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So, I recently started working and so I'm new to the workplace.

I came in around the same time as the girl who sits opposite me (she has about 3 months on me). That being said, my first two weeks in, I had lunch (in a group of 4-5 people) and talked with her a few times after work on the way to the train station, etc.

After the initial weeks, I started bringing lunch to work and ate in mostly to save money and didn't join them for lunch (they didn't ask either). Now, when I say things at the coffee machine or just random conversation to her, she just nods and quickly leaves, or says nothing at all when we cross paths.

Additional info: during an office half day, I walked with them to grab lunch after work, during the whole walk they didn't really talk to me.

I'm not sure why her behavior changed and I don't have much issue with that. But now I have a project where I have to work with her and even when we discuss about work she will keep it short and prefer to discuss over skype messages than in person (did I mention we sit opposite each other?).

I'm afraid that if I try to initiate conversation too much (even for work) it would make what she already thinks worse (I have no idea what tbh).

Example of a skype conversation:

Me: [details about the project], hope you're feeling better (she was sick)

Her: OK, I'll do (part 1).

Me: Thanks a bunch I'll focus on (part 2)

Her: Good.

Question

Is there any way I can approach her without making things worse and finding out what happened?

Note

I have no romantic interest in her, I just want to make my work life better.

  • Is it just her? How are the others behaving that were in the initial group? – Ruard van Elburg Feb 7 '18 at 3:04
  • out of the whole group, only two speak to me in casual conversation and only rarely. As a whole they don't really communicate with me. – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 3:09
  • Can't you ask one of them what is going on (in general)? Since you've noticed that people seem to avoid you. Is there someone you can trust? – Ruard van Elburg Feb 7 '18 at 3:16
  • i actually have no problems communicating with other people in the office, however, this group consists of my team and who i will be most likely paired with for projects and the like. That aside, i guess this question also goes for asking the others but seeing as how i'm working with her right now on a project it would be easier to ask her? – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 3:18
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I interpret this situation quite differently from the other answers, my opinion may be wrong so please judge the situation for yourself as you know far more details than I do.

That being said, my answer to: Is there any way i can approach her without making things worse and finding out what happened? with making your work life better as the goal is *No, approaching her to find out what happened is likely to make things worse. To improve your work life I suggest limiting your conversations with her to be about strictly professional matters.

It seems to me as though your co-worker is consciously trying to establish boundaries with you, to limit your relationship to one where you only interact when strictly and professionally necessary.

You can see this in the fact that she is avoiding talking with you around the water cooler and when everyone goes to lunch. Your case that even when you talk about work she keeps it short indicates that a large amount of the time you are attempting to talk to her, it is not about work. If you do this often when someone is trying to limit the relationship, it could be a key reason why their minimising conversation might flow over into work related conversations as they would be worried you might transition the work conversation into a personal one, and so they restrict the boundary even more by responding in short sentences and only to essential work comments.

A perfect example of this is your skype conversation where you lead with details about the task, followed by a small/polite personal question. To this, she responded in as short a way as possible and only to the details about the task, purposefully ignoring your inquiry in her personal life. This shows that she does not intend to respond to your questions about her health and she is showing you this boundary as a signal to stop.

I could not say if you did anything, or there were some other reason she is behaving like this but either way I would not try to press her and find out why. Giving her space and respecting this boundary should hopefully give opportunity to build a better working relationship with her in the future.

  • sound advice, i guess since i don't really have any other intentions than work with her i should not be too bordered by these interactions – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 6:45
  • 1
    To be fair, in the skype conversation hope you're feeling better is not really a question and does not have to be 'answered' anyway. But in general I interpreted the situation exactly like you did. +1 – Kaspar Scherrer Feb 8 '18 at 14:42
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First Approach

If you are going to work well with her (and the others) then you need to make sure that all communication barriers are removed. The best way to do that is by talking directly to her. Since she is somewhat cold in person, start with a message on skype, asking if you can talk.

Hi [her name], since we are going to be working together on this new project, I was hoping we could talk about it for a few minutes.

