THE BLOG
01/10/2011 08:01 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

A volatile mix of work and friendship

QUESTION

Hi Dr. Levine,

I'm 28 years old and have had a major relationship bust up. I worked for someone named Risa on and off for a year. She's a graphic designer with her own business. It was a very up and down relationship. She could be very abusive at times and tough to work with but she had days when she could be sweet as an angel.

We got close personally and went through a lot together, like when I first started working for her I took her to a plastic surgery appointment. I tried to be a good friend and did a lot of personal errands for her, too, such as grocery shopping and picking up her dry cleaning. I even spent time in her home.

At first she was kind and fun, just the best person. As time went on she became hot and cold. She fired me a few times and I always went back trying to make things right and everything would be okay. Risa once told me, "I talk to you like this because this is how my mother talked to me." At the very best times, she was like a mentor but when I look back, there was more bad than good. I wanted her to take me under her wing. But as time went on her moods and behavior got worse. She did things that were screwed up and mean.

Two months ago, Risa was so abusive that I lost my temper and told her, "f*** you. You don't treat me like a person". I quit and two days later she sent an e-mail basically saying I was dead to her. Afterwards, I ran into her at a class at our local university and she totally snubbed me. This past weekend I tried to call and she hung up. I wrote her a note and bought an Xmas ornament that spelled out "Peace" that I brought to her house. I've heard nothing since. I am so sad that someone, whom I gave so much to, could just throw me away. I feel hurt, angry, and betrayed. I wasn't perfect but I was a good person and really cared about her.

How can someone just act like you don't exist? There were times she seemed to have no empathy whatsoever. I am probably better off without her but a part of me really cares about her and I thought she cared about me. I will not reach out again.

Signed,
Anne

ANSWER

Dear Anne,

Good decision. It sounds like there was a lot wrong with this relationship from the onset. The fact that your friend was your boss made it even more complicated. Yes, some relationships with supervisors can turn into close friendships but it sounds like your boss is a moody person and probably isn't mentor material either.

I don't know how she runs her business but when she fired you the first time, you should have run for the hills. It's fine to help out someone you consider a friend but-at least in your telling-the relationship sounds too one-sided.

While I don't condone the way you ended your employment, I suspect you finally had enough. What I don't understand is why you would try to resurrect a relationship that was so frustrating and unsatisfying, both on a personal and business level, by delivering a holiday gift to her door.

Do yourself a favor and begin looking for healthier friendships with people who are your peers and for the time being, separate your work life from your friendships. Your once-friend sounds like a user.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about workplace friendships:

Betrayed by the office gossip girl

Befriending a 'bad egg' in the office

Friends @Work

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