work is ruining one of my closest friendships

A reader writes:

I started at my company five years ago, around the same time as another new hire, Jill. We were on different teams and our responsibilities didn’t overlap at all, but as two newbies around the same age and with similar interests, we quickly formed a bond. Over the years our friendship has extended well beyond the workplace. We spend a lot of time together outside of work, our spouses have become friends with each other, we have traveled together, and I consider Jill one of my closest friends.

Within the last year, our company went through a re-org and we are now frequently assigned projects together. The problem is that we have very different expectations when it comes to work-life balance.

I have put a lot of effort into establishing and maintaining firm boundaries around my availability. I rarely work late, I treat my time off as sacred, and I do not check email during PTO. I am very comfortable pushing back on unreasonable deadlines and in the case of urgent due dates with no flexibility, I will work with partners to see what other projects can be shifted to accommodate rather than simply saying yes and working long hours to get everything done. In return, I am a reliable employee, I take my responsibilities very seriously, I have a great relationship with my boss, and I always get high marks and positive feedback in my annual reviews.

Jill, however, does not have these boundaries. She regularly works late and on weekends. She is very good at her job and often goes above and beyond the duties of her role, but because she never says no, more and more work is put on her, and she feels a lot of work-related stress. We work in a creative industry where there are definitely hard deadlines, but partners also ask for a lot of “nice to haves” and will happily take as much as you’re willing to give. I have tried to encourage her to set more boundaries, but it’s not something she is willing to do.

Now that we are working on projects together, our different approaches are causing tension in our friendship. Jill feels resentful at what she perceives as me not carrying my weight. I feel resentful that her impulse to do more than what we’ve been tasked with often leads to doing work that isn’t necessary and sometimes doesn’t even get used. As a result, we have both pulled back from the friendship and haven’t spent time together outside of work in months. At work we are friendly, but it’s definitely not the same as it once was.

Our team is small. I’m the only person with my particular role and, as I mentioned before, Jill gets assigned to a lot because she always says yes, so it’s not likely I can avoid working on projects with her. I value our friendship, but quitting my job or changing companies isn’t realistic for me. I want to talk to her about this directly, but I don’t know what to say and am worried about how it will be received.

This is the crappy reality of friends and work: sometimes working together ruins the friendship.

In your case, you’ve been working together all along but you weren’t really working together in the way you are now. You had a common frame of reference — being employed by the same company — but being on different teams and different projects for the first few years meant this switch is more like if a friend from outside your company suddenly joined your team and you discovered you really didn’t mesh well professionally. Sometimes that can kill a friendship, or at least change it significantly.

However, if the friendship has been a strong one, ideally there should be room to talk about what’s going on. How to do it depends on the dynamic the two of you have together, but the basic formula I’d use is: (1) name the problem, (2) name your feelings about the problem, and (3) ask about a way forward.

So it might be something like this: “I think working together more closely has been hard on our friendship! I’ve thought a lot about why, and I think we have two different approaches to work. I put a lot of effort into maintaining firm boundaries on my hours, and I’m willing to push back on deadlines and priorities to ensure that happens. I know your approach is a different one — you’re more willing to put in extra hours, and you’ll try to find a way to say yes to things if at all possible. I know that works well for you, and I’m not trying to change you. But I don’t think either of us realized how hard it would be on our friendship that we set our work boundaries so differently. I can see it’s affected things between us, and I feel sad about it. I really miss you! I wanted to ask how you’re feeling about it, and hopefully talk about whether there’s anything we can do about it.”

Sometimes just naming what’s going on can inject some relief into a situation like this, and can clear some space to figure out a better approach for both of you. But you’ve also got to go into the conversation knowing that there might not be a great solution — sometimes working together really does change things in a way that’s hard to undo, at least as long as you’re still working together. Jill might be too aggravated/resentful to see the friendship the way she used to, or the frustrations might be too ongoing (for either or both of you) to allow for the relationship you used to have.

But if she’s open to trying to work on it, you might suggest trying a work-talk-free get-together — go out for drinks or have her over for dinner with a clear agreement that neither of you will talk about work. Doing that might help get you both back into a headspace more like the old one you used to have with each other. And if it doesn’t work, that’ll be useful info too — at that point you might be better off accepting you’ll need to give each other space as long as you continue to work closely together, but could try again once that changes. (I would love to tell you that things can definitely go back to normal once you’re not working together. Sometimes they can! But sometimes things are permanently changed. This sucks and I’m sorry.)

Read an update to this letter.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. Reality Biting*

    Oh wow, this is a tough situation OP! I’m sorry you’re going through it.

    I second the bit about naming the issue and being very clear about it. I had an employee at one point who worked for me for a few years without incident. After he left, we became acquaintances. Not best friends or anything, but we’d see each other occasionally on a purely social level.

    A few years later, I hired him back in another role. I knew that our acquaintanceship was over at that point and said so. When we first talked about the new job, I said that if he did decide he wanted it, that we’d have to transition back into a boss/employee relationship, and that I would consider that primary. That means we don’t have the occasional drink anymore, and I don’t send a holiday card, for example, unless everyone is getting one. For several years now, it’s worked out fine.

    I’m not suggesting you take such a hard line—your relationship with your friend is much deeper than my acquaintanceship. But I do think being as explicit about where the boundaries are will serve you well.

  2. A Poster Has No Name*

    LW, that’s a tough situation. I hope Alison’s advice works and you can save the friendship!

    Can I just say, though, that I really am not a fan of people who voluntarily take on extra stuff and then get mad at other people for having different priorities? If you want to say yes to everything and spend all your time working, great! But don’t make it my fault that you now have extra work to do and spend all your time working.

    1. MK*

      Also, it’s not clear to me if Jill is agreeing to do more than the assigned task on behalf of the whole team? I say this because the OP mentions “we” end up doing more work than was tasked. Because that is something that would require a different conversation, not about the friendship, but about the work.

      1. New Mom*

        My interpretation was that Jill would agree to do more work herself but since there is now overlap with the OP, Jill’s extra work was bleeding into the OPs time. For example, let’s say they were both on the same HR recruiting team and with healthy boundaries the team as a whole can post ten jobs at the same time. Let’s say Jill is in charge of posting jobs and initial interviews but OP has to set up all the second round interviews, organize and assess performance tasks and put together offers. If Jill starts agreeing to post 12-15 jobs at the same time, she would be taking on additional work but it would also mean that other people whose work is tied to her projects would end up getting more work added to their plate.

    2. Jane*

      I love this comment. I worked with someone like this: no boundaries, never said no, over-promised all the time, etc. We weren’t friends, but we worked in the same small department, and when I did put up necessary boundaries, politely and professionally, I was seen as uncooperative and difficult – and worse, treated as such – all because sometimes I had to say no, per my role. I couldn’t over-promise, per my role. And so on…

      It was terrible, and I left because of it for a workplace (same role) that practices healthy boundaries without a second thought. No approval-seeking people pleasers here, and it’s wonderful!

      1. Jess*

        Harsh. Some people may have a different cultural mindset, they might even be actively dealing with their tendencies or suffering with mental or emotional issues, and infantilizing them is uncalled for.

        1. allathian*

          Not infantilizing, just calling it as they see it.

