#1134: “I applied for the same job as a friend and I ‘won.’ How do I break the news?”

Hello Captain!

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.


62 thoughts on “#1134: “I applied for the same job as a friend and I ‘won.’ How do I break the news?”

  1. Congratulations, LW!

    I’ve been in your friend’s position a couple of times. I’m in academia, and the tenure-track job market is notoriously terrible. There are literally less than 20 job openings in my field worldwide per year. Academics (especially early-career researchers) also tend to gather in close-knit bunches, since we all go through the same traumatic credentialing process and we all hang out on twitter and congregate at the same conferences each year.

    You see where this is going, right? Basically none of us can apply for any of the handful of jobs without competing directly with our friends and colleagues, and it’s an endless game of trying to guess who will be the lucky one in any given round. It’s awful, and each rejection comes with bonus self-doubt and wondering whether this is our last shot at making it in the field.

    So as someone who has been the [almost] just-as-qualified friend too many times, I echo the Captain’s suggestion: be matter-of-fact, give her space to process, give her time to be upset on her own, and trust that she’ll still be your friend once things have settled down a bit. And enjoy your new job!

  2. I agree with the Captain that you can’t control her reaction here and that there’s no magical wording that will make her feel less bad about not getting the job.

    If she decides to cut off the friendship over this, that’s for the best because you don’t need a friendship that is contingent on you being less successful than her. This is the type of awkwardness that comes up when you befriend someone in your industry and she should be prepared for it.

  3. I wouldn’t jump to assuming they flipped a coin though! For all you know, they saw something special in you that made you a great fit for the position. Your friend didn’t lose a coin flip – they just weren’t selected.

  4. I have a friend who has changed jobs about as often as I do. Problem is, I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and she dropped out of college so my income earning potential is a lot higher and I have more opportunties. Every job switch for me has meant increasingly better levels of pay, advancement opportunities and increasingly better benefits. Every job switch for her is about chasing a better work environment but never getting out of the barely-treading-water financial level.

    It works best when my good news is delivered directly an an informative tone. “I have some news. I got that job at Big Bank that I applied for. So I’ll be the Head Money Flipper there and I start in two weeks.” I see the disappointment on her face and part of me feels horrible that my situation gets slowly better while hers gets slowly harder. But I keep it humble and direct. If she doesn’t ask for more details, I don’t offer any. Change the subject quickly if she’s looking super distressed. Let her process her feelings on her own. And that’s really the best you can do in these kinds of situations. If she’s a true friend, she’ll be disappointed and jealous for just a quick while. If not, it’s about her, not anything you did wrong!

    1. I’m in this situation too, with a formerly-very-close friend who married kind of a bummer of a guy and has worked a series of not-great jobs while I went to law school, unexpectedly got my dream job at the age of 25, and married someone awesome and supportive. I’ve been really lucky, but also had big goals and worked my butt off. Honestly, we don’t talk a ton anymore because it’s just hard to have the same conversation over and over, where I have something cool in the works and she has problems with her job and husband.

      Like GreenDoor said, all you can do is present the information directly and humbly, and change the subject if it feels necessary. It feels kind of sad to have a friend with whom you can’t really share your excitement about important things, but that might be the level your friendship is at right now and that’s ok.

  5. I really love that boundaries list! Extra rec from someone working on internalizing any of that: proceed as though the person you’re talking to is going to react in an appropriate way to whatever you’re saying. Like type out the “Heads up friend, got offered the job and am going to take it” email, take a deep breath, and send it out knowing that the decent way to react to that is “Congrats!” or at most “I love and am happy for you buddy, but am sad and stressed for me right now, might have to take a break from hang outs until I can not be a dick about this!”. You sending that email is giving your friend the benefit of the doubt that they can handle stuff like this maturely. If they don’t, then Ok, you can deal with that reaction when/if it actually happens! Don’t deal with it in advance, if you see what I’m saying.

    1. Seconded! It’s healthy for the person giving the news, which is great. It’s also perversely true that the more one worries about how to break news to someone else, the more obnoxious it can be for the other person. It can come off like “boy you’re going to have a hard time with THIS, because you’re soooo fragile that I have to manage your emotions, but… are you ready… [news]. OMG ARE YOU ALL RIGHT???” Like… on the off-chance that someone else’s happiness really is that devastating to me, I’d really rather just deal with that privately and be treated like I’m fine. It’s one of those rare occasions when “just pretend everything is fine” is really preferable.

