I started working at a software company as soon as I finished school as a junior software developer but was laid off three months later due to funding problems. A month later, a friend who I have known for 8 years asked me to come and give him a hand. He owns a borehole drilling company. The job was initially supposed to be for two weeks but has continued for almost a year.

A few months back, he said he will be buying another rig for me to run, which is huge responsibility, but the pay is great. I still don't have my own rig, but I'm running his, but still the same pay as when I started. The pay is not good, I have no benefits, and the hours are long. Drilling boreholes is a very tough job, and I hated it from day one.

The reason I'm letting him run over me like this is because he is my friend and he has become so dependent on me, he probably wouldn't know what to do if I had to leave. I've had multiple job offers, offering 6x as much as what I am getting paid now, for an actual decent job that gives me the benefits that I want. I don't want to explode and break our friendship; I would rather approach him decently but I don't know how to. Also, if he was telling the truth about buying another rig, it is a big plan for his company seeing as how much they cost, and if I do leave, how much of a big impact its going to make on the company.

How can I tell him I don't want to work there any longer, without breaking the friendship?

  • 25
    Ask yourself whether a real friend would treat you the way this person is treating you.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 28, 2016 at 20:00
  • 8
    But you are able to leave. You filled in for 2 weeks and stayed for a year. His dependency on you is not your problem. If he lets it break the friendship it is his problem
    – paparazzo
    Feb 28, 2016 at 20:13
  • 5
    You may be his friend, but he isn't yours. A friend would have sent you back to what you really want to do a long time ago.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 28, 2016 at 22:13
  • 2
    I don't see why this question is on hold. It's a real, answerable question and solidly within our scope. This should be reopened. Feb 29, 2016 at 2:23
  • 2
    "the pay is great ... The pay is not good" Which is it? Feb 29, 2016 at 15:44

4 Answers 4


Because this job isn't even in your field, it's easier for you to extract yourself. Find a time when the two of you can talk without interruptions and say something like the following to him:

$Name, I'm glad I've been able to help you out this past year with what was originally going to be a two-week gig. I value our friendship and that's why, even though this isn't my field, I've been happy to help out. But it's time for me to get back to software development before my coding skills rot and I find I can't. Running a drilling rig isn't where my future lies. It looks to me like (time period) would be enough time for me to finish up the current jobs and help train a successor; does that sound about right to you?

This does a few things:

  • Acknowledges the connection and that you aren't just going to leave him in the lurch.

  • Reminds him that the terms changed rather a bit -- he didn't recruit you for a permanent position.

  • Gives him input to, but not control over, the notice period. Don't say "how long do you need me for?"; when he says six months you're going to have an argument. Give him your assessment (be generous) and see how he reacts. (Also, you've reminded him that he trained you in a couple weeks...)

  • "It's not you; it's me". This kind of departure would be much harder if he were running a software company. You can take advantage of the fact that this has nothing to do with your field of study and interest. It also reminds him that your professional clock is ticking; the longer you're not doing software, the harder it's going to be for you to get a job doing software.

There's no need to bring up money. In fact, doing that might raise his expectations, thinking he can keep you. It sounds like there's no amount of money that he could plausibly offer you that would get you to stay, so don't even mention that aspect. If he asks, reiterate that it's about the field -- your aspirations are with software, not drills. Nothing wrong with drills -- just not what you want to do.

  • 3
    I wouldn't mention anything about training a successor. That's typically not what notice periods are for and it opens the OP up to another guilt-trip when his employer is unable or unwilling to hire someone else in that time.
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 28, 2016 at 22:34
  • @Lilienthal hmm, you might be right. I was thinking of the knowledge transfer that usually happens during the notice period, but no, we wouldn't want OP to get trapped waiting for a successor to even materialize. Feb 28, 2016 at 22:36
  • Typical language to use in office jobs is to "wrap up, document, or hand over projects to a colleague" but none of that applies to the OP's situation.
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 28, 2016 at 22:42

You should accept one of those other great job offers, then provide the proper notice to your current employer (whatever is customary for the job, culture, etc.), and finish like a professional. Thank your friend for the job and the experience and explain to him that, after a year, it's time you got back on track with your original career plans.

As an employer, your friend is responsible for his business. Lots of us think we're irreplaceable, but we're not. He'll find somebody. If he does that before your last day, great. If not, it's his challenge to work with. He will never be motivated to find a replacement for you unless you make it clear that you are leaving.

If he wants to know why you're not happy, tell him what you've told us: it's not the kind of work you enjoy, and you have lots of opportunities to move forward in the direction you want to go. If it affects your friendship, well, that is the risk of working for friends and relatives.


As a professional I would say that the fair way of leaving would be to give him a notice period. Tell him that in 2weeks, a month or 2 months you'll move on. Give him time to take care of the situation.

I have seen several friendships during my career that went on to become business relationships. It often happens that friendships are destroyed when the business relationship is over. I've seen a couple of examples of this.

It is always up to two people to keep the good relationship. Be fair, give him some time and expect him to be fair and let you go by the agreed time.

This way you give a chance for your friendship and you may be able to keep it. If he is not fair with you, he is not a real friend and your friendship will break.


He's your friend, talk to him as a friend not an employee. Tell him you need to be making more money. Never mind the professional aspects, nothing about this has been professional so far, you don't need to start pretending now.

So just be honest and tell him you don't want to break up the friendship over it, but you need to either be making more money or getting back into your career. You're not getting any younger.

  • Be careful what you ask for. If you bring up the money, the friend may actually cough up the extra money and you're out of arguments to leave. Think about how awkward the next conversation will be: Hey I gave you more money and you still want to leave.....but..but..but I want to make software not make holes.
    – Pieter B
    Mar 1, 2016 at 9:25

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