my coworker REALLY doesn’t like me

A reader writes:

I work in a small office (less than 15 of us). There’s pretty low turnover so most of us have been around for at least a year, most of us more.

I have one coworker, Paige, who is great at her job and really personable around everyone … except me. She was hired almost a year before I was. At first things seemed fine, but after a couple of months, it started to become really obvious there was a problem. She would correct me a LOT (even on things that either didn’t actually matter — think order of tasks — or weren’t actually incorrect), and she stopped chatting with me, even though we worked pretty closely due to the nature of our positions. This continued for months — random “corrections,” short and angry when she did have to talk to me, ignoring me when she didn’t. It was different than how she’d behave with other coworkers — laughing, chatting, talking about life stuff, making jokes about our work, etc. If I would chime in, she would clam up or even leave the room.

I recently took a different position a couple of months ago, one where I’m not really working directly with Paige, but due to the small office, everyone still sees and is around each other all the time. She still tries to find ways to “correct” me and is even less polite. She completely ignores me and my presence now unless she absolutely has to respond. If I say “good morning” when she walks by and there’s no one else in the area, she doesn’t even look at me, but if I have to ask her a question or someone else is around, she will answer.

This isn’t technically affecting my ability to do my work — she answers if I need to ask her something — but in all honesty, it’s disheartening. Everyone else in the office is fine and friendly with me. I don’t have to be best friends with my coworkers, but general politeness seems like a decent baseline to expect. I have no idea what about me has rubbed her the wrong way. I don’t think it matters, but we’re both women, and she’s about 10 years younger than me.

Is there anything you see here that I can do or change, or do I just need to suck it up, buttercup? Am I expecting too much?

You are not expecting too much; general civility should be a baseline expectation at work. Paige doesn’t need to socialize with you if she doesn’t want to, but she does need to speak with you politely, return basic pleasantries like “good morning” rather than pretending you’re not there (and the fact that she does it when other people are present indicates she knows that), and not aggressively correct you on things that are none of her business.

Most of us have worked with someone we don’t much like before, and reasonable people — professional people — mature people — manage to deal with that without blasting arctic air all over them.

There might not be much you can do about it, but you can try if you want to. At some point when you’re one-on-one with Paige, you could ask calmly ask about it. For example:

* “Have I done something to upset or offend you? That was never my intention and I’d want to make it right if I did.”
* “If I stepped on your toes or bothered you in some way, I’d be grateful to know so I can handle it differently.”
* “You’ve made it clear you don’t want to interact with me, but I’d appreciate a basic level of civility. Is there something I’ve done that makes that impossible?”
* “The way you treat me around the office really feels awful. Is this something we can fix?”

It might not work. She might ignore this too. Or she might act as if you’re unreasonable for thinking there’s a problem. But sometimes — not always, but sometimes — when people who behave like this are called out on it, they change their behavior. It might or might not work, but you wouldn’t be risking much by giving it a try.

Also, in an office this small, Paige’s behavior has got to be visible to other coworkers, and it sucks if none of them have taken her aside and said, “Hey, your behavior to Jane is really obvious and you should cut it out” or at least asked what’s up. You can’t really ask someone to do that for you, but if your boss is one of the people who should have noticed it, they’re being negligent by not stepping in.

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

{ 271 comments… read them below }

  1. Specks*

    Maybe this is a mistake that would come off as gossipy, but if there’s a coworker you trust to be discreet and who understands the office dynamics, can you maybe ask if they have any idea what the hell is up with Paige? For all you know, she’s been complaining about something you did or do to anyone who would listen, and if you ask in a kind, curious, bewildered way someone might tip you off. And if not, maybe at least it’ll tip them off to the behavior and cause them to call it out.

    1. Not on board*

      yeah, I thought this too. If you’re calm and relaxed but somewhat bewildered in your conversation with someone more gossipy, it could go a long way to making everyone aware of what’s been going on but without you coming off as immature or a complainer.

    2. postdooc*

      I think this is good advice to help distinguish between the end members of ‘Paige is incredibly petty and randomly acts like this’ vs. ‘Paige is mad that you got a project she wanted’ vs. ‘Paige thinks that you have been viciously spreading rumors about her/that you hit and run her car’.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yeah it’s not the least-drama solution but it’s not the worst option if it’s driving you nuts and you really don’t know. Someone being this obvious probably has shared with someone what her beef is. Be prepared for it to be incredibly stupid and not something you can change.

      1. Specks*

        Yes, I thought about it some more and I wonder if everyone knows and they all assume the OP knows and either doesn’t care or can’t do anything about it. And if just asking will cause a “well, of course there’s that time you said “X” to her and she’s not been a fan ever since… oh, you didn’t know?”

      2. Paint N Drip*

        Fully agree both Sloan and Specks. It’s probably something dumb, so dumb that others aren’t bringing it up because it’s dumb or unfixable.

        OP, here are my thoughts on your possible TREASON:
        Your middle school was her middle school’s rival. A decade after you scored a dozen goals in one game, your name was still rings through the halls there.
        You wore that blue sweater she bought last weekend and you looked amazing, so she had to return it.
        She was behind you in line at the coffee shop and you snagged the last muffin.
        You jokingly said Tesla’s are lame right after she dropped a bunch of money on one.
        Your feet are smaller than hers. (or larger than hers?)
        You have a very cute cat that you talked about once and she is allergic to cats.
        You murdered her entire family (I assume you would have mentioned it but in case you left this out, possible solution would be resurrection spells)

        1. Festively Dressed Earl*

          -You married her unrequited high school crush.
          -You were her unrequited high school crush.
          -Your families have secretly been mortal enemies for 300 years and no one has given you the backstory yet.
          -You’re rivals in the same MMORPG and she’s found out who you are behind the screenname.
          -She’s found out that you’re her long lost sister and is afraid you’ll bring family secrets to light.

          1. MuffinThiefOP*

            I am truly laughing at all of these suggestions of possibilities.

            I did forget about the part where I murdered her entire family… huh, maybe it IS relevant?

            1. Festively Dressed Earl*

              I’ll bet that lifetime of mysterious and intensive martial arts training is beginning to make sense now.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Does anyone have a link to the update about a weirdly hostile colleague where it turned out the colleague assumed from the LW’s witch-themed calendar that LW worshipped Satan?

        Apparently the entire office knew, but no one told LW until the colleague successfully pushed LW out.

        1. Myrin*

          I definitely remember this story but I think it was in an open thread not too long ago? (And possibly later included in one of the “crowd-sourced” posts Alison does every once in a while?)

        2. Person from the Resume*

          It was a round-up post. I thought it was a petty coworker, but that wasn’t it.

        3. Airy*

          Exactly the story I thought of when I read this one, so much so that as I started reading I thought maybe it was a repost of an older letter.
          And yes, I expect the answer in this case to be just as daft.

    4. MuffinThiefOP*

      I’ve thought of this actually, but this is a very non-gossipy office (don’t ask me how, but we are!) and honestly, given my aversion to conflict, I’m not inclined to try to stir it up over something so… well, dumb, really. If she hasn’t been saying anything to anyone, I’m going to be The One Who Brought It Up, and even if she has, I really just don’t want to start down the path of “well, Paige told Ken YOU did this thing, but told Ken not to tell you, and then Ken told ME not to tell you” and so on. And even though it’s obviously disheartening enough to get to me at times, it’s not ACTUALLY affecting my work, and everyone else is pretty normal with me, so it doesn’t feel worth the risk.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        If you ever do find out what bee crawled in her bonnet, can you please write Alison back with an update?

      2. Dandylions*

        Yeah I tried this once with a roommate situation. Suddenly one of my roommates was icing me out and I had no clue what I had done.

        So I asked some of the other roommates while we all happened to be eating together what was up with “Anna” and it made everyone SUPER uncomfortable. It hurt my relationship with my other roommates. Ultimately all I learned was that she was spreading a lie about me going into her room without permission. Which was absolutely not happening so it didn’t even help resolve the issue.

        1. Mysty*

          I’ve done similar in the past, where I’d ask a mutual friend if I’d done something because it felt like the person in question was acting hostile to me, but I’m also clinically anxious and don’t want to ask them directly if it’s just my brain being stupid.

          The person in question one time proceeded to vaguepost about me on social media because the person I went to went to them and ratted me out. Turns out they did have a beef with me! I wasn’t friends with either of them much longer.

      3. Jill Swinburne*

        God, I remember this in high school. I wronged a friend, but she wouldn’t tell me what I’d done and wouldn’t talk to me till I apologised, but I wouldn’t apologise without knowing what I was apologising for, and a mutual friend knew what it was but wouldn’t tell me because she didn’t want to get stuck in the middle, and it was months before I found out from some other person. The friendship was never the same (but to be fair, I had been mean and the apology was warranted).

      4. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – if your office is not gossipy, then I would not approach your coworkers about it. I might ask your manager / former manager if THEY know what Paige’s issue is, but probably only if it started to affect your work.

        I’d either address Paige directly about it or leave it alone, otherwise.

        You could also try killing her with kindness (well, civility, anyway). Over time, it’s possible that she may realize that her objections to you are irrational.

      5. anon for this*

        There might be a way to do it that’s not gossipy, like sense checking with a trusted colleague when it happens.

        For example I was in a job with a new boss. We were in a large group meeting and after a pretty tense general conversation I said something I thought was innocuous like ‘it would be great to find ways to collaborate more’ and I thought he had a very hostile response to me and raised his voice, which he had not done to anyone else in the meeting. I also knew I was emotional that day for a number of external reasons.

        After the meeting a quietly asked another attendee who I trusted for her take on if it had happened. I mentioned that I had other things going on and just needed a sense check that I wasn’t misinterpreting what had just happened.

        In your case that might lead a neat (and non-dramatic) opening for you to ask ‘Is there something going on there?’

    1. It's all elementary*

      I’ve had that happen to me too. It’s so difficult to keep a good attitude when they are happy, chatty, and include everyone in office stuff except you.

    2. Goldenrod*

      I’ve seen (and experienced) supervisors do this too, and it is appalling. No one that immature and unprofessional should be allowed to manage anyone.

    3. Adam*

      Wow, that’s extra not okay. It’s highly inappropriate for a supervisor to be so obviously favoring or disfavoring one of the people who report to them. I’d personally want to have a conversation with your supervisor’s boss about it and see what can be done.

      1. lemon*

        As someone who’s done this and was retaliated against by both my supervisor *and* my supervisor’s boss, I’d highly advise making sure that you have a good relationship with your grandboss and make sure that they are trustworthy and likely to handle your concerns fairly. If you’re not sure about them, see if there’s anyone else on your team who has experiencing working with grandboss who can help shed some light.

    4. Grapes are my Jam*

      Alison has answered letters about this before. If you’re hoping for any kind of career advancement, your best option might be to find a new job. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It would make me nuts.

    5. Penguin*

      I had this happen to me too then I was put on a PIP with really baseless claims. Start job hunting just to be safe.

