How to End a Toxic Work Friendship

It’s great to have friends at work, and there are a lot of benefits associated with it as well. But, when those friendships turn sour, they can take a toll on you personally as well as professionally. It can be difficult to detach and get distance from a toxic pal when you work together every day. But, it’s an important thing to do no matter how tough it might be. Here are some tips for ending toxic workplace friendships.

End Friendship sign

(Photo Credit: tinou bao/Flickr)

1. Recognize the problem.

Not all friendships are created equal. Pals are supposed to build you up and support you, make you feel stronger. Friends should help more than they hurt. But, toxic friendships do just the opposite. These folks are demanding and draining. They might put you down, require and request too many things from you, or simply sap your energy. Recognize the signs of a toxic friendship and commit to eliminating these relationships from your life.

2. Know that it will be tough to distance yourself.

Because you work together, it’ll be extra hard to put this relationship in the past. When a work friendships ends, it’s hard to wrap things up into a neat little package and move on. The person is still there every day! Spend time with other work friends, and cultivate those relationships. Forming new bonds with other work pals will help you move on. And, immediately eliminate any non-essential time together, like social gatherings after work. Even if other people are going that you’d like to spend time with, skip it if the toxic friend will be joining the group, at least for now.

3. Use your knowledge of their routines to your advantage.

You need to keep working with this person, but you no longer want them to be a part of your personal life. That’s fair, and you have the right to make that decision if you think this relationship is doing you more harm than good. The key now is to only interact with this person in a professional context. That means no more shared lunch hours, no long break room chats. You know your old friend’s schedule, so use that knowledge to your advantage and avoid the spaces they frequent during these times. If you do find yourself getting caught up in a non-work-related chat with them, make an appropriate excuse and remove yourself from the situation. You’re at work, so this should be fairly easy. Just blame your quick exit on your busy schedule. You’ve got a lot to do.

4. If possible, avoid discussing your decision directly.

If this was a relationship you wanted to salvage, you’d want to talk about the problems your experiencing. But, if you’ve truly determined that this is a friendship you’d prefer to end, it might be best to do so informally without a big sit-down discussion. As adults, we all know that friendships ebb and flow. Sometimes, we’re very close to someone for awhile, and spend a lot of time together, and then it changes over time. You don’t want a dramatic incident to ensue between the two of you – that wouldn’t be a good idea for you professionally – so let the relationship slip away quietly. Just reduce the time you spend together, and the personal nature of the talks you do have, and let the friendship fade away. There is no need for a confrontation if this isn’t a relationship you’re hoping to salvage.

4. Be strong!

The fact is, it can be really difficult to distance yourself from a toxic friend from work. But, it’s important to do just that if you have determined that to be the healthiest course of action. It’s hard to change our routines though, and you might be tempted to stay the course in order to avoid the situation all together. But, it isn’t worth it. Sure, it might be easier in the short term to just continue the friendship, but it won’t be best for you in the long term. So, do the hard thing and make the break.

There is no need for a big conversation or a lot of drama, but you have the right to protect yourself and do what’s best for you. Be strong and stay the course once you’ve committed to terminating your toxic friendship. The rewards, both personally and professionally, will be worth it in the end.

Tell Us What You Think

How have you let go of toxic relationships with people at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.