He's still mad
July 5, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Didn't return an aquaintance's call back and he's still mad 2 years later. What to do?

This fella who was in love with me, called me a month after he asked me out in which, at the time, I gave a wishy washy "sure." I was interested in someone else at that point and decided not to go out with him after learning his level of infatuation. Anyways, he called a month later and I never returned his call, thinking I'm not going to see him again. Well, he kinda works for the same company as I, so I see him more often than I inititally thought. He's ignored me since, even when I try to make conversation and years later, it's to the point where he's ignoring everyone around me whenever I'm in his presence and he just looks angry. I don't know what to do or if I should do something at this point. I don't know if he can physically harm me, he's so bottled up. What to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Be coldly professional in the work context, but ignore him otherwise. He is acting juvenile and any attempts to "fix" this will likely be fruitless or cause more harm.
posted by murrey at 7:09 AM on July 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't know what to do or if I should do something at this point.

Remain professional and polite at all times. Do not address the issue, or acknowledge any awkwardness, or point out any awkwardness to any of your other coworkers.

In other words, pretend it never happened.

Also, he may not even be mad at you. It's possible he's just a jerk. But it doesn't matter.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2012 [27 favorites]

If he's this angry with you, it's possible he may try to sabotage you at work. I recommend reporting it to HR preemptively.

Believe me, if you ever find yourself saying "Well, I actually created the presentation correctly - Jack secretly must have added the typos himself because he's upset that I turned him down two years ago" it sounds a lot more credible (and less crazy) if you've let HR know about this before the fact rather than afterwards.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think that from his point of view, he's not just angry, but feels deeply wronged. But it's not about you; he is just taking what happened before on a very personal level, and lacks the tools to cope with it in a social setting. He does need help but it shouldn't come from you, for your own safety. Perhaps you can carefully instigate something by rallying the help of a trusted coworker or manager, but meanwhile, take steps to protect yourself and keep a professional distance.
posted by polymodus at 7:17 AM on July 5, 2012

This fella who was in love with me, called me a month after he asked me out in which, at the time, I gave a wishy washy "sure." I was interested in someone else at that point and decided not to go out with him after learning his level of infatuation.

This does not paint a clear picture of what happened. I can't tell what you said "sure" to, whether you actually ever went out with him, whether you stood him up. It seems possible that you owe him an apology.
posted by jon1270 at 7:19 AM on July 5, 2012 [22 favorites]

It would help to know how long you have each worked at the company, what your roles are (manager in unit A and worker bee in unit B? co-workers in unit C? how closely do you work together and who is more senior?), how big a company it is, and how well you get along with your manager. And how long you both expect to be there.

If only one of you (or neither of you) worked for the company at the time, the company's reasonably large, and your manager is a decent sort, I would probably speak to the manager and say, "A few years ago, Joe in Thingamabob Production asked me on a date and, as I was interested in someone else, I didn't return his call. He has since come to work here and I have to interact with him once every two months to get the TPS reports from him, and while it has presented no professional problem, I get the sense that he's still upset I didn't return his call two years ago." and then continue along the lines of, "No, I think it's fine, I just wanted to make you aware of the situation, in case he ever said anything or complained that I'm slow to return phone calls or something." I think it's probably a more complicated situation if you knew each other from work at the time, especially if it's a smaller company.

If you are genuinely concerned about physical harm, I would probably speak to HR pre-emptively.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:31 AM on July 5, 2012

It must be uncomfortable for your coworkers, too, when he ignores everybody. If you're concerned for your safety, tell a few of your closer coworkers a brief and professiona version of what happened so that they can help support you and watch for any unsafe behavior on his part. Otherwise, just be extremely professional at work and try not to let his behavior bother you.
posted by ldthomps at 7:32 AM on July 5, 2012

So far, he's not done anything to you except ignore you. Before preemptively talking with HR or gossiping with coworkers (in essence, placing his job in jeopardy or making his work environment miserable) over him not being chatty with you, why not try to just resolve it yourself?

