7 Early Signs of A Toxic Relationship
5 Signs Your Work-Wife Relationship Is Toxic
Your relationship with your work wife can be a beautiful thing. She saves you the last everything bagel from her morning meeting, commiserates with you when your boss is being ridiculous, and knows how you spend your days better than anyone — you probably clock more face time with her than with your non-work friends or S.O.
Your unique friendship also poses unique risks. And unlike most friendships, if this one goes sour, you can’t really end it. It’s not as if either of you can choose to spend less time together. You’ve still both got to show up and do your jobs. Thankfully, there are ways of coping, short of handing in your two weeks notice. But first you need to recognize that your work marriage has turned toxic. Here are five signs that you may have a problem.
1. Every conversation with her centers around what’swrongat work.The day that you shared a secret eye roll with her when your holier-than-thou health-conscious coworker rolled in a giant balance ball to use as a desk chair was a great day. You realized that this person was on your side, and soon you were venting to each other about gum-chewing colleagues, stolen lunches, reply-all emails and the dudes who send them (they’re always dudes) ... and now every time you’re alone, you two unleash a torrent of frustrations in an endless loop.
When you recognize this is happening and the negativity gets to be too much, "the common inclination is to pull away defensively," executive coach Tali Shmulovich tells Cosmopolitan.com, but "then what can happen is the person senses it and it almost makes the situation worse, because the relationship starts to come apart" — which can be awkward. To cut the downer vibes without losing the one person who comes up with a lightning-quick excuse for your boss about why you’re running late, she suggests "intentionally shifting the conversation away from work and toward something that you think might have more positive energy associated with it" and is preferably non-work-related, like your mutual passion forThe Bachelor.
2. Being there for her is keeping you from doing your job."The foundation of a work-based relationship is the need to work together," Schmulovich points out. This sounds obvious, but if you’re so close with someone in the office that the roles of coworker and friend conflict — if, say, your friend lost her beloved Labradoodle to her evil ex in the breakup and she needs you to meet her in the stairwell as she cries about it for the fourth time this week, making you late to your 2 o’ clock — then think about your boundaries in the relationship. Saying, "I really have to finish these emails now, but let’s meet for drinks after work," can send the message that your friendship is important, but so is your job.
3. She talks about you behind your back."Things can change in a relationship, and so having somebody know so much about your personal life introduces some risks," Schmulovich says. "[Be] thoughtful about what you share from your personal life, using more of a filter." If your work wife ever becomes compelled to undermine your reputation (or if she simply lets something that you told her slip), the damage will be worse if she knows all of your secrets. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be yourself at work, but you also don’t want the gory details of the drunken Tuesday night you hooked up with a stranger in a bar bathroom to become common office knowledge, so approach story time with more caution than you otherwise would.
4. Your coworkers see you as a unit — and treat you like one.No one ever takes the seat next to you at meetings because they know it’s reserved for your work wife, and it’s common knowledge that you get lunch together. Every day. This could be a problem not only for workplace dynamics, but for your career. "In the workplace, it’s really important to be seen as somebody that works well with everyone," Schmulovich says. "That’s an important part of being a team player. If you are clearly close with some people and not others, that can negatively impact the dynamic in the entire team" — as well as prevent you from building other relationships and showing your higher-ups how collaborative you are.
5. She puts down all of your ideas.You’re more likely to be in competition with a work friend than a friend from outside of work. Sure, you might feel jealous when a non-work friend scores a promotion, but that promotion doesn’t ever come at the cost of your own or reflect poorly on your performance — and close work friends can have a hard time distinguishing professional competition from personal conflict.
So keep an eye out for jealousy before it poisons the relationship. “It’s possible that this person really disagrees with the way you’re doing something, or it’s possible that they are really just jealous of you,” Shmulovich says. Hint: It’s probably the latter, and it’s a good sign that you should diversify your work friend portfolio. You may not need to divorce your work wife if you walk away from conversations with her feeling worse about your job/colleagues/boss/sad desk salad/self/life instead of better. Recognize that your relationship needs a reset — and the next time there are bagels in your morning meeting, grab one for both her and the coworker who sits on your other side.
Video: 10 Early Signs of a Toxic Relationship
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