my coworker stopped talking to me after I asked her not to smoke near our door

A reader writes:

A few weeks ago, I poked my head out the door looking for a coworker who happens to be a smoker. There was a trio standing right beside the door and it was the first crappy day of winter. Walking up, I had seen an arm raise and lower, classic smoking motion, so I said to them, “Please don’t smoke right by the door.”. One of the three was the one I was looking for, so we came into the building and dealt with what had instigated the search.

Two of the coworkers took my comment in stride, with nothing changing our working professionalism. However, since then, the third has stopped speaking to me. They won’t even respond to a “good morning.” I went to them to discuss the matter, as I felt the tension. They sent me away, saying it wasn’t a good time, but to let them know if it was important. This was at the end of the week.

I tried again the following week and was told I had been rude as they hadn’t been smoking. I tried to apologize, stating that “I’m sorry if I was rude, but not for what I said,” fully intending to disclose some bad history with secondhand smoke. Before I was even finished, they had closed off, turning away from me while I was talking to them. The dismissal had me walking away, but hindsight has me thinking I should have said something more then.

I’ve discussed the situation with a few friends, both genders, both smokers and non-smokers. No one else believes I was out of line to say what I did, and many think the coworker in question was irritated at being caught and unable to take responsibility for their actions.

Since then, managers have sent out email reminders regarding the rules of smoking at the workplace. As I habitually say good morning to everyone in the workplace, I have begun to address the coworker by name, compelling them to acknowledge my morning salutation. Whenever I think of how to proceed with a second apology, I’m troubled with their childish behavior. This is the only instance we’ve been at odds with each other.

I’m not sure if I should try to apologize again, or just give them time. Do you have any recommendations on how to proceed?

I’d stop apologizing. You didn’t really do anything to warrant an apology, although it was kind of you to try to smooth it over anyway.

At this point, though, your coworker is being far ruder than anyone could possibly accuse you of having been, and overreacting in such a bizarre way that it makes me wonder if there’s something else going on that you don’t realize. Mistakenly thinking that someone is smoking when they are not just isn’t a huge offense — reasonable people wouldn’t react to it at all, and they definitely wouldn’t turn it into an ongoing grudge. That’s especially true at work, where you’re expected to be civil with coworkers even if they’ve annoyed you.

So, as for what to do now: Let it drop. Don’t apologize again. Be okay with the fact that she’s not returning your “good morning”; that’s about her, not you. Continue to treat her pleasantly and professionally, as you would any other coworker. However, if her behavior starts to intefere with your ability to do your job, raise that element of it when it happens. And if that happens, start with the coworker herself: “Jane, I need to get answers from you about X today. I won’t be able to meet this deadline otherwise. When can we talk?” And if that doesn’t solve it, then you’d talk to your or her boss about what’s going on.

But until and unless it reaches that point, continue being your own pleasant self and let her marinate in whatever odd, irrational stew she’s in.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG

    If anything, if I were Jane, I would have said, ‘Lucinda, I actually wasn’t smoking. I don’t smoke/smoke over there’. No big deal, just clearing things up kind of way.

    Jane sounds super sensitive and not professional. Not your monkeys, not your circus. Go about being your pleasant self and take your cue from Jane to not exchange pleasantries in the hallway. You don’t have to play the silly game.

    1. Ad Astra

      Right, and at that point the OP could say, “Oh ok, my mistake.” And that would be the end of it. I was going to say this coworker is being childish, but most children I know are less ridiculous.

      I’m curious, though: Does the OP know for certain that they were smoking (and thus the coworker is lying for some reason) or is it possible she really was mistaken? Or perhaps the other two were smoking and Lucinda is irrationally angry that OP reasonably assumed Lucinda was smoking too? I don’t think that changes what OP should do about it, but it would further shape my opinion of this coworker. Any non-smoker with a decent sense of smell can tell when someone’s been smoking nearby, and since the OP says she’s had a negative experience with secondhand smoke, so she probably qualifies.

      1. MK

        I think it’s pretty clear that the OP bases her conviction that they were smoking on the hand motion she observed, not smell. But in some ways Jane’s behavior is even more wierd if she was telling the truth. If someone accuses you of smoking where you shouldn’t, you address it in the moment, when it’s easy to demonstrate that you are not in fact smoking. This drama over a completely trivial incident is just bizarre.

  2. Cheddar2.0

    Any chance the coworker was smoking something other than a cigarette and thinks ignoring OP is the “best” way to hide it? That’s my first guess.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      Hmm . . . I guess that’s possible, but not my first guess. If that were the case, it seems like it would be in her better interest to react like the others and let it seem that she was only smoking a regular cigarette. If she were hiding something else, acting like that about it would only bring more attention to her.

      If she wasn’t smoking anything at all, then OP wasn’t even talking to her, so I don’t see why she’s all out of joint about it.

    2. HRish Dude

      I highly doubt that three people were smoking a joint right next to the front door of their office and no one noticed.

    3. Anon for this

      I doubt it – there’s no way to hide that smell, and I can’t imagine the OP wouldn’t have mentioned it.

  3. Bend & Snap

    Ugh I’d be in “who cares” mode after someone acted like that. ridiculous. Don’t waste any more energy on it.

    1. Laurel Gray

      Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. OP, get into “who cares” mode, you owe this person nothing. And save your good mornings for your other courteous coworkers and do the “chile, please” stroll past this knob and tube wired weirdo in the mornings.

    2. Kate M

      Yeah, in this situation, honestly sometimes it can help to play dumb. As in, I pretend that I don’t notice when someone is snubbing me or being passive aggressive. I just try to be cheerful and treat everyone the same (i.e. – if you don’t greet other coworkers by name in the morning, stop doing it to this one, it’s just calling attention to it). If you ask her a question and she gives you a one word answer, say “Thanks!” so it sounds sincere, just as if she had given you a more detailed answer. If she doesn’t say hi in the morning, pretend you don’t notice. Pretend like nothing ever happened.

      (That’s just as far as social or chatting interactions go of course – if she’s hindering your ability to do your job, then that changes).

    3. AnonForThis

      I had a coworker do this to me, after she sprayed Lysol all through the hallways for some reason. It bothered someone and they asked me who did it. I told them. She hated me ever after. I didn’t care because I thought she was weird and never liked her. So that’s that.

      Some people just don’t want anything to say anything to them about anything. On top of it, the OP apologized for any misunderstanding and she wants to hold the grudge. Fine.

  4. MAB

    Some states have laws against smoking too close to doors or other potential air entrances to a building. Your coworker is just being rude and I agree with Alison’s advice.

    1. Bend & Snap

      Even if there’s no law I think it’s rude. I hate having to walk through a cloud of smoke to get in or out of a place, especially if I have my toddler with me.

      My company has smoking shelters pretty far from the doors which is nice. I always marvel at how dedicated some smokers are because they’ll stand out there when it’s like -10.

      1. Helka

        Addiction doesn’t care how cold it is out, and a lot of times getting chilly is better than going into withdrawal.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Yep, hello from California. My BF had the same issue last year but these weren’t his coworkers they just worked in the same building, so he let HR know who in turn let the property management know. It took a few months, but ultimately property management put out signage near all the entrances and created a smoking area in one of the courtyards. So win/win and no retaliation. Sorry Op but just ignore your coworker, unless you’re just dying to know why she’s overreacting (I’d be curious too) but you’ll probably never know.

  5. OriginalEmma

    She seems to be taking very personally a comment directed at the group. Most smokers know it’s rude to smoke near a door or window nowadays, given the ubiquity (in the U.S. anyway) of policies banning smoking within X distance of a building and likewise behave (in my experience) fairly graciously about polite reminders about such bans. They were probably just trying to avoid a long walk in the cold and hoped they wouldn’t get caught.

    Either Jane is upset she was caught or is upset about being associated with smokers (taking Mom’s “tell me who your friends are” advice a bit too seriously, eh?). But OP was not being rude or overreacting. She tried to apologize, it didn’t work, and now it’s seems she just needs to carry on behaving civilly to Jane in order to get her work done.

