DEAR HARRIETTE: Happenstance or convenience or whatever has caused me to spend a lot of time with a co-worker who gets on my nerves. She constantly talks about people from the moment she gets to work until she leaves in the evening. She and I are the only single people at our job, so we gravitated to each other due to our situation. We started going to happy hour sometimes, and even working out on occasion. Now I realize I can’t take her endless negativity. How can I peel myself away from her without causing a rift at work? I don’t want to end up being one of the people she starts talking about. -- Running for Cover, Monticello, New York
DEAR RUNNING FOR COVER: Friendships that begin based on convenience often become fraught with challenges over time, because they are cultivated for less-than-optimal reasons. That said, you do not have to commit to hanging out with this woman for the rest of your tenure at your company. You need to wean her off of your constant interactions with care and strategy.
Think about how you would prefer to spend your time. What hobbies might you want to take up after work? Join a class but simply tell her you are busy. Don’t talk about the class, because she may want to join it too. Do extra work on some days so you become unavailable to eat together. Be proactive and get to know other members of your team. Just because they aren’t single doesn’t mean you have nothing in common. Spend time cultivating bonds with your boss and other co-workers. You can tell her that you want to get to know the whole team so that when she sees you doing it, your behavior won’t come as a surprise.