when should I tell my friend I applied for a job she wants?

A reader writes:

I made a very unlikely friend at work about four years ago — a coworker who got a job instead of me. She and I have similar responsibilities but in different parts of the organization. We bonded over the work we have in common and have gotten very close.

Over the years, she has shared with me her frustrations with her boss (many founded, some not) and her desire to achieve a specific role/title within state government (which happens to be the one her prior boss held). She’s applied so many dozens of times and keeps falling into the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” pattern.

Recently, said boss left the organization unexpectedly, and given the rarity of positions at that level of management, the overlap of my relevant skills with the role, and my own personal interest, I applied for the job. Obviously, she did too. This is her dream job.

At what point is it appropriate/best to disclose to her that I applied? She’s a good friend, and I don’t want her to feel hurt and betrayed. Too soon, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Too late, and she’ll feel like I was hiding something. This would make me her manager if I get the job. Do I lose either way here?

I’d share it early on to avoid greater awkwardness later.

The argument for waiting, of course, is that maybe you won’t get offered the position or even interviewed, and then you can just avoid the conversation altogether. If it’s going to upset her, why open that up if later turns out you didn’t need to?

But the argument for telling her now is that if you wait, she’s likely to feel you deliberately left her in the dark. It sounds like she talks pretty openly with you about her career aspirations and she’s likely to keep you updated throughout the process — telling you if she gets an interview, if she gets rejected, etc. If she later finds out that you were competing with her all along and didn’t say anything during her updates, she’s likely to feel a bit deceived. That’s especially true if she shares anything with you about the process that she wouldn’t have shared if she’d realized you were her competition (like interview questions).

And of course, you’re not doing anything wrong by applying for a job she also wants. You’re allowed to have career goals that overlap with hers — and when you work in the same place as a friend, that’s more likely to happen. People don’t get to call “dibs” on jobs.

But the fact that this is her dream job does make it harder, especially if feels like you have lots of options for advancing that you’d be happy with while this is her primary one. If you get the job over her in that context, she may end up feeling like you “blocked” her from something she really wanted, without wanting it as much as she did. Obviously, employers shouldn’t hire based on who wants it most, but in a friendship context that dynamic can loom large.

All of that means that your chances of preserving the friendship go up if she feels you navigated this as fairly as you could — meaning letting her know early on. Even if she’s mature and rational about it and recognizes that you’re as entitled to apply for the job as she is, she still may have Feelings about it that she needs to process. It’s better for her to do that in response to you being up-front from the beginning than when hearing about it for the first time if you get the job and become her manager.

(By the way, keep in mind that if you get the job and become her boss, that’s going to be a tricky dynamic to navigate too. You won’t be able to be friends with her in the same way and she might be feeling resentful of you — each of which is challenging on its own. Those aren’t reasons not to do it, but go into the application process with your eyes open about it.)

{ 173 comments… read them below }

  1. voyager1*

    Are you sure she has applied for it?

    I do have to wonder if someone had applied for a job and not gotten it, what is going on with that? Had she been given any feedback to help her move up or be more promotable?

    But I agree with AAM, I would tell her as soon as you can. And lastly you can’t control her reaction.

    1. Amber E*

      OP here. I know she has, and will continue to despite any rejections. I don’t think she has received useful feedback from any of the other times she has applied for this role or comparable roles at other agencies. The feedback she received from her last boss (whose job is the current one opened up) was very direct. Boss simply doesn’t believe my friend has the appropriate interpersonal skills and competencies to be successful, but the friend is writing off that feedback from someone she felt was incompetent anyway.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Ahhhh…that’s tough. Since boss’s direct feedback is the only direct feedback she’s received – and she already doesn’t respect the boss’s opinion – she has nothing to really prove to her that the boss’s opinion is in fact (probably) the most likely reason she hasn’t been able to advance into the role of her dreams. If your friend had the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence your boss thinks she lacks, she would have likely figured this out herself and thought, “Gee – perhaps boss’s feedback has some merit.”

        Since your friend is very tunnel visioned when it comes to this position, I think you should rip the Bandaid off and tell her you applied. You can also explain to her why you applied and what skills you have that you believe align with the role – maybe when you start pointing out the soft skills, she’ll realize that’s where she’s coming up short.

        1. PinaColada*

          Agreed, great advice on just letting her know ASAP.

          However; I would not say: do NOT start listing the skills required in hopes that she will realize where she falls short. No need to create that sort of dynamic. “I think you’d be great in this position. I realized it’s something I’d love to be considered for, as well (for x,y,z reasons)” is going to come across a lot better than trying to make her see why you are more qualified.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I realized it’s something I’d love to be considered for, as well (for x,y,z reasons)”

            This is what I meant when I said the OP could list the skillset needed for the job as to why it appealed to her (OP) to apply in the first place.

      2. JSPA*

        That’s a stroke of luck.

        Assuming you think she’s decent, you have a script that writes itself.

        “I hope you get the job, despite OldBoss consistently underselling you. If not, I hope I get the job. We may not be able to be close pals, but at least I’ll be a lot fairer than OldBoss was. With any luck, in a couple of years, we’ll both be moving up the ranks the way we both should be. And if neither of us gets it, and you get another idiot boss, at least we’ll both know that we tried to fix the problem.”

        Now, if you already know that she’s a nice person but has bad people skills, and you get the job, you’ll need to revisit this, At that point, you talk about drilling down to the few issues that need to be burnished, so they don’t detract from her excellence. So long as you can always combine, “I appreciate the heck out of you” with “this is a thing to alter, for your sake and mine,” this can work.

        1. Amaranth*

          I wouldn’t lean on how wrong OldBoss was unless OP has worked with her friend and knows for certain his opinion was truly unsupported. Gripe sessions tend to paint the complainer in the best light, and she could get the job and find out her friend is actually difficult to manage. Regardless, if she has gone on about how unfair it would be if friend doesn’t get the job, it sets up a dynamic of ‘see, even you agree I was the better choice’ and a terrible working dynamic.

      3. O*

        I applied for the same job as a good friend once. It was my dream job, and her previous position (she was on a contract that ended, took a break from working, and then the organization found money to continue the position). At first, I was upset to hear that my very skilled and competent friend would be in competition with me. She was upfront about her own feelings and told me that she was simultaneously applying for another job that she felt more excited about. She didn’t feel the same sense of envy and low-key animosity that I felt towards her, and suggested that we could help each other throughout the application process. If one of us was going to come out on top as the best candidate, then that person would shine whether the two of us were building each other up, or tearing each other down. She helped me write my cover letter, which was a mess because I was so overtaken with nerves that I found it difficult to express how much I wanted this position. We made a plan: if we both got interviews, she would schedule hers before mine and pass along the questions in advance. In the end, she got an interview and I didn’t, and some new guy ended up getting the job. Overall, competing with my friend was a good experience, but it was because my friend has such good interpersonal skills and was able to see beyond a dominance-mindset. Her extraordinary empathy, compassion, and willingness to be transparent is what made the difference for me.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m very confused. She has applied for this specific position multiple times and been rejected but it’s still her dream job?

    1. Amber E*

      OP here. She has applied for this position, both at our agency and at sister agencies, multiple times and been rejected. To be honest, she has all of the correct technical skills and training and background, but struggles with emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. The position involves sensitive management of political capital, and her very direct conversation style has the tendancy to come across as overly aggressive and insensitive. She is convinced that the technical skills and training should be the only thing that matters and that she can force results through anything else.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oooof. So there’s an additional layer in there.

        Be prepared for this to end the friendship. I hate saying that, but given the fact that you say she struggles with emotional intelligence? This is not going to end well.

        1. Amber E*

          I would be really upset if it came down to that, but I know you are right. I need to prepare for the worst case scenario there in case it happens.

          1. Dan*

            Given all of this, I think you should say nothing now and prepare to lose your friend if you get and accept the job. Telling her now is just going to set her off — she has to know that the job is a “stretch goal” for her, and would likely perceive other applicants as “threats.” Somebody with higher EQ would “get it”, but lower ones likely won’t.