      1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

        Start job hunting to be safe full stop. Your mental health is valuable and you deserve better. I’ve been there and people with power over you don’t stop at icy and snippy when you fail to apologize (grovel) for your imaginary crimes, or any real missteps they aren’t mature enough to just discuss like adults. Do it now, before the situation becomes job or even career threatening, so you can leave on your terms, with enough breathing space to choose a better workplace instead of fleeing blindly to “anything is better than this.” (BTDT and no, it’s always possible for it to get worse, as many a LW here knows.)

      2. Also*

        I’m so sorry this happened to you. I had the same experience. It was deeply unpleasant and extremely damaging to my health, relationships, career, and finances.

        Worst manager I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some shockers. She ended up using her abject lies to unlawfully dismiss me, and although there was a paper trail a mile long that proved she’d literally made everything up, I still had to take legal action.

        Ended up getting a decent settlement and an NDA (due to both her easily disproven lies and the illegal discrimination involved), but the stress was horrific. Permanently damaged my health and almost ended up homeless. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

      3. totallyrad*

        Similar thing happened to me with a colleague who had formerly been very friendly (and I was her assigned admin support) and my supervisor’s response was to make my entire annual review hinge on one goal: “Repair the relationship with [Icy Colleague].” With no information about what Icy Colleague was so angry about and no guidance for fixing that person’s situation (I was not mad at all, just bewildered). I was able to jump to another team around that time. Icy Colleague continues to stare right through me if we happen to cross paths. Never did learn what her issue was.

      4. ferrina*

        This happened to me. My supervisor put me on a PIP on baseless claims. She didn’t actually want to fire me, she wanted to deny me a promotion so she could keep me in the same role (while she promoted her friend).

        If your supervisor starts icing you out, job hunt immediately.

    6. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Yup, that was my grandboss, who worked right in the office with the rest of us and was friendly with … everyone else. The first and last time she was cordial to me was when I gave notice. I was on good terms with everyone else, but they must have seen her coldness towards me and no-one ever mentioned it.

      1. tangerineRose*

        They were probably afraid to bring it up – didn’t want the supervisor to know they’d said anything.

    7. Wendy Darling*

      I had a supervisor who iced me out whenever she was mad at me about something (as opposed to, you know, telling me why she was mad) and I quit that job without anything else lined up. I was out of work for a year and to this day my only regret is not quitting months sooner.

    8. SnookidyBOO*

      I’m.. not glad, but relieved (?) to see that I’m not the only person this happens to. Not often, but every long once in a while I’ll meet a new colleague (99% female) and they just… get this look on their face and I know it’s all down hill from there.

      This phenomena had been both in college and in the work place. I’ve had an assistant manager SCREAM in my face boot camp style because… she didn’t like my handwriting.

      I’ve had coworkers make snide comments about my clothes, my weight and at my last job I found out (after my female coworker quit) that she had been lying about me for months and was trying to get me fired.

      Very stressful. For a long time I was mystified but I think it’s a combination of people-pleasing, being introverted and overly empathetic. I’m working real hard on keeping boundaries and not putting up with bad behavior.

  2. Jessica*

    You are not being unreasonable at all, LW. My standard for the people I dislike in my workplace is that they should not know who they are, and I don’t think any of them do.

    1. Tupac Coachella*

      I agree 100%. In my personal life, if I dislike you for a reason (as opposed to you being an ok human who’s just not my vibe) you KNOW, and you probably have a good idea why if you have one iota of self awareness. At work, I would consider it a serious misstep on my part if someone knew I actively disliked them. Paige needs to either squash the beef or fix her face.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Totally gonna use “squash the beef or fix your face” the next time someone’s being snooty at me!

      2. Always Tired*

        This exactly. The coworker I am at BEC levels with thinks we are buddy buddy and wants to chat when he damn well knows he hasn’t done the thing I need done TODAY, meanwhile everything he asks me for is “urgent” and needs to be done asap even though it’s Monday and can wait til Friday.

        And in my personal life if I dislike you for A Reason, you know it. Because I use perfectly correct society lady manners like you are a stranger who hasn’t been properly introduced. And I have told you, to your face, with my whole chest, why you are on the bad list.

        1. Sharpie*

          Please tell me if those perfectly correct Society manners means you have actually given someone the cut direct.

          (As a fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I am so very here for perfectly correct Society manners!)

    2. KaciHall*

      I aspire to this. I’m on the spectrum and am fairly certain I’ve failed with few of my coworkers but I’m doing a good job with some. (I hope.)

      1. Yoyoyo*

        I’m also autistic and I can’t think of anyone I actively dislike at work but some people probably think I do just because of my RBF and because I’m not super chatty. I know I can come across as aloof sometimes but my actual job is very emotionally labor intensive (therapist) so I need to save my spoons for that. I do reply politely when people greet me though.

      2. Mysty*

        I’m on the spectrum as well and am pretty sure that I’m at least on civil terms with the people I currently work with. The one person who’s been actively hostile towards me was just. Not a nice person. The sort who when she quit, the store manager said she wouldn’t be rehired if she tried to come back. But she was a manager and the owners never let her do more than give her a slap on the wrist for her atrocious behavior (she screamed at people she didn’t like, made my sister cry, actually physically grabbed me and moved me when I was ‘in her way’ instead of just saying ‘excuse me’ as some examples).

        This was before I knew I was autistic or had ADHD, but considering the phenomenon of neurotypical people being able to “smell” it on you, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was why despite none of us knowing. She absolutely loved anyone who was either an underage guy (she was in her forties and that’s an entirely other discussion) or girls/young women who were “like her” (kind of bitchy and/or young mothers).

    3. aebhel*

      Yeah, this. I dislike some of my coworkers, for reasons ranging from legit to utterly petty, and I doubt any of them know, because I’m polite and professional. It’s honestly just easier than trying to turn my workplace into a stew of drama. I don’t have to socialize with any of these people outside of work, and while I’m there I’m getting paid, in part, to work pleasantly with my coworkers. Unless you did something shockingly egregious without noticing, Paige is just obnoxious.

      1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

        In the case of shockingly egregious, Boss should have pulled OP aside and explained why that is Not Done here and given a chance to apologize. Since no one else seems to have a problem, it’s “squash your beef or fix your face” time for Paige.

    4. MuffinThiefOP*

      I actually really like that standard. That seems like a great idea to adopt.

  3. Apples and Oranges*

    With letters like this, I’m always surprised that something like this has gone on for this long without the letter writer asking the person about it. It seems possible that a simple “have I done something to offend you?” could have cleared this all up a long time ago. Of course this person’s behavior is unprofessional regardless

    1. A Significant Tree*

      Not the OP, but I had a similar situation in an otherwise tight-knit friend group in college and here’s why I didn’t just ask. One person decided to give me the same kind of silent treatment for close to three years. We were the only two in the group that shared our major’s classes, but it still took me a surprisingly long time to realize what was going on (maybe a whole semester?). Then when it was still happening after summer break, it became kind of a joke.

      Then it was disappointing because it just. kept. going after the second summer break, and by then it felt too late to ask directly. Our mutual friends had noticed too and a few talked to the person but the person refused to explain. I figured if they wouldn’t explain it to their own friends, they sure weren’t going to tell me. It seemed like too much of a big deal over someone I hadn’t been that close to before the silent treatment, it’s not like we had lost a great friendship. In order not to make things worse or any more awkward, the way I handled it was by making sure not to put the person in a situation where they were forced to acknowledge me (* not really an option for OP in a work environment! *) and otherwise carrying on like I didn’t notice.

      1. Zeus*

        I had a similar situation in a friend group at school, but I noticed more quickly as we were quite a small group. I asked her if I’d done anything to upset her or make her uncomfortable, and she told me I hadn’t and everything was fine…but she still kept freezing me out and being unfriendly when previously we had been close.

        (Years later I made the connection that it happened after I came out, and her family belonged to the Salvation Army church, who are still not friendly with the gays. That may have been the reason.)

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      Personally, I don’t think I would find that to be worth it if I were in the LW’s position. Talking to the person about it risks creating more drama or making the situation worse.

      I haven’t been in quite the same situation as the LW, but in the smaller-stakes versions I’ve experienced, I acted relentlessly normal. Let everyone around me observing the situation think “look how Spencer is being perfectly civil and Paige is being weirdly hostile”, rather than “Spencer and Paige have this weird beef”.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yep. Someone being this obvious, I’d say they’re looking for a reaction, so not giving it to them is your reward. Move on with your beautiful life and act like you don’t notice Paige’s weirdness unless she wants to directly talk to you about the issue. If anyone else flags it, try, “Oh, Paige has always been a little weird, I think that’s just way. I try not to let it get to me.” I have also been known to get a bit petty. Invite others out with you for drinks or make sure to have a BFF in the office you can talk to while not engaging with Paige. Meet her eye but then then let it skate away without smiling like she’s invisible.

        1. Happily Retired*

          I really enjoy and admire your posts, but on this one, I’m not sure that becoming Paige II is the way to go. Especially if for some reason management gets involved, I’d hate to be viewed on the same level as she was.

          If flagged by anyone else, I might modify your sample reply as, ““Oh, Paige just does her own thing, I guess,” and then on to the TPS reports!

          1. Sloanicota*

            Haha yeah I gave better advice elsewhere, this would be if I was really feeling petty :P

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            Yeah. Maybe I watch too much TV*, but in my opinion, “have I ever done anything to offend you?” seems like the prelude to what Captain Awkward would call a “FEELINGStalk” if there ever was one.

            My advice to LW is: you are here to do your job and Paige’s weird behavior is not your circus and not your monkeys, unless she’s affecting your work (like if you need something from her to finish a project and she’s holding you up). In which case, I’d keep it neutral and factual when talking about it (“Hi Paige — Can you give me an ETA on when that accrued interest calculation will be done? Thanks! -Spencer”; “Hi Boss — The report is almost finished, I’m just waiting for the calculations from Paige. I’ll keep you updated. -Spencer”).

            *see, e.g., my handle (I’m rewatching Pretty Little Liars right now, as it happens)

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I also think “have I done anything to offend you?” suggests a willingness to apologize for whatever it is, and I may or may not be willing to do that depending on what the issue is. Especially if it’s something I had no idea was even a thing, like “I wanted that major account and you got it instead” when Paige never said anything out loud to anyone about it.

              1. Apples and Oranges*

                I feel like in a business scenario we all SHOULD have a willingness to apologize if they reveal something we genuinely did wrong. It’s not an OBLIGATION to apologize if what they reveal is unreasonable

        2. tangerineRose*

          I would avoid saying “Paige has always been a little weird,” and maybe stick with something like “Yeah, Paige does that. I don’t know why.”

      2. MuffinThiefOP*

        “Talking to the person about it risks creating more drama or making the situation worse.” That’s pretty much exactly how I feel. Right now it’s kind of a bummer once in a while, but perfectly workable. I could make it a LOT worse if I approach it, especially if I do it wrong.

      3. Apples and Oranges*

        Unless you approach it in an inflammatory or accusatory way, I guess I don’t see how asking a polite question is likely to make the situation worse. Best case they unveil a misunderstanding that can quickly be cleared up. Worst case they deny it and you’re back to square one. If they respond by accusing you of something completely unreasonable—well that sucks but at least you have more information than you did before to address the situation

        1. BeenThere*

          I can tell you how it can make the situation worse. They yell at you, cry to their manager, take the next day off sick, and you get chewed out by your boss. All because you politely asked if you’d done something to upset them. And at the end of it all, they still haven’t told you what you’ve done (probably because you didn’t actually do anything).

