Why Does My Co-Worker Keep Turning Down My Social Overtures?

I received the following e-mail from a reader:

Hi Alexandra, my co-worker and I really seem to get along.  I like spending time with her at lunch and when we travel.  I thought it would be fun for her and her husband to get together with my boyfriend and me outside the office, so I asked her a few times if they wanted to grab dinner, a movie, etc.  But every time, she’s come up with some excuse as to why she can’t do it, and some of them are pretty lame.  Why is she rejecting me like this?  My feelings are hurt.

I feel your pain.  Really, I do.  I experienced the same situation several years ago when I was working at a PR firm in New York City.  I ended up calling my co-worker on it and she said to me quite bluntly:  “Alex, just because we work together doesn’t mean we’re going to be friends in real life.”  Ouch.

You Aren’t Inside Her Head

Your co-worker may feel the same way for a variety of reasons but isn’t comfortable saying something along these lines.  Maybe she wants to keep her personal and professional lives totally separate.  Maybe she is swamped with commitments and genuinely too busy to schedule a date.  Maybe she’s having issues with her relationship and neither wants to explain, nor expose them to you.

Co-Workers Aren’t Always the Best Friends

And, it’s also possible that she doesn’t feel that you and she click as friends.  I know this is hurtful, but the truth is that workplace relationships tend to be based on proximity.  We become close to people because we happen to be working in the same building or on the same team.  Sometimes one person is quicker than the other to realize that outside the office, you don’t have much in common or your personalities don’t gel optimally.

Dust Yourself Off and Move On

You could confront her as I did, but I don’t recommend it.  Why?  You may not like what she has to say, and both of you are sure to feel awkward from that point on.  This means, however, that you may never know the true reason behind her rebuffs.  Because it may not be personal, try not to take it as such.  Stop asking her to do things and see if she picks up the ball.  If she doesn’t, don’t sweat it.  Simply enjoy the time the two of you have together during work-related events and look for other outlets to explore new friendships.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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