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Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
co-worker and I had a personal disagreement which caused her to become
angry, and she’s
been giving me the “silent treatment” for over a month now.
I tried to apologize, but she ignored it...
This is interfering with my work environment, as it makes it so stressful for me to come to work now. I don’t know whether I should talk to my boss about it, or just try to ignore it (except that is almost impossible). I work in the same department directly across the hall!
Can you help by suggesting how I might deal with this horrible situation?
Hurt and ostracized
I would hope that your boss would be the type of person to sit down with each of you privately and get a good idea of what each person’s perspective is. If there is a possibility of mediation bringing about a reconciliation I would hope that a meeting with a third party present can be arranged. Your boss may not have the skills or enough distance from the participants to do this, in which case an outside mediator will be needed.
I wish you well in getting this situation resolved.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.com.
Dr. John Burton
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian whose passion is helping people and organizations create better relationships and stronger communities by being clear, committed and collaborative in their approach to ethics and conflict. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
FEEDBACK FROM READER:
I just wanted to take a moment to respond to Dr. John Burton's response to the writer above.
I don't think I am the person the writer is writing about, but I have been in a similar situation where a colleague said something to me that was excruciatingly hurtful and I reacted in a similar manner. I didn't speak to the person for 31 days. She emailed me apologizing for hurting my feelings but I didn't feel her apology was sincere. That said, I did respond to her email and took all the blame onto myself, telling her explicitly that it did not hurt me and my reaction that is to blame, not her. I told her that I was the older adult and should not let her ignorance upset me to the extent it did. But all those were just "words" because fact of the matter is, she did hurt me bad - and it wasn't so much of what she said, it was how she said it, why she said it, and when she said it. Her one sentence made me realize that she had been using me all along and was 'tolerating' me rather than being a friend, that I thought she was.
I felt betrayed, I still do. I don't forgive easily but I do forgive. Yet, I am unable to forget that she hurt me and because of that have my guard up all the time. To date, I have not given that person another chance of hurting me. I am civil, diplomatic and friendly to the required professional extent. This, has sparked her bitching about me - rolling her eyes with her now "new friends" when I am talking. And, because of our past association, and because I am older than her, I am expected to forget her actions and treat her like a very nice person that she is.
But once that trust is broken, it is very hard to mend it again. A mediator in my case would have simply driven me off the wall because the whole point of the "silent treatment" is to keep it quiet and between the parties and let the anger dissipate. Letting a third person in the feud just makes matters worse – it certainly would have, in my situation.
Of course, I am paying today. Because the girl is younger than me, much younger than me, and because she is a "very nice person" and has a soft personality, everyone in the office turned against me for giving HER a "hard time". No one asked me why her statement affected me so much. They all found it fair to judge that I was the bitch for not talking to the source of my anguish and they all sympathized with her. It's actually the story of my life. Because I have a strong personality, everyone thinks I bleed tar instead of blood. It has been my biggest downfall in my personal and professional life.
Still, I thought I should share my reaction of how things would have unfolded had a third person tried to mediate. It would have made me see more red and my anger would probably have exploded out in the open, which would probably have led to me getting fired or apologizing to her for my reaction. Like I said, everyone thought I was being unfair, including the boss who knew the situation and openly sympathized with her.
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