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Similar to this question, but I feel the context is different enough to warrant its own question.

Here's the question first, with context to follow:

What can I do now to bridge the professional gap with a colleague who is dead set on giving me the cold-shoulder caused by the callout of their immature behavior in a non-work context?

I'm a gamer and I like to play MMO's (massively multiplayer online games). I'm the leader of my in-game guild - as such, it's chiefly my responsibility to police the behavior of guild members to ensure that they align with previously agreed upon standards. There's a no tolerance rule for some behavior that I believe to be unacceptable, and nobody is exempt from it. Up to this point, this has created a cohesive, focused, and functional group who enjoy tackling difficult content together and are experiencing no small degree of success. I consider myself to be a subpar and uncharismatic leader, so I take great pains to seek out opinions and strategies from my guild mates and commend them on progress and improvements made. I really try to make things positive and fun so that we'll keep meeting up and continue experiencing new content together.

I invited a co-worker to join us, showing him our guild charter first and ensuring that he'd be comfortable with conforming to those rules (essentially, don't be a bigot) and accepting my enforcement of them. While he is senior to me on the org chart at work, he doesn't have any authority over me - we're essentially peers, so this doesn't represent a power dynamic reversal or anything. It was a gesture from me to include someone who outwardly appears pretty unhappy and lonely into a social context.

The co-worked stopped by my cubicle at least once per day to get a primer on what he needed to do to catch up. I offered strategies and the paths that I'd taken in the past to attain the degree of success that I have. One such path is pursuing "rare hunts," which are enemies that are available during a short window in a random location and require several players to defeat. Typically, you have between 2 and 5 minutes to reach the location and engage the enemy before it's already been defeated. He asked for me to share announcements of discoveries of these enemies so he could participate.

A few Saturdays ago, we had this exchange, verbatim, via in-game text chat (CW - coworker, SD - sleddog):

CW: people are total assholes when it comes to hunts

SD: I dunno, the fact that they share the information instead of taking the kill themself indicates otherwise.

CW: and when they kill it when people are still on the way. I'd rather not have the carrot dangled in front of my face. That's kind of a douche move

SD: hunts aren't something you can do casually. You're either ready and waiting for them to drop, or you're in an instance/gathering/crafting

CW: if that's the case and it's so hardcore, then why bother spamming it out to the casuals in the first place?

SD: Dude, I really don't want to make things awkward, but stow the negativity.

He didn't say anything beyond that. Upon finishing up what I was doing, I checked the guild log to discover that he left the guild, our Discord server, and our WhatsApp group chat. Which is fine - really, no big loss to us at all. Several other members had already complained about his serial complaining and negativity. I value my group's cohesion and success above emotionally coddling a grown-ass man who doesn't know how to get his stuff together over a videogame, even if said grown-ass man happens to be a co-worker.

Now, however, he is enacting a staunch no-communication policy, made more awkward by the fact that my cubicle is adjacent to his. He doesn't return any salutation at any point, even going so far as faking a kidney stone attack to avoid going to a birthday event for me and another co-worker in our department. The kidney stone attack isn't improbable in and of itself - he has them often. As a serial complainer, however, these never go unannounced, and an "Oh uh...I uh...can't because...uh...my kidneys hurt" doesn't fit the pattern of colorful descriptions of the agony of a kidney stone.

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    "I consider myself to be a trash .... leader" - can you translate that into English, please? – PoloHoleSet Sep 7 '17 at 13:30
  • @PoloHoleSet Sure! I don't consider myself to be a particularly skilled, convincing, encouraging, or worthwhile leader to follow. I'll change the answer to better reflect this and replace the lingo. – sleddog Sep 7 '17 at 13:31
  • @JoeStrazzere Considering his implication that I'm both an asshole and a douche (and a hardcore elitist, perhaps?), my response might have somewhat clearer context, though I definitely admit that "Stow it" isn't the most graceful way to ask someone to stop their serial bad behavior. I don't want him back, I just want a less icy work experience. – sleddog Sep 7 '17 at 13:33
  • @Kerkyra less of a comment. Would you consider making this into an answer? :) – sleddog Sep 7 '17 at 13:37
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    I think you focus too much of the question on the game part and almost nothing on the things affecting your workplace. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Sep 7 '17 at 15:19
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Transferring the in-game frustration in a professional context is pretty childish... With childish people, I find that the best solution is often to wait for them to calm down (let's be honest, he's probably waiting for you to apologize and beg him to come back to the guild with his huge skill and all, and there's no way you should do that).

