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 | By Jim Berlucchi

A Friend at Work Has Become Distant


I’ve had a good friend at work who has become cool and distant. I’m surprised how strongly this has soured my work experience. I wonder why and what to do?

Aristotle called friendship “especially necessary for living, to the extent that no one, even though he had all other goods, would choose to live without friends.” And according to Gallup research, having a “best friend” at work is a key factor for workplace satisfaction. Though times have changed, human nature hasn’t. It’s no wonder that your loss makes work harder.

Because work friendships center around something else – namely, work – they are also more easily broken. The ancients called this “friendships of utility” –  more fragile and subject to change.

But, in your case, what caused the change? Unless you find out, there’s little hope for restoration. A co-worker once confronted me: “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” Apparently it was my jawbone. He noted that I had made an unfavorable comment about him to his boss. It was unintended and careless on my part but nonetheless a problem. We were able to work it out and move on, and, to this day, I have appreciated and learned from his honesty and direct approach.

You should try the same. Either ask your friend directly or if more comfortable, drop a note like this: “Dear Cold-Shoulder Cathy, it seems like we’re not as close as we used to be, and I’m wondering if I might have somehow offended you. If so, I want to make it right. Please, if you would, let me know.”

You’ve opened the door in a polite way. Either she’ll let you in or slam the door. Don’t be surprised if she doesn’t respond, since she’s already seemed to show a kind of small-mindedness. And perhaps her coolness has nothing whatsoever to do with you, but she’s troubled by something else.

If your friendship is restored, it’s a win-win. If not, it’s a win-lose, but you’ve done your part: “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:17-18)

Jim Berlucchi is founder of the consulting firm Cardinal Leadership.