Help! My work friend is emotionally blackmailing me to report our supervisor

Question:

My co-worker, “Erin,” and I had a horrible blowup last week. She invited me over to dinner, and after dinner asked me to go with her this week to human resources to complain about our supervisor. Erin asked another employee to do this as well and says that the three of us will be what’s needed to show HR our supervisor needs to be fired.

I don’t have a problem with our supervisor and when I said this, Erin said I’d “led her on,” because I acted like I had the same issues she did. She also called me unfeeling and uncaring, saying that the fact that he treats her like “s—“ should be enough for me to help her after all she’s done for me.

Erin befriended me when I got my job here, just before Christmas. Because I had been out of work for two months, and didn’t have a lot of money, Erin lent me $20 so I could get my son something he really wanted. When my car was on the fritz, she picked me up for work and at the end of the day drove me to my son’s school to pick him up from Campfire and then home.

She’s given me the cold shoulder ever since, as has our other co-worker. What do I do?

Answer:

What does your inner compass say?

Erin has been a good friend, and you need to be a friend to her. This doesn’t mean you need to let her control your actions to the point you lose integrity. If you complain about your supervisor because you feel obligated, or because you fear losing your workplace friendship, you succumb to emotional blackmail.

Exercise friendship differently and potentially better than you have. The fact that Erin says you “led her on” leads me to suspect you listened to her vent without telling her you saw your supervisor differently than she did. If so, you fell into a common co-worker friend trap, that of silently listening to complaints, allowing her to think you agreed with her views. True friends take the risk of helping each other see their blind spots.

Since you see your mutual supervisor differently, can you help Erin establish a better relationship with him? Or, can you simply continue to extend true friendship to both Erin and your other co-worker, despite how they now treat you? Sincere friendship means giving without “you owe me” strings attached. It includes treating someone as a friend without punishing them for seeing the world differently. Finally, it involves cutting friends slack when they temporarily act poorly.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com

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