Conflict with friend/coworker

  1. 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?
    Last edit by Axgrinder on Jan 8
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    About Axgrinder, RN

    Joined: Dec '13; Posts: 253; Likes: 694

    45 Comments

  3. by   Davey Do
    "Familiarity breeds contempt". Extensive knowledge of or close association with someone leads to a loss of respect for them.

    I love some of my coworkers, especially my work wife Eleanor and my brother in arms Rooty Payne who I've known for 15 and 13 years respectively. But I have virtually no personal contact with them.

    I've messed up work relationships in the past and I'm not going to loose the closeness and camaraderie I have with them.

    Allow this relationship to be a lesson which proves the proverb!

    The best to, Axgrinder.
  4. by   JBudd
    You need to set some limits. If you are talking and texting daily, be firm that you will not discuss anything about work when not at work. Every text you get about something work related, just reply "am off the clock!" and refuse to engage.

    Stand up for yourself the next time she nitpicks or tries to get bossy, with "hey we're friends and peers, leave that to management please", and don't engage beyond that.

    If she values the friendship, she'll start to respond; if she is only wanting to control everything, let her go. Hurt feelings? Isn't she hurting yours? Tell her so. "Hey, when you talk to me like that, it makes me feel _______ (disrespected, put down, incompetent), and I don't think you mean to come across like that do you?". Throw the ball back in her court.

    She isn't talking to you right now? Sounds like a good idea, let things cool off, and let her make the first move to reestablishing a friendship. If she does, tell her the above. If she doesn't, then she wasn't much of a friend, she was someone who wanted a flunky follower.
  5. by   AJJKRN
    I must say JBudd, I had to google flunky follower! ;-)
  6. by   macawake
    Quote from Axgrinder
    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.
    After reading your post I was left wondering why on earth anyone would want to have Flo as a friend, so no, I guess you haven't managed to convince me that she has enough positive qualities to make up for that very long list of negative personality traits and behavior.

    Quote from Axgrinder
    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.
    I believe that you actually can be friends with a coworker, so I don't think that it's necessarily a "foolish mistake" to become friends with someone at work. I've become good friends with a physician at work and for about four years now, we've had regular dinners and gone on a couple of vacations together since we both share a passion for diving. However that friendship is entirely conflict-free and there is nothing that can have a negative effect in the workplace. But your coworker friend sounds really high maintenance and from what you've described in your post the caring and respect for the other person, sounds entirely one-way. You seem to be working hard to keep this friendship friction free, whereas if I'm honest your friend displays so many unappealing traits it makes me think of at least one personality disorder. So while I don't think you committed a cardinal sin by befriending someone at work, I do wonder if this particular friendship is worth the price you have to pay. Only you can decide that though.

    Honestly Axgrinder (love your username by the way ) she nitpicks and nags, is a brown nosing tattletale who keeps files on coworkers (seriously!?), says hurtful things to you, is thin-skinned, holds grudges and bosses you around... Becomes livid about some small infraction and blows things out of proportion and to top it all off, gives you the silent treatment when she's unhappy with you. She also seems to display a sense of entitlement and think she deserves special treatment (the fairness thing). Oh, and she seems unwilling or unable to empathize with your feelings, wishes and needs. As i said, she would have to have a boatload of excellent qualities to counterbalance that **** list of unattractive behavior.

    Quote from Axgrinder
    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.
    I don't think you can have this conversation with her without it escalating into some type of conflict. If I understand your post correctly, the two of you have been friends for eight years and during that time she has been allowed to behave the way she has without any consequences or pushback from you. She is used to being able to behave however she wants and nothing in what you've described about her behavioral patterns makes me think that she willl respond positively if you try to have this conversation with her. I think you need to have it though, it's in my opinion long overdue. We teach people how to treat us and I think you need to explain to her how you expect a friend to treat you; that is with respect.


