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AIBU...difficult friend/now work colleague...(54 Posts)
Need some advice please as feeling very anxious about this whole situation.
Became friendly with a lady I met through a mutual hobby a few years back, she's a little younger than me so in slightly different places in our lives in that I have a lot going on, not much spare time outside of work (Other than said hobby) due to commitments with looking after parents, kids etc. Happy to strike up a friendship initially, we are in a similar line of work so had that in common, exchanged texts and attended a couple of social events (perhaps 1-2 a year) as a group with others.
As time went on, she became more & more demanding. She is often ill/upset/had an argument with someone quite a lot of the time and often has very eventful things going on in her life (not taking away from the fact that must be really hard) & would often call/text using me as a bit of a soundboard, never checking how I was getting on.
She once sent me reams and reams of messages/calls regarding her own issues, the day after I'd had a close family bereavement (which she was aware of as I had messaged the group to explain why I wouldn't be attending this week). Similar things have happened many times. Also if the response is delayed, there is often a "guilt" element. One occasion a year or so ago she texted a couple of times and I was working so didn't answer... & then she's text again to see "just to let you know" she is being rushed into hospital, and then when I texted/called back to say I'm sorry to hear that and for late response is there anything you need, she was already home & fine (2-3 hours later). On a couple of occasions if I haven't answered due to being caught up or having my own stuff to deal with, she will get her husband to message me saying she is upset or usually something to make me feel guilty for not replying saying she needs support. For context, I have never met her husband, she has also in fact never been to my house or spent time with me 1-1.
If I'm being honest I think she feels we are closer than we are, I do feel guilty, but the friendship was having a detrimental effect on my mental health. I sort of gradually pulled away and we still text from time to time politely how are you etc, but have resigned from this role of constant support. She does have other friends, one of whom I believe has now replaced me in this role.
Anyway, all fine. Until I recently found out she has now accepted a job at the same company as me. I absolutely love my job, and now I am dreading going in. She is the type of person who everyone loves at the first meeting, very extroverted and charming (I am not), but that tends to then slip away after a while when people feel a bit bulldozed especially if people have their own things going on. Therefore I am worried how I'll be "painted" if I'm on the wrong side of her. Also, since she has accepted this job, the long messages have begun again!! About similar stuff, always paragraphs about an incident or problem... I sometimes wonder if its the only way she knows how to communicate with other people and its not intentional. But I cannot have this in my working life.
AIBU to try and sort of cut this off but remain professional...? Any advice would be so appreciated. I also am aware that now this is in a work environment, I don't want to look unprofessional. I feel as though I will probably be introduced as her "close friend" to others, so I may look like a horrible person then! Its so difficult.
You're over thinking this. Work on your boundaries, be professional and friendly but less available. Dont reply so quick to her messages, dont give out too much.
I had a friend like this. I understand your caution. Thankfully for me the friendship ended in the anticipated high drama way but it wasn't until after our shared social worlds had narrowed so I didn't get burned.
I don't know what's right but I know what I would do. I'd anticipate their job won't last forever; my friend always burnt bridges after the initial wow created by their dynamic and attractive personalities, but this always took a couple of years. So it's a long game. I'd adopt an extremely diplomatic position. I'd never share my true feelings about them to anyone, no matter how trusted, as these folks, as you say, have social skills that are so nuanced you could be out on your tail in no time.
@2020canfuckoff I’m sure your right I am an overthinker, I just worry as I had kept a comfortable distance & now feel it’s being taken away.
@dudsville thank you. This is very much the pattern here. I have been doing the same hobby with her & others for around 4 years, and only in the last 6 months have others begun to notice & vocalise to me (I have not said anything to them until this point).
Did this friend you have eventually “cut you off” for not being able to give her the energy she desired?
Must have been so difficult & I can picture the scene!
I can understand your anxiety about this but you need to be very clear.
You need to be unavailable.
Very very slow to answer texts....don't answer some.
To the long texts...answer briefly with bland, banal answers..like wishing you well, hope things improve, hope today is better.
Do not offer advice or an opinion on ANYTHING. Certainly offer zero opinions on anything connected with the office.
If someone mentions ye are close friends, disabuse them of this by "we just know each other through a hobby, that's all".
Be very busy.
