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:37 PM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lying is lying. To quote Eleven: Friends. Don't. Lie.

This is overly simplistic. I recently got a job a friend of mine also applied for. It was super uncomfortable. Part of me wishes I had kept quiet during the application process, because she got really insecure, and the application process took forever. In my case, I actually encouraged my friend to apply for the job, because we are in similar career paths and it felt like "full disclosure". It was mental torture and I am not sure I would do it again. After the last interview, I suspected I was going to get the job, and I felt even worse.

I can think of several reasons why your friend could have chosen not to tell you.

Maybe while you're comfortable sharing your excitement, your friend is not.
Maybe she didn't want to jinx it.
Maybe she sensed that her application and interview were strong and the more excited you sounded, the more difficult it was for her to tell you.
Maybe she just felt awkward about it
Maybe she's the non-confrontational type

All of these are completely forgivable and understandable. Your question comes off really intense, so I can totally see your friend being freaked out if you were this enthusiastic about applying.

She gained nothing from "concealing her actions", except perhaps peace of mind and a sense of privacy. She did not take advantage of you.

What's more, you would have gained nothing from knowing she applied. You're unfairly projecting your disappointment on her.
posted by Tarumba at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to chime in, as another person who understands why you feel upset about this. It strikes me as a really strange omission on her part. If she had hesitated to tell you that she applied because she didn't want to make a big deal out of it if nothing came of it, as others have suggested, a campus visit would have been a pretty clear sign that those odds had shifted rather dramatically. As you said, you've gone through this process with other friends in your field. I don't think your expectations were at all unreasonable, based on my own experiences in academic and para-academic job searches.

I don't think that she did anything wrong, strictly speaking. But if you considered your friendship with her to be close enough that you were being mutually forthcoming about your job searches... well, now you've found out (in a really crummy way) that she didn't. So, to answer your question:

Do I talk to her about it? How do I even begin to broach this? Or if not, how do I forgive?

I don't think you have to do any of these things, if you don't want to. You might be surprised at how much you can pull back from this relationship, in your own heart and mind, while maintaining a degree of cordiality that serves you just fine professionally. If my spouse or children valued the time that our families spent together, I might even continue to make brunch plans. But I probably wouldn't socialize one-on-one anymore unless she initiated it, and I wouldn't tell her anything more personal than I'd share with another colleague in my field/friend of the family, since that's the relationship that I'd feel we had now.
posted by Anita Bath at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2017

It would be if it had had any effect on the outcome, or even given the other person an advantage. It didn't.

We don’t know this to be true. OP was in pretty deep. OP may have been more circumspect about how much she was going to ask for or what she was going to say in the interviews had she known they were competing for the same job. If the friend knew enough about her presentation or salary negotiation to undermine her, it absolutely could have mattered. At the very best, friend is a bad communicator. But you actually can’t dismiss the fact that friend obtained information that could be used against OP under false pretenses.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:14 PM on December 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, her behavior was creepy. I work in a very competitive field so I get that friends can apply to the same jobs, but A) She LIED to you about her intentions B) She listened to you discuss interview questions and salary negotiations?!!???!! That's some 48 Laws of Power shit right there. Now that she's shown you who she is there's no use confronting her. Just ice her out or downgrade her to friendly acquaintance, depending on how useful she will be to you in the future. (See how people like her think?)
posted by jessca84 at 9:41 PM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

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