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Coworker with poor social skills


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Hi all,

 

I recently started a new job and as most people, have been working from home the whole time. I got hired at the same time as another male coworker (same level) and I sensed something odd from him from the beginning. He asks the most trivial questions (fine, tons of people are like that) and literally monopolizes the manager's time by requesting various meetings to perform his tasks.

 

Anyway - he organized a get together on Friday with a few coworkers and our manager, but only two of us showed up (the manager & I). When he entered the room, he proceeded to kiss my cheek (by the time I realized he was leaning, it was too late). I thought it was inappropriate under normal circumstances (when it's the first time you meet a colleague), but especially under COVID.

 

Then, I noticed a few strange traits. He wouldn't really drive the conversation and respond with one word answers, then stare blankly at the wall with almost no eye-contact. He seemed socially awkward, but almost to the point where I thought he had social anxiety. That's fine, but his behavior made me feel uncomfortable as it was almost robotic. Perhaps he suffers from some kind of social anxiety/condition, in which case, it would explain it and my thread is therefore void.

 

He texted me on Saturday a "Hi, how are you" - to which I didn't respond as I don't respond to coworkers on weekends. I shared my phone number with the manager as part of a work-related WhatsApp group. I didn't share it for the purpose of chatting on weekends. He picked up my number from the WhatsApp group, I never gave it to him directly.

 

Since I didn't respond, he Skyped me today at work asking me if I saw his WhatsApp message over the weekend. I said no, because I have a separate business phone from my personal (not true, but hoping he'd get the hint that I don't mix coworkers/friends) and my business phone is shut down on weekends. Then, he proceeded to say: "Perhaps you can add me to your personal mobile, so we can talk about non-work related things".

 

I didn't respond to this request. I think he has some social issues. What should I do?

 

Thanks!

Edited by RuedeRivoli
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He may be lonely and looking for friends. The best thing to do is not get too up in arms about it or irritable. It will just affect your work performance. Tell him politely and firmly you do not hang out or talk with coworkers outside of work. Keep it simple and don't open it up to discussion. Don't overread it either.

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I think he's got some social issues, this is appalling! What should I do?

 

Maybe a little socially awkward and inappropriate but describing it as appalling seems extreme. He may have a social anxiety disorder or be on the autism spectrum and using social cues that have worked for him in the past. At the end of the day, you need to set a boundary and make it clear about what you are and aren't comfortable with... such as letting him know that you prefer chatting with co-workers within work hours only, and only about specific topics... and that you are uncomfortable with physical affection from a co-worker. I've found that the vast majority prefer kind and direct communication vs. vague "hints" because they then know what to expect and how to behave.

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I think he's indeed looking for friends.

 

I didn't respond as I didn't know how to respond in all honesty. Since I believe he may suffer from some anxiety disorder, I didn't want to be too abrupt in my response and have to be careful in how I am phrasing my response. I'm sure he feels isolated and perhaps a bit lonely, but boundaries have to be set when it comes to coworkers.

 

He really reminds me of a child which makes it difficult for me to find an appropriate response.

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Maybe a little socially awkward and inappropriate but describing it as appalling seems extreme. He may have a social anxiety disorder or be on the autism spectrum and using social cues that have worked for him in the past. At the end of the day, you need to set a boundary and make it clear about what you are and aren't comfortable with... such as letting him know that you prefer chatting with co-workers within work hours only, and only about specific topics... and that you are uncomfortable with physical affection from a co-worker. I've found that the vast majority prefer kind and direct communication vs. vague "hints" because they then know what to expect and how to behave.

 

I agree with the "appalling" statement - I may have gone a bit overboard, hence the fact it is now deleted. Given he seems to have social awkwardness, it is inappropriate for me to make such harsh comment.

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Rivoli.

 

"Perhaps you can add me to your personal mobile, so we can talk about non-work related things".

 

Does he send this type of message to the other employees in the firm? I doubt it.

 

I've come across this type myself in the past. Set a very firm boundary in pleasant but firm manner. He is inappropriate.

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Rivoli.

 

"Perhaps you can add me to your personal mobile, so we can talk about non-work related things".

 

Does he send this type of message to the other employees in the firm? I doubt it.

 

I've come across this type myself in the past. Set a very firm boundary in pleasant but firm manner. He is inappropriate.

 

I don't know at all. We both started during "quarantine" - hence, I'm not sure of the nature of his interactions with other employees of the firm.

 

He is indeed being inappropriate (regardless of his possible social anxiety/autism/lack of social skills). I'm not sure he is fully conscious of how inappropriate his request is as he does seem to severely lack social skills.