          I can’t stand working with approval-seeking people-pleasers anymore (I used to be one, and I’m in a much better place mentally now that I’ve let go of that mindset thanks to therapy), and I’m glad that my employer takes a firm line with people who work too much. Most of us are exempt rather than hourly, but working hours are nevertheless tracked to ensure that people don’t work themselves to burnout. Managers are expected to ensure that people have realistic workloads and that if an employee has more than two weeks of overtime saved up that they take some of it as comp time (it happened to me when I worked for a previous manager at my current job, I’ve since learned to prioritize my work/life balance better). Then the managers are tasked with ensuring that work is prioritized in a way that doesn’t require people to overextend themselves. If someone manages a team where everyone’s working too much, that counts against them in their performance evaluation. Work/life balance is one of the core values at my employer, so the C-suite keeps an eye on it.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I have a parent like this. He worked long hours our whole childhood, and now is pretty much set money-wise, but never really spend time with us. Now he’s kind of confused as to why he doesn’t have close relationships with us. It kind of sucks.

      1. HA2*

        And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
        Little boy blue and the man in the moon
        “When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
        But we’ll get together then
        You know we’ll have a good time then

      2. Jess*

        As a parent of grown children forced to work 2 and 3 jobs that always hoped there would be enough time someday i just wanted to say, if he’s wondering, perhaps there can be a deeper emotional space curated going forward. I was orphaned so of course I want that for you if its a possibility. I’m not saying its your responsibility tho, only you seem to have regret as well. If we’re alive its like we get a new chance everyday to change to ending.

        1. Helewise*

          “If we’re alive it’s like we get a new chance everyday to change the ending.” I love this – thank you!

    4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. It is not the OP’s fault that Jill has made (and continues to make) choices that have led her to this situation. From the letter, it sounds like the OP is a solid colleague, not someone who is neglecting her work and missing important deadlines.

      Alison focused on how to mend the personal relationship (because that’s what you asked for!). I wonder if trying to sort out the work relationship will also help the personal one. It kinda depends on what you know about Jill and your priorities. It sounds like Jill is a good person, too. So there’s a lot of reason for hope that getting honest with each other can help. That you like and respect her and her work and that there’s some tension there now because of these differences in approach. So how can you find a way to work together that’s OK for both of you?

      I’m curious – in the day-to-day work on the project, do you ever say directly that something Jill is proposing / doing is too much to be done with the time and resources you have? Unless you bring it up, Jill may be assuming that you’re up for splitting the work 50/50, even if it’s too much or is more than what is required. So can you make it clearer from the outset that this isn’t going to happen? Is there an opportunity to shift the way you work to start by getting the minimum requirements done, then building on extras if there’s time after that? (Though I acknowledge this may not be possible in your field). In this way, it’s more obvious to everyone that Jill’s choices are the reason for the situation, rather than the OP not doing her share of the work.

      Ultimately, the work side of things boils down to the OP doing what she can do in her regular hours. What Jill chooses to do is up to Jill.

    5. Avocado*

      My best friend is like this and I honestly think she does not know that she can put up boundaries. She is always complaining about being overworked and we used to work at the same company where work/life balance was a huge priority. You could work 35 hours a week and as long as you did good work you would be promoted. In my friend’s case I think it comes from social anxiety/perfectionism where she thinks she has to say yes to everything to appease people.

      If you’re like Jill and someone comes along and has boundaries around work I think it makes you mad because it makes you realize you didn’t have to put in all this extra work. I think that’s what is happening here.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I have a good friend who similarly struggles with setting boundaries, and I’ve discovered that she doesn’t know how to set boundaries in our friendship, either. She ends up trying to do more and more for me, I get frustrated because I never asked her for those things, and we both end up miserable.

        Alison’s strategy of naming what I’m seeing has allowed us to “reset” the relationship several times by being really clear about what we each want from the friendship and what we each are able to give to it.

    6. a clockwork lemon*

      OP doesn’t mention that they share the same manager, so I am curious how much of this extra work is actually “voluntary” from Jill’s perspective and how much of it is coming from different team dynamics and cultures?

      I’m about to leave a role where I “volunteer” for a lot of stuff because other people straight-up would not do the work and it became easier for me to manage my own life if I took a task on from the beginning rather than wait until someone else had dropped the ball and I was brought in to take over halfway through the fire drill. “Set boundaries and ask for help” only goes so far when your own boss’s management philosophy is toxic, even if your company as a whole is great.

      1. Lydia*

        It doesn’t seem like OP is getting blow back for her firm boundaries. She says her work is highly praised and appreciated. I think if Jill were getting pressure from their manager, that would have been mentioned.

        1. a clockwork lemon*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to assume OP and Jill would have the same experience re: boundary setting if they work for different people, even if OP’s direct line management is totally on board with OP’s approach. There could be a lot of other factors at play here with Jill that OP doesn’t see from where they sit, especially if they’ve never worked closely with Jill in the past.

          We see letters here all the time from people who work on toxic and dysfunctional teams in otherwise functional workplaces. This can be especially compounded if Jill is feeling insecure about her own role after going through a reorganization. OP knows they can’t be easily replaced by someone else internally. It’s not clear that this is something Jill shares.

          1. AlsoADHD*

            LW also says she’s the only one who fits her thing at her company—only one in the role—and that can come with some soft power that not everyone carries, depending on LW’s expertise. There are complexities to the dynamics to be sure. It’s not clear what is causing the difference of approaches or if there are any differences in their management, their goals, their teams, etc.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          I can easily imagine a situation where someone takes on a lot of extra work, but it’s taken for granted/not really noticed (depending on definitions, I’ve been in such a situation myself), so the fact that others aren’t getting blowback doesn’t *necessarily* mean that Jill’s extra work isn’t load-bearing. (Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, either.)

        3. Nodramalama*

          They’re not the same person and it’s unfair without knowing Jane to assume that she could act like OP at work and everything would be the same. Some people work differently, their relationship with their supervisors may be different

    7. MHA*

      Yyyyep. I’ve had this coworker too, and it was a big part of me leaving that job. She would constantly overcommit herself, expect me to save her from her overcommitments, and then get angry/resentful when I stuck to my boundaries about work-life balance. (Which weren’t even GOOD boundaries– I was still working ~10 hours of overtime every week, she was just working 15+.)

      The kicker? She had such a massive martyr-complex/need to be The Most Specialest Hardest-Workingest Person In The Room that she would literally steal (non-time-sensitive!) work off of my desk to assign to herself instead, and then STILL act like the problem was that I wasn’t pulling my weight instead of her own inability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. (Like negotiating to work 4-10s instead of 5-8s, and then deliberately scheduling herself for work on her supposed-to-be day off!)

      Obviously there was also a huge management problem at that job because they were happy to let her burn herself out/blame me for her burnout if that meant they could make more money off of our services, so it was a biiiig ol’ snowball of Yikes.

      1. Shortstop*

        Ah, been there and I love your all-caps description. I hope I won’t ever need it in the future but am filing away just in case. Spot on comment.

  3. Lokifan*

    This is tough! but I do think you might be able to fix it. If I was Jill, I’d be so relieved you brought it up – especially because if from her end it looks like you not pulling your weight, she might not know how to phrase the difference between you. Maybe even just naming it the way you see it (as having boundaries around your free time) might help.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Ditto. I would’ve been Jill when I was younger and assuming you weren’t pulling your weight because my rigid thinking would assume success looked like what *I* was doing. This doesn’t have to be the outcome of your discussion with her, but this might open Jill’s eyes to a different way of achieving success at work. (I’m proud to report I’m more OP now.)

    2. Sloanicota*

      I agree that in this dynamic, it’s a big easier for OP to name the issue versus Jill. Be aware that Jill may not be willing to say “you don’t pull your weight” even if that’s what she feels though, as it may sound too mean to vocalize.

  4. Peanut Hamper*

    It might also be helpful to explain why you have set some pretty firm boundaries in your life.

