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Supervisor worries about workplace exclusion

DEAR AMY: I am a project manager and work with a group of secretaries on projects that require a lot of collaboration. Everything was fine until the team recently increased by three new members. It has been rocky ever since. I am a very positive person and count on people’s good attitudes. The new members have tried to integrate and collaborate well with the other four, but the old secretaries formed a very tight group and do nothing to welcome the others. They only work within their group, thus relegating the other three to work together on other projects. I have talked to the initial team and asked them to please be nice, collaborate and respect these new team members. This has not worked, and the new members are feeling the burn. It came to a head last Friday, the last day of work before the company closes for two weeks. I made a delicious lunch and desserts for the group, asking them not to bring their own lunches that day. This was a pre-planned event that everyone knew about. During lunch, the new group sat down with me and helped themselves to the food; the other secretaries chose to sit at a different table. They took out their own lunches, ate among themselves and didn’t address a word to us. Only one member of the old group bridged the gap, took food and made the effort to interact with the ladies at my table. I was floored and speechless at the rudeness displayed. I am so disappointed in my old team members, and feel so sad for the new ones. Performance isn’t the issue, but the ambience is horrendous! I am tempted to request they be transferred to another group and/or disbanded. What should I do?

Speechless

Dear Speechless: You might change the dynamic if you deliberately mix these groups into two teams combining old and newer people, rotating them in different combinations through various projects.

You should also quite pointedly tell the older group that actually ambience does impact performance, and that you expect each of them to integrate and cooperate. Their choices reflect badly on their professionalism. If things don’t improve, you may request a reorganization.

Office friendships are often positive, and you should not interfere with personal relationships. But work should be a bully-free experience for everyone. If you are the supervisor and the lunch you hosted was a working lunch or special work-sponsored occasion (sounds like it was...), then you should have asked everyone to sit together for this session.

It seems that the older group’s choice to pointedly avoid your food was a passive-aggressive stance on their part. They don’t have to eat your food, but you should call them on their behavior, lest they be mistaken about who is in charge during the hours they are at work.

DEAR AMY: I think that I am being stalked. Two years ago, I became acquainted with a classmate. He took me on two dates. I informed him that I just wanted to be friends. He reassured me that this was fine. Since then he has messaged me on Facebook once or twice a month to hang out, only to cancel at the last minute or stand me up. He also asked me about my personal life, and comments about my looks on pictures I have uploaded. He is either the world’s flakiest person or he is passive-aggressively stalking me. I want to end our friendship and block him on Facebook, but want your reassurances that my reactions are justified, instead of paranoia.

Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: This doesn’t sound like stalking — at least to me.

Many people message lots of different people, looking for connection, or cheap thrills, or brief online-only relationships. You obviously aren’t into this (and I don’t blame you). So don’t respond.

If you don’t like seeing this guy’s posts and comments about your posts, then block him on FB and move on with your life.

DEAR AMY: I disagree with your suggestion that hosts should not declare any subjects “off limits” during a family get-together. My family gathers at my lake house every year on Labor Day weekend and I tell them, “My house, my rules.” It is a politics-free weekend. When my brother said he and his son wanted to talk politics (and wouldn’t argue, since they are on the same side), I told him, “Take it outside where the rest of us don’t have to listen to it.” And they did.

Hostess

DEAR HOSTESS: I’m packing the car now; see you on Labor Day!

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