You Can't Be Friends with That person....oh Boy!!

Updated on June 30, 2015
M.R. asks from Lake Worth, FL
13 answers

Has anyone ever been told by a boss or upper management that they basically could not be friends or talk to certain co-workers? Well, I thought I have seen it all until this little number came down the turnpike yesterday in my office. I work with seven other people, six outside managers and two VP’s. There are two very nasty and utterly ridiculous ladies that we all work with and the two of them have been cohorts in crime for years now. One of them used to be my boss before she got demoted last year. When I worked under her, she made my life a living hell. Bitter, moody, totally rude to me and one of the biggest tattle-tale babies I have ever seen. I still don’t know how I survived it and managed to stay in my job long enough to see her removed from hers. Now, this one and her little friend in here are stirring the pot once again. I am very close to and friends with two co-workers of mine. We work in different divisions but we are very good friends. We have lunch sometimes and have also done things together outside of work. Recently, our VP in here approached me and said that he thinks the three of us are in his words…”clicking too well”….and that it needs to stop. This guy even went so far as to basically tell me that I can’t be friends with these two other co-workers unless I am also friends with the two rude bitches in our office as well. One being that former boss who I cannot stand with a passion. Tell me this….where does anyone get off telling me who I can and cannot be friends with or talk to at work? Moreover, I feel that this is another famous plot of these two nasty little tarts I have suffered alongside of. I have caught them constantly stirring up drama that doesn’t exist and they are the type that must create unrest when all is generally peaceful. I get all my work done each day and have recently been promoted because of my work ethics and performance. I treat everyone with respect and I am helpful to all. Even though I highly dislike these two ladies, I am professional and cordial to them but I will not engage them in anything more than work-related chatter. To me, they are toxic and do not serve a purpose in my life so the “less is more approach” works best for me. What in the heck would you do if a member of management ever said that you can’t talk to or be friends with other co-workers unless you are also friends with two of the most badly behaved people in the company as well? Oh….please don’t tell me to go to HR and file a complaint. That’s a whole other can of worms to open. Our HR Manager has the sensitivity and personality of a rabid dog. She should have been fired years ago but like I said, that’s another story unto itself. This is pure crazy! What would you do?

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answers from San Francisco on

I would refuse to obey this directive. If this meant the loss of my job, then so be it. There is no way I would give up my friendships at a job, because the social aspect of work is really important to me. I once quit a new job because the managers tried to direct my social affairs there. I am generally compliant and a hard worker, but that's where I draw the line.

Yes, that's crazy.

ETA after reading Amy's response -- Yes, there is difference between friends and cliques. There is a way to remain neutral vs. engaging in office drama. It's possible to have friends at a workplace yet stay out of the 'us vs. them' dynamics.

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answers from Williamsport on

Yes, I have been told all manner of things by all manner of bosses and dealt with all manner of coworkers.

When I was young and in my first several full time jobs with companies, I would get emotionally invested in some people's terrible behavior (every office has a few bad eggs) and the injustices. I would team up with friends on the "good guy side" and we couldn't believe the behavior on the "bad guy side" and we also couldn't understand the worker bees who seemed totally unfazed by everything. They got along with everyone- but not TOO well- and they went home and had their own lives. How could they ignore THE INJUSTICES???!!!! HOW COULD THEY NOT TAKE SIDES?!? How did they talk to us like friends, but then go also talk to the "evil" people??!!!! Why did they not SIDE with us?!

But over time, I watched and learned from the worker bees who climbed the corporate ladders with ease-one of whom now lives in a mansion in Northern CA as a high ranking member of the Gap empire with a 7 figure salary...

Successful people do this:

Keep your nose clean at work.
Don't get into clicks.
No matter how AMAZING your work friends are, and and how TERRIBLE your work enemies are: Playtime and drama are for you to engage in at home in your private lives.
If your boss says not to be overly social at work: Comply. You shouldn't have to be told that.
If your boss says to get along with everyone at work: Comply. Again, you shouldn't have to be told. Just because others take the low road doesn't mean you should.

You shouldn't have to go to your rabid dog HR person (oh my the drama) if there is no issue going on.

Save the shenanigans for after work. Of COURSE you can talk to your coworkers when necessary for work with an occasional "How's your sick kid" thrown in. If your boss really expects you to put tape over your mouth and ONLY talk to your enemies....idk...find a new job.

Sounds like you're a good worker. Stay professional. It will get you very far.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Oh boy - this is the problem with small companies that don't understand a thing about HR.