You immediately make it clear that your conversation is professional in nature and pertains to the project at hand. If she agrees to have a conversation with you then you can start that conversation off like this.

I want to make sure that we are on the same page while we work together. I've noticed over the last few weeks that we haven't had as many non-work conversations as we did when we started. Have I done something to offend you? If so, I'd like to know so that I can make things right and we can work together effectively.

With this approach you are able to let her know that you are aware that something has changed, and you want to get it resolved. It's very important to use phrasing that makes it clear that you aren't accusing her of anything, and that you just want to make sure you can work together without issue.

If she won't talk in person

It's entirely possible that if she has some sort of issue with you then she won't want to talk. If this is the case then the next best option would be to talk to someone familiar with the situation, but not too close. If there's another team member that both of you are on good terms with, then that would be the best person to talk to, but if all else fails you could talk to someone outside the team that has enough knowledge of the situation.

Again, in this conversation you want to make it clear that you have noticed some changes and just want to make sure that everything is ok and you can work together just fine.

Over the last few weeks I've noticed that [her name] has been a bit abrupt with me in our casual conversations. We used to be fairly friendly (small talk at the water cooler, casual conversations walking to the train, etc...), but aren't any more. I've noticed that you talk to her a decent amount. Has she mentioned being upset with me or offended by something I've done? We're starting this new project together and I want to make sure that there isn't an issue between us that will make it harder to work together.

Ultimately, it's possible that she might dislike you with no reason, or be so offput by something that you did or said that she doesn't want to fix things. If either of those is the case, then there isn't much you can do about it.

  • nice points mate, i'll wait for abit for any other answers, but i really like yours! – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 5:50
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I don't know the full situation or this girl too well but I can give my two cents from learning out of a similar situation at my workplace. I was facing a somewhat similar situation except the guy I work with used to talk to me a lot more in the beginning and show romantic interest in me and one day he just stopped talking altogether, which made for a very confusing and awkward situation. From observing his social behavior I noticed that he is also socially awkward around other people as well and prefers staying out of social gathering etc.

  • When you work in an office with different personalities you learn to work with the differences in communication types and my suspicion is that she might be somewhat socially awkward, shy or unsure of how to be social (unless she behaves completely different with other people at the office).

The way I handled the situation is continue to be social with other coworkers and show that person that it doesn't bother me that he doesn't speak to me anymore and it's not affecting my days. My suggestion is sending her an email or a private message and directly asking if she is ok or if you had done anything to upset her, she may also have personal issues outside of the office that are affecting her mood. You never know what people are going through at a workplace where they keep things to themselves. If she still responds in a cold manner you might want to accept her behavior and try not to let it bother you just knowing that the work relationship will stay strictly professional at this point. Sometimes being direct is the best solution to finding the answer rather than guessing or making assumptions.

  • I also know that sometimes when someone likes you romantically they get nervous and shut down around you to mask their feelings (I'm not saying that this is the case here but it's an option to consider)
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There's a thing that happens when you've been working at the same place for a while. It's not necessarily a great thing or a terrible thing, but it happens.

When someone new starts, you make a bit of an effort to help them plug in to the new environment, fill them in on the run of things, crack some jokes, help them adjust and so on. But after a while it's back to the same old rat race.

You go to work, do your job, and hope to sort of make it through the workday and get back to your real life afterwards. Everybody's workin for that weekend, ya'know.

Perhaps that seems cynical, but a lot of people are like that. Their work life and personal life remain somewhat separate.

That may be what you're seeing here.

It may be that this person doesn't have a problem with you personally, they just go to work to work. When working they may find it easier to communicate via text and/or Skype. It may seem a bit impersonal, but for some people that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Go to work, knock it out, and on to the next project.

  • that's true, maybe it ain't personal. Love that reference, shows you're a man (or woman) of taste haha – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 5:54
  • @SomeoneElse You made me curious, what reference is here please ? – Rolexel Feb 7 '18 at 9:07
  • might not be intentional but "workin for the weekend" is a popular song in the 80's – SomeoneElse Feb 7 '18 at 9:37

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