Help! My work BFF left
Jan 25, 2022
Photographe chez Welcome to the Jungle
Freelance journalist and writer
Coffee chats, fresh-air breaks, inside jokes, a quick gossip in the kitchen, messaging during Zoom meetings… There are many ways to enjoy the special friendship you have with your work BFF. There’s no one like them—they get you, they support you, they laugh with you, they motivate you, they’re there for you when you want to express your worries and your doubts. They understand your professional passions and goals and give a lighter, more exciting dimension to your working day. But as valuable as it is to have a close friend at work, it can be difficult when they decide to change course professionally.
If your work bestie is planning to leave or your friendship is going through a major change, fear not, we’re here to help. We talked to two women who have experienced the loss of a work friend about how they navigated the change, and we asked one of our experts, Ángela-Jo Touza-Medina, to advise on how to deal with your work BFF leaving.
Your work bestie left? Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world (even though it might seem like it)
Marie, 24, met her ride-or-die co-worker, Agatha, a few months into her time as a paralegal at a law firm. Both studied at the same university and completed the same degree, but their paths had never crossed. “Although we had never met each other before, I somehow knew we would become friends—we just clicked, straight away,” says Marie. “After a week she officially became my work bestie. We talked about everything in our lives, professionally and personally. We just understood each other so well.” The two valued their conversations so much that they decided to make them a priority. “We had one tradition that we practiced daily: every morning, we designated the first 30 minutes for life updates over a coffee. We called it ‘puppy time,’ as we were the youngest in the firm.”
Four months into the friendship, everything changed: Agatha announced that she was pregnant. Although she tried working from home for the duration of her pregnancy, she handed in her resignation a month before her due date. “It was not easy for me to accept the news,” Marie says.
On the other side of the spectrum, Loredana, 25, recently left her job in TV advertising to become a production co-ordinator at another channel. She, too, experienced the difficulty of losing a work friendship—even though she was the one leaving the workplace. She met El Franks, her work BFF, during the interview process. “We were surprised to see each other again at the main gate on our first day,” says Loredana. “Initially, we worked in different teams but, after a year, we went for a promotion and I was successful, so I became her team leader.”
The two remained as close as ever—they shared breakfasts and lunches, kept each other up to date with their professional and personal lives, spent their free time going to spin classes together, and motivated each other to strive for more. “She was always there to support me no matter what task we were assigned, keeping a smile on my face when things weren’t going as planned, motivating and encouraging me,” says Loredana. “Her upbeat, enthusiastic attitude had a big impact on my day-to-day work life.”
After two years, it was time for Loredana to change jobs and begin a more challenging chapter, but the connection she had with El Franks made it hard for her to leave. “It was difficult at the beginning,” says Loredana. “I couldn’t believe I was actually leaving.”
How to cope with losing your work bestie
“*It is important to grieve the end of an era in our work lives,” says Ángela-Jo Touza-Medina, career coach, mentor and founder of intellegō Consulting Services. “People often develop habits and rituals with those they interact daily with, so it is normal to feel a void and miss these moments.” Work friendships are unique and can become intense—*you spend most of the day together, sharing your professional and personal lives.
We should acknowledge that accepting the loss of a work bestie and adapting to spending more time alone in the office is a long process. So don’t try to rush the hunt for your new best buddy. Give yourself time to reminisce about the friendship you had and prepare yourself to view your workplace from a new, individual perspective.
“I was really sad but I knew I couldn’t make this about myself,” says Marie. “I completely understood the situation Agatha was in and I fully respected her decision. It was hard to go about my daily work life without her—and it still is. I miss her a lot. But life changes unexpectedly and we have to adapt to it.”
The fact that your work bestie is leaving does not mean that your friendship has to end the day they resign. Instead, you need to adapt to this new dynamic and nurture your friendship accordingly. “An added plus is that you will have someone outside your immediate work environment who gets the nuance when you talk about everyday goings-on,” says Touza-Medina. Try looking at it from a different perspective: you just gained another friend to hang out with after work.
In Marie’s case, consistent contact and patience were key to maintaining the quality of her friendship with Agatha, despite the changes. “We do manage to speak now: we still talk about everything and have the same connection we had when we worked together. When we meet, we try to set aside a few hours so we don’t have to rush. I can happily say that the quality of our friendship has not changed—just the environment of our meetings. And we now have a new guest at ‘puppy time:’ Agatha’s little son, whom she brings with her every time we see each other.”
The glass is not as empty as it seems
To help you adapt to the new work dynamic, try to see the situation as an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone, says Touza-Medina. Be open to growth. “Growth is different for everyone,” she says. “For some of us, it might mean exploring the opportunity to make new acquaintances at work; for others, it may be a sign that we too have reached a turning point in our career and it’s time to see what options are out there. It is important to honestly self-reflect and figure out the best solution for you.”
Use this time to focus on yourself and your prospects in the workplace. What do you enjoy about your job? What else in your workplace brings you happiness? How can you shift your work mindset from now on?
Loredana admits it took her a while to get used to not having El Franks around. But she knew that changing her job was not the end of their friendship—on the contrary, it was time for new adventures. “I’m a social person and made new friends quickly, while also keeping in touch with my former colleagues. I think the only thing that changed is the fact that we don’t talk as often as we used to—but we’re definitely still friends, we keep in touch and we meet.”
What should you do if you don’t click with other co-workers, though? As challenging as that might be, remember that the office is your place of work, rather than a field for new friendships. “*Work friends are a bonus, not a requirement, for a successful career. So, if socializing with your co-workers isn’t an option, it’s best to move your focus on friendship and socializing to outside the workplace,*” says Touza-Medina. To make day-to-day life at work more enjoyable and thrive professionally along the way, try focusing on the satisfaction you get when you do your job well.
Ángela-Jo Touza-Medina’s top tips for finding a sense of belonging in the workplace
Learn about others. When people feel that someone is interested in what they have to say, understand where they are coming from and who they are, they feel more at ease and inclined to let you in. This is crucial to friendship.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
By being cordial, friendly and open, and sharing your story (in an appropriate way), you make it easier for people to identify with you and open up. Your openness and vulnerability will attract your tribe.
Get out there and be proactive
Identify opportunities to engage and collaborate with your peers. Figure out which staff committees align not only with your interests, but also provide a chance for professional growth.
Reject workplace toxicity
If you’re in an environment with a dodgy workplace culture, where backbiting and hypocrisy are the norm rather than the exception, resolve to be different. Be someone people can come to and feel safe with.
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