How’s work is an unscripted one time counseling session focused on work?
For the purposes of maintaining confidentiality names, employers and other identifiable characteristics have been removed, but their voices, and their stories are real.
Some friendships carry an unspoken it dose of loyalty.
That if we are really in this together, you are not to go ahead without me in this relationship.
There is a she and there is a day, we were friends.
Before we were co-workers.
We sort of took the job together like it felt kind of like we’re starting out kind of as partners they and I Started around the same time.
And so, from the beginning of working together.
There was kind of that negotiation of how can we be most effective and work together at work and also maintain our friendship and that caused some tension early on their friendship started.
We did a deep sense of equality.
I would say it really fractured when she was offered a promotion.
She hadn’t told me that like this was even In the cards, hadn’t like, chat with me or anything instead of feeling like, oh, we’re Partners were in this, like now there’s a literal hierarchy, a lot of, a, lot of conversations happened around why I took the promotion in the way that I did, why I didn’t have conversations with them about the promotion before I took it.
And from the moment, there is a power differential between them.
All of these darker feelings are stewing.
There is competition.
There is jealousy.
There is a sense of betrayal, I think.
Like, I don’t trust that she has my back.
We also just like, don’t know how to communicate.
I want to rebuild an actual Foundation of trust.
When were working well together.
It’s just so great.
It’s just very hard when something happens to trigger hard.
Feelings are conflicts again.
What is hard about this conversation?
Is that they want to preserve their friendship, but because they sit on such profound denial of their disavowed.
Feelings of anger of disloyalty.
They’re sitting in a very muted State holding back.
Those very feelings that could shatter their friendship.
And tell me what’s the best thing that can come out of our conversation today?
What’s Your Wildest Dream for a positive outcome?
They’re asking both of us.
Well, you can’t speak at the same time so you can click.
We start with it’s a it’s a joint question.
I’ll just let you know.
I use they/them pronouns.
So, you know, I do know that, but it’s a good reminder.
The first, I think in my wildest dreams, I would leave this session feeling like we can trust each other again.
How trust you look like?
Feel like sound like, What sorts of things does it say?
I see you.
I appreciate you.
I respect you and make space for you.
When trust is silent, what replaces it?
Doubt, fear self-consciousness.
Shame confusion and how do those speak to you?
I think just trust speaks to me, and it sounds like very final, or just very All or nothing.
Because trust is foundational.
So to not have that to me.
It’s like a rupture.
Don’t have a relationship where there is no trust.
Yeah, and the entire time you are speaking.
They are nodding just so I know you’re looking at me.
We are on Zoom, but they are nodding.
I don’t know if it’s their Wildest Dream, but they are acknowledging.
Would it be accurate to say that you were acknowledging?
The Precision also of how carefully she chose the descriptives?
Of trust and distrust.
Yeah, I think yeah, acknowledging.
I mean the Precision and both like I feel those things and I’m not surprised that you feel alone.
What’s Your Wildest Dream for this conversation, what’s the best thing that could happen?
The thing Irish, the most is for us to be feel like it’s possible to be good friends again.
You getting nothing to, you may want to check in with each other every once in a while.
So you see you at the same wavelength.
So for this conversation, there’s just one conversation.
They’ll be many others that you will have together.
But for us, it’s a it’s a very simple and profound frame.
Trust and friendship.
So we need a tiny bit of history of this friendship, this work relationship and what had been challenges.
Well, I would say it’s been and each other’s lives for about five years.
I’m gonna have a half years.
I first met you when you were doing your internship year and I I really admire you and was extremely inspired by you and remember being like I want to lead like that and that’s being humble and confident at the same time.
And then for me it turned into a bit of a crush.
And then that was kind of an exciting time because it solidified something for me.
Which I think I’ve been getting signs about which is I’m queer.
And then it wasn’t reciprocated, but it was okay.
And I wasn’t mad at all because you didn’t do anything wrong.
I was just sad and I understood and then I moved on from seeing you in that way, but I would say like After that, in our friendship, even before we were co-workers, we did some processing around.
Me feeling like I wasn’t important to you or like feeling ignored or like you didn’t care.
For the Friendship, but then I know you did because told me that you did in that you just express it in different ways and that was very helpful.
And then, We both took the job and yeah, I was both really nervous and I thought I knew it would be like really, really good.
But you win a nervous about.
