Digging deeper…how I turned a terrible relationship with a co-worker into a close friendship

I never thought I would have a co-worker who would treat me so terribly. Every day, she would belittle me in front of our colleagues, take credit for my work, and sabotage my projects. I dreaded going to work and even considered quitting my job. But then, one day, she shared a secret with me that changed everything.

It was a typical Monday morning, and I was already feeling anxious about going to work. As soon as I walked into the office, my co-worker started criticizing my wardrobe and making snide remarks. I tried to ignore her, but it was getting harder and harder to do so. Then, during our lunch break, she pulled me aside and confided in me about a personal struggle she was going through. As she spoke, I realized that there was more to her behavior than just meanness.

From that day on, I started to see my co-worker in a different light. I realized that she was dealing with her own challenges, and her behavior towards me was a reflection of that. I started to show her more empathy and understanding, and in turn, she started treating me with more respect. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it taught me a valuable lesson about not judging others too quickly.

The Initial Misunderstanding

man in gray crew neck long sleeve shirt standing beside woman in black crew neck shirt


The Co-Worker’s Harsh Behavior

I used to dread going to work every day because of my co-worker’s behavior towards me. She was always so harsh and critical, and I couldn’t understand why she treated me that way. I tried to be friendly and helpful, but nothing seemed to work. I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing something wrong, and it was affecting my work and my mood.

My Reactions and Misconceptions

I started to avoid my co-worker as much as possible, but that only made things worse. I became more and more stressed and anxious, and it was affecting my performance at work. I couldn’t understand why she was treating me so badly, and I started to think that maybe she was just a Karen.

It wasn’t until one day when my co-worker Susan pulled me aside and shared a secret with me that I realized the truth. She had been going through a tough time in her personal life, and it was causing her to act out at work. She apologized for her behavior and asked for my understanding and support.

From that moment on, my relationship with Susan changed completely. I realized that she was an angel in disguise, and that her harsh behavior was just a result of her own struggles. We became good friends and were able to support each other through our ups and downs at work and in our personal lives.

The Unexpected Revelation

woman wearing gray jacket


The Shared Secret

I couldn’t believe what my co-worker had just told me. She had been going through a tough time in her personal life, which was why she had been treating me so poorly. She was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety, and unfortunately, she had been taking it out on me.

But then she shared a secret with me that completely changed my perspective. She was going through a nasty divorce and was struggling to balance her work and personal life. She felt overwhelmed and didn’t know how to cope with everything that was happening.  Susan couldn’t separate her feelings towards her soon to be ex-husband from those of her co-workers, especially me.  As it turns out, I had many physical traits in common with her husband, and she was projecting her feelings towards him onto me.

The Change inPerspective

man holding eyeglassesLearning about my co-worker’s struggles made me see her in a completely different light. I realized that she wasn’t intentionally trying to be mean to me, but rather was dealing with her own issues, albeit poorly. I started to empathize with her and wanted to support her in any way that I could.

From that day on, our working relationship completely changed. We started to work together more collaboratively and even became friends outside of work. I felt grateful for the unexpected revelation that had brought us closer together.  I too struggled to make friends at work, and being able to count Susan as a friend meant a great deal to me.

Overall, this experience taught me the importance of not judging others too quickly and taking the time to understand their perspective. It’s easy to assume that someone is being difficult or rude, but there may be underlying circumstances that we aren’t aware of.  Sometimes having empathy towards our fellow human beings can yield surprising results!

Lessons Learned


The Importance of Empathy

Through my experience with my co-worker, I learned the importance of empathy in the workplace. It is easy to judge someone based on their actions, but taking the time to understand their perspective can make a world of difference. In my case, I initially saw my co-worker as a difficult person who made my job harder. However, when I learned about the personal struggles she was going through, I was able to empathize with her and approach our work relationship with more understanding.

The Power of Patience

Another lesson I learned from my experience with my co-worker is the power of patience. It can be frustrating to work with someone who is difficult or uncooperative, but reacting with anger or frustration will only make the situation worse, and add fuel to the fire. Instead, taking a step back and approaching the situation with patience can lead to a more positive outcome. In my case, I made a conscious effort to stay calm and patient when working with my co-worker, which eventually led to a breakthrough in our relationship.

Overall, my experience with Susan taught me valuable lessons about empathy and patience in the workplace. By taking the time to understand someone’s perspective and approaching difficult situations with patience, we can build stronger relationships and create a more positive work environment.  Here is a resource I found to help develop skills to empathize with others.


In conclusion, my co-worker’s behavior towards me was initially hurtful and confusing. However, after she shared her secret with me, I realized that there was much more to her than met the eye. I learned that it’s important not to judge people based on their outward behavior and to always try to understand where they’re coming from.

I also learned that everyone has their own struggles and challenges, and it’s important to be kind and compassionate towards others, even when they may not seem to deserve it. By showing empathy and understanding, we can build stronger relationships and create a more positive work environment.

Overall, I’m grateful for the experience and the lessons I’ve learned from my co-worker. I now have a deeper appreciation for the complexities of human behavior and the power of empathy and compassion in the workplace.

woman in white long sleeve shirt smiling
Jamie Dwyer

Formerly a school counselor, Jamie is now a wife and stay at home mom to two beautiful children who does freelance writing in her spare time.

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