Creeping People Out Off-Shoot: Work

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 3:58 pm

So I've been following the "I creep everyone out without being aware of how" thread and it's been very interesting. But here's an off-shoot question; what do you do when you have creeped people out even when doing your very best not to, were not aware of it, and now have to work with the person?

Years ago when I started at my job, I developed a work crush. I did my very best to not be creepy. I never talked to him. I'd try to never look at him, even when passing in the hall. I just essentially pretended he didn't exist. (I did, like a moron, tell a work buddy, who spread it around.) Anyway, now in my new position (and no longer with a crush), I had to go sit down with him to discuss a work issue. Similarly, I did my best to not be creepy but professional: sit as far away as possible, talk only about work, make fleeting eye contact. However, he just refused to look at me, staring down at his keyboard or his screen and deliberately avoiding my look even when I was speaking to him.

I mentioned this in passing, asking a work friend if he's just like that, and my work friend no, it's because I "didn't hide my crush well" and thus creeped him out.

I want to tear my hair out in frustration and embarrassment. Like, what am I supposed to do about that now? And seriously, I creeped him out, despite never talking to him, never looking at him, staying far away from him? What do I do if he's the one I have to interact with-just muddle through on my own? How in the world am I supposed to correct this?

And to be totally blunt, there's a part of my brain going "If I was better looking, he wouldn't have been creeped out." Like I know he gets to decide whose attention he wants, but I still feel it's pretty unfair to consider it a crime if an ugly gal has a crush on you.

What do I do with all of this?
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:19 pm

You continue to act in a wholly professional manner with him whenever you have to work with him. Don't try to overcompensate for past behaviors or perceived behaviors, don't bring up the crush. Just be a professional. I'd also say, don't go to extra lengths to not look at him. Avoiding eye contact can be off-putting on its own.

At this point, I'd guess he's worried you're going to be behaving like you have a crush on him. So just continue like you would with any other work colleague, and then the responsibility to do the same is on him. It sounds like he is being professional, just uncomfortably so.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:32 pm

So...you avoided him as much as possible, wouldn't make eye contact, and pretended he wasn't there when you passed each other in the hallway?

Maybe it's just me, but I would totally take that the wrong way. I would not think, "she has a crush".

Do you know that he now knows what that was about, or is this conjecture and hearsay? Because what you do about this definitely depends on that.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:33 pm

I agree with Wondering. The best way to get past this is for you to treat him exactly like any other colleague. Hopefully, once he's seen that you're not behaving oddly toward him in any way, he'll stop being uncomfortable and things will slowly become more normal.
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:43 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Do you know that he now knows what that was about, or is this conjecture and hearsay? Because what you do about this definitely depends on that.

I definitely disagree with that. I think, regardless, act wholly professionally toward him.

I do agree, though, that the past behavior toward him doesn't sound like how you act toward other colleagues, so he probably knew something was up. Just don't do that any longer and he should see that and match your current behavior toward him eventually.

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:47 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:So...you avoided him as much as possible, wouldn't make eye contact, and pretended he wasn't there when you passed each other in the hallway?

Maybe it's just me, but I would totally take that the wrong way. I would not think, "she has a crush".

Do you know that he now knows what that was about, or is this conjecture and hearsay? Because what you do about this definitely depends on that.

Well when I say my coworker spread it around, I mean she went up to him and said "Hey do you think Reboundstudent is cute?" Soooo, he probably could have guessed from that alone. (Also horrifying for me, because it looks like I did the middle school thing and put her up to it. She did it solely on her own.)

I guess my fear is I'm doing something subconsciously. Because in the past, I thought I was treating him like any other colleague. Like, if I don't know a coworker, I don't look at them, I don't speak to them, and I stay away from them. So I thought I was being professional and discreet before, but apparently not. So I fear that there's something I'm doing that still isn't professional but I am unaware of.
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 4:56 pm

Did she go up to him in your presence and do that?

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:01 pm

Wondering wrote:Did she go up to him in your presence and do that?

No, she told me about it later.

Maybe if I just run the other direction whenever we cross paths? Like duck into a bathroom? And only talk to other coworkers if I have questions?
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:04 pm

Yes, that will definitely not be awkward and making him think you still have a crush on him! Grin

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:05 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
Wondering wrote:Did she go up to him in your presence and do that?

