A man worked in an office and had generally amicable relationships with co-workers, engaging in light banter and occasionally socializing outside of work. However, the atmosphere changed after a HR course. Here is what he had to say:
Extensive HR Meeting
Recently, HR initiated an extensive employee conduct and harassment meeting, covering topics like maintaining work-focused conversations, avoiding discussions outside of work, and refraining from making inappropriate comments or remarks about physical appearance. These guidelines were accompanied by acted-out examples.
Introduction to a New Colleague
During this period, a new co-worker was hired, and she expressed agreement with the lessons learned during the HR meeting. She informed the man that she specifically requested that HR run the course.
Respecting Her Decision
The man respected her decision to request the meeting, understanding that they may not be privy to her past experiences or personal life. He decided that he would be extra careful when interacting with her to avoid any misunderstandings.
Meeting in the Coffee shop
After work one day, the man encountered the new co-worker at a coffee shop. She immediately attempted to strike up a conversation with him.
Keeping Interactions Brief
Keeping in mind the lessons that he had learned from the recent HR course, the man kept the interaction friendly but brief, and she appeared somewhat put off.
A Grocery Store Encounter
In another incident, the man bumped into his co-worker again at a grocery store. “I said short small talk things and wished her a nice day”, recounted the man.
Maintaining Professional Boundaries
The man explained that, when compared to interactions with other co-workers, he was attempting to maintain a more formal and professional demeanor with the new co-worker. “With my other co-workers, including women, I am more buddy-buddy, and we have inside jokes. My co-workers buy me birthday presents, and we have a good time.”
Excluded and Ignored
The next time he saw the new co-worker, she expressed to him that she was feeling ignored and excluded by him. “I told her I just don’t want anything to be misconstrued”, he explained. “I keep it professional. If I’m ordering coffee/food for the group, I ask what she wants. I just make sure to not bring up personal life stuff with her”.
The man expressed his frustration with the new co-worker’s attitude: “I’m just lost at her getting HR to show us how to properly interact with a co-worker. And then me interacting with her in the way HR showed makes her upset.”
The man was adamant that he was simply following the new co-worker’s requests, knowing that she was passionate about the content disclosed in the HR meeting. However, she was visibly upset by him taking these lessons literally, and he became concerned that he was acting petty and out of line.
Posting His Story
The man decided to post his story online to see what other people thought about his actions. Most commenters empathized with the man: “This is ridiculous”, one person wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with co-workers being friends (or even dating). She asked for this, and that’s what she’s getting.”
Everyone in the comment section agreed: “She announced she asked for the meeting as a new hire”, someone pointed out. “What did she expect would happen? You are just covering yourself. Of course, it’s going to be off-putting to all other employees because she, as a new hire, appears to potentially be problematic.”
Ask HR What to Do
Another reader suggested that the man seek further advice from HR: “You’re doing exactly what your HR-mandated training advised. Your co-worker has told you that she feels isolated and ignored. Mention to HR that you are adhering to the training, but your co-worker has expressed feeling isolated and ignored. Now you would like official guidance dealing with this situation.”
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