      Not that I’d end a friendship over it if someone delivered news to me this way specifically. It would be annoying in the moment, but I’d get over it like any other momentary annoyance. I don’t mean to imply that the LW can eff up the delivery and cost the friendship.

      1. Yes, this! Also, as I get older I find more and more value in polite social conventions. Like, you know your friend, it is possible that she will go nuclear over this, but delivering the news in a bland rote way a) gives her a face saving bland rote response to use and b) sort of sets the expectation for how you guys are handling this at “directly, but it’s not a big thing. ” Maybe you all will need to have some big conversation about it later, maybe not, but there’s something to be said for taking all the “I’m happy but I obviously feel bad,” stuff as read on either side and keeping it moving.

      2. Right. I know I’m a sensitive person, prone to getting emotional over things, and I struggle with anxiety, but I’m not so weak and unstable that people have to “handle” me as though I were a developmentally disabled child, and when people speak to me as though that were the case, it can feel really awful. It’s demeaning, and can actually cause me to feel anxious rather them comfortable. I just want people to talk to me like a person, giving me the same kindness and respect they’d show anyone else.

        And often, bad news like this, like a friend got a job over me or my ex is engaged, is something I’ve already figured might happen and I’ve been anxiously waiting for news, or dreading it, but actually knowing that it’s happened can be a relief in a way.

        1. Could this be better worded as “that people have to “handle” me as though I would [not be able to cope/would have an inappropriate emotional reaction], and when people…”? As written I’m getting negative vibes towards disability.

          1. And this is where I prefer Ask A Manager commentariat. There is an explicit rule there not to nitpick each other’s word choice.

            The commentariat here went thru a period where there was A LOT of language-policing, and it’s a turn-off. I like the Cap’s writing and I really liked the commentariat for the first year or so. And then for awhile I never read the comments at all because of the way people were shutting each other down. It’s like when I would talk with my grandmother and she criticized my grammar. My feeling was, Gramma, are you not even listening to the content of what I say? Why am I bothering to talk at all? And then for awhile, I didn’t.

          2. Hi Thneedle!

            You know what’s a turn-off? Language that belittles disabled kids.

            Correcting people’s grammar or spelling or language use is already off-limits, but asking someone not to use ableist or other derogatory terms is within bounds.

            Listen, I get it. Every now and then I fuck up because I’m toggling between reading 100 different letters in a day and use “husband” when the letter writer said “partner” and then 10-15 people comment ONLY to point out that mistake and not to say anything else about the post and I have this immediate ‘AAARRRHHHH’ reaction. Like, it’s tedious as fuck to read 15 “you made a mistaaaaaaaaake” comments and people are not always very nice about it.

            So I want to avoid that tedium and shame-y feeling next time.

            So I work harder to not fuck up.

            Because misgendering is probably pretty off-putting, too. It can be sort of small potatoes-tedious for me because my life & well being aren’t at stake, but it’s dehumanizing to others, so, it needs fixed. (I admit, I’ve started deleting the correction avalanches once I fix the error, if they don’t say anything else about the content of the post).

            Not everyone is coming here with the same set of standards and assumptions, and that’s okay, as long as people try to act in good faith and learn. Every time our audience grows we have some growing pains along these lines, and that’s okay, too.

            Anyway, we can end this little subthread here. Enjoy commenting at AAM, she’s pretty great at moderating that community, and come back anytime.

        2. I totally get what you were going for, Allison, but like Dia, I think equating “developmentally disabled child” with “weak and unstable” is problematic. (FWIW, I’m mother to one, and she is the most resilient person I’ve ever met).

          Thneedle, I’m a big AAM fan, but even there, commenters call out ableist (and misogynistic and racist and transphobic) language, because it *does* get in the way of effective communication if language is insensitive and insulting. This isn’t “nitpicking” like, “you said ‘verbiage’ when you really meant ‘wording,’ “ these are choices that strike at the heart of who we are and how we’re seen.

      3. This is sooooo true. When I was much younger I was at a party and my friend said “Jane is over there making out with Fergus…” and I said “what! Are they together?”, and it turned out they’d been together quite a while but nobody told me because Fergus and I had dated for a few months a year or two before. I didn’t care that a guy I once dated was now dating someone else that I knew, but I did care that everybody thought I was so incapable of handling this news that they had to hide it from me for months.