            If you’d rather keep the friend, don’t apply/accept the job.

              1. Dan*

                Better for who/what and under what circumstances? If OP doesn’t get the job, then she’s upset the apple cart for nothing. And generally speaking, it’s almost always unlikely that any given applicant will be selected for a job. Since the most likely outcome is “applicant not selected”, I wouldn’t take actions now that have a negative effect if I’m not selected.

            1. Amber E*

              Exactly. If it turns out the way I hope, I would really like to believe that we could find a way to continue to work together. There is so much available to coach on, and I genuinely want her to find a role that makes her happy.

              1. S.A.*

                Quite honestly, as someone with (I’d like to think) at least average levels of intelligence, I would not want to work with you anymore. I would feel patronized by you “coaching” me (especially if you had not offered any of this coaching prior to applying for a role I wanted).

                1. biobotb*

                  But unless Amber E. was the coworker’s boss, it wasn’t her place to give her job coaching. If she becomes the boss, then it would be part of her job to coach her reports.

                2. Myrin*

                  OP says below that she actually did attempt some friendly coaching – or rather what sounds like simple “tips” in a “heads up, people reacted negatively to your behaviour here” kind of way to me – when the two of them were working on projects together.

                3. Me*

                  It’s inappropriate to “coach” someone who is a coworker. That’s a bosses job. It’s not patronizing it’s quite literally a supervisors job to coach their employees.

                4. Diahann Carroll*

                  But coaching employees is a part of a manager’s job. It’s not patronizing to coach someone who clearly struggles with something that’s holding her back in the workforce when that’s literally your job. It’s currently not OP’s job to do job coaching with a peer – and frankly, that would be patronizing if she tried. Should OP just tell her friend she’s lacking EQ and probably won’t ever move up because of it? I would, but some people don’t want to have those kinds of conversations with friends.

                5. JB (not in Houston)*

                  But if you do need coaching, and it’s a boss’s job to provide that coaching, why would you feel patronized by it? Is it that someone who starts out as a peer or friend can’t possibly have any skills or ability above yours to make them qualified to coach you? I totally get why it would feel awkward–I would feel pretty uncomfortable in that situation–but I don’t get why it’s patronizing.

                6. LQ*

                  What? You would feel patronized by your boss coaching you (no scare quotes, that’s your boss’s actual job) but NOT a coworker/friend coaching you?

                  If OP got this job it would be their actual job to coach this person, so I’m not sure why you are thinking this is patronizing and deserving of scare quotes?

                7. S.A.*

                  Gah I have like five responses responding to something I did NOT say, so let me clear this up.

                  Yes, a boss is meant to coach employees. But he boss dynamic would be too weird for me w/ a friend, especially if I’d desperately wanted this job. If my friend tried, *even in the role of boss*, it would feel patronizing.

                  And generally, I don’t want advice even from friends unless I explicitly ask for it. Friend ≠ life coach

                8. Lalaroo*

                  It is wild to me that so many people are disagreeing with you and acting like you said something bonkers. I 100% agree with you, S.A., this would end any friendship for me (and I have high levels of EQ).

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I feel like you are being incredibly naive here. Presumably this is your first time applying for this particular role and if you get it on the first try, I have no doubt that she is going to be very bitter, especially since you’ll be her direct supervisor.

                You sound like a lovely and caring person. Maybe I’m just too cynical, but based on the things you’ve shared so far, I do not see her graciously accepting your coaching.

                1. Susie Q*

                  “Maybe I’m just too cynical, but based on the things you’ve shared so far, I do not see her graciously accepting your coaching.”

                  I agree with this 100000%. She will not take this lying down and could very easily turn into a very difficult employee.

                2. Amber E*

                  Excessive optimism is my MO.

                  All joking aside, I value your perspective and unfortunately for me, I agree that there are very real chances our personal AND professional relationships could wind up in toilet by the end of this.

                  I don’t think I can stop myself from hoping for a positive outcome, but I can prepare myself to not be surprised or blindsided by a less-than-storybook ending.

                3. LunaLena*

                  Yeah, I agree that Amber E. should be prepared for this. This happened to one of my bosses – at her OldJob, she (an outsider) got the job over someone who was already in the department. That person was very bitter about it and gave her an extremely hard time – so much so that, years later, when she applied to be the supervisor of my department, she specifically asked at the interview if there were any internal applicants she would be directly supervising because she didn’t want to go through that again.

                  Fortunately the department mostly consisted of me (completely unambitious and uninterested in leadership roles) and an extremely easygoing part-timer, so there was zero conflict of that sort.

              3. PollyQ*

                Given that you’d have to work with her, I think it can only help if you’re honest & transparent from the start. She’s likely to resent you if you get the job & become her boss regardless, but having it be a surprise would only make it worse.

          2. Smithy*

            With all of that in mind, telling her now really is the best thing. She can be mad and upset around “calling dibs” on the role – but she’ll never be able to say that it was hidden from her or that you perhaps sabotaged her efforts.

            1. Umiel12*

              I tend to agree. I personally wouldn’t normally tell someone until I had an interview scheduled, but given that she is regularly confiding in you about her application process, I do think it will come across as you being manipulative if you keep this from her. Go ahead and tell her now.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, Detective Amy is right – that’s an additional layer.

          As for your main question I have nothing to add to Alison’s advice. But maybe there’s something about experience with the “being promoted to be a friend’s boss” bit.

          I was once promoted to be a friend’s line manager. It was also an unexpected friendship – new job which I joined after the company had changed hands traumatically and many techies left. Only one left in the team, holding the fort single-handedly (client facing tech support engineer). We discovered we went to the same school in a completely different country (different from BOTH countries we were in, UK and Ireland) with him being a few years ahead of me. We sortof became instant friends – of the go to goth festivals together and hang out in LGBT+ spaces and pour our hearts out friends. And after 6 months, with the team grown to 4, I get made the team lead. It was my first experience with direct reports, too. My managing director (my boss’s boss) of the European office called me into the office and addressed the obvious head-on: “You’re going to have to manage a friend. This is possible.” And proceeded to give me advice that boiled down to: Be very clear in your head when you talk with B as a friend and when you talk with B as his line manager. Separate the two as much as possible.

          Of course this takes two – if your friend is too resentful, and the resentment is in part based on a miscalculation of what is needed to succeed in the job she wants, you’ll have to at a minimum invest a lot of care in the friendship to have any chance it survives. In our case, B was probably mildly annoyed about me being chosen over him, but it also made sense that the lead would be in the main office (where I was). Plus, he never wanted to deal with the people-management side of management. I made sure to lean on his seniority and greater experience in the job. I also was glad about his frankness about stuff I was getting wrong (he told me the team was unhappy with my lack of discipline starting team meetings on time, and I corrected that immediately) … and occasionally what I was getting right. In the greater scheme, he probably overstepped his privilege *mildly*, but not in a way that brought him advantages over other team members but rather to encourage our team to work better, so we navigated the waters ok. There were some rough spots when I got stressed out and we were all feeling pressure, but overall I think of my time there as a job well done and B and I are still friends.

          1. allathian*

            Thanks for telling your story, it’s great. And it also goes to show that when a report and manager are friendly, it also makes giving feedback to the supervisor easier. In your case, starting meetings late was something that annoyed your reports and could be easily corrected once you learned how they felt, and that’s the ideal. Reports should be able to tell their bosses honestly when they’re unhappy about something the boss does, but all too often this isn’t the case. That said, the boss may decide to ignore the feedback from their reports as is their right, but at least they’ll know why the reports are unhappy. (It’s also a part of a manager’s job to be able to make decisions they know will make their reports unhappy, but that’s not the case here.)

        3. Former Retail Manager*

          I agree with Detective Amy…I fear this may be the end, regardless of whether either of you get the job. If she struggles with the emotional intelligence & interpersonal skills, I can see her considering your mere application as an affront to her, considering that you know how much she wants the job. I hope it doesn’t end up that way, but it’s a definite strong possibility.

        4. TardyTardis*

          Of course, there’s a good chance the job goes to a guy with a very direct style, for whom that is not a disqualifier. But hey, that never happens, right?

