They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but it’s easier to be happy for a friend’s career success when it doesn’t directly threaten your own.
Leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps a reader figure out how to repair her friendship after taking her pal’s dream job.
My friend and I went to college together and have stayed close in the years since. We are in the same field but have never worked together. We’ve always been really supportive of each other’s careers, and not competitive.
However, we ended up inadvertently applying for the same position without knowing it. I only found out when she told me that she had interviewed there and thought the interview had gone well. She was so jazzed about the job that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had also had an interview there that same week. I didn’t think I’d get it, but I was offered the position the following week. How do I tell her that I stole her dream job without damaging our relationship?
Unfortunately, you have a bigger problem than who got the job. If you couldn’t be open enough with your friend about the interview, for whatever reason, you have to fix your friendship.
You already know it’s a serious situation. Don’t wait another moment, another second. Call her or text her and tell her you have to speak to her. Do it face to face. Tell her the entire truth, including why you reacted the way you did. It’s likely to feel to her like a betrayal, which is always devastating, but it’s the only way through for both of you.
Apologize and mean it. Tell her you are sorry for your misunderstandings and wrongdoing, and let her know that you know how important this job was to her.
Show empathy. Whatever her reaction, let her express herself, and show compassion for her feelings. Don’t try to talk or explain further for a while. Let her express what she’s feeling, and show nothing but empathy.
Give her some space. She’s going to need time to cool down and process, and even if you’re dying to check in with her to see if she’s ready to forgive you, honor her wishes. The friendship may survive or not; it’s her choice. Remember, at this point it’s not about you.
Rebuild as much as possible. If she does not cut off your friendship, you’ll have to work really hard on rebuilding trust. It will take time. One good way to make reparations is to do everything you can to help her find a job that’s at least as great as the one you got.
The next time something happens that makes you uncomfortable, remember that to be hurt by the truth is never as bad as to be hurt by a lie. Waiting, denying, or procrastinating has never served anyone well.
Good luck–this is a big life lesson to learn, and something never to be repeated again.
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