          1. Apples and Oranges*

            A person that would cry, take a sick day or complain to their manager about a kind inquiry is also the kind of person that could do those things if you breathe wrong or ask them about the weather. Point being, you still have nothing to lose by the inquiry because if they are that irrational then they will find something to be irrational about regardless.

        2. ferrina*

          If Paige were a reasonable person, it would be just fine to ask in a calm, non-accusatory way. A reasonable person would recognize the good intent and try to come to an understanding.

          There are people who would see the mere question as validation that they are right– in their minds, you are only asking because you feel guilty, and the only reason you would feel guilty is because you have something to feel guilty about. Ah-ha! Clearly you have done something wrong and must beg their forgiveness!
          Yes, it seems wild. But I have met multiple people who think in this way. And they almost always escalate after you ask them what’s wrong. Here’s the scenarios I’ve seen:
          -If you ask in front of witnesses and the witness says nothing to correct the Unreasonable Person’s mindset, then Unreasonable sees the witness as approving of Unreasonable’s mindset and sees that as validation
          -If you ask in front of witnesses and the witness actively disagrees with Unreasonable’s mindset, Unreasonable says that you and the witness were ganging up on them, and now Unreasonable is the victim.
          -If you ask without a witness, Unreasonable can spin the conversation to whatever they want. Some people will intentionally lie; others will be so far in their own head that they will say something that they believe happened, even if that thing is completely detatched from reality.

          Things that have actually happened to me:
          I had one coworker who suddenly decided that she hated me (after 6 months of liking me and working great together), and she saw that as an acceptable reason to undermine my work. I asked her kindly and gently if I had done anything to offend her, and she said (direct quote): “It’s just your personality. It’s nothing you can do anything about.” My boss heard her say this and said nothing. My coworker then took this as a sign that she was right and justified. When I turned in my notice a week later, they were both shocked pikachus.
          Another person at a different job- I was her manager, and I had to give her performance feedback that she did not like. After our conversation, she went to my boss and accused me of swearing and screaming at her- there was never any screaming, just quiet, gentle conversation. And I absolutely never swear at work- it is something my brain just can’t compute and will not do. But she felt attacked (because she was getting negative feedback), so her brain told her that she had been attacked with screaming and swearing. She unconsciously made up a reality that matched how she was feeling.

          As the great Captain Awkward says, reasons are for reasonable people. If Paige is a reasonable person, yes, do the reasonable thing. If Paige is unreasonable, you can disregard her silent treatment.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed. Sometimes, naming the elephant in the room gives it a voice – ie. escalates the situation.

    3. Nesprin*

      I’ve been on the other side of this scenario: someone took credit for quite a lot of my work, then was shocked, utterly shocked I tell you, that I was less interested in working with her.

      At one point this person did ask “have I done something to offend you”, I answered, yes, you took credit for my work. She didn’t believe me and insisted that it must have been something else. She then tried to get our mutual bosses to insist that we work together again.

      In my case, the cold shoulder was as professional and polite as I could manage.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I had one of these, actually. My coworker insisted on playing praise music without headphones in our open office. I asked her to stop, she said headphones didn’t work for her, and I said I was sorry to hear that but I still needed her to stop playing music. No, not play it quieter. Stop. I was the one seated closest to her and she made a huge point that nobody else was complaining. Then later she confronted me with the “I feel that I have done something to offend you” line and it was clear this was actually a request to stop acting like I was annoyed with her, when I was annoyed with her, for the reasons I had clearly communicated. She had no idea the two things might be related, apparently.

        1. Nesprin*

          Yeah- asking “did I do something wrong” is only as powerful as your ability to listen and to the answer and change behavior accordingly.

          1. owen*

            well, and as the answer (if any is given) being a reasonable one… the only time i’ve ever tried the “did i do something wrong” the answer was essentially “yes, you existed” which is… not really actionable :/

      2. Willow Sunstar*

        I had a coworker who I was told to give him things to do. We were both new in our positions, but he was newer to the company. He would mess up at least 50% of the things I gave to him, and sometimes I would have to stay late to do them. There were other things too with that guy that made me not want to work with him, which would be an email in and of itself.

        Yet, I was always polite to the coworker and even wrote up instructions for the tasks, but he never got the hang of the job. Not sure if he was fired or just left, but I’m still at the company years later, and he is not. Still, it could be something like making many mistakes, but I sent him screen prints of what should have been done, so it’s not like he was in the dark about it.

      3. Reebee*

        Yep, same. I had a co-worker who constantly tried to shove her mothering instincts down the throats of the rest of us, and it made her a complete bully. It was beyond awful, and management just didn’t care, so I decided to just ignore her as my own defense. Sometimes, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

      4. the cat's pajamas*

        I have one of these, too. The management has neglected the issue since before I arrived and the coworker is extremely dramatic about the slightest complaint, which makes it not worth bringing up. I’ve started just pushing back more. Also, to nobody’s surprise, said coworker is a white male who thinks the not fun parts of the job are beneath him and tries to get the female presenting folks at the same level to do those tasks, and takes credit for them, oof.

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      Because for people like me, this isn’t at all easy to navigate. This would paralyze me into inaction. Having to navigate conflict is about as scary as asking me to handle spiders. So we write to Alison for help with the language and surrounding feelings.

      1. Mentally Spicy*

        I understand where you’re coming from but, for me, dealing with conflict or confrontation is nowhere near as bad as dealing with awkwardness.

        You know that situation where you talk to someone and there’s this unspoken THING hanging in the air between you? A THING that you both know is there but that you’re both refusing to acknowledge?

        I find that situation intolerably awkward. I would HAVE to say something to get it out in the open. And if it leads to conflict or confrontation, well at least it’s out there.

        Each to their own, of course!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I go into rumination spiral if there’s unresolved conflict, so I couldn’t ignore a situation like this. (If I noticed it, that is. My ability to detect when I’m getting the silent treatment is… untrained.)

          A few weeks ago a coworker was very clearly annoyed by an email I’d sent, and then refused to talk to me about what I’d done that upset her. I’m still going over it again and again trying to figure out what went wrong, even though she’s probably forgotten in completely.

        2. Chuffing along like Mr. Pancks*

          Or you could simply make some significant, very inconvenient, spur-of-the-moment changes to your life that lead to your never crossing paths with them again, just so that you don’t ever have to suffer the agonies of contemplating the THING again.*

          *You will contemplate the THING more after doing this, since you never resolved the mystery of why the THING exists and you also sacrificed any human relationships that the THING might have been overshadowing. Maybe try not to go this route.

          1. Mentally Spicy*

            That would never work for me. My aversion to awkwardness is nothing compared to my deep dislike of unsolved mysteries!

        3. allathian*

          There’s nothing I dislike as much as uncertainty. I’m a reformed people-pleaser and I learned to EMBRACE the sort of conflict that clarifies uncertainty in my late 30s. I can live with people in my social sphere disliking me, but I have to know if they do, because then I can avoid them in future.

          I do my best to be professional at work, but I also know that some people dislike me on principle because I’m a middle-aged, fat woman who’s done pandering to male egos. I also work for the government in Finland and I’m not risking my job by being slightly abrasive at times.

    5. Bee*

      I personally prefer to avoid situations that might end in someone telling me they don’t like me to my face. Maybe there’s something to clear up! But maybe there’s not, and I wouldn’t bet a ton of money on the person who behaves like this at work handling that kind of conversation with grace. The situation definitely seems to have gotten to the point where there’s not much to lose by asking, but sometimes you have to let it get that bad before you decide you could live with the worst possible result.

      1. Paint N Drip*

        “I wouldn’t bet a ton of money on the person who behaves like this at work handling that kind of conversation with grace”

        GREAT point. Is the awkward convo worth the nothingburger (or.. more intense) response from her?

    6. Chirpy*

      I had a roommate in college who did this, about 3 weeks into the semester she just stopped talking to me. It was just so awkward I didn’t know what to say. Her friend was roommates with a friend of mine, so the only information I got about anything was through my friend.

    7. Morgan Proctor*

      I dunno, if it’s purely social and not affecting my work, then I’d probably decide that dealing with it is more work than it’s worth. If this person is already acting this way for no discernible reason, what are the chances they’re going to handle that conversation with logic and grace? I’d put the chances at close to zero. Not worth it, let them die mad.

    8. Tazzy*

      I’m going to admit that I’ve been a bit of a Paige in the past, but certainly not to this level.

      Context: I had a coworker that wasn’t interested in being part of office culture but constantly complained about being left out. Shortly after I started she randomly started calling me the wrong name despite corrections until one day I just ignored her until she tapped me on the shoulder (“Oh, were you talking to me? I didn’t realize because you used a different name” finally made her stop.) I once brought in some old blankets that I thought my husband had washed for her to use for her foster kittens and she spent the entire day hassling me about how she “just couldn’t bring something FILTHY into her house like that” no matter how many times I tried to indicate that I was deeply embarrassed and would like her to let it go.

      So… I just stopped being warm and friendly to her like I was with everyone else. I would help when asked and was always at least polite. But one day she literally cornered me in my office and demanded to know what my problem with her was.

      I agree that LW has every right to be treated with civility and respect, which does not sound like what Paige is doing here, but I do want to point out that sometimes asking “What have I done to you” is not the solution that will work.

      1. Reverse side of the Paige*

        I have also been the Paige here and I would like advice on how to behave more professionally. I don’t like the awkwardness or icing out but the silence on my end was better than:
        – them refusing to mute their phone (have spoken to them)
        – talking loudly while i am trying to work (have spoken to them)
        – being talked over, interrupted or ignored if i attempt to join social conversation
        – being subtly bigoted or “in jokes” about how inclusive language is silly
        – over sharing of personal issues (family and bodily)

        I hate hate hate it but also l have tried. I am done. Please help me restart my professional engine so I at least can smooth it over. I get the feeling they want me to give them permission to continue being loud and obnoxious, but I refuse to. There have been no apologies from their quarter as to issues raised. The other thing is they behave this way during larger meetings and as part of the working group, I do not want to be lumped in with their behaviour, so I opt out.

        1. Reverse side of the Paige*

          (I posted this as a reply but honestly it should be its own post, oops)

        2. ecnaseener*

          Would it help to think how you would handle it if this person was a client, or a VIP? Basically, if you had to be polite and pleasant to them?

          1. Reverse side of the Paige*

            Yeah after posting this I was able to get enough distance to evaluate. The VIP tactic is a good idea, as is the reminder this reflects poorly on me.

            As for the other stuff, I should a) repeatedly nix it/enforce boundaries as soon as it comes up, b) document and bring to supervisors if necessary and c) maintain a documentary style arms-length from the behaviour so I can remain cheerful and professional on my end.

      2. Apples and Oranges*

        Yeah I didn’t mean my original comment to be taken as “here is a solution that would obviously work.” I actually think it’s likelihood of solving the problem is less than 50%. But it is the “low-hanging fruit” of easy solutions and pretty much the only logical first step if a resolution exists that would be amicable for both parties. But cornering someone and demanding to know what their problem is is FAR from what I had in mind. The way the inquiry is executed obviously matters a lot.