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Is this bothering you to the extent that you can't focus on your work? You seem very disturbed which is also natural. You have to learn to overlook things like this despite it being unprofessional and inappropriate. Deal with it at the basic level and then if it continues escalate it or report it to your superior.

 

Document the incidents or write down the dates and nature of the incidents if you have to if it continues. Don't let this unravel you at your new position.

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He really reminds me of a child which makes it difficult for me to find an appropriate response.

 

The appropriate response is to be clear, professional, and polite about the fact that you prefer to limit your relationship with him to only work-related matters.

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You mentioned the get together, to which the other co-workers didn't turn up. Not surprising. Besides is he a self-elected social events officer in the company or what?

 

Keep your distance, and although I doubt that he has any skill in reading sub-text, make sure that the "distance" is obvious and only speak, if you absolutely must, about work-related matters. He'll get the message.

 

I second this:

 

""Harry, I don't want to talk about any non-work related things with you. No offense, mate.""

 

Yes, OP, weird types can make one temporarily uneasy. Just blank him out. The lash of indifference . L.

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Of course just be professional and let him know you don't mix business with your personal life.

 

This is why I cringe when people they work with think they should just ask them out.

he proceeded to say: "Perhaps you can add me to your personal mobile, so we can talk about non-work related things".

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Of course just be professional and let him know you don't mix business with your personal life.

 

This is why I cringe when people they work with think they should just ask them out.

 

I don't think he was trying to ask me out in all fairness. I have a hard time picturing him asking anyone out.

 

My gut feeling is he thinks colleagues can turn into friends which isn't the case.

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You made me smile Rivoli.

 

"I have a hard time picturing him asking anyone out."

 

So what do you think he'd want to be conversing with you about that wouldn't be "work related"?

 

The state of the nation, Brexit, advances in the development of better rocket fuel, his butterfly collection?

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Listen to your gut instincts because it's always right. The guy's weird and "off." Know your boundaries with others; especially coworkers.

 

I would be politely direct with him. Tell him straight up that you wish to maintain a professional, respectful relationship with him; no more, no less. Be very clear about this. Ask him not to contact you during non-work hours including weekends.

 

Also, learn to keep your distance so there will no be future opportunities for greeting kisses. In the future, you will be prepared to dodge him and you should tell him about the social distancing rule during COVID-19 and you don't want kisses, period. Make sure he respects and honors your wishes.

Edited by Cherylyn
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As far as the kiss thing advise would be way different depending on if you are living in France or Italy or the US. Its custom there and is not perceived as anything but a warm greeting there, where its not customary in the US But i agree about Covid- just remind him about Covid in that regard and leave it at that.

 

Listen to your gut instincts because it's always right. The guy's weird and "off." Know your boundaries with others; especially coworkers.

 

He could have Asperger's syndrome and sucks at interpreting social cues. It doesn't mean the OP has to accept it, but it would help dealing with it thinking about it with that lens. You have to teach him what is acceptable to you and not acceptable towards you -- totally imagine he has no clue.

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Agree, taking it off work-site communication is not for random chitchat. Keep in mind his social skills or diagnosing him are irrelevant.

 

Companies do not screen employees for etiquette or neurological situations. If you think he's creepy, that's fine. However, creepy or nerdy does not mean they have neurological issues.

 

Please realize that creepy does not equal autistic, nor is that the best way to think of this. Simply maintain good boundaries and otherwise be kind and professional without hanging labels around necks.

You made me smile Rivoli.

 

"I have a hard time picturing him asking anyone out."

 

So what do you think he'd want to be conversing with you about that wouldn't be "work related"?

 

The state of the nation, Brexit, advances in the development of better rocket fuel, his butterfly collection?

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Whilst I agree on the fact that "creepy" does not equal being autistic, I don't think I used the term "creepy". I've dealt with "creepy" female and male coworkers. This guy is on a different spectrum altogether. If anything, I don't find him "creepy" as it clearly seems he has social adaptation issues. I would have used the term "creepy" if he was on that spectrum. He actually had 4 interviews for the role whereas I had two interviews which both lasted 10 minutes. I understand companies are not seeking a neurological assessment when interviewing candidates, but if a candidate clearly displays a severe lack of social skills, it may be questionable as to whether to can easily adapt to a team setting.

 

I'm not too familiar with Asperger's. It came to my mind, but as I have never encountered anyone with Asperger's, I'm not entirely sure as to whether it might be it.

 

I've had colleagues from all over the world (Italy, Spain, Argentina, Ireland, France etc...) and none of these people ever kissed me on the cheeks on our first meeting. Sure, once I had left the companies or if I hadn't seen them in a while, but certainly not my first time meeting them. It's simply not professional. It's not the main issue, the main issue is that we have specific guidelines and he didn't seem to really have an understanding of those.