No, she told me about it later.

Maybe if I just run the other direction whenever we cross paths? Like duck into a bathroom? And only talk to other coworkers if I have questions?

Honestly, I think that will make the problem worse, both with him and with anyone else in the office who might observe. Whether he thinks you're secretly in love with him or worries you hate him for some reason, I think trying to be as normal as you possibly can be is the best way out. I wouldn't say you should seek him out if you don't need to, but avoiding him will be pretty obvious, especially since that's how the crush manifested before.
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:06 pm

Wondering wrote:Yes, that will definitely not be awkward and making him think you still have a crush on him! Grin

But that way I'm not bothering him. Or impeding on him in any way.

I just fear that if I couldn't identify what made me seem "obvious" in the first place, then I can't correct that. I mean, cause smiling, making eye contact, and being friendly would also probably make him uncomfortable, if I have creeped him out in the past. So that means I should give him as much space as possible and just, like, disappear, right?
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:10 pm

What made you seem obvious was your female coworker being unprofessional and high-schoolish about it. And then, probably, him noticing you avoiding him.

Ducking into bathrooms to avoid people is not expected professional behavior, so, no, don't do that. Eselle has the right of it, I think.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:12 pm

If this was a social acquaintance, disappearing would probably be the right move.

It's different at work, though. In a professional context, the equivalent of that is pretending someone is a coworker who you barely know and aren't interested to getting to know much better. Interact with him and talk about work when necessary, leave him alone when not. Pointedly avoiding people at work can actually come across as threatening in a way that it doesn't in a social context, because someone might worry it's coincided with an HR complaint or with some kind of retaliation. It's an uncomfortable situation all around, but avoiding him entirely isn't going to help things.

As for the subtle bit, I would suggest not overthinking it too much. Your crush was obvious because your friend made it obvious. It's possible nothing you did had anything to do with it.
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:22 pm

eselle28 wrote:If this was a social acquaintance, disappearing would probably be the right move.

It's different at work, though. In a professional context, the equivalent of that is pretending someone is a coworker who you barely know and aren't interested to getting to know much better. Interact with him and talk about work when necessary, leave him alone when not. Pointedly avoiding people at work can actually come across as threatening in a way that it doesn't in a social context, because someone might worry it's coincided with an HR complaint or with some kind of retaliation. It's an uncomfortable situation all around, but avoiding him entirely isn't going to help things.

As for the subtle bit, I would suggest not overthinking it too much. Your crush was obvious because your friend made it obvious. It's possible nothing you did had anything to do with it.

See, but I worry because I already have left him alone. This is literally the first time I've talked to him, and yet he's all awkward and uncomfortable. The coworker thing was over 2 years ago. I fear that talking to him, even just being very brief and talking only about work, still wouldn't help if after this long I still freak him out.

What if he doesn't realize I'm avoiding him? Like I sincerely doubt he even knows I exist except when I'm apparently being creepy. If he isn't aware of it, is it still threatening?
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:26 pm

[quote="reboundstudent"]
eselle28 wrote:
See, but I worry because I already have left him alone. This is literally the first time I've talked to him, and yet he's all awkward and uncomfortable. The coworker thing was over 2 years ago. I fear that talking to him, even just being very brief and talking only about work, still wouldn't help if after this long I still freak him out.

What if he doesn't realize I'm avoiding him? Like I sincerely doubt he even knows I exist except when I'm apparently being creepy. If he isn't aware of it, is it still threatening?

If he's not aware of it, no. But it sounds unlikely he'll be unaware if your jobs now require you to interact occasionally.

I think it's worth noting that two years of not interacting with him haven't made him anymore comfortable around you. It seems like more avoiding isn't likely to help things. If you've only tried the being friendly and normal thing once, I think it might be worth giving that a go for awhile and seeing if it becomes more effective over time.
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:33 pm

eselle28 wrote:
If he's not aware of it, no. But it sounds unlikely he'll be unaware if your jobs now require you to interact occasionally.

I think it's worth noting that two years of not interacting with him haven't made him anymore comfortable around you. It seems like more avoiding isn't likely to help things. If you've only tried the being friendly and normal thing once, I think it might be worth giving that a go for awhile and seeing if it becomes more effective over time.
[/quote]

Well unless I can just "go around" him and ask any questions I have to his coworkers or figure it out myself? Maybe I just need to avoid him even more. Like change the times I eat lunch and make sure my desk is in a far, dark corner.