      3. NotJane*

        I am embarrassed to admit that I was a bit of a Paige in the past. I really wish I could go back in time and apologize to my coworker because it wasn’t her fault at all. I worked very closely with someone who was an acquaintance when she started the job but quickly became my best friend. We worked together well and made a stressful environment bearable for each other. However, she was unfairly fired after about a year (long story – this place was managed terribly) and replaced with a perfectly nice and competent person. I know that it was completely irrational but I just could not deal with this new employee “taking” my best friend’s place. I was polite to her and answered her questions and replied when she talked to me but it was the bare minimum. I didn’t initiate conversations with her, try to get to know her, etc. Her desk was next to mine and I basically ignored her. This is totally out of character for me and even though it was almost a decade ago, I still feel ashamed.

  4. Enn Pee*

    I really feel for you.

    I was in a very similar situation to you. Personable enough coworker (friends with people outside of work, etc.) who absolutely HATED me. If we were passing each other in the hallway, she’d turn her face to the wall. If we were in a meeting, she would look away and not acknowledge my existence.

    She treated my boss in the same way!

    My boss spoke with her boss. We were met with excuses for the behavior. Everything was my fault (I didn’t send her reference materials…except I did! I didn’t invite her to important meetings…except she was invited!).

    Ultimately, the only thing we could find was that she was intimidated by us. There was literally nothing we could do. She had it in for us. She wasn’t going to be nice, ever, because it would mean that we’d “won.”

    If you’re in a situation where she responds when you need her to, you are in a better situation than I was…with someone who just refused to acknowledge my existence and whose boss backed her up.

    It’s not you – it’s her. For whatever reason (or no reason at all), she’s decided she hates you.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I am often told that odd behavior from others is because they are intimidated by me.

      I know in one case, this was true (boss thought a STUDENT worker and I were gunning for her job. We reminded her that even if grand boss wanted to hire us, regulations prohibited it, then she calmed down).

      But overall, the “they are intimidated by you” thing always makes me wonder if it is like the terrible old saw “boys tease you bc they like you.” Are people really so intimidated at work? It feels like a very unsatisfactory reason to me.

      1. Enn Pee*

        Yes, I agree with you completely. This is definitely on par with “he pulled your hair because he likes you.”

        I do disagree with asking someone what you may have done to offend them.

        They are NOT SPEAKING TO YOU. If you really did something that would warrant that level of exclusion, you’d likely have remembered it. You don’t need to ask, because there’s no acceptable or satisfying answer.

        I’d personally just ignore the person if you don’t need to interact with them on a daily basis.

        1. Jake*

          “They are NOT SPEAKING TO YOU. If you really did something that would warrant that level of exclusion, you’d likely have remembered it.”

          This is very insightful. It becomes doubly accurate when there is one person out of 15 that is doing it.

        2. mondaymoos*

          I disagree with this. While it’s great that we’re assuming the OP is on the up and up, microaggressions in the workplace are a huge problem, and it could be that Paige has had enough and is tired of explaining why it’s not okay to say x in the workplace. That said, I think it’s unlikely that approaching them will change their fatigue in explaining themselves.

          1. Tupac Coachella*

            This is an important point; the benefit of asking is that it creates the possibility of clearing the air and moving past it (which is not even possible as things are), but if OP decides to ask, they need to be darn sure they’re ready to hear the answer. We’d all love the outcome to be “oh, you thought that? Here is the clear evidence that this was a misunderstanding that we can all laugh about and move on!” But there’s also the possibility that OP actually did do something that caused harm, and if that’s the case getting defensive or doubling down will make this situation worse for OP and Paige both. This is a question you don’t ask at all if you aren’t ready for an answer you might not like.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            I think this is unfortunately a case where you would have to observe the people in action to know what’s going on.

            I have a coworker whom I avoid. She’s annoying on many levels, but especially since she tried to throw another coworker and me under the bus for her mistake. I’m not mean to her, but I also don’t seek out her company. And I document more of my interactions with her than probably necessary.

            On the other hand, she’s not too bright and a bit of a liar who likes to puff herself up. I could see her mistreating someone then wondering why they avoided her.

            But I’ve also known some pretty manipulative people to behave like Paige is, because they wanted someone out or were jealous, etc.

            Sorry, this is a very unhelpful post.

          3. aebhel*

            It’s possible, but it’s also completely possible that it’s a petty or made-up grievance. I once had a coworker act like this toward me for nearly a year and it turned out to be because she had decided that I must be the one rinsing my cup and leaving soggy tea leaves in the breakroom sink (I don’t drink tea; no idea what made up her mind there).

          4. Venus*

            Or it could be that Paige is the bully. I had a similar situation with a man who treated me differently and eventually we sorted out that he was a misogynist but only to women who did the same job as him. This was hard to know when I was his only female equal, but became clearer when he started talking badly about all women to male coworkers. Thankfully it was a good place to work and they were the ones who told me.

        3. Kay*

          This is not always true. It is often a misunderstanding of any number of things, and sometimes the person doing the offending didn’t even realize it was offensive (from oblivious to obtuse).

          I mean this could be anything from they overheard “I’m okay” as “Die gay”, heard them jokingly make a comment about “young people these days” and thought it was seriously directed at them, or the LW nearly ran her mother off the road without ever knowing. Who knows!

          I would agree that if it is brought up, I would do it only once, then let it completely go after unless it starts impacting work.

        4. Artemesia*

          I come down here AND be just the most charming and helpful person on earth to everyone so that her weirdness stands out. EVEN be charming to her when you can e.g. if you are inviting someone nearby to coffee ask if she’d like to come too. Messes with the head of someone like this AND everyone else can see that you are not the problem.

          1. Plate of Wings*

            This is my strategy, and you know what, something they even thaw. I don’t mind living with the mystery of their original grievance with me if they warm up, though I can see why people in this thread want to know!

            (However I should add that I haven’t been in exactly OP’s situation where I’m the only one singled out. I am talking about cases where someone is acting like this to a whole team or several people of which I am one. Being singled out might make this suggestion harder but it’s even more important to distance yourself so it cannot be perceived as a squabble if it isn’t one.)

        5. MigraineMonth*

          I disagree that LW would necessarily remember what she’d done that upset her coworker. People are really different and are upset by very different things (which is why the silent treatment is such an ineffective response). I hate when people leave dirty dishes in the sink; I had a roommate who was fine with that but driven crazy by me leaving clean dishes to dry in the drying rack.

          Maybe there’s something LW does or did that hits one of Paige’s pet peeves. Maybe Paige overheard something out of context, or misunderstood something LW said. Maybe the tone in an email unintentionally came across as really rude (I ran into that one a couple of weeks ago). Maybe there’s an office gossip who’s been spreading malicious rumors about LW.

          I think that it makes sense to at least try to clear the air before deciding that there’s nothing that can be done. If the reason is social awkwardness or something really petty, just bringing the silent treatment up might be enough to shock Paige into behaving normally.

          1. Beany*

            What did your roommate think the drying rack was for?

            I mean, you can towel-dry every dish as soon as it comes out of the sink, but that’s amazingly inefficient unless you need those dishes to use again Right Now, or you have a space crunch.

            1. Bee*

              I’m a big fan of leaving the dishes in the drying rack as long as possible, but I can also see how it’d be annoying if someone else left them so long that you then had to put their dishes away before you could wash yours. Personally I think of that as a shared task, but if it seems like you’re the only person who ever moves anything from the dishrack to the cabinets, annoyance can build up even over small things. Ask me how furious I was when I left a full trashcan in the kitchen as an experiment before leaving on 10 days of vacation and returned to find that my roommates had not emptied it in my absence but merely continued piling their trash on top. :)

              1. I Have RBF*

                I had that once. I left on vacation and the trash was half full. When I came back, it was not only full, had not been emptied and put out, but it had tons of flies emitting from it. It took weeks to kill off those damned flies. My roomies at the time were lazy, misogynistic fucks who acted like I was their maid.

          2. Ontariariario*

            It could be a simple misunderstanding. My most memorable was when a guy commented about a member of parliament for a separatist party who was leaving politics and he said that it was great that this separatist MP was leaving politics. I could see my friend’s expression on the other side of the room and asked her after if she was okay, and she was shocked and appalled that this guy was so racist because one slight change in a letter had meant that she completely misunderstood what he said. When I explained that he was part of the separatist party (i.e. wanting to split the country apart) then her opinion of him reversed. If I hadn’t noticed her expression then she might have always thought that he was horribly racist.

          3. Filosofickle*

            Yeah, my former sister-in-law held some sort of grudge against my parents but would never tell me or my parents what it was about. She said we should know, if we didn’t she wasn’t going to tell us. So for a decade she went on icing us out, and we had no idea how to heal that rift.

      2. Texas Teacher*

        I tend to treat that claim with skepticism as well. I know when I am intimidated by someone, I don’t act that way! I may struggle to be as warm and friendly and act a little reserved or shy, but I certainly don’t act with any hostility.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I don’t behave that way, either. That doesn’t mean I’ve never seen anyone else do it.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          It isn’t logical, but I’ve seen it done. It’s also the reason why they refuse to be upfront or speak up about their problem. Nobody is going to admit they see you as a threat.

      3. Rowan*

        I had a textbook case of workplace bullying early in my career, and I’m convinced it’s because the bully was intimidated by me. She wasn’t very good at her job (what little of it she did), and I was young, energetic, and very capable. Deep down, she saw that as a threat and therefore proceeded to make my life hell so I wouldn’t outshine her.

        After she bullied me out she turned on the person who she perceived as the next biggest threat (who, ironically, had been her best buddy up to then – we ran into each other a year or two later and he apologized for his part in the bullying, not having realized what was going on until after I left).

        1. Goldenrod*

          “She wasn’t very good at her job (what little of it she did), and I was young, energetic, and very capable.”

          Yes – this is sadly very common. I had a boss early in my career like this. When I was new and clueless and making a lot of mistakes, she was very kind to me. But when I actually started growing in my competence, she turned nasty.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yep, I had a boss gaslight me and bully me for a couple years for the same reason. Our parent company wanted to promote me. He had a masters, I did not, but he saw me as a threat because I was very, very skilled with the equipment that we used for our work. I didn’t work for six months after I finally got sacked from there, it messed me up so bad.

        2. Just checking in*

          I had this too with an older colleague at my first company. She would run around and said I would do things wrong, asked why I was in my role, and do as much as she could to discredit me. Other people enabled her until they realized the problem was with her not me. I moved on but I stopped talking to many of them for this reason.

          1. Dawn*

            Yes, I also had this with a colleague of, at least, similar age. I started working in her department as one of a three-person team, and when our other team member went on maternity leave, she got downright nasty and started trying to act as if she had authority over me – because she knew perfectly well that I could see how she slacked off – even with our other colleague there I could see it, but it was especially apparent when it was just her and I, and her answer, rather than try to step up her game, was to try to walk all over me (which I wasn’t having any of.)

      4. WellRed*

        Also up there; “ he’s scared” of his supposed strong feelings for you, hence he’s not asking you out again after several great dates.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          ha! Every time I hear that Beatles song, I cringe. “Baby I’m afraid for the way I love you”.