    It’s possible Jill doesn’t even realize that boundaries are an option.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I find that with issues like this, the root problem is that I’m willing to accept the consequences of not doing something, and she’s not. Maybe the two of them can talk through what they both think will happen if something slips. Does Jill think she’ll be fired? That the company will go out of business? That her boss won’t like her anymore? She almost certainly feels unable to say no because of something like this.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This is a great point. Especially if the OP has been successful in pushing back before. The letter says she will flag for management when there’s too much work to be done and they’ll put other things on pause. It sounds like it’s working out OK for the OP. So if this is about Jill’s fear, that knowledge can help. Reasonable management would want to know when there is too much going on and to provide direction on prioritizing things.

    2. Venus*

      There are studies to show that people who work more hours in a day quickly get diminishing returns. People who work 12 hours in a row aren’t much more productive than those who work 8 hours. Having firm boundaries is often better for a good employer.

      They work in a creative industry. My creativity is much stronger when I’m able to step away from a problem and return fresh. I think it would be useful to explain to Jill that OP’s work is of such good quality and appreciated by OP’s boss because it works for OP. Phrase it in a way that isn’t criticizing anyone else yet be clear that it’s a personal choice that benefits everyone.

      1. Donner*

        “There are studies to show that people who work more hours in a day quickly get diminishing returns. People who work 12 hours in a row aren’t much more productive than those who work 8 hours.”

        It would be more accurate to say studies show that when people work 12 hours in a row, overall, most of them will be less productive in the final 4 hours than they are in the initial 8 hours.

        1. Colette*

          Is that what the studies show? Because that’s very much not the same thing.

          IME, the first day I work 12 hours in a row, your statement would be true – eventually I get less productive. But if I do it for multiple days, Venus’s statement is true – I don’t get any more done than I would in 8 hours.

          1. Donner*

            “Is that what the studies show? Because that’s very much not the same thing.”

            Yes, and that’s why I offered the correction. It’s very job dependent, so please do note the word “most.”

          2. Emmy Noether*

            You are right. Of course one can work late once, or even pull an all-nighter once, and produce more than in 8 hours. However, if one does it all the time, one quickly becomes way less efficient all the time, so that the total output may not actually be more.

            There are even studies that show that part-time workers produce much more than proportionally (I think it was that for example at 80%, workers were nearly as productive as someone working 100%).

            1. Crooked Bird*

              Even though I haven’t seen numbers, I’m perfectly convinced of the statement in your second paragraph there. Three times a week, in season, I do a high-intensity 5-hour morning shift that tends to leave me wiped for the rest of the day. If I had an eight-hour day to do the same work, I might get more done, but not that much more, certainly not a proportional amount. (Since my work on those days also involves leading a team and helping them work smoothly and efficiently to get our most crucial job done to deadline, I see those 5-hour shifts as the absolute most effective use of my time in all my job duties. The others don’t usually work as hard as I do during those shifts, but they get more done because I have a constant eye on the game plan, keeping bottlenecks out of the workflow, etc, so I’m maximizing multiple people’s effectiveness.)

              But the energy output is the same. More work accomplished = more energy output–it can be packed into less time, or stretched over more, but the equation doesn’t substantially change. (You can do extra in a crisis–but you’ll need recovery time. You can do extra for years–but you’ll burn out.) I honestly believe you’re capable of just exactly as much work as you’re capable of, over the long term–it’s really not about time at all, it’s about energy (or focus, which is just a form of energy.) So doing it within reasonable hours is really important! (And remembering that your job isn’t the only worthy recipient of your energy, of course.)

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              When I worked part-time I was more productive than my full-time colleagues who would often stay late. The boss was furious that I refused to move to full-time and he gave them pay rises and not me – this was legal because I was part-time. Then when he ran the stats and saw that actually I was the most productive employee, he screamed at them for an hour. I’d have thought giving me a bonus would have been more inspiring, but that’s not how his mind worked

        2. linger*

          They’re likely not as productive in the first 8 hours either, because they know they have another 4 hours in which to catch up. Parkinson’s Law (“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”) applies; all the boundary-less worker does is to feed the same work more of their time.

          1. nnn*

            I think this varies from person to person, the studies are averages. When I used to work 10-12 hours a day, I was a lot more productive than I am now that I work around 8. Not just a little more productive but very significant gains.

            1. Donner*

              “the studies are averages”

              Yes–that’s important. There will be individuals who who stretch out 8 hours of work to take 12 hours, there will be individuals who after 1 day do only 6 hours of work in 12 hours, and there will be individuals who regularly do 12 hours of work in 12 hours. Heck, there are people who do 12 hours of work in 8 hours. None of these individuals’ productivity should be taken to disprove general tendencies shown across multiple individuals.

            2. allathian*

              Depends on the job. If it’s brainless data entry, where all you do is type in numbers manually, the longer you sit there, the more work you’ll get done. Or if you work on an assembly line, the more hours you work, the more stuff you’ll build.

              But if the job requires any creative thinking, spending more time on it is unlikely to yield a better result. Going for a walk, especially in a green space, or just doing something else that you really enjoy doing, can really spark your creativity.

              1. Peanut Hamper*

                I would hardly describe either data entry (or working on an assembly line) as “brainless”.

                Fatigue is fatigue, and if you get tired, you are more likely to make mistakes. And mistakes have a huge impact to overall productivity numbers, as rework is not cheap.

              2. Lydia*

                That is not at all true. Data entry is tiring and the more you do without some sort of balance, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I worked at a creative company, and in the employee handbook it said, “We expect you to take your vacation, and to take lunch, etc., because you cannot be creative when you are not rested and do not have new perspectives.”

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      It’s also possible Jill doesn’t have the same support from management in setting boundaries. It may be hard to start saying no now, after years of going above and beyond.

    4. Alanna*

      It’s also possible Jill just has a different relationship to work than LW. Jill may have the boundaries that she needs based on what she gets satisfaction from in life and what she finds motivating and rewarding. I have friends who are very much “work to live, not live to work” people and I respect them. The substance of my work is important to me, being good at my job is important to me, and I work more than they do. This doesn’t mean that I have no boundaries — I do; I just have different ones, because I recognize that I am happier if I feel engaged and driven.

      LW, if you want to preserve the friendship, I really encourage you to view this as you and Jill having different boundaries and values, rather than trying to get her to understand why your approach is best. As someone who’s occasionally been lectured by work-to-live friends, I promise it doesn’t help overcome differences. (Yes, I know I’m not doing brain surgery and no one will die if I leave this project until tomorrow — but the project is still important to me, and doing it well is important to me, thanks!)

      1. Emily*

        For this to work though, Jill needs to respect the differences, which is the core problem, and why I think Alison’s advice is good. LW is not trying to change how Jill works necessarily, she just wants Jill to understand that she does not work the same way and Alison’s wording is wonderful. Right now Jill is resentful of LW, and it seems like that is what is causing the rift in the friendship. (For Jill’s own benefit, I do hope she at some point starts to see the advantages of LW’s approach and adopts it herself, but who knows).

      2. Lydia*

        OP didn’t indicate they were approaching it as trying to get Jill to come around to her way of thinking, but rather their different approaches are causing Jill to think OP isn’t pulling her weight and OP to feel like the extra work is a waste of time. I don’t think this is a matter of what’s motivating to Jill since frequently the extra she offers doesn’t get used. Even if you like to offer extra, if that extra is consistently left out, you would probably stop offering it eventually.

      3. Stopped Using My Name*

        I work with someone like this @Alanna and @Lydia.

        Situations and perspectives vary. My Someone does it because they think they are building a well of goodwill with management. By their own admittance, that doesn’t appear to have happened. As long as they respect my boundaries, I’m good. I must admit, respecting my boundaries includes not telling me how overburdened you with work .

