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How to Deal With a Rejected Coworker

How to Deal With a Rejected Coworker

How do you handle a coworker who doesn't understand the meaning of "no"?

Alison Green l Ask A Manager

May 07, 2010

A reader writes:

I moved to my current role in late November last year. Many of the other employees have known each other for years and socialize together out of work. In principle I prefer to keep my work and personal lives separate, but I will go to lunch from time to time and to the ‘yay we met our targets’ drinks.

The problem. One of my male colleagues has taken a fancy to me and asked me out. There is no policy against dating your colleagues where I work, just not your direct supervisor/ee. However, apart from the fact that I don’t care to star in the office gossip mill (there seems to be what I would consider a LOT of over-sharing going on), I have spent enough time around him in the last five months to know that I am not at all attracted to him.

The first time he asked, I had no interest in either him or the show, so declined and told him that I preferred to keep my social life well away from work. Unfortunately, this apparently was not enough, as he asked me out again two weeks ago, proferring tickets to a concert the following weekend. This time, I told him that I was sorry if my previous statement had been ambiguous in some way, but I was really not interested in dating him and not to ask me again.

To make matters BAD rather than just a trifle awkward, it appears i) that this was a crushing blow to his ego and ii) that he told his confidants at the office what he was planning to do, in the expectation that I would be delighted with his offer. I found out this when I was asked on the Monday in a ‘nudge and wink’ fashion how I’d enjoyed the concert on the weekend. Further, one of his confidants attempted to reproach me for turning him down, to which I told her that my personal life was really not her business. However, ever since then the Unwanted Admirer has been wandering the office like a huge dark cloud, sighing and glaring, and pointedly avoiding talking to me even when I am the best person to ask a question of.

Frankly, this just convinces me that I was right not to date him and that office relationships in general should be approached with extreme caution – if he’s still behaving like this two weeks after I turned down a date, what would he have done if I had dated him and broken it off? However, we still have to work together and our mutual boss, who has been out on leave, will be back next week and will want to know WHY he is behaving like this. I realize that the action to which I feel most inclined – whacking him about the head with a file and yelling ‘PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER’ – would not help and would probably get me fired. What alternatives do you suggest?

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