How to Break up With a Toxic Work Friend
Jobs are fun little ecosystems. You spend all your time working and developing complex relationships with everyone from the security guard to your tablemate, but sometimes this fragile work friendship can wane.
Maybe someone stole your favorite LaCroix scent from your office refrigerator, or maybe you’ve figured out it’s better to listen to the fire alarm than your co-worker will complain again about your clueless manager. Whatever the reason, what was once a fruitful rapport is now driving you crazy for eight hours a day, and it’s time to jump off the cliff of friendship. Of course, you can’t stop showing up for work or bursting into tears. You are a heck of an adult diplomat and you can handle it like a pro.
Here’s how to spot when a work relationship is depleting your mental and emotional resources, and how to get out of it.
Tune in to your spider instinct – and test your productivity
When office friendships take a negative turn, change can often be subtle and only get worse over time. In the past, you may have been tied up by Game of Thrones or mutual hatred of the company’s softball league, but suddenly you realize that something has changed. This may sound obvious, but the first step is to pay attention to your own behavior. How do you feel at work? How do you behave before or after interacting with colleagues – full of energy and in a good mood, or grumpy and resentful? Your best friend in the office may be looking out for your best interests, but if your conversations make you feel worse than when you started, that’s a serious red flag.
Likewise, keep track of how your buddy influences your work. Does anyone sneak up on your desk while you’re trying to meet a deadline and chat about how summer never ends? Have you wasted hours “drinking coffee” – usually a euphemism for “chatting” – when do you have to work? Do you spend half your day on a Gchats or Slacks mailing list about incompetent bosses or coworkers? Do you feel like you are reaching your own goals or are you constantly playing catch-up? There is a reason people like to repeat the adage, “You are, on average, of the five people you spend the most time with.” Because this is true.
It’s safe to say that friendship has turned into a problem “if you often complain about this person to other friends, if you find that they take up a lot of airtime in your life, or if you are anxious or afraid to be around them because they there are so many complaining, gossiping, or being negative about them, ”says Leslie Alderman , a psychotherapist based in New York.
Another good question to ask yourself is, “To what extent is this person contributing positively to my life?” Once you have identified the problem, you have several options for how to proceed:
“Downgrade” the relationship
Jobs are so interconnected that you may feel like you are not leaving. Alderman has a solution called downgrading, and it helps tame Slack rants, bitches, or happy hours that go bad. The trick is to get a little busier. “You don’t answer their chat as quickly as you used to, and you kind of slip away,” she says. “People are starting to realize that you are not available.” Basically, it is a slow fading of the workplace that eliminates confrontation and helps to quietly break out of the web of negativity.
Create (and stick to) boundaries
Rules can greatly simplify your interactions. If you usually go to lunch together every day, tell them you need to work or need to clear your head while walking alone. You may feel strange saying this, but after 45 minutes of blissful silence without complaint, the weirdness won’t matter. Or draw lines elsewhere. If Toxic Todd likes to talk about coworkers or mutual friends, or retell old grudges, switch the conversation to something more enjoyable. As reboot Will & Grace. Or politics.
Try not to internalize their feelings.
If you’re absorbing someone else’s stress or negativity, it’s time to create a force field. According to Olderman, their problems are not your problems, so try not to be aware of their actions and not get angry about them. Do you know that guy in the hallway who does his job, skips socializing, and goes home to his wife, kids, or ferret? He might be considered antisocial, but he’s actually a professional and you can bet he doesn’t bring any drama home.
Make a direct address
If your work friend is still not taking the hint, intensify your resentment and explain why. Be firm, but don’t leave any gray areas, and as Alderman points out, “They probably won’t be offended if you just explain,” I feel very overwhelmed at work and I need to focus and chat more. ” much less “. Then you do not need to feel that you are directly criticizing them. ” Try to write a random script to reduce the likelihood that you will get confused and forget what you planned to say. If they don’t respect your new boundaries, it’s okay to continue to casually draw the line, “Sorry, I’m so busy right now,” that can make a big difference.
Downgrading is easier in a larger organization or if you don’t want to maintain a relationship. But if you want to keep friendships outside of work, invest in the conversation, Alderman says, something like, “Look, you’re a great friend, but I can’t talk about your motivations. crazy because it’s too much [to handle], so can we do it more professionally? »Inconvenient? As if. But consider this: 15-minute chat can save you hours of listening to their boredom. If they are really close friends outside of work, you can honestly talk about how unhappy they are and what solutions to their unhappiness.
Rip off the plaster
Whether you ghost or summon them, the trick is to act quickly. If the situation is allowed to escalate, it can lead to passive aggression or, ultimately, to much worse confrontation. (Maybe after a binge after work that got too drunk? I don’t know, this is just a hypothesis …) These interactions create long-term bad vibes that are difficult to get rid of, and the last thing you want is to be afraid to come to the office everyday. A short, albeit awkward, conversation is preferable to an explosion, preceded by weeks or months of simmering resentment on both sides.
Make a new friend
Finally, if you’re still avoiding the situation, Alderman advises thinking about the big picture: This person is taking up time that you can spend with someone more positive and uplifting. Research shows that having a good friend at work makes you more productive, motivated, and happy. One bad egg doesn’t necessarily ruin the whole box. Look around. Maybe this smiling person across the hall who always says good morning could be your new work friend and ally … at least for now.