        1. Emily*

          Yeah, one of the things I’ve had to learn in the work world (and frankly in life in general) is that going above and beyond doesn’t have all the advantages people seem to sometimes think it has. It seems like more often then not you just end up getting taken advantage of, which is why I have gotten really good at setting boundaries.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. When I used to get bouts of anxiety if I didn’t have at least a week of overtime saved up for emergencies, in spite of having very long vacations and managers who so far have approved my requests for leave without exception, I didn’t get any more appreciation for my efforts than I do now with much better work/life boundaries. But my relationships with my coworkers, and managers, are so much better because I’m not frustrated, exhausted, stressed, and angry all the time, and believe it or not, my work product is also better because I work smarter, not harder or longer.

        2. Lydia*

          That is totally fair. And Jill isn’t doing that for OP, clearly. Jill can’t volunteer for extra work and then expect OP to pitch in equally to something she didn’t agree to.

    5. Lakonta*

      It’s possible Jill doesn’t even realize that boundaries are an option.

      Equally, or indeed more likely, Jill is simply more hard-core about her job and her career.

      It is extremely condescending to Jill to exclude this possibility. Many of us take this approach towards work because we want to.

      1. allathian*

        Do you accept that some of your coworkers don’t feel the same way and are less flexible with their work/life boundaries than you are? If so, you do you and it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

        Or do you resent them for it, either overtly or covertly? If so, you’re just as condescending as you’re accusing the commenters who work to live rather than live to work of being.

        But the LW’s problem seems to be more that she resents it when Jill agrees to do more work than she can handle and then puts pressure on the LW to do what Jill doesn’t have time for. That behavior has to stop if they’re going to have any hope at all of maintaining their friendship.

      2. Auga*

        That’s why the very quote you’ve selected said “It’s possible”. They’ve not excluded the possibility you refer to!

      3. GrooveBat*

        Thank you for saying this.

        I am honestly finding all the armchair psychoanalysis and outright sneering at Jill to be really off-putting. The LW’s interest in Jill’s work behavior begins and ends with its direct impact on LW. If Jill over-commits in a way that requires extra work out of LW, that’s a fair complaint and something that should be worked out between the two of them. Otherwise, LW needs to back off and simply not engage when Jill complains.

        1. Lydia*

          Nobody is doing any of that. What people are saying is Jill can’t be all go, go, go and then be mad at OP for not picking up equally what Jill volunteered for.

          1. GrooveBat*

            That I agree with, and I said as much in my comment.

            But there’s been rampant speculation here about how Jill “doesn’t realize she can have boundaries” or “Jill can’t possibly be productive if she works that much,” which to me comes across as both condescending as well as a bit of projecting.

  5. Fluffy Fish*

    I agree with Alison that naming the issue is so so important here.

    We all have a tendency to feel like people are doing things “at” us when usually it’s nothing about us and everything about themselves. Dragging into the open that you two have very different (and perfectly ok) approaches to work may clear the air.

    As an aside – you mention you’ve tried to get Jill to draw boundaries in the past. Unless she asked you, that’s not your place. And at this point she’s made it clear what her work style is. Make sure your distaste of Jill’s style isn’t bleeding into your interactions.

    1. KatEnigma*

      It’s not her place to get Jill to try to set boundaries- up until Jill is complaining to LW constantly that she’s so overworked or cancelling last minute plans because work, etc, etc, etc. Then it’s a kindness to point out to Jill where she could make changes.

      And I bet Jill is resentful because the boundary setting feels even more “at” her- that if only LW did more, Jill wouldn’t “have” to do as much. She probably feels that everyone should do more, but being her friend, feels especially betrayed by LW. It’s not reasonable, but I’d lay money that’s what is.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        “It’s not her place to get Jill to try to set boundaries- up until Jill is complaining to LW constantly that she’s so overworked or cancelling last minute plans because work, etc, etc, etc. Then it’s a kindness to point out to Jill where she could make changes.”

        I agree to a point. You ask first – are you venting or do you want suggestions. And if the answer is venting then if you are at your limit you address you can’t hear it anymore. If its suggestions you offer. Once.

        No one likes unsolicited advice.

        1. Donner*

          OP has already done that kindness, though. At this point, I agree with your original sentiment, which is that it’s not OP’s place to get Jill to set boundaries.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            I wish I had thought it before, so forgive me for using your comment as an excuse to make an additional point to KatEnigma’s post – OP didn’t indicate Jill has been complaining. And it could just as easily go in the other direction where OP goes on and on about how great having boundaries are.

            A good reminder we shouldn’t speculate on what’s not in the letter.

      2. nodramalama*

        I mean people vent to their friends about their work. It doesn’t mean they’re asking for a solution. this is a very common conflict that occurs between people- one person wants to have a whinge and feel seen and heard by the person they’re talking to, and the other one wants to propose solutions. Those don’t serve the same function.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. In this case, though, the LW is completely entitled, both as her friend and as her coworker, to say that enough’s enough and that she doesn’t want to listen to Jill venting about something that’s entirely her own fault, namely accepting more work tasks than she can handle and getting mad when the LW isn’t jumping at the chance to work longer hours and do what Jill doesn’t have time to do.

          This is yet another reason why being close friends with your coworkers is generally a bad idea. I bet that the LW would be a lot more willing to listen to Jill venting about her work if they didn’t work together and Jill’s unwillingness to set boundaries about how much work she’s willing to take on didn’t affect the LW directly.

          I admit that I’m frequently the person who proposes solutions. I’ll listen to a friend venting about some issue once, maybe twice if they’re a really good friend, but after that I’m done, unless they’re willing to let me brainstorm some potential solutions with them and they’re willing to at least seriously consider my suggestions. If they try a solution I propose and it doesn’t work, the cycle resets and they can vent again.

          I’ve quit being friends with people who just wanted to vent at me about the same issue over and over again. It gets very frustrating in the long run. That said, when the issue gets serious enough I’m willing to listen with no expectation of reciprocity, like the good friend whose teenage kid has some extremely serious mental health issues (currently in care on a 24/7 suicide watch), she can call me any time, day or night, and she’s the only non-family member whose calls get through even when my phone’s on DND. This friend’s a very good friend, though, and sometimes she’ll call just to talk about happy things, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m her second therapist.

          Sure, I’m not perfect either, and sometimes I just need to vent. But before I start, I’ll ask my interlocutor (usually my bestie, husband, or sister) if they’re willing to listen to me vent for a while without offering any solutions. I don’t ask this favor often, and I’m happy to reciprocate with these people, so it works out. Sometimes I’ll ask the same person to brainstorm solutions with me when I’m ready to move on.

  6. AnonInCanada*

    I’m sorry that this is putting a strain between you and Jill. I always adhered to the adage: “The quickest way to turn friends into enemies is to live with them or work with them.” I’ve had friends ask me if I can get them a job within the small company I work for. Since I want to remain friends with them, I come up with excuses as to why we’re not hiring. I don’t want to be put in a position where a colleague may see me showing favouritism, or I have to stop being friends with people due to the position I’m put in with them at work.

    I used to be a Jill. Long hours, worked dumped on me, not establishing boundaries etc. made me stressed out and dreading going to work every morning. Thankfully, I’ve been able to put my foot down on things and I’ve been given the work-life balance that is deserved. I hope you can show Jill that work isn’t worth dying for, because it looks like she’s headed that way if she doesn’t change, and soon.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Really? If I had a friend who needed a job I think I’d be willing to step back from the friendship rather than tell them we’re not hiring if we are, assuming they’d be a good fit for the role. My friends need to eat!