  6. Francie

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but you seem really focused on whether this person responds to your morning greeting. Is that one of the only interactions you have with them? Because if you don’t interact much on a work basis, I would just let the “good morning” thing go.

    If there’s an issue with this person not speaking to you when you need to communicate with them about work responsibilities, THAT is your actual issue. If they’re just not saying “good morning” back to you every day, that could be for any number of reasons (including them immaturely not speaking to you because you embarrassed them for smoking or whatever), but it’s not actually a productivity issue.

    1. Anna

      I didn’t get that at all. I think the OP is using that as an indication that their coworker is pointedly ignoring them. The OP only mentioned the good morning thing as “they won’t even” meaning that even a small insignificant greeting has become a cause for tension.

      1. Francie

        It just stuck out to be because, besides the turning away when the OP gave their apology, it’s the only example of the smoker ignoring the OP. There are plenty of innocent (or petty!) reasons to not respond to someone’s morning greeting. If the smoker is ignoring the OP when they are dealing with work issues, that seems like a much bigger issue to me.

      2. Sadsack

        I think OP making it a point to call out good morning to the coworker by name is dragging this out, unless OP uses all other coworkers’ names, too. If OP is making it a point to try to force the coworker to interact with her when it isn’t necessary, she should just stop.

        1. Green

          Slightly off-topic: But I wouldn’t exactly want an individualized greeting from everyone (or anyone) every day…

        2. AnotherHRPro

          I agree, pointedly saying hello by name to someone ignoring you is a little passive aggressive. OP should rise above this. Does it really matter if this one employee doesn’t like you an gives you the cold shoulder?

        3. Anna

          Somehow I missed that she was pointedly saying good morning to that one coworker. Yeah, stop doing that.

    2. notthatgirl

      I am include to agree with Francie. Especially if it doesn’t interfere with your work.

      You can’t force someone to accept your apology. It doesn’t work like that. If I were you, I would leave it alone and stop singling them out with good mornings.

      In addition, “I’m sorry if I was rude, but . . .” is, in my opinion, a poor way to apologize. The use of “if” and “but” seems to negate the apology,

      1. Anon for Non-Apology

        > “In addition, “I’m sorry if I was rude, but . . .” is, in my opinion, a poor way to apologize. The use of “if” and “but” seems to negate the apology.”

        I completely agree. My coworker recently made a mistake that directly affected me in a negative way, and it really colored my opinion of her that she didn’t apologize, instead passive-aggressively saying: “I feel really bad, but…” and then adding in an excuse. During our conversation she used that phrase multiple times with different excuses, and never offered a real apology! Adding “but” at the end when you express regrets just shows that you aren’t actually taking responsibility for your actions.

        Of course, in this situation, the OP had absolutely no reason to apologize for her comment at all unless she yelled or snapped at the group of smokers. It’s even weirder if OP’s coworker wasn’t smoking at all and took such offense to this comment that clearly wasn’t made to her.

      2. Jozie

        I agree! I think the coworker is acting inappropriately and oddly, but I don’t think OP’s apology was particularly good. I’m not saying it’s rational or understandable even, but if I was upset about something and someone apologized to me like that, I would probably turn away too…because I would be concerned I’d get too emotional (not in anger, but tears).

    3. TootsNYC

      I think tkhe OP should even stop saying “good morning” to this person. Just ignore her. She doesn’t want to be interacted with, and I think it’s polite to respect that.

      Instead the OP has been ratcheting things up, by specifically calling her out by name to say “good morning.” I don’t think that’s all the cool.
      Just let it drop. Say “good morning” to the group, maybe and be pleasant, but simply abide by her preference.

    4. Zillah

      I agree that the OP is better off just letting this go unless it’s impacting their productivity (and I also agree that the good morning thing is a bit passive aggressive), but I can understand why they’re put off by such weird behavior. I think a lot of people would be.

  7. Katie the Fed

    If she wants to stew, let her stew. As long as it doesn’t affect work, she doesn’t have to like you.

    But also, this is kind of a non-apology: “I’m sorry if I was rude, but not for what I said.” If you’re going to apologize, apologize. Although I don’t think you did anything wrong.

    1. Shell

      Eh, if this person is going to be that childish, “I’m…sorry if* I was rude?” really is the best the coworker can expect given the whole thing is the coworker making a mountain out of a non-existent ant-hill.

      *The “I’m sorry if” is the non-apology, right? Whereas the “I’m sorry for” is the actual apology?

      1. fposte

        “I’m sorry that I” is also an apology. But “I’m sorry if” and “I’m sorry that you” aren’t.

        1. Elder Dog

          “I’m sorry I upset you. I didn’t mean to, and I’m sorry I did.”
          NOT “I’m sorry you’re upset” because that puts the onus back on the upset person and the point of an apology is taking the onus yourself.

      2. Jozie

        It may not be rational and I may not agree, but I think the coworker has a right to be upset if they’re upset, especially since we don’t know the full details. The issue is, is this affecting OP’s work? Regardless, I agree that OP should stop trying to apologize. It’s in the coworker’s hands now if there’s really something they need to take up with OP.

    2. Anna

      I don’t think that’s true, especially in this case. You can completely stand by what you tell someone, but genuinely feel you could have phrased it better.

      1. fposte

        But the main point of that statement is “I was right to do what I did.” That’s not an apology. If you want to make it an apology say “I’m sorry; I know I phrased my request abruptly.” Don’t mention the legitimacy of the request.

        1. JB (not at Houston)

          Yes, exactly. If you’re using the apology as a disguised attempt to justify what you did, it is not an apology. You don’t always have to apologize for stuff, but if you’re going to apologize, actually apologize. Find something in the interaction you can sincerely apologize for or some way of phrasing it that isn’t “sorry not sorry.”

          1. Green

            These kinds of apologies usually escalate rather than de-escalate a situation, so it’s probably a time when saying nothing would have been better. And it sounds like OP doesn’t see the need for the apology, forces OP to say hello through making it awkward, and yet wants to apologize again? Sounds like both might be feeding off of some drama here.

        2. Anna

          Eh, I guess. I just think in this particular case we’re parsing how things were said and ignoring the larger “she stopped talking to me” immaturity. Is it time for the OP to let it go? Yeah, send it on its way. I don’t get that this person will care how the OP apologized because they seem pissed off in general about a non-issue.

        3. Koko

          I have a case study that I’d love to hear your thoughts on.

          Say two people have a misunderstanding. Person B does something that upsets Person A because they misunderstood Person A’s instructions.

          Person B says: “I’m sorry I didn’t realize what you meant, if I had, I would have done what you asked.”

          Is that an apology or an excuse?

          1. Ultraviolet

            I’d say it is an apology, though it is specifically an apology for misunderstanding and not for doing the thing B did based on the misunderstanding. So I guess it’s also an explanation for doing whatever that thing was. (I wouldn’t call it an excuse, since that has negative connotations of inappropriately disclaiming ownership that don’t seem justified in this case.)

            I think “I’m sorry I didn’t realize what you meant” could potentially come across as passive-aggressive in some situations. Like if the miscommunication was quite clearly an error on A’s part, then this line from B could sound almost like “I’m sorry I didn’t read your mind.” But if A’s instructions were reasonable, it would be just fine.

          2. CM

            Could be either. If it’s “Sorry I didn’t realize what you meant,” it sounds like Person B might be blaming Person A for being unclear. But if it’s, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what you meant,” then it sounds like Person B is acknowledging that they have upset Person A, and offering an explanation.

      2. Francie

        Agreed. “I’m sorry I assumed you were smoking” doesn’t compromise on the idea that no one should smoke in that area, but it also takes the person at their word that they were not smoking.

    3. Ad Astra

      Yeah, I don’t like that apology either. OP didn’t do anything to warrant an apology at all, but the “but not for what I said” part comes off as kind of hostile. It may have made things worse, honestly. If your goal is to smooth things over, saying that you stand by your statement (even you do, and even if you should) isn’t going to get you where you want to be.

