Work Relationships: When a Coworker Decides to Hate You
When our tween and teen children come home lamenting that someone called them “fat,” laughed at their new sweater, or made faces during their oral report, we often try to console them by saying that people get nicer with age. Unfortunately, this statement is not entirely true. While many people certainly do reign in their hurtful, judgmental behavior after those tumultuous years, others continue to make things uncomfortable for anybody they deem to be different. By nature of your race, religion, age, appearance, accent, or just about anything else, someone in your office may simply decide not to like you.
“Whatever the ‘difference’ is between you and your coworker, your very presence threatens her,” note Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, authors of Mean Girls at Work. “At meetings, she glares at you. She has probably held back in some way from the beginning. When you were introduced to each other, for example, she acted as if shaking your hand might give her a contagious disease.”
While the behavior is painful and insulting, Crowley and Elster warn not to resort to similar childish antics such as ranting on Facebook or making snide remarks. Instead, they suggest (gulp) addressing the colleague directly to clear the air.
“Try saying, ‘It seems that you don’t like me, and I want to find a way that we can work together. We don’t have to be friends, but we do have to work with each other. Can we agree on that?’”
If that conversation doesn’t go well, does it mean you’re doomed to feel stuck in 7th grade forever? Take the high road and ignore what you can, but it also wouldn’t hurt to keep a running list that documents the exact time, date, and nature of the demeaning instances in case you decide to take the matter up with your manager or the human resources department.