        1. Yeah, that attitude had a lot to do with why my ex and I broke up. He would keep things from me or not tell me the whole truth because he was afraid of how I’d react. I wasn’t ever really upset at whatever he was hiding from me; I was upset that he was hiding things from me in the first place. That he thought I was incapable of handling difficult news said more about him than me, but it really hurt to have him assume things about me without talking to me directly. It wasn’t limited to difficult news, either: He decided, with zero prompting from me, that I hated video games and didn’t want him to play them anymore just because I am not interested in them myself. He also once blew up my phone and annoyed the hell out of me because he decided that I’d freak out that he was spending time with his friends that day instead of with me (even though I’d previously said I was fine with it and was looking forward to some alone time myself to get things done around the house).

          My point being, don’t anticipate the needs of others in a coddling/condescending way that’s more likely to upset them than whatever the original issue was. Please note there’s a difference between “coddling” and “sensitive”! If they have to be coddled, they probably aren’t worth keeping around. Frankly, given that the LW’s friend has already exhibited extreme jealousy in the past, I’d say the LW can expect the same behavior this time and probably losing this friend now.

  6. To me this feels like news that would be best to deliver over email or some other written, not-in-person medium. That would give your friend time to process her feelings without you being present to see or hear her reaction–which, given that even her best-case-scenario initial reaction is likely to be as much disappointment for herself as happiness for you, seems like the kindest option for both of you. I like CA’s “Hey, I was offered the job and I’m going to take it. I wanted to tell you before the news makes the rounds” script for this.

    In the longer term, I hope she chooses to keep on being a friend to you. But CA is right that you can’t control that; she might choose otherwise, and it wouldn’t mean you’d done anything wrong here. All you can do is deliver the news in a straightforward, kind-as-possible way, and then let her choose how to respond.

    1. 100% this. Sometimes you need the space and privacy to flip a table and shriek obscenities into the uncaring void before you’re able to arrange your face and your mouth-words to compose a suitably congratulatory response. In comparable situations I have always really appreciated the opportunity to process solo and get all the unpleasantness out of my system in private, rather than being told over a coffee shop table and having to keep myself together while my interlocutor is giving me the pity-eyes across the table and scrutinising my response. (Absolutely not saying this is what you would do, LW, or indeed what any of my interlocutors have done in the past – just, that’s how I would interpret it.)

      Huge congrats on the new job!

      1. This. When I was at university, there was a module that I really, REALLY wanted to take part in. It was actually one of the reasons I’d selected that university. It was an optional module in 2nd and 3rd year that involved a short but intense project-based course abroad and it had a limited availability (maximum class size of Really Effing Tiny!), so when module selection day for 2nd year rolled around I lost no time in letting the professor running it know that I was interested in signing up…only to find out that it was cancelled that year due to lack of interest. So in the run up to class selection for my 3rd year, I hyped it up to my friends-group and just enough people found it interesting that I figured there’d be no problem. We went to the professor first thing on the sign-up day…and he told us that because he’d had more interest that year (in addition to our group), he thought that it wouldn’t be fair to run a first come, first served sign-up, so he was going to take all of our names and draw them out of a hat.

        Guess whose name didn’t get drawn.

        I was devastated while my best friend was so excited that she was going to go on this exclusive course, and I somehow managed to stomp on my emotions for long enough to smile and congratulate her enthusiastically, and then got the heck back to my room before I fell apart. (And then I cried myself out and phoned my mum, who immediately dropped everything, drove up to uni to stay the weekend with me and took me out to dinner so that I didn’t have to put a good face on things for a couple of days. Which was kind of amazing of her.) I never let my friend know how much losing that module hurt, because it was a great experience and I was not about to let my disappointment ruin it for her.

        My point (if I have one after all that rambling) is, I wish the professor hadn’t decided to do that drawing in front of us all. I wish he hadn’t told us it was a random draw. I wish he’d just taken our names and said he’d let us know if we got in, and had emailed us the results. I would really have valued some privacy to work through my reaction rather than feeling I had to put up a front of not minding too much in front of everyone else.

        So yeah, OP, let your friend know as soon as possible so that it’s not someone else telling her, give her some privacy to work through her disappointment, and treat her like normal; that’s all you can do. Ultimately the choice was the selection committee’s, and your friend knew from the beginning there was a chance that she wouldn’t get it (and that you would). Maybe she’d take it easier if the “winner” were a stranger instead of a friend…but at the end of the day you can’t manage her emotions for her.