      1. Kyrielle

        Honestly, since the co-worker said they weren’t smoking and OP assumed they were, probably the easiest apology would be, “I’m sorry I assumed that you were smoking.” I mean, the OP assumed they were smoking; they say they weren’t; while OP wouldn’t be sorry for their words *if* the person had been smoking, being sorry for the assumption surely is still appropriate?

        (And if the person was smoking and is lying, still, the apology is for something OP did and currently believes resulted in the disagreement.)

        That ship has probably long since sailed out of sight, since the non-apology has already been given, though.

    4. LBK

      Agreed – if you weren’t sorry for what you said, what were you sorry for? There’s no other action to apologize for here.

    5. Kira

      I normally hate the non-apology apology, but I think there are times when a version of it is warranted, like “I am sorry that what I did hurt you.” I say that because of people like this! Because I think it is absolutely possible to feel bad that the person was hurt, but to feel like their hurt reaction is totally unreasonable. I think there are probably better ways to phrase that, but I understand why people who aren’t trying to be weasely weasels end up using it.

      1. Zillah

        I agree; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with apologizing for the impact rather than the essence, provided the apology is genuine. “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings” is still an apology in my book.

        However, the only time “I’m sorry if” really works IMO is if you’re not sure about the impact in the first place. For example: “Hey, I’m sorry if I interrupted you earlier!”

      2. hbc

        Hmm, I wonder if “I feel bad that I hurt your feelings” would be better than the weasel versions. Because it’s true (hopefully), and doesn’t rely on an apology, which carries an implicit promise that you’ll try not to do it again. Or even “Here’s why I did what I did blah blah blah. I hope you understand that it wasn’t directed at you in particular.” Tone matters a lot, though.

        1. Zillah

          Hmm. For me, “I feel bad” would actually come off as making their misstep and my hurt feelings all about them. I guess there’s really no foolproof way to do it!

      3. Elsajeni

        I agree, but I think if you’re going to go that route, you’ve got to commit to the apology — “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings [or whatever],” full stop. Adding some version of “… but I still think I was right” basically guarantees that the person you’re apologizing to will not be mollified by it, and also makes it back into a non-apology issued for the purpose of Winning rather than a maybe-slightly-insincere apology issued to smooth over the argument.

  8. Jerzy

    I had a coworker once stop speaking to me, seemingly out of the blue. I suppose I caused her some great offense, but she never discussed it with me, so I had no way of knowing. I got along great with everyone else I worked with, and I (luckily) didn’t work directly with this woman on any projects.

    I always remained pleasant, would say hello (sometimes she would respond, begrudgingly, and sometimes she would ignore me), and would speak to her at office events such as the holiday party, even though, more often than not, she would actually turn her head away from me so she wouldn’t have to look at me. It was ridiculous!

    She was the kind of woman who could find something to complain about winning a million dollars or a free car, so while at first I let it bother me, I finally decided that if she’s not going to be adult enough to give me an opportunity to apologize for whatever wrong I did her, than it’s really her problem, not mine.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      I once saw a coworker (Assistant to the Dean) stop speaking to another coworker (Director of Student Services), and it was because the AD was slowly alienating herself from everyone on the faculty and staff because of her own behavior. She wouldn’t believe that she had done anything to cause the alienation she was feeling, and so she jumped to some weird conclusion that the DSS must be talking about her and turning everyone against her. The DSS was one of those very kind, engaging people who ends up being everyone’s confidante, so somehow, to the AD, the fact that DSS was popular and she wasn’t meant that the DSS must have poisoned the well against her. After she decided that the DSS was the root of her problems, she just stopped talking to her at all. She would turn her head rather than look at her; she’d abruptly change directions in the hallway if they were about to pass each other. I think the AD was too defensive to admit that anything she herself had done could be a problem, so she had to blame her troubles on someone else.

    2. RVA Cat

      Ridiculous is right. She sounds to me like a former Mean Girl who has a personal need to exclude somebody from her little clique for whatever reason.

      1. Jerzy

        Except literally, no one cared. She’d stand in a group of people that included me and pretend I wasn’t there, while the rest of us chatted away. Then some days it would be as if the whole thing had blown over and she’d come speak to me about something she thought would interest me. The next day, it was like I was a ghost. Whatever happened, I tend to believe was all in her head, and therefore, none of my business.

    3. Ad Astra

      I just can’t imagine ever being in a situation where I’d completely stop speaking to someone who’s speaking directly to me, in person. Like, worst-case scenario I’d say something like “Lucinda, you know the court told you not to contact me.” Or, more likely, something like “Sorry, I really don’t want to talk to you” followed by a refusal to engage in any subsequent pestering. I just don’t have it in me to be that rude. And I generally do have it in me to be pretty rude, I think.

      1. Jerzy

        I would have really liked an opportunity to apologize to this woman, too. Despite her “Debbie Downer” attitude, I actually found her pretty fun to talk to. She’s quite funny. But I wasn’t about to push for her to tell me what I had done. She obviously didn’t think enough of me to give me an opportunity to apologize (which I would have, pretty much no matter what she claimed I did). At least OP has a pretty good idea as to why she’s in the doghouse.

    4. AnotherHRPro

      I also had a coworker stop talking to me. At times it cause problems from a work perspective, but mostly it just made her look ridiculous as I continued to treat her normally. This was about her, not me. The best thing to do is rise above it and be the professional one.

  9. Zscore

    I’ve been in the workforce for decades, and in the last few years it seems the amount of drama is on an increase… people who love to be the victim, who enjoy a bit of self-righteous anger, who just need a lot of attention, who need to be right, who complain a lot. Where a workplace used to only have one or two, we now seem to have handfuls. It does get tiresome. These are not people who respond well to feedback either, and there’s too many to fire. Management has become a whole new game, literally.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I’ve noticed that too–I wonder if it’s because we now have this venue in which to air our drama and grievances (internet) and it’s spilling over into real life?

      1. Jerzy

        But without the Internet, there would be no AAM, and we’d never have heard about the Duck Club *quack*

      2. Stranger than fiction

        That was my thought too. We have phones to text our coworkers, chat programs, and email all readily available making it so easy to perpetuate drama. That and work cultures in a lot of fields have just plain become more casual than they used to be.

      3. AnotherAlison

        I think cell phones cause a lot of imagined drama, too. People expect to be able to reach anyone, anywhere, at any moment. In 1993, you would just assume a payphone was not nearby for someone to return your page. Now you assume something nefarious is going on if someone doesn’t immediately answer a text. You’ve already imagined a scenario of why so-and-so is pissed and isn’t answering you, so that by the time they respond (an HOUR later), there *is* an issue, even though the original reason was a dead cell phone or whatever.

        1. Zillah

          So even though I’m sometimes bad about checking my phone, I have totally done this. My partner is a teacher, and sometimes I’ll text him in the middle of the day and he won’t text me back for two hours and I’ll be like “OMG WHAT DID I DO.” Then I realize that I’m being ridiculous.

    2. Ad Astra

      Are you sure this is a new development? I haven’t been in the workforce all that long, so obviously I don’t know from firsthand experience… but I know that “people who love to be the victim, who enjoy a bit of self-righteous anger, who just need a lot of attention, who need to be right, who complain a lot” have existed outside the office since the beginning of time. Since before offices.

      So, either people who’ve always been this way only recently started acting this way at work (which is possible), or people have always been this way at work but we hear about it more because we have access to virtually unlimited information via the Internet.

    3. Artemesia

      The society at large is heavily into victimization. I am so annoyed at the number of self pitying posts in my facebook feed. Perfectly normal people otherwise seem to have to pass on those posts that suggest saying Merry Christmas is somehow ‘forbidden’ and they are so oppressed so they ‘hope it is okay to say . . .’ yadda yadda. A lot of our politics seem to be driven by faux oppression (and resentment of people who ARE actually oppressed pointing this out and trying to do something about it). And of course reality TV pushes the idea that drama queen behavior is somehow normal and expected. I am totally shocked to see grown ass people behaving like this in the workplace but it seems to be part of the zeitgeist at the moment.

