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You Asked: Is It Something I Said?

I started a new job last May and really enjoy what I am doing. Around the same time, there was a girl who was hired in my same position for another team. At first we seemed to get along great. We were having lunch together everyday, talking about personal lives and joking about "the boss." Our teams were combined and while we don't really have to work with each other, it seems she now hates me. She also had a friend from her previous job hired, and at first we could all hang out, but now she avoids me like the plague. This also puts strain on the relationship I have with her friend!

I know that you can't have everyone like you, but it seemed to come out of nowhere. I have done a lot of soul searching to figure out if I said something to offend her, put her off from being my friend, but I can't find anything. It seems everyone else in the office is still ok with me?!? I am afraid I am being overly sensitive!

She is now quite short with me, contradicts me at any time she can and avoids contact with me (including sneaking out to lunch with co-workers and not inviting me). She actually huffed out of another co-workers cube when I tried to join a conversation!

Am I being dramatic? Should I just let it roll off me? My feelings are hurt and I am not sure what I did. It makes my work environment very tense. I am not sure if I should ask her about it, and if so how? I don't want her to share and email or letter with anyone else in the office! I would be terribly embarrassed. ~Baffled Brenda

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Dear Baffled Brenda --

Let the soul searching end, my dear. It's your co-worker's professional responsibility to manage her own feelings or to discuss with you the issue at hand. I want to encourage you to disengage from her behavior and from worrying about 'what you did'. Clearly you're caring and concerned, but her behavior is not about you. How do I know this? When we have a difficult but clean interaction with someone, or an interpersonal problem, the anger is appropriate in scale to the situation. If something old, personal or deep is triggered, the anger is usually very, very charged and lasts longer than the current circumstances would warrant.

If this dynamic interferes with your professional responsibilities, not only your comfort levels, then I would suggest asking her if she's available to talk with you. Be prepared for the fact that she may be rude, sarcastic, blaming or otherwise unable to engage in a healthy dialogue. Set boundaries during the conversation; in other words, let her know you'd like to partner with her to rebuild a professional, respectful relationship and express how important that is to you. If she's too aggressive or full of blame, or behaves in a way that doesn't seem constructive or safe to you, continue to repeat that you'd like to partner with her to rebuild a professional, respectful relationship.

I do hope your co-worker can see her way through the issues she's having, whether they're personal or professional. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to stay focused on your daily tasks, your career goals, and those relationships at work that remain professional and respectful. And good luck.



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