K and I became friends quickly. She’s about 20 years my senior and had been with the company 15+ years when I started, and as we were a smaller company at the time, she wore a lot of hats. Her roles included Human Resources, Payroll, and Accounting.
She was well respected within the company, and as the years went by, I became well respected as well. Our friendship grew. She was one of only 2 coworkers I invited to my wedding. We talked about everything – husbands, ex-husbands, kids, family, and of course work. I held her as she sobbed over the death of her granddaughter. She held me as I sobbed when my stepson attempted suicide. I trusted her with information I told no one but my husband.
The company grew, and our roles grew. Fast forward about 12 years. I was the manager in charge of Purchasing, Scheduling, Shipping, Receiving, and Warehouse. K was in her 60’s and planning her retirement, but still very dedicated to her job. She had someone else who did the accounting, but K was still in charge of HR and payroll. I reported to the VP of Operations; K reported to the owner and President.
Two years ago, my shipping supervisor, P, was really proving himself, and I wanted to reward him. It was an hourly position, as are most of the positions in my company. I approached my boss about promoting P and giving him a salary position. My boss agreed.
About a week later, on a Friday afternoon, my boss called me into his office and shut the door. I thought we were there to talk about P who would officially learn of his promotion the following Monday morning, but no, we were there to talk about me. My boss felt that the promotion we were about to give P would mean that P’s salary would be “too close” to mine, so I was getting a promotion and a large pay increase as well. I was surprised, and of course thrilled.
On my drive home, I called K to ask her a question about P’s promotion, and she was very short and curt in her answer. We were good friends and I just knew why she was upset – she worked her butt off as well, and had to put through a pay increase for me. I was upset but I let it go, I figured she’d be fine by Monday.
Well Monday morning rolls around, and K is clearly avoiding me. A group of us went out to lunch, she sat directly across from me and avoided eye contact with me the entire time. Every time I tried to talk to her that week, she was short with me to the point of being rude. She avoided me as much as possible. Other people noticed. I felt like I had this wonderful thing happen to me and rather than be happy and proud of myself, I was just sad that I had lost a friend. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. There were plenty of men in the company making more money than me and she had no issue with that, but when one woman – her friend! – starts making a good deal more than her, she stops talking to me? My emotions bounced around from upset to hurt to mad. I stopped trying to talk to her and only emailed her with work related issues.
One day a few weeks later, she emailed me out of the blue, telling me she’s not upset anymore and she misses me and just wants to give me a hug and “put everything behind us”. Why? Because MY boss convinced HER boss that she also deserved a large pay increase. So K got a nice raise (which she absolutely deserved!) and decided that the playing field was level again so we could just go back to the way things were.
Except, I couldn’t just go back. As the payroll administrator, she was the only person in the company (other than my boss and the company owner) that knew I was given this raise. She took confidential information and held it against me, until the same thing happened for her and I was supposed to magically forget the way she had treated me for the past month.
The saddest part is, I would have forgiven her immediately if she had ever apologized. If she hadn’t assumed that she was over it so I should just move on, if she had actually said to me that she was sorry she ignored me all that time because she was upset or jealous or sad or whatever it was that she was feeling, I would have understood. But that never happened. K retired at the beginning of the year, and while I’ve seen her once or twice for preplanned events, I have not made any attempt to keep in touch with her. I would have forgiven her then, but two years later, I don’t think I will ever fully forgive her for how she treated me.