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November 21, 2007 / missknowitall

Manipulative Coworkers

Hi there Little Miss,

Ok, long story short:  I no longer want to be friends outside of work with a co-worker who’s desk is about 5 ft. away from mine; how do I extricate myself from the friendship and still keep a good working relationship?  The more I get to know this woman, the more I see how controlling and manipulative her behaviour is.  Things really came to a head when she wanted me to drop my work and help her with something that could have waited.  I would have helped her, however I was in the middle of something with a deadline and couldn’t. When I said I would help her later, she said “No, I’ll figure it out myself,” and pouted for the rest of the day.  This is just the latest example of her tactics but it was the one that broke the camel’s back.  She also pouts when she offers you something and you politely say “no thank-you” which makes me think things are not offered out of genuine kindness, but with ulterior motive.  I understand that these are manipulative/controlling behaviours and I dislike being treated this way because a true friend wouldn’t do that.  Unfortunately, my response to her behaviour is no better.  I sit at my desk and silently seethe with anger.  My behaviour is really an exaggerated response; I think it’s because my father used to control our behaviour using some of the same tactics she uses, so I recognized what she was doing immediately (I’m actually not in contact with my father due to his self-absorbed behaviour).  I want to take the high road and just say sorry to keep the peace, but I don’t want her to think this means we are friends again.  Because of my past history with this, I’m having a hard time looking at the situation objectively.  Please help !!    

Dear Desk Friends,

This reminds me of why I made it a rule never to date boys that were in any of my classes.  It makes breaking up hard when you have to see them everyday. Here are some directions for taking “the high road:”

1.  Take a Zen approach to this.  When you feel anger try to meditate and tell yourself, “I will not let her actions control my actions.  I will pretend that she is like the garbage truck making noise in the early morning and learn to ignore it.”

2.  Don’t analyze her oddities and just go with whatever she gives you that is sane.  For example, it is perfectly fine for a person to say, “No, I’ll figure it out myself.”  But it is silly for them to pout about it.  Ignore the pouting and only react to the normal part by saying what you would say to a normal person, “OK, thanks for understanding my situation.”

3.  Stop taking her behaviors personally.  She probably treats all her “friends” this way so it isn’t a personal attack on you.  Remind yourself that she is socially handicapped.  When someone is handicapped you are more tolerant of their inabilities than you would be of someone with all their faculties and you don’t take their behaviors personally.

4.  Friendships aren’t exactly like dating in that you can usually just let them fade without actually having to say, “We need to break up.”  So, just be busy after work or say you’d rather not go out.  If she doesn’t get the point and pushes you, don’t give explanations.  Just repeat, “Thanks for the offer but no thanks,” and then walk away.  

Remember that you aren’t required to be everyone’s friend but you should treat everyone with kindness.  So, while creating distance between you and this woman please make sure that you don’t gossip about her to others, don’t be cruel when you talk to her, and remember to smile at her.

Saying, “No,” with a smile,

Miss Knowitall      


One Comment

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  1. snowee / Nov 27 2007 11:47 am

    I think this is a classic relationship situation, when it goes sour. The advice given here is excellent. If only we could follow it always and leave our emotions out of it. But to follow this very good advice we must, in order to succeed, especially at work. So as far as the emotions, at least we can breathe through our emotions and put them on hold and rationalize through them until we get home, where it is safe to feel them. Just know that most of us are struggling with similar issues.

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