Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Work Friend

Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the work friendship.

Nicole: Oh my god

Yeah, guy, do what she asked you to do. Be your old selves at work and accept she doesn’t want to be friends outside of work anymore.

Danny: I feel like there are some important details missing from the background

like, what did your male friend do or say to her?

Nicole: RIGHT

Danny: did you ever try to talk to her about it and find out how she was feeling? or did you just bail on her at the last minute before a work event without explanation “out of respect” for her?


because she may not have gotten at all that you were trying to give her space, she might have felt like you were abandoning her because she didn’t want to go out with your friend


Nicole: sorry getting Loretta up from nap

go ahead and say it

Danny: no problem!

when I babysat Chance this weekend I was Underhanded and put him to bed 20 minutes early

because it was my first time being with him alone for more than three hours and I was just done

Nicole: hahahahahahha


Danny: but on the plus side he chatted to himself for roughly 20 minutes before falling asleep so i think it all worked out

it was also my first time in a long time (like since I used to babysit in high school) changing diapers on a kid who’s out of “fresh newborn” stage


so like, he doesn’t just lie there and quietly let you do it anymore

he’s full-on active resistance

anyhow! it’s possibly an opportunity to reflect on ways you could have communicated more clearly with her in the past/resolve to act differently should this happen again with other friends in the future

but basically, yes, she doesn’t want a bunch of people asking her why you two aren’t friends anymore so she’s trying to keep up appearances at work, is my best guess


although I’d say the LW is totally within his rights if he finds that too confusing/tricky to scale back their conversations at work and just be polite but not maintain the old level of joking around and being in constant communication



OK I’m back

Danny: welcome back!!

Nicole: Yes, I agree with all of this: scrupulous adherence to her requests, self-reflection, and scale back even at work.

(If it seems forced on her end.)

Danny: right, because this is a work friendship you don’t really have the same room to ask for a post-mortem as you would with a civilian friendship


Nicole: Exactly

Danny: the main goal here is to maintain a reasonable, professional environment in the office, even if that means sometimes wondering “Wait, did I fuck up here, or is she being unreasonable?”

think of your poor colleagues, who just want to have some friendly conversations about what movies are coming out in between deadlines before going home for the day


Nicole: Right!! Civility and calm.

I too would find it extremely hard not to overthink this


you gotta move forward

Danny: oh gosh of course, my natural instincts in this situation would be ALL wrong, i would tear my professional environment APART to make sure a former friend wasn’t mad at me


Nicole: can you imagine

Danny: but I would not let my terrible natural instincts guide my behavior here

Nicole: correct

Danny: I do think, as I look over this letter again, that there’s probably room for self-examination in “my friend was bothered by the attentions of a male friend of mine”

you may not have encouraged him, but if he acted inappropriately or tried to cross her boundaries/override her obvious disinterest and you just looked the other way, she may have felt like you left her out to dry or put her in an uncomfortable situation


Nicole: Think about your friend and his general conduct around women in the past, perhaps

I wouldn’t talk to him about THIS bc it might lead him to hassle HER

Danny: right; I think the self-reflection should be mostly internal and doesn’t need to involve roping either him or her back into the conversation

Nicole: I think this works!

Danny: I agree! and good luck, friendship breakups are hard but I hope you can find something fun and meaningful to fill your time with

Nicole: Agreed.

Danny: maybe hang out with other friends, maybe take long walks with your wife, use it as an opportunity to invest your relational energies somewhere that feels exciting and productive