          1. Jessica*

            A Paul McCartney song (“Maybe I’m Amazed”), but actually from his Wings era, not a Beatles song. And wow, yeah, those lyrics are not exactly a healthy relationships primer. “Maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me…” Or maybe I really have to go work on the TPS reports now.

      5. River*

        Yes! I am glad to see your response! I had to figure out on my own that whenever I talk to certain people and they act oddly, it’s because they are intimidated by me as well. The non-profit I work for tends to attract very introverted and shy people. I am in-between an introvert and extrovert so when my extroverted tendencies come out, that’s when the person I am talking to acts strangely. It’s unfortunate that I feel the need to calm down on the extroverted side but I’ve learned how to manage it. It took me years to figure it out.

  5. Not on board*

    Wow, this does suck. Politely calling her out on it is the best way forward – or perhaps asking your boss what’s the best way to address it. If your boss is unaware of her behaviour, then they’ll start noticing it. Saying, “I don’t expect her to be my friend but she’s been quite hostile towards me when others aren’t around, how should I approach this?” It’s a roundabout way of telling your boss what’s happening. But also, it’s been going on so long, I’m surprised you haven’t addressed it before. Early on, I would have said, “Hey, I’ve noticed you seem very angry with me. If I’ve done something to offend you, please let me know and I’m sorry.” Then, my response would depend on her behaviour. On the other hand, you could offhandedly mention this to the most gossipy person in the office. “I don’t know what I did to offend her, but she really seems to dislike me and is so rude when others aren’t around”. This might make its way around the office and other people will start to notice it.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I would definitely recommend a polite but direct call-out on the repeated corrections, particularly if they’re not correct. You can’t make her like you, but you can make her stop correcting everything you say. Call it out publicly in the moment (“Actually, Paige, that’s not correct – I’ve got this, thanks,” and then afterwards go to her directly (“lately I’ve noticed you correct me a lot, like today when you said Y and yesterday and last week with X and Z – I don’t know if you’re conscious of it, but you frequently don’t have enough context and I’d appreciate it if you would tone it down around the others. Thanks.”)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I was wondering about this as well. In an office this small, surely the manager had to notice her odd behavior.

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        I had a very similar experience in an office of similar size. The immediate supervisor noticed, but due to scheduling the grand boss did not.

    2. MuffinThiefOP*

      Our manager is a little on the oblivious side of most interpersonal stuff around the office – one part of us being a small office is that we’re a pretty busy one, and her most of all. I haven’t really wanted to bring it to her just because most of me feels like I’m whining about my coworker not being nice enough to me. Having read this blog for a while I had scripts and ways to approach “it’s affecting my job” stuff, but since it isn’t really, it’s less clear cut.

      1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

        I wonder if you might be able to bring it up by asking for her advice as a professional about how to deal with the situation. Maybe think of it as asking someone you consider a coach or a mentor for advice about a difficult work situation, and what you might do on your end to improve the working relationship.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Imagine if you were the manager and someone told you that while the work wasn’t affected, their morale at work certainly was; wouldn’t you care? If you’re concerned about being seen as needy, I might add “I don’t need friendliness, I am talking about bare-minimum civility”. Also, this pointed, immature dislike is such an unacceptable mystery that I would want it solved as a manager before she went taking offence at the next person.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      In general, it’s expected you attempt to resolve issues on your own before bringing them to your manager.

      If it was egregious abuse that might be one thing, but snubbing is really something OP needs to handle on their own first.

      1. Nah*

        Yeah, the first thing a manager is going to ask is if OP has talked with Paige about it, and if they haven’t said even a quick “Is something wrong?” over the entire course of this happening I don’t see it reflecting back well on OP.

        (personally I prefer the “Is something wrongñ” over “Did I do something bad/upset you somehow?” but the latter is probably the more professional wording)

  6. Elizabeth West*

    There’s no telling why she’s doing this unless you ask. Whatever you do, I wouldn’t let her know she makes you feel awful — that might make it worse!

    I’d ask her one time, using the “Have I done something to upset or offend you? That was never my intention and I’d want to make it right if I did” script, in a warm, concerned tone. Whatever answer you get may tell you a lot.

    You should be prepared for the possibility that you might not get one, however. In that case, I’d go on being polite and professional to her and just ignore the rest, unless it starts interfering with your work. Then you can go to your boss and let them know.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Yeah, never let them know it’s getting to you. And just when we all thought we left elementary school behind…

    2. MuffinThiefOP*

      That’s more or less where I’m at – and honestly maybe a bit above and beyond, considering that she IS actually really good and competent at her job and I’m never shy about pointing it out when it’s warranted. But mostly just continuing to do my thing and trying to ignore it. It just starts to feel hurtful once in a while anyway I guess.

      1. nodandsmile*

        I have been on the receiving end of this. If Paige had a legitimate issue with you that she wanted to resolve, she would have addressed it with you. I’m not sure that any approach by you will result in a positive outcome. Can you mentally reframe the behaviour to depersonalise it e.g. rather than “Paige hates me” it’s “I see Paige is being weird/rude again”. That might help. It doesn’t feel good when people are rude to you, but that’s them making a weird choice to behave that way, not a proportionate response to anything you’ve done.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          You’d like this to be true, but people from Guess culture will never resolve The Thing. They expect you to just know What You Did Wrong and they will never bring it up on their own. They might not even tell you if you ask… partly because, again, you “should” know, and partly because Guess culture is about hinting and never being direct.

          Maybe that means it’s not really a legitimate issue – usually that type of thing is a petty grievance rather than something important.

  7. Friday Hopeful*

    I’ve noticed that in some workplaces there is often one person who “rules the roost” and if someone new comes along and doesn’t drink the kool-aid they respond this exact way trying to let you know they are in charge. Its very middle schoolish.
    Try taking note of whether others seem to follow her lead, cow-toe to her, or just simply nod and go along with what she days or does. Asking her what’s wrong nicely as Alison suggests will only work if she is actually a nice person and not manipulative. In guess you can ask her one of those questions and you’ll find out.

    1. LionRead*

      …It doesn’t really seem like there’s any reason to think that she holds any more social power than anyone else. Framing everything in terms of mean-girl movies from the 90s doesn’t really do anyone any favors, when from what OP wrote it doesn’t seem like that’s what’s happening.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        To be fair, Friday hopeful is talking about their own experiences, gave helpful ways to ascertain if it actually the case and never mentioned anything about mean girls. I have actually seen this dynamic too, but I agree I would not apply it to “everything” as it is thankfully not everywhere.

    2. Yellow*

      This happened to me. I worked with a woman for almost a decade, and the last 3-4 years she went through periods of freezing me out, I think because she felt like I wasn’t going along with all her insane/old school ways of doing things. We were both admins, who didn’t really have overlapping responsibilities, so it didn’t even matter. I ended up leaving mainly because of the anxiety her hot and coldness gave me.

  8. Sevenrider*

    I would stop saying hello to her. Say hello to everyone else, chat with everyone else, but ignore her. She obviously knows what she is doing and why, maybe even enjoying a small amount of power by behaving this way. She also must know this is bothering you so I would act like it doesn’t. When she tries to correct you, pretend you didn’t hear her and move on. Since you don’t work directly with her anymore there is no need to engage her.

    1. ronda*

      I had a hugely friendly co-worker who spoke to everyone.

      One higher level person (not his higher level person or someone he saw a lot) was a grump and did not respond.

      He said he was going to keep happily greeting her when they crossed paths and one day she would respond :)

      I kind of admired it. But I am more on the grump side, so dont really initiate these, but do respond well to friendly co-workers.

    2. Nah*

      On the contrary, it would look quite unprofessional and petty to do this – “stepping down to her level” is in very few cases the way to go. It’s super obvious and reads as petty if not outright juvenile, meanwhile staying warm – or at least respectful – when the other person is a grump or icy to you generally shows you to be the bigger person in the situation.

  9. AGD*

    This happened to me once, and the cause turned out to be a wild amount of envy. It made no sense – she was senior to me – but still.

      1. Great Frogs of Literature*

        I had a similar situation. I don’t think it was *just* envy (she was also really disgruntled with that job generally, and I think I somehow became the focal point of all of her frustration), but I said one thing that I thought was innocuous that made her doubt my trustworthiness (not going to get into details, but it’s a thing that Alison would recommend), and suddenly she didn’t trust me on ANYTHING and started icing me out. Which led to her getting pissed that I had changed my tune about upper management because I was no longer commiserating with her about things that annoyed me — because she wasn’t talking to me and had made it clear that she didn’t want to interact with me.

        She didn’t want the promotion I’d gotten. She’d TOLD me she didn’t want it, and it didn’t suit her skills or interests. But I’d gotten A Promotion and she hadn’t, and an ex-mutual-friend (ex because she also got fed up with Icy) later told me, “Oh yeah, Icy didn’t want that job, but she was still 100% green-eyed monster envious about it.”

        1. Madly in hate*

          I did student placement at a Health Centre years ago, and one of the Client Services officer suddenly took a disliking to me (we’d gotten on very well previously) because I successfully applied for a position that was advertised – which another placement student (that SHE crushed on) was unsuccessful.
          The funny thing was that other placement student insisted that I apply as well, and made it clear he wouldn’t begrudge me if I succeeded, cause the role wasn’t relevant to his degree, and the commute was just a pain.
          Basically the CSO resentment me for stealing the role from her crush.

      2. AGD*

        A mutual colleague that she gossiped to discreetly gave me a heads-up that the Person Who Hated Me had seen the performance reviews (for legitimate reasons but ones I didn’t know about) and behind my back had started saying that I must have bribed someone, that there was no way anyone could score like that, that she’d been in the lower job X years more than me and that her scores from that stage were the only realistic high point, etc. Eeeeeeesh.

      3. Alianora*

        I had a similar situation, and it actually came up with my managers in our one-on-ones. They both said she felt threatened by me. One implied my coworker had told her that directly.

  10. Heffalump*

    It’s especially infuriating when the toxic person rationalizes the dislike with trumped-up criticisms.

    1. MassMatt*

      Yes, I had someone (“Julia”)behaving rudely to me at work (pretty much as badly as this person, with the addition of angry rants) and as someone up-thread said, when asked for an explanation got similar “reasons” which turned out to be nonsensical and/or untrue.

      My manager then acted as though the issue was resolved when it was not, at all. I wasn’t the only person she acted this way towards, but IMO that made her behavior worse, not better. It became a classic case of the Missing Stair. Everyone tread lightly around Julia, and whenever she would act poorly it was dismissed with “well, that’s just how she is”. Yes, exactly, she is unprofessional and picks fights for no reason. And we are all tiptoeing around her because?….

      Eventually our manager became afraid to even utter her NAME, lest the wrath of the Elder Gods be stirred. Very glad I left there.

    2. Petty Betty*

      Agreed. In the toxic non-profit I worked at (about a decade ago now), my co-irker seemed to dislike everyone, but really, she just disliked her situation (which, honestly, valid). However, she took it out on *everyone* and our dysfunctional mean-girl manager encouraged her behaviors.
      Her biggest issue with me was the fact that I had more leave time (uh, yeah, because I’d been with the company nearly 6 years longer than she had, so of course I had more leave time), so anytime I took leave (which I didn’t take often because I tried to save it for emergencies and illnesses with four kids) she would get even more mad and aggressive.