        Either way though, if your friend doesn’t react well, it’s not your fault.

        If she lets it get in the way of your friendship – or even lets it end your friendship – it’s not your fault.

  7. it may even be that you were offered the job as it was evident that you are a much more pleasant person given that your experience is basically the same. So it might be her difficult personality that cost her the job in the first place. In any case, if she ends up making this about her, or being negative or hostile, what kind of friend is she anyway? Friends should always be happy for friends when something good happens in their life.

    1. I think that’s a little harsh. There’s no reason to believe that the LW’s friend was anything other than professional at the interview, and it doesn’t make her a bad friend if she’s upset not to have gotten the job. It’s not great if she takes out her disappointment on the LW, and I’d encourage her (if she wrote in herself) to step back and process before engaging with the LW if she thinks she might be tempted to do so. But it’s unreasonable to say “friends should always be happy for friends” even if the “something good” that happens for one is something awful for the other.

      1. I absolutely agree that friends don’t always have to be happy for friends. People do all kinds of things that aren’t things other people can or should be happy about. For instance (and this is a wildly different circumstance from getting a job over somebody else, but it’s important to the point), some years ago I had a friend, A., who had another friend, J., who was weirdly possessive of A. A. and I were very close, but J. made a big deal of being even closer to A. J. insisted that we had to be supportive of and happy for A. at all times. At some point, A. began overworking himself to the point of making himself physically ill. I wanted to speak up about it, but J. told me not to because talking to A. about it wouldn’t be “supportive” enough. I pointed out that a true friend calls you out on your shit and promptly told A. off for endangering his health, friendships, etc., with the result that A. stepped back and started taking better care of himself. J. conceded my point . . . that time.

        Eventually, A. got into a relationship with a girl who was 1.) underage (!!!) and 2.) a crappy person anyway. I had all kinds of problems with that relationship, mostly for the former reason, but J. insisted that even though he didn’t like the girlfriend or the situation either, we had to be happy for A. because A. was happy. I said again that keeping our feelings to ourselves on the matter wouldn’t be appropriate since A. was being creepy and gross, not to mention even if his new girlfriend had been over the age of consent, she was still controlling, possessive, and mean. I stopped talking to both of them as a result. A. and his girlfriend are still together, years later, married and with a kid, but I never want to talk to him again anyway because of how their relationship began.

    2. “Friends should always be happy for friends when something good happens in their life.”

      This is one of those more in theory than in practice ideals.

      My best friend and I struggled with infertility at the same time. She learned she would never be able to carry a child to term and started the adoption process. About a year later, she sent me email including a photo of her soon-to-be daughter. It arrived the day I learned that I would never be able to carry a child to term. At the time, the fact that I am queer and very out meant that I would not be able to adopt, either. So basically her most awesome news arrived simultaneously with the most awful news of my life, and these two news items were the flipside of one another.

      Maybe you could be happy for your friend to be having her heart’s desire arriving just as you learned that you would never be anyone’s mother. Maybe that makes me a monster. But I couldn’t be unadulteratedly happy for her because my heart was in shards in my chest, and I could hardly breathe.

      I did manage my own emotions, but I also wrote back to tell her my news. And I added “I am so very happy for you, but I hope you will understand if I need to take a break from the topic of children for a few weeks. I plan to be available and present in your lives by the time she comes home to you, but right now, I am mourning my own phantom children.” And because she is an awesome person, her response was “I am so sorry the timing is awful, and of course I understand. I’ll be here to talk children when you are ready, and in the meantime, did you SEE [our favorite TV show] last night????”

      Friends are allowed to have their own complicated emotions when something good happens to one of their friends, and your platitudes don’t make it wrong when it happens. What friends are obligated to do is manage those complicated emotions themselves. My best friend didn’t become a mother AT me, so it was not her job to manage my upset. And I didn’t throw my infertility or involuntary childlessness in her face, not once, not ever. Her daughter is happily married today, and we are still best friends. This would not have been possible if I had not been able to take space and manage my shit, but it also would not have been possible if she’d believed that I was not allowed any response to her good news other than unalloyed joy.

      1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s good examples of how to treat friends and handle emotions.

    3. “Friends should always be happy for friends when something good happens in their life.”