      1. TootsNYC

        “A lot of our politics seem to be driven by faux oppression (and resentment of people who ARE actually oppressed pointing this out and trying to do something about it).”

        Ain’t that the truth!

      2. mander

        Maybe it just seems more in-your-face now than it used to be? Although I suppose it might be somewhat more prevalent now than it used to be. I have certainly noticed recently that I’m a lot more inclined to righteous anger than I used to be. I’m going to swear off comment sections in most media as my New Year’s resolution.

        I don’t get why this person is so angry and is shutting out the OP, though. If I was in that group and wasn’t smoking, I’d probably say (indignantly) “actually, we weren’t smoking” and expect an “Oh, I thought I smelled smoke, sorry. Anyway, I was just looking for Jack so I could ask him about some work thing” in response.

        People who actually do smoke can get weird about it sometimes. There’s actually a law in the UK now that dictates how far from a doorway you have to be, and it caused a storm of complaints when it went into effect.

    4. Kelly L.

      Nah, there’s been drama everywhere I’ve ever worked, going back to 1995 or so. It’s just that there’s more Internet to talk about it on.

      1. Anna

        Agreed. I’m always suspicious when people say there’s more X (drama, crime, etc.) now than there used to be. Chances are there’s just as much, you just hear about it more.

  10. Observer

    The only other thing I would add is stop trying to force the issue by calling her by name. Just say good morning as usual when you come in, and leave it at that. Less emotional energy for you, and you don’t look so hung up on her apparently childish behavior. It’s not like people don’t see that you are being pleasant and she is being rude.

  11. voyager1

    What is the company policy on smoking? Where I work now there is an area, so if you were to do that there you would be out of line. Smoking in other areas is prohibited.

    Honestly I would just let this go though.

    1. Anna

      It doesn’t matter. The OP is in the US and it’s illegal in most places to smoke within 10 feet (and some places 25) of a door or window. The OP stated they were outside the door and if the company is following the law the smoking area would not be immediately outside a door.

      1. Hotstreak

        Absolutely. We had a coworker who liked to smoke with the door cracked, so he could peek his head inside and chat with other people on break. The place STUNK until management put a stop to it, and then went on to properly enforce the 10ft rule – no smoking within that distance of any door, window, or vent capable of opening. I think there was a piece of chalk and 10′ string involved… and the smoking area became a far corner about the size of an armchair, with no awning!

    2. Tamsin

      I was just going to write a comment saying that, even pre-2010 when I was a smoker in a tobacco state, people and businesses were already getting close to ostracizing smokers, even in the few places left where they clearly were still allowed to smoke. Not that this is in any way defending the coworker’s subsequent behavior giving the OP the silent treatment, which is incredibly immature. It’s just that yours is the first comment I saw getting near to what I thought was probably at the root of the tensions.

      1. voyager1

        My response to Anna didn’t go where I meant it, but I was thinking along the same line. If they have a policy and to tell someone to stash a cigarette, I can see where the issue could come from.

  12. voyager1

    I think the company policy is relevant. The law too. But to ask someone to stash a cigarette if they are following the rules is a little petty to me. It implies that the LW thinks they wouldn’t once they walk into the building. I don’t smoke but I could see how someone might feel they are being talked down to or treated like a child.

    1. Tamsin

      I think smokers today, even when smoking legally in areas designated for smoking, really do feel something close to persecuted as it is. Trust me, as a pre-2010 smoker, I was *acutely* aware of the negativity and stigma (and even grimaced at the butts left by other people or the still-smoldering butts left by them). I suspect all of this is part of the dynamics now between the coworker and OP (including the OP’s lingering guilt and prepped justification to the coworker, true as it may be about second-hand smoke, having it ready to explain the rudeness suggests maybe OP was a tiny bit inappropriate. I understand many people will believe that it’s never inappropriate for someone to directly address smoking, but, I just kindly disagree, there might be some circumstances where in fact it is inappropriate).

      1. JB (not at Houston)

        I get this, as a former smoker and as someone who has close friends who still smoke. But if you are smoking right by the door, people have to walk through the smoke and smell to go in and out. As someone with asthma triggered by smoke (yes, I do wish that now me could talk to pre-smoker me and give a warning), that would be a genuine health hazard.

      2. Ad Astra

        I agree that sometimes people take on an “us vs. them” mentality with smokers that is really uncalled for, and maybe that dynamic is influence how the coworker perceived OP’s request. But “please don’t smoke directly in front of my door” is an extremely reasonable request. Trapping people in a cloud of smoke when they’re trying to enter or exit a building is crazy rude and can cause real trouble for people with asthma and other very common health issues.

      3. Green

        1 in 12 people have asthma, and smoke is a trigger for nearly all of us. It is the most common trigger for asthma attacks/allergic asthma. I carry an inhaler almost always, but if the activity you’re doing is both prohibited and could cause serious health impacts (including death) to your colleagues, then, yeah, it’s almost never inappropriate for someone to directly address smoking.

        1. GOG11

          +1,000 I had a coworker who was smoking right outside of the door leading into my office and I had to remind him a couple of times to please smoke not right outside the door as it was causing asthma attacks. It’s a very, very serious health hazard.

          1. Zillah

            +another 1,000

            I developed asthma a couple years ago, and cigarette smoke (or even just the smell of cigarette smoke in someone’s clothing) is a big trigger. Marijuana smoke is even worse. Between the two, I’m actually relocating halfway across the country because I literally can’t step outside my door without running a significant risk of an asthma attack.

      4. Anna

        I agree. I don’t like to walk behind someone smoking or walk through a cloud right outside a door. However, I have a friend who is incredibly rude to people who are on the sidewalk smoking. Not even smoking in an inconvenient area, just standing next to the street. At some point the roles change and smoker isn’t being the asshole.

      5. Misc

        Another smoke-triggered asthmatic here! If someone smokes near me, I start coughing (bronchitis induced asthma). You can be ten metres away, I have no idea you’re there, and I’m still going to start coughing – second hand smoke travels a looooong way. If I have to breathe it for more than 30 seconds or so, the coughing gets worse to the point where I can’t breathe and may actually throw up. But it doesn’t stop until I get away from the smoke. I have to hold my breath walking past people on the street.

        1. GOG11

          I’ve gotten very good at holding my breath for this very reason (that and because of people wearing fragrances).

        2. Zillah

          Yes! I’ve developed a habit of scrutinizing what’s in people’s hands – if it even looks like it could be a cigarette or a joint, I hold my breath.

  13. OK

    Using her name to force her to acknowledge your greeting is immature.

    Let it go, let it gooooo…..

    Ok, singing aside, seriously let it go. She does it to provoke and get under your skin. Your using her name is a way to get under her skin.

    I deal with this all day with my kindergarteners. I tell them to ignore the rude people and find other people to play with. That’s my advice to you.

  14. Alternative

    I realize my personal experiences are likely coloring my perception of all this – but I’ll be the contrary one and say I actually identify with the coworker in this case. I do agree the coworker has been rude, and seems to be overreacting, but I would be mildly annoyed if someone I work with reprimanded me for something I wasn’t doing (as it sounds like that may have been the case here?). But then, to keep approaching me, pushing the issue, discussing this with others, and then greet me by name in the morning (when that wasn’t what you did before, and “compelling me to answer”), I would be REALLY bothered. I would wish you would just leave me alone and act polite/professional.

    So that is my take on it :) Not sure what it is exactly about the letter, but something about the tone made me think I would find the LW overbearing or irritating to work with.

    1. AnotherAlison

      I had the same reaction to the tone. I tried to reread the letter a couple times to see if there was proof that *anyone* of the three was actually smoking. It seemed the OP saw the up and down arm motion, but the letter didn’t say there was smoke, a cigarette, or butts on the ground. The letter didn’t say if any of these people were known smokers, either. I just felt like to OP jumped to a lot of conclusions based on a few seconds of weak evidence. The coworker is being ridiculous giving the cold shoulder, but I think both parties over-reacted.