While you have these 2 women who are stirring up trouble, someone's buying into it either because they agree or because they are sick of the matter landing on their desk. So the VP may be making it easier to him by trying to get you to scale back. Assuming you have double-checked your own behaviors and see if there's any way you could, or should, scale back the personal stuff done in sight of others (making the lunch dates, happily chatting on the way out to lunch, chatting about what the friends did last evening or last weekend) so you don't rub their noses in it, I think you have to continue to go the purely-professional route.

I would ask the VP to put in writing exactly what the company policies are regarding what employees do on their own time. Ask that the company spell out in no uncertain terms what the dictates are regarding lunch, dinner, weekends, as well as business travel or errands for work. Ask that it be distributed to all employees so that everyone knows the policy, including definitions of "personal relationships" and what the penalties are for violations, either planned or inadvertent crossing of paths in outside settings. Say you don't know what the laws are but you are sure the HR person or the VPs or President have access to an employment lawyer to provide the wording. Ask also what types of conversations are permitted and prohibited. After all "How was your weekend?" or "Have a nice holiday" could easily be construed as personal conversations. (This should make it obvious that what the VP is doing is completely illegal, without you saying so.) You can note that you have been promoted and well reviewed for your work ethic and performance, and you want to be crystal clear (and have others be clear) about every single policy, including this one. Ask that the written directive also include reporting requirements if anyone is observed having this sort of prohibited relationship or conversation (which will of course include the 2 trouble-makers). I think your tone has to be "Help me to understand the policy, what it covers, what time frame it covers (9-5? 24/7), who is exempt if anyone, whether it covers things like charity events (what if a bunch of people sign up for a 5K or a food pantry collection drive?), how this impacts company productivity and profits, and ideally what the rationale is." I realize this is completely stupid but I don't know how else you can approach it.

You can consult an employment lawyer, of course, but if you are in a small office where it would be easy to demote you or make life miserable for you, and if you have no HR resource worth talking to, you could push yourself out of a job.

I do think the employer has the right (as petty as it may be) to say that office time, office emails, etc. should not be used to set up social arrangements (with employees or with other friends/ family), personal calls are banned, chatting at the coffee area is not allowed, etc. It doesn't build company camaraderie, but then there's a big chunk of that that's missing from this office anyway.

Otherwise, I think you have to either be very secretive with your coworkers, or you have to think about looking for another job. What a last resort that would be.

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answers from Portland on

I've never heard of that, but I have heard of bosses asking employees to keep things professional in the workplace. Anything outside of work is none of their business of course.

My concern here is that this will somehow end up on your annual review or something - I would want to protect myself. When he says cliquish ... I wonder could you ask for a little meeting, and just say you want to clarify what he's referring to - even ask for specific examples. Just say you weren't clear on what he was asking of you.

If ex-boss has gone tattle-taling to him then it would give you an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings or misinformation she's given him.

I like your less is more approach - good plan. And for now, to please your VP, I would keep it pretty professional with everyone (friends and ex-boss).

He didn't handle it well regardless. Such a weird thing to ask. I imagine he's just sick of the drama and tension and just wants it to stop. Not fair to dump it all on you.

Good luck :)

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answers from Dallas on

It IS possible that a cliquishness is forming at work, so perhaps step back and look at workplace socialization and see if there's a kernel of truth to the obviously ridiculous.

He can't control your friendships.

Lunchtime is yours - that's none of his business. Just pay attention to the non-off-the clock socializing. There may be an unconscious closing of ranks happening, and that's not healthy either.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd look them in the eye and say if you want to fire me for getting along with my co-workers then do it. I will be filing for wrongful termination so fast your head will spin.

I'd also point out that everyone in the office gets along but those 2 women and it would probably be in their best interests if they separated them and moved each one to a different area since they are not happy here.

Having a fresh start might give them a chance to be different and have a better work relationship with the people around them.

But there's no way I'd expect a boss to tell me who I can or cannot talk to on my own free time.

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answers from Columbia on

The only thing that I would change, if it happens to be an issue, is socializing too much at work. If the water-cooler talk is becoming a distraction, cut it out. In my line of work the only reason a supervisor or senior supervisor would mention interoffice friendships is if they became a problem or distraction.

Otherwise, my response to the boss would be, "I choose whom to befriend or not very carefully. I will be careful not to allow my friendship with Jane and Katie to cause disruption in the office."

