How to “Unfriend” a Coworker

unfriendDear Heather,

Any suggestions for “unfriending” a co-worker? Or at least taking it down a notch? When I first started my job, “Melanie” and I became fast friends. We were both going through some similar challenges and bonded quickly over daily lunches and the occasional happy hour. But over the past six months, I’ve become her boss and she has made some bad relationship decisions that are beginning to impact her work. She comes into my office and bursts into tears, and I feel like a horrible friend for saying this, but I can’t deal with it! At least not at the office. Any ideas??? I like her. A lot. But she’s over her head with the wrong guy and it is seriously affecting her judgment!


Dear Sandy,

Yep. That’s a tough one: Will you be a consistent boss or an unconditional friend? Can you be both?

Probably not. One relationship will have to take the lead here, and it will probably need to be the one that supplies you with electricity and Greek yogurt. While it’s certainly possible to maintain a friendship with Melanie, it probably won’t resemble the original model wherein you dished dirt and dreams and dating dilemmas on your lunch hour. A work-based friendship will require some adjustments when hit with hierarchical changes. It isn’t clear if you tried to address this when you leapfrogged to the boss seat, but the fact that Melanie is bursting into tears in your office tells me that your current boundaries are at least ineffective.

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Heather Dugan
Heather Dugan
Heather Dugan is a writer/advice columnist/author and voiceover/video talent who most frequently covers business, relationship, fitness and travel topics. A dedicated traveler and life-balance advocate, Heather is also a savvy speaker and spokesperson, a skilled communicator who can educate and inspire with a twist of humor. Find out more about Heather here.