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Background: I work at a woodworking shop, doing design etc. and both myself and a colleague sometimes do personal projects using the tools, machinery etc. here in our own time. These projects are typically not for personal gain and often end up being gifts for friends, family etc.

A long time ago (a few years) I showed him this table that I had found, and talked about making one, possibly using poured resin rather than different layers of glass.

More recently he has begun talking about doing something with resin, more similar to this. It's a different design but similar in that it still involves poured resin.

Neither of us have any experience in working with resin before, but it was brought up again last week and I basically said "you know what, I'll just buy some and try it to see if I can figure out how to work with it". I bought a small amount and did just that. Since I bought it, my colleague has been being quite short with me. I thought he might just be in a bad mood in general, which happens sometimes.

Yesterday at the end of the work day I stayed a short time after hours and mixed a small batch of resin to harden in the pot just as a test. Before doing so I asked my colleague if he would like to come and "mess about with resin" since I knew he was interested in it, and he said no, so I went ahead and did it.

After I'd mixed it, I knew I needed to leave it overnight to cure to see the results. I went back into the office to get my things before leaving for home and my colleague was in there, working overtime.

I made a brief comment about how the material was to work with and all I got back was a sneer. I asked if he was annoyed that I had ordered resin and the floodgates opened. He stopped short of shouting at me but he was quite aggressive. He said that I had "stolen his excitement" about working with resin and that he'd now learned to keep quiet about any of his future projects. I was taken aback. I apologised and said that it wasn't my intention to do that. If the roles were reversed I would feel interested and excited to see his results with the material and I did not foresee that he might feel the way he does instead.

He ultimately said "don't worry it's a thing with me, not with you" and walked off, closing the door behind him. Regardless, I do feel bad. I'd like to pursue things more and try to smooth things out a bit, since we've been friendly before and occasionally done things outside work together like playing sports. How should I go about this?

For further context I sit about 8 feet away from this colleague in an open plan office. We don't need to talk very much but do need to interact from time to time. He's been civil enough with me so far today but I sense he is still annoyed and I would like to avoid too much bad feeling.

I intend to continue experimenting with resins but I will likely keep this hidden from my colleague and not discuss it with him.

  • 19
    You both "work" in a "woodshop"... question: is there ANY chance that this could be construed as you making a table and getting credit for "his" idea? Boss: Wow... WhatEvil has some great creations and ideals about new tables for our fall line. I sure wish OtherGuy had the same creative spirit... (Not saying that its True... but could OtherGuy be afraid of not being recognized at work?) – WernerCD Feb 6 '18 at 17:18
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    While agree that his reaction seems over the top: Could it be that he felt excluded by "I'll just buy some and try it to see if I can figure out how to work with it" because he expected to be involved in the selection/buying/testing process and it sounded to him like you wanted to do it alone? In any case: it seems like he already realised that he was out of line. Give him a few days to work through his own emotions before you raise the topic again. – AllTheKingsHorses Feb 6 '18 at 22:42
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    The original idea here is the abyss table; using resin instead of glass is only a small and obvious variation which only cheapens the implementation in all applicable senses of the word. The way the original table fits the (apparently) CNC-cut matching pieces of glass and wood together is very cool and part of its essence. In any case, you're the one who brough up resin first! It's a material with lots of different applications; "trying out resin to see what it's like" isn't a project, let alone a stolen project. Nobody owns the idea of using resin for something, anything. – Kaz Feb 7 '18 at 2:23
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    As it happens we own a CNC machine and I could quite easily make a version of the original doing it with cut glass, it was mostly about the experimentation. :-) – WhatEvil Feb 7 '18 at 8:10
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    Did he remember that you had (a few years prior) mentioned the possibility that you might possibly make the abyss table using poured resin? Did it come up in your more recent conversations? I'm not suggesting he was right to blow up like this, but maybe if he thought he was the only one to have this idea, it could help explain why he blew up. So it might be helpful in turn to just tactfully drop that fact into any conversation you have about this incident... depending on how you approach it. – Mike Feb 8 '18 at 3:42

11 Answers 11

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Ultimately your colleague has hit the nail on the head here themselves:

"don't worry it's a thing with me, not with you"

It sounds like you tried to share a common interest and further an idea he had, the guy then has a tantrum about this due to some personal issues.

I'd simply speak to him about what he wants you to do in future regarding ideas he's had and try to explain why you wanted to have a go, should you take an active interest in his projects or should you just talk to him about it?

After doing this, he might realize he's being a bit silly with the whole thing. Personally I'd have also been curious to see what an idea I'd had might look like, especially without putting any work in.