      1. Doreen*

        That’s part of the problem, I think. You can’t know for sure that someone is a good fit until they are actually in the job – and someone who is a great friend can be a terrible employee/coworker.

    2. ThisisTodaysName*

      Wow. That feels… wrong. You are LYING to people you say are good enough friends you don’t want to lose their friendship. If I found out you lied to me, that friendship would be gone in a heartbeat. Also, if they’re truly good friends, you should have SOME idea of their work ethic, knowledge, etc… It’s one thing to say, “we don’t have any openings for llama groomers right now,” if it’s true, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing if there ARE openings to LIE and say, “yeah but we’re only hiring llama groomers with specialized experience and curly hair.” If you do have reason to suspect someone is not a good worker/good fit, take the resume, turn it in and say to your manager, “Hey a heads up, I cannot in good conscience give this person a good recommendation, but I said I’d turn in the resume.” Friends do not LIE to friends just for their own comfort. Damn.

      1. Kella*

        On the one hand, I agree that the lying is a pretty strong choice, especially if they are close friends. On the other hand, how is turning in their resume but explicitly recommending against them any better? Are you telling your friend that you won’t recommend them? If not, that just seems like lying by omission.

        1. ThisisTodaysName*

          I disagree. If I tell you I’ll turn in your resume, I will. Now, if you ask me to recommend you and put in a good word and I say I will but I don’t, THAT is lying, as well. But, it’s also so much easier for the person to find out you lied if you say “no openings” and they find out there were/are. Turning in the resume and saying, “Here’s a resume, but I can’t give a reference for this person” is actually pretty neutral. IMHO, at least.

          1. Kella*

            “I cannot in good conscience give this person a good recommendation” sounds more actively negative than “I can’t give a reference,” but either way, if you are refraining from telling your friend that you don’t think they would be a good fit, you’re letting them waste their time on a job they aren’t going to get. That doesn’t seem like a kindness.

          2. Lydia*

            You’re still being wildly dishonest if you take the resume and don’t tell your friend you don’t feel comfortable giving a recommendation. If you’re not being explicit, you’re letting a lot of assumptions hang out without taking any of the responsibility for how you feel.

    3. allathian*

      I’m very much a work to live person, particularly following my burnout that was a direct consequence of me accepting more work than I was able to do, and just being forced to push through. I worked 50+ hour weeks for a project that took about 3 months, a lot when my normal workweek is about 36 hours.

      My sister has a career while I have a job, and our approaches to work are very different. We’re close because we respect each other’s choices and priorities. And it has to be said that now that we’re older my sister’s also learning the wisdom of disconnecting and taking real vacations when she can, but she still regularly works longer hours than I’d ever consider reasonable. But then, she’s in academia and the pressure to publish is strong. She’s also childfree and her SO is just as career-oriented as she is. They maintain separate households and spend weekends and vacations together.

      I guess I’m lucky that I’m not in a position to recommend any of my friends for jobs at my employer, simply because I don’t know any of them as coworkers. A few times I’ve told people on my network about open positions at my employer, but I don’t really know them as coworkers, either.

  7. Bluebonnet*

    I agree with Alison’s advice to talk to Jill directly about the issue as well.

    Situations like this is why I generally separate work friendships from my personal life. However, I am empathetic to the fact that OP and Jull did not work together until after the reorg.

  8. beanie gee*

    I’ve been in a very similar situation in the past, and unfortunately the thing that saved our friendship was me getting a new job.

    My coworker/friend started off not having projects that impacted each other’s work. My friend also had an inability to say no to anything and setting boundaries, but also struggled immensely with meeting deadlines and finishing work in a reasonable amount of time. I ended up having to take on more work because he wasn’t finishing his own. He martyred himself as always being so busy, always having to work late/on weekends, when everyone else was turning out more work in less time. Our manager never tried to get to the root cause of the issue, just kept reassigning his work to the rest of us and then shrugging when we pushed back about our workloads.

    Ultimately I left because the structure of the organization meant managers didn’t really manage and were generally conflict averse in a way that meant nothing was ever going to change. But silver lining, we are still friends, and I’m at a company that I like a lot better.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Good for you staying friends! In our society we put so much value on “being a good worker” that I’ve seen people lose respect for their friends and lose the friendship during these kinds of issues – but someone can be a great friend / community member and a not-great employee!

      1. Snell*

        I def see beanie’s situation as an example of how mixing friendship and work so easily muddies the water. The coworker/friend harmed (not the precise word I mean, I’m looking for something lower-intensity than “harmed,” but it’ll have to do for now) multiple coworkers, as a coworker; he wasn’t harming beanie as a friend. In that kind of situation, it’s easy to wonder “How could they do that to me, their friend?” and thus the friendship sours. But they didn’t do that to their friend, they did it to their coworker. I think there are some things we’d just rather not know about the people in our lives (e.g., the classic “parents had sex the exact number of times to have the exact number of bio children they have and never did it before or again” fantasy that is comfortable to believe, if nothing else).

        1. beanie gee*

          It’s not so much that he did anything to me as a friend, it’s that he was very difficult and frustrating to work with in a way that made it hard to want to be friends with him outside of work. Before our work overlapped, he was fun to spend time with outside of work. Once our work overlapped, I didn’t want to see him any more than I absolutely had to. If we’d met during this overlapping work time instead of when our work didn’t overlap, we probably would never have developed a friendship.

          1. Snell*

            Well, yeah, that’s my point. He /didn’t/ do anything to you as a friend, but his behavior as a coworker still impacted the friendship. Very few people can compartmentalize to the degree that they could easily maintain personal friendships with bad coworkers, but that’s beside the point. Compartmentalization is neither virtuous nor nonvirtuous. It just is, and varies in usefulness depending on the situation.

  9. I like hound dogs*

    I feel like I have an adjacent issue with my husband. He always says yes to extra work and I sometimes feel resentful of that because it means he’s tired and not present because he worked until 2 a.m., and it seeps into our family life. To be fair, we both work full-time but his job is more demanding and he makes more money. But I also know that he is a people-pleaser/go-getter who has trouble saying no, and I wish he’d just say “nah, can’t do that timeline” a little more often!

    1. Donner*

      Isn’t it funny how people pleasing spice never seem to apply the same people pleasing tendencies to their partners. Shouldn’t he want to please you as much as he wants to please his management?

      1. Jinni*

        My ex was in this loop for years (still is). The difference is that *I* realized he was never going to try to stop pleasing those at work even AFTER he got to the top.

        If Jill can’t change (I’m a big believer in working less), then I hope the LW can separate the work relationship from the friendship.

      2. Kella*

        Sometimes this is because the person is scared of their employer and what might happen if their employer gets mad but they aren’t scared of their partner *because they feel safe with them*. It’s a terrible position to put your partner in, though, to let them absorb all the impact of your fear-based decisions.

        1. I like hound dogs*

          This is exactly the root of it. He’s not “scared” per se, but he knows I’m on his side in life, so it’s easier for me to absorb the consequences than someone at work, etc. He has improved over the years, but it’s definitely a toxic pattern in all areas of his life. He’ll say yes to something and then resent the person he said yes to if he feels they aren’t properly appreciative, etc. (such as a neighbor he did a favor for). I’m trying to help him see he can just say no in the first place.

    2. Bugalugs*

      My Husband was like this as well. I took me basically telling him there’s not point in being in a relationship with him if I never see him, this was when we were dating. It took a long time for him to put value on his time and whether it was worth it for him but he does now. I could see the work so I stuck around and glad I did but man it sucks.