      (We had an office issue with people smoking in an unauthorized area, but it wasn’t until it was a pattern that someone addressed it. In the OP’s situation, I’d have let it go, and if it happened a few more times, I’d have raised it with a supervisor or office manager to ask that an all-office reminder be issued so no one was singled out.)

      1. myjah

        Well she was standing around outside with a known smoker on a crappy day in the winter. Why else would she be doing that? Feel like it’s a fair assumption.

        1. AnotherAlison

          Ah, you’re right. . .a read over the part that said the original person the OP was looking for WAS a known smoker. I think that it’s a fair assumption that that is the reason the person she was looking for was outside, but I’ve known a few coworkers who would go out with a smoker work-BFF on breaks, just because they liked to gab on breaks. Eh, the whole thing is weird all around. Smoke in the proper place. Mind your own business. Don’t act like you’re 5 and give the silent treatment to people, and don’t try to force people to speak to you.

        2. Oryx

          I’m a non-smoker who has stood outside with smoking coworkers on crappy days in winter. Sometimes you will take any excuse to escape from work for a couple minutes.

          1. Anna

            And sometime your BF smokes and you’re taking a break with them and that’s not a reason to be an ass.

    2. Ultraviolet

      The OP didn’t reprimand her though–she said “Please don’t smoke right by the door.” That’s a straightforward request with no value judgments or scolding attached. I mean, I totally get how the co-worker could feel a little criticized or rebuked. But the OP’s request was polite and reasonable and impersonal. I don’t like the idea that asking someone to change a behavior like that is synonymous with reprimanding them for it.

      1. LBK

        Agreed – if OP had written in to say “How do I get my coworkers to stop smoking outside the door next to my desk?” I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what we’d tell her to do.

        1. LBK

          Oh, whoops, I apparently made up the “near my desk” part. Still, point stands – a polite but direct statement is something that’s advised here all the time to deal with minor interpersonal issues.

      2. Temperance

        I think a lot of smokers are in denial about how their habit comes off to other people – so they wouldn’t consider it reasonable that a nonsmoker would like to avoid walking through a cigarette smoke gauntlet in order to get to work.

        My MIL’s boyfriend is a heavy smoker, and he doesn’t believe in secondhand smoke, asthma, or smoke allergies. He thinks that the government is lying about it … not sure why. So it’s not totally uncommon.

        1. mander

          Because anything inconvenient can be blamed on the government, apparently. Or NASA.

          (I was just reading about the Flat Earth Society, which claims that Antarctica is apparently an ice wall around the perimeter of the flat earth — we don’t know about it because it is defended by NASA).

        2. Smoker

          I think it is really uncommon, actually, and that your MIL’s boyfriend is an exception. I’m a smoker myself and many people I know smoke; we are all aware that nonsmokers view it as anywhere from distasteful to disgusting. I mean, I’ve had total strangers walk up to me on the street to tell me how bad smoking is and plead for me to quit and tell me how gross it is. Pretty much all of us would sheepishly move away from the door if asked. OP’s coworker is definitely being very weird, this isn’t normal behavior.

          1. Helka

            Uncommon maybe, but not unknown. I’ve seen smokers complaining online about people coughing when they have to pass through a wall of smoke to get where they want to go.

      3. swimmyfish

        Except that she assumed they were engaging in an inappropriate behavior. That’s what makes it a reprimand. To me, it sounds like the OP is jumping to a conclusion based on the “crappy” weather (which is subjective), the fact that they’re “known” smokers, and one arm movement.

        It may seem ridiculous to say that she has no evidence that they were smoking, but she really doesn’t. They were standing by the door when she found them, not actively smoking, yet she concluded their behavior was not appropriate. As a former smoker myself, I can’t tell you how many times we’d linger by the door before actually re-entering the building, even though we were no longer smoking, to finish our conversation before returning to the office.

        1. Ultraviolet

          Hmm, thanks for explaining why you consider it a reprimand. I really think that the burden of proof (or degree of doubt re: their observations and impressions) that you’re requiring the OP to have before speaking up is disproportionate to the situation and the OP’s response, and very uncommon for everyday interpersonal issues like these though.

    3. TootsNYC

      I have the same reaction, sort of.

      The OP reprimanded them (not her place; who died and made her God?) without finding out the facts. I’d be a little stung too, and I might consider the OP to be a busybody who likes to pass out edicts. Even if she was right about the rules.

      The tone of her delivery would matter a little, but even so…

      I get the urge to speak up, especially if the OP is someone for whom it would be a big problem to deal with the second-hand smoke. But I can understand someone feeling unfairly bossed around and chastised by someone with no standing to do so.

      1. Ultraviolet

        I appreciate this explanation, but I still don’t quite get why what OP said could be a reprimand rather than a request. Is it because she had gone looking for someone who was smoking and would have had to come near the group of smokers whether they were standing near the door or not? If OP hadn’t been looking for a smoker, but had gone through the door for another reason, would you say she had more standing to say what she did? (Because in that case, she was exposed to the smoke only because the coworkers were near the door.) Or would you always find the OP’s request/reprimand inappropriate from a peer?

        (These questions are for anyone who considers the OP’s words a reprimand, not just TootsNYC!)

      2. LBK

        I think “without finding out the facts” is a little overdramatic. It’s not like she was reporting her to HR for stealing from the company – the severity of the accusation wasn’t so high that I think this is a situation that merits making sure you have concrete evidence first.

      3. Megan

        There was no reprimand, and the “facts” appeared to be visible. She was incorrect in the interpretation of the facts and apologized for it. Your interpretation seems a little defensive.

      4. Temperance

        Unpopular opinion: anyone who is forced to walk through secondhand smoke has “standing” to complain about it.

      5. Zillah

        The OP reprimanded them (not her place; who died and made her God?) without finding out the facts.

        As somebody with asthma, I sincerely hope that there’s room for me to keep breathing normally without becoming God.

      6. Smoker

        The OP reprimanded them (not her place; who died and made her God?) without finding out the facts.

        I don’t think just saying “Please don’t smoke right by the door” is really a reprimand at all. Also, as a smoker I definitely feel that the nonsmokers around me have first rights to the air. Anytime that someone around me is uncomfortable I immediately stub it out. I don’t have to smoke, but we all have to breathe.

    4. hbc

      I have to agree. Without taking anything away from the ridiculousness of the coworker’s response, telling a group of people to stop smoking when you haven’t seen or smelled a cigarette is pretty presumptuous. If OP is the kind of person who is triggered before there’s even a smell, then I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to go searching for a smoker on a smoke break and have a conversation seconds after he’s stubbed it out.

      Technically, the coworker didn’t “stop speaking” to her, either. Saying “This isn’t a good time, come back if it’s an emergency” is speaking. It sounds like she only turned away after the pseudo-apology–it sounded like “Yeah, I was rude, but I’d say it again.” Then the passive aggressive greetings started.

      Again, not saying that her reaction is at all warranted. A simple “You were totally condescending, and no one was smoking, so you were wrong to boot” is miles better than sitting in a snit about it. But the great thing about people in a snit over something silly is that they look worse and you look better the longer it goes on, as long as you aren’t poking at them. But OP is helping continue this drama and making it look not-so-one-sided. It makes me wonder if there’s a dynamic at play so that this isn’t just a reaction to one incident.