      2. Important Moi*

        I know someone like this. I have tried as colleague (and friend – because we are friends) to convey that they come across as overly aggressive and insensitive. I have tried to convince them of the value of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to no avail. They are convinced technical skills and training should be the only thing that matters. They remain constantly disappointed and irritated that very little goes their way.

        Nobody wants to work with a prick.

        1. Umiel12*

          I knew someone like this one time. She applied over and over, but she kept getting turned down. Everyone knew why she was getting turned down, but none of her interviewers would ever give her real feedback, not that I think it would have mattered.

          I remember having a series of rejections at one point, and I really started to wonder if I was in the same boat. I actually wound up sharing this with the hiring manager and asking her if there was something about me that everyone else knew, but that no one would tell me. I knew her well enough to do this, but she stated that in this case the person she hired had more recent experience in the subject matter than I did. I think she was telling me the truth, but I did find out years later that I had offended the person I mentioned above, and that she was actively blocking me getting promotions. It sucked to have my suspicions confirmed, but it especially sucked to find out that someone was doing to me what had been done to her.

        2. Ellen*

          Why are you name calling this nameless person that you don’t even know? What is wrong with you?

          Of course, the irony is that you say these people are “pricks” because they are overly aggressive & sensitive… when you clearly also fall into those buckets.

          All you have to go on is a letter from OP, who is DIRECTLY COMPETING with this person for a job they both want. It might be fair to assume OP’s perspective is a bit biased.

          And OP is her friend’s co-worker, not her manager, so OP herself is making some assumptions.

          This place has really gone to the pits, lately, and responses like yours are one of the reasons why.

      3. RC Rascal*

        I’m late to the board today so not sure if Amber E will see this comment.

        I was in this exact situation several years ago, only it was with a volunteer organization and I became the insensitive friend’s volunteer manager. I knew there were people in the organization who didn’t like Friend, and was aware Friend did have some deficiencies in emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. However, I didn’t see it as that serious until I managed her. In addition to emotional intelligence and interpersonal skill deficiencies she also had serious problems with authority and was insubordinate. It was the kind of thing only apparent to a manager and not to a friend/coworkers.

        I do agree with HR Bee’s analysis in general although in this situation there may be more going on. You mentioned your friend doesn’t respect her departing manager, and that combined with her stated deficiencies makes me think there may also be an issue with authority.

    2. Amber E*

      OP here. She has applied for this position, both at our agency and at sister agencies, multiple times and been rejected. To be honest, she has all of the correct technical skills and training and background, but struggles with emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. The position involves sensitive management of political capital, and her very direct conversation style has the tendancy to come across as overly aggressive and insensitive. She is convinced that the technical skills and training should be the only thing that matters and that she can force results through anything else.

      1. HR Bee*

        A direct conversation style by a woman being described as overly aggressive and insensitive always throws up red flags for me. Is she really being aggressive or is it just perceived that way because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical “meek, kind, subservient, accommodating” woman profile?

        I’m aware that this is slightly off-topic for the question. I definitely agree with Alison for how to handle telling your friend/coworker.

        1. Amber E*

          Knowing the parties involved, I think it is possibly a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. Certainly, her style can be hard to flex to. We didn’t get along as colleagues, let alone friends, when she first started, but I adapted. But when I’ve tried to coach her as a friend (when we work on projects jointly) that she’s not taking time to read the people in the room, and that she charges directly toward a list of demands to check things off her list, she falls back on “just” being direct as a communicator and doesn’t value soft skills like building trust or finding common values to improve negotiation results.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This sounds like my mom. She’s not aggressive “for a woman”; she’s just aggressive.

            I wish I could give you some advice on handling it but it’s been 43 years and I haven’t made a dent.

          2. CommanderBanana*

            I think the assessment that she’s not the right fit for the job is accurate, then, just as it would be if she was missing a critical technical skill that she couldn’t or wouldn’t acquire.

          3. Rose*

            This might be a really unpopular opinion but I just wouldn’t apply unless you think you’d be able to fire your friend.

            It sounds like she would be difficult to manage since she’ll undoubtedly be upset she didn’t get the role, hurt it was you, and you had to do some adjusting to work with her at all. I’ve managed someone who had applied for the role I took and it was incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant. She was very direct and could be sweet or abrasive depending on what was going on, but she also undermined me in 100 ways that were all so minuscule any one of them seemed petty to even bring up. Also, department had major issues and any process change I introduced she’d adhere to for a week or two before going back to the original way and claiming it was somehow better, when we always had very real reasons for change. She had been in the department for ten years and I thought I couldn’t function without her, but when she quit my life got 100x easier.

            It sounds like she and your friend might be kind of similar and it was just a crappy position to be in. In retrospect I would have PIPed and fired her but doing that with a friend would suck.

          4. allathian*

            I’m wondering what value you see in her as a friend? She sounds like an awful coworker and completely out of touch with her skill set. She has an obsession with getting the job you’re both applying for. Someone should give her a come-to-Jesus talk and tell it straight that she doesn’t have the soft skills that the job needs and that she’ll never get hired for that job so she might as well stop trying.

            I’m not saying you should be the one to say it, unless and until you become her manager. After that, be prepared to manage her out. It will mean the end of your friendship, though.

          5. Grapey*

            “but I adapted”

            Ah, changing yourself to be more accommodating to people sounds like a wonderful skill for client facing roles, but this doesn’t work for mutually respectful personal relationships.

        2. MK*

          I find this rationale a different side of the same coin, frankly. It’s like you find it hard to believe a woman lacks emotional intelligence, because all women are good with people, right?

          1. pcake*

            Many men I’ve worked with have good people skills; it takes that to be a good manager. I’ve worked with women and men who have the emotional intelligence of a peanut and often offended everyone they worked with. One phrase I heard a lot towards the bluntest of them was “brutal honesty”, not a good way to get people to listen to you or want to work with you.

          2. LTL*

            What? Pointing out a very real double standard doesn’t mean HR Bee thinks women can never lack emotional intelligence.

            1. HR Bee*

              Right. I’m definitely not trying to say that women can’t lack emotional intelligence. Obviously, they can and do. I just think it’s relevant to bring up the very real issue that strong, confident women are often perceived as aggressive or too [insert adjective]. It is most definitely red flag language that should cause you (general you, not specifically you) to pause and reflect. Especially if the OP ends up getting the job and therefore managing this coworker/friend, she needs to be able to step back and determine which that is.

              I see up above, OP mentioned that it seems to be a little of both and that’s good information to have to plan how to move forward and coach if she becomes the coworkers boss.

              1. roundround*

                But the reality is that you have to conform, unless you feel like being a trail blazer or martyr.

                You can’t just go, oh a double standard exists so I won’t coach this woman. The fact is her co workers will have expectations for how she should communicate as a woman and she’s not meeting them, causing discord.

                I’m a direct person. I’ve had the ‘tone’ conversation. I believe as a man it may be more acceptable. But I’m not a man am I. And I have to accept the ground as I find it. People expect me to be softer so I have to try. I’m not prepared to be a martyr for the cause of double standards and throw my work away by insisting I can be direct because a man can.

                Sometimes you just have to suck it up. Like having to wear a bit of light make up so no one asks if you’re ill in some industries. None of this is fair or right but you can’t just advise people to throw their careers under the bus and be martyrs. Some of us just want a pay check and the advice to conform so you keep getting paid and advancing is reasonable.

            2. Rose*

              Thank you. All she did was point out that the double standard exists. Nothing in the comment implied all women have high EQ.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Gov’t worker here.

      I can’t say for certain from the letter (OP may clarify it differently), but my guess is that she’s applied for this title/role a number of times, either in different offices within the same agency, or in a different agency altogether. Now the role has come up where she’s actually a direct line candidate, which likely was her preference all along.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Amber, we were typing at the same time, so it sounds like that is exactly the case! And you confirmed what I thought in context. Here’s the thing: she might not get this one, either, regardless if you apply, and it sounds like your roles are similar enough that you are always (or frequently) going to be eligible for the same types of promotions as her. You should be honest, but you should not hold yourself back, either.