I was a nervous that either that I would like kind of like redevelop feelings of wanting something more than like friendship or the feeling that I’d had before of.
Like, even when it was, like, purely friendly that like I would feel like I didn’t really matter and then having to show up to work and navigate that.
And what did happen in reality?
The first month didn’t go.
So it was kind of like that where we got into this weird.
Dynamic where you thought I didn’t want you to like show me like affection and appreciation.
And so you weren’t doing that and then I was like, we’re doing that with others.
I guess this is just like a co-working relationship and then your mom died.
And I was like, what am I doing?
You’re one of the people that I care most about in the entire world, and this is the worst thing.
And It’s time to get over myself.
Got my butt to the funeral and like show up. and, It respect together.
This is one of those moments where I have to decide if I’m going to listen for Content or listen for effect.
And when I track the effect here, I’m hearing everything that is not being said.
And part of the dynamic that I perceive here is that they are so invested in wondering how important they are.
How much she’s paying attention to them, how special they are, and it takes her losing her mother for Day to put themselves aside for a moment and actually be there for the friends.
Sometimes we get so caught up, asking ourselves is my friend there for me and we forget to ask ourselves.
Are we there for our friend?
Yeah, I think that happened it was right on the heels of this thing that felt like a trust freaking month, right up.
Just like it felt to me that mother felt like you don’t work with me.
It felt like but can we ask you something?
Yeah, just to.
I have a few other pieces.
You were hired for similar roles.
Yeah, laterally or hierarchical e.
So you were meant to work together.
Yeah, we were hired for very similar roles kind of like different teams different projects, but the same role.
Okay, what did you eat Sid or do or not say that let the other person to think they don’t want to work with me.
To say you don’t want to work with me, is the conclusion of a whole bunch of behaviors that lead you to that summation.
I don’t know.
I just have this very clear memory.
Of just like walking in the first day into the office.
You’re just kept working just like didn’t acknowledge me.
It felt like we were in the middle of a fight, but we weren’t it felt like we got off on a foot of tension with them, the working relationship.
But I couldn’t discern why?
Or like where’d it come from?
And let me ask you because you mentioned the death of your mother.
Was it a big loss?
Yeah, so if we put her also in the room and there was a balloon above her head.
What would the statement in the balloon be in this moment?
As she looks at you grappling, with this important relationship that has been a friendship that has been a work relationship.
I think she say.
Just say the truth.
She was fairly direct person more than you.
And what holds you back fear of?
Hurting somebody or fear of rejection.
And then all of those are really.
Deeply seated and the deepest fear, which is that I’m actually a bad person and where is it from?
That I do not know because it’s a fear.
You’re afraid that if you had to direct, you will hurt people but you would like to say the truth, but you don’t want to be misunderstood or to hurt them or to be rejected by them.
So you end up not saying things.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t get expressed in other ways.
And that is being said at this point despite yourself.
And so, in the end, you end up hurting when everything you were hoping to do was just the opposite.
I feels very accurate.
This is the one thing is.
Yeah, that feels true.
I’ve been a bad friend for what his coffin couldn’t is the part of the sentence that says when in fact, I was trying so hard not to do the very thing which I ended up doing.
I think the reality is I don’t always bring forward or a name.
How I’m feeling or issues or just like the truth of a situation because I think it will cause more problems or pain or hurt.
Really that manifests in other ways unspoken or actions, not spoken or things that are spoken.
But not truth that end up causing pain or hurt or harm.
In a way that I, in no way want or intend because I care about you and I don’t want to hurt you and as she says it she’s doing it.
This is an enactment of the very thing that she says she otherwise does.
She’s actually doing right now, which is not to speak her mind and one senses it in the tempo in the air.
Fact, her words say, I’m afraid to hurt you.
I’m afraid to lose you.
Say I’m going forward.
I’ve been giving this opportunity.
And my going forward does not mean that you are not important in my life, but she is unable to reconcile these two seeming polarities in the way that she handles her friendship with day.
How are you?
I’m doing fine.
I do want to hear what you want to say.
I am holding in my head space right now.
The promotion as like a thing because It’s relevant.
Okay, I’m listening.
In my head, we like started this job together, even though this was my very first professional organizing job and you had two years be in the professional organizing world.
And you’d mentioned, very casually that o in your most recent like yearly check in.
You got some news.
It’s no big deal.
We’ve played different roles at the organization, and I have tended to kind of really speak out about things and my two-year check-in.
