Loss Of A Friend At Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about friendship.

My boss has become friendly with a friend of mine, who now virtually ignores me. How do I handle this? At work my boss never includes me in conversation i.e. at morning teatime.

Signed, Two Don’t Talk or Listen

Dear Two Don’t Talk or Listen:

Work is hard, especially hard when you feel rejected. A former friend has made a hit with your boss and ignores you. So does the boss. You voice two concerns: loss of a friend and being ignored by your boss. Obviously you feel doubly hurt. Would that the Workplace Doctors has a prescription that makes tea time a friendship builder, akin to dropping by at the pub or at Cheers where everyone knows your name.

Apparently you have suppressed this hurt and can’t keep from wondering if there is a way to reclaim that friendship and you want to be included in conversation at teatime. You have several options that revolve about being civil and social at work:

· Accept the fact that friend is no longer close

· Disclose to your former friend your hurt at losing her as a friend · Attempt to renew that friendship with subtle gestures

· Toughen up and ignore those who ignore you; find your friends outside the workplace, and focus on your job

· Widen your circle of friends at work by cultivating your conversational skills

· Merge work and friendship in ways that make both more fun.

These and other options probably have traveled through your head and heart. They distract from what you are hired to do. Yet you need to feel included, and you want and need friends as we all do. Should you toughen up and accept the fact that you boss and former friend don’t include you? I think you know the answer to that question is yes. Acknowledging that fact to your former friend might help you accept that by a brief informal, “I miss talking with you but I’m happy that you and our boss are now friends.”

Should you seek another friend at work? My answer to that is no because overtly seeking a friend can result in others feeling you are pushy. Making friends often evolves indirectly by not seeking them, just as happiness evolves from making others happy and rather than seeking it for one’s self. Should you focus on work? Yes, but focus on ways to make others’ jobs easier and making your internal and external customers delighted with what your work group does.

Should you seek the attention of your boss? No. The boss will include you in conversation if you make her/his job easier. How? By finding ways to cut waste; wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted money. Almost every workplace has processes that can be make more effective and efficient. Almost every work environment can be made more attractive and effective.A cup of tea is meant to refresh. Its by-product is listening and interacting pleasantly with others. It is an act of civility.

We connect and bond by learning to know others; as they want to be known. Teatime is face time; a time to talk about good times and to commiserate about but not wallow over bad times. For example, my associate workplace doctor Tina Lewis Rowe’s most recent post on her own site is titled “TGIW!!! Thank Goodness It’s A Workday.” http://tinalewisrowe.com/ In that short essay she illustrates how we might transform our negative TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) by playing a TGIW game, such as she did by a game she played with her daughter, Sharon, when she was young. Together they dreamed up alliterative positive adjectives for each day of the week, such as Marvelous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday. That game influenced how they looked forward to each day.

Tina acknowledges that such thinking risks sounding like Pollyanna, but she points out “There are millions of people who are unemployed (or jobless, as the new euphemism puts it). Most of those people don’t just wish they had a job, they desperately need a job.” Positive attitude at work has a lot to do with TGIW. As you will see if you scan our Q&As, I frequently suggest that bosses listen when they see themselves as coaches; coaches that engage their workers in skull sessions. I can tell your workgroup communication poor because you say, “my boss never includes me in conversation.” Would she/he listen if you focus on cutting waste and making others’ jobs more effective? I think so.

I predict that listening would become the norm in your workplace if you and your coworkers regularly, say once a week, had skull sessions in which you all talked about what went well in the past week, about what deserves applause, and what might go better if you could working together more effectively the next. That is the hidden meaning in my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. I often stress that talk about talk; asking and answering the question: how well are we communicating?; cannot help but improve job effectiveness and counter incivility. No doubt this long sermon is more than you wanted to get from your three-line question; nevertheless, I trust that somewhere in my remarks, you will see ways to cope with your feelings of loss and find the comfort that comes from having a friend at work and a boss that listens.

William Gorden