  15. Allison

    I don’t understand humans. You’re adults, it could have been as easy as this:

    OP: please don’t smoke out here
    Coworkers: oh we weren’t smoking
    OP: ah, thought you were for some reason, my mistake! But Jane, I need to talk to you about X

    Either this person is vastly overreacting to a mistake the OP made, or she’s super defensive about her smoking habits and resents people telling her when and where she can smoke. OR, OP’s coworker thought OP was ridiculous to think she’d be smoking out there, because she knows better and OP must not think highly of her if she thought she’d do something so inconsiderate. Which may be a valid reason to have your feathers (temporarily) ruffled, but that warrants a conversation. “I wasn’t smoking, I make a point of smoking in the designated spot because I’m not a jerk, and it hurts me that you thought I’d do something so inconsiderate.” Done, it’s over, back to being civil.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Eh, I get a little different read here. I am wondering if Coworker knew she could not really discuss the matter because as OP indicates here she was ready to give a lecture on second hand smoke. It could be that OP’s body language and tone of voice sent a message to the coworker that we do not see here. To me, it read like OP was going to give this lecture regardless of whether coworker was smoking or not.

      It’s too bad we do not know if Coworker was indeed smoking or not. If it were me, and a coworker made a false accusation then proceeded to want to lecture me on it, I would back away also. And I would work on distancing myself from a coworker who shows signs of making false accusations. And as fposte points out that was a non-apology, so I would not feel that the coworker actually meant she was sorry. For me it would only add to the weirdness that this coworker insisted I say good morning to her every morning. I have a rule of thumb that goes: watch out for people who make false accusations. Maybe you believed she was smoking, OP, but that is not the same as she was actually smoking.

      However, having said all that let’s go the opposite way. Let’s suppose this coworker was smoking and OP was entirely correct. A wise friend told me, when you take a stand, it does not matter if you are correct or not, expect a backlash of some sort. If you do not get a backlash for taking a stand, then you are having a good day. I am not saying it’s right, noooo, absolutely not. But there are people out there that will hold a grudge and we need to be aware of that. Awareness means having a plan. In this case, I would just wait for coworker to come down off the ceiling, OP. She will eventually.
      And OP, I have been there, I did not do enough to collect up facts in a situation. Yeah, the person got really ticked at me. Make sure before you go in on something that you are absolutely certain of your facts. And we see here why. People do get angry and we cannot control that. All we can do is control ourselves and be sure we have solid facts.

      Alison, as an aside, a post on accusations and apologies at work might make an interesting discussion.

      1. Ultraviolet

        I’m kinda surprised to hear this described as a “false accusation.” Just to be sure I understand, the accusation here is the “you’re smoking” implicit in “Please don’t smoke right by the door,” correct? It seems like a very harsh term for what could also be described as the OP making an innocent error in observation and then making a polite request of her coworkers based on her mistake. Maybe it depends on just how badly we think smoking near the door reflects on a person?

        1. hbc

          If I come up to you and say, “Please don’t watch porn at work,” you’re not going to think that it carries the underlying accusation that you’ve been watching porn at work?

          The coworker didn’t handle it like a grown-up, but there is an accusation implicit in the words, though stated as kindly as possible.

          1. Ultraviolet

            It would sound to me like it carries an underlying misunderstanding (if I hadn’t been watching porn at work) or an underlying accurate observation (if I had). The accusation framing just doesn’t ring true to me. I think the word “accusation” also implies a much greater burden of proof than is required in order to ask a few peers to not smoke right by the door.

      2. Temperance

        “False accusation”? I may have misread the letter, but it sounds like the other members of the group were smoking, and Nasty Coworker was angry that she was lumped in with them … even though she was standing with them.

      3. Zillah

        By this logic, though, all requests are accusations. While it’s important to be aware that sometimes people don’t have optimal responses, it’s maladaptive to go through life trying to anticipate intense and unreasonable reactions to everything you say. It reminds me of some conversations we’ve had here about resumes and cover letters where people advise against negotiating (for example) because they’ve come across an employer who rescinded an offer over it. Sure, it happens, but the vast majority of employers aren’t unreasonable and won’t do that, and assuming that they will is likely going to hurt you more than it helps you.

        Assuming that you need to make sure you have 100% solid facts before you make any request of anyone is problematic in the same way. It’s overthinking a fairly routine and simple interaction, and moreover, where health is involved – which it often is with smoking, because it is a significant trigger for many people with asthma – it actually has the capacity to hurt people.

        It’s not like the OP went to a supervisor and said, “Coworker is smoking by the door every day.” That would be a false accusation. Asking someone to move away from the door? Not so much.

        I also didn’t at all get the sense that the OP was ready to give “a lecture” on secondhand smoke – I got the sense that the OP was planning to explain that they, specifically, had a poor reaction (migraine, asthma, whatever) to secondhand smoke and that’s why they asked. It’s entirely possible that the coworker took it as the OP preparing to deliver a lecture, but it seems unlikely to me that that’s what was happening – and I think it’s worth pointing out that by the parameters you’ve laid out, making that assumption starts to look a lot like a false accusation in and of itself.

  16. Just Visiting

    Is the OP 100% sure that this snub is about the smoking incident? Is it possible that the “smoking” coworker overheard the OP talking about something contentious (politics, etc) around the same time and is choosing to snub her for that reason? OP just needs to let this go, at this point it’s getting kind of creepy how much they need the coworker to “process” with them.

    1. Katie the Fed

      I don’t think it’s creepy. It’s uncomfortable to work with someone who strongly dislikes you. I worked with a guy who just HATED me. And singled me out. It was weird and I have no idea what drove it. And if you’re a fundamentally decent person (which I think I am) it makes you question what you might have done to deserve being treated that way, and you also tend to want to make it right.

      I think with age and experiences comes the wisdom to know when to let things go and you start really not caring what people think of you. It’s quite liberating!

  17. HRish Dude

    I hate devil’s advocating, but having been a person who got complained about for just happening to be the last passenger on a still-smoky elevator after the smokers got off:

    – Person is not smoking, conversing by the door.
    – OP tells coworker who is not smoking to stop smoking.
    – OP then pulls coworker away, giving indication that coworker is “in trouble” for smoking when they were not smoking.
    – OP then continues to press the issue, trying to force greetings with person they embarrassed the day before.

    I say leave it alone. If they actually were not smoking, your behavior might actually seem a bit obnoxious to your coworker – even though that isn’t your intent. I mean, I could just as easily see this post coming the other way – “My coworker pulled me out of a conversation, falsely accused me of smoking, and now will not stop pestering me.”

    1. Jerzy

      I think the person OP pulled away was different from the person snubbing her, though I may be misreading.

    2. AnotherAlison

      No one has mentioned e-cigs, either. I don’t know the laws/policies are on that, but you don’t have the offensive cloud of smoke and there’s less reason for the OP to butt in. It’s possible that whatever the OP thought she saw was that instead (or nothing but conversation, as you say).

      I’m not a smoker and don’t really care about when/where smokers get to smoke without harassment, but at this from a general myob perspective. Same as if I had an open can of Coke in a conference room that was only supposed to have bottles with lids or something and someone tells me I can’t have my Coke. I mean, sure, that’s the rule, but I’m going to be annoyed if Random Coworker takes it upon herself to police the rule. I’m an adult, I know the rule, and if I spill my drink I’ll be accountable to TPTB. (Now if I’m being reckless with my drink near her laptop, fine, say something. . .I just get peeved when people butt in for no good reason.)

      1. Jubilance

        E-cigs do give off vapor and chemicals that are offensive though, which is why you see a lot of companies/governments including them in the “no smoking” policies.

        1. AnotherAlison

          But, outside?!?

          I get it. I don’t love walking through people’s smoke, for sure, but is the outdoor air quality so great that vapor is making it worse? (Maybe it is. . .I have no reason to go research what’s in it, but the concentration would be low outside, no?)

          1. Kyrielle

            Probably not in the immediate vicinity of someone using it, any more than in the immediate vicinity of a smoker. Sure, 10 feet away – but right next to the door? Especially if opening the door pulls outside air in, that’s close enough to draw things in, thus the frequency of the rule of 10 feet for smoking distance. I wouldn’t assume it was a lot different with e-cigs than anything else.

            I don’t know how much is in second-hand vapor, but there’s a recent studied that many flavored vapors have chemicals in them that can cause irreversible lung disease (if you Google it, it’s in the current news)…I would very much worry about second-hand exposure also.