I got told, I had to be more respectful.
So I was already comparing myself and you told me that you were being promoted to lead organizer.
Because you’re going to be like moving into a supervisor role and that you as a woman in this field, like promotions don’t come often.
And so you had to take it. and some painful things were said to me from the higher up such as me and you could never do ever what she does in a day and she’s just growing at this unusual rate, and I just we just had no choice but to give her this promotion it devastated me and I was so mad at The kind of people above me who had said these things and make these decisions in the back of my mind.
I was thinking like just the truth is like if the roles had been reversed and I’ve been offered a promotion if I think that I would have talked to you about it and this isn’t the professionally smart thing to do, but I was like, I would have talked to you about it.
How it made you feel and if it would have made you feel bad.
I wouldn’t, I don’t think I would have taken it.
I totally understand why you didn’t talk to me about it because then that opens up the possibility for me to say no.
And it’s your life.
But how do you interpret?
I wouldn’t have accepted the promotion if I knew it upset you.
My, our friendship is more important to me than this job.
In French dip, there’s sometimes is an unspoken ethos that if we are in this together, we should be marching through the stages of life together to and this horizontal line that was supposed to determine their friendship switched.
When one of them got promoted and we promotion comes power, comes hierarchy comes.
Tendency all transactions between them that unsettled this whole relationship.
Sometimes we live, our relationships with the sense of scarcity in which we experience one person’s win.
As the other person’s loss.
We all have to confront our scarcity mentality.
When we are in the workplace with colleagues and especially when these colleagues are our closest friends.
You know you said like this is your woman in this field.
You just have to do this and some of the things you also said to me is like you didn’t really think about like what the name of the title would do and like you didn’t really think about the power dynamics and that was also hard to hear because it was like, how could you not?
Think about that, say more about the power dynamic.
All of a sudden, we weren’t a team of equals.
We were a team of like, you’re the Superstar and the go to person.
And the way you’re doing it is the best way.
And then also like yeah, you living with both our co-worker and a person that I kind of supervise.
Like, I don’t know why I feel so numb.
It might be because of like, shame around the feelings I have, but I know all these things are true.
So, I’m like saying them, but it’s kind of weird experience.
I understand the now better, what was underneath the effect and it was that sense of shame, or Reduce repudiated emotions in particular jealousy, it does taunt us at our most vulnerable, the sense of you more worthy than me.
And therefore you were recognized and that sense of humiliation and self-doubt.
That’s what is really standing in between these two.
All in all it all comes to one particular point.
And that is how important am I to you?
And so, what I’m imagining is that some of the drama that gets created, it’s in order to establish.
Am I your friend?
How much of a friend, am I to you?
Do you agree with the other people here?
That I wasn’t as good as you.
So that when you say my goal today is friendship.
It’s to restore that sense of unity of togetherness.
And when I hear you say, my goal for today is to restore trust.
I hear it more in the sense of, how do I go about doing things that are good for me without immediately having to worry, that they are bad for you.
Does that resonate, first of all?
It helps you to me.
Yeah, but you were just talking about the effect of promotion, coupled with her code, living, with other people who are also on the team and you were stacking the deck.
So keep going.
I was already kind of hard before.
Hit to be in this tension.
And you know that kind of stopped hanging out and I was witnessing.
You becoming like closer and cough just like more public inside jokes is our co-worker that you live with and then covid hit.
And I think it just made everything harder for me.
Because I mean, it was such a vulnerable time but like seeing you to come on the screen and I feel like you’re much more of a teammate with your housemaid and it’s so public and you talk about it and you weren’t we’re all working on.
Campaign together, other of your houses and I’ve been working on the same campaign by myself.
So I think I’ve felt like I’m losing you and it’s you don’t care because you’re like with other great people and you don’t have to leave your house for friendship.
Sometimes in the workplace, when we think about boundary issues between colleagues.
I’m reminded of Middle School.
But I’m also reminded of my middle school.
It’s like the friend who is willing to play with me when we are on loan, but when they are with their other friends, they don’t pay attention to me.
And it feels very raw and very unprofessional to bring those things up.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re not there.
This is everyday occurrence in many workplaces.
So now let’s start from the place where you haven’t gone and this includes profound questions about our friendship.
Profound questions about.
Should we stay working in the same place?
Profound questions about how much do we really support?
Is there room for both of us here?