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answers from Washington DC on

some places of business aren't professional. yours is one of them. since you're not in a position to make it more professional, you adhere to their (stupid) rules or get a different job.
your manager DOES have a right to tell you, IMO, that he doesn't want ANY fraternization on the job. but when he starts micro-managing the structure of job friendships, it's really over the line.
i myself would not work in a place this hostile.
but if you do, and you don't want to leave, and don't want to go up the chain to HR, all you can really do is a) defy the manager and be friends with whomever you please and deal with the consequences or b) relegate your job to 'this is what i do during the day' and tune out all the drama. do your job. leave your job. go home and enjoy the non-job parts of your life.
i'd choose b.
cliques. cliques. ::::::twitches:::::::

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answers from Washington DC on

Diane B.'s advice is right. What you were told is illegal, since it dictates how you spend your own time, though the employer has a right to do things like say no personal use of office e-mail, office phones, office time. As due diligence, sit down and think objectively about your friendships, and assess, as if you were a total stranger, whether or not someone could see any cliqueishness or any impact in the office. From your post I feel sure the answer's going to be heck no, but if needed, when you're cooler, run this all by a third party who has nothing to do with your office (like us on Mamapedia, but someone who knows you!). Then you can proceed to what you really need to do: Leave.

Unless you want to deal with the constant stress of documenting every thing to you say to every person every day, and everything that is said to you, and every call you make and every....well, you get the picture...Unless you want to do that, in preparation for involving a lawyer eventually, then I would recommend doing what I did some years back in a toxically idiotic workplace. I would be job hunting like mad, pronto. Unless you absolutely must have THIS specific job, don't tolerate this childish, vindictive, unprofessional environment that doesn't even have serious and professional HR to have your back or at least to be scared of the legal implications you could raise.

Just be sure you job-hunt in secrecy. This office sounds like you would get bitten big-time, and probably fired immediately, if word got out you were looking elsewhere. It might take time to find another job that works for you, so I'd start today. I had to work a long time in an environment somewhat like yours, and I can say that it is not worth the stress, however many years you have on the job etc. The changes you expected when the former boss was demoted aren't really going to happen, and her toxic ways are apparently getting credence with the boss. Don't waste energy fighting it -- get out.

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answers from Seattle on

Your click is click-ish enough for your boss to take note and has to approach you all and ask a difficult question to break up the situation. Basically, he's asking you all to grow up. So your perception of being professional and cordial is clearly off.

I recommend you downplay your after work friendships while at work and really attempt to be polite as you as you say you are. My hunch is that there is very obvious passive-aggressive behavior between the tarts and yourself. And my next hunch is that it will take a ton of 'killing them with kindness' to see this turn around and resolve.

Honestly, you are part of the problem because no boss ever wants to have a conversation like that. And he had to go straight to the source is what I'm thinking.

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answers from Lakeland on

This sounds like what most kids go through in school, where they are forced to be “friends” with everyone even if they can’t stand each other.

I don’t think you should have to do anything more or less then what you are doing now and that your boss should not even mention something like that. It would be different if you were being nasty to these women.

I would make a complaint if it goes further, but check the rules your employer has set first. I recall seeing an article about something similar to this.

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answers from Miami on

I'd be sending out resumes so fast. You thought you had gotten a chance to breathe when that woman got a demotion. Now you've got this?

Honestly, I'd go talk to the people you like and quietly explain this. Ask them if you could enjoy each other outside of the workplace instead. You and these coworkers could just "ignore" each other during work hours and get your work done, be able to completely ignore the 2 meanies, and this idiot who told you this will see just what happens when no one in an office has a relationship with each other ALL DAY LONG EVERYDAY.

Maybe these other good employees will be sending out their resumes too...


answers from Washington DC on

What would I do?? I would check to make sure **I** am doing MY work and being productive. If i were you?? I would also check MY attitude. If someone is a rabid dog around you?? It might be how YOU react to them and not your reaction to them. Do you see the difference? Remember - YOUR actions and tone are responded to as well....

Do you NOT see the vitriol that is spread here when someone says something that is NOT PC or how they "Feel" it should be?? can be bad!!

IF I am doing my job, being productive and a team player? I would make sure my resume is in tip-top shape and start looking for a new job.

To be honest?? I'd love to know the WHOLE story - particularly the boss' side...I feel we aren't getting the whole story and YOUR participation. I would venture to guess that the boss is seeing you talking and such with your friend and your NOT getting your job done.

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