I'm a health hazard to my new cubicle-mate.
November 1, 2006 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been at my job for less than a month, and today as I was rounding a blind corner into my cubicle I collided with my co-worker who works right next to me. He slammed his shoulder into the cubicle, and even though he brushed it off as nothing, I am 99.9% sure that he will wake up with a bruise tomorrow morning. He's very friendly, but we're both so engrossed in our work that we haven't had a chance to really get to know one another. I've already apologized twice, but what can I do or say to make things less awkward?
posted by invisible ink to Human Relations (39 answers total)
Buy him lunch.
posted by unSane at 6:16 PM on November 1, 2006

lunch seconded
posted by special-k at 6:19 PM on November 1, 2006

Ask him if he's got a bruise tomorrow morning. if yes, express regret in a sincere, light, non-dramatic manner, then move on. Accidents happen.
posted by jchgf at 6:28 PM on November 1, 2006

Lunch and seconded, may I move for a vote?
posted by taosbat at 6:29 PM on November 1, 2006

Was it really your fault? If so, lunch is probably a good thing. If not, if it was legitimately an accident, the apologies you already gave are enough. Don't push the apologies or you'll look just as bad as if you did it on purpose.
posted by MeetMegan at 6:30 PM on November 1, 2006

How about some sort of mid-day meal?
posted by ORthey at 6:33 PM on November 1, 2006

I would seriously drop it. You apologized twice. Asking to buy him lunch is going to come across as strange. People run into each other running cubicles all the time.
posted by bingo at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2006

Motion tabled for discussion; yet, lunch, however accidental, could help with this: ...we're both so engrossed in our work that we haven't had a chance to really get to know one another... Why not trade an accident for an opportunity, especially at a new job?
posted by taosbat at 6:37 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

You offer to buy him lunch in a friendly get-to-know-you way, not in a sorry-I-bumped-into-you way.
posted by unSane at 6:38 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bring a set of football shoulder pads into work tomorrow. When you see him in the office toss him the shoulder pads and say, "OK, let's try that again. For real this time."
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:42 PM on November 1, 2006

You might to mention, just in passing mind you, something about how "my girlfriend [or boyfriend] says I never look where I'm going, and I guess yesterday proves she's [he's] right..." The idea being here that the invitation to lunch isn't intended as a first date.
posted by La Cieca at 6:44 PM on November 1, 2006

I'm with the "forget it and move on crowd." I think lunch is a nice gesture, and you may want to employ it if he's pissed off at you tomorrow morning, but otherwise it comes off as too... wishy-washy, for want of a better term.

Accidents happen. You apologised twice. Forget it and move on.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:52 PM on November 1, 2006

I looked at invisible ink's Profile and we're talking about a gal who body-checked a guy. As a gal who has accidentally knocked a guy flat on his butt in a not dissimilar situation, I still vote for lunch. It turned out he was a nice guy with a family and a decent sense of humor. Our work got better for the cooperation that followed. YMMV.
posted by taosbat at 6:58 PM on November 1, 2006

I think lunch is OTT.

Buy him a beer.
posted by pompomtom at 7:13 PM on November 1, 2006

Given the female/male dynamic, that makes the lunch offer even more of a bad idea, unless you're trying to spark some kind of extracurricular relationship with him (because that's how it's going to appear)...
posted by knave at 7:27 PM on November 1, 2006

If I was on the receiving end of this, I would think bringing it up tomorrow would be weird.
posted by smackfu at 7:42 PM on November 1, 2006

Just remember it when he ends up accidentally knocking you on your butt.
posted by IvyMike at 8:03 PM on November 1, 2006

As a guy if a girl buys me lunch after this it is definitely in that "well maybe she is making a pass at me" territory. Even at work. Be careful you might inadvertantly send signals you do not want to. I would also recommend mentioning having a girlfriend/boyfriend at first if you don't want to date this guy.
posted by geoff. at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for the great variety of answers and opinions. This is my first full-time job in a large office, so co-worker relations is still a very new issue for me. In other words, I need all the input I can get from those of you out there who've been in similar working environments for a longer time.
posted by invisible ink at 8:20 PM on November 1, 2006

Bring him some arnica and forget about it.
posted by Riverine at 8:21 PM on November 1, 2006

About three times a week I nearly crash into a coworker, seriously. I wouldn't worry about it.

I'd just laughingly ask him tomorrow, "how's that shoulder bruise?" It shows you remembered and care about it, but in a light and funny way -- he'll enjoy getting to laugh more than he'd enjoy getting to say "no, seriously, it's okay, don't feel bad" (if you apologized again).
posted by salvia at 8:24 PM on November 1, 2006

I'm with the "move on" crowd. One apology is common courtesy. Two show you're sincere. Anything more gets into "You're weird" territory.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2006

I'd forget about it. Bringing it up again would probably be awkward, and he's probably already forgotten who he ran in to
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:07 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

This probably seems odd, but I get bruises and scratches all the time and I rarely remember what caused them from one day to the next. It's probably sexist of me to say, but most men don't think too much about the occasional physical mishap like what you've described. Shit happens.

If your co-worker is anything like me, he probably forgot about it about two seconds after your first apology, and if you keep bringing it up, he's probably going to either think you're interested in him or that you're kind of needy and obsessive.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:46 PM on November 1, 2006

Taking him for lunch will drag out the awkwardness, not end it.

He's the one who got hurt, but that doesn't mean it was your fault. Both of you were rounding a blind corner quickly, he was just closer to the wall.

