DEAR AMY: I have a new colleague who recently moved from another division at our company into mine. She is now working as the program coordinator for our team of eight colleagues. She is very accommodating to everyone, has a great attitude and is very adept at her job. I like working with her! She has told me that some of our colleagues have given her the cold shoulder and have been very unfriendly/difficult to work with. Recently, she found out that she was not invited to a birthday party that other team members attended. Another invitation came up for a wedding shower/luncheon of a teammate, and she wasn’t included. I have been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior from colleagues at previous workplaces who intentionally exclude you, are unkind, etc. This is very discouraging behavior for someone who is new to a group and trying to get along/fit in with everyone. When I first began in this position, I felt the same way. I don’t know what other advice to give her, except to rise above the petty drama and continue to be a kind colleague with a great work ethic. What’s your advice?
Colleague on the Sidelines
DEAR COLLEAGUE: Your advice, to “rise above the petty drama,” is great. As a life-motto, this advice deserves its own T-shirt.
Here is additional perspective: If your colleague is new, other team members may simply not know her well enough to include her in off-site personal occasions, such as birthdays and wedding showers, where there is some pressure to attend and bring a gift.
Sometimes people respond to social uncertainty by basically being too clunky, shy, or intimidated to demonstrate basic decent manners. This is amplified in a group. This is not an excuse for exclusion, but a possible explanation for the sometimes complicated dynamic.
If your group has coalesced into a unit, your new colleague’s presence is throwing off the balance; things should rebalance in time.
You are already helping by being friendly and kind. You might be able to alter the dynamic by deliberately including your colleague — and suggesting that your co-workers should, too, but it is also important to remember that it is not necessary to be personal friends with people in order to work well with them.
DEAR AMY: My wife and I are planning a visit to our hometown. While there, she wants us to hang out with some of her old college friends. One of these is an ex she dated six years ago. They dated for a couple of weeks and it was intimate. She says that because they share mutual friends from college she feels obligated to stay friends, even though she barely talks to him or about him. I have met this guy. He was invited to our wedding, and yet it still feels awkward. Amy, is it OK for us to hang out with someone she was romantically involved with? Can I ask her not to do this, due to the stress it is causing me? When I have tried to share my feelings with her multiple times, she (in a cold way) says, “You need to get over it.” Amy, what do you think of this?
DEAR UPSET: You say your wife was involved with this guy for two weeks, several years ago. This does not make him an “ex,” but someone she tried on for size before she found you.
If this guy is part of your wife’s overall friend group from college, then yes, you should be open to spending some time with him as part of the group. And, for goodness sake, be cool about it. She has demonstrated that she has no particular interest in him outside the group.
If you spend time in his presence and he’s a jerk, then this just further justifies your wife’s choice to marry you. If you spend time with him and you’re a jerk, then you are creating drama and problems that should not otherwise exist.
DEAR AMY: “Feeling Guilty” was using a lake house that she co-owns with her brother when her niece tried to guilt her into letting her come to stay with her three kids. I’m glad you explained to her that delivering a simple “No,” is ultimately a good thing.
No More Guilt
DEAR NO MORE: A neutral “No” leaves little room for doubt, miscommunication, or manipulation.