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How to Survive Breaking Up with Your Work Bestie

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Work can drag without the support and shared laughs from your office buddy. Think of the 9-to-5 hijinks that was had between Jim and Pam from "The Office," or Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy from "30 Rock." But what do you do when you have a falling out with your work bestie and realize the friendship is over? Don't panic, but it will take some delicate maneuvering to keep the peace with your professional confidant.

When is it Time to Call it Quits?

Like any friendship, if things become toxic and you no longer enjoy spending time together in or out of the office, that's when it's time to consider you may have outgrown your friendship. Suzanne Degges-White, in Psychology Today, outlines the questions to ask yourself when deciding if the friendship is over:

  • Do you try to avoid your friend in-person or digitally?
  • Do you feel worse after spending time with your friend?
  • Do you wonder how you became friends with this person in the first place?

If you answer yes to these questions, and it's not a temporary situation, it's probably time to end the friendship. While it's never easy to end a friendship, there are ways to mitigate the difficulties.

Have a Conversation

Perhaps you can downgrade the friendship to work hours only. But if your work pal engages in bad behavior like constant gossip, backstabbing or office shenanigans that reflect poorly on you, it's likely you won't even be able to be lunch buddies.

Have a conversation and explain why you are dialing down the friendship. Because you still have to work together, it's not ideal to call out why you think they are being childish or their behavior is inappropriate. Instead, make it about your work-life balance, using explanations about a time-consuming project or commitments outside of the office that need to take priority. You might feel this is a little bit passive, but judge the situation and figure out if being too honest will make your work hours even more difficult.

Set Boundaries

Like those boring beige cubes that separate you, create boundaries that make sense in a professional setting. If you simply feel like you've outgrown the friendship and there's no animosities, maybe that 3 p.m. coffee run is fine, but you need to commit to not making cocktail hour plans after work.

If it's more serious, stick to whatever you outlined in your conversation and be firm, especially in situations where you might now be part of management and your former friend is looking to you for inside info you can't share.

Start New Friendships at the Office

Maybe it was time to move on because of personal reasons. Are they wrapped up in Tinder tribulations while you've started spending quiet nights in with your long-term partner? Other office homebodies who bring their lunch might be a better fit to talk about Netflix binging and Instant Pot recipes.

If it was professional circumstances that created the rift, look to peers to create new friendships that fit with your personal and professional goals. For example, if you received a promotion and your current work bestie feels jilted or jealous, find others who are on your new track. They can help relieve work stresses and act as a sounding board as you maneuver your way through a new role.


Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.

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Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision/GettyImages