I thought I had a friend, but I guess not.

FF (former friend) is a peer in another department. We were family friends — DH and I would go to FF and spouse’s house, they’d come to ours. However, DH, who is a vastly better judge of character than I am, never particularly liked FF; he  insisted from the beginning that FF was not a good person, but I kept making excuses for FF’s high-maintenance behavior.

This year, FF and I have served together on a committee and it is safe to say that we are no longer friends. I chaired the committee. It started with FF wanting something that the committee had never allowed before (as I confirmed with former chairs and higher-ups), so I said no. But FF seems to be used to getting their way, so things went downhill fast.  FF started hinting about “concerns about how the committee was run” although they missed most meetings. When they did attend, FF was the nitpicky procedure police, questioning everything we did. Finally, they started acting like I was purposefully singling them out and not informing them of things, which is untrue, as all mailings go through the mailing list.

Thank heavens, I am finally done with this committee. The experience was already challenging, unrelated to FF. But FF really made my job much harder than it needed to be and soured the whole experience.

The rest of the committee seemed to be happy with how things went, and I received several compliments on how everything ran. I wonder if FF would have behaved the way they did if it had been someone else at the helm and not me, for whom they apparently have no respect.

One committee member said that I did a great job and that I would do a great job as department chair. I laughed, because if there’s one thing this experience has done, it’s solidified that I didn’t want to be department chair or take on any significant leadership position in the near future.

A difficult person can ruin the experience for a whole committee of nice, flexible, well-meaning people and silence many whose contribution would be valuable; they can prevent others from going after opportunities and from challenging themselves.

How does one deal with stubborn, demanding, inflexible people? Or better yet, since it’s unlikely that one can change their behavior or always ignore them, how does one minimize the damage and annoyance that these people inflict upon others?


  1. I’m in a remarkably similar situation with a former​ friend who became more distant and then became an outright enemy when they made outrageous demands in the context of a university service task. And my wife was never enamored with this person.

    There’s no enemy quite like a former friend.

  2. In my experience this happens all the time. Unfortunately I have learned that I can have no real friends where I work. They are colleagues, not friends. I cannot let them get close to me or they will eventually use that to hurt me and gain some, usually minuscule, advantage at work.

    So stupid, so petty, so Academia…..

  3. So are “they” a man or a woman? Usually, gender plays a part in your assessment of a person’s attitude towards you.

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