  10. Some words*

    I’ve been through this. It was rough and my friend and I had many arguments over our different work styles. We argued because each of us believed the other person needed to change. Neither of our ways are better, they’re just really different.

    We had to recognize each others’ work styles and respect them. It was work to adjust our beliefs. We’ve been friends for around 35 years now & still adore each other. Haven’t worked together for decades now. We’re still very different in our ways, and that’s okay.

    It wasn’t easy at all,

    1. tamarack etc...*

      I think this is an important point: Even if the OP and her friend can’t come to an alignment, the very fact of having a honest communication channel open about it may help the friendship.

  11. Annie*

    It does sound like there are two related but somewhat separate issues here, and it might be useful to think about how to approach them with Jill. Personal and work boundaries are one thing, and as a friend and a colleague, your ability to try to change that aspect of how she approaches things is limited. As her friend, you can give her gentle advice but she may not want to change; as her colleague, it’s really on her to set her own personal boundaries. But *scope* boundaries seem well within your professional relationship to discuss. Expanding scope isn’t good project management, regardless of one’s personal affinity to their work and where they want to set boundaries. I think it might help you to think about the difference between the two. In your personal friendship, I think you’d like to be able to respect each other’s different styles and not build resentment. In the professional relationship, though, it sounds like she might be constantly expanding scope, and that’s more of a work issue.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. It seems to me that the big issue is Jill’s tendency to accept more work than she can complete herself and then to expect the LW to do some of that work for her. It feels like Jill is leveraging their friendship to get the LW to work longer hours than she’s willing to do, and this leads to resentment on both sides.

  12. ThisisTodaysName*

    I think one thing that’s missing from the proposed discussion with “Jane” is that she is accepting work essentially for BOTH OF YOU. It was fine when she accepted extra work that put a burden only on herself; that was her choice to make, but she has no right to YOUR time and your energy outside of what you are willing to give to a project. So in addition to the “work/life balance, our friendship blah blah” talk I think you need to add, “your willingness to go the extra mile is a worthy virtue, but you need to realize that it affects me too when you refuse to set boundaries on your time, because it then obligates time that also belongs to me that I am not willing to give away.” Maybe she needs to hear in clear language that her methods are affecting YOUR work/life quality.

    1. Lydia*

      This is the root of it, I think. Jill can volunteer to go above and beyond all she wants, as long as it doesn’t put anything extra on the OP. Jill can’t volunteer both their time without OP’s consent and then be mad when OP doesn’t pull that extra weight she never asked for.

  13. Kella*

    To me, this sounds like an unresolved work problem, and the fact that it’s unresolved is bleeding into the friendship. I might use Alison’s script but also add something like, “I want to figure out something that works for both of us at our job and I also want to stay your friend. Can we talk about that?”

    Something I would explicitly name to her as well as that you are not offering to work the kind of hours that Jill does and that’s not going to change. Sometimes all that it takes to dispel resentment is to verbalize explicitly that you are not offering that and you never will. Be clear about, “I can do X and I can do Y but I can’t do Z” with the variables being forms of availability, flexibility, and strategies for getting stuff done.

    It also sounds like Jill not setting boundaries is impacting you in that there is more work you’re expected to chip in on. I might explicitly say that if she wants your help on extra projects, she needs to get your okay in taking it on. You cannot commit to doing whatever she says yes to, indefinitely. If she doesn’t get your okay, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to help her with those extra projects.

    I also like what other people mentioned of pointing out that you are able to say no to projects or move projects around with the help of management without serious consequences. This might be particularly useful to bring up if she pushes back on what you say you can’t offer, and she uses any kind of language like “but we have to” or “but this is what we’re expected to do.”

  14. L. Bennett*

    I feel you, OP. I have a friend who I met at work and realized pretty quickly that as much as I enjoy her company outside of work, I can’t STAND working with her. She’s like your friend and is always over-extending herself whereas I like to keep a work-life balance (while still being very good at my job). She’s a lovely person and very good at what she does but I would not want to work on another project with her.

  15. Sun and clouds*

    I work with people who are my friends and it requires an extra level of care. You both need to know when you’ve moved into formal work communication mode and be extra careful of tone and phrasing. The benefits are that I get a lot of grace for those off moments as we know each other well and ultimately have a huge deal of respect for each other. This is going to take some blunt honest communication and may result in some painful feedback from your friend. It also may require extending her some flexibility that you won’t do for other colleagues in the interests of preserving your friendship.

  16. El l*

    What’s so difficult about it is that when you work with friends, you also have to rely on them.

    Jill has to rely on you to pull your weight – however she defines that and however you define that.
    You have to rely on Jill’s judgment about what’s necessary and what isn’t.

    The best way forward is not to get bogged down with examples where you lay out the differences. Instead, what you want is the common denominator on tasks – the priority items that you can maybe stretch a little for on her behalf, and the ones where she is willing to take a deep breath and say, “Nice to have, but not necessary.” Perhaps that common denominator is principles, perhaps it’s a few concrete tasks, but name what that ground is.

  17. HearTwoFour*

    The problem I see isn’t a difference in work styles, but a refusal to compromise. If you’re not willing to compromise for friend, then who? And the same goes to Jill. You may not like her work style, but can you respect it? Can you respect that it works for her? I think being willing to put in extra work is admirable. I also think setting healthy boundaries is admirable. So neither of you are 100% in the wrong.
    Here’s what a compromise could look like; Two times a week that you work together, agree that both of you will work an hour beyond normal time, but once that hour is up, you go out to dinner together and work stops. On non-dinner nights, neither of you opine on the other person’s work style. I’m not suggesting you work extra time to benefit the client or your employer, but to support and tend to the friendship.
    And maybe that’s an imperfect solution, so come up with something better! That’s what a true friend would do.

    1. Not that other person you didn't like*

      I’m afraid I disagree with this (and I don’t want to, because it sounds so nice). But “I’ll work extra hours doing random unnecessary tasks you volunteered us for to make you feel better as my friend… as long as you work less than you choose to and turn down things you normally wouldn’t to make me feel better as your friend…” that just doesn’t fly. And I know you suggested finding a different compromise that would work, but it’s the nature of work compromise for your friendship’s sake that doesn’t work. It’s unprofessional. You can have professional compromise (let’s get our manager’s help to make sure we’re clear on what MUST be done and if you want to do more on your own extra time, go for it and I certainly will give you all the credit for it). You can have friend compromise (let’s just not talk about work and get margaritas). I don’t think you can mix them.

      Then again, I once (ONCE) worked with a friend and her BS contributed to me getting laid off. So I have hard boundaries about that as well as about work/life balance.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this.

        I’m actually not sure the OP and Jill’s friendship is salvageable at this point, at least not as long as they work together. I know that in the OP’s shoes I wouldn’t be willing to compromise on my work/life balance to appease my friend’s anxiety. I’d rather lose the friendship.

  18. Becca*

    I feel bad for OP but I do think you can make the friendship work! At my last job I became incredibly close with one of my colleagues and it was great until I took over from our manager when she was on maternity leave and suddenly things were very different. There were times (particularly during busy periods at work) where there was tension and we weren’t so close anymore but anytime it felt like it was becoming an issue I just have a frank conversation with them as a friend to talk about how we were feeling and what we each needed to do in order to make the situation better for the other person. And whilst there were times where we did just speak less and had to give each other space, we managed to maintain the friendship this whole time (even now we’ve both left that company).

    I think the main thing to remember is that friendships do change and go through phases. Sometimes you’ll be super close and sometimes less so but so long as you keep communicating and putting consistent effort (it doesn’t have to always be lots of time but just consistent amounts of time) into the friendship then there’s no reason why you can’t stay friends.

