Co-workers in hate
June 3, 2016 12:16 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with co-worker that you dated and now have to work closely with, but your angst doesn’t stem from having dated, but just from the fact that you know too much about them now and really don’t like them as a person?

How to deal with co-worker that you dated and now have to work closely with, but your angst doesn’t stem from having dated, but just from the fact that you know too much about them now and really don’t like them as a person?

I started a new job that I love a year ago and this guy started there around the same time. We became friends and then a few months later started hooking up/dating. I really liked him because he talked about all the things he wanted to do and was really into working on improving himself. Or so I thought. When in actuality he is really unintellegent, lacks any kind of ambition, and is a drug and alcohol addict on top of it all. After about 6 weeks of getting to know him better and realizing that I didn’t like him and the relationship wasn't viable, I ended things.

I was angry with him and myself for feeling duped and told him how I felt and that I couldn’t be friendly for a while, and it was mostly tolerable because he worked on a different floor and I rarely saw him and we didn’t have to work too closely together. Cut to earlier this year and his desk is moved near mine (mostly because he was doing a shitty job and my supervisor wanted monitor him more closely, which means that I have de facto had to manage him at times also being his superior) and we have to work very closely on a new project together. At this point the anger had mostly subsided and I decided that I could be friendly and maybe even be actual friends so that I wouldn’t get distracted and my work wouldn’t be impacted.

So we became friends again. We occasionally take smoke breaks, have gotten drinks after work a time or two. He started doing better at his job by way of my supervisor and I constantly breathing down his neck. But omg I can’t stand listening to him talk. Now that we are ‘friends’ he feels like he can just talk about stupid shit like how fucked up he got the previous night and all the ways in which he gets around his probation (yep) and occasionally mentioning girls he’s seeing or talking about dating or other dumb shit. And I often say ‘don’t tell me dumb shit because I don’t like hearing it’ and sometimes he shuts up, but then forgets and does it again the next day because that’s all the material he’s got.

It’s important to note that we work in a reasonably high-stress creative industry where it is very common for co-workers to date and for people to drink and do drugs, and people discuss these things openly and it isn’t an issue unless it starts affecting the work. He’s not great at his job, but he’s not horrible at it either and the role is an unimportant enough one that most people don’t even notice if he’s fucking up or not. So there are no grounds on which this guy shouldn’t be working here.

But I just really don’t like him and I have to work with him. I’ve been pulling back on the friendship lately (not smoking with him or getting drinks or talking about anything other than work) but the fact that I know all this personal shit about him is really affecting how I feel about him as a person and I see the ways in which his personal actions are affecting his work, which directly affects my work, and I get so fucking annoyed when he fucks up and I just want to scream at him ‘stop being a fuck-up and do your job’. But obviously I can’t do that. I have tried the professional route of saying things along the lines of ‘I don’t care what you do outside of work but you need not be late and not have me spell shit out for you all the time and not smoke 1000 cigarettes a day because you are high and hungover’. But this isn’t working because he just does the same shit the next day.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there is nothing I can do to change the situation, so how do I manage my increasing irritation with him? If I just start ignoring him entirely, he’s going to be all puppy-eyed and pathetic and ask what’s wrong (because he wants everyone to like him like it’s middle school or something) and I’m going to have to be like ‘I really don’t like you and I’m done pretending to be your friend’ which will not help our working relationship at all.

I try to work out of the office when I can and limit our interactions as much as possible or go for short walks, but I don’t have many opportunities to do those things. And I try to be as zen and mindful as possible, but then he says or does something stupid and it breaks my concentration and puts me in a bad mood. There are other people in the office that I don’t love, of course, but I am not as intimately familiar with them as I am with him, nor do I work as closely with them.

This isn’t eating me up inside or anything, but there are one or two days every work week where I get so frustrated with him that it throws me off, and I want to always be on my game because I want to be very good at my job. So how can I best do that? It seems to be getting worse over time (which might coincide with him both being more frequently high and also feeling more comfortable being friendly with me), so just waiting it out isn’t working for now. For reference, we are cis-hetero people in our early 30s.

Yes, I know this is exactly why people shouldn’t date in the workplace, but I did it anyway, so shame on me.

How do I deal with this?
posted by greta simone to Human Relations (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Treat him the same way you would treat someone else who is an unintelligent fuck up you hadn't dated.

