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My friend's ultimatum: Our friendship or my freelance job

THE QUESTION

A very good friend and I work freelance in the same industry, at competing organizations. I've started to do some work in her area of expertise (not exclusive to her) at my own organization. This does not sit well with her. She has asked me to choose our friendship or the work, as now she sees me as a competitor. I'm shocked and hurt by her actions. I certainly never thought this would be an issue, as we're not employed by the same company, although our work is made public. I'm a single mom and I need to pay the bills.

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Jamie Sale

Champion pairs figure skater

I'm sorry to hear about your "good friend" and how she's reacting. I realize this is very difficult for you and you're probably heartbroken considering you thought you had a good friend by your side. I'll be frank: Unfortunately she isn't a good friend and the fact she's asking you to choose between her or your job is immature, unreasonable, and so junior high. She's obviously jealous and threatened by your potential success and she's willing to lose you over your decision to stay at your job, meaning her true colours are coming out.

I can totally understand what you're going through, and so could many other single moms, so please don't feel bad about taking care of your children. That is a priority and if you love what you're doing and it puts fire in your belly, then you go, girl! Don't let people decide for you, especially the ones who aren't going to be supportive. Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen. Stay positive and strong and let her go. I always say, "Don't cry over people who won't cry over you, and she obviously loves her job more than her relationship with you.

That said, what's wrong with a little healthy competition? It makes us all want to be better and it will help build character and make you stronger. Good luck. Onward and upward!

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bill Howatt

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President, Howatt HR Consulting Inc.

I recommend you tell this person that you are setting a boundary between your professional and personal relationships. Her use of anger, guilt and ultimatums is her attempt to control you. Real friends do not do this.

One strategy is to use something such as the following script to set a boundary:

"I have heard your position. I want to believe you are not really trying to threaten me or give me ultimatums. I want to have friends who care about my needs and do not try to control me. I do not believe my doing this freelance work can or will hurt you. I will not tell you what do to. I enjoy our relationship; however, there must be a boundary between work and personal relationships. I am doing this freelance role and I am not talking about this any further, nor do I feel like I am doing anything wrong. I would have preferred not to have had this conversation, but I do hope we can keep our work and personal lives separate. If not, that will be your choice."

In the end, with all personal relationships – as difficult as it can be – we must set the speed limit. And then enforce it.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers.

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