    1. allathian*

      Oof. If there’s one thing I’m very inflexible on, it’s that managers should never, ever have any sort of friendship with the people they manage. Ever. I get it that in your case it was a temporary thing while your manager was on maternity leave, which is a matter of a few months at most if you’re in the US, but if that promotion had been permanent, a good manager would’ve renegotiated the terms of the relationship to a purely professional one. If nothing else, how can you make managerial decisions that your report doesn’t like if you’re also their friend? And how can you remain impartial if there’s a conflict between your friend and another report? Even if both you and your friend are convinced you could remain impartial, the rest of the team, who aren’t your friends, won’t see it that way.

      When a former manager wanted out of management, she went on job rotation to a sister organization before retiring, and one of my peers was promoted. (She went on job rotation to avoid being managed by one of her former reports.) Our new manager was very professional about it, and one of our former peers, who was friend-friends with the promoted manager (they’d been to each other’s weddings when no other coworkers were invited), switched teams. Partly it was because she was interested in the professional development opportunities that were available in the other team, but a big contributing reason was that both of them were afraid that the manager-report relationship would destroy their friendship.

  19. PlainJane*

    Oof, I feel for you, OP. It’s good that you’re setting boundaries and good in general for people to start pushing back against work expectations to be available 24/7, but when someone else isn’t setting those boundaries, that’s the person people are going to start inundating, and that person is going to feel resentful. (It’s kind of like the person who keeps covering for a parent who has to deal with family stuff… it’s a good thing to do–the right thing to do–but then they start to get that feeling like no one ever does anything back for them and how come they have to carry all the weight…? They may even recognize that these feelings aren’t fair, or that it’s their own choice to put in that extra time, but… sigh.)

    And it’s hard to address when you’re not on the same page! Jill probably thinks she’s doing the normal thing, and your boundaries are just dumping more work on her because *someone* has to be there to answer the 2am email, and why wait to jump on that project when it could be done in a jif if only you weren’t putting up all these artificial barriers… Which she may even know intellectually is a Jill thing and not an OP thing–if she’s been on shared vacations with you, she must know you unplug from work on vacations–but because the 2am email client feels she’s “more responsive,” she ends up feeling like the work is dumped on her. In a situation like that, you pretty much have to agree on the work flow.

    The script of saying, “This is what I feel…” is good for the friendship–any friendship!–but in terms of practical solutions, maybe you say something like, “If you feel comfortable dealing with the communications in off-hours, maybe I can take point with communications during work hours, leaving you free to do other things, and we can set up specific times to work on the projects together,” or that she could tell the contact, “My colleague, who specializes in this, is on duty on Monday morning; she’ll be able to handle this question better then, when she has access to all of our in-office resources.” :shrug: it might not work, but it might be worth a try to just figure out how to make it seem more “fair.” That said, if she’s working more hours by choice, there’s only so much you can do to even it out without breaking your work-life boundaries. Ideally, you could come to an agreement that she would also not be working outside work hours, but culturally, I don’t know if that would fly. There is still a VERY large subset of the world that thinks 24/7 availability is to be expected, and anyone not following that expectation is, at least subtly, in the wrong. Which is nasty.

  20. Lulu*

    You and Jill are operating under different social contracts, and that can be really frustrating for both parties. You believe that it is her responsibility to set boundaries on what she’ll promise, both in quantity and timeline, so that it doesn’t drag you and the rest of the team into excess work for little-to-no gain, or at least to prevent you all from being overworked. She believes that it is your responsibility to meet the deadlines and quantity of deliverables without negatively impacting her. Right now, your boundaries work for you, but have the ripple effect of “making” her do more work because she does not agree with or value the boundaries that you set as her own. So your boundaries = more work for her. Similarly, her lack of boundaries = more work for you. You’re both kind of right in your own way (I’m generally more sympathetic to you, LW…), but Alison’s advice is spot on that you need to explicitly talk about it. You’re both making big assumptions about the other one, and that leads to friction. Making it not an assumption but an actual conversation about where you’re coming from, what your approach is, etc., will likely make both of you more understanding of each other, and hopefully it’ll help her to see that your boundaries are beneficial for everyone and the work, rather than just you slacking off.

  21. Nodramalama*

    This is hard! I agree with Alison’s answer of naming the issue. Additionally, despite some of the comments saying that your attitude is correct and Jane’s is wrong, I would advise staying away from that mindset. Recognise that you and Jane work differently, you have different attitudes to work, and go from there.

    As someone who does work longer hours, logs in on weekends when I have additional work, and is pretty flexible on accepting new tasks when my capacity might be pushed, it is not useful to tell her she’s doing it incorrectly. All that will do is build resentment. Now granted, I am in a field where that is just sometimes necessary and expected for someone at my level. But still, this is Jane’s attitude to work and it’s not fair to assume she’ll change for you anymore than it’s fair for you to change for Jane

    1. allathian*

      Do you resent those of your coworkers who aren’t as willing to accept new tasks when their capacity is pushed? If not, you’re good.

  22. Raida*

    You definitely need to address it as friends.

    The end result could simply be her opinion is forever changed – you aren’t as responsible and hard working as she thought, you’re lazy – it can feel like a deception, that hurts, etc etc etc

    Maybe she ‘doesn’t like irresponsible people’ just like you can not like liars or thieves, etc etc etc

    Good luck!

    1. allathian*

      The friendship is probably not salvageable at this point, both of them resent each other’s ways of working too much. I’m more like the OP, and I know I wouldn’t want to deal with a coworker/friend who promised work would get done and overextended themself and more or less forced me to either flex my boundaries on work/life balance that would make me resent them, or maintain my boundaries firmly enough that my coworker/friend would start to resent me.

      I think that the surest way to save this friendship would be for them to stop working together.

  23. Malarkey01*

    So my husband and I work together and while that dynamic is obviously not a perfect match, here’s a few things we’ve done that may or may not work for you:
    -We have a strict 15 minute work talk after hours. It’s hard to always say let’s never talk about the office at all because sometimes you need to share vents or successes, get advice, or laugh about something at work with your friend and having that off limits feels limiting. After that 15 though we’re done.
    -We’ve developed a code word to use at work when we feel we’re getting close to crossing a line in a disagreement (I think it’s MUCH easier to take normal professional disagreements and conflicts personally when it’s coming from a friend). So if one of us says “mango”, we take a second, realize the conversation isn’t work level disagreement and do a reset and remind ourselves this is a work conversation not a reflection of our relationship.
    -We also jokingly use “there’s this guy/woman at work that was on my last nerve today, you know the type” and that’s our cue that the person is still a little annoyed about something the other did at work and needs a beat— it’s really about acknowledging that there’s normal work frustrations that occur with every coworker occasionally and that we need a minute (or 2 hours) to decompress from that but it’s not something we want to drag into our relationship.
    -We also have a little bit of compromise that we give and take if something is really important to the other. I have hard stops like you, sometimes an extra hour or so for my husband is the difference between him stressing out all night and having a bad next day so sometimes for his sake I’ll split the difference and work a little longer and then on the other days he gets that he might take on more of a project because I’m not going to take on extra and he’ll do more happily (it’s trickier and I wouldn’t recommend this as a common practice but it helps both of us knowing the other person will have our back if we’re really struggling with the balance and need help).
    -When things are really tense we throw alcohol and sex at the problem but that probably won’t work for you! Hehe

    Good luck!

  24. Fikly*

    Alison’s advice is spot on here. Relationships of all kinds take work, and honest communication. I have an incredibly close friendship of nearly 20 years, and the reason it works and is so close to this day is because we set aside time to talk about things, including what is causing tension between us, even when that is uncomfortable. And the more you do it, the easier it is to do it.