If it were me, I would constantly be saying, "Sorry, cannot join you for a smoke. too busy" or "Ask the supervisor for help, I have to finish this first" types of statements until he gets the hint that he should consider you a distant co-worker and nothing more. I think you are his co-worker so let the supervisor give him work guidance and you can avoid the personal stuff by being pleasant but busy.
posted by AugustWest at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

Best answer: "Joe, I realize that I got off on the wrong foot by going out for drinks and doing other friend-type things with you. From now on, I want us to keep things strictly professional. That means no more smoke breaks, and no more anecdotes about your personal life. I just want to interact with you in a cordial and professional way so I can get my work done. And by the way, I'm done covering for your being late and showing up for work hung over. From here on out, if you're not present and able to work, I'm going to let your manager know."

From then on, be as good as your word. Ignore anything he says or does that doesn't have to do with work. If he tells you shit about his personal life, give him your best thousand-yard stare and walk away. And if he's slacking, tell his manager, then let it go, because you're not this guy's manager, and his performance is not your responsibility.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The fact that you dated is really immaterial. You just plain don't like the guy and yet you have to deal with him.

To that end you're doing things to reduce the time you're stuck interacting with him. That's a start. Is it possible to move your desk? Can you ask to change up personnel on the project?

For now, don't answer his questions, and if he starts in with chit-chat tell him point blank, "Dude, I'm busy, you should be too." Then turn to your work. If he asks for help, tell him, "I can't help, ask Supervisor."

You seem to give a shit if he's upset. Stop doing that. So he gets a hurt puppy look on his face. Let him.

I will say that that you shouldn't EVER complain about him to anyone at anytime. In asking to move your desk site anything other than, "he's making me batshit insane with his inane conversation." Say instead, "I'd like to be where it's sunnier," or "I'd like to be where it's not so sunny," or, "I need a quieter area so I can concentrate." Yours sounds like a place where one can wear headphones. Do that. That way if your desk buddy starts yakking away, you're not bothered and he physically has to tap you on the shoulder to interrupt you. You can respond to that with, "WHAT? Are you on fire? Unless you're on fire, ask someone else, I'm busy."

We've all had to endure the office idiot. It helps to know that you don't have to be nice to him. You really, really don't.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on June 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Another thing is that this dude is now your Bitch Eating Crackers. Nothing he does will ever be right.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2016 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: I planted the seeds a while back hoping he would get fired, and they had a sit-down with him in HR, and that was when it was decided his desk be moved so he could be better supervised which was the absolute last thing I wanted, which is why I decided I had to make peace with being friendly. Also my desk cannot be moved either, nor would I want it to be because it would be very inconvenient for all parties. Also, his sister works there and is a valued employee, so nepotism.

I'm also the project manager for the project we are working together so closely on, so I really am the only person who can answer his questions, who notices these infractions, and the only person they affect. I can't just let him mess up and dig his own grave because that will mess up the project and there is no one else to take his place at the moment. Or really for a while. I try to employ the headphones as often as I can, but I have too many people stopping by/calling to really be able to drown everyone out.

Like I said, there's not much I can do to change the situation and I've accepted that, I just need to figure out how to control what seems like my cancerous annoyance. I've been ignoring him to the best of my ability but he keeps being all butt-hurt. I don't give a shit about his feelings, but I do want to maintain some kind of balance wherein his emotions and weird need for constant approval don't get in the way of the work.

Ottereroticist might have a good script to go off so I'll mark that for now, but idiot bro is DEFINITELY my bitch eating crackers now from here on out.
posted by greta simone at 7:06 PM on June 3, 2016

Put him on a Performsnce Imorovement Plan for his work mistakes and lateness. If he improves, great. If he doesn't, fire him.
posted by bq at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would be super careful about taking actions that might get him in trouble or fired, since from the update it looks like you're not just his co-worker but also someone he kind of reports to. Given that he's your ex, that seems like it's potentially getting into conflict of interest territory.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:34 AM on June 4, 2016

The fact that you dated is really immaterial.

I think this is very material. You had a relationship that does not seem to have ended well. Now you supervise this person, you've said that you hate them, you've said that you tried to get them fired and you've called them cancerous. You should probably have a talk with HR and/or an attorney to help ensure you don't get fired and/or sued for sexual harassment.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:48 PM on June 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

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