 

His lack of social skills make me think that he probably doesn't have any ulterior motives, but if I think about the same situation with an individual who has "average" social skills, it would be deemed highly inappropriate. I'm actually surprised as to how he actually asked this over Skype at work which happens to be a monitored tool and all conversations are actually saved in my Outlook. I can easily trace all communications I've had with anyone in the firm.

 

It makes me feel uncomfortable as I don't want to instill a negative energy and given he seems to be overly dependent on my manager (as in requesting one to one meetings every day for one hour to discuss his tasks), it might trigger more drama than it should (making me look like the bad person).

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The appropriate response is to be clear, professional, and polite about the fact that you prefer to limit your relationship with him to only work-related matters.

 

This 100%^^^^

 

You need to stop with "avoidance" and communicate firmly you don't socialize with coworkers on that level, and would prefer to have things kept professional. If you don't it can escalate to a visit to HR.

 

Doesn't matter if he had a brain injury....there is always a need to set boundaries.

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Yes, communicate something to that effect, speak up. Otherwise just go to work, enjoy your life and don't worry about analyzing and dissecting his every move, glance, word, etc.

 

Frankly none of the theories matter. Just speak up politely and stay in your lane with regard to work.

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Regarding kissing, tell him not to kiss you anymore. Insert "please" and "thank you." You can be polite yet direct and firm.

 

Maintain your safe social distancing space and speak up if you need to.

 

Tell him that you will maintain a professional relationship with him and you are not to be contacted during non-work hours and weekends.

 

You will not instill negative energy for telling him common sense rules. You will not look like a bad person for speaking up. You have rights to be treated with respect and he should respect your wishes. There's nothing dramatic about this at all. Do not be afraid. This guy needs to be put in his place and stay there!

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I used to be a pushover in situations like this and didn't want to hurt people's feelings. I didn't want to come off as mean or antisocial.

 

You know where it got me? Used by people, a doormat, taken advantage of, etc.

 

Don't be that person.

 

Tell him, "I am not looking for friends, please don't contact me unless it it business related and don't contact me outside of business hours". End of.

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Well yes the kissing on the cheek may be a cultural thing but of course that would depend on whether he actually is from a culture that does that. If he's not then you can't really pin it on that. In regards to your comment why did your company hire him if he doesn't have appropriate social skills. Well he's obviously not completely inept, like he doesn't feel people up or harrass people or whatever. It appears he just doesn't understand some social cues and social conventions. There are plenty of people in the world who are "neurodiverse", who are on the autism spectrum, have ADHD, etc. Are you saying they don't deserve to have a job due to not having the behaviours that are deemed standard by other people? If they can do the work then they should have the chance to have a certain job just as much as everyone else. Also social skills are not always at the forefront of all professions. Some jobs don't require much client interaction, they are more "behind the scenes", so to speak.

 

I probably wouldn't concern myself too much why the guy spoke robotically at the get together and so on. He may be on the spectrum, have mild intellectual disability, anxiety, anything. You seem really bothered that he talked in this way because it's not how a person "should" talk. Not everyone totally fits the perfect communication stereotype so don't throw someone under the bus for that. I actually dated a couple of guys on the autism spectrum. One of them basically never made eye contact. I was just curious so I asked him was there a reason he did this? He said yes and that it's because of the autism.

 

Also I understand that the way he used your phone number was inappropriate. I think during COVID and everything being online it even comes across as worse than it may in real life. I understand you don't particularly like this guy and don't feel comfortable with him. But technically if you picture this as interaction in the office and a colleague tried to be friends. And said: "Did you want to have our lunch break together?" or "Can I add you on Facebook?" Sure, maybe you don't want to because you're not vibing that person, but it would just come across as that person wants to make friends with you. Also everyone is different and some people are happy to talk outside of work and do want to be friends with their colleagues. For example, I do if I like a colleague. I would be happy to add on Facebook, chat during weekends and even hang out together. Which, again, only if I liked the colleague. That is your choice if you want to be actual friends with a colleague and you are entitled to that choice.

 

I would say you just need to be very clear about where you stand. In particular if the guy is on the autism spectrum, it's often difficult to understand hints. Direct, clear approach is usually the best. You don't have to be rude but you need to state what you mean. So maybe just say to him: "Sorry, I don't actually message colleagues outside of work hours and my phone number is only for the manager for work-related purposes. I like to just focus on my work and nothing with colleagues outside of that." Hopefully stating it directly will make him get the point about how you feel.

Edited by Tinydance
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