Constantly mention how busy and demanding your life is.
Block the husbands number, ridiculous that he has your number.
If things come to a head, just tell her that
"I'm really sorry for you but my family need me and I huge commitments besides work".
Say it with a smile and keep away from her at work.
Do not do lunch with her at work.
All you are is an earhole to her.
Head down, arse up at work...sooooo busy.
Unavailable outside of work due to family commitments.
Hopefully others on here will give you better advice than mine.
I run a mile from people like this, my radar is super sensitive having been caught in my 30's by two people like this.
I went cold turkey and was ruthless but I appreciate the work thing is more complicated.
Most important thing is not to let people hear ye are best friends and for this to go unchallenged.
Thank you. Absolutely agree. I think sometimes when they are charming from the offset you can be caught in too deep before you notice.
Also re: her husband I couldn’t believe when I received messages from him, I would never get mine to do that even to my closest friends (unless some kind of emergency and there was a logistical reason we had to get in touch & I was incapacitated!) it’s all very bizarre.
I will make sure I appear as busy as possible. Already received a couple of messages regarding work queries about holiday entitlement (things that surely HR could answer) and also to inform me she is very unwell at the moment. I have yet to respond but planning on sending a response in a couple of days keeping it generic “been very busy... I suggest you contact HR & get well soon, etc.” Grrr.
There’s also been a social media post about how excited she is to work with a dear friend. I’m really not a nasty person I’d never want anyone to be upset, I just don’t have the space for this kind of friendship & I suffer from anxiety myself.
Lots of good advice in your post billy1966!
The only thing I would add is that people are generally more perceptive than they might appear - I suspect that others won't be taken in by her personality for long. There is always a false note that creeps in. They also know and trust you as a longstanding colleague.
I really hope so @MaybeDoctor I suppose you don’t know what other people are thinking, I certainly used to appear very content to others whilst in the group situation, even if inside I was thinking something different.
People like this cause anxiety!
I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but when this happened to me 15 years ago, I found one particular day I wanted to cry when I saw this person's number come up on the phone.
I was pregnant with my 4th child, had been unwell and was feeling great physically for the first time in a couple of weeks.
I answered the phone and she started on about her problems.....she was building a home and she had problems with the delivery of marble for her floors...she went on and on...I got off the phone and blocked her number....I was done!
She was a nice person but I had ended up as her earhole. I had ended up telling her nothing about my life as I wanted to just end the calls.
I felt bad for her, but I was just completely drained from her non drama.
I realised that with 3 young children, pregnant with my forth, she was the sole stress in my life.
The relief when she was blocked was enormous.
Good idea to just pass her on to HR.
She wants to use you as her go to person for info and advice in the job.
Do NOT become her source of information.
Be ruthless in passing her on.
A whiner like her will definitely have plans to rope you in as her new work confidant.
In conversation be TOTALLY loyal to your colleagues.
She could be dangerous.
Let us know how things go.
Could you perhaps say that now she is a colleague -you can no longer be "friends" as you don't like to mix the two ?
When I was younger I had a couple of instances where I had difficulty with a person and thought I was alone, then afterwards it transpired that everyone else was thinking the same thing too...
It can sometimes be useful to glance around at other people's faces if someone like that is holding forth in a public environment like a workplace. You can pick up clues about what other people are thinking without committing yourself in speech. If someone notices that you are not listening you can always just say something like, 'Must get back to work!' and move away.
I am in my forties and still find it quite hard to read people, but I am hoping to be fairly perceptive by the time I retire!
Thanks so much everyone, really. I have been feeling so anxious so this has really helped, I’m off this week (for pre booked holiday that is now cancelled but decided to keep the annual leave) so I think it’s building up even more, although she isn’t starting for another few weeks.
Great advice @billy1966 & I’m sorry that sounds awful for you! Your ‘friend’ clearly had no insight into the impact of her constant dialogue & I think these people sometimes can’t grasp how draining it can be particularly if you have your own stuff. Will keep you all updated.
@notsureofname I think if I am at any point backed into a corner & have to spell it out I wouldn’t be opposed to saying that, particularly as I am fortune to say my work environment isn’t a particularly b*tchy one, so I fear she will now bring “drama” into the workplace.
