Questions & Answers

How do you resolve conflict or deal with difficult situations on the job? Every week our expert Dr. Geertje Tutschka will answer your questions.

I recommended a good friend for a job. Now she tries to make a name for herself at every opportunity and sometimes stabs me in the back

When private life and office life mix, difficulties are often inevitable. This is mainly due to the fact that very different rules apply in the two areas:

  • While you are surrounded by friends and family in your private life, you have not personally chosen your environment in the professional context. Also, people know each other far less or are not very well.
  • Whereas in private life one tends to stay in one’s own comfort zone or to seek challenges for oneself, in professional life one is almost daily confronted with new challenges, which are often brought to one’s attention from outside.
  • While private life is more about emotions, professional life is mostly about solving objectified problems.

These different parameters lead to the fact that one acts in the professional context according to certain assigned roles and does not live all facets of one’s personality as in private life.

So should you have recommended your girlfriend for the job?

Yes and no – at least you should be aware from the beginning what you are getting involved with. An open discussion with your friend even before the recommendation in order to set clear rules and emphasize the value of friendship is a solid basis for ensuring that there will be no future friction or misunderstandings.

Topics such as gratitude, loyalty, hierarchies, and competition can be addressed here – this should be openly discussed among good friends.

If it does happen, however, that someone profiles himself at the expense of others and professional competition casts shadows on friendship, it can only be recommended again and again to state things clearly in an open discussion, to make one’s own limits clear, and to speak honestly about one’s own feelings.

If both are ready to meet this challenge together, the friendship will grow and a strong collegial bond will mature.

However, if one is not willing to do this friendship work, or if a professional career is more important than friendship, it will hardly be possible to save it.


Geertje Tutschka is the founder and CEO of CLP (Consulting for Legal Professionals), which supports lawyers in their careers around the world with here 25 years of expertise as a corporate lawyer and attorney in Germany, Austria, and the US. Her most relevant topic is leadership. The mother of three daughters is the author of numerous specialist books. Since 2016, she has led the German chapter of the International Coach Federation, the world’s largest association of professional coaches.