If not, you've found out what your boundaries are with this person, they should then be able to move past this once you've come to an agreement about things in the future.

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    It's also an opportunity to work on it together. That way you both can have the excitement of doing it for the first time, don't steal thunder, and get to share the experience! As long as he doesn't become a major downer if things go wrong =\ – corsiKa Feb 7 '18 at 2:11
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    If he'd gone and built the whole table then this would apply more imo, just trying some resin to go "look it works" sounds more like an invitation to carry on with the project together to me. – Connor Feb 7 '18 at 9:14
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    I feel this is a potential mis-reading of the situation. That phrase can also mean "I'm furious, but want some time to reflect on how to react" – Sean Houlihane Feb 7 '18 at 23:14
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    @seanhoulihane potentially, but it depends if OP wants to play the second-guessing game. Imo people who want others to guess what they actually meant deserve whatever they get. All OP can really do in this situation is to just deal with it on face value – Connor Feb 8 '18 at 1:30
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Your colleague is behaving like a child. The problem in this situation is his attitude, and not anything you did. Heck, he even admitted it.

You both took an interest in a construction material/technique. You actually took steps to start experimenting with said materials and techniques, while he did not. You then offered to have him join you on this journey of discovery only to have him sneer at you because he wanted to be the special snowflake who did it all himself. That's something most of us outgrow around twelve years of age, and tolerating that sort of behavior is not doing him any favors.

The best course of action is to proceed with your experiments openly, and perhaps, if you still want him around after he gave you that sort of attitude, continue to offer to include in your experiments.

I would also have a one-on-one with him and explain that his behavior was not acceptable, and that you don't appreciate being spoken to in that manner, especially when he himself knows that his attitude is a problem. The reason I mention this is because it's fairly worrying that this guy would think it's OK to yell at you. In my experience, putting him on notice that you won't let him get away with that sort of thing will likely cause him to analyze his actions a little more carefully.


There seems to exist a misconception that standing up for oneself, and establishing expectations in a professional relationship is somehow inappropriate, inconsiderate, or aggressive.

I'd like to set the record straight.

What your coworker did when he threw his little tantrum is completely unacceptable in a workplace. Furthermore, he is well aware, as he has himself acknowledged.

There's nothing wrong in engaging in a conversation about that, communicating that you did not enjoy the experience, and that although you can sympathize with his desire to be the "guy who worked with resin first", you would like the incident to never repeat. Heck, mention that you appreciate that he recognized that he was being silly even as it was happening, but that's still not an excuse.

This is not being rude, or an obstacle to getting along in the future.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Feb 8 '18 at 0:05
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That's actually a pretty common POV among us creative types. Because our active brains come up with a much longer list of projects than we can actually render in the time available. Especially when that time is also sapped by less-than-ideal time management skills and a penchant for distraction. There are plenty of jokes such as "I'll do it when I get a Round Tuit" (a word play on "I'll do it when I get around to it.".).

The image shows "round tuits." (Round Tuit a word play on "I'll do it when I get around to it")

If only.

The result is that our "top priority ideas" are often kicked down the road for years and years.

So, paradoxically, what happens with these folks (and I know because I am one of them) is that when somebody does something on our to-do list, instead of enjoying it, we are resentful of it. "Oh. I was going to do that." Realistically that is untrue; it's been rotting on my wish-list for 7 years 5 months 13 days, and I hadn't gotten to it yet, I was rather unlikely to get to it in the next 7 years 5 months 13 days.

But ones emotions do not recognize that reality.

Even worse, it often comes out as irrational criticism of the work. "Well, you could have done it better".


Having soaked in this world for decades, and having to operate in it professionally, I have concluded the only workable option is to call it out for exactly what it looks like in outward appearance: Naysaying. My standard response is "haters gonna hate".

Of course I know exactly what is going on in their minds, because I myself must spend time repressing that "I was gonna do that / yours is so much worse than my dream" emotion, and through long practice I have that down to about 10 seconds. Mind you, I have actively trained, under competent teachers, the science of understanding what goes on in my mind... which helps me learn it a little sooner.

Your coworker has a particularly acute and transparent case of this. There is no workable way to fill him with the self-awareness of what his mind is doing. In fact, even trying a terrible idea, first because you don't have informed consent to facilitate him, but it also violates a basic social rule: Don't ascribe motive. Not least because you could be completely wrong about the mechanism.

That's why I simply call it "naysaying" and "haters gonna hate", calling out only the provable activity rather than the motives. Best scenario: they have the realization, or simply learn that the behavior is counterproductive.

