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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

It’s always interesting when someone’s bad behavior just serves to confirm that you made the right decision.

Also, good for you for telling him unambiguously not to continue his overtures. People often aren’t straightforward enough about this kind of thing, assume the person should read their cues, and then are upset when the person doesn’t.

Anyway, as for what to do: I’d say to ignore his sulking, treat him completely professionally, and figure that if he wants to look like a fool, that’s up to him. (I suspect this is what you’re already doing.)

And if your boss asks you why he’s being such a douche to you, you don’t need to protect him from his own bad behavior: It’s fine to say, “It started after I turned down a social invitation from him, and I’m hoping it’ll be short-lived.”

For that matter, you don’t need to wait for your boss to ask. You could go to her yourself and give her a heads-up about what’s going on. You sound averse to drama, but remember that this isn’t your drama — it’s his.

It’s also worth mentioning that — at least if you’re in the U.S. and you work for a reasonably large company — your HR department would probably put an immediate stop to this if you told them about it. While the date requests themselves don’t sound like harassment in the legal sense, his behavior since then does raise some harassment/hostile workplace issues. (The legal concept of a “hostile workplace” isn’t just about being hostile, so simply being a jerk doesn’t qualify. However, when that hostility is linked to hitting on you, it can.) HR isn’t going to play around with this kind of thing, and it might help to have boundaries clearly spelled out for him by someone in a position of authority.

That said, it doesn’t sound like you do feel harassed, but rather like you’re just annoyed at this guy’s childish behavior, so this may not be an option you want to exercise. (By the way, be prepared for the possibility that your boss may feel obligated to involve HR if you tell her, in case it does raise potential legal issues for the company. And if that happens, again remember that it’s not your drama, it’s his.)

And as a side note, I will also add: Trust your gut too. Given how immature and egocentric this guy sounds, if you have any fear about retaliation resulting from you talking to your boss/HR, mention that to them in the same conversation. Don’t ignore your gut on this kind of thing.

What do others think?

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