        1. Amber E*

          Nailed it! And thank you for the input as well. You’re right, we met applying for the job she holds now (and she got it, not me.)

  3. Important Moi*

    The difference between nice and kind. It’s nice not to want to have awkwardness. It’s kind to tell her truth.

    1. Smithy*

      I work on a team that is predominantly women, and unfortunately has very often valued “niceness” over other values. Often when it comes to open vacancies, it will be “understood” that the roll is meant for one person and therefore other potentially interested applicants – or even just other staff interested in progressing eventually – don’t apply. It’s a horrific practice that I’ve tried to influence changing as much as my capital allows, but it’s been a hard boulder to move. That there are jobs “meant” or “saved” for people, and therefore other staff don’t work on their resumes, applications, and interviewing.

      If this role is like “Llama Grooming Communications Director” – then as a professional friend/contact being open about both having that ambition should not be friendship ending.

      1. Important Moi*

        I am learning to be comfortable with being labeled “mean” when in actuality I am being kind. You are correct, lots of women value being “nice.”

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I’ve applied for jobs that were reserved for someone else without knowing. I would MUCH rather know it was reserved for someone than bother with applying and getting my hopes up. It’s humiliating to find out that half the office knew this and you didn’t.

    2. Academic Anonymous*

      Very much this. A couple years ago, a friend and I were both on the academic job market at the same time. (This happens a lot if you want to have friends as an academic.) I had a very clear front-runner in my head, a place we had both previously trained and I wanted to go back to, she said she didn’t (due to the lack of opportunities for her husband’s career in that town).

      Long story short, she applied anyway, didn’t mention it to me, and got an offer about a month after my campus visit. I was devastated. We don’t talk much any more.

      I do think our friendship could have been saved if she’d been upfront that she changed her mind about applying. With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think she did it out of malice, but having been in your friend’s shoes, OP, please please tell her sooner rather than later.

  4. Amber E*

    Alison, thank you so much! I appreciate this input, and I think you validated my gut feelings for the best way to handle this. (OP here)

    There is time before this job posting closes, but I will make some time to talk with her before that happens so that we can have it out in the open.

    1. The New Normal*

      I’ll be honest: I think you’ve lost this friendship and could potentially cause yourself some real grief.

      If you do get this job, not only would you suddenly be managing your friend, but you would also have blocked her from getting her dream job AND blocked her from moving up in the organization. (Not that you actually did that, but that’s how it would appear to her.) I have no doubts she would take this personally, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she leaves the organization because of it. If she doesn’t leave, I don’t know how you could effectively manage her. You know how she complained about her previous boss and you have inside knowledge of her actions. It’s not going to look good. I suspect it will not be the right fit for you.

      1. Rainy*

        I assume that the job is not 100% FTE Managing This Person, and presumably Amber E is at least a decent fit for everything that isn’t Managing This Person, or she wouldn’t be applying.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I feel the same. This lady sounds like (a) she will never be able to get the job, (b) will never be easy to deal with, and (c) will most likely throw shit fits at you even if you don’t get the job. It’s the job or the friendship here.

        I wouldn’t tell her unless I got an interview, personally. But once she finds out, it’s over.

      3. Brightwanderer*

        Yes, LW, I feel like you’ve lobbed a grenade here on both a personal and professional level, and maybe done it without fully realising that’s what you were doing. Which is not to say you shouldn’t have applied for the job, but it would have perhaps been better to do it with your eyes wide open!

        So, on a personal level: whenever you tell her about this, I expect she is going to be furious, betrayed, and resentful. The longer you wait, the worse it will be, especially if you get the job, because she’ll see it as going behind her back. Ideally, having decided to walk into this particular minefield, you would have told her that you planned to apply before even doing it, to give yourself the maximum moral high ground (though it would be unlikely to reduce her bitterness tbh). I would not expect to keep her as a friend, full stop.

        On a professional level: if you get the job and end up managing her, you are likely to have a rough time of it. I can’t see this person, as described, being able to swallow her resentment or not take it personally. The fact that you won’t just be “stealing” a role she wanted, but moving into a position of direct authority over her, will make it much worse. You may have to discipline or fire her.

        My personal take on this: if I were in your position and the role was the best next move for me, I would probably still have applied, I just would have also assumed I’d lose the friendship and that managing her would be a nightmare if I got the role, and factored that into the decision. If it still was the best move, I’d grit my teeth and be prepared for rough seas – which is what I think you should do. Good luck!

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      Good luck, with both the job and the tough conversation!

      I would just lay it out the way you did here in your letter. Tell her you know this is a big deal for her, but at the the same time you also know these opportunities are rather rare. You thought about it and just couldn’t let the opportunity pass without at least giving it a shot. Hopefully she’ll get it, and even if it stings a bit, understand that is isn’t personal.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      Good luck.

      I’m currently in a place where jobs, and even grants, I apply for are frequently addressing the same applicant pool some of whom are my coworkers. My more senior coworkers who are getting jobs ahead of me… This is in a somewhat specialized academic niche, in a location that is exotic enough to be discarded by many potential applicants and highly desirable for those of us already here. I’m very glad that most of us are scrupulously collegial about the whole thing – as in, we all tell each other when we apply for something, and hear from each other when someone advances to a later stage or conversely doesn’t. There IS one colleague, in fact a close collaborator, who has slipped in my esteem from actions I consider jockeying for position over me, but they’re the only one.

  5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I had that happen to me once.

    And, there was no animosity between us. What did happen – and it infuriated both of us – is that we weren’t allowed to interview for the position! A director blocked the both of us!

    And she ordered the manager to hire one of her “best buds”. I had already been doing the job for several months (long story) …. and was being asked to continue until she “got up to speed”.

    The department manager and I both quit within a month and moved on. The guy, the other candidate, his management was also upset but managed to work a truce with him… the director was my step-boss, the other guy was not in her chain of command, so he was likely not as offended or affected by the passover dance as I was.

    Different topic – perhaps AAM should have a thread “When hiring your friends and passing over the right person – the after-effects”.

    1. Amber E*

      That is an infuriating situation! I hope you moved on to a much better situation, nepotism is so disfunctional.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Correction – the director was my “grand-boss” not “step-boss”

        Oh yeah I moved on to a better place within a month of this all happening. The manager, who was not allowed to interview us, left at around the same time I did. My own manager was upset over what had happened to me, and was extremely supportive and sympathetic.

        The company was going through a bit of chaos at the time; we were in the corporate wing, and our parent corporation had split our company into seven different parts and was selling them off. When this happens, some managers put themselves, and their friends, and their “castle” or “empire” ahead of what is best for the company.

        And they make WEIRD, even destructive decisions during such a phase.

  6. Heidi*

    I don’t think this has to be a big announcement. Hi Buzz, I know that you applied for Woody’s job, and I wanted to let you know that I applied too. I think that either of us would be great at this job, and I’ll be thrilled for you if you get it. Good luck! Rex

    If you think she’s going to struggle emotionally, maybe send an email instead of telling in person. Give her time to compose herself. If she’s really your friend and a reasonable person, she’ll come to understand that your applying is not taking anything away from her.

    1. Threeve*

      My thought too–make this as casual as possible. “Threw my hat in the ring, you know how unpredictable hiring can be here, I figured it couldn’t hurt.”

    2. LTL*

      “If you think she’s going to struggle emotionally, maybe send an email instead of telling in person.”

      Noooo don’t do this. Email is really impersonal. A friend merits a real conversation. Same reason you don’t break up through text even if it technically gives that person “space.”

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        This. DO NOT send an email. If she handles it badly, that tells you all you need to know about how she views your friendship, because a true friend will not hold it against you.

      2. Alanna*

        Oh, I disagree with this! An email or text gives someone a minute to process the news, have whatever reaction they want, and then arrange their face when you actually see them in person.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          The only thing a text or email does is make the sender feel less guilty. It’s the cowardly way out of an awkward conversation.