I am just so mortified and humiliated that I somehow did this unwittingly, and to such a lasting impact that years on it's still reverberating. I thought that being friendly and normal was like what you're not supposed to do, because you're just going to make them more uncomfortable by forcing them to interact with you and pretending you didn't emotionally damage them?
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:35 pm

Wondering wrote:
nearly_takuan wrote:Do you know that he now knows what that was about, or is this conjecture and hearsay? Because what you do about this definitely depends on that.

I definitely disagree with that. I think, regardless, act wholly professionally toward him.

I do agree, though, that the past behavior toward him doesn't sound like how you act toward other colleagues, so he probably knew something was up. Just don't do that any longer and he should see that and match your current behavior toward him eventually.

Well, yes. Behave professionally regardless. But, if he doesn't know what the previous behavior was about, a direct apology and explanation (along the lines of "sorry I acted all weird before, but it wasn't because I hate you") would probably speed things along as far as getting back to a professional relationship. If he already does, then we can infer other reasons why he's been resistant to Professional Behavior, and then there are other things that might be done about that.
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:41 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:

Well, yes. Behave professionally regardless. But, if he doesn't know what the previous behavior was about, a direct apology and explanation (along the lines of "sorry I acted all weird before, but it wasn't because I hate you") would probably speed things along as far as getting back to a professional relationship. If he already does, then we can infer other reasons why he's been resistant to Professional Behavior, and then there are other things that might be done about that.

But I.... wasn't weird before? Like I feel horrified about my coworker trying to force me on him (poor guy), but I really don't know why he'd notice or even care how I was acting before. I acted the way I did because I assumed it was how I'm supposed to act to NOT be creepy. Don't make eye-contact with people you don't know, keep a lot of personal distance unless you're friendly, don't talk unless you've been introduced. The fact that I had a crush just made me feel I needed to be more diligent, and not slip up by accidentally smiling or looking at him too much.

Why was my past behavior weird?...
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:57 pm

Because you stayed completely out of his way, never said hello, always walked straight past him, and just generally went out of your way to interact with anyone who wasn't him whenever possible..?

I don't know what your work culture is like, exactly, but it certainly sounds to me as though you singled him out, and not in a way that most clearly signals a positive interest. Without knowing (assuming) that your friend is a careless gossip, I would think it's far more likely he assumed you didn't like talking to him than that he figured out you had some kind of crush and he somehow felt offended by the idea.

From there...just put yourself in his position. Imagine there's someone at work (or perhaps think about an actual person) who for some reason has singled you out as the person they never want to be in the same room with or speak to casually, let alone professionally. Isn't your natural reaction going to be to try to stay out of their way as well, avoid direct conversation or eye contact, and give them as many opportunities to leave your presence as possible?

Is that not, in fact, what you already are doing in response to your assumption that he dislikes you and finds you creepy?
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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:05 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:Because you stayed completely out of his way, never said hello, always walked straight past him, and just generally went out of your way to interact with anyone who wasn't him whenever possible..?

I don't know what your work culture is like, exactly, but it certainly sounds to me as though you singled him out, and not in a way that most clearly signals a positive interest. Without knowing (assuming) that your friend is a careless gossip, I would think it's far more likely he assumed you didn't like talking to him than that he figured out you had some kind of crush and he somehow felt offended by the idea.

From there...just put yourself in his position. Imagine there's someone at work (or perhaps think about an actual person) who for some reason has singled you out as the person they never want to be in the same room with or speak to casually, let alone professionally. Isn't your natural reaction going to be to try to stay out of their way as well, avoid direct conversation or eye contact, and give them as many opportunities to leave your presence as possible?

Is that not, in fact, what you already are doing in response to your assumption that he dislikes you and finds you creepy?

Well except my coworker IS a careless gossip who did make it clear that I had a crush or at least was immaturely interested, and my work friend made it clear that this guy DOES dislike me and finds me creepy. And isn't that what you're supposed to do when you have a non-reciprocated crush... stay away, leave them alone, and not impose yourself on them in any way?

