A friend of mine used to be a few steps ahead of my in his career. I was very happy for him, and I saw him as a trustworthy person and a future leader.

He got into senior management in some startup, I was happy for him. We maintained a professional relationship when interacting for work, and we tried to avoid talking about work as much as possible during our spare time.

I got a new job, and he turned hostile. He congratulated with me sarcastically, stopped answering phone calls and started badmouthing me, turning times I asked him for support or advice into ammunition to slander me.

I know he is in trouble in his current job, as the mentor who hired him got sacked and he wants to leave. I sent a couple of high-paying jobs his way and gave him advice on transferable skills, and I never found signals our friendship was in trouble.

This concerned me in terms of managing my network. Assuming that it's normal to have people turn hostile just because you got a new job, how can one prevent trouble later on?

Never having people in your professional domain become too close? Always maintaining superficial relationships? I just don't know who to trust at this point, I have a new enemy and I did nothing to hurt him. I want to prevent this in my career.

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    Why do you think the hostility is a result of your new job? If actual offense was taken, your perhaps unsolicited career advice seems a more likely suspect. Perhaps you should not attempt to talk with this person about either your job, or their situation, but at most only other happenings in your industry or shared interests. Also consider just giving them some time to deal with whatever they are dealing with, before you make any attempt to be in touch again. – Chris Stratton May 5 '19 at 17:29
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    This is an interpersonal relationship thing, not a workplace thing. – user1666620 May 5 '19 at 17:35
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    @user1666620 this is specifically about developing friendships within your professional network, with the risk of having a failed friendship affect your professional network later on. I am trying to understand how to most effectively handle friendships within my professional network. Maybe it should just be avoided, and a shallow network is preferable. – Monoandale May 5 '19 at 18:45
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    I think the assertion that it's an interpersonal relationship thing is an assertion that the assumption in bold is correct. Personally, I think that this is one of those valid overlap questions. Sure, the fact that it isn't normal for people to turn hostile over something like this (assuming that one doesn't get their new job at a company the other person despises) means it would be better on IPS, but I feel it's important to have the answers this gets searchable here also, because maintaining the professional network is a topic people search about here. – Ed Grimm May 6 '19 at 1:59
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    "Assuming that it's normal..." It's not, though. – user1602 May 6 '19 at 6:20

If somebody gets the hump with you because you are improving your situation in life, then they were never your friend to begin with.

Never put other people's feelings ahead of your own wellbeing. They aren't going to pay your mortgage or care for your kids or look after you when you're sick.

At the same time there's no point in not being friendly with work colleagues. Most people aren't assholes, you just happened to come across somebody who became one due to whatever reason. There's no point in over-analyzing or stressing out about it or allowing it to affect your relationships with others.


Only you can decide how to handle betrayal. It's hard. The reflexive action to having your trust betrayed is to never give your trust to anyone ever again. But never trusting anyone ever is a very hard way to live.

That said:

Assuming that it's normal to have people turn hostile just because you got a new job, how can one prevent trouble later on?

This is a huge assumption and almost unequivocally wrong. Don't let this one fringe experience paint all future experiences for you. Most people don't turn hostile when their friends achieve something. Either you are underplaying the degree to which your friend is in a bad way (and their bitterness at your success is a reflection of their own failings) or they were never a very good friend.

This is one person. Move on if you can. Maybe they will realize their bitterness and make amends. Then you can decide if you want to repair things. Bad things will happen to you sometimes that you can't always be prepared for. No one expects a friend to turn on them, but it happens. You have to find a way to heal from that.


Much of this situation is out of your control. Your colleague has chosen to behave in a hostile way to you. It's his choice, not yours.

How would he ask this same question about you? Would he ask, "I've damaged an important professional relationship. Will it cause me trouble in future?"

Don't try to patch up the situation by trying to do favors for him (like offering referrals to jobs) until you know the cause of the situation.

What's in your control?

  1. You can, if you choose, ask him if you have given him offense in some way. (Trying to read somebody's mind generally works poorly.) "I'm puzzled by your anger toward me. Have I done something to hurt you? I value our friendship and I hope it can continue." And, when you know the situation you have a chance of patching it up.

  2. You can stop worrying about this person. You're letting him live rent-free in your conscience right now. Your career, and his, will both last for decades. This incident, however unpleasant it seems now, will fade in importance. And, choice 1 above is always available to you.

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