I work in a medical facility alongside a number of other professionals in varying capacities. I currently work in an large office with 5 other individuals. These people were all here before me - but of the 4 before me, one is very hostile towards me for reasons I do not know. My co-workers, at least the majority of them, are all female and I am one of the few males but I don't believe this is a contributing factor as she is nice to a few other males - however I am the only male of a different ethnicity.

When I first joined I was friendly to everyone and everyone was very nice, with the exception of this individual. Whenever I said "Hi, how're you doing" etc. it would always be greeted with stony silence or an indifferent 'fine'. Most recently our office has lost power to the airconditioning so the office was getting warm - they all vacated the office to work in another office temporarily. I stayed behind as the heat doesn't bother me.

She popped her head back in to grab a file and I had said; "I should probably follow in your footsteps and move to a cooler office. It's very hot in here..!" She paused and looked at me icily and expressed loudly; "Well then, why don't YOU move. HUH." and then walked off.

I'm starting to find that her behavior is causing me to lose my desire to work in my current workplace - mostly because her attitude is something which grates against my nerves. As a young professional, am I just naive in thinking if you are nice to everyone - they should be nice to you? Or should I just suck it up, ignore it and realize that no matter how hard you try not everyone will like you?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Do you actually work with her, or just in the same office. I mean would it hurt you professionally to just ignore her?
    – Dustybin80
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:52
  • 2
    I think you are over-reacting. Everybody has his/her own problem. Some has marriage problem. Some has kids problem. Some has parents to take care of. You just don't know. Please don't expect everybody in the office must be nice to you. You are asking too much.
    – Nobody
    Oct 27, 2015 at 8:38
  • 4
    The examples you gave ("how are you doing", "it's sure hot in here!") sound like basically you trying to get friendly office chit-chat going with her (and failing). However, this should not be considered 'hostility'. Some people just are bad at chit-chat, don't like it, have other things on their mind, etc etc. Or maybe your attempts at starting chit-chat were genuinely bad or came out the wrong way (it's hard to tell from your description). Focus more toward "breaking the ice" with such a colleague. Don't think about 'hostility'.
    – Brandin
    Oct 27, 2015 at 8:47
  • 1
    OP, could you clarify whether this colleague is this cold and stand-offish with everyone in the office or just you? Remember though that you can only make an effort to be collegial and friendly, if she chooses to be asocial (or worse, bigoted) then that's on her and you shouldn't let it bother you.
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 27, 2015 at 10:40
  • 1
    Thanks for everyone's inputs - it's really appreciated. I've noticed over the past 2 years this person has been continually frosty towards me no matter how I approach her - from this I can only assume she has a natural dislike of me. I believe it could be to do with the fact she resents how I report directly to the CFO even though she has been here much longer than myself. I've decided to take on your advice and just leave it alone; not everyone will like you regardless of your efforts so it's better I learn the lesson now rather than later...!
    – IronKirby
    Oct 28, 2015 at 4:31

4 Answers 4


Avoid taking this to your management unless it becomes absolutely intractable and impacts your work. Putting something like this on your boss's desk may reflect badly on you and raise doubts about your ability to get along. Moreover, management/HR are often worse at handling these problems than the people directly involved.

The first thing to keep in mind is that people have widely varying behavior when it comes to things like interaction with coworkers. There is a good related question here (inexplicably closed). What is "normal" for some people may be perceived as utterly rude to others.

As a young person, this may be your first workplace encounter with what is known as a "Battle-axe". If this is the case, the best thing you can do is to be yourself and continue being nice/jovial even to this person. As others indicated there might be complicated reasons why this person acts as she does and you don't want to get too involved in that person's negative world. By completely ignoring her or by doing the opposite and challenging her, you're asking to be drawn into whatever drama is going on.

FWIW, such behavior is awful and will have or already has had negative implications on this person's career (she's a 40+ working with 20-somethings?).

  • It's exactly this kind of thinking that perpetuates workplace bullying. There is clearly something afowl here and it needs addressed. Oct 27, 2015 at 16:02
  • @BillLeeper, do you mean bullying against the OP or against the surly coworker?
    – teego1967
    Oct 27, 2015 at 16:24
  • @BillLeeper I would argue that workplace bullying falls into the "impacts your work" category.
    – Haem
    Sep 13, 2018 at 13:48

I'm assuming her attitude towards you is not compromising your daily work as you say you have "little involvement" together.

When trying to get along with someone, the kind of feedback she is giving to you usually hurts - and it does until you develop some kind of natural defense to it. This isn't exclusive to the workplace, but because you spend most of your day in the office, is in there you will invariably notice more often.

I appreciate you want to develop a friendship with everyone around you and that's noble; however it won't work. It doesn't for you, it doesn't just for everyone, because people are... people. Different tastes, different ways of seeing others. Your behaviour/personality might be impecable for 4 of them and not for the remaining 1 - and you must respect it.

For me she is telling you "I don't want to develop any relationship with you other than the minimum necessary for the accomplishment of our duties".

