Coworker Won’t Talk To Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being left out: How do you handle a team member who refused to talk with you?

A co-worker in my work team has not spoken to you for a week. Until now, I have experienced a positive professional relationship with him. You decide you want to talk to Greg about his behaviour. When you do, he states, “I don’t want to talk to you. Leave me alone.” He walks away, leaving you even more confused. How would you handle this conflict?

Signed, Confused

Dear Confused:

Of course from here, there is no way of knowing what might have caused this abrupt “Keep out of my face.” Approaching your coworker directly appears to not be a way to relieve your confusion. Possibly his decision is personal. For one reason or another, he might think you have done something that makes him look bad, or it might be that he thinks you are interested in him and he is not in you, or he thinks you talk too much, or that you are overly dependent on him, or that you can’t be trusted.

You see the possibilities are many. Perhaps you can learn from another member on your team what is the matter, and if you do learn what is the cause for his distance, you then can determine if it is repairable or best be left alone. It is good not to make this affront a matter of gossip or brought to the attention of your team unless it is interfering with its work. A team can’t perform well if there is communication breakdown, even if it is only between two of its members.

For now, put this interpersonal conflict aside and focus on the work of your team. Be civil and cooperative. Don’t speak to this coworker directly. But don’t ignore him. Rather, include him as you speak to the group as a whole.

I assume that when you use the word “team” you are in fact a member of a work group that is expected to do what you can’t do effectively working solo. Soooo for now think and act team. Concentrate on getting the job done and done collaboratively. Think about what your team might do to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted money. Surface ideas about ways to innovate. Make raising questions about how well you are performing as a team acceptable and necessary to improving the quality of performance.

Team communication should be on the agenda: Ask, “What did we do well this past week? And what might we do to communicate more effectively?” Focus on the task and only raise interpersonal matters when and if they are blocking team performance.Does this seem to make sense? Give this personal disappointment time to dissipate. Some interpersonal matters cannot be healed and we must learn to live with them as we do with many other sore spots in our world. Don’t obsess about this. Do what you are hired to do and I predict that is enough. Find satisfaction in the accomplishment of projects that you can do either solo or as a team.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and update us if you like about this situation that now worries you.

William Gorden