Question: “I made the mistake of flirting with 'Jack,' a young man who recently joined our company. I am a middle-age, married woman, so this was silly. The flirtation only involved smiling and talking and joking around, but I soon realized the error of my ways and cooled things off. For the past three weeks, I have avoided Jack as much as possible. He works in a different department, but we do have to collaborate on a few projects. Unfortunately, he seems to be expressing his resentment in a bizarre and childish manner. Every time I walk into his office, Jack very obviously scans me up and down. When we pass in the hall, he gives me a dirty look or turns his head and walks by without speaking. The air around him feels about 20 degrees colder than anywhere else. He has also had several emotional outbursts in the office, loudly complaining about stupid customers. Jack’s erratic behavior is both annoying and slightly creepy. I hate to say it, but he intimidates me, and I’m starting to feel a little fearful. All I want is a normal working relationship. Is it too late for that?” Nervous
Answer: Your childish colleague is probably incapable of having a truly normal relationship with anyone. Emotionally immature people who act out their feelings in public are usually too self-centered to be collaborative colleagues. As evidenced by his customer rants, Jack’s juvenile conduct is not limited to his interactions with you.
With any volatile co-worker, the primary goal is to avoid adding fuel to the fire. When you must interact with Jack, continue to be professional and pleasant. Do not react to his offensive gestures, because any response will only reinforce those behaviors.
Eventually, this rather pathetic young man is likely to find another target. But if you continue to feel threatened, talk with your manager or human resources department. Unstable people can sometimes be dangerous. Tempted to get involved with a colleague? First check out these danger signs: Dangerous Workplace Romances.
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