      This is true on the whole, but people are also allowed to be angry, upset, frustrated, and disappointed when they lose out on something they really wanted. That’s not ‘making it about them’–it’s allowing them to have normal human reactions.

      If LW’s friend decides to throw away the entire friendship over this, or is still railing at LW weeks or months down the line about how LW ‘stole’ their job, that would be very not cool. But if they have a moment upon first finding out the news where their feelings about their own loss overwhelm their ability to be a supportive friend? We all have those moments sometimes. Friends should also be considerate of friends when something bad happens in their life (which it sounds like LW is already on top of, given that they’re thinking about the best way to break the news!).

  8. Dear LW,

    Consider not agonizing. I’ve been on both sides of this. What has worked best among my acquaintance is announcing the news, indicating the reaction you want. For example :
    “I got X job! I’m happy so I’d love congratulations.”

    Congrats LW!

  9. Congratulations, LW! You must have kicked butt in that interview on top of your qualifications 🙂 And since you know the competition was tough you totally deserve to do a little dance and maybe gloat a little (or lot) internally about your “win” and being “apparently a little more (qualified)” than your friend. And to be clear, you are not responsible for your friend’s reaction to this news. But you asked for ways to smooth this road and my two cents is that while you’re drafting your e-mail or text, or preparing to break the news in person, try reframing this in your mind to something less like “this company thought that I was better” and closer to “this company thought that I was a better fit for this role”. Good luck with your new job!

  10. If, after giving her some time to grieve and to come to terms with her disappointment – very reasonable expectations of you – this friend doesn’t come around and somehow holds you “accountable” for her situation, I think I would question the value of such a friendship and the true “cost” of saying “no thanks”.

  11. Dear LW, congratulations on getting the job!

    The Captain is so very much right: the fact that you got the job now opens up new possibilities to your friend, too. Let’s hope that she remembers this after the initial reaction – or the moment she gets the news. Women are so often brought up to think of other’s feelings before their own so I understand your reaction so very well. In my opinion it is best for both of you that one of you got the job, now both of you may reap the benefits.

    Whatever your friend may feel, enjoy yourself and your new job! What a wonderful achievment!

    1. You say you hope Friend will remember the advantages of networking, I think it’s probably okay to make this explicit. Like “Let me know if you or Partner apply to another position here down the line, so I can put in a good word for you. I know you’re both super-qualified in this field, and I’d love to be working with you!”
      (Assuming that’s true, of course)

      Nobody wants to be pitied, but some pro-active kindness and respect is always a good way to demonstrate that a friendship is important to you.

      1. The LW can say this but doesn’t have to.

        Maybe the delivering the news part can just be its own thing, and be about the Letter Writer.

        1. I would frankly wait to see what the friend’s reaction is like before making an offer like this.

          If she treats you badly, that’s valuable information to have. Would you really *want* this person as your colleague, knowing that you may end up competing for projects/promotions/etc? Can you trust her not to create workplace drama if you ‘win’ again? Might said drama end up damaging your professional reputation, especially if you were the one to suggest her for the position in the first place?

          Hopefully those questions become irrelevant because your friend is able to react supportively or at least civilly, but if not, I personally wouldn’t advise trying to assuage her anger or your guilt with a promise of future recommendations if you’re not sure you can make them in good conscience.

          1. I did not initially give much thought to this but I am with Emma9 in this: the friend is responsible for her own reactions and the LW does not have to play feelings curling trying to smooth everything, it is just too much emotional work.

            What Emma9 says is also true: if the friend reacts badly and does not apologize she provides valuable information: perhaps she is not as good a friend as LW thought and perhaps working with her might not be the best of ideas – or if she reacts well it is a clear sign she might be a good colleague in the future.

            I just wish the LW much strength and joy.

        2. Sorry, I meant that as a part of the “how do I maintain a good relationship with her” portion of the question (which I was interpreting as an ongoing thing once the news is broken), rather than the “how do I break the news” portion. Everyone is right to note that those are definitely separate conversations, with breathing room in between. If after breaking the news, LW is no longer interested in maintaining the friendship, then it’s a clearly a moot point.

          1. (Or, likewise, if it’s not true, of course! It just seemed unfair to assume that Friend should magically know that LW would likely act as a networking resource, as some comments seemed to suggest.)

      2. I know it seems like that would be a really generous thing to say. But, I would wait. If I were Friend, it would feel a bit too much like the LW was being a bit condescending and that this a way of kind of lording the new job over me. I don’t know if that makes sense?

