The problem: A work colleague had a special birthday. She has many friends outside the office, so I didn’t think anything of it. Afterward, a few people from my office posted pictures on social media of the party they were clearly enjoying. We’re all equals in terms of job responsibility and, I thought, in terms of friendship level, too. Now I feel bad and wonder if I should say something.

Low road: Freak her out. E-mail her with a cheery, “What time is your birthday party again?” and watch her squirm as she tries to explain that it happened.

 

High road: We spend so much time in the work trenches it’s hard to believe anybody has a life, or relationships, outside. But everyone does, to varying degrees.

Some easily separate work relationships from social bonds. Others socialize only with fellow workers. And another group falls in between, lucky to have a small group of work colleagues who become friends in off-hours, too.

It’s likely that the birthday girl enjoys being your work colleague, but she places your relationship in a different friend pod than you do. That stings. But the most effective salve is to graciously accept this new information and refocus on being the best work buddy around.

Ultimately, it was just a two-hour party. You’re together 40 hours or more every week, and it could become a party busload of tension if you let it. Please don’t. You want to say something? Say, “Hey! I hear you had a special birthday. I hope that it was happy and that you were feted in the style you deserve.” For that kind gesture, gift yourself with a yummy doughnut, sprinkles included.

Send questions about life’s little quandaries to gail.rosenblum@startribune.com. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.