<![CDATA[Recently a female client sent me an urgent e-mail message that said, “I need to talk! I just found out that a good friend and I are both applying for the same promotion, and I’m afraid this will ruin our friendship. What should I do?” I understand her concern and have heard it many times from other women. In fact, I remember when, earlier in my career, I almost did not apply for a position in my company that I really wanted because another woman I knew also wanted it. I did apply, I got it, and the opportunity changed my career trajectory. I did not know how to salvage the friendship, though, and it did not survive. Fortunately, I now know better how to handle this situation and will share some tips later in this blog. First, though, we need to understand more about why this situation seems to raise concerns and challenges for many women. My recent research involving women in many sectors and in several countries found that women often have different relationship expectations of their female colleagues than they do of males. Other scholars have describedthese expectationsas relational images that develop early in life and are carried from one relationship to another, sometimes changing with new experiences. We don’t show up in the workplace as a blank slate. We carry with us all of the things we have learned, including our friendship rules and expectations. Men have friendship rules too, but because of differences in our gender socialization, theirs are not the same as ours. Women I talk with often marvel at the way men can disagree or compete at work and then go out for a beer together as though nothing happened, while women do not get over similar experiences with other women for a long time—if ever. What friendship rules could be making it harder for women to compete with a woman friend for a new job or promotion? My research validated the work of other scholars who describe a core of very common friendship rules. Not everyone has the same rules, and there will be variations for cultural differences. Below are the most commonly reported friendship rules:
- Maintain unswerving loyalty.
- Demonstrate trustworthiness.
- Keep confidences.
- Be a good listener.
- Share gossip and air problems.
- Provide self-disclosure.
- Practice equality and acceptance, and refrain from disapproval.
- Avoid discussion of the friendship rules.
- Confirm that the friendship is important to you and you don’t want it to be damaged because you are both applying for the same job.
- Propose a friendship rule that you wish each other the best in pursuing the job.
- Suggest a friendship rule that whoever gets the job will have the full support of the other to be successful.
- Acknowledge to each other that applying for the position is not personal, it’s professional.
2 thoughts on “Competing with a Friend for a Promotion: Can This Relationship Survive?”
Im in a similar situation. one of my close coworker informed me about an accounting position I Really want but after a couple days of her nit really seeing me make a move, she decided to apply and my manager approched me and asked wht in earth I hadnt applied yet and i’d be great for the position. Now I feel like if I do apply and get the job, she may think I just applied to snatch the position from her and she’ll feel like I stole a great opportunity from her. 🙁
I know this must be an uncomfortable situation. I strongly encourage you to talk with her about your discomfort and the importance of her friendship. I am sure you can both compete for this job and still be friends — if you talk about it!