And how And how do we step out of a kind of a bind that we are in at this moment in which any of these independent steps are fraught?
When you tell the story of I watch you there, with all these people with, whom you’re having fun, and it’s all, you know, you don’t need me anymore.
You don’t want to hurt me, but you’re not sure.
You still like me.
So, if we go further.
With the goal of how do we restore the trust?
And can we reclaim our friendship?
What needs to happen?
That you haven’t done.
Yeah, I’m doing two things one.
I guess they already did.
Ask you like did you think of me?
When you were asked to round motion.
So you don’t have to talk about it.
But did you think of me in what way?
Did you think of telling me before you got it before?
I took it?
I mean, this is actually not really a question.
You’ve already said, if it had been reversed, I would first have thought of you, and if it didn’t sit right with your, if it would create friction between us, I would have chosen friendship over individual achievement.
And you didn’t.
This is not a neutral question.
So she may have thought about you but not from the same place as you.
It wasn’t a neutral question and that’s like, and I guess that’s the exact like, yeah, you didn’t think of talking to me about it.
Like, you didn’t question taking it because of me, which is exactly the dynamic, you’re drying out, which is like, Autonomy, nothing about thing, but like autonomy and togetherness.
So I feel like okay that just feels hard.
So that feels hard.
But you translate that into you’re more important to me than I am to you.
I don’t know that this is a useful division, you know, to pin them against each other like that. but your question, Repeatedly is how important am I?
In your life.
That is not a good friendship question, by the way.
It makes the Friendship very imbalanced.
And you are asking them to demonstrate to you that devalue your individuality.
What of this is familiar to each of you and light of other relationships that you’ve had other important relationships?
What do you recognize here?
I like the smile completed the smile that says oh, I know a few things about this.
Why all recognition?
this is the moment where I want to go beyond the analysis of their own friendship into their formative experiences, in their families, to explore more, the tension between attachment and authenticity because they says and says it with awareness, prove to me that I matter by sacrificing your authenticity in the name of our And it is a fusional choice to choose.
The promotion is the choice of differentiation to choose the Friendship above the promotion, which of course in the context of work, does not really make sense is a choice of fusion and enmeshment.
Yeah, I think it’s definitely familiar feeling of wanting to feel like struggling with feeling important in my relationships and that I like play a certain role.
Say more. feeling kind of unstable in the relationship at times when I don’t have like demonstrations of importance.
Like I’m aware that I have some like Distortion of like knowing I’m really valued and matter like my body feeling like threatened.
When I feel like I’m not getting signs, that that’s true.
And when you trace the history of this pattern.
I don’t know my family.
I have we’re 5 and I have an older brother who is I’m not autistic spectrum and then I’m second to him.
Yeah, my sister was always kind of like my younger sister was always kind of like I viewed her as being kind of in the popular group and I always kind of felt a little bit like a weirdo and kind of out of place in my body and the places.
I’d habited done.
Like I wasn’t understanding some sort of social norm and then having my brother who like he really didn’t, have the social norms.
Did you struggle there to whom to experience your significance?
I mean, I always felt very lifted up by my parents.
Like, I felt, you know, like, oh, you’re really smart.
You know, you’re good at the, you’re going to math.
You’re like all these things.
And sometimes it’s hard to get a word in edgewise with so many people and I don’t know, my my dear mother bless her, she was often focused on the group and kind of like absorption and like how is the group doing?
And when I was having like a feeling or something that would be like too big.
I was feeling really sad.
It was like get it together with people.
Like, get it together.
What is this main thing?
I’m just wondering if I should keep going.
I don’t know.
I’m sort of, just like, I don’t know.
I don’t know.
This is a lot, like, I don’t know what to do.
Well, these pieces of information.
Part of what you are bought doing is seeing what disease that each of you is evoking in the other.
And so it’s less about the specific feelings themselves as about the intensity of them.
D know where this intense need for recognition and affirmation is coming from, and that makes a big difference.
Anybody in the workplace any manager has had to work with some people who ask for too little recognition and some people who sometimes ask for too much.
We bring to work this very complex needs that emerge from our childhood histories and that become disguised in a kind of an adult form.
Do you ever explore together if you should stay working in the same place?
Or do you ever think that if you were not working in the same place that would destroy the friendship.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about.
I in some ways do feel like it’s been so ruptured that you’ve got your co-workers.