          1. Heidi*

            If this were a breakup conversation, I’d totally agree with doing it in person. However, this situation is not as emotionally fraught as ending a relationship, and I think making a separate appointment to announce it treats it as a much bigger deal that it needs to be. My original recommendation arose from a past post where the LW was pregnant and didn’t want to announce it in a meeting in front of coworkers who were struggling with infertility. I think multiple respondents said it would be kindness to shoot the coworker an email ahead of time so they could process the news in private.

          2. AngryOwl*

            I disagree. There are plenty of conversations that are better handled via text/email. Breakups aren’t one of them, but they do exist.

            When you feel the person will be hurt/embarrassed and want some time to come up with a response, it’s actually very thoughtful.

            1. allathian*

              Well, some breakups are. I’ve never had to resort to this in my dating life, but sometimes
              a breakups by text or even ghosting is the only safe and prudent option. Exiting an abusive relationship is tough in any case, but doing it face to face might get you killed.

    3. wendelenn*

      You know Jessie has already lassoed that job, though, right? (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Toy Story!)

  7. Secretary*

    “You can see beyond what people want, what they need, and you can choose for yourself.” ~ Miranda Priestley (Devil Wears Prada).
    Immediately thought of this when I read this letter! And honestly I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In the working world you’re allowed to have the same career aspirations and to take an opportunity, just know you may lose the friendship and counteract that as best you can by being as fair and kind as you can.

        1. LunaLena*

          I’m going to be THAT person and say the book was better. :) I thought it was a decent adaptation until I found that they completely changed the ending, and the way the book ended made way more sense.

    1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      YES!!! I love watching clips from the movie!

      “Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.” I see OP hasn’t seen the movie, so I don’t want to spoil the ending, but what is so wrong with being ambitious? You don’t need to be mean, but you don’t need to be nice either!

      1. TardyTardis*

        Although when Best Actress was presented by the Academy Awards that year, the presenter was the actress who played one of the much-abused flunkies, and…the presentation was done *in character*. My daughter nearly died laughing.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    I agree that you should tell her sooner. I also think you should be prepared for a less-than-gracious response, at least at first. Not that I think she’s a big jerk, but she’s had a string of rejections, she’s apparently deeply invested in getting this job, and her interpersonal skills are shaky. And you two are friends, and sometimes people feel like friends shouldn’t go after jobs that they know the first person wants. This is one of the pitfalls of having social friends at work. Not an argument against it, necessarily, but definitely a complication.

    1. Anon for this*

      I had a similar, but different situation. I for a rather large non profit, and my division alone is like 700 people. I referred two friends for jobs. Person A was interested in Job X, which wasn’t in my department, and Person B was interested in Job Y, which was in my department. A and B have different skills, and B had a skill my department wanted but was really hard to come by.

      Well, the department owning Job X was also interested in talking to B. That interest held up Person A’s offer by about a week.

      To this day (and it’s been a few years at this point) Person A hasn’t forgiven me for “almost” screwing her out of a job. I tried explaining to her that I could not foresee things playing out the way they did, because I did not refer two people to the same job. I referred two people to two very different jobs and whatever happened after that wasn’t my doing. At all. But no. That explanation flew right over her head, and she still hasn’t gotten over it.

      I’m not a fan of telling people things they don’t need to know, unless you are absolutely sure they can handle the information.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It will also tell you how your friend views your relationship. It’s okay to be a bit envious if you see your friend moving into a place you wanted to be in career wise, but it’s NOT okay to make them feel bad about it.

  9. Moo*

    You should definitely tell her. In my last role (also state government) I was looking to get out of that department and into a different one. After I expressed how excited I was about a promotional opportunity and how perfect it would be for me, my direct supervisor (who was also a good friend) told me she had also decided to apply for it because it sounded interesting for her too. It was weird and awkward and I was a little peeved, but I didn’t really have any animosity towards her. When I got the job she congratulated me genuinely and admitted she probably wasn’t right for the role. In the end, I’ve been in this job 8 years next month, and I love it. She was promoted much higher than me eventually anyway. And we are still really great friends.

    I know we are in a different situation because neither of us looked at this as our dream job, and we hadn’t applied to tons of promotional openings and been rejected from all of them. But I definitely appreciate that she told me as soon as she decided to apply, knowing how much I wanted it, and it made it so much less awkward down the road.

  10. salty lady*

    You should tell her directly that you will be applying for the job and wish her well also . A direct talker does not like indirect hints , just tell her . Neither of you may get the job , someone else might . One time i did not put in for a job i wanted because a co worker did . I regretted that decision for 10 years as that was a new gateway position and every one who applied was soon promoted even higher. Do not let feelings prevent your own career path from taking off .

    1. Amber E*

      I think that is where I am falling out on this. I don’t have a “dream job”. I think there are many roles I would enjoy and be successful at, and this one is an incredible opportunity. I know I will regret it if I don’t apply and try for it.

      1. insertusernamehere*

        I think you should put the emphasis on that this a role you are very interested in and leave it at that. Don’t sell to her why you would be good at it or your skills or why you would be so perfect for it or she will take that as you are competing with her for it. And sound interested/enthused by the job, but not over the top, and also don’t be so casual (to her) like, “well it’s not my dream job” when it seems too mean EVERYTHING to her.

        Brief is good- something like, “I just wanted to give you a heads up that I’m really interested in learning more about x’s position and am going to apply.” Don’t apologize for it, but also do be sensitive to the fact that she would like the job too. And stay away from trying to “coach her” in any way. If you do end up being her manager, maybe there will be ways for that down the road, but she will probably bristle taking unsolicited coaching from a friend.

      2. valentine*

        I will regret it if I don’t apply and try for it.
        This is as valid as her reasons. Just because the job’s her dream doesn’t mean she’s entitled to it. You might remind her she got and still has a job you wanted. I think she’ll come back with, “But this is my dream and we’re friends now, so you should support me,” but it’s worth saying. It’s also worth seeing if she thinks you should prioritize her above your work and career. Also, is this a one-sided friendship? She seems to vent to you a lot while doing nothing to help herself, thus keeping herself stuck in the cycle.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        “I know I will regret it if I don’t apply and try for it.”

        This is an absolutely valid reason to apply for a job. The last promotion my hubby got was because he applied for something, not sure if he’d get it or not- but simply because he knew he’d regret in the long run not even trying.

        (Spoiler – he did get the promotion, and while there are days he misses his old job, he enjoys the challenges of the new position immensely.)

  11. TLH*

    Tell her. I had this happen to me. My coworker and I were leading a project. I planned to apply for a position, told her that I was doing this privately at a 1:1 meeting (because it would leave her alone to run the project), and asked if was applying as she was actually the most qualified person for the position. For 2 months she denied an interest in the job, then sat next to me when we were about to cochair a meeting and told me that she had applied. Obviously, she got the job. I don’t mind that she got it but I haven’t really been able to forgive her for not letting me know that she changed her mind until later (and in front of a group of people!). Your friend might hear it in a similarly inappropriate way and feel hurt. Let her know quickly and privately.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I cringed reading this! Your issue is different in the way that you asked her straight forward about it.

      I can only imagine and hope the OP wouldn’t be interested and applying, then saying “oh no I won’t be doing that” to her colleague’s face.

      I can see why they did it in front of a group afterwards though. She knew that if she just came out in private, it raises the possibility of you not having to contain your reaction [I’m not saying you’d ever lose your composure but I know a lot of people who do fear unrealistic reactions from people they aren’t very familiar with, so they prefer an audience.] Yuck. What a crappy situation to have been in, I don’t blame you for being upset, I sure would have.

      1. Workerbee*

        I thought the same thing—coworker deliberately told her with others around. And compounded it by the situation. Ugh.

  12. HeyThere*

    This just…doesn’t sound like a friendship you’re going to be able to salvage, especially if you end up becoming her manager. Even if everyone else involved rationally knows she’s not going to get this job, she clearly doesn’t. I just fear from her point of view it’s going to look like a deliberately hurtful choice on your point. I don’t agree – it isn’t at all! I just don’t see a good chance at this friendship surviving if you get this job over her, from what you’ve written.

