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I work as a junior programmer in a rather large office setting, and I would like to introduce myself to a coworker who works near me, but in a different field (possibly HR?). Unfortunately, I feel like this has been made difficult by the awkward situation I have placed myself in.

The only interaction I have had with her is a very brief work-related question she emailed me back when I started my job (about 5 months ago). Later she added me on LinkedIn, and I accepted her request, but for reasons I still can't fully explain, it never prompted me to talk to her in person, and a few months have passed since then.

Reasons for introducing myself and trying to get to know her:

  1. She seems like a friendly individual based on her interactions with other coworkers I have seen.

  2. I feel very guilty for not talking to her after the LinkedIn request, and it feels like a missed networking opportunity.

  3. She is attractive and around my age.

Reasons for avoiding the introduction:

  1. An incredibly uncomfortable amount of time has passed and it only gets worse.

  2. Still feel guilty about the LinkedIn request, so I don't know how to bring it up.

  3. The office space (open cubicles) has a hundreds of workers and I feel intimidated by the busy setting and the group of people she works with.

The situation bothers me even more because my coworker's cubicle is right next to the door, so I pass by her basically every time I go to the bathroom or enter/leave the office space.

So my question is: How could I introduce myself to this coworker?

Should I try to wait to catch her in a more social event at the office rather than on the office floor during work hours? Should I bring up the LinkedIn connection?

I fully understand that she probably has no strong reason to initiate an introduction with me on her own. As I said, the office has many workers passing by her every day, and many of them seem to be socially awkward programmers, and it's evident that I am just one of them.

12

Consider that she might be feeling as awkward about the situation as you are -- but you'll be at an impasse until one of you decides to do something about it.

Walk right up to her cubicle, tomorrow morning if you can, and say this:

Hi. I was feeling that it's kind of weird that we work next to each other and we've never been formally introduced. I'm Duncan (extend hand to shake)

Simple, quick, done. No more anxiety.

After that, just let the conversation take its natural course. If she brings up the LinkedIn request, you can be honest and laugh about it with her:

Yes, I remember. Actually that's why I was feeling even more awkward, since we're connected online and we've never actually connected in real life. It's a strange world, huh?

Ideally you'd wait for a moment when she is not interacting with other people, but if no such opportunity presents itself, then I'd say something like,

Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt anything. I just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself as I've been here five months and it's kind of strange I've never actually officially spoken to any of you.

Then introduce yourself to everyone around her, or at least those who are paying attention and who don't seem too busy.


I just noticed your comment that "she is attractive and around my age" which suggests you have some romantic interest in her, and which is probably the source of some of your discomfort. Dating coworkers is, well, complicated, and while it's not unheard of (my brother ended up marrying a woman he met at his first job out of college) these days it can quickly get you into trouble if you misread the signals.

Given that, I recommend at the very least pretending a lack of any romantic interest when you first introduce yourself. See how she responds to that, first. You should probably also check if there are other answers here to the question of how to ask a coworker out on a date.

4

Does this person go to coffee/tea/whatever break in a break room? If so, you can just take a break at the same time and join her and everyone else present in the break room. A break is a very good time to get to know people since they are generaly more relaxed and don't have something else to do.

That's what I did in my first job and it worked (well, actualy someone invited me to join everyone in the coffee break but you don't really need an invitation).

If there is no coffee break at your job, you can try to bring confectionery (for your birthday, your six month at the job, a come back from holiday, etc..) and invite everyone to join (via an email for example). With any luck, she will come and since you will probably pass near her, you can personaly invite her to join.

You can also use a similar tactic at the lunch break. If you eat alone, when the time to eat comes, you can approach her, ask her where she eats and if you can join them/her since you don't have anyone to eat with. You will probably feel uncomfortable (I know I will) but, unless she eat with her family/non-coworker friends or really loves to be alone, she will probably be happy to welcome you.

I once was working in another country, didn't have anyone to eat with and asked a coworker where he and the other people eat. Turns out he was eating on is own and was very happy to invite me to join him (he took this lunch break as an opportunity to show me his city).

If she is eating alone at her desk, like some other people at your company, you can go to those people and ask them how they feel about eating their sandwich outside/in a park for a change. You might find people that will be happy to and she might be one of them.

In most of these case, you will have opportunities to become friend not only with her but with other co-workers too. Just don't be too pressing, if she doesn't want to be your friend, she doesn't and you just have to drop it. There are other people at your work and I'm sure some of them will be happy to get to know you.


Edit:

You seem very concerned by the fact that it has been 5 month. I suggest to just act like everything is normal and people will probably do the same. If anyone makes a comment, just say that you needed time to take your marks. You can also add that you didn't know how to introduce yourself. There is no reason they will resent you for that.

0

I suggest that you do something casual. You could ask her to get lunch with you during the workday the next time you pass her cubicle. Ask her about her role at the company, or bring up something that happened recently at your company or in your community. Or, if she shares something on LinkedIn that piques your interest you could start a conversation about it. You could definitely approach her at a social event if that feels more comfortable. If you're too nervous to just talk to her out of the blue, email her asking if she wants to get lunch so you can learn more about her position and get to know her better.

Don't beat yourself up about not talking to her after the LinkedIn request, she probably wasn't bothered by that.

Since you say she's a very friendly person, I'm sure whichever approach you try will be well received.

  • 1
    I appreciate the answer, but this feels like the next step beyond what I'm asking. Maybe I'm still uncomfortable with my work environment, because its a very large office but I work in an isolated and mostly remote team. Asking my coworker to go to lunch feels out of place since I haven't actually talked to her. My main reason for the question is more about overcoming the awkwardness surrounding our mutual silence. I also decided to edit my post and tone down "very friendly" to just "friendly." The office is difficult to judge people because many keep to themselves. – Duncan Aug 29 '18 at 1:45
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I was actually in the same situation today. I have been in the office for about 3 months, saw the person walk by several times, and actually stared at him a little a few times, because my wife has an acquaintance in the office and I was wondering if it was him. But we never talked. I was sitting in a seat quite close to him today, and found it a good opportunity to introduce myself, when he arrived and was not in the middle of something.

I just walked up and said: 'I have seen you walk by a few times already, but I haven't come around to introduce myself yet, I am ..... and I work on....'.

It was not awkward at all, it just keeps getting a bigger thing in your mind if you keep postponing it. Do it as soon as possible, but make sure the person is not in the middle of something where it would be uncomfortable to be disturbed.

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The LinkedIn page should tell you a bit about the girl - her role in the company and bits about her training/education (which university, what subject) and possibly a bit about her interests/places she's visited. Do you have a common interest, something that'll be in the back of your mind if you talk?

Have you looked at what she's putting out on LinkedIn? Is there anything on that that you would normally respond to in real life, a chatroom, Twitter or LinkedIn?

Possibly she or her team has won recognition for something. This would present an opportunity to congratulate them on LinkedIn and in passing, and that would break the ice. This might give you an opportunity to give her feedback - but you might as well go through your other LinkedIn contacts too. After all it's nice to be nice.

I think you might also get some response by asking a question similar to one which she's responded to in the past, not specifically aimed at the lady in question - but more general, and could prompt some casual chats with her or those around her.

There is a cheerful newspaper lad who delivers in my neighbourhood and he says, "Good morning" to the people he passes on the street. I, and I'm sure others, respond with a 'Good morning' or similar. It's a simple non-invasive means for talking to people which has a positive impact and frames you in a good light. You could supplement this with people's names that you know and other light chit-chat: nice day, has X had her baby yet? a local news event or anything not out of the ordinary.

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