I will say I didn't signal him out because I have never had any cause to talk to anyone in his department up until recently. Like I said, I treated him more or less like I do any coworker I haven't previously interacted with, I just did it a lot more purposefully.
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Post by Wondering on Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:17 pm

reboundstudent wrote:And isn't that what you're supposed to do when you have a non-reciprocated crush... stay away, leave them alone, and not impose yourself on them in any way?

Socially. But when you go out of your way to avoid coworkers, that's not usual professional behavior.

If you "go around" him to get answers when the easiest or most expected thing is to be working with him, that also won't come across as professional. I think you're just going to make the situation worse -- for you and him -- if you don't work with him as expected and in a professional manner. (I still don't agree with nearly_takuan that you should bring the past issue up.)

Also, you know, maybe he just had a migraine or was having a really bad day and none of his avoiding eye contact has anything to do with you personally at all.

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Post by ChrissyOrig on Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:31 pm

reboundstudent wrote: Well except my coworker IS a careless gossip who did make it clear that I had a crush or at least was immaturely interested, and my work friend made it clear that this guy DOES dislike me and finds me creepy. And isn't that what you're supposed to do when you have a non-reciprocated crush... stay away, leave them alone, and not impose yourself on them in any way?  

Like others have pointed out, work is different. It can be tricky, but there is one thing you could try that worked for me. The situation was different but just as embarrassing and challenging. So, what worked for me was: Pretend none of this ever happened.

It can seem weird and fake at first, but the more you do it, the more other people buy into it. Like it creates a new reality. So, given how you've described it, I think it would mean acting strictly professional and exactly the way you'd act toward anyone else: no hiding, no avoiding eye contact, etc. And forget about his response (worrying about him not liking you). People who work together don't have to like each other.

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Post by Autumnflame on Sun Mar 22, 2015 7:36 pm

ChrissyOrig says what I don't have to say.

Sometimes people feel awkward and uncomfortable even if your behavior is strictly professional, because they have suppositions in their head. In which case, you're already doing everything you can to just be normal, and doing anything more would be actively weird; the rest of their reaction is on them. If, for example, you were a POC and someone's acting awkward because they're unconsciously racist and don't like interacting with POC, that's entirely on them.
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Post by Guest on Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:01 am

reboundstudent wrote:
And to be totally blunt, there's a part of my brain going "If I was better looking, he wouldn't have been creeped out." Like I know he gets to decide whose attention he wants, but I still feel it's pretty unfair to consider it a crime if an ugly gal has a crush on you.  

What do I do with all of this?

I don't wanna be that guy, but, I'm gonna be that guy and say, you are far from ugly. :3

As far as dealing with this fellow at work, I also echo being/acting professional. Yeah, it's a little awkward and maybe a touch embarrassing, but you're all adults. Chrissy, Eselle and all of them here in this thread nailed it right on the head. Just treat each other as pros and don't worry about it. It was totes not cool of your female co-worker going behind you back asking this dude whether or not he liked you. I think you'll be fine. Shiny/thrilled

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Post by Guest on Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:15 am

The Mikey wrote:As far as dealing with this fellow at work, I also echo being/acting professional. Yeah, it's a little awkward and maybe a touch embarrassing, but you're all adults. Chrissy, Eselle and all of them here in this thread nailed it right on the head. Just treat each other as pros and don't worry about it. It was totes not cool of your female co-worker going behind you back asking this dude whether or not he liked you. I think you'll be fine. Shiny/thrilled

All of this.

Also:
reboundstudent wrote:
And to be totally blunt, there's a part of my brain going "If I was better looking, he wouldn't have been creeped out." Like I know he gets to decide whose attention he wants, but I still feel it's pretty unfair to consider it a crime if an ugly gal has a crush on you.

As much as you're absolutely spot on here that it would be unfair to consider it a crime if an 'ugly' gal has a crush on someone, unless you have actual reason to believe that this guy in particular considers you unattractive, it's probably not the best line of thought to entertain if you can avoid it. It doesn't exactly do yourself any favours when there's nothing to back it up. Past experiences may nag at you, making you think you have him figured out, but it leads to making the exact kind of assumptions about what he finds attractive that so many of the guys do that comment on DNL Prime do about women and their preferences.

Hell, I'll happily admit I do it and it's not good. It's not particularly fair, at least.

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