  13. Emilitron*

    If you’re willing to downplay your own chances to give her support, I’d suggest something like:
    “Jane, you applied for Bob’s job when he leaves, right? It’s crazy how rarely these opportunities open up! I wanted you to know I applied for it too – I clearly don’t have the (ABC) experience you do, but (my manager) says that if I ever want to move up, it’s important to apply when there’s an opening, just to demonstrate that this is the kind of career path I’m interested in. If nothing else, I’m hoping I’ll get feedback on my application, it’ll be fodder for discussion at my annual review.”
    Of course, this does nothing for the awkwardness if you actually get the job, but that’s a problem for the future.

    1. mf*

      I like this script a lot. I think downplaying could work in the OP’s favor, especially since she doesn’t know if she’ll even get an interview yet!

  14. Glacier*

    Another reason to tell her even if she gets the job and you don’t: She may, as manager, have access to the resumes/application materials from folks who applied to that position. Not all organizations keep those hidden from the person who eventually assumes that role.

    Good luck either way!

  15. NeonFireworks*

    Eek, I did a similar thing to a coworker years ago – for a position one level up and mostly lateral. On interview day I actually told a white lie about a dermatology appointment or something like that; my friend was much better qualified than I was, and I was just treating the job opening as interview practice. I thought my interview was pretty good, but not really good. Surprise! They offered me the job. My friend learned that she’d unexpectedly not gotten the job, but still didn’t know I’d applied!

    I felt terrible and went straight to her for a private meeting and spat out the entire story – before anyone else heard, and also before I accepted the job. She was ridiculously understanding about it, and I’m glad I spoke up before the news got out any other way, but yikes, that was close. (In the long run, it worked itself out: a year later, there was a vacancy higher up and she basically got offered a double promotion in one go, which was overdue.)

  16. Gertie*

    Go ahead and tell her. I had a coworker who knew I was looking for a certain type of job in a particular area. She had a friend from school that was looking for the same thing and was feeding her any leads I talked about. She didn’t tell me this until after I got a job. I know that her friend probably could have found the same jobs on her own, but it felt like a really crappy thing to do. If I had known I definitely wouldn’t have talked about it so much. Really soured me on this coworker.

  17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I suggest being honest, it’s the kindest thing to do to someone who you value on a personal level like you do this colleague. Being shady or shifty about it won’t do many favors with most people, she’s either going to understand or she simply won’t. That’s up to her, not you. You’re in charge of you, you are in charge of your integrity and honesty.

    I would alert her that I was applying and keep it friendly. Be aware of the idea this may not end well for the friendship. Being aware is important but I rarely suggest someone choose a friendship over career advancement, unless the advancement is some kind of underhanded immoral [sabotage style] techniques.

  18. Jennifer*

    I agree with Alison that you are allowed to have career goals that overlap with hers, but to be honest if I were you I wouldn’t have applied for this job. If you get it, it’s going to be super awkward managing someone that was once a close friend that is likely resentful that you got her “dream job” over her. It sounds like a recipe for disaster. It also kind of shows why the idea of a “dream job” is so problematic.

    Not saying you have to stall your career because of this friendship. I would just look elsewhere if I were you.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I’m hesitant to agree with this, but…yeah. It’s not so much about career goals overlapping as it is about signing up to take on a direct report who’s likely to be a dumpster fire.

      This would be different if you were merely colleagues and not friends, or if you were friends and she owned her shortcomings a bit more. Sure, everyone involved is a grown adult and you’re all paid to respect proper managerial boundaries, but it would be more than a little unrealistic for OP to believe that she could manage her friend effectively.

      1. Jennifer*

        I agree. I also usually put my personal life above my professional life when the two come into conflict. I know everyone isn’t that way and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t make friends easily so the few that I have are very important to me and I wouldn’t let a job get in the way. But I don’t know if this friendship is on that level.

        Still, the awaiting dumpster fire is too much.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          I’m like you too, and it’s complicated because most of my closest friends work in the same niche field as me and we’ve applied for the same jobs before. But the thing is that none of them have interpersonal skills that are shaky enough to inherently put our friendship at risk over random stuff. In some cases it would be difficult to maintain our friendships if one ended up managing the other, but I can’t see any of those people self-sabotaging and imploding all over our careers if that happened.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know I wouldn’t want to touch the job with a ten foot pole myself, that’s for sure.

      It’s one thing getting hired and finding out you have a difficult personality to deal with in one of your direct reports. You’re new, you’re the manager, you figure it out. But to go into this eyes wide open and knowing the person is also someone who got passed over for promotion, with a personal relationship of sorts with them, woo-nelly, not for me. And I’m the “risk taker” of the group around here. Even that one smells like week old microwaved fish from here.

      I am a “don’t let people hold you back” kind of person but I’m also a “I don’t like stepping directly into the poop when I could have just avoided it this entire time.” But everyone has their own level of tolerance and the OP knows her situation much better than any of us, so if she’s going for it, I wish her the best all the same.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I like to look to try to avoid situations like this when I can see them coming. And I see this one coming 100 miles away. It’s not too late to withdraw from consideration and apply for a different role. That way she never even has to bring this up.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Agreed. If OP is okay with losing both her personal and professional relationship with her friend then this situation might not be that terrible. But things could easily end with OP eventually having to manage out, terminate or demote her friend due to the fall-out from her interpersonal skills. Sure, that could happen with anyone you manage, but when you know enough about one of your potential direct reports to make that a reasonable thing to worry about…

    3. allathian*

      At the very least, be prepared to lose the friendship and perhaps be forced to manage the former friend out.

  19. Fiona*

    I’m really surprised by the amount of people who think OP shouldn’t have applied for the job. This is her good friend, yes, but they met as coworkers. It’s not OP’s responsibility to avoid a good career step because her colleague simply wants it more. Not everyone is cut out for every type of job and her lack of emotional intelligence (and, seemingly, her inability to change this in a fundamental way) means that this type of job isn’t for her. It sucks and it might put OP in a bad position, but if the colleague truly can’t handle being managed by the OP, then…she’ll have to just find another job. I agree that the friendship may not survive that path, but it would be giving this colleague way too much emotional power to not apply.

    1. Jennifer*

      She may find another job, or she may stay and be resentful that she didn’t get the promotion. Either way, it’s a hot mess that I wouldn’t want to be part of. I wouldn’t want to have to manage that kind of personality.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t see anyone saying she shouldn’t apply simply because it’s her friend.

      It’s mostly “Don’t apply for a job where someone is probably going to be disgruntled with you, on a professional AND a personal level.”

      Is it a good career step? What if this explodes because Colleague tramples all over them and they’re not able to eventually find a way to dismiss the disgruntled colleague? I’ve seen that story play out on this blog before. Especially if this is a setup where it’s hard to discipline or terminate an employee.

      Being miserable in the end can also torpedo your career path as well, that’s how people get burned out and ran off jobs…

      It seriously has nothing to do with the friendship over all.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly. It’s not worth it. Everything that we know about this person tells me that if she can’t handle being managed by the OP she’s not going to gracefully find another job and resign.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yup. The only parts of this where their friendship is relevant are:
        -Friend is sharing her application details with OP, which is what’s caused the entire situation to begin with
        -Friend may or may not see herself as privy to knowing what OP’s career moves are as well
        -Friend is likely to experience a lot of cognitive dissonance if dealing with OP as her new boss because of everything OP has explained

    3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      It’s not OP’s responsibility to avoid a good career step because her colleague simply wants it more.

      That bit isn’t at the heart of everyone’s disagreement with OP applying for the job, though. That OP’s friend sees this as her dream job is mostly irrelevant to me, because it doesn’t sound likely that the friend would even be a competitive candidate given her history. I’d agree that there’s no issue *if* the friend is self-aware enough to have landed at what you’ve written, but it doesn’t sound like she is.

    4. Jennifer*

      FWIW, if this was a really rare opportunity and they were in a field that’s difficult to break into, I may have felt differently. But nothing the OP has said indicates that.