So feel free to be annoyed at his unsupport, just don't be too hard on him.


P.S. I am surprised that a wood shop doesn't have West System by the gallon. That works as a resin (try 207 hardener). Resin is a fine way to top tables. Also watch out for leaving cups of uncured resin around, they can't shed heat well and will go into thermal runaway as they cure, which can start a fire. Thick projects like that table must be done in layers.

  • We make exterior windows, doors and glazed roofs, so we don't have much use for decorative resins. – WhatEvil Feb 8 '18 at 8:41
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So a couple of other folks have pointed out that your colleague is not acting in a particularly professional way. This is one of those things though that comes down to the difference between fault and responsibility. It's not your fault that this relationship has soured a little, but if you would really like to improve the situation it will likely be your responsibility. So think clearly about what you want before you start putting effort into things.

Anyway, easiest thing you can do is appeal to his ego. Find some reasonably credible reason you need his help and ask him for it, ideally in a way that's related to some attribute or skill in which he takes pride and can provide some direction.

Then ask him for it, meaningfully, even if you don't need it, swallow your own pride a bit, and take that direction ( even if it's wrong ). Remember that the point here is to work his psychology, not actually finish a project, but ideally, if you ask for and accept his assistance with the proper level of confidence and humility you'll both improve the relationship and your skillset and finish a cool project.

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I agree with everyone above: your colleague's reaction is over-the-top and does reflect his personal issues. Previous respondents have tried to analyse possible reasons for his emotional investment in being The Only One To Have Thought Of This - but really, it could be anything, so I'm not going to recommend a solution based on his imagined issues.

He's got hurt feelings, we don't know why. The thing people want when their feelings are hurt is validation. This much-abused concept doesn't mean telling him he's "right" or apologising for whatever he thinks you've done, simply recognising that he's cheesed off and it's got something to do with you.

"You're angry - I'm sorry you feel that way" might be a bit of a blunt tool, but there are lots of ways to say it. Something like "I had no idea you didn't want me to do it; I'm sorry you felt I stepped on your toes" might do it. I also think it's a good idea to try and open a conversation about the project going forward: is he interested in working together with you, or should you just leave it alone now? (Be prepared for a not-quite-reasonable reply!)

Since the man clearly has got some ego vulnerabilities, do try validating him occasionally with positive feedback - don't go over the top, but it's a simple kindness to give people a boost now & again.

As to the resin project: keep working on yours if you want to; he has no right to dictate your out-of-hours activity. But it's diplomatic to keep quiet about it if he's rejected your partnership proposal.

Good luck. Bad working relationships can really poison your life, so I hope this chap's outburst was more of a blip than "who he really is".

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Leave it and leave an open door for him in the future.

My interpretation of his behavior is that he has some form of self-esteem issue. He wanted to play with resin, but he didn't do it. You did instead and now he feels slow/dumb/not proactive /who knows. This makes him sour and so he turned on you.

If he meant what he said he also recognized that his behavior is absurd and that he's in the wrong. But knowing that's the case and emotionally accepting it are two different things. Something deep inside might be yelling to him : "You d* f*, why haven't you done it?" and something less deep, which copes with this feeling might be pointing at you as the culprit. He feels this, even tho he rationally understands otherwise. Anytime you go ask about it the bitterness comes around again, further he might feel humiliated because of having to deal with it and having to confront you on this. And you might be again considered ad the culprit. Then the cycle has come full circle.

It might take time (and some external help) for him to fix this.

So, I'd just give this topic a rest. Take some time before going back to him on some other topic (like maybe inviting him out for sports) but do it if you feel inclined.

Don't take special measures to hide your newfound hobby. And if he ever asks.. Be ready to welcome him back! He might be coming from a long travel and out of the wood.

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    +1 I agree with this approach - the colleague has demonstrated self-awareness by their 'it's me not you' comment, something not expected during a rant. Give him time and keep the door open - good advice. – Lawrence Feb 7 '18 at 14:16
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I've been on both sides of this setup, I've taken on projects based on a cool idea someone else was considering and I've had my ideas "stolen" in turn.

In my case, I felt less like I was inferior for being un-proactive and more just a sense of my thunder being stolen. It's far less fun to work on something new if someone just demonstrated it than it is to explore new ground.

That can produce some resentment or bad feeling, and if you're not the kind of person who has a dozen cool ideas a week, it can be a while before something new takes up your interest and replaces it.

My advice to OP is let it be, their co-worker will work through it in his own time, But the next time he has a cool idea it'd be a good idea to not make use of it yourself until they've already moved on. The very worst thing would be to be basking in the success of finishing a new project and then get upstaged by your co-worker who's already upstaged you in the past!

