I (she/her/hers) and my friend (also she/her/hers) recently applied for the same job. Our experience and relation to the position are so similar that for all I know, they flipped a coin to decide who got it. We interviewed back to back, and before I could even send a rallying message of something like “No matter what happens, I’ll just be happy if one of us gets it!” or that kind of thing, I received an offer. Everything happened very fast, but this job was much needed, and I am very happy for the positive changes this will mean for me in what has otherwise been an incredibly challenging year.
The problem is… I don’t think my friend will have the same positive attitude that I would had the roles been reversed. Sure, a little jealousy is reasonable, but she has been… a LOT, in past situations that are similar (for example, she more or less cut a friend out of her life when said friend received an assistantship they both applied for – admittedly their friendship was already in rough terrain, so that was the nail in the coffin). I’m hoping our strong friendship will be enough to counter what I suspect will be a big emotional reaction for her? But… you know.
I haven’t spoken to her about it yet, and don’t know if she even knows yet (but I suspect she does, as our industry is small, and to make matters worse, her partner’s job was adversely impacted as part of the restructuring of the company to even make this new position possible).
How do I: maintain a good relationship with her; not let her sadness/whatever make me feel guilty about getting something I deserve; and even approach the topic?
– Just as Qualified (and apparently a little more?)
Dear Just As Qualified,
If your friend is smart, she will congratulate you on the new position, deal with the messy feelings of jealousy, etc., and stay a good friend to you. Because sometimes that’s just how life works, you didn’t get the job AT her. Because in a small industry, you know what’s pretty great? Friends who work at the company you want to work for! Who will know about the very next open position at this place? YOU. Who will not be applying for all the other jobs in this small field for the next year or two? ALSO YOU. I really hope she sees it that way.
If she chooses a different way, it’s not your fault. Not for getting the job. Not for somehow wording your “Hey, I was offered the job and I’m going to take it. I wanted to tell you before the news makes the rounds” email “incorrectly.” Her feelings are her feelings, she’s allowed to feel them, and you don’t have to anticipate or manage them. Tell her the news without dressing it up or apologizing or making reference to her partner’s unfortunate circumstances. You’re not sorry you got the job, so, don’t pretend to be. It’s patronizing. It’s okay for you to be happy about this. I hope she writes back something like “Obviously I wish our situations were reversed and I was sending you the ‘I got the job’ email, but I’m glad one of us got it. Congratulations.”
If she does have a “big” or sad reaction immediately, that’s okay, too. I think friendships can make allowances for not having exactly the right words or for feeling upset for a minute! If the conversation is weird, try not to hold that initial reaction against her too much, give her a little space, and see where you both are in a month or so. That will be more telling than the initial delivery of news/reaction to news moment.
I saw this great list of what boundaries are on Twitter over the weekend. The text in the photo:
What do boundaries feel like?
- It is not my job to fix others.
- It is okay if others get angry.
- It is okay to say no.
- It is not my job to take responsibility for others.
- I don’t have to anticipate the needs of others.
- It is my job to make me happy.
- Nobody has to agree with me.
- I have a right to my own feelings.
Good list, right? Lovely Letter Writer, you are having a textbook (probably literally) moment here. Communicate your news as cleanly as possible and let the rest be what it is. I hope it will be good. Congratulations on the job.