I personally have people with this attitude towards me and I also have this attitude towards others whom I don't find particularly professional/friendly/respectable - however I stand always flexible, may those people change their behaviour in a way I start respecting them.

If I were in your shoes, I would keep professional and friendly. This means:

  • continue to greet her in a friendly manner (exaclty the same way you would do to anybody else), avoiding shutting her down;

  • continue to ask her strictly relevant work related questions, again in a friendly way (I presume this will be quite rare in your case anyway);

  • Do not go further than that (no chit-chat of any kind).

Make sure you keep the same person you already are to all your other colleagues who you have a good relationship. In time, possibly she will start to know you better and trust you a bit more. If she feels you are part of the pack she may want to get along with you giving you subtle indications of that and only then you can start a different approach.

Meanwhile be patient and positive in your workplace.

Good luck.

  • Thanks for the advice - I think you're right. I'm a bit naive in that I assume everyone I meet is a blank slate and I can make a positive impression on everyone but for some people this just isn't the case. I will continue to be friendly and professional and if the ice thaws - fantastic. If not - I'll continue doing what I've been doing as her attitude is something I can just choose to ignore.
    – IronKirby
    Oct 28, 2015 at 4:34
  • I think you are correct and most importantly you will feel much better from now on! All the best and I'm glad I could help :) Oct 28, 2015 at 11:02

As a young professional, am I just naive in thinking if you are nice to everyone - they should be nice to you? Or should I just suck it up, ignore it and realize that no matter how hard you try not everyone will like you?

Some people are less social than others. The key question is whether the person is acting unprofessional or whether it is impacting your work. If the latter:

  1. Keep a diary of the exact, specific occurrences that you find unprofessional.
  2. When you have enough, ask for a quite, private discussion with your manager.
  3. During the discussion, start with the facts, e.g. "Yesterday in the afternoon, my co-worker said X". They day before, she said Y. Last week, she said Z".
  4. Once you have laid out the facts (and your manager is starting to notice a patter), tell her how this makes you feel and how it affects you professionally. Use "I" statements, such as "I feel belittled", instead of making judgments, "She is hostile to me".
  5. Ask your manager whether you are on the right track. Be prepared for your manager to tell you there is more to the situation. Perhaps your co-worker is under a lot of stress or going through things in her personal life. These things happen to everyone and being helpful and understanding now can pay massive dividends later.
  6. Ask how your manager wants to proceed. Maybe your manager wants to have a quiet talk with your co-worker. Maybe your manager will ask you to keep an eye on this and approach him/her if things get worse.

Hopefully this will resolve things. Keep the diary going for a while as you may need to refer back to it later. In general:

  1. Keep things professional, even if others are not.
  2. Try to maintain good relationships with other co-workers. One bad relationship does not have to spoil an otherwise good workplace.
  3. Keep the quality of your work high. This will keep emphasis off you.
  4. Particularly if things start to get stressful, look after yourself. Eat right. Get some sleep. Make sure to have things you enjoy outside work.
  • Wouldn't you recommend that the OP have a one-on-one talk with the colleague first, before involving the manager? Oct 27, 2015 at 7:56
  • @StephanKolassa My concern here is that, if this was an option, it may have already happened. If the OP is new to the workforce, it may be hard for the frustration to not show through. However, if the OP feels they can do this an be professional, by all means go ahead.
    – akton
    Oct 27, 2015 at 11:06

I understand (from your comment) that you don't want to bury your head in the sand and it is admirable that you want to have a good relationship with this colleague.

Firstly don't let her get you down, if everything else about the job is good. The suggestion from @akton to make a note of her behaviour is wise in case things escalate and you need a record of the incidents.

I personally wouldn't involve management at this stage as it seems like you want to improve your professional relationship with this colleague not just crush their behaviour. If she is popular with the other staff this could even poison the atmosphere of the office against you so should be handled very carefully.

I think that leaves you with a few other options that might help.

  1. As @Stephan Kolassa suggested you could try and talk to her one-on-one. This should be approached very carefully as she could just say she doesn't know what you're talking about and use it as evidence of you hassling her.
  2. If there is a colleague you trust you could ask them about her, maybe there is something you're unaware of. This is risky as you don't want to appear to be gossiping about her to other staff.
  3. Make her aware of her tone, when she snaps back at you just say something like 'woah, sorry I opened my mouth' or similar. This will at least draw attention to her tone and attitude.
  4. Ignore her and get on with life. It seems like she is unpleasant rather than actively working to undermine you and your day to day interaction is limited. When you come into the office start with a general hello so you're not excluding her but if she chooses not to reply just get on with your day. If she approaches you over something talk to her in a friendly manner but don't push beyond that.

Personally I would probably mainly apply option 4 with a smattering of option 3 where appropriate. However after reading your question I'm probably not as nice!

  • Thanks for the advice - I decided to just take it on the chin and keep on going. I don't have any necessary need to get into her good books - I just like following the golden rule of being nice to everyone. I'll continue to do so and if the ice melts - great, if not - so be it. It's not a loss to me regardless..!
    – IronKirby
    Oct 28, 2015 at 4:33

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