            I had childhood asthma while I grew up with my smoking mother…who, sadly, died of lung cancer. So I’m perhaps not inclined to be calm or forgiving about the possible effects of second-hand exposure in the absence of positive safety data.

            1. Misc

              And as an asthma person, I can confirm that e-cigs trigger it (I had a normally very considerate friend who was delighted to have switched because now they could smoke near me. Only they couldn’t. It definitely wasn’t as bad as normal cigarette smoke, but only because there seemed to be less smoke/vapour overall).

          2. Anon for this

            OK I’ve jumped onto many comment threads with this helpful tidbit. First off, even though I’m a former smoker, I cannot stand cigarette smoke, both firsthand and secondhand. (Which made it very easy for me to quit!) I become nauseous, get migraines, and other side effects within five minutes of being exposed. I do not get any of that with vapor however. I am dating someone who, as of right now, owns five vape stores and is planning on opening more. He vapes like there’s no tomorrow. While I don’t vape myself, I’ve been exposed to copious amounts of vapor, both outdoors and indoors. I think it’s safe to say that few people have been exposed to as much secondhand vapor as I have. It has no effect on me whatsoever. No headaches, no nausea, nothing. I hardly even notice it’s there. Then again, he only uses his own products, they make juice right there on their premises, and he used to work in the food industry before and applies all of the same guidelines to the mixing of the juices. So maybe the vapor that I am exposed to is of better quality, if you will, than the one where the product comes from a questionable source – I don’t know.

            I’m pretty skeptical of the current research at this point, because e-cigs/vapes are highly likely to put big tobacco out of business, so it’s fighting back.

            1. Zillah

              Or maybe this just happens to be different for you. Everyone who has issues triggered by cigarettes isn’t going to have them triggered by e-cigs, because e-cigs and cigarettes are not the same thing. That doesn’t mean that e-cigs aren’t a problem for some people – it just means that you happen to not be one of them, or at least not one of them who has an immediate reaction.

              My asthma and migraines are both triggered by cigarette smoke and marijuana smoke, the latter actually being the more severe reaction by a wide margin. However, I know plenty of people with asthma who are triggered by cigarettes but not by weed at all, and when I was younger, the smell of weed triggered my migraines where cigarettes didn’t have the same effect. That’s just how it is – people react to things differently. There are some serious issues in extrapolating your experience to everyone else’s.

              1. Anon for this

                Thanks for the free Dx, but I’m not sure where in my post I extrapolated my experience to everyone else’s? I admit I did mention that the vapor I’m being exposed to is from the juice that was made following a strict process, which I’m guessing isn’t true of most commercial juices. Hope this doesn’t mean I have serious issues?

                1. Anon for this

                  I was in complete agreement with your comment, until I saw this: There are some serious issues in extrapolating your experience to everyone else’s. What does that mean?

                  Anyway, I think that e-cigs/vapes are a smoking alternative/smoking cessation device that is far far preferable to cigarettes; and that, unlike cigarettes, both the hardware and the juice formulas can potentially be worked on and improved to minimize the effect of both the first-and the second-hand smoking. If a study comes out saying that a vape user is guaranteed to spontaneously combust, and produces verifiable data to confirm that, then the hardware/juice manufacturers can use that data to rework their product so they no longer make the users spontaneously combust. That type of improvement can never happen with cigarettes. Because of that potential, I do not like the (mostly sensationalistic) bad rap that vaping’s been getting in the press lately. Then again, if that helps get the low-quality and black-market products off the market, I’m all for it.

                2. Zillah

                  It means that I have a very hard time reading a response to someone that essentially consists of you saying contains “I react so badly to cigarette smoke but I’m around e-cigs more than almost anyone else and I don’t have reactions” as being anything but an implication that if e-cigs really were a problem, they’d be triggering immediate reactions in you, and since they don’t, concern about them is overblown. I don’t understand how a post about the merits of e-cigs is even relevant here.

      2. Temperance

        E-cigs can be gross, too, although not as bad as cigarettes. My building had to amend their antismoking policy to specifically include them, because a few bad apples were lighting up with heavily scented/flavored e-cigs at the smoke-free dining tables.

    3. HRish Dude

      Also – if they were not smoking , that makes this statement – “I’m sorry if I was rude, but not for what I said.” – all the more aggravating. It’s a nonapology – and it’s a passive-aggressive one at that, considering what was said was, “Please don’t smoke right by the door.”

    4. Elsajeni

      I don’t really know where you’re getting “OP then pulls coworker away, giving indication that coworker is ‘in trouble’ for smoking when they were not smoking,” though. Like Jerzy, I don’t think the person the OP pulled away and the person who’s now snubbing her are the same person; I also don’t see any reason to assume she pulled the coworker away in a way that suggested they were “in trouble,” rather than saying “Please don’t smoke right by the door — oh, Jane, I was looking for you! I’m having some trouble with the spout molds, can you come give me a hand?”

  18. LBK

    Any chance she’s in the process of trying to quit and therefore being yelled at for smoking came off as particularly paternalistic in the moment? Smoking withdrawal also makes people cranky, so that would feed into it.

    Even if she is, that wouldn’t excuse her weird behavior. Just trying to come up with some explanation that would make sense because this whole thing is odd. Although I do agree with others who say OP needs to move on – at this point the little passive aggressive jabs like calling her out by name are just as petty.

  19. Former Retail Manager

    While I think the nonsmoking co-worker’s response is a bit odd and unjustified, and the OP should let it go, I wonder…..has OP ever said anything about other smells? Strong perfume, ethnic food, Scentsy’s (assuming anyone has one). If so, and OP has a reputation for being the “virtually any smell offends me person,” then perhaps the rude co-worker is just fed up. I realize there is nothing in the letter to indicate that, but for the co-worker to have such a strong reaction to the OP over something so seemingly small seems odd to me. Seems like there may have been other occurrences or some preexisting issue that triggered the reaction.

    For the record, I’m not a smoker and don’t really care for the smell, but I would never dream of saying anything to a smoker who is smoking outside, no matter how close they are to a door or window. We’ve already relegated them to the outdoors, regardless of the terrible weather, and rightfully so due to the harmful effects, but give it a rest. Geez!

    1. Green

      I have asthma and tobacco smoke is a trigger for nearly all asthmatics. Someone being 20 feet away makes a big difference in whether or not I have an asthma attack. You shouldn’t assume that people are being hypersensitive and need to “give it a rest” — 1 in 12 people have asthma, so there are more of us than you may realize who can have serious negative impacts, including death, from other people’s cigarette smoking.

      1. F.

        I also have asthma, and it is triggered by many odors or particulates in the air, including smoke (of any kind), e-cigarette vapor, perfumes (lotions, body wash included), candles (especially scented), plug-in air fresheners, aerosols and many cleaning chemicals. IT CAN LITERALLY KILL ME!! I already have to avoid most public places due to my sensitivity. We have a “no odor” policy where I work, fortunately. Do NOT tell me to “give it a rest”!

        1. Zillah

          I already have to avoid most public places due to my sensitivity.

          Yep. It sucks so much to just want to take a damned walk up to the store to get something to drink and end up not being able to breathe because of it.

    2. Temperance

      I have asthma that is triggered if I have the unfortunate experience of a smoker sitting next to me on the train – you can darn well bet I’m going to say something if secondhand smoke is coming in through a window or smokers are crowding near a door. It’s not worth it for me to get sick (which I will … sinus infection that turns into bronchitis) because someone else has a bad habit.

  20. LavaLamp

    Admittedly I haven’t read all the comments, but my workplace gives you a credit on your health insurance if you’re tobacco free. She could be upset about being ‘caught’. We had to have our doctor sign our tobacco free form this year, since people were lying about it.

  21. Nicole

    I had a coworker get angry at me for getting “in trouble” (boss merely told her to share the printer so I could get a large print job done) and wouldn’t talk to me for a YEAR. Yep. Some people are just immature. You have to try and ignore it as best you can. It’s not easy when they are acting so unfairly, but what else can you do? Take the high road, but don’t apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.

