October 23, 2012 7:32 PM Subscribe
Please help me manage/cope with this grad school inter-office conflict.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am a graduate student who works on a research team in a small office suite with undergraduates and two other graduate students. I share an office in the suite with a graduate student from my research team who used to be my best friend. I ended my friendship with her about 9 months ago after escalating controlling behavior (e.g., getting upset with me for talking about or spending time with friends other than her). I tried my best to be compassionate in the way I ended this friendship.
Since we cannot avoid seeing each other daily, I have tried to be kind and professional (e.g., I emailed her to congratulate her on her recent wedding, I always say hi and ask her how she is when I see her), although I recognize that she is hurt. Initially, she ignored me when I said hi to her. I continued to say hi because it feels unprofessional to me to look at her--I have to physically turn around to see who is entering my office, and if it's not her I actually do want to say hi to them--and not acknowledge her presence. She now sometimes says hi back, in a tone that makes it clear that she is unhappy that she is interacting with me.
She never initiates any communication with me other than requesting that I do something differently. This means that she sometimes treats me in what I feel is an unprofessional manner in front of our undergrads. For example, I was working on a project with one of our undergrads, and she came in and said hi to the undergrad, asked her how she was, and made small talk, and ignored me. Today, while I was meeting with an undergrad in another room, she called to me to please push my rolling office chair into my desk. I came in to look at where it was and told her that it doesn't fit under my desk, but she should always feel free to move it if it's in her way. She started talking about how it was always in the center of the floor. I felt frustrated and walked away while she was talking- this was the first time I have responded to her in a frustrated way. While our office is small, and I can see how this would be an issue, it felt petty. It also feels disruptive and unprofessional to approach me about it in front of our students.
I experience her behavior as hostility, which makes me feel stressed and anxious. When she leaves, I sometimes start crying. I feel reluctant to approach her about it because 1) I do not think that I could do so without getting emotional, and 2) I think that she would deny that she is being unprofessional. I do not feel that our research adviser would be supportive since she is very fond of this student, and I think it would reflect poorly on me to bring my personal issues with the student to the faculty. I could move to a different (but very close) office in the suite, but it would be a relatively big undertaking to move all of my computer equipment and files, and I'd still have to see her just as regularly. Also, if I moved, I would have to justify this move to my adviser.
I am looking for any suggestions on how to manage my reactions, respond to her more effectively, and/or prevent this from happening more if I can.