I have a coworker whom I will call "Florence" (not her real name) and we have grown quite close to over a number of years working together. I like Flo a lot, and she is not just a coworker or a work acquaintance - we have become close friends. We socialize outside of work, and speak daily via telephone, or communicate by text messages - often both.
Although we are friends, Flo has some rather irritating habits - one of which is telling me what to do as though she were my boss (she's not). Flo is also a champion nitpicker, and the Grand Poobah of nagging - over time having cultivated both to a rather impressive art form.
No one is perfect, and we all have some inflammatory qualities - including me - but Flo does things which I find distasteful: she is a tattletale, a brown noser to management, and she keeps files on coworkers (I realize now likely me included). She is also consumed with an unattainable concept called "fairness". If she gets special treatment in some way this is fine, but if someone else gets something Flo doesn't it's "not fair". In the past Flo has made a few of our coworkers downright miserable because she felt she had been somehow shortchanged.
Something else I find perplexing: if Flo is upset with something work related and needs to vent I am supportive, whereas if I am upset she plays the devil's advocate card (((teeth gnashing))) instead.
Flo's not speaking to me at the moment because I didn't do something she wanted pertaining to work (her demands conflicted with specific instructions of our supervisor - it does not involve patient care, patient safety, or patient's in any way). Flo spent several days attempting to coerce me into doing what she wanted, then became downright furious when what she wanted didn't happen. Sadly, Flo is holding a grudge - we haven't spoken since.
Arguments don't happen often, but when they do they are whoppers. The same scenario has played out several times in past years, where Flo becomes livid involving some petty infraction on my part, which then becomes blown up out of proportion. When she finally cools off Flo calls me to let me have it - I won't lie, I find many of the things she says in anger very hurtful coming from a supposed friend.
Flo has also done things to tick me off too from time to time during the past 8 years, but I end up blowing it off. I feel that making a federal case out of a trivial squabble would be insular on my part, and definitely not worth the strain it would place on a close friendship I have valued for years (no matter how good it may feel at the time to let it rip). As I get older I have discovered that keeping my mouth shut in such a situation has been a wise move, because after I have had time to calm down I realize that it was not such a big deal after all, and definitely not worth the risk of harming a friendship over. Unfortunately, Flo has absolutely no such qualms about giving me her complete, unvarnished opinion in the same situations.
I know I violated one of the primary rules for happiness at any job: don't become friends with a coworker - and now I am reaping the rewards of my own foolish mistake. But going back in time and changing it now is not an option - forward then ...
I feel like I am not doing a proper job of presenting Flo overall, because she truly has good qualities too (as we all do) and despite some of her repellent behaviors I really do want to maintain our friendship. However, we are equal in job status, therefore allowing her to continue to believe she has the authority to tell me what to do like a supervisor is something that cannot continue. I just don't know how to go about doing so politely. I am genuinely stumped on how to proceed in a positive direction - how does one frame this much needed conversation in a gentle, kindly way without sounding confrontational? Flo has a history of taking great offense to criticism of any kind no matter how carefully worded, and cries easily. I don't want to hurt her feelings, even though God knows she has hurt mine on many occasions.
Has anyone else ever experienced this situation at work, and how did you handle it? Was it successful, or viewed as hostile creating hurt feelings? Is it even possible to do this without creating more conflict? It seems along the same lines as say - telling someone their breath stinks: how is it possible to do without embarrassing that person, or hurting their feelings?