Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
June 15, 2016

Q: How do I deal with a coworker who is overly attached to me?

I have an issue with a male coworker of mine. When I started out at the job, we became good friends and I had joined his family for dinner a few times but it always felt a little awkward and began to feel like he was getting too close to me. He seems to take interest in everything that I do, regurgitates my calendar to me if I have any kind of out-of-town events or hanging out with friends, whatever it may be, and picks up any hobby that I have. It’s driving me crazy!

I recently talked to my boss about it, and he reassured me that this coworker tends to attach himself to a specific person and tells that person everything. It made me feel a little bit better, but I still get uneasy vibes from him. I finally talked directly to my coworker about how I was feeling and that I feel like he’s gotten too close to me. Things seemed to have gotten better for a little while, but now he is constantly staring at me — he sits right next to me — and it makes me feel SO uncomfortable. And if I ask a coworker a question, he jumps in immediately to answer before even giving my coworker a chance to answer.

I’ve read your articles about addressing the staring, and will probably try that out this week, but another thing he does is constantly apologize to me for every little thing. He apologizes profusely for things that don’t even matter.

Read More: My employee has a crush on me

A: Your boss thinks that the fact that your coworker does this over and over with different people somehow makes it better?

If you made it clear to your boss that your coworker is making you uneasy, that’s a really inadequate response. If your boss knows this is a pattern and knows that it’s creeping people out, he should talk to your coworker and tell him that he needs to dial the intensity of his interest in people way down.

We can’t make your boss do that, though, so let’s focus on what you can do. One immediate thing: It sounds like it would help if you were able to put some physical distance between you and your coworker, so could you sit somewhere that isn’t right next to him? Assuming you need your manager’s okay to to do that, I’d say this to him: “Fergus continues to make me extremely uncomfortable with the amount of personal interest he takes in everything I do. He stares at me, makes unwelcome comments, and generally gives me the impression that he’s interested in me in a way that isn’t appropriate for a coworker. I feel uneasy about his interest, and I think a lot of this would be solved if I weren’t sitting right next to him. Given how uncomfortable he’s making me, will you okay me moving to another desk?”

Also, you may need to be more direct with your coworker himself. I would say this: “Fergus, the issues we talked about earlier are coming up again. When you stare at me, jump into conversations I’m having with others, and initiate so many private conversations to apologize for things, it makes me uncomfortable. I’d like you to stop.”

I know this won’t be a comfortable conversation, but what he’s doing now is making you uncomfortable too. Since you have to choose between two uncomfortable options, take the one that makes him more likely to stop.

Also! Keep in mind that if he’s genuinely a nice guy who doesn’t realize how uncomfortable he’s making you, he’ll respect this request from you — in which case, problem solved. He might a bit hurt or embarrassed, but he’ll abide by what you’re asking him to do. (And really, nice people don’t want to creep out other people, and want to be told if they’re inadvertently doing that.) On the other hand, if he’s not a nice guy, then that’s all the more reason to speak up clearly and explicitly, so that you’re on record as telling him that his behavior is unwelcome, and then are able to more easily escalate if it continues.

Read More: How to reject a coworker who’s romantically interested in you

Q: My job was eliminated, but I’m being told it wasn’t a layoff

I work part-time in customer service for a mid-size retailer. Yesterday my coworkers and I were pulled into a meeting with HR and informed that the part-time position was being eliminated, but it was definitely not a layoff because they’re offering us inventory running or retail positions. However, the positions we’re being offered are not just completely different jobs but have drastically different schedule requirements that are impossible for me on public transportation.

Obviously they have a legal right to do whatever they want, but how do I address this on job applications going forward? Is it okay to say I left because my position was eliminated even if it was “definitely not a layoff”? I’m afraid saying I quit because I couldn’t accommodate a schedule change will make me sound flaky even if the change is from regular office hours to working until 11 p.m.

Read More: I found out my coworker is getting laid off

A: It sounds pretty clear to me that your position was eliminated, which is the definition of a layoff. Yes, you were offered a different job, but it was a completely different role with a completely different schedule. They’re probably telling you that it’s “definitely not a layoff” because they don’t want to have to pay unemployment if you file for it, but your unemployment agency is highly likely to see this as a layoff — or at least as a change that renders you eligible for unemployments benefits — if you explain it the way you have here.

That said, you want to make sure that what you tell prospective future employers lines up with whatever your old company is going to tell them. Because of that, it might make sense to say, “They eliminated my position and offered me a different role with a nighttime shift.”

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.



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