I hope you are right @MaybeDoctor ... I keep trying to tell myself these things have a habit of working out.... in the end!
This is so tricky
She's the kind of person I would gradually ghost. But you can't do that at work and she has the potential to turn on you. Maybe lay some groundwork before she starts.
'Oh yes x is lovely but very intense.'
'I only know her from my hobby, we don't really socialise outside of that.'
'She is always poorly, bless her.'
Drop a few hints into general conversation while sounding complementary.
Then when she starts. Just be busy. Slope off for lunch. Avoid being alone with her.
@Hingeandbracket All the best to you, not here to debate about how much info I’ve given, just hoping to support others & gain some advice off kind MN users
@TheMandalorian great advice thank you. I will try my best to sort of get those into conversation for a bit of context & keep it complimentary. You’re so right it’s so hard when you are faced with them daily.
Just tell her you don’t really do texts and you’d rather meet up once a month for a coffee lunchtime then text . Be polite and don’t speak badly of her. People will get to know her in good time
Lay groundwork with others. Yes yes yes.
And with her- ‘Ok, so you need to know I’m a very different person at work. Don’t be offended when you notice it, it’s just my way. Has been for xx years. If I’d known you were applying, I’d have warned you earlier!’ Smile, repeat. Forever.
Start as you mean to continue- don’t do lunches, etc. No new ‘traditions’ she can latch onto. Not even Day 1. Introduce her to everyone, then leave her to find another dupe.
Spend your time before she starts learning about boundaries and assertiveness. Lots of research, online courses, etc. It’s time you did. There’ll always be people like her around, no need to let them latch on and drag you down for years at a time. Assertive is not a synonym for ‘rude’ or ‘bitchy’. It’s a synonym for ‘mature’, ‘intelligent’ and maybe ‘self care’. And it’s not hard to learn, compared to how hard you’re doing it now. Good luck!
@Nitpickpicnic such valuable advice. I really do need to work on assertiveness. I have always been a bit of a people pleaser (I’ve got better with age can you believe) but nevertheless I still have a long, long way to go.
I agree with the previous replies.
Set boundaries and give banal replies. Re holiday and unwell could be "no idea about holiday, sorry. Did hr not tell you when you asked?" And "Sorry to hear you're unwell"
And agree do not reply straight away. Wait a few hours at least if you can.
Thank you. I’ve still not replied to some so I may even leave it til the end of the week if I can!
Great strategy, well worth doing...imply tolerance rather than friendship 👍
And @Nitpickpicnic too.
My regret was that I was imposed upon for so, because I was fond of her.
Unfortunately the realisation that her needs were all she could focus upon, despite me being so seriously ill with real flu during my pregnancy.
That realisation was a lightbulb moment and I was so done🙄🤣
People like this are not friends anyone wants.
It's just too hard.
The only thing I would add is that people are generally more perceptive than they might appear - I suspect that others won't be taken in by her personality for long.
This. If a colleague would suddenly gossip about someone else I'd politely listen but I wouldn't judge on what I hear or automatically believe it. If anything I'd just think that the person was a gossip and should politely be held at arms length.
@billy1966 I understand how that must have been so hard. Especially if you had more of a “bond” there. The “her needs being all she could focus upon” resonates with me. I expect this may even translate to other work colleagues. I.e. approaching management constantly, “oversharing” etc (although I will fully stay out of any of this behaviour and act oblivious)
@Isthisfinallyit thank you. I think you’re right, perhaps I’m not giving my colleagues enough credit. They are on the whole perceptive and kind people.
I've had 1 or 2 friendships like this in my younger years when single I certainly couldn't do it now with 2 kids .
I had a friend who hated being on her own if she was single I had to see her even if it was watching tv together it was exhausting. I was always relieved when she got a boyfriend. My dh bumped into her last year and says she said to get in touch , not on your nelly . The thing is others love her but it was always about her and her drama . She hated it when I met dh and had dc . I just kind of phased her out , I was busy with dc anyway and she moved on but never again . Sometimes you need to put yourself first it's not unkind it's just being honest .
Even now in my 40s I feel I don't want a close friend because I worry how demanding and draining they maybe . After work and a family and also hobbies too I enjoy my own time and space .
Some good advice by others on here .
Good luck .
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