You've apologized, now just let it go. Harping on it with a lunch will be overkill. Not only will you be the guy who slammed his shoulder into a wall, you'll also be the guy who just wouldn't stop making a big deal of it. Your co-worker didn't break any bones or bleed onto his shirt, and if he's a grown up he'll know that sometimes people bang into each other and sometime they get hurt.

If you must do something else, I'd suggest just bringing him a cup of coffee or a donut or something tomorrow morning and dropping it by his desk.
posted by Kololo at 10:22 PM on November 1, 2006

A one-on-one lunch might be weird, but do you have a friend in the office yet? You could say to the guy, "hey, so-and-so and I are going to such-and-such place for lunch today, would you like to join us?" That way, it wouldn't seem date-like and you have a third person to help the conversation too.

In a similar vein, you could let him know, "hey, i'm swinging by such-and-such place for coffee / lunch / whatever right now, did you want me to pick something up for you?" Then when you get back, you can have a little chat. At the very least, you can discuss how you both like the food at wherever you just got food from.

Another apology isn't needed, just do something simple & friendly to use the awkwardness to establish a good rapport.
posted by pricklypear at 10:23 PM on November 1, 2006

Oh, and some general advice for the 'first real job in an office' situation, that applies to the current scenario and others:

Remember: the people in your office are the same kinda people you went to school with or had as co-workers at part time jobs. They just got older before you did. So they aren't this separate species with a new set of rules you don't know yet.

That wasn't meant to be condescending: when I realised the 'they are regular people like me' thing, it was big revelation and a serious relief!
posted by Kololo at 10:26 PM on November 1, 2006

If he is a decent person, you don't need to do anything more to smooth things over. You've apologized -- he doesn't think it's a big deal and neither should you.

If he is not a decent person, you're in his bad books forever and there's nothing you can do to get back on his good side. Don't bother trying to curry favour with him because he'll just think you're pathetic.

Either way, drop it, move on, and don't cut corners again.
posted by randomstriker at 10:30 PM on November 1, 2006

As a clumsy female, I'm always bumping into people (and things) at work.

Just say "how's your shoulder? Sorry, man, I should have looked where I was going. I'm making a coffee, you want one?"

And that should be the end of that.
posted by unmusic at 12:31 AM on November 2, 2006

Er, coworker right next to you? Go grab lunch with him, not because you banged into him, but because he's your freakin' neighbor :)
posted by effugas at 3:21 AM on November 2, 2006

Don't worry about it. It was an accident, you apologized. If you go way over the top trying to make up for it, you're just going to come across as that weird overly apologetic coworker who should be avoided at all costs because they're like, totally creepy man.
posted by antifuse at 4:05 AM on November 2, 2006

In other words, I need all the input I can get from those of you out there who've been in similar working environments for a longer time.

Okay, then, I'll spell out my answer even more explicitly, because I feel for you. You are trying too hard to fit in. That's bad.

When you're in a social situation that you feel awkward about, it can be very easy to make this mistake. You have an overwhelming feeling that you must be doing something wrong, so whenever you start to get a specific sense of what that might be, you go overboard trying to correct for it. Don't do that. The whole office is not focused on you or how well you fit in. Just sit there and do your job.

The well-intentioned people here who have told you to offer to buy your co-worker lunch are wrong. This question has a correct answer, and that is to let it go. If you do anything at all beyond your apology, you are definitely going to be indicating either that a) you want something more than forgiveness from your co-worker, for example, you want to have sex with him, or b) you are a socially awkward person who pushes their awkwardness onto other people. Possibility a) needs to be suppressed for your own sake, whether it's true or not, especially since you just started, are uncomfortable with the whole office situation, and sit right next to him, and possibility b) is much, much worse for your reputation than bumping into someone.

When you fail to show up for a meeting on time and your co-worker gets chewed out by the boss instead of you, and he covers for you anyway, you buy him lunch. When you bump into him walking around the corner, you say you're sorry and go back to work. That's how it is.
posted by bingo at 4:41 AM on November 2, 2006

Yeah, what bingo said. Maybe a jokey remark if you have a bruise tomorrow, but no more.
posted by penguin pie at 5:33 AM on November 2, 2006

What bingo said. It's not a big deal, and one thing most people find offputting is someone who makes a big deal out of minor things. If someone bumped into me at work, apologized, apologized again, and then the next day offered to take me out to lunch or brought me a gift to make up for it or whatever damn thing, I'd think "uh-oh, looney-tunes" and try to get my cubicle moved. Trust me, your coworker has far, far worse things to deal with than an accidental bump in the corridor. And after you've gotten over the "Whoa, I have a job!" adjustment period, so will you. In a few months, you probably won't even notice it if you bump into someone; you'll be too busy muttering about unpaid overtime or the endlessly broken copying machine.
posted by languagehat at 6:16 AM on November 2, 2006

Dude, it was an accident. Accidents happen. You apologized, he's not pissed. Let it go.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:26 AM on November 2, 2006

Show him some Terry Tate, Office Linebacker videos.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:57 AM on November 2, 2006

There's a difference between "hurt" and "injured". You bumped into him, you didn't separate his shoulder. Bruises happen. Unless he's geriatric or has brittle bone disease, it's not a big deal.

You know when someone asks you, "What's wrong?" and you say "Nothing," and they keep pestering you with, "No, really, what's wrong?" until you want to punch them? You apologized twice and he said it was nothing. Take him at his word and let it go.
posted by Gamblor at 9:00 AM on November 2, 2006

Bingo is dead on.

Asking him to lunch as an apology would be weird.

Let it go. Accidents happen. Cube farms are notorious for people running into each other.
posted by dejah420 at 9:56 AM on November 2, 2006

Nthing bingo.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

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