    5. doreen*

      I’m surprised by two things. One is the suggestion that OP shouldn’t have applied for the job and the second is the idea that the friend needs to be told that the OP is applying. Not that there is any wrong with telling her, but in both of the government agencies I’ve worked at, there was just an assumption that of course if you are a Teapot Painter applying for a Senior Teapot Painter position, some/many of your Teapot Painter friends will also be applying – and there wouldn’t be any expectation that even your best friend wouldn’t apply. Because, after all, even if OP doesn’t apply that’s no guarantee that a third person won’t be chosen.
      I’m not saying I would lie or even try to avoid the subject , but the whole “when should I disclose” seems a bit formal. Like I said, at my job we just assume our counterparts have also applied and the only way we get confirmation is when someone says ” So when is your interview- maybe we can ride to State Capitol together?”

    6. AngryOwl*

      Fiona, I agree. The idea that the OP shouldn’t go for a job that she appears to qualified for and wants because it might upset her friend baffles me.

      1. AngryOwl*

        And to the point that they’ll be walking into a situation with an already-disgruntled employee, I don’t think that’s a reason not to apply either. There are disgruntled employees many places. As long as OP doesn’t mind if the friendship is severed, she’s good.

  20. Deanna Troi*

    I have been in an almost identical situation, and I recommend that you tell her in person (or on the phone), as soon as you can. However, my experience was that I lost the friendship, so although I hope it doesn’t come to that, you should be prepared for that.

    I met my former best friend when we both started a new job right after we finished our master’s degrees. We were government contractors. She was a General Large Mammal Specialist and I was a Holstein Cow Specialist. We quickly became super close, including going on cruises together, vacationing with our husbands, and spending time with each others’ parents. After 20 years, she and I were both known nationwide as technical experts in our government contractor positions.

    When a coveted position became open at the federal government for a General Large Mammal Specialist, we both applied. I told her that I was going to apply the day it came out, so that wasn’t an issue. I was sort of a long shot because I had been very very specialized in my Holstein Cow niche, which was good in some ways, but meant that I didn’t have the breadth of experience with other Large Mammals. Everyone thought she would get the job, including other contractors, people in the federal agency, and people in other agencies with which they partner. She had essentially been doing the job for 20 years and had traveled nationwide doing it on behalf of the agency as a contractor.

    She wasn’t upset that I interviewed, because again, I think she was sure she would get it. No one was more surprised than I when I got it….and it ruined our friendship. They told her she came in second, so she believed that I blocked her. They told me that even though she had more direct experience, I had soft skills that they thought would be better for the position.

    I’m not sorry I applied and got the job. This has been a dream job for me, too, and for those of us who are dedicated to a federal government career path and work as a contractor for many years to try to get in, this was the right decision for me.

    This was over 10 years ago, and as Moo mentioned above in another similar situation, she actually got a job at another agency and was promoted beyond where I am now, so it actually worked out better for her. But she never forgave me for taking her “dream job.” I mourn the loss of this friendship, and was more upset about it than I was about my divorce. I’m sorry to be such a downer. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be your experience.

    1. allathian*

      I’m sorry this happened to you. But it just goes to show that she wasn’t fundamentally a good friend. If she had been, she should have realized you didn’t apply for and get the job AT her. Especially when she was promoted beyond your current job.

      I have a hard time with people who hold grudges, though, so I would’t have too much trouble writing someone off as a friend for behaving like this.

      The older I get, the less tolerance I have for friendship-related drama. I’m also enough of an introvert that I’m perfectly happy if I call my BFF once every two weeks or so. In before times we used to meet for coffee or such about once a month. My family is enough for most of my social interactions. I do appreciate the good friends I have, but that doesn’t mean there has to be frequent contact.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        You said it. Some friend. OK, she was disappointed and certain she was a shoo-in for a job someone else got. But there’s competition for jobs and mama always said, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

      2. Academic Anonymous*

        Hm. I’ve been in the friend’s shoes (see my comment above nested under Important Moi) and I don’t know if I would say that being upset over something like this makes her a bad person or a bad friend. (Guess I’m biased.)

        In the moment, it felt like a betrayal — I actually asked a question on a different advice website … the one that starts with M … using that word. Because not only was I devastated about not getting a job, I was devastated that a “friend” let me natter on blithely about my interview experience without saying “I’m gonna stop you right there.” I’ve been up against friends for grants and other opportunities in the past, and it was not.a.problem because we were transparent with each other about what we were doing. It’s the silence, not the application, that’s the problem.

        With the benefit of hindsight, I understand she didn’t do that on purpose, just wanted to avoid an awkward conversation. That didn’t take any of the sting out. Still doesn’t. No matter how you slice it, humans gonna human. Sorry not sorry.

        1. allathian*

          Humans gonna human, absolutely. But it’s definitely one reason why I don’t want to be friends with someone I might be competing against for a job. Friendly, yes, but not so close that it would feel like a betrayal if the other one got the job, either way. I do think that asking a friend to refrain from applying for a job you want is asking too much.

      3. Lalaroo*

        You wouldn’t mind writing off a friend for being upset you applied for and got a job they wanted, but you think the person upset that you applied for and got a job they wanted was never fundamentally a good friend?

        People put a lot of their identity in their jobs. It sounds like Deanna and her friend waited 20 years for the opportunity to get a W4 job at the agency instead of contracting, so to have your friend take that chance from you and not know if it will come back before you retire can be pretty brutal. As someone who graduated into the Great Recession and has a LOT of experience with rejections, no matter how much you try not to take it personally it can really wear you down. You can feel like there’s something wrong with you as a human being, and having a friend get the job you wanted can be hard, making you think “What makes them better than me?” This is especially true in cases like the OP, where her friend has applied multiple times and been rejected multiple times. To have OP waltz in and get the job on her first try, that would shake almost anyone’s confidence. Especially when OP has said that there are lots of jobs she could take and be happy with, and her friend is set on this one job. It would feel greedy to me if I was OP’s friend.

        Anyway, this is a lot of words to say that I don’t think being upset at Deanna means that her friend was fundamentally a bad friend.

        1. allathian*

          That may be true. It’s not a position I would like to be in, because I hate drama. Sure, there can be resentment even between coworkers who aren’t friends when one gets a promotion the other wants, but that I suppose is a cost of doing business.

          I don’t think Deanna’s friend was a bad friend because she got upset when Deanna got the job she wanted, that’s understandable and very human. I do think she was a bad friend because she hasn’t been able to let go of her resentment, even now that she’s been promoted beyond Deanna.

  21. The blind forest*

    Preferring directness is not the same thing as believing she has done on a job and no one else can apply. Tell her directly that you have been thinking a lot about this and have decided to apply too. If she gets the job, you are happy to work under her but it is too good an opportunity not to apply. If she is your friend, she will understand and respect your honesty. She may also handle it badly but as a fairly direct person myself, being coy about it or not telling her is the worst thing you can do. Respect her enough to assume she will be an adult about it and if she isn’t, that is on her.

  22. Clementine*

    I’ve read all of this, but I still can’t see telling the coworker/friend in advance about applying. This is personal information that I wouldn’t feel compelled to share.
    There’s a good chance the answer is “no,” and then what is the purpose. If the answer is “yes,” then the two will have to have a discussion, but it’s not going to change the reality of the situation. If the coworker becomes impossible to work with, I doubt an earlier heads-up is going to help much. She’s going to feel hurt and blocked regardless. I’d worry about her interference with my application if she knows in advance.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      As someone advised me about applying for jobs, don’t tell before it becomes a problem/issue. You might not even get an interview, for all you know, and I wouldn’t tell her before she was likely to find out through the rumor mill or whatever. As far as I’m concerned, nobody has to know you applied unless you did get an interview.

    2. Academic Anonymous*

      Honestly, having been in the friend’s shoes (and in general, frequently competing with friends for fellowships, grants, and other positions, welcome to academia), I’d strongly advocate telling her upfront. The times when I’ve had that conversation with people early, it’s gone well and everyone stayed friends afterwards.

