Job Competition

Hello, Rabbi Daniel and Susan:

After watching your show for a few years with my husband, I finally decided to email you. I have encountered a situation at work and would like your input on this.

I am a Nurse Practitioner and want to transition to a specialty. There may be an opportunity coming up next year. Now, there is a co-worker who happens to be a good friend of mine also wanting the same position. To make a long story short, she doesn’t really care for the specialty but she wants to get this position because the schedules meet her needs better. And she is also seeking other opportunities at the same time. I know she is not doing anything wrong by seeking job opportunities, but several things bother me. Firstly, she is taking the same class as I am to be certified in the specialty.

And she complains to me when things get hard. Secondly, she talks about her needs and wants, which makes me feel she does not care about my feelings.

Thirdly, she knew I was always interested in this specialty. She was not interested in this position initially but because our current service is getting more challenging, she now wants a way out. Again, nothing wrong with that. But it affects me.

She still considers me as a good friend. So, she confides in me about her emotions and worries. But because of this incident, I don’t see our friendship the same way anymore. My question is, “Should I let her know how I feel?” My husband who is a Godly man and tries to follow the Biblical principles tells me I should. According to the Bible, if I have an issue with a friend, I should bring up the issue to her. However, my concern is not just about our working relationship being broken. My biggest concern is she will use my words against me to compete for the position.

Thank you for your time! Looking forward to hearing your wisdom!


Dear Angela,

You are in a ticklish situation that will not resolve easily. You also have a wise husband. Let us elaborate.

Several times you acknowledged that your co-worker has every right to apply for the position that both of you want. You are correct that it is irrelevant whether or not she cares for the specialty the way you do and you admit that she is doing nothing wrong.  You mention that she is more concerned about her needs and wants than about your feelings.  In this she is doing what 97.3% of humanity does.  Possibly she doesn’t even know what your feelings are, and your question is whether there is any point in letting her know. 

We recently put in a bid for a certain commodity. We found out that a friend of ours wanted the same item, but upon hearing that we were bidding, he opted out. In ancient Jewish wisdom, that is known as acting “lifnim m’shurat ha-din,” loosely translated as going above and beyond the letter of the law. Our friend and yours have every moral right to do what is best for themselves in a situation such as yours or ours. Would it have been nice if your friend acted as ours did? Yes. But, it is completely unacceptable for you to nurture such a hope or, God forbid, hold any resentment that she did not.

Specifically to your question, “Should I let her know how I feel?”  Your husband advised you to do so based on his correct knowledge of Leviticus 19:17, “You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him.”   However, we must point out that ancient Jewish wisdom inserts the caveat that this guidance to directly rebuke your friend is only if you have a valid concern and a good reason to know that he or she will welcome your rebuke and respond appropriately.  One of the fundamental principles of the Torah is bringing people closer and enhancing peaceful relationships. Since the only actual rebuke you can make is that your friend isn’t being thoughtful and sensitive to you, we doubt that she will take it in the correct way.

Furthermore, you didn’t ask us, “Should I let her know what my thoughts are?” Instead you asked about telling her how you feel.  Telling someone about your feelings of resentment is likely to result in this answer from your coworker:  “Hey Angela, I am sorry you feel that way but surely you realize I have every right to train for and apply for any position I wish?”  To which you can only say, “Yes, I suppose so,” and you’ll regret having brought it up at all.

We are confused by your words that if you speak up, she will use your words against you. Again, that makes us think that you are reacting emotionally when you need to react from your mind. Certainly, if you lose your temper or speak injudiciously, that could rebound against you. However, setting boundaries is often the way to keep a friendship. Our second-best advice would be to craft your words wisely with your husband’s help. Then, practice saying them aloud until you can deliver them in a calm and pleasant tone. Simply stress that  you value the friendship and since you don’t want this job application to come between you, you would prefer to speak about other topics. Say much less than you want to, and immediately pivot the conversation to something else.

If she continues to bring up classwork or complains about the workload, don’t be drawn into conversation. Instead, respond in the same way you would if she started gossiping or using offensive language. Change the topic and/or get out of the conversation as quickly as possible (Oops, got to run. I must get to the supermarket before I can start supper…Please excuse me, I need to answer this email…What did you think about the idea of banning gas stoves…).

What would our first recommendation be? Only you will know if you can do this, which is why second-best may be the better choice, but since you did couch your words in terms of feelings rather than a rational explanation of what she is doing wrong (which probably doesn’t exist), try instead to adjust your feelings. 

We know this sounds counterintuitive but this really does work.  Be extra kind to her.  Bring her a coffee when you get one for yourself.  Sympathize when she is challenged by the work.  Remind yourself that she is behaving entirely rationally and that you do not know the whole picture.  Perhaps your co-worker desires this job for reasons you don’t know. Although this will not change her behavior, it will improve the way you feel about her. This way you won’t offend her and she hopefully won’t strew pebbles on your path. Being nice to her will change your attitude.

Angela, stewing in resentment will be unhealthy for you and keep you from showing your best face. Is it possible that you know that intellectually but your emotions haven’t joined in yet? Your co-workers reasons and behavior are unimportant here. You can only work on yourself.

Wishing you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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