    Quote from Axgrinder
    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.
    Quote from Axgrinder
    how is it possible to do without embarrassing that person, or hurting their feelings?
    I subscribe to your approach of keeping my mouth shut about minor things instead of creating a lot of drama over something that usually turns out to not being a big deal. But, and it's a big but, I expect that approach to be reciprocated by those I consider friends. I guess I don't understand why you are putting forth such an effort when it doesn't seem like your friend worries about hurting your feelings. I think you need to have a direct and honest conversation with her and not worry about it hurting her feelings. It most likely will, but if you want this friendship to continue I think you need to get the "power balance" on a more even keel. She needs to start showing concern for your feelings and respect you, just as you do for her. You deserve it but given her personality, I think you will have to spell it out for her in very clear language.


    Best wishes!
  7. by   NurseCard
    I have to agree with macawake. This person really honestly does
    not seem worth all of the drama, headache, heartache.

    After reading your post, I still wanted to give "Flo" the benefit of
    the doubt, that in spite of everything you have written here, she
    is overall a decent person and friend. But wow.. there's a LOT of
    bad stuff here.

    I've had friends that I've just had to let go of because they
    were toxic to me. They produced unnecessary drama in my
    life, the friendship felt one sided... "I've done everything for
    you, you've done nothing for me" became a theme song...

    You just don't sound happy in this friendship at all. You
    really need to ask yourself if it is truly worth keeping, and
    if so why.

    Good luck. ((axe))
  8. by   traumaRUs
    Moved to Pt/Colleague Relations
  9. by   rnsrgr8t
    I think you are more of a friend to Flo than she is to you. Sounds like she is only "friends" with you because she feels it benefits her on the work side. when things do not go her way, she definitely does NOT treat you like a friend. She seems very toxic. If she is not speaking to you, leave her be and I would not engage with her outside of work for now. If she asks you why you have been distant, you can simply say that she has not seemed happy with you as a friend and you need to focus on work for now, not a friendship outside of work. She is really NOT being a friend to you. She seems to be manipulating you, a lot.
  10. by   meanmaryjean
    I guess the first thing you need to settle is- Are you in a better place now that she is not speaking to you?
  11. by   Axgrinder
    Quote from meanmaryjean
    I guess the first thing you need to settle is- Are you in a better place now that she is not speaking to you?

    I truly thank everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts. This has created more stress in my life than is healthy for the past few days alone - never mind the past months and years when there wasn't even a high level ongoing conflict raging.

    Truthfully, the things you all have said have been rolling around in my head for a while now. I guess with any unhealthy relationship there is also difficulty extricating one's self from it intact when things go sour. I am feeling a variety of emotions at the moment, and relief is definitely one of them.

    On the other hand, Flo is also a dangerous adversary to have (she has gotten more than one coworker in dutch with management over the years due to her tattling, and simpering brown nosing skills) and this worries me. Flo loves gossip, and I have to wonder how she will spin this work conflict to our supervisor?

    This whole argument is ridiculous, and I'm actually stunned that such a large fuss was created over something so small and frankly childish. Flo didn't like the bosses decision about something I was supposed to do, and Flo decided since I did what our supervisor told me to do - not what Flo wanted - that I am to blame. It's easier to be angry with me than the boss. But if she really felt that strongly about it she could have called our supervisor herself to complain about her managerial decision.

    It seems there are some people who aren't happy without conflict, and Flo is one of them.
  12. by   Axgrinder
    Quote from Davey Do
    "Familiarity breeds contempt". Extensive knowledge of or close association with someone leads to a loss of respect for them.

    I love some of my coworkers, especially my work wife Eleanor and my brother in arms Rooty Payne who I've known for 15 and 13 years respectively. But I have virtually no personal contact with them.

    I've messed up work relationships in the past and I'm not going to loose the closeness and camaraderie I have with them.

    Allow this relationship to be a lesson which proves the proverb!

    The best to, Axgrinder.

    I bet a Davey Do cartoon would make me feel better
  13. by   KelRN215
    If she keeps files on coworkers and tattles to management, I'd assume she's their spy and I'd steer clear of her.
  14. by   Ruby Vee
    Honestly, it does not sound as tho Flo is really YOUR friend, although it does sound as if you are HER friend. It's long past time to have a straightforward conversation with her. You can only tell her how you feel; it's not up to you to manage Flo's feelings. Your responsibility is to take care of YOU; so you say what you have to say knowing that it may well be the end of the friendship. If it is, it doesn't sound as though you're losing much.

    By the way, Flo's real name isn't Kelly, is it?

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