Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Stressed out by co-worker: I am the youngest and most inexperienced employee at the tiny company I work at. I only work in the summer, and am currently away at school. There is a friendly atmosphere between all the employees. One of my coworkers used to be friendly to me, and we used to chat often.
Something must have changed because she now seems to really dislike me. She is not rude or unprofessional, but when we talk (in person and over text), her answers are the least amount of words possible, and we don’t ever chat anymore. She is still friendly to everyone else, and I know this is only directed at me. This doesn’t really affect my work, so I guess it’s not a huge problem, except that it brings me a huge amount of anxiety every time I think about her. I feel horrible at the possibility that I did something to her (completely inadvertently) that made her hate me so much.
I could carry on being polite and professional to her but live with this constant anxiety, or send her a text saying something along the lines of “You’ve been acting cold to me for a while, and I really want to apologize for whatever I did, I never meant to offend.” I would be leaning towards the second option, except for the fact that I don’t see how it would change anything. What if she responds “I just don’t like you”? Even if she did respond some other way, say, to apologize for being distant, I can’t imagine how that would change her attitude in the long run.
I know I can’t be liked by everyone, but what’s really worrying me is the fact that I don’t know why she suddenly changed towards me. If I do send her a text about this (I won’t see her in person for another six months), what should it say?
A: I know this probably doesn’t feel great, but I think you should let this one go—at least for now. You’re not currently working with her and won’t be for several months, so this shouldn’t be taking a toll on you day-to-day. And although you say you know this behavior is only directed at you, I can’t see how you can be so sure. It’s possible that something that has nothing to do with you explains her behavior, or perhaps she was chatting with you when you worked there because you were her colleague, but now that you’re not (at least until the summer), she’s directing her attention elsewhere. Most of all, you’ve already decided that you’ll be unsatisfied with just about any response she’d give.
So, to the extent you can, put this out of your mind and focus on your real-life college friends. Reevaluate when you return to work in May or June, and if her behavior is making it hard for you to do your job well, say something non-accusatory (meaning, definitely don’t label her “cold”) like, “I noticed we used to talk a lot more than we do now, and I just want to make sure I didn’t do anything to offend you. Please let me know if I did.”
Having been single for a few months now, my colleagues have been trying to set me up with various guys. Recently at a company-sponsored dinner they suggested a guy in the office who I don’t know, but is not really good looking. I assumed they were joking and laughed, declaring I would never sleep with someone who looked like him. I followed that up saying I could not imagine any woman sleeping with him. A woman at the end of the table who had been listening in gave me a strange look and got up and left. I didn’t think anything until the next day someone told me that she was the wife of the man I was talking about. I am mortified and am thinking of a way to apologize. Should I call her? Call him? Send her a note saying, “You obviously DO sleep with him”? Please help me dig myself out of this.