If you don't have to actually work with him, just keep being being friendly as you would with any other coworker, and he'll come around at some point - maybe as people will notice he's ignoring you, and start asking why, he'll realize the futility of it all.

If you have to work together and his behaviour is having a negative effect, you might consider saying something neutral like "Look, I know it didn't end well with the guild, we probably both overreacted, but can we please get over it and just work together?". (Note: in my opinion, he overreacted, not you, but it often helps to take part of the blame, and your end goal there is to get him to talk to you).

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    I think this actually goes both ways, OPs reaction and discussion here also lack some professionalism. "stow the negativity" was rather blunt and if any co-worker talked anything like "emotionally coddling a grown-ass man who doesn't know how to get his stuff together", I might not communicate well with them. – cdkMoose Sep 7 '17 at 20:07
  • @cdkMoose I agree with you that the blame is shared (OP was clumsy, CW overreacted) but the more the coworker ignores him and makes a big deal out of it, the more it's his fault entirely and he's increasingly childish. I would just ignore such a person until he cools down, if OP doesn't have to interact with him for actual work. – Kerkyra Sep 8 '17 at 10:17
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    I didn't see the co-worker as making a big deal out of it. OP seems to be making a bigger deal of it. If a co-worker doesn't want to interact with you, that's fine, as long as it's not required for the work to get done. Knowing that the co-worker didn't want to interact, pushing for the birthday event should have been avoided. CO-worker's excuse was lame, but not him making a big deal. OP seems more upset about the situation, co-worker just wants to be left alone. – cdkMoose Sep 8 '17 at 12:49
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    Well, OP did say the coworker "doesn't return any salutation at any point", and this is the part that sounds like an overreaction to me. If you do not wish to talk to someone, you just answer with "Hi." and ostensibly get back to work or to another conversation. – Kerkyra Sep 8 '17 at 13:02
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    So when a coworker says hello, you just stare at him without saying anything because "there is no obligation to be friendly" ? Well you must be fun to work with :-) – Kerkyra Sep 8 '17 at 15:00
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CW: if that's the case and it's so hardcore, then why bother spamming it out >to the casuals in the first place?

SD: Dude, I really don't want to make things awkward, but stow the negativity

In my personal opinion I think that such a blunt way of telling your CW to stop being so negative hasn't made this any easier to deal with. It is obvious that your CW has a negative personality from the previous messages so instead of telling him to stop being so negative it might have been better to try and put a positive spin on the situation. Maybe explaining why the hunts are beneficial to everyone would have been a better approach.

It also sounds like there was some confusion about the word "casual" and "casually" in your messages. It sounds like your CW understood your response to his question as that hunts are not for Casual gamers while, as I understand it, you simply mean you cannot organise one casually. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.

It might be worth explaining to your CW that is what you meant by your response and you weren't actually saying that Casual gamers shouldn't take part in the hunts. I would apologise for being so blunt in asking him to stow his negativity however emphasise that a negative attitude reduces enjoyment for the other members.

If he does not accept your apology and your effort in clearing things up don't sweat it. You have done all you can to clear the situation.

Hope this helps.

  • I completely missed the ambiguity in my own use of "casual." Your understanding of my intention is correct - it has to be something you're actively looking to do. Thank you, this is a very well written and conscientious answer. – sleddog Sep 7 '17 at 14:13
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    Good advice but I disagree when it comes to OP's reaction. It's direct but appropriate for the situation. There's no need to treat what should be a functioning adult with kid gloves when he's been invited to a social activity. – Lilienthal Sep 7 '17 at 15:29
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First of all, realize that what you are witnessing, in the aftermath of reaching out to someone who seems to be an unhappy loner, is someone who is showing the characteristics or possibly reasons why they seem to be an unhappy loner (though knowing all of the worker's kidney stones by name might have been a decent clue, as well). Except now it is focused on you at the workplace.

