My company likes to move us around every 3 or 4 months. I was just moved after being comfortable somewhere else for 6 months, and was looking forward to a change until I realized the person beside me hates me for no known reason. She ignores me completely and it is very cruel. I say good morning and goodbye, have tried breaking the ice with her and she is cold and won’t look me in the eye. I thought at first she was just focused on her work so I tried to stay quiet but we actually depend on each other for help and the supervisor told me she was very knowledgeable and asking questions was ok. Everyone else in our role shares information and helps each other out, not in excess, but enough that there is a comfortable amount of social politeness in the work environment. But this person will not even look my way. The worse thing about it is that I knew her before in this office and she actually used to be nice to me, and she is nice to everyone else. She is very well respected and liked throughout the office.
People say not to take it personally but it is obvious that it is. The only thing I can think might be wrong is that this spot was empty previously and she had this whole area to herself and now I have moved in. I was sensitive to that at first because I knew that would be hard for her but now I am through being polite and want to get to the bottom of this. How should I handle it?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Dear Coldly Ignored,
Based on all the data that you provided it does seem that your coworker does have negative feeling about you.
Consult others in your network
What we don’t know is if this is a reaction to your personality and/or behavior or would she act this way towards anyone who came into the space. We always suggest that building a network is a very high priority and in your situation we think it is essential. This is because we think that this is the best place to start to find out why she is treating you this way. Often people in your network have a much better insight into what is going on. When you inquire please make sure that you are respectful about her. Put your inquiry in the context of trying to find out how to work better together and to learn if you are doing anything wrong. This usually yields useful information and if your questions get back to her that may be positive too in that she may disclose what is going on to someone.
Negotiate with your Coworker
If this doesn’t work then it leaves you with the option of gently asking her for feedback. If she is not forthcoming or doesn’t want to discuss it we think it is reasonable for you to ask for clear agreements on the minimum communication you two need to accomplish your objectives. This action on your part will either move her in the right direction or at least you can document that you have tried to find a workable agreement.
Talk to a Supervisor
The last resort, with documentation on what you have already tried, would be to talk with a supervisor asking for help. Again try to avoid badmouthing; explain that you are not looking for a friend, chit chat or anything beyond a business relationship that allows you to achieve your best in this environment. Hopefully you won’t need to do this but if in fact her avoidance of you is impacting your performance, and not just your feelings, a supervisor may need to get involved.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
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