        I still think LW should make the offer, but maybe wait until all the feelings aren’t quite as new.

  12. Yes to everything, especially the anticipating needs!

    Anticipating people’s needs is something you do for children or dependents in your care, for clients or employers who pay you to do it, or when you want to go out of your way to make a special occasion for a loved one. But we get socialized to think it’s our moral responsibility to everyone, all the time. That it’s the minimum basic requirement of being a decent human.

    Nope. Not your job, not for this.

    1. +1 exactly!

      I used to need to be taken care of (due to an illness / disability), and, fortunately, now I don’t (thanks, science!) But, even when I did, there were people whose responsibility it was to take care of me, initially my parents. And, during a time when it looked like I really might not ever be able to live on my own and work full time, my mom and I had a lot of conversations about what my options were re: moving into an assisted living facility, or hiring help. Because even my mom, who loved me deeply, needed a friggin’ break and didn’t expect to take care of someone 24/ 7 for the rest of her life.

      The thing is, it made me feel more empowered, and less like a burden, to know there were options. I felt really guilty thinking my mom would *have* to take care of me forever, and I resented feeling guilty for something that wasn’t my fault; in turn, that resentment created a lot of conflict– as did my mom’s overall stress level. Taking the steps to figure out how to safely (with my consent and approval) spread out the responsibility for caring for me in different ways, changed a *have to* into a *want to.* Which made me feel less guilty and thus less resentful, and she felt less stressed. Our day to day lives got better. That’s more loving, ultimately, not less.

    2. Thank you for this comment. I really needed to read this right now. I hope you won’t mind if I quote it in my planner, where I can remind myself of this from time to time.

    3. I think it’s a nice thing to do, between equals and when it’s reciprocal, but agreed that you don’t *have* to do it. Especially since unreasonable people can take advantage of it.

    4. I have a list on my wall at work of “how to show respect for the people who work for you.”

      The one I really remember is: “Don’t fix it for them.”

      That has made me see that it is the height of disrespect to “fix” things for people that they could fix themselves, especially if they haven’t explicitly asked you (and sometimes even then).

  13. I would say there is nothing wrong with a quick hey I got this job I’m so happy. On the same note I would try to avoid bringing up said job for a little while after. AKA not constantly gushing about how great it is or even worse the reverse of this is a sucky job you are so lucky you didnt get it bs. I have had this happen and been on both sides of it. I can be happier about your triumphs however if you are not constantly telling me how great it is particularly if you are aware my situation is less good.

    1. It’s true, I think it’s okay not to make this friend your go-to #1 audience for future musing on this job from now on. That would probably be compassionate.

    2. +1 to this! Years ago, when I was unemployed and finding it impossible to get a job (recession + recent college grad), I had a friend who got my dream job, and would not stop complaining about it: how it sucked to be at a desk all day, how it wasn’t her calling, while she went on nice vacations and bought nice things and I cut back to two meals a day because I couldn’t afford three. It was awful. It would have been way easier to take if she had seemed grateful for what I perceived as her good fortune.

  14. A couple of thoughts:

    While LW knows her friend and we don’t, I still wonder whether it’s possible that Friend won’t take this as badly as LW thinks. It sounds like LW really values this friend. If I were in LW’s shoes, I know my mind would automatically go to the worst case scenario (the job situation damages the friendship). Fingers crossed that that won’t happen!

    Second, I agree wholeheartedly that it’s best to just deliver the news and not to initiate conversations about feelings around this. However, in case the friend initiates a conversation about feelings, I have to say that I find “weird” to be a useful word in that type of situation, e.g. “I know, it’s kind of weird”; “Sorry you’re feeling weird”; “Yup, I feel a little weird too,” etc. What I like about it is that it’s informal and friendly, and it acknowledges that the other person might be feeling some unpleasant emotions without presuming to know exactly what those emotions are, and without creating pressure to get into fine details. (I know the use of “weird” to describe awkward situations and the feelings that come with them is culturally specific and doesn’t apply to everyone.)

    1. Ooh, I really like the rationale behind “weird” as a word choice for situations like this!

    2. Seconds that “weird” is a really clever idea for dealing with this. It acknowledges the awkwardness, while not making a big thing of it.

