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I Got Promoted, And My Work Buddy Didn’t. Now Things Are Weird.

Welcome to Survey Says, FiveThirtyEight’s advice column. In each installment, our two advice-givers will take a reader question, debate what he or she should do and then survey a panel of people about what the best course of action is. Need our advice? Send us your quandary!

A good friend and I got hired at a very competitive workplace at around the same time. At the start, everything was going great. We were both doing extremely well and making names for ourselves. We decided to move in together to carpool and save on gas. Fast-forward one year to our yearly reviews, where I am informed that I am getting promoted to a senior position with a pay raise, while my friend is simply told to keep up the good work. Part of me is happy to get the promotion, obviously, but I feel guilty for getting rewarded while my friend gets nothing for the same performance. My friend has been a bit down and standoffish, and I feel like he resents me for getting the promotion over him. I’m afraid that talking to him will cause him to lash out, but ignoring the situation will cause our relationship to sour and cause an issue as well. — From Matt, about his friend Will

Morgan: I would say that Will is jealous, and it’s very natural that he would be. Maybe invite Will out for lunch or coffee during the weekend and talk it out with him.

Walt: This is a really tough situation, but how it unfolds is really up to how Will handles it. I think a coffee between friends works, or honestly — if they both drink — maybe a night out would work to blow off some steam and get it out there. The immediate issue appears to be that Will isn’t addressing things with Matt face to face.

Morgan: Yes, and it’s going to hurt Will if he doesn’t say something.

Walt: Part of the problem is that these two people spend an immense amount of time together: roommates, colleagues, carpooling.

Morgan: Exactly.

Walt: That’s a huge amount of time, right? Then there’s this: “I’m married in a long-distance marriage with my wife going to school, living with my friend/co-worker as mentioned in the dilemma.”

Morgan: Absolutely. This isn’t some casual friendship. But that should give Will the incentive to talk to Matt, especially if Matt thinks the friendship is worth saving (which, judging by the letter, he does).

Walt: Yeah, I think Matt is in the right to bring it up, and I think a special occasion — like, NOT at work, not in the car pool — is the way to go. What should he say?

Morgan: He should say that he feels like Will is being a little standoffish and he wants to know if everything is OK.

Walt: It could be something outside of work! These guys need a relationship therapist at some point.

Morgan: LOL. I don’t think it’s that severe just yet! Matt just needs to speak up.

Walt: Most importantly, Matt has to not feel guilty about his career success. I can imagine that’s weighing on him — “a good thing happened to me and not someone I care about” guilt is a hard kind of guilt

Morgan: Yeah. He earned it. Own it.

FiveThirtyEight commissioned a SurveyMonkey Audience poll that ran Aug. 9-12 and received 1,009 responses. We presented respondents with Matt’s question and asked them what the best advice is, given the situation. They were allowed to choose only one option.

  1. Talk this out with your friend at a place outside the home or workplace.


  2. Bring this up with your friend at work.


  3. Bring this up in the car or sometime at home.


  4. Consider seeing a relationship therapist.


  5. None of the above is good advice.


Walt: The crowd swings broadly in favor of keeping this out of the home and workplace!

Morgan: I’m relieved.

Walt: Morgan, here are the age and gender crosstabs:

18-29 30-44 45-59 60+
Talk outside the home or workplace 62%
Talk at work 6
Talk in the car or sometime at home 14
See a relationship therapist 6
None of the above is good advice 11

Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Morgan: LOL

Walt: The older the person was, the more decisively they broke in favor of taking it outside work or home. But these 18- to 29-year-olds, they don’t get it. They were more likely to suggest scheduling a meeting in the office or hit ’em with it in the car.

Morgan: I think it’s because their prefrontal cortexes haven’t finished developing yet.

Walt: Seriously, about 1 in 14 millennial respondents took the bait on a relationship therapist! This may become a New York Times trend piece once the avocado toast meme dies out.

Morgan: Can you imagine?

Walt: I mean, to be fair, typically about 10 percent of people will say anything in a poll, so I wouldn’t read that much into it.

Here is my favorite one though:

Talk outside the home or workplace 76%
Talk at work 3
Talk in the car or sometime at home 11
See a relationship therapist 3
None of the above is good advice 8

Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Morgan: Oh, men.

Walt: The only difference between men and women was that a statistically significant portion of men picked “none of the above,” the only option that involved avoiding a conversation.

More of our advice:

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

Morgan Jerkins is a writer living in New York City.