      I was so glad to leave. I heard she finally left herself, but I wonder how much of herself she sacrificed being angry with things there.

  11. Anonymous cat*

    I wonder if she wanted a friend or relative to get that job and is determined to dislike anyone else.

    Alternatively, with people like this I always wonder if the target strongly reminds them of someone they dislike. Like you’ve got the same mannerisms of their in-laws or childhood bully or an awful doctor they have to use.

    It doesn’t make it easier. I just wonder if there’s a “twin” somewhere.

    1. Jake*

      I’ve actually DONE this in the opposite direction. I met a guy in college that reminded me a lot (mannerisms, looks, sense of humor, voice, etc.) of a friend I had in high school. It was so intense that I subconsciously started making the same inside jokes with this new guy that I used to make with that friend in high school. Me and new guy never really ended up becoming friends… and it is likely because I was the weirdo who acted like we had a shared history when we most certainly did not.

    2. Ed 'Massive Aggression' Teach*

      I had the opposite problem! The worst manager I ever had, and the only reason I have EVER pulled an ‘either you do this (i.e. give me a different manager) or I quit’, looked, spoke and acted exactly like Umbridge from Harry Potter. She even looked a lot like Imelda Staunton!

      Unfortunately this has now tainted all Imelda Staunton roles for me. This is especially awkward as she stars in one of my favourite movies…

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Side note: In an interview, Staunton said she’d been encouraged to try for the role of Dolores Umbridge, but she’d never read the books. “All these people would say, ‘Of course, you’d be great for the part!”

        She’d follow up with, “So, what’s she like then?”

        “Oh, she’s very plain, even ugly,” they would tell her.

        “Thanks, much!”

    3. PaulaTrilloe*

      yes i agree, people can remind us of people from our past by appearance and mannerisms it’s really powerful!

  12. Bob Loblaw*

    This happened to me when I was new. Several months into the position, “Ashley” had a lot to drink at a conference, apologized for “being such a B” to me, and claimed she was doing fine by herself and didn’t understand why the company would hire another analyst. She was worried I was there to force her out, or something, and therefore refused to help train me or welcome me in any way. Her iciness returned the next morning and worsened from there. I only stayed at that job for 18 months, but my husband and I dubbed her My Nemesis.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Similar situation – the supervisor of the department I was working for got drunk at a party and it became evident that she resented my education, experience, and a couple of other things, and was convinced that I was after her job. She was instrumental in getting me fired – at which point, her reports to our manager that I wasn’t doing my job really came back to bite her, when my client groups ripped a strip off our manager for firing me without getting their input (they’d been amazing to work with – I ended up working for one of the section leaders as a freelancer later, and they all gave me references). In the end, neither the manager nor the supervisor lasted a year, after that little debacle. It was somewhat vindicating, but still was a really stressful situation.

      The kicker – I absolutely did NOT want the supervisor role – my goal was to move into another department entirely.

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      Obviously from these examples, your best option is to get her drunk and then ask her about it.

    1. Jam on Toast*

      I hear she does car commercials… in Japan…when she’s not giving LW the silent treatment.

      1. RCB*

        Letter writer’s father, the inventor of toaster strudel, does not approve of how Paige is treating his daughter and has hired lawyers.

  13. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I’m adding this one to the list of questions I really want an update to.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      Yeah, same.

      I’m not surprised this is driving LW mad; I’ve only just heard about this woman and *I’m* desperate to know what the reason is!

  14. LadyHouseOfLove*

    I dealt with someone like that, though to be fair she was quieter about it. I was recently hired and helping out in the back. I would try to get to know anyone but she refused to acknowledge me. Even if other people wanted me to engage in the conversation between them and her, she would get pretty snotty about it.

    I was finally irritated enough that I just stopped engaging with her at all. No morning greetins, no responses beyond her asking me things. What really helped was that often times we were by ourselves in a single space. The tense silence seemed to finally put her on edge and she tried to reach out to me. We have a more cordial relationsip now buy beyond basic manners I don’t acknowledge her.

  15. Statler von Waldorf*

    I had a similar situation once, about 30 years ago. Co-worker treated me like I didn’t exist, because I was a sinful queer in a small town. I’m afraid my situation only got better after I left for a new job.

    I gave notice, and told my boss why. My boss told me that was a stupid reason to quit a job. So I ignored him and I treated him just like my icy co-worker treated me. He tolerated my silence for about three hours before he fired me and had me escorted from the building. Apparently my co-worker ignoring me was fine and a stupid reason to quit, but me ignoring him was a completely different thing and was 100% worth getting fired over. He saw zero hypocrisy in this stance. He was big on rules for everyone else but him.

    Ironically, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Since he fired me in Canada after I gave notice, he legally had to pay out my notice period. He refused, and I got lawyers involved. I did my homework on my case and impressed my lawyer. I ended up getting my first office job thanks to a reference from that same lawyer after the case was resolved in my favor, and I’ve been working in an office ever since.

    So thanks Mike, it turns out you accidentally did me a favor by firing me in the dumbest way possible. Who knew.

    1. mlem*

      Love a happy ending!

      But yeah, I was wondering if it might be something along these lines — maybe Paige is (or thinks LW is) a bigot or other beyond-the-pale actor. I don’t think we know enough … and if Paige isn’t talking, we won’t.

      Then again, I’ve got two coworkers who fell into this dynamic recently: Jane complains that Joe has stopped acknowledging her group greetings, turns away if she approaches his shared cubicle and puts on headphones rather than participating in discussions, takes circuitous routes to avoid passing her desk, etc. And she DOESN’T know WHY he’s BEING so MEAN and CHILDISH! Except … she’s spent years nitpicking, sniping, and outright verbally bullying him, with management doing nothing about it beyond telling her to be “nicer”, apparently without specifics. (We coworkers have tried to intervene but weren’t able to do enough.) She literally thinks she’s being told to smile more when she (verbally) shivs people. It sucks.

      1. OP addt'l comments (mistake!)*

        it is! I had both tabs open and didn’t double check it :(

  16. Spicy Tuna*

    I had this situation at a job once. I transferred into the office from another branch of the same company and one of my co-workers viewed me as a direct threat. He behaved towards me only slightly better than Paige is treating the OP. I knew it was because he saw me as a threat, so I was surprised when his behavior towards me didn’t improve when he was promoted. I eventually left that job and I actually randomly ran into this guy a few years later (he had moved on by then as well) and he was pleasant to me.

    If OP is older and has more experience, it could be that Paige sees her as a threat. Not that this would excuse her behavior, but sometimes knowing it’s not about you helps.

    1. MuffinThiefOP*

      This is a theory that a few friends who know about the situation have brought up, too. And honestly it “fits” so well, generally speaking – that kind of thing happens a lot! But, while I am older, I’m no more experienced than her, and I do not in any way want her job (it’s a different wheelhouse than mine and one I’m very uninterested in). Also, she’s objectively great at her job and I’m certain she knows it. I guess it still could be the explanation, but I’m really not sure.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        She is not great at her job. Being great at any job requires treating all of your colleagues, even those who you hate with the fire of a thousand suns, with basic courtesy and a professional attitude.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I had somebody I worked with once who was perfectly pleasant to me until people started coming to me for questions they’d previously consulted her about. Then she completely froze me out, down to not training me on a task we were meant to do as a team of 2 so that she could complain about me not pulling my weight/making mistakes. She did all the same things your coworker is doing, and I was super confused because she’d been fine and a switch flipped that it took me a year to understand.

        But I’m petty, and spent years with my ex’s sister being exactly this kind of brat to me. So I just remained annoyingly, cheerfully, shockingly pleasant. If I needed something from her, I’d email her. When I (predictably) didn’t get a response, I’d follow up. The third time, I’d follow up with management in copy – and magically get a response! But it meant there was a consistent paper trail, and I brought it up in a one-on-one and my manager gave me the okay to copy him in from the start. I would cheerfully say hi to everybody in the office, usually by name, including her, which made it really obvious when she didn’t respond. I knew how much it annoyed her, and I’m not going to lie – I took absolute joy in forcing her to ignore me. Because it made it SO clear what the situation was, and whose problem it was.

        Whatever her issue is, she’s taking it out on you, but you didn’t cause it so there’s probably not much you can do to change it. That’s going to have to come from a discussion with management, or from her realizing it’s reflecting badly on her. Until there are consequences from somebody she respects and whose approval she really wants, she’s not going to change. (In my case it changed immediately after annual reviews, so I’m assuming something got said to her – I know I actually ended up receiving a higher score because of how I handled the situation, so I imagine her review had the inverse.)

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Hm, I see what you mean. It could still fit. If she has imposter syndrome and thinks you are the one person capable of seeing through her. Insecurity is a weird thing.

  17. pally*

    These situations make me wonder if there is another player in the picture.

    Maybe someone is filling Paige’s head with untruths *about the OP*. Things that would make Paige believe the OP doesn’t like them.

  18. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    I’ve seen this type of situation play out a few times over the years, and was the target of it once. I do not think any good can come of speaking to Paige. It makes you vulnerable, and this isn’t a situation where you want that. Someone suggested mentioning it to your boss in a “is there anything I should be doing differently?” way is probably the only move.

  19. Lab Snep*

    I worked with several Paiges at one job, but PaigeAlpha was exactly like this Paige.

    I ended up asking for a mediation and the response was “I’m not Snep’s Friend” and the union and HR had to step in and say she still had to be cordial.

    It didn’t work, it got worse, escalated into mean girls bullying and I left the job to a massive financial expense I’m still dealing with.

    I landed in a job with another Paige, left that one, and now I am somewhere that is much more stable and has a VERY strict code of conduct that seems to detract Paiges.

  20. metronomic*

    This happened to me at a job 15-ish years ago on a team of 6 within a larger department. I was in my mid-30s and had been on the job for a few months when I realized a colleague was being rude to me. He was a recent college graduate and alum of the school we worked at. I don’t remember all the details now but I finally called him out on it and said that while it was fine to not like me we needed to find a way to work together since our work did overlap. I found out along the way that a colleague on our team called him out on it too and also told him to knock it off, and I remember feeling relieved that others saw the rudeness he sent my way and it wasn’t all in my head.

    I only stayed at this job for 14 months so don’t know how it would have worked out. I recall that after I spoke with him he was nicer with me but then he started backsliding, and that point I was out the door anyway. I did mentioned it during my exit interview and said I hadn’t informed my boss yet because I had tried addressing it myself but that he was being rude again with me and I would have escalated it if I had been staying.

  21. Jan Levinson Gould*

    Lousy situation for OP. My .02 is to discuss with management. I’ve had direct reports come to me when they thought a colleague was being disrespectful and I did not think less of them for doing so. I’ve found both professionally and personally, people who play the freeze out game are among the ~10% of the population on sociopathic side and get a kick out of playing stupid power games. Usually those types are not worth trying to reason with – they know darn well what they are doing.

    12+ years ago I had two colleagues in the same group who despised each other. It got to the point our (awful) manager directed them to communicate through me. Great…. Our manager did pit people against one another, so it’s possible she played a role in the tension. The toxicity in that group was beyond – I was the first to leave and the other two left within a year of my departure.