  22. apopculturalist

    Am I the ONLY one who dislikes routine good morning greetings? Every day, the same guy walks by my desk and says good morning. This always happens when I’m busy, meaning I have to stop what I’m doing, turn and reply similarly, and then figure out where I was and pick back up again. It sounds really trivial, but it gets to the point where I stop what I’m doing when I hear the front door open and brace myself for this guy to walk by and say hello.

    That’s not to say I NEVER greet people, I do when I pass them in the hallway.

    Am I the only one?

    1. Cassie

      Me too. If it’s my boss, I’ll stop and turn and greet him (it’s the boss, what can you do?), but for basically everyone else – I just say “good morning!” without turning around . Most of the time, it’s a walk-by greeting anyway – those people are just making their rounds and have already moved on to the next cubicle.

      I do greet people when I pass them in the hallway – either a hi, or good morning, or sometimes just a smile.

    2. Windchime

      Nope, you are not the only one. I don’t mind the casual, “Good Morning” as we pass in the hall or a Hello in the lunch room. But there is someone who makes a pointed effort to walk by my cube every morning and say, “Good Morning, ‘Windchime’!” in a voice that sounds like she is expecting (demanding?) a personalized response. I feel petty even typing this out because really–she is saying good morning.

      Maybe I don’t like it because I’m not a morning person and I’m an introvert. I have a cube neighbor who will glance up and murmur, “morning”, and that’s about how I like it. Quiet and non-demanding. Organic. Not someone marching around the office and sing-songing , “Good Morning, [Name]!” to everyone.

    3. CADMonkey007

      I feel the same way, although I’ve just accepted that some people take morning greetings very, very seriously. I have multiple coworkers who walk up and down the cube aisle reach morning extending personal greetings to everyone. I’ve even had to deal with a person who was deeply offended that I didn’t give him a personal hello every time I saw him!

      1. PlainJane

        Similar story here. A former co-worker complained about me on my 360 review because I “blew past her desk” without saying hello. She was in a high traffic area, and I didn’t want to add to her interruptions by saying something every time I walked by, so I tried to keep my greetings to once a day, though I always responded if she spoke to me. People can be very invested in the personal greeting–while as we see here, others get annoyed by them.

    4. MashaKasha

      I once worked with a guy who, every day as he was leaving the office at 5, would walk around the office, pop into every cubicle, and say his good-byes.

      I can take anything after that. Good morning? Bring it on. Your “good morning” doesn’t scare me, coworker! Either way, I don’t drop what I’m doing to say good morning back. The other person doesn’t want me to, because they’re on the way to their desk and don’t want me to hold them up, so a friendly grunt or a “Hi!” are IMO absolutely acceptable.

    5. Lillian McGee

      Yesss… we also had a guy who would energetically greet every single person every single morning. I’m a cold hard cynic and I apologize in advance for this but it was part of his hippie-dippie daily life-affirmation stuff which I’M SURE was necessary for his own mental health but it had me rolling my eyes every morning.
      Personally I need to put my head down until I can get to my office and decloak and decompress from the commute. Otherwise I might get snippy. God help you if you ask me for something while I’m still wearing my coat and bag…

  23. So Very Anonymous

    No. I’m an extrovert and greetings in general are fine with me, but I’m so much not a morning person that pointedly cheerful greetings are NOT what I want in the morning. Also, very pointed “HI SO VERY” greetings do sound passive-aggressive and demanding to me (in an “I will MAKE you be cheerful and attentive!” kind of way) so, not a fan.

  24. iseeshiny

    I have been fully ignored, the cut direct, by a coworker for almost two years now. In my opinion it is the best punishment ever because I don’t have to talk to someone who obviously has some grudge issues.

  25. OP

    Thank you all for the advice. It’s been great to see both sides of the issue. To answer a few of the questions in the comments:

    – All three coworkers outside are avid tobacco smokers. I don’t believe any of them to be into the green stuff.
    – prior to the specific incident she had always called me ‘doll’. Superfluous yes but it was sweet in her way.
    – when I went to offer my awful apology I asked about the tension, she responded with the ‘you were absolutely rude the other day. We weren’t smoking’. Definitely the trigger.
    – whenever I said good morning, many times would be while I was turning around to see who had arrived, as it’s in my job description to keep track of staff who are in or out. She was pointedly ignoring me but would call out a greeting to the person in the next office by name or if anyone else was nearby, again by name. I emulated her actions. Not my best choice.
    – the management emails regarding smoking also addressed ecigs to be treated as cigarettes, outside only.

    My calling her by name in the morning was a childish jab, don’t get me wrong. It was forcing her to do something she obviously didnt want to do. Growing up with a smoking parent (who smoked in the house and kids had no say in the matter) has definitely colored my perception of second hand smoke. Since then, two of those three have smoked (with lit cigarettes in hand observed) right at a possible 10 ft margin from the door (I swear it was closer). This was during the tension filled phase. I didn’t say anything and the email had already gone out.

    Since then, I appear to have made amends by making her laugh. A stupid but funny meme for the win lol. Nothing like the ‘doll’ nickname but she was a courteous coworker today.

    I definitely let it bother me too much. I will continue to believe childhood trauma from this one (over exaggeration I’m sure). I feel like the situation has given me some positive personal growth. I will need to work on better apologies in the future though. I hope to do so only where warranted, but we don’t always get what we want.

    PS, I’d like to second the comment for an article on accusations and apologies in the workplace please.

    1. MashaKasha

      All three coworkers outside are avid tobacco smokers.

      Oh okay, I’m puzzled now! My version of why she’d react like that was that, maybe your company’s medical insurance charges the smokers an extra fee, and she’s not a smoker, and you kind of put her on the spot as being one; so perhaps she was worried that you’d report her as a smoker when she’s not? But in light of your update, that version doesn’t make any sense. And it’s the only one I had! She’s definitely overreacted IMO!

  26. Alma

    OP, the places I have lived and worked have had policies of no smoking anywhere on the property, even if it is in your own car. It gives a very tacky impression when there are people huddled on a parking median (or, as some have mentioned, near the back door with the door open so they can still “work”).

    In one office, people would say they needed to get gas, or pick up coffee or soda, so they could get in their car and drive down the block and back to smoke off-property.

    When I had to do ride-alongs with the smokers, it was torture.

    Apologies? Maybe thinking of less affrontive, more humorous ways to approach situations like this: ” Hey out there! Do I need to bring my gas mask?” would be a more friendly approach.

  27. A Reader From Afar

    I feel for you. I recently wrote to AAM about a similar issue I am facing at work: coworker not speaking to me, with the added bonus that she won’t accomodate any of my work-related requests. I have come to believe that if someone is so rude as to not acknowledge your apology, however awkward, you shoudn’t waste any more time on it, as this behavior probably has to do more with them than with you.

    I am saying this because I have been in this situation once again (I apparently offended another coworker without realizing it, I apologized, they accepted my apology and now everything is more than OK, since it’s obvious that they appreciated my noticing and doing my best to fix things) and I have come to the conclusion that if someone wants to be offended and treat you badly, they will do so regardless of what you say or do.

    As far as this situation goes, I don’t think you were rude: second-hand smoking is something that even some smokers won’t tolerate, so your comment shouldn’t have caused such a strong reaction – more so by a coworker, in a professional setting.

  28. Lillian McGee

    I was on the reverse side of this issue before. There was a coworker I ignored for at least a year unless I absolutely had to do something related to work with/for him. I couldn’t bring myself to be even fake-polite to him. The only way I could keep it professional was to disengage completely. Or is that actually unprofessional? Anyway. He knew why at least and it was a lot worse than mistakenly chastising him for something he didn’t do…
    I suppose this is another vote for Let it Go. I chose to be angry and resentful, I owned it. The only thing I wanted from the guy was to go away and leave me alone forever and eventually he obliged.

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