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What’s ‘too friendly’?

by on
in Workplace Communication

Question: “I have been having problems with a female co-worker. 'Kelly' and I have always had a friendly relationship, but now she’s avoiding me. Last week, I brought in doughnuts for everyone and also put flowers on Kelly’s desk with a card that said 'Have a nice day.' She immediately became standoffish, so I asked if everything was OK. Although she said there was no problem, she hasn’t been the same since. Kelly recently ended a long relationship, and I’ve heard it was a difficult breakup. I’ve also been told that she thinks I’m trying to 'take a shot' at her. I’d like to talk privately and get everything out in the open, but I don’t think Kelly will allow it. What should I do?”— Just a Friend

Marie’s Answer:  A private heart-to-heart is exactly what Kelly is trying to avoid, so don’t go that route. Instead, consider these points:

The more you push, the more Kelly will retreat. She’s already on an emotional roller coaster, and now she fears that her office buddy is hitting on her. But if you resume acting like a pleasant, ordinary colleague, she should eventually reciprocate.  

To move past recent events, just state your harmless intentions, then drop the subject completely. For example: “Kelly, I’m afraid you may think that I’d like us to be more than friends, but I only want the same friendly relationship that we’ve always had. I won’t bring this up again, but I do hope everything can get back to normal.”

At the same time, however, you should closely examine your true motives. You brought doughnuts for everyone, but gave flowers only to Kelly. And you chose to do so shortly after she became socially available. If Kelly has read your feelings correctly, then you must make an effort to keep these emotions in check.

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