    Looking back, I have zero clue why the two colleagues could not stand each other. One of them had a mean streak and thought the other was incompetent (some validity to that) and the other one was a drama queen who was always stirring it up at her previous group. I don’t recall there being a specific catalyst incident. It was weird and not great being stuck in the middle, but I didn’t get involved aside from being the intermediary. I got along with both to make my day-to-day easier. As an aside, the one with the mean streak trashed my reputation as soon as I left, but I was in good standing with everyone aside from my former manager, so trashing me made the former colleague look worse.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I really agree with your first paragraph. This is as much of a performance issue as if she was mucking up products or projects.

  22. Awkwardness*

    I do not exactly love the scripts as they seem to be a little too submissive. I would prefer something more neutral: “I realize you are still correcting me a lot even though we are not working directly together anymore. I do not understand this. Is there something that is still bothering you and that you cannot forget?”

    And for the rest: kill her with warm, target-oriented professionalism. Do not sink to her level, but call her out if she is overstepping (which might involve your manager at some point)

    1. Boof*

      OP has the best insight – whether or not to go with the more submissive vs assertive script depends a lot on whether OP thinks Paige is a bully (and will feed off any sign of weakness) or whether they think there might be some actual misunderstanding with Paige, and also what sort of approaches Paige usually responds well to.

      1. Awkwardness*

        Do you think that a simple misunderstanding might be the reason for a behaviour dragging on for months that is not only avoidance but actively bringing OP down/minimizing OPs contributions through corrections (“even on things that either didn’t actually matter — think order of tasks — or weren’t actually incorrect”)?

        1. Boof*

          It seems highly unlikely but it gives Paige an out if Paige decides she’s done with the cold shoulder for whatever reason and LW’s willing to shrug / “oh I totally didn’t mean that so sorry!” and move on.

    2. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Thank you for pinpointing what was bothering me about the scripts. I agree they are too submissive. LW isn’t Paige’s subordinate.

  23. Former Paige*

    I was a Paige in a previous job. The company didn’t have managers who managed well, I hadn’t learned professional norms, and I didn’t know how to handle my annoyance at coworkers. I was vastly outnumbered by the men in my department and I’d get interrupted in most meetings, which is a pet peeve of mine. “Peter”, who sat next to my cubicle, would ask me questions rather than reading the email messages sitting in his inbox with the needed information (he actually got snippy with me once when I told him it’s in an email, so I gave up on that battle). I’d be focusing on work with headphones on and he’d interrupt me to chat about non-work subjects. He’d also been in the position longer than I had, but wasn’t very good at it. I was always relieved when he was out for the day.

    I tried ignoring Peter and other people who irritated me. I’d sometimes point out when someone interrupted me, but I always did it in an anxious or frustrated way that made things awkward (so I hated confrontation because it was always anxiety-inducing). I’d complain to coworkers or managers about annoyances, but nothing changed and my own behavior was never addressed either.

    One day, Peter was “laid off” but it took far longer than it should have. That was a relief, but didn’t fix the bad management or my poor interpersonal skills. I eventually got a job at a different company, started reading Ask A Manager, and got treatment for some health issues, so I’m a much better coworker and human being in general. I still feel guilty for my unprofessional behavior and wish I had known better.

    OP doesn’t sound like a Peter, though. If it helps, Paige is probably miserable and not someone you’d want to be friends with. I wish OP had decent managers who noticed the problem and coached Paige on how to appropriately behave in an office.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Tbh, it sounds like there was plenty of unprofessional behavior going around. But I’m glad you were able to see what you had control of in that situation.

  24. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Might as well let her know she’s subtle as a rock.
    “Good morning.”
    And when she ignores you, say, “and good morning to you, Jane.” Just to make her think, “oh crap, I snubbed her with an audience.”
    At least give her a reason you can laugh about.
    (have you been working in offices for 35 years? Cuz you have exponentially fewer rat’s asses to give wit each passing year.)

  25. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    OP, please update us if there’s anything update-worthy. Sorry you are dealing with this.

  26. keliza*

    Wow – this: “blasts artic air”. I have a small team and we hired someone who doesn’t like to “laugh, chat, talk about work, or make jokes” – all things that are entirely appropriate and were done with professional moderation on my team prior to this person joining the team. This person’s icy chill is so strong that even in group meetings everyone has fallen silent. No one wants to risk this person’s icy glare, should they slip up and ask a non-work question. A comment from a team member such as “wow, that project I just did was more complicated than I thought” is met with “I assume you are competent so it shouldn’t have been hard” kind-of reply by this chilly person, which isn’t rude per se, but can lead into a weird conversation circle where the original commenter is defending a stance that yes, they are competent but projects can still be hard. Since communicating like that is exhausting, people opt for silence instead.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Disagree that “I assume you are competent so it shouldn’t have been hard” isn’t rude–it’s dismissive and obnoxious.

      1. keliza*

        Yeah, I think obnoxious is right. It’s difficult to police this person’s tone, though I’ve had conversations with them about it whenever I can definitively identify something that was rude. I can’t say it has helped because they always claim they are being misunderstood and then shoot back with something they are unhappy about regarding the person who was on the receiving end of their comment. Sometimes their comments are just off enough that no one can quite tell if they are meaning to be obnoxious and dismissive or if they being socially awkward (which they are, in general). Conversation with this person is always stilted and while that’s not terrible, it is also not great for morale on the team. Thanks for your comment.

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          I’m with the people who say that this person is being rude, and trying to wriggle out of responsibility for it by blaming someone else on the team and how they said what they said, repeatedly, is a bad sign. I have told supervisees pretty bluntly in cases like this, “You cannot speak that way to other people at work.” And if this person is casting an icy chill over entire meetings, it’s time to make plans to move them out of their role. As Alison has said on more than one occasion, we don’t just pay people to do a job, we pay them to be reasonably polite to work with and not make everyone else’s job harder.

  27. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Paige is behaving about as reasonably as Ponda Baba in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

  28. Joyce to the World*

    I had a coworker take an instant dislike to me too. We were both team leads and hired within a few weeks of each other. I was promoted from within the team and she was brought in from another team. I went on vacation and she started while I was gone. I had never exchanged a single solitary word or glance with her until I came back from vacation. She hated me instantly and the snotty comments started. She would also tell our team to tell on me to the manager. I saw the writing on the wall, so I went into my “Stepford Team Lead” act. I was so nice to her. I didn’t even try to be natural about it. It was so obviously fake. It worked amazingly well. She got in trouble because her hatred just bubbled over into inappropriate acts on her part. I was blameless of course. I even stood up for her to our team when they would complain about her. That is how you kill someone with kindness.

  29. NotHannah*

    I’ve had this happen to me before in a few different work environments, always because someone was “intimidated’ by me. Which took me a long time to understand. At one workplace, it was due to the way I dressed. At another workplace, I learned after several months that my “Paige” was sensitive to perfume and thought I was putting extra on before meeting with her, just to torment her. I had no idea she had any scent sensitivity! And I honestly didn’t think I wore a lot of perfume. She had filled out a feedback form with a vague phrase along the lines of, everyone should respect everyone, and she thought it was clear that I understood that meant she could not tolerate scents.
    Needless to say, I haven’t worn perfume to work since, but I sometimes wonder if anyone is secretly furious with me for something that I have no earthly idea about.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      I think that if someone is allergic to perfume they absolutely MUST speak up about it! Not drop passive aggressive hints or be rude. It’s so much easier and more polite to be direct. And most people are going to be kind and say “Oh, I didn’t know, thank you for telling me. I won’t wear perfume from now on.”

    2. CommanderBanana*

      People like that are so ridiculous.

      I’ve been disliked at previous jobs for *checks notes*:
      – being younger than my manager
      – being thinner than my manager
      – being Jewish
      – being a woman
      – not wearing khakis and polo shirts on casual Friday (I didn’t own any and couldn’t afford to buy them)
      – not having children

      You’ll note that none of these things had anything to do with my actual work performance or personality. Sometimes people just randomly decide to hate you. To be honest, I’m so incredibly burnt out over the infantile behavior I’ve had to deal with at so many workplaces that I just don’t care anymore. I’m polite and professional to everyone I work with, and if someone randomly decides to hate me because of something about myself I can’t change, they can go pound sand.

    3. Highlighter bouquet*

      There’s “using your words” and then there’s using “I think everyone should respect everyone” to mean “Please refrain from using excessive perfume around me”. Never in a million years would I guess that!

  30. Sparrow*

    Situations like this are always so awful! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this OP. I hope you’re able to send a good update soon!

  31. Someone Else's Boss*

    The most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received is, “Not everything is about you.” Now, clearly this woman doesn’t like you. I’m not here to try to convince you she does. But unless you are very obviously disliked by others, or you know you steal her yogurt everyday, it’s not about you. Perhaps, yes, there was something you “did” or “do” that she doesn’t like. But that’s still about her. If she wants you to change it, she needs to tell you. If she can’t get over it, or she prefers to be upset, those are also her problems. I would advise avoiding her and being polite and kind when you are forced to interact. Maybe things will change, maybe they won’t, but the sooner you push her out of your mind and space, the better.

    1. CTT*

      LW has been doing what you recommended, but having someone be actively rude to you is exhausting, and it’s reasonable of her to ask if there is an alternative.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        I agree. While it’s (probably) not about the LW at all, having someone be nasty to you but nice to everyone else IS exhausting and demoralizing. I agree it’s reasonable of the LW to want to solve this, rather than just “grin and bear it.”

  32. AC36*

    Since LW doesn’t work directly with her, I’d say let it go – and either give pleasantries less or stop. If LW continues to give pleasantries, try not to be bothered by her lack of response. If they end up having to work together, discussions with management could be had at that point if the other employee isn’t being professional.

    If the other employee tries to give unsolicited advice, LW could say, “I’m doing ok with this, thanks’.

    This overall reminds me of the cliques in high school. It’s not worth the drama or time. I understand it’s a smaller office of 15 or less, but again, if they aren’t working together, I’d just let it go, especially if LW gets along with everyone else.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      The response “I’ve got it covered” is a great one – for almost anything when someone is poking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. I was advised to use that one for my wedding, to respond to unsolicited advice / suggestions.

      But it would be effective for random criticism at work, as well, from someone who has no business giving it.

  33. Brain the Brian*

    I hate to say this, but I really think it’s worth it for the LW to reflect back on the start of their working relationship with Paige and see if they can pinpoint a reason for Paige’s behavior. Did the LW take way longer than most people to learn key processes? Did the LW keep coming Paige with questions that really should have been directed elsewhere (or the reverse — asking other people when Paige owned a process and should have been answering all questions about it)? Did the LW do something that unintentionally undermined Paige in front of a manager or client? Did the LW accidentally throw away Paige’s specialty milk in the office fridge?