    However! As much as I love Alison’s script of saying that you realize her way works for her and you aren’t trying to change her, from what you write, you don’t think her way works for her, and you have been trying to change her. So…if you want to save the friendship, that has to change, and you can’t say that unless it does. Her way may or may not work for her! But she has to be the one to decide that, and she has to be the one to decide if she wants to change. And you can’t be involved in her decisions on that.

    That’s a boundary your friendship needs, and it’s a strict one because you are working so closely together. And that’s also why you can’t say that you won’t try to change her unless you can actually commit to that, because at this point, if you say that, but don’t follow through, that’s likely the end of the friendship. She’s likely pulling away outside of work not only because of work frustration, but because she feels like she can’t escape you trying to change how she works.

    1. wompwomp*

      Wow, this hit really hard for me. I’m in a similar situation with a close work friend, and I’m currently trying to both save the friendship and help in their career…. That’s not working, I should just focus on the friendship and let their career choices fall where they may

    2. allathian*

      For this reason, I think it’s unlikely that the friendship’s actually salvageable at this point. Because one of the boundaries that the LW needs to draw is to tell Jill that she can no longer accept extra work on the LW’s behalf and that from now on, the LW’s going to say no to every extra request from Jill.

      I’m very much on the LW’s side here, and in her shoes I’d never, ever prioritize my friendship with a coworker over maintaining my own work/life balance. I don’t need any more friends, certainly not at work, but I do need my work/life balance.

      That said, has the LW talked about this issue with their manager? It sounds like the LW and Jill have the same manager. If that’s the case, a potential solution would be to ask the manager, who seems to have the LW’s back, to give her a bit less work so that she has the capacity to do some of the work that Jill agrees to take on. Or would that be a completely unprofessional thing to do?

      At the very least, the manager should be made aware of the fact that Jill is accepting more work than she has the capacity to do herself, and is pressuring the LW to take on more work than she’s able to fit in her working hours.

  25. Lakonta*

    OP needs to stop “encouraging” Jill to set more boundaries. Jill has agency and is absolutely entitled to decide how hard-core she wants to be about her job and career, even if OP disagrees.

    Allison is right that OP should not be trying to change Jill, but I think that’s exactly what she’s trying to do. I suppose you’re entitled to view time off as “sacred,” right up there with the Garden of Gethsemane, but I think the use of that word is hyperbole.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree, LW should stop encouraging Jill to set more boundaries if she doesn’t want to do that. However, that doesn’t mean that the LW should be expected to take on any more work if Jill accepts more than she can actually get done.

      The LW has different priorities, and refusing to play along with Jill will probably mean the end of the friendship. I don’t think the LW would have any issues if Jill just took on more work and maybe vented about it to her every once in a while, but taking on more work and expecting the LW to do some of when she doesn’t have the capacity to get it done on time no matter how much she works is, IMO, way out of line. Certainly enough for the LW to decide that her work/life boundaries are more important for her mental health than her friendship with Jill is.

  26. Shortstop*

    Reminds me of a weird situation I once experienced where I and another graduate student worked a troubleshooting role part-time on weekday evenings.

    Except my co-worker would also troubleshoot on weekends, without being assigned to do so, let alone paid to do so. Periodically, if people submitted help tickets during the weekend, she’d answer them, even though we did have an auto-reply that outlined our help desk hours and alternative help sources when our desk was closed.

    My co-worker’s insistence on not holding boundaries meant that people expected weekend help and cried foul when they didn’t get it. That’s what it sounds like Jill is doing – creating an unfair expectation simply because she can’t resist taking on more and more work, and others get held hostage to it. My co-worker was let go fairly quickly because our manager got tired of fielding complaints tied to those fantasy expectations; no matter how hard he tried to explain that she shouldn’t be answering questions on weekends because people got the wrong idea about when we were available to help, she wouldn’t listen. He was a good manager who looked up, ya know?

  27. One of my biggest regrets*

    Not that much different than having a friend as a roommate or a travel partner. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s not. My best friend and I moved in together. We had very different ideas about basic living stuff. Unfortunately, we didn’t figure out that the only way we could remain friends was to live separately until it was too late. We haven’t spoken in years.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I hear you on the travel thing.

      My best friend is a scheduler and has to-do lists for everything. I know without ever having traveled with her that we wouldn’t travel well together. She loves making detailed itineraries and tends to be optimistic about how long it takes to go from one place to the next. I love making itineraries too, planning is half the fun for me, but my itineraries always have about a third of the number of items that hers do.

      As a consequence, when they travel, she and her family keep rushing from one place to another like headless chickens, or so it seems from the outside. It works for them, but it wouldn’t work for me. Frankly, I don’t have the energy for a schedule like that, I need plenty of rest between sightseeing, etc. and would be happy to take in a sight or two every day, and spend the rest of the day resting in the shade by the pool if we’re traveling in summer, or sitting somewhere watching the world go by in every other season.

  28. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    I really like Alison’s script, but also want to suggest another avenue: therapy! In the book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman, the authors talk about finding a therapist to help them resolve some friendship issues (also related to comingling friendship and work), and it was a really refreshing take on friendship for me, and how I think about a Big Friendship that I left behind. OP’s friendship may not be a Big one as described by the book, but I think that reflecting on how we do friendship, and maybe opening up to getting help navigating this very tough situation, could be really helpful!

  29. Ellis Bell*

    I think a friendship can survive different work styles, but it can’t survive disrespect and resentment. The two types of resentment OP mentions here are not comparable. Having someone resent you for not doing something is not comparable to resenting unnecessary tasks forced or pressed upon you. The resentment for not having your time respected is perfectly reasonable; not respecting someone else’s boundaries is much less so. The friend’s different work style is actually a red herring. Her work style would not impact upon yours if she had just respected that you had a different way of working; saying you are not pulling your weight is absolutely not okay. It’s worth reflecting if you truly respected her approach; possibly her complaining was not really unhappiness but an enjoyable vent or problem solving session. She may have dug into her way of doing things if you gave her advice which fundamentally misunderstood her need to work this way. If however, you don’t think she can respect that this is her own way of doing things, rather than “the right way” and that anything less is laziness, then it’s not the work style that’s going to be the problem but a lack of respect for different perspectives and preferences.

  30. All Het Up About It*

    I’m so sorry you are dealing with this, OP. It really stinks!

    I agree with Alison, that you need to have a conversation with your co-worker and friend. I think things have probably gotten more awkward because you HAVEN’T talked about it. If you have that honest convo, you might be able to save the friendship, even if it looks different for awhile. I think you’d have to set new work boundaries where you keep work at work and friendship separate. That’s hard to do! Maybe you can or maybe you can’t, but if you want to try, you should.

    You almost would have to have two types of relationships with Jill. Work relationship and friends relationship. How would you navigate these different working habits with a co-worker you weren’t friends with? (But still liked and were friendly with.) You need to try and do that and then figure out what your outside friendship is going to look like.

    Like I said, maybe it might change some. Maybe you’ll have to see her outside of work a little less, maybe you won’t be as close for awhile. But if you truly value the friendship, you could see it as a bit of an ebb and flow. You know that you aren’t going to work together like this forever (at least one of you is likely to get a new job at SOMEpoint) and if you want to be able to ramp the friendship up to where it was in the past when that happens, that might mean you need to throttle it back (but keep it maintained!) for the foreseeable future.

    I’m going to add a link as a reply to a friendship coach website. She’s got lots of free advice on Instagram and a podcast as well, and can really provide some interesting insights into the type of friendships women have and how we can prioritize and maintain them.

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