Without others around (maybe right before lunch), say, "Hey Joe, it caught me by surprise to learn that you work here, and so I haven't said this as soon as I should have. But, I'd just like to clear the air between us. When we last spoke, I had a lot of unresolved feelings about another person and didn't treat you very well as a result. I'm sorry, and I hope that doesn't get in the way of us having a productive work environment now."

Then if he yells, threatens to hurt you, or whatever (none of which he's done so far), go to HR. Don't make it grist for the rumor mill at work -- that will come back to haunt you, and make you look very unprofessional.
posted by Houstonian at 7:51 AM on July 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

The obvious answer is to try to resolve it with him and inform HR if necessary, because it's totally unreasonable to cut someone over an unreturned call let alone one from two years ago.

Thing is, I cut someone for not returning a call. That was because the unreturned call was a calculated insult which in turn was the culmination of a year-long campaign of sexual harassment combined with false friendship on his part. I cut him out when the window for his making amends and/or convincing me it was all a miscommunication had passed, plus he was making me uncomfortable with attention-seeking antics such that I felt unsafe associating with him.

But if anyone asked, I'm sure he'd say "I can't believe she cut me over an unreturned call two years ago, she obviously has unresolved feelings for me that are making her go psycho even years later, what can I say, she's clearly unstable/I have that effect on women/etc.

Not saying you are that guy, OP, but the way you tell this makes me think there could be more to the story especially from his point of view. I recommend you try to resolve
it with him before you do anything that could label him as an unstable creepster.
posted by tel3path at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to come at this from a different perspective. You behaved immaturely and unkindly 2 years ago by not letting him down cleanly and kindly even though you knew he had a crush on you. You gave him a vague yes, the left him dangling in the breeze, and now you are unpleasantly surprised because the debris from this didnt disappear down the drain as you thought it would. He's bitter, and justifiably so.
Today, you are mature and professional.
Is he behaving immaturely and unprofessionally now? Yes. Does he need to get over it? Yes.
Is it fair and right to report him to HR before even trying to work it out yourself? No, not in my opinion.
Please set up a time to talk to him privately, in a public place, be safe, an office perhaps, and address what happened between the two of you back then. You owe him an apology, he may feel like forgiving, yada yada yada. But the nut of the conversation needs to be that, regardless of the past, you need to find a way to put your differences aside and work professionally together.
If he continues with his unprofessional behavior, then call in HR. But it would be wrong to put that on his record without talking to him first.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

Why do you *need* to do anything?

I'd agree with what SLC Mom said above in her analysis of the situation, but disagree in that buddy's being unprofessional (if that's even what it is) is ultimately his problem and is properly an HR issue. Let HR deal with it. You are not HR.

You, of course, need to remain totally professional. Don't get involved. You have no idea what's really going on with buddy.

If the situation changes, then sure, visit HR. But if all he's doing is ignoring you, why not leave it at that? Ignoring you is His Problem, and not Your Problem. Don't make it Your Problem.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:34 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Also, it's entirely possible that he's not angry, but rather embarrassed or ashamed at being rejected so casually back then, which would explain his impulse to withdraw and ignore what's right there in front of him today. And *if* that's the case, approaching him to resolve these issues may very well make it worse, by forcing on him precisely that situation he wants to ignore. But -- again -- his behaviour is not your concern, unless it escalates.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would do both: talk with HR and try to talk with him personally.
posted by xammerboy at 9:01 AM on July 5, 2012

I may have missed, but has he actually done anything except "look angry" -- her assessment -- in the OP's presence? I dunno, the "facts," as presented here, are verry faint condemnation of this guy. Jumping to HR, recruiting co-workers to her side, both seem awfully extreme.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:01 AM on July 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Going straight to HR seems like overkill without more detail. When you say he's ignoring you, is it during crucial work meetings and presentations when it affects your ability to do work? Or does he "work with you" in that he's in the same company, but not the same department or division, so he really has no effect on your work per se but just refuses to interact with you in a casual, friendly setting, like at lunches?