      I think that as well as the possibility that Friend won’t take it as badly as LW thinks, it is important for LW not to assume that her own reaction to Friend having got the job would automatically have been positive and better-behaved. It is easy to think that one would behave really well when not in the situation of having to do it, but in fact LW can’t guarantee this. So while LW doesn’t need to give a pass to genuinely poor behaviour, I think it’s also important not to make herself unhappy at Friend’s reaction by judging Friend against some ideal test of generous happiness that LW would of course have passed herself, instead of against how human beings tend on average to respond to a experiencing really disappointing thing, which is feeling disappointed themselves and not making their friend’s joy at the very thing that has caused their disappointment their own priority.

      1. Good point. Depending on my mental health and the financial urgency of getting this/any job, my reaction will be anywhere between squeeing for my friend and feeling punched in the gut (not by friend, by life). I like the use of weird, and the acknowledgement that any celebrating/complaining should mainly done with other people, on both sides.

        And I will second the suggestion from elsewhere that this announcement should be made by text or e-mail, rather than in person/on the phone: give the friend the chance to process their feelings in private and get to the point where they ARE happy for you.

  15. This happened with two friends of mine. I used to work with both of them, and they were still working together when C applied for a job, and told B about it. B liked the sound of it and also applied. B knew some people at the job and ended up getting it. C was angry, and asked me for advice! They are closer friends with each other than I am with either of them. I was kind of non-committal (B and I are both middle-aged, C is younger, so I was slightly pleased that the middle-aged woman got the job, though I didn’t tell C that), just saying that I understood why it hurt, but was it a friendship-breaker?

  16. I’m in academia and creative writing. Of course it’s often hard to swallow the bitter jealousy pill and put on a bright face to congratulate your friend, even if you feel secretly and guiltily sour inside. If your friend is a good friend and also professional, she will be equipped to hide her real (valid!) feelings of sour grapes to sincerly congratulate you. If she doesn’t, she has a LOT to learn about small and competitive industries, and that doesn’t reflect on you.

  17. My go-to response when on the receiving end of things like this is, “I’m happy for you but sad for me!”, with a ton of fun follow-up questions so they can bask in the glow of their Awesome New Thing.

  18. Congratulations on the job!

    I’ve been kind of in the friend’s position a few times, where colleagues and friends got opportunities in our small competitive industry that I missed out on. I know on more than one occasion I had a less than ideal reaction, not because I wished them any ill but because my insecurities flared up and I thought “what do they have that I don’t”. But I have worked hard to keep this in check, so I can just give genuine well wishes to them, and work on my own career disappointments by myself.

    I think the Captain is right, even if she has a not great reaction at first, as long as she checks herself later and finds a way to be around you without bringing it up, the friendship will be okay.

  19. If it helps with your guilt any you should remember that just because you are their first choice it doesn’t make your friend their second choice. Even if you were not in the running the job isn’t hers to claim. If you knew she was fifth choice and not second would it put this in a better perspective for you? Not that this helps with her reaction, but it might help you fend off your guilty feelings and keep that new job glow going. Congratulations.

  20. I have a friend like this. She gets mad at me whenever I accomplish anything or if anything good happens to me but expects me to be super happy and supportive of everything she does. I try to, but it’s also kind of annoying to always get snide comments and criticism when I do anything so I just try not to tell her when I have good news since if the pattern of the past 24 years holds, she’ll be mad about it and make me feel terrible. We’re sort of drifting apart and I wish we weren’t.

    1. But she’s punishing you for good fortune. Of course you aren’t telling her stuff. She’s pushing you away. Of course you’re drifting apart.

      If you gave her a script, would it help? Like this: “Oh, good thing will happen next week, I’m very excited, please be excited with me.” (Those exact literal words.) And then if the snide criticisms come out, “Please be excited with me! And if you can’t, let’s talk about kittens.” And if she still can’t stop, it’s probably time to use the bathroom (you can even interrupt her to say, “Oh I have to pee so bad” and then walk away). And when you’re done in the bathroom, it’s time to pick up your stuff and head home because you’ve got stuff to do. Because if she criticizes you, she’s pushing you away. Let her.

  21. This happened to me! Long story short, the person who had been a “friend” was really more “horrible bully” and when she found out I got a job that we both applied for she went on a rampage. It subsided but made me very hesitant to share other good information (like when I got published in a nationally syndicated column as an expert, etc.). It was a strain on what I thought was a friendship.

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