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Ignored at work – it hurts!

This letter writer is baffled by a co-worker who follows him around, only to exclude him from conversations. 

Can our elders help him make sense of his behavior?

Dear EWC

Being ignored is hurtful at any age. I always thought it was just something that kids do to hurt other kids but I’m experiencing this as an adult at work! I have an acquaintance that will follow me on breaks and stand next to me then proceeds to ignore me when I’m trying to make conversation. This person will talk to anybody else in our circle except me. When I do talk, he begins a conversation with someone else and they talk over me until in frustration I just give up talking. What I want to know is why this person even follows me on breaks and even waits for me at my locker???

Beacons-of-Light replies

We are a group of seniors living in a retirement community and we are glad that you reached out to Elder Wisdom Circle. The first line of your paragraph really was profound and very insightful. You are absolutely right, being ignored is hurtful at any age because we do want to be seen and acknowledged by our peers. Hurtful behavior is often associated with children because they are immature and self-centered but as you pointed out, most of us outgrow that behavior… but obviously not all of us! 

We were very disappointed to hear that this is happening to you at work. Of course, we don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding your situation but we will let you know some of the things that we think you should try. The first thing may be the hardest but we feel it also may be the best choice – approach this co-worker directly. Ask him, in a non-threatening way, if you can talk to him privately for a couple minutes. Explain that you wanted to know if there was something that you had done to make him dislike you or mad? If you want to know why he follows you to your locker, he is the best person to ask that question to because he is really the only one that knows the real answer. If you do approach him, remember to pause a little after you speak your peace to give him time to respond. Sometimes we are too quick to fill the silence (especially if it is uncomfortable) and we end up babbling a bit too much. It may be an awkward conversation but it may also save you from future situations that you are feeling excluded and/or singled out. 

If that isn’t an option, another suggestion that we have is, you could always talk to someone in your Human Resources department. Perhaps they might have suggestions about how to handle certain workplace practices and protocols with employee conflict. Could this person be jealous of you and just want to take the attention away from you? Sometimes people like to prove that they are “better” than someone they admire or are jealous of. Are there any other co-workers that you can talk to? Anyone you trust to give you a second opinion, that works with both of you, in the present environment you described to us? If not, then we wondered if you could take your break at a different time? Could you ask to have your locker moved? Since we don’t know what type of company you work for, it is difficult to know what kind of options you have but this is where your Human Resource department would be able to offer you choices if they were available. 

And honestly, sometimes in life we just meet people that we don’t get along with for no logical reason! People that just annoy us because of how they look, how they talk or even their mannerisms because they remind us of an uncle that was mean or a teacher that gave us a bad grade. However, we aren’t excusing bad behavior because of those things…it doesn’t give anyone the right to be rude and disrespectful… but we are trying to show how sometimes in life there will be people that we just don’t connect with. We are allowed to not like everyone we meet but we must still be kind or at the very least polite! 

If none of these suggestions work for you then perhaps it is best if you just turn the other cheek and do your best to ignore this person. Maybe he enjoys the feeling that he gets when he takes attention away from you? Don’t let him see that it bothers you. Oftentimes when someone is a “bully” you can take away their power by ignoring them. You can’t control other people’s actions but you can control how you react to other people! Most people treat others poorly when they have low self-esteem so try not to take it personally (we know it is easier said than done but we want you to try!!) Focus on what you were hired to do and be the best employee you can be! We hope you have found some helpful advice among our words and want you to know that we are wishing you the best of luck now and always! 

Article #: 484934

Category: Friendship

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