      If you don’t tell her upfront, when you are going to tell her? When you get an interview? When you get an offer? Three days before your start date? Yes, she’ll feel hurt, but she’ll feel even more hurt if she finds out at a late stage, or through the grapevine.

      There’s no good time to have that conversation, but there are some times that are less bad than others.

  23. roundround*

    Everyone has given great advice so far. I would question the friendship personally. Four years isn’t long and becoming very close doesn’t necessarily mean what people think it means. I had a housemate and a work friendship in the last few years each become very ‘close’ very fast and both ended. The closest friendships I have were slow developing, not intense and have lasted decades in a respectful way with boundaries.

    The ‘super close new work friend’ sends up red flags. How good a friend is this, really? Worth throwing a position away over? Would she do the same for you? Is this a real friendship or just a work friendship or a phase in time thing?

    OP may be valuing the friendship more than it’s really worth. Lots of people develop close work friendships that end up going nowhere or don’t have much beneath the surface.

  24. Coffeecoffeecoffee*

    I actually wouldn’t tell her unless you get an interview. I’m not sure why she needs to know at this juncture, especially if it becomes a nonstarter early on in the process.

  25. Sophie1*

    I don’t see any other outcome other than making her feel betrayed and probably losing them as a friend and all goodwill they have for you.

    Asking or expecting them to be “logical” in their emotional reaction to you based on a technicality is not realistic. And if they push that reaction down and tell themselves to be logical, its highly likely to come out later on in the form of guilt trips.

    From their perspective, if you knew something would upset them and did it anyway you look to them that you care more about yourself than them. Which becomes more complicated when it comes to this situation, where if you did what she wanted (not apply for this position ever until she has it, which may never happen considering she’s applied so many times) from what I can gather you are basically barring off a whole avenue of career development/opportunities in a really horrendous job market. Which is a lot more to ask than just “don’t apply for this one job”.

    I don’t meant this to be harsh or to say you are a bad person – you aren’t, especially given this specific situation when this is a big opportunity you are passing up. But unfortunately on the balance of probabilities I think you’ve already eaten the proverbial cake and you can no longer expect to keep having it. I hope I’m wrong!

    1. Sophie1*

      And honestly, I really think as many people as possible should try to advance in their careers right now so that there are as many lower level jobs opening up for people who lost their jobs at awkward or early times in their career as possible.

  26. not always right*

    Not exactly the same situation, but my work BFF and I both applied for the same job last year. We both met the qualifications for the job, but I had about 15 years more relevant experience than she had. I had no idea that she had applied until after I confided to her that I had applied. She didn’t tell me right away but I talked so much about it that she finally fessed up. I was genuinely excited for her and I wished her the best because I knew she would do an outstanding job. She was very relieved to say the least. Well, we both applied and we both interviewed so well, that they decided to open up a new position for the same job and hire us both. (The original plan was to hire one person and open up the new position 6 months later.) She ended up blowing me out of the water (in a good way). I ended up going to her for tips and advice because she looked at the hows and whys in a different perspective than I ever even thought of and got the best results! I know for a fact that if a management job had opened up in that department and if we both applied, she would be the one to get it, and I would have been very happy for her.
    She was invaluable to me because I really got off to a rocky start. If it hadn’t been for her coaching me and giving me pep talks, I probably would have had some very uncomfortable meetings with my boss and grandboss about my results.

  27. Cassidy*

    Exactly why I don’t make friends at work. Good colleagues, of course. Share personal stories, from accomplishments to funny moments to tragedy? Almost every day.

    But friends?

    Nope. Nope, nope, nope. I gotta sleep at night.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Or just prioritize work friends who wouldn’t be direct competition because they’re on completely different career tracks?

  28. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    People who think they do have “dibs” on job opportunities crack me up. The opening is advertised, it’s available, the employer wants multiple applicants. Once a coworker and I were talking about our job searches (we were both busting to get out of that place) and she showed me a job posting. It interested me too, and I had significant experience in that area. When I said so, she got huffy and said “I’M going to apply for it!” like she’d staked a claim or something.

  29. NYWeasel*

    I’ve both been upfront with friends and tried to keep it quiet, and being upfront was much better. When I tried to keep it quiet, the hiring manager purposely told my coworker friend, with the actual intention of screwing up our friendship and making my political position at work weaker. (Huge backstory was that hiring manager had asked me to apply but then found out an old manager was coming back, and he was afraid that old manager would have more pull with me and coworker, so he wanted to break us up.). The friendship only survived bc we already had a very strong history of being completely open, so I was able to explain why I’d kept this information secret without any lasting resentment. It also helped that due to the political intrigues, we quickly ended up fighting together against the hiring manager and the lackey he put in the position over me.

    With the coworker I was open with, we made a vow from the start to be open, with the plan that whoever got hired would advocate for the person that didn’t for future opportunities. There were some super weird moments, such as when I was turned down for the job I was applying for but my resume was passed along to a position he had applied for. I ended up going to two interviews and then they called him out of the blue. We weren’t sure if the call was bc I was eliminated as a candidate or if it was a polite way to get some confirmation on my background. It turned out that it was the latter and I got the job. My coworker soon found a different job, and we remained friends.

    As for having to give difficult feedback to a friend, i was promoted to lead my team, and I’d been friendly with everyone. One coworker had a temper problem, and couldn’t see how it was affecting his reputation. In that case, I let him share his perceptions of what had taken place, and then made it clear I was there to support him. Then, as incidents took place, we would talk through why he felt angry, and whether his actions were helping him achieve his goals or not. He had already been interviewing externally, so I only worked with him for two months before he moved on, but he made it clear to me that I wasn’t the reason and that he appreciated my coaching. I think because I started by listening to him on the first conversation without criticism, and then framed the challenging incidents in terms of what was he trying to accomplish, it felt less like an attack and more like I was genuinely trying to help him get better. That said, if he’d stayed with the team much longer, I think he would have been put on a performance plan because his outbursts were truly inappropriate. (He actually yelled at a director in one meeting bc he was mad that a Sr VP hadn’t filled an open VP position that quite literally had almost no bearing on our roles. So, not the best sense of how to deal with frustrations, lol) I’m not certain I could have navigated the situation much longer without him quickly resenting me as well, simply because he had some very unrealistic expectations.

  30. Perpal*

    Oh OP1 I do not miss the dating phase of life!
    If you are feeling a lot of negative pushback on the whole idea, well, I do remember the days when it felt like I couldn’t just be a woman in public without getting solicited. I mean, I get it, to an extent it’s a normal fact of life that people want to date and I guess looking vaguely available means people gonna ask? But I was never into that kind of attention and frankly mostly found it confusing, and made me want to avoid the asker because I didn’t know what it meant; if I said no once would that be it? Is what’s intended to be a polite hi and acknowledgement going to turn into a 5+ minute social convo where I either feel like I have to cut someone off to get away or [sorry strangers, INTJ here] waste my precious time on small talk? Older and wider and even less give a @#$@# now. I know who I like pretty fast [I am probably unusual in this regard, as I understand it], I never dated at work but once or twice at HS, college, post grad; if I like someone I try to hang out with them more socially and pretty clearly make it obvious if I’m interested within a hang out or two. In hindsight, a few guys from hobby groups probably hung out with me with dating in mind but had the grace to quickly back off when I made it clear I was already dating someone else (not something I used to advertise because again, confused youngster who felt antifeminist to broadcast relationships status; now I just find it convenient. Also helps there’s a ring now; anyone who tries to push past that, which are thankfully few, I would have no qualms shutting down hard)

    1. Perpal*

      welp, “older and wider” was supposed to be “older and wiser” though I suppose both apply! But being wider doesn’t actually have much impact on my romantic life, despite what younger me might have worried ^-^

  31. AngryOwl*

    Good luck, OP! I agree with telling her now, and I don’t see anything wrong with you having applied.

    I will say that if your friendship can’t survive this, then perhaps it just wasn’t meant to last. I have made very close friends at work (on similar paths) and it works fine as long as everyone is mature about it. Your friend’s immaturity is the sticking point here, and you can’t control that.

Comments are closed.