How to Cope When You Lose Your Work Wife

How to Keep Your Work Friends Even After You Leave
When I joined Career Contessa, I was really fortunate to join a team of amazing women who couldn’t have been more kind or welcoming when I first came on board.
We’re a small team and pretty tight knit so there really isn’t a need for a work wife. But in my first few weeks on the job (there is nothing worse than being the newbie, right??) I felt a cubicle-shaped hole in my work life.

I missed my work wives. You read that right, wives. Scandalous, I know. Before Career Contessa I’d managed to make two very close friends at work who always knew how to make me laugh when I was stressed or set me straight when I needed some outside perspective. Over time my work besties became real life friends who I’d turn to for more than work woes.

As excited as I was to start my new job, I couldn’t help but be sad about not seeing them almost every day. So after they threw me a fabulous goodbye party and helped me practice my new commute on the train (they are seriously the best) I had to venture off on my own and learn how to cope with exactly that: being alone.

Losing your work wife can be hard. Your career is important to you (obviously, you’re reading Career Contessa) and as much as your partner, family, and friends want to listen to you talk about what’s going on at work, they can’t quite understand the way a work wife can.

She knows all the players, won’t ever get confused by names or titles, and will find the same stupid things funny that you do about your office life.

Which is why you may go through a mourning period of sorts. You’ll probably feel pretty bummed when you want to dish about what happened on The Bachelor last night and you’re too embarrassed to admit to your new coworkers that you’re a part of the Bachelor Nation (guilty). And it’s those moments that will make you realize you need to learn to cope without her so you can get back to focusing on killing it at work.

If you’re the guilty party

As I mentioned I was very lucky to join a company where everyone is pretty cool (they at least pretend to laugh at all my dumb jokes), and that made finding a new work wife less necessary—but this won’t be the case for everybody.

Joining a new company and a new squad of coworkers who are already close can be quite intimidating. But most likely (unless they are total monsters), they recognize how hard it is to start a new job and will be happy to show you the ropes.

The best way to start forming meaningful relationships that can one day progress to a more serious work spouse relationship (hey, we don’t exclude male coworkers) is to start to get to know everyone on a more personal level. As much as you’re going to want to catch up on office gossip, it’s better to stay out of the petty stuff and try to form real relationships with people.

If everyone eats lunch in the break room, skip going out and join them. Ask a coworker to go on a coffee run when you hit that 3 o’clock slump. If there are happy hours, a fantasy football league, or a party planning committee, participate. The more effort you put in, the more effort others will put in to get to know you, too. Eventually, you’ll just naturally click with someone. 

If they leave you in the dust

But what happens if you get left behind? It’s a real bummer when your work wife leaves you before you’re ready. Even if you love your job, you still need a workplace confidant e.g. someone who always has your back. After all, someone has to grab you the last everything bagel when you’re running late.

But making new friends at work can be hard, even if you’ve been at the company for a while. So while you try to focus on forming new, sincere friendships with coworkers, you’re going to need little pick me ups here and there. Treat yourself to a frozen yogurt break once in awhile, read a really good book on your lunch break, or pick up some fresh flowers for your desk.

Keep your chin up

There’s no shame in admitting you miss your friends after you’re separated (hey, everyone knows how I feel now). And I say you take a day or two to mope and eat the chocolate you would have shared with them all by yourself. But then you gotta get over it. Finding a friend at work is an awesome perk, but not a given. Use your new found focus—admit it you were a little distracted—to set new career goals or take on a new responsibility. And we don’t have to tell you that if you are the one at a new job, you will need all the focus you can muster to get up to speed.

Don’t let go completely

So now you’re focusing on forging new relationships, which is great. But don’t forget about your former work BFF.

Of course, being in the same place every day makes lunches, happy hours, and mid-morning copy room gossip sessions easier to schedule. But don’t let a friendship slip away just because one of you left for a new job.

Set up a coffee date after she starts the new position so she can tell you how everything is going. Make plans for a monthly happy hour that you never cancel (this part’s key). And it wouldn’t kill you to plan a Saturday morning hike.

You can still chat about work and any office problems you’re having—after all office life is pretty similar everywhere—but you can also cultivate your new non-work friendship. Clearly, you didn’t talk about only work when you worked together, so keep in mind that you can be friends outside of work too. Friendships at work or elsewhere are all about adapting.

How have you coped with losing your work wife? It’s ok if it was by indulging in an extra donut or two on particularly rough days.