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There's a coworker at my job who asked me out on my first day and I said no. Since then he keeps trying to socialize with me by sitting next to me while I eat my lunch. I'm really not interested in socializing with him because he's a very rude person and only wants to talk about himself.

Here's what I've tried so far:

  • Ignoring him. I don't make eye contact or respond to anything he says. I stare at my phone and talk to other coworkers as if he's not there. He just keeps talking and asking questions or he'll start telling some story about his weekend.
  • Putting earbuds in when he sits down. He doesn't leave still. His mouth keeps moving but I listen to music or podcasts so I don't hear him.
  • Getting up and moving to another table as soon as he sits down. He follows me and keeps talking.
  • Saying I'm saving his seat for another coworker. He says "well I was here first" and doesn't leave.
  • Taking my lunch to my cubicle and eating there. He follows me and brings a chair, and keeps talking.
  • Saying "I'm not in the mood for conversation. I'd like to be left alone.". He says something like "aww what's wrong?" and doesn't leave me alone.
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    I'd suggest checking the answers here. The highest voted is good, but the second highest (@old_lamplighter, formerly known as richard) gives some important info – Mars Feb 27 at 4:19
  • How many times did he approach you and you turn him down? If it is more than 3 I would go with an aggresive tone otherwise there is no reason not be polite especialy with a fan! – Iman Feb 27 at 13:11
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    Is he interested in you romantically? If so, this question/answer may be similar: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/150020/… – Stephan Branczyk Feb 27 at 14:19
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    Will need a location (country) tag. For The Netherlands this is very pushy behaviour, enough for him to be reprimanded by a boss and possibly fired if behaviour continues (paper trail required). – rkeet Feb 27 at 15:01
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    That's harrassment. You have to think about how to express the boundaries and the professionalism that are required for the holding and execution of a position. – chrips Feb 28 at 1:06
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You should make it very clear to him that you do not want to socialize with him. This can be done eye to eye, but make sure you also send him a message/mail/whatever to give yourself a bit of a paper trail.

If he does not stop after this mention going to your manager/boss about this.

This would be where your paper trail can come in handy, as you can now prove that you already warned him.

As for an example of how to phrase it:

David,

The past few weeks you have been invading my personal space. You make me feel uncomfortable by constantly sitting next to me and talking to me, even though I have made multiple efforts to make clear that I don't want this.

Can you please stop doing this and just leave me alone? Otherwise I will go to manager/boss because this is just becoming harassment.

What I've learned from many years on the internet is that if you start using labels like harassment or assault, they will often back down.

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This guy is in love and trying hard. Or, maybe he's the sticky type, or probably both.

Tell him I want to talk to you, take him to one corner, and tell him this:

I want to make this crystal clear. Let's keep our relationship professional.

If he attempted one more time after this, then escalate it to HR.

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    I honestly think this will be too ambiguous for this guy. There's nothing "unprofessional" about talking to a coworker in the lunch room. @hmmm needs to be blunt and absolutely clear. – Kevin Feb 27 at 22:17
  • This is an answer that assumes talking rationally will help after that 10,000th time it didn’t. – morbo Mar 5 at 16:02
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I think this has become a HR issue. You've made it verbally and physically clear you don't want to engage with this person and they are ignoring that.

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    Having read similar questions, I think having the paper trail is very useful in place before escalating. Much easier to show HR that you have attempted to make boundaries clear when you have it in writing and dated. – Culzean Feb 27 at 17:46
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Most of your attempts are quite rude in return. You should make sure you don't drop to his level of rudeness (for example don't let him 'talk to the hand' by donning headphones, don't say the seat is reserved when it's not, etc). This will only open up ways for him to dispute your claims if you decided to escalate, since both parties are now at fault somehow.

"I'm not in the mood for conversation. I'd like to be left alone"

This is not a good attempt of communicating the boundaries, it only says that you don't want to be bothered right now! It's a temporary boundary so to say. The first thing you need to do is make sure he knows your permanent boundaries.

Once you have explained your boundaries in detail, and he still keeps harassing you, then it is time to escalate to your manager (not HR). Document every instance of harassment by your coworker, and explain the situation to the manager using that log of incidents. If he is competent, he will take care of the problem. If he doesn't, you have found yourself a hostile work environment and you should probably update your CV.

PS: Also keep in mind that your lunch room is (probably) there for everyone and he has the right to sit there. If you don't want him to sit beside you, it's up to you to change seats (since asking him to sit somewhere else or at least stop talking apparently doesn't work). But if you move to your cubicle for eating your lunch, he has absolutely no business being there if you don't want to, so then you have good grounds for an escalation.

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  • @CaptainEmacs Sorry for my passive aggressiveness, i do regret that. I have edited my answer to articulate better what I mean, hoping to eliminate some wrong interpretations, from which I suspect our disagreement to have stemmed. I'm not sure though if in your last 2 comments you are implying to scold the coworker yourself though? Because I would never do that. It's the managers job to do that. – kscherrer Feb 27 at 14:04
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    Yes, I find your edit definitely much better now; note that OP has moved seats, not to the cubicle, though. I agree that one has no right and should not scold coworkers (but I was not aware to have implied that). However, being "rude" or rather simply cold at the very minimal level of professional courtesy (which is often perceived as worse than outright rudeness) to an obtuse or creepy coworker may be a way to avoid formal escalation. In this forum, escalation seems to be one of the methods of choice, but I believe there is a large spectrum of other tools between black and white between that. – Captain Emacs Feb 27 at 14:34

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