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Strained atmosphere with colleague, help!

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Hi all, I'm looking for some advice regarding a colleague of mine. We used to get on well and I used to enjoy talking to him when we were working together but over the past while things have become increasingly strained and weird.

He's always been a bit on the quiet side but we used to chat away about anything and everything but now he seems to be making a point of being scrupulously polite to me, ie making a point of saying hello when I come on and goodnight when he leaves but every conversation in between has turned into torture. I have gotten to the point where I'm just ready to start avoiding him but every time I start edging away he makes an effort to start a conversation and I think "Okay; great" and start talking to him. Then by the end of it I once again end up feeling like an idiot who never shuts up because he either says nothing or finds an excuse to walk away. I do try to start conversations with him; I'll always stop if I see he needs a hand but I just get monosyllabic answers and I end up feeling mortified and leaving him to it. This is usually when he decides it's time to start a conversation with me and the whole dance starts again.

It's gotten to the point where I'm standing around up one end of the bar and he's standing around wiping things down the other end and avoiding looking at me.

I really am making an effort to get along here; yesterday when I was picking up stuff while I was shopping I brought in some chocolate and I picked the kind he likes. I told him it was in the fridge and when he saw it he said "Oh is that for *****?" (who is another coworker) even though he knew that I knew it was his favourite and I made a point of telling him first that it was there.

I know I'm making a big deal out of this but I've been watching how he gets on with the rest of the staff and he's perfectly comfortable around them while yesterday we were working right next to each other in a totally awkward silence.

I don't know what to do; I accept that you can't expect to be universally popular but this is getting worse and I'm starting to dread going into work on Sundays.

Can I do anything about this? If it were a friend or acquaintance I would pull them aside and ask what was going on but as this is a work situation I am afraid of being nonprofessional.

I really am trying my best to be friendly to him; he really is a lovely guy who I used to get on with and I can't think of anything that I may have said or done to cause this; any advice would be much appreciated, thanks

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Is it possible that he is attracted to you and believes you aren't either available or attracted to him?


To be honest I have no idea; I shouldn't imagine so. I would have thought that if he was that he would say/do something and not react in this way.

This has been building on and off for a while but yesterday was just insanely bad and I'm really hoping that someone can suggest something that I can do; if not get back to where we were then at least to keep it professional and not awkward.

People are going to start noticing and I would be strongly reminded of a pair of twelve year olds if I were looking for a comparison as to what is currently going on.

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Why not try talking to him about it - say that you are getting the impression he is avoiding you and wonder if you said or did something to upset him.


Is that okay to do at work?

That would be how I would react to a situation with a friend or acquaintance but I'm just nervous of straining things further at work.

I don't want to get grief from my boss, who also happens to be a relative by marriage to this guy, for causing friction in the workplace

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay; update if anyone has any more advice on what to do with this.

Went into work determined to try and bring the subject up but didn't manage it that night so as we unexpectedly ended up working together the next day I thought, fine, I'll see if I can say something then. He completely avoided me until my boss left to go to the bank and was gone for about two hours.

When my boss left my colleague called me out from where I was working and asked me to help him with a few small jobs, holding brackets that he was screwing into the bar, that kind of thing. The atmosphere was completely different, just like when I first started working there so I was thinking great, he's obviously cottoned on to the weirdness and he's trying to get past it. Great, job done.

I was feeling way better about heading into work on Friday but lo and behold we're right back to the usual. He actually walked into the kitchen right in front of me, said hi to another colleague and turned around completely blanking me. When there is a group of us in the kitchen he'll actually try and keep his back to me and will never address me or include me in the conversation and if he has to he'll make it clear that he's just being scrupulously polite.

I've been noticing that he doesn't seem to like talking to me in front of my boss and it just hit me that he is actually too ashamed to be seen having a conversation with me. I actually nearly burst into tears and I was upset all evening and had to pretend to the rest of the staff that I just had pms.

I think that this is all because my boss was joking around a while back about the fact that I'm single and so is he and I think that basically this guy is trying to make it abundantly clear to everyone that he wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. I don't think I've ever felt so hurt in my life and now I have to work with the guy.

Since Friday night I've completely given up making any effort with him and I'm only answering when he speaks to me (which is pretty rare anyway)and only about work related stuff. I just can't believe that anyone would be so childish and nasty to someone who has only ever tried to be nice to them; and this guy is thirty!!!

I actually feel like dirt and if I could find another job I'd be out of there now.

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