This week, R. Eric Thomas and Daniel Schroeder discuss a Prudie letter: “Just Let Me Work”
R. Eric Thomas: Hi Daniel! Thanks for chatting with me today! What did you think about this week’s dilemma and the drama-free office drama?
Daniel Schroeder: As a Virgo, I definitely have thoughts about work friendships, being a cultivator of them. But I am worried for this person, this best friend, and honestly, this workplace.
Eric: Yes, I’m worried, too. I love working with friends, but I fear that their pre-existing relationship is going to create complication. While I think it’s possible to silo oneself, the whole Severance-style separation is not an option here. What do you think LW should do to protect their work peace?
Daniel: Well I feel like even before getting to how LW should protect themselves, I have to wonder about everything before this letter. Like, LW is writing us concerned that they will be working with their friend, but like how long has this interview process been going on? Is this not something they’ve discussed before since the friend applied? I think the LW needs to create extremely strict boundaries and be willing to stick to them, but I’ve also got to wonder if this is really the LW’s “best” friend. This workplace development might mean the end of their friendship and they should keep that in the back of their mind.
Eric: I think that’s a definite possibility. LW seems to have miscalculated her friend’s chances of getting the job, which is a tough spot to be in. I am a little sympathetic to this dilemma. Some of my friends are too negative for me to work with consistently, but I don’t mind sharing a drink with them. Are they my best friends, though? Probably not. So, to your point, I wonder how close these two are and how close they’ll remain. To me, it all depends on how well LW’s friend is able to honor LW’s boundaries (and how well LW can set those boundaries).
Daniel: Whenever adults throw around the term “best friend,” I always shoot a little side eye because that sentiment feels a bit childish, and I sorta think that’s part of what’s going on here. Like the LW is basically concerned about managing her friend while at work, which is literally not her job. When it comes to practical solutions, I think LW could ask her manager to move offices or something before the new friend starts; but I really think the LW needs to look closer at why and who they care about here. Are you concerned you and your friend won’t get work done, or are you concerned that your work colleagues will develop a different impression of you based upon this new person?
Eric: Oh! That’s a really good question. Yeah, I’m curious about whether LW is anxious about being associated with someone whom LW judges in real life. Maybe LW should have a conversation with their best friend about the way their personalities diverge in general rather than specifically talking about work. I’m always a little wary of friend-terventions for personality reasons, but I do think there’s a way for us to talk about things we observe in the people we care about, especially since we care about them.
Daniel: Yeah, I mean, whenever I hear people talk about friendship couples counseling I just wonder, what are we doing here? But as somebody averse to these things, I know how scary it can be to have serious conversations with friends. It would be fantastic if LW’s friend were able to receive whatever LW had to say with grace, but I’m concerned that her inability to do that is LW’s whole reason for writing this letter. If, as LW says, the friend cannot accept boundaries like a closed door without taking it personally, then it’s not the kind of person I would want to keep around. I feel like when it comes to friendship advice questions the answer is always just “friendships don’t last forever.” And that sucks, but it’s true.
Eric: I have never heard of friendship couples counseling! On one hand, I get that friendship is just another kind of relationship and sometimes we don’t always know how to navigate relationships. But there has to be a clearer path. Like just talking. I think you’re right that this indicates a deeper issue for LW and their friend that their friendship may not survive. Lastly, it occurs to me that another way of thinking of this is as a professional problem rather than a friendship one. If LW can’t talk to their friend, one hopes they can talk to a coworker.
Daniel: And if all else fails, they can always just make sure their friend’s resumé gets lost on their manager’s desk.
Eric: When all else fails, resort to office sabotage!