I'm in a four person team that is comprised by me, my sister and 2 other guys.

One of the two other team members seems to be pissed off about something and I am not sure if I need to address it or let it play out.

I noticed when he would usually say good morning with a happy face, the last 3 days it has devolved to "morning", mumble and today no reply at all.

I assumed that he's going through personal stuff but he actually goes out of his way to greet people he sees coming up the stairs or just walk by our office. So that's not that.

After settling in at my desk, I asked him "you OK?" and he replied that he's well and apologized (since he probably was so focused on what he was doing he didn't notice us coming into the room - which I doubt since he notices people at the other end of the building coming up the stairs).

Work-wise we have no conflicts, we work on different projects and we barely need to cooperate and when we do, our interactions don't hint at any problems (there are none or he's a total professional - leaning towards the latter).

Just to mention that both my sister and I are nationals in this country but grew up elsewhere so we don't speak the language that well. We speak the language we learned growing up between us which I think plays a major role in his dislike (or it's just in my head).

My question is, should I approach him and ask him directly if he has a problem or if I have done anything to offend him?

If yes, how should I approach him? Be direct, joke about it or in some other way?

  • Has your sister noticed anything odd in the behaviour recently? Might be good to have a 2nd opinion from someone there you can (I would hope) trust.
    – Smock
    Nov 5, 2019 at 14:31
  • @Smock Since we arrive at the office together, she gets the same vibe that something is wrong the last few days. I mean this guy usually greeted us first and also wished us Bon Appetite before lunch or good afternoon before we even left the building after work. There was a 180 turn. So something is obviously up and although it shouldn't bother me, it kinda does...
    – Xander
    Nov 5, 2019 at 14:35
  • Has your teams workload increased recently? I know sometimes I give the wrong impression to people when I get busy. If I have some spare time I am fine with the niceties, but if I get to work and there is a lot to do, I'm more focused. It could just be misreading their response to you. Or, it could be something personal that doesn't involve you, and they're trying their best to not let it get into their work life. Nov 5, 2019 at 15:20
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    This has only been going on for 3 days? It seems like you've already approached him and he deflected. Until it becomes a professional issue I'd be very leery of pressing anyone in the workplace on their personal life. Nov 5, 2019 at 16:20
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    Do you have any specific reason, at all, to believe that the language you and your sister speak is upsetting your coworker? Similarly, did you and your sister speak that language previously, when this coworker was friendlier towards you?
    – Upper_Case
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:26

3 Answers 3


You shouldn't reach your coworker and ask them if they are offended only because it seems to you that recently they don't greet you as you actually expect them to greet you. There're plenty of reasons why one can be lost, distracted, excessively meditative and so on and so on.

Even more, there's no obligation from any of your coworkers to like you - there's a huge difference between being hostile and and being just indifferent. If and only if their behavior affects you professionally - like they seemingly ignoring you requests and make your professional life harder in some another way - after you are 100% sure that it's indeed the case - you can investigate what steps you should take - but even in this hypothetical situation it not always the best option to talk to a person "under suspicion".

  • 1
    I have decided also to sort of ignore it since besides the "morning" thing, our relationship doesn't seem to have changed. I also noticed that he barely said good morning to our 4th team member today - so probably it's not related to me. Cheers for the advice.
    – Xander
    Nov 6, 2019 at 10:01

First, it's probably not "he dislikes you because you use a foreign language". It may well be damaging you socially to do that, but you've apparently been doing it from day 1, and this guy was quite friendly until a few days ago. That's not the cause of this problem.

So, you're trying to repair the social situation, find out what's going wrong, and not upset this person further. We will assume that they are aggrieved or otherwise bothered for some reason, The objective, then, is to be clear, nonconfrontational, and soothing. You also want to avoid appearing too distressed - try to avoid as much as possible their urge to dismiss the issue in order to try to make you feel better.

So... something like the following:

"Is everything okay? I've noticed that you've seemed like you might be a bit upset at me for the past few days. If I've caused offense in some way then I'm very sorry, and I'd like to know what it is so that I can try to fix it."

If they tell you what's going on, then great. Work with that. If they tell you that it's not about you, then react politely and sympathetically to whatever other explanations they might provide (if any) and then at the end, reassure then that if they ever are bothered by something you're doing, you encourage them to come tell you - that you sometimes don't notice things like this, and if you are offending unintentionally, that you want to know so that you can fix it.

This is consciously putting you in the social one-down position (you're openly admitting a lack of social clue that you're trying to compensate for) but it gives them an opening to tell you what's going on when you ask, it leaves them an opening to tell you later, and even if there is a problem that they're not willing to talk about, it shifts the probable narrative in their head from "he's doing this obnoxious thing" to "he's a bit clueless, and may occasionally do obnoxious things, but he's trying to do better."

It's not perfect, but it should at least leave you better off than where you started, assuming this is a real issue... and there's reason to believe that it is.


I wouldn't approach the coworker since you've already asked him if he is okay once and he didn't tell you anything. If the problem is with you, he may not want to directly confront you with it. If the problem is personal, he may not want to open up to you about it.

Let your manager know you think he has some issue and ask them to get involved.

  • at this level, raising it to the manager is an arguably hostile act.
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:18
  • The two viable options are talk to a manager or do nothing. Doing nothing doesn't seem to make the situation better.
    – JRodge01
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:30
  • "talking to the person themselves" is also viable.
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:41
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    They've already done that and it didn't accomplish anything.
    – JRodge01
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:45
  • not all attempts to talk are created equal
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 5, 2019 at 15:55

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