Feeling Rejected by Male Coworker Mentor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about a coworker relationship going sour:

Hello, I started a new job in December 2017 and I got a mentor on my side. He was really nice at the beginning and I was so happy to have someone I can ask everything. A few days ago we had a company event and everyone was in good mood. My colleagues were drinking a lot besides me and another girl. And then the next day my coworker was suddenly ignoring me and trying to avoid eye contact – all of sudden! He was even leaving a free spot between us at lunch which was super weird. I am so confused because I didn’t do anything at all. I don’t know what I did that he’s acting like that! The only thing I can imagine is that he’s mad that I didn’t tell him about my boyfriend but told some colleagues at the event. They were asking about everything and since he told me a lot of private stuff and we got along super well, he might have got mad because I didn’t tell him before I told the others. But I had my reason to wait a little more. I don’t know what to do- he’s 45 married and I’m only 25. Hope someone can help me. Signed–Rejected

Dear Rejected:

Due to an administrative/technical problem with our site I didn’t see your question until yesterday. Consequently, this reply to your question is far too late to relieve the distress from feeling rejected by a male coworker. I predict that you have the kind of spirit that has not and will not allow you to feel rejected for long.

It was normal to become uneasy and upset because of the cold behavior of your coworker. You are to be commended on seeking help and not simply seeing yourself as a victim. I hope you will find some of the do and don’t rules I propose helpful for your current and future working relationships–rules that you didn’t know or follow in your new job.

Rule One. Do focus on the job. Get instructions from a supervisor/boss and only ask help from coworkers as directed to do so by your boss. Coworkers tend to become annoyed by many questions about how to do a job. If you don’t know what or how to do something, request your boss for clarification–for oral and written instructions and training.

Rule Two. Don’t depend on or think of a coworker as a mentor. You were excited to find a coworker to help you know what is expected–to whom you could ask questions. You liked him. You soon saw him as important in your current career, but I think you know now to think of him as a mentor. Mentors should be chosen in light of your long-range career-direction.

Rule Three. Don’t mix personal matters with work. You naively broke this rule big time, and it was natural to break this rule because workplace events invite self disclosure. When eating, drinking and partying personal matters work is forgotten and what matters is being liked and liking those you are with. That is good. You want to be friendly but being inquisitive about others and sharing what is personal is best left to outside work. At a work party it is normal to feel your are in more than a business relationship. You learned that the hard way. After a workplace event, your coworker avoided eye contact and didn’t sit next to you at lunch. You reasoned he was mad because of what. when  and to whom you disclosed you had a boyfriend. You were so distressed you said, “I don’t know what to do- he’s 45 married and I’m only 25. Hope someone can help me.” Associate workplace doctor Tina Lewis Rowe has provide advice about dozens of such male-female working relationships. Reading even a few of her Q&As will give you insight about how this mentor/disappointment occurred. And you will feel that you can learn from it and put it behind you–that you are now richer and more able to prevent and/or cope. Here are examples you might find of interest: Co-Workers Say My Boss Has a Crush On Me

What Should I Do About My Feelings For My Boss?

My Boss Has Been Suspended

Workplace Affair Over

Rule Four. Don’t gossip about a working relationship that has soured. Likely you also broke this rule. Something inside you–in your head and heart and body says, get it out…tell somebody how you feel. Rewinding what occurred also is natural, but can and probably did expand into gossip about how you felt crushed because your married coworker wouldn’t look at you or sit next to you at lunch.

Rule Five. Be grateful you have a job and for those with whom you work and for those who made it possible for you to have a job. It might have been luck for you to know about the job you have now, but remember others who came before you founded and funded this organization. Others managed and invested their lives in making it what it is today. Your distress and feelings at the moment are not what matters. They will pass and you will feel a part of something–your part in the workplace–when you are grateful for the small things others are doing to make this place hum. Repeat daily my signature sentence and understand how it applies: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

Please feel free to evaluate if any of these rules make sense to you and let us know how things are going now for you.–William Gorden