If it's the latter, socially that's uncomfortable and petty, yeah, but that doesn't mean he's trying to sabotage your career. From your description, it sounds like you stood the guy up--told him you'd go out with him, then ignored him. That's a pretty dick move on your part. He's being sensitive now, but his impression of you is you're an asshole. Before going nuclear and going to HR have you tried just apologizing to him for your behavior?
posted by schroedinger at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with those who think you behaved badly two years ago and are now putting it all on him. And I think your bad conscience about it is reflected in this:

I don't know if he can physically harm me, he's so bottled up.

Physically harm you? Come on, you're letting your imagination punish you by proxy. I think before getting HR involved, you should meet with him privately and say "Look, I fucked up back then, I'm sorry, can we move past it?" and see how he reacts. If he's still cold and bitter, sure, you may wind up having to go to HR, but he may just need an apology.
posted by languagehat at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

he's ignoring everyone around me whenever I'm in his presence and he just looks angry.

Maybe he just ignores everyone and always looks angry, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with you. After all, you don't have firsthand knowledge of how he acts when he's not in your presence, do you?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you need to talk to him, or do you just want to? If you don't need to (for work reasons), then let it go.

Because I can just picture the AskMe from his side:
There is a woman I work with, and I'm totally infatuated with her. I asked her out, and she said sure. Unfortunately, we never made definite plans, and she decided not to go out with me. I called her once about a month after that, to try and be friends, but she ignored my call. What do I do about her?
The answers would be a resounding chorus of "No contact!". That's what he is doing now. He was in love with you, you turned him down, and now he's trying to protect himself emotionally. My question is, if you don't want to go out with him, why are you being cruel to him? Unless you need something work-related (which is not mentioned in your question), just let it go.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:34 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think the kindest thing you can do at this point in time is not make any overtures towards him - no apologies, no initiating conversation, nothing. If you interact, be cordial and polite and professional. I feel like initiating an apology is just going to re-open contact and you don't want that. Eventually, I assume he'll at least acknowledge the folks around you - but there's no need to re-open his wounds of embarrassment that have hopefully cauterized.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:41 PM on July 5, 2012

I also agree you handled it very badly.

He asked you out and then you said yes.
He called you to go out and you ignored him.
You didn't think you'd see him again and yet you work together.

Learn from this and just go about your job now.
posted by heyjude at 1:50 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't really see the problem here. Unless he's literally not speaking to you in meetings etc, in a corporate setting you absolutely don't need to do anything beyond be professional. God knows, there's a couple of people at my work I won't interact with unless it's absolutely unavoidable, and in those situations I stay polite, communicate the minimum amount I need to and most definitely only on work-related stuff. I would never see them socially or make chit chat with them in a work capacity.

Doesn't make me a bad person, and doesn't make them a bad person. Unless it's interfering with your work, or his work, or your team's work, I don't think it needs to be addressed. I would advise you to stop making conversation with him though, sounds like it's stressing you both out.
posted by smoke at 5:32 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're seriously worried that he's going to physically harm you because he ignores you at work? And you're seriously believing that it's because you brushed him off *two years ago* too?

Am I the only one thinking that is the most presumptuous thing ever?

It's entirely possible that he just doesn't want to have anything to do with you for some other reason. I know that I would be absolutely furious if some girl who brushed me off two years previously got me dragged into HR because she "thought I looked angry." I'm sorry, but the comments saying "Talk to HR" are ridiculous.

Stop trying to make conversation. It sounds like he's made it clear he doesn't wish to engage in conversation with you. Keep it professional. Move on with your day. Keep calm and carry on. Problem solved.

If he's acting hostile directly towards you, that's another story entirely.
posted by drstein at 7:41 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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