You’ve got your like housemate organizers, you’re like supervising and like you’re all like setup and And you don’t have strong connections with the other people.
But that doesn’t come across.
When you say the way you just did and I feel like you’re saying, you don’t need me anymore.
You don’t need anymore.
Yeah, you don’t need anymore.
That’s a frame.
When you go to that to that place.
You don’t need me anymore.
You’ve got everybody else.
You’ve got your title, your position, your subordinates, your To me, it’s you know, you have a whole village.
I don’t belong anymore.
What it induces in the other person?
Is a feeling of obligation?
That’s the plans, the feeling of love.
I feel bad do something.
I don’t belong here anymore.
Do something include me.
And she may do it, but you won’t experience the juice.
You’ll experience her trying to be good.
Not her freewheeling, voluntary gushing, a friendship and collegiality.
Yeah, I mean, I think what you are saying feels true from my and then things and because I think what comes up for me when we have the conversations we have is like I am made to feel I sorry, not enough.
I feel I feel shame around how I’m showing up that.
I’m not like, showing up for you in the way that you need.
I’m not showing up for your the way that shows that I care.
Then, like, going through the motions of showing you.
Yes, I care or like yes you matter to me, that is very true to me. and then it becomes an exercise of how do I externalize that as clearly as possible so that you can see that but it’s not it’s like an exercise of proof as opposed to like flowing of our friendship.
Yep, improving means that you have to show evidence.
And trust is often actually the opposite.
It’s a leap of faith.
If you have to prove all the time, you obviously are not trusting.
Do you understand?
I probably should leave.
I probably should leave.
I like the work.
I Jive really well with some other coworkers. and, I will just be in a healing process around needing to let go of like the bright-eyed bushy-tailed dream.
We had of like we get to work together and we get to like transform this organization.
It’s not happening.
That’s so painful to me.
Like, I there’s like no world in which I want you to leave.
And I said this before, and I think we talked about this, like, I just feel like it’s kind of incomprehensible to me that we can’t figure this out so that we can work together because you feel necessary to me for this work for this organization.
Like I haven’t done this role without you here before.
It feels necessary for you to stay for me.
And like I like my heart is racing.
Like I feel Panic like it’s like a panic feeling. that’s definitely helpful to hear, because I guess I had a story.
I was like.
It would just be better. if I did leave because then there would be No drama.
And You got people like it would just be better if I so hearing that is interesting.
I’m sorry, if I didn’t if I have an Express this enough or clearly enough, I think.
Within the context of the work we do together.
You’re just integral to the organization the vision like moving all of us forward collectively and also in the context of just the work you do.
I feel inspired and like motivated in my own work by watching you.
I can understand it being hard to keep doing the work you’re doing.
And It continuing to not feel good.
The work itself is hard.
And so to also have it feel bad while you’re doing it, on top of it being so hard.
It makes for an unsustainable.
Work environment for you.
And I want that to not be the case.
And on top of this, like, repairing our friendship was right.
It was like, it was like like layer layer layer.
I know I don’t want you to leave and I don’t think things get easier for our friendship if you leave either, but that’s like I like, I don’t like it just feels like it’s all bound up.
What’s it like to hear all this?
I don’t know, I think.
I’m just not feeling so hopeful.
Every time I see you in a meeting, I feel so bad.
And it’s not your fault at all.
It’s my own reaction.
For the record, I don’t have anywhere else.
I would want to go or feel excited about anything else.
So I don’t know what I would do.
I would figure out.
For the record, I don’t want you to go, but I’m hearing you saying.
That might not be enough.
I’m thinking about taking some time off.
Saying I feel to kind of get out of being so triggered all the time, which would be ultimately in an effort to see if I can come back.
I’m thinking I might do this really soon.
We’re ending the session in a very different place of where they both originally said.
They wanted to go restoring trust and rebuilding the friendship.
And we’re talking about a real feminist dilemma that especially she is experiencing, which is that if she pursues her autonomy, her Still aspirations, her individual needs, she compromises her relationships and her sense of loyalty.
An old dilemma for women.
Historically universally, however, day is also struggling with her own version of the autonomy, which is the permission to leave as a solution to certain relational dilemmas not in order to end the relationship, but in fact in order to allow this A ship to become a friendship.
They may not be in the spot that they imagined, but they are certainly in a more honest, but than they have been.
Esther perel is a therapist best-selling author speaker and host of the podcasts.
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