That's how frustration can turn to hatred.

At the very very least, ask if they mind you making use of their idea, they'll probably appreciate the consideration.

I want to emphasise again though, let them deal with it. Pick at the scab or scratch the itch and it'll be likely to become a sore point in the longer term.

  • ' I've had my ideas "stolen"' does it make a difference that the colleague said the OP had 'stolen his excitement' rather than stolen his idea? Though I completely agree that 'letting it be' is the best strategy. The colleague knows the behaviour was weird and he knows the weirdness is his. As long as it remains a one-off a gentle re-establishing of norms is the best bet. – Spagirl Feb 8 '18 at 13:31
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    Absolutely. It sounds like the colleague is a reasonable sort and really only got rubbed the wrong way by the experience, the OP's experience of this likely would have been that they were distant and a little standoffish for a while before settling back to normal, but they poked at the sore spot and provided a lightning rod for the frustration. The colleague may well approach later and apologise for snapping, or they may be a bit embarrassed by the whole thing and just leave it. – Ruadhan2300 Feb 8 '18 at 13:57
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Some people are full of ideas but lack follow-through. Thomas Edison said "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." Sometimes what a person in that situation needs is for someone to do exactly what you did: just buy some and mess around with it. It should inspire them to get involved.

It sounds like either you didn't give your friend the opportunity to be involved at that point, or your friend neglected to step-up at that time. Without knowing them, I cannot speculate as to why. If you can determine this, you might be able to save the friendship AND help them get unstuck.

I have this same relationship with a lot of my friends/coworkers. We talk about crazy projects all the time, but really only about 1% of them get started. Sometimes we do start each other's ideas. When that happens, there is a bit of jealousy that takes the form of self-criticism. "Why didn't I start that? What is wrong with me!" But ultimately we are so happy to hear about how it went, and so happy the idea was well-received, that we are likely to offer to help or ask to be involved. Besides, if I wasn't getting around to it, why should I be mad that someone else did?

I suggest apologizing for not inviting them to see your initial foray into the work sooner, even if they had plenty of chance to do so of their own volition, and give them another chance to do so. Explain that you aren't trying to steal their idea, you just thought it was a really good one and you wanted to use the opportunity you had. Continue to share your ideas, even if they don't share theirs. Ultimately, they should realize that collaboration is best for both of you.

  • In hindsight, the best plan would have been to offer to buy them some resin when you bought yours. Then they would have seen you were serious - but still wouldn't have been able to say 'no, I want to make this on my own'. – Sean Houlihane Feb 7 '18 at 23:19
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It seems that the worse outcome for this table idea is that now neither of you do anything with it.

One possible way out is for you to gift him the resin (assuming it's not super expensive, and you have a useful quantity), and say that you were interested in trying out the process but don't want to carry through and actually complete a project with it. Leave him free to work on it on his own, and let him share it with you when he wants to, or asks for help.

My interpretation is that he maybe had some ideas about making the project in a way that he was particularly interested (but stalled for an unknown reason). It may seem unreasonable, but you may not have all the facts - and for sure you can now see signs that were maybe missed, and opportunities to have prevented the conflict.

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I think that the resin is not the issue. Your friend is discontent about something else in his life, and is projecting that discontent onto you, and the resin situation. Try not to take it personally: your friend probably doesn't realize that he is misdirecting his discontent.

Note that this is a very, very normal thing for a human to do and you should not consider your friend a bad person for doing this. In fact I think this is an excellent opportunity for your friendship to advance to a deeper level, the level of lifelong friendship. I think you should find a time to bring it up with your friend and let him know that you respect him and want to be his friend, and try to probe about what might be going on in his life to cause him to feel this way. It could be that he's unsatisfied with his job, his girlfriend, his apartment, general life direction, etc. It's likely that your friend hasn't consciously realized he is discontent.

If you do approach your friend to try to pry and find out more, he may reject you. But at least you tried.

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You may find a key in:

"A long time ago (a few years) I showed him this table that I had found, and talked about making one, possibly using poured resin rather than different layers of glass"

You could point out that you were enthused about the idea some years ago and in your enthusiasm showed a table to him and suggested the resin based concept. You had never followed through at the time BUT his recent comments rekindled YOUR enthusiasm and you had now followed through with your original idea. You were pleased that he had reminded you about how enthusiastic you had been initially. So you are grateful and ... .

Subtly noting that it had been your idea originally and enthusiastically highlighting your gratitude that his comments had reawakened your interest may provide a path of reconciliation. Due care needed of course.

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