Two things - the first is to make a light apology - "Hey, I noticed you seem unhappy with me since we tried that gaming experience. I'm sorry if I was abrupt or rude with you. That wasn't my intention." And offer an handshake.

The second is, while this might thaw the "no interaction at all" freeze zone, don't expect your co-worker to be friendly or chatty, even if this is put behind you. Your co-worker is either not very comfortable interacting, which is fine, or is an unpleasant person. Either way, keep your interactions professional, and only about professional/work things, going forward. Not out of retaliation or anything like that, just because that's the level of interaction that makes the most sense for this person.

  • I'm not sure what you're basing your first paragraph on or how it's contributing to your answer. – Lilienthal Sep 7 '17 at 15:30
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    @Lilienthal - I suggest you go back and read the question, where the OP describes what he is doing as reaching as "a gesture from me to include someone who outwardly appears pretty unhappy and lonely into a social context," and then describes the person's interactions in the game, and then at work as surly and anti-social. That observation contributes because the behavior might have more to do with the personality of the co-worker than any incidents. There might be a reason for what OP had observed and noted and commented on, throughout. Focusing on the slight would be not be useful, if so. – PoloHoleSet Sep 7 '17 at 16:16
  • "keep your interactions professional...Not out of retaliation..just because that's the level of interaction that makes the most sense for this person." Well put. – sleddog Sep 13 '17 at 13:47
1

This depends: Do you have to collaborate frequently or not.

If not, you can just be professional friendly and avoid getting into any personal relationship with him again. Just look over his lack of reply and act if everything was ok. This is probably the least disruptive and easiest way to handle this.

If it affects your work or you just do not want this kind of kindergarten to continue: Apologize formally (even if you think you are at no fault), tell him that you would like to restore a professional relationship and that you can understand that the specific ways in your guild are not really for everyone. Be friendly but keep your professional distance in the future.

  • That's what I've been doing thus far. It's only a matter of time before we have a group outing and this comes up. I'm not confident in his ability to handle it gracefully if he and I get put into a group together for something. – sleddog Sep 13 '17 at 13:57
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You may have to cut your losses. In the context of the game, your co-worker all about making the interaction convenient to himself, and he has a problem with any other outcome. I don't know exactly what game you're playing (WOW?) but as a former WOW player, I understand that part of group-type interaction in such games simply requires each player to be logged in and "available" when someone announces some group-type fun. After an announcement, some people will make it in time, and others will miss out (including anyone who was even a little distracted at the moment) -- and that's just the nature of the game.

You asked him to not whine about something he can't control, and he had a hissy fit. In my opinion, you enforced a very healthy boundary for the sake of the group (the guild). There's nothing to apologize about.

If he won't speak to you on a friendly basis at work now, just let him be. Acknowledge that his short fuse is something that's been cultivated long before you came into the picture. It's awkward, indeed. But it's not your job to try to coax him out of his self-imposed exile. Maybe he will snap out of it, and maybe he won't. I'd say that you just do your best to not add any fuel to the fire - specifically, this means that if anyone at work asks about the obvious rift between the two of you, you take the high road and avoid disparaging him.

Sometimes hands-off is the best you can do.

  • "But it's not your job to try to coax him" I'm still learning how to accept things that are beyond my control. But your suggestion to continue to take the high road is well received, thank you. – sleddog Sep 13 '17 at 13:50
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I get you have rules to enforce and apparently being negative is one of them, so you were right in pointing out this error. You also need to elaborate (future reference if you want to be a leader) and tell people what they should do or how they should phrase these complaints. Most people need a way out other than just telling them to stop.

Maybe he needs to drop the name calling. If it's the frequency of complaints rather than how they're phrased, you may be dealing with someone who is use to fixing things and solving problems. Let's face it, if you want to fix something that is broke, it starts with admitting there is a problem. He may not see this as being negative, but more of the type of role he plays in his job.

In hind site, would it have been that difficult to have a conversation at work? It could start with whether or not he was enjoying the experience. Blunt responses are rarely taken well. If this was in front of the group, that makes it even worse. Is there anything that could make it better? Then you could point out that he is a new player and needs to adapt to the group and realize how his behavior is perceived.

It's not too late to have this conversation and try and mend some fences. You have a responsibility to your group and he needs to see that and not hold it against you at work.

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