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We have a new colleague. He comes from another region (same country: Germany) and is rather outgoing: He talks a lot (sometimes too much), is generally very friendly and is rather cheerful. He moved here, which means he has (to my knowledge), no social contacts here besides us.

The problem is: Everyone is annoyed by him. Whenever somebody talks about their weekend plans he immediately (and clumsily) asks if he can tag along, even though we have only known him for such a short time (few months). He does this so often, that people are more careful now when they say what they are doing in their free time. It is also painful to see all the rejections he gets (because he is asking so often) and the awkwardness that ensues.

I like him, but I do not want to hang out with him all the time. We did something once and it was fine. But I get why people are annoyed. I considered taking him aside and hinting at him that people do not enjoy being pressured into activities with him. People around here are just a bit more.. mellow, I guess? He is just so damn cheerful and enthusiastic that he annoys people. It surely is a hard situation for him, coming from a different region and settling into a group of people who know each other reasonably well and who also do stuff together in their free time. He seriously needs to step on the brakes, though.

For reference: We are all mid-20s or early 30s and work in a very small (<20 people) place. Most of us have nothing to do with him at work (most of us work independently) and social interaction is mostly during breaks, which we all have together.

How do I approach him about his aggressive friend-seeking behavior? I would probably say something like

Listen, Joe. You know that I get along with you quite well. But between us, I've heard colleagues complain about you asking about taking part in their activities all the time. In your region, people might be more outgoing, but around here people need some time to get acquainted. Maybe you should try to let things evolve more naturally.

I really do not want this to backfire in any way. From all the people here, I probably have the best position to tell him, as we talked the most. If I screw this up, I might hurt his feelings. I really just want him to be part of our group.

Before he joined us, we sometimes organized small team events (bowling etc), maybe doing that will help people get to know him better? But he might also take this as another opportunity to (unknowingly) annoy people even more.

I will probably do stuff with him in the future, but I don't want to be the only guy in the office he can hang around with. If he just were a little less intrusive, everybody would get along better.

  • Are you in Northern or Southern Germany? in my experience, Bavarians (for example) are a lot quicker to socialize than citizens of Lower Saxony. – baldPrussian May 4 '18 at 13:53
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    @baldPrussian It is exactly the other way around. We are from Southern Germany. We do quickly socialize, but not in a "let's get together on the weekend"-way. Many of us also have more settled lifestyles with partners and some even with children. – Ian May 4 '18 at 13:56
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    I don't know if offensive is the correct word to use here. Are you actually offended by his trying to make friends? Or are you more referring to how persistent he is in trying to make friends? – Rainbacon May 4 '18 at 14:08
  • @Rainbacon Not fully offended, but borderline, yes. It is not good etiquette to just ask to take part in something you have nothing to do with. Especially if you are not asking the host. – Ian May 4 '18 at 14:13
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Yes, your suggestion sounds appropriate to me, being honest and clear on the local customs is always helpful, and he can use your words to revaluate his expectations.

Another thing you could do, is to ask him what his interests are, and direct him to groups or establishment that cater to that kind of interests, and that he might not know because he is new to the area. Example: he likes photography, and you might have heard of a photography group in the area; or he might like a specific sport, and you know where the gym/track/whatever is located in your city.

This will give him the opportunity to have an activity in his free time that is not dependent on you, resolving successfully the situation for everyone involved: he has new acquaintances that share his interest in some activity to be done during the free time, and you don't have to be scared about discussing your activities in his presence.

We have a lot in common, actually. Which makes it hard for me to tell him about stuff that I want to do without him.

This might not necessarily be a bad thing. I understand the feeling of not wanting to be the only person associated with him, but you have to be clear (with yourself first) on why you feel that way: are you afraid of becoming "uncool" by association? are you afraid of the possibility of this person becoming totally dependent on you for any free-time activity? In the first case, it is more a problem you have to solve with your colleagues, rather than him; in the second case, you can resolve it by specifying clear boundaries, e.g.: "I'm not available outside of this time slot dedicated to the activity". There might be other reasons, this is just to discuss the first to that came to mind.

Nevertheless, if he really is so outgoing, I would expect that bringing him to gatherings of people that share your interests (I can't be more precise without knowing, but I am assuming a public setting, not a private home meeting) will lead him to know more people, and possibly someone willing to share some time with him. Moreover, it is not given that you must have time available for him whenever he requests/expects it.

  • Thanks for your answer! He did move before, so I guess he has behaved this way before, too. That's why I assumed it was more an issue of us. His approach to socializing feels more American, where people are way more open. About the interests: We have a lot in common, actually. Which makes it hard for me to tell him about stuff that I want to do without him. – Ian May 4 '18 at 14:05
  • @Ian I have tried to address your comment. – Federico May 4 '18 at 14:16
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With what you've described, I've got an image in my head of the stereotypical Rheinlaender stuck in a small northern Bavarian village. The kind where people are still referred to as "the newcomers" after living there for 20 years. But then it could just as well be a personality thing.

It's commendable that you try and help him settle in and acquaint him with the local customs.

However, stay clear of mentioning what people say about him behind his back. I've seen this backfire waaay to often. You never know if they are really serious or just want to bond over complaining, they'd probably never own up if he should confront them, and they'll see you as the snitch. Just don't go there. Keep it strictly about your issues when you talk to him.

So instead of:

I've heard colleagues complain about you asking about taking part in their activities all the time.

I'd wait until he asks you to tag along somewhere and then say something like

Sorry, this is really awkward but... I can't invite you along to the barbecue - I'm not the host. You know, culture here is a little different, around here people need some time to get acquainted. You'll have to go a little slower. I'm happy to meet up every once in a while, but I can't just bring you along to other peoples' parties.

Don't make yourself your colleagues' spokesperson (unless they explicitly ask you, and possibly not even then). Speak only for yourself.

Also, if there is a usual way to meet people socially, explain that to him. In the stereotypical village from my intro, social life revolves around the clubs (Vereine), especially the Freiwillige Feuerwehr. Suggest to him to join a club or activity that (ideally) suits his interests (sports, arts and crafts, tech, culture, whatever) where he can meet new people. Ideally, name a few examples and/or recommend a few.

  • stay clear of mentioning what people say about him behind his back - This is a good point, thanks. I don't think the others would mind, as long as I would not mention specific people. In the end, I should talk for myself, though. – Ian May 7 '18 at 6:04
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You should speak your mind in general, but always in a civilized manner. As soon as the next opportunity comes, tell him WHAT you think and most importantly WHY. Because you obviously care about him, but it's of no use for him unless you speak up. You think you will hurt his feelings, but in reality you will give him valuable information (as it seems like in this context or at your workplace). Friends who tell things straight up with real arguments is valuable.

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