    None of those would excuse Paige’s behavior — especially its length — but reflecting could give the LW insight into how to approach this. For instance, the LW says that Paige kept correcting the order in which they were accomplishing tasks — and frankly, that’s an entirely legitimate thing to correct in a new hire. Sometimes, there are specific orders in which things need to be done — because software only works in a linear order, because a safety-critical process has to work one way and one way only, because you should open all the day’s mail before closing the day’s accounting records even if the mail arrives at 4:58pm, because a client is accustomed to seeing a record that certain steps were done in one specific order, because Task A needs to be done before Room X closes at 10am but Task B can wait until later because Room Y is open until 5pm, etc. Sometimes, there are no such requirements, but the LW dismisses this as minor when it could, in fact, have been quite important. Other interactions are worth some thought, too.

    Once you’ve thought about this, LW, I recommend starting with your current boss. Ask them if they know why Paige is so rude to you, noting that you’ve thought about your early interactions with her and come up with [examples] as possible reasons, and ask how your manager would like you to handle it. Your manager may not know. Your manager may know but have promised Paige confidentiality. Your manager may know and be willing to share. Your manager may not know but be willing to ask around. Who knows? You can only find out by asking, and asking for help is a decent way to clue in your manager without it seeming like you’re gossiping.

    If this all yields nothing, just stick to being pleasant from your side, LW. Paige may come around eventually — or she may quit, in which case the whole situation will resolve itself. Maybe she’ll drunkenly clue you in at a goodbye happy hour someday. :)

    1. Reebee*

      Conversely, if Paige is the only one who treats LW badly, I’m not sure the soul-searching is worth the trouble. I think patterns of reactions are way more worthy of introspection. A single instance in a world where not everyone is going to like us for whatever dumb reason? Meh…not really worth overturning even one stone to find out why.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        That’s a fair way of looking at it. I am trying to grant as much grace as I can to a LW whom I think is leaving out a crucial detail or doesn’t see it as important. I believe the LW that they don’t think anything they’ve done should have caused this level of freeze-out, but *something* must have happened to cause an abrupt shift from pleasant interactions to total cold, calculated silence. Figuring out what that is may be helpful to the LW personally — or it may not. Totally situation-dependent.

        1. EB*

          i don’t know, sometimes you just rub someone the wrong way. I had the audacity to call out sick on a day a coworker was assigned to cover tasks for anyone who had to call out. Not something I habitually do. But my coworker dragged me in front of all my colleagues for not letting her know I’d be sick the night before, so that she could anticipate having to cover my tasks. It was so wildly out of proportion to my “offense” I could never have predicted that reaction. And no way I was going to apologize to her for waking up sick on a day she was already scheduled to work specifically as a backup. She just doesn’t much like me and saw an opportunity to take me down a peg publicly–who knows why.

        2. Samwise*

          Nah, “something” could very well be nothing.

          Being the victim doesn’t mean you are also at fault. People can be unreasonable, people can be assholes, people can nurse a non-event into a grudge, people are *weird*.

          LW, don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. If it were big or ugly, either you’d know or someone else would know and Paige would not be the only one behaving like she’s still in junior high.

          And tbh it’s good that her dislike is so obvious. 1. She looks bad, you look reasonable and professional and 2. She’s not pretending to be your friend while secretly undermining you. She’s a jerk, but she’s not a snake. Trust me, jerks are easier to manage.

          1. Jan Levinson Gould*

            Some of the best and wisest advise in the entire comments section, Samwise :)

    2. MuffinThiefOP*

      Thank you for your thoughtfulness in this comment! As a complete overanalyzer by nature, I have definitely been over everything I can think of/remember multiple times throughout the months since I started lol. It could have been tied to some of the stuff I did differently than her and her just never being able to accept that.

      For what it’s worth, the bit about the order of tasks was less of a safety protocol kind of thing and more, say, putting all the letters in envelopes before putting stamps on all of them at once vs. filling each envelope and putting a stamp on it before moving to the next one. Nothing necessarily wrong with any approach, just how it was easiest for different people to do it.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Thanks for your reply, LW! You really have been agonizing over this, haven’t you? You may be on to something with your guess that she doesn’t like how you use slightly different processes to get to the same end result — especially if your processes are things that other people have suggested to her before but that she doesn’t like for herself, and most especially if your processes are also slightly faster / more efficient. Her ongoing coldness would still be an overreaction, but it could be a situation where one annoyance spirals into her just finding everything about you aggravating. That’s especially true if she’s at all stubborn / unwilling to change by nature.

        In any case, that would be her problem to handle personally, not yours. Just stick to being pleasant unless her coldness starts to impact workflow, in which case you should ask your own manager how to handle it.

        1. MuffinThiefOP*

          Interesting – perhaps I have become, through some interaction I can’t remember, her Bitch Eating Crackers!

          This kind of thing provides such a useful window into other ways to see the situation, which is the benefit of writing to Alison in the first place. Perspectives always help!

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Perhaps indeed. I had a coworker once who turned a new person into her BEC every month, accumulating more and more people she just couldn’t stand until she eventually left for greener pastures. None of these colleagues had any idea they were getting on her nerves until she eventually snapped and froze them out, and many of them were working with her for the first time in product areas where they had no experience and naturally would have needed a lot of extra guidance. She would just decide they were incompetent for no real reason after a mere few interactions. I was “lucky” never to get on that side of her, simply because I sat next to her and she needed *someone* to whom she could rant about people.

            Of course, all of that is to say that this was ultimately *her* problem for not kindly and professionally addressing things with people before she couldn’t deal with them anymore. The same applies here. Just keep being polite and kind.

      2. I&I*

        That’s one of the worst things about being treated this way – it makes you question yourself, and the more sincerely you want to be a good person the worse it feels.

        If you can’t find a good answer, it can be tempting to think, ‘Maybe I’m just a worse person than I thought – I can’t even tell when I’m being a jerk!’ And if you’re hated everywhere you go, sure, maybe that’s something to consider. But if people generally like you, a simpler explanation is, ‘Maybe there’s no good answer because she doesn’t have a good reason.’

        I’m dealing with a Paige at the moment. I can’t tell you how much it fried my head to try and work out what I’d done. When I eventually found out her grievances, though, it was astonishing – and a huge relief, because they were bonkers. Stuff like ‘one time she thought I was deliberately blocking her path when I didn’t even know she was there.’ She had this whole persecution drama that had been going on in her head for years, believing I was constantly doing little things to provoke her – and I had no idea about any of it.

        Some people are just unreasonable. And it’s easy for outsiders to underestimate how damaging that can be. It can be a kind of gaslighting to have them treat you as if YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!!! But sometimes you don’t because … you didn’t.

        It’s not a plan of action – I still have my Paige and she gives me literal nightmares – but it at least makes the damage less intimate.

  34. starrai*

    Aw, man, I have been there…except in my case, “Paige” ended up being my acting supervisor when our boss left the company, and I was eventually micromanaged to death, then bullied out. Attempts at bridging the communications gap (as our grandboss viewed it) or standing up to her both didn’t pan out. The last year of this treatment was during lockdown too, so everything was more fraught. I didn’t get severance. It was a train wreck.

    (But then a year and a half later, “Paige” also departed the company and according to LinkedIn, hasn’t done much since. So there’s that.)

    I’m all for making an effort once to clear the air, but then after that, if you don’t report to each other or share a boss, I don’t think it will be fixed. Personally, I would like to think I’d take perverse enjoyment at being aggressively friendly toward her, especially when others are around, but more likely, I’d just want to go about my business. She probably does feel threatened on some level! And that is a her problem. (Unless she becomes your boss.) Best of luck, and here’s hoping she takes her bad behavior elsewhere.

  35. Wah*

    It doesn’t matter why Paige doesn’t like OP anymore at this point. You only need to be civil for simple pleasantries and speak up clearly and loudly when she picks on you for the wrong things. You can say ” you’re wrong, this is fine the way it is” and walk away in a civil manner. You don’t need to salvage this “relationship” and your other coworkers can see who’s the unreasonable one. Who cares what Paige thinks as long as she’s not in your way and you CYA?

  36. wilma flintstone*

    Here’s a suggestion. It may not be applicable, it may not work. But it’s worked a time or two for me: I would pay (covert) attention to something the person did that she may not get credit for, or a new pair of shoes, or something small. And then I’d pay a sincere compliment in an off-the-cuff way (no witnesses needed, but they can’t hurt!) as you’re walking by: “Paige, how you handled that bonkers request was really impressive! Yikes!” “Ooh, Paige, those shoes are so cute!” Don’t overplay it or come on like a suck up. Drop the compliment and go on about your day. It probably won’t de-grump her immediately. But unless she’s determined to hate you for existing, that kind of thing will erode the grump over time.

    1. MuffinThiefOP*

      That is really good advice, and I’ve actually been doing that (not To Fix The Problem, but because genuinely, she’s a rockstar and handles some things really well and I admire her for that.) It unfortunately ISN’T fixing the problem in my situation, but it’s still excellent advice.

  37. Cacofonix*

    I can’t understand why people don’t ask the Paiges of their workplace once they notice it rather than enduring rudeness from a co-worker for months? As others said, it could be for a really innocuous reason. Early in my career, I was snippy with one senior-to-me coworker and I thought I was hiding it. When she asked me about it in a similar vein to Alison’s advice here, I told her it that I was offended by her tossing work on my desk and giving me tasks as demands rather than being respectful. That it was my job and happy to do these tasks, but being polite will go a long way. She was great after that.

    I’ve never forgotten that lesson 1) Ask what’s going on; not to attack but to understand. Festering ill will doesn’t do anyone any good. 2) Treat all levels of employees with the same respect. They all bring value. If they don’t and it’s your employee, get on it. If it’s a co-worker, you don’t get to stoop to their level of rudeness.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Because a lot of times, there just isn’t a good reason. Paige may lie, obfuscate, or stonewall. Like, “You know what you did!” or “I have no idea what you’re talking about, how weird.”

      Or the answer you get isn’t actionable. Or it may be something that Paige isn’t even able to articulate. There are a lot of ways it can go, and a lot of them are bad.

  38. Liz*

    I’m in this situation! I put two and two together to realize that the person applied for the job I was selected for. The lady is bitter, snaps at me or ignores me, and has said repeatedly that she does not have to be respectful to me. I have talked to the supervisor and they always say they will talk to them. The person only treats me poorly, no one else. I’m now applying for a new job.

  39. Anna the Cat*

    in this situation, paige is gonna tell me why she dislikes me, or i’m going to give her an actual reason to by mirroring her behaviour

  40. Working9to5*

    I’m so sorry to hear this, OP. I’ve had a similar situation with a coworker ignoring me and badmouthing me. It literally started from day one, and for the life of me, I have no idea what caused it.
    She was so persistent and hateful that it lasted for a whole year until I left the company!
    At the time I thought it would be best to take the high road and kept being civil to this colleague. I never talked to my manager for fear that my manager would blame the messenger and think that I was the one creating the drama.
    However, in hindsight, I should have said something straight away to both the colleague and the manager and nipped it in the bud.
    It would probably be best talk with your colleague and ask her what is going on. And if your colleague doesn’t give you any options to solve the issue, to talk with your manager.

  41. cubby*

    very much my situation at my new job! i’ve been there a couple months and someone who was warm and friendly with me for the first two weeks is now avoiding eye contact, only talks to me if she has to, and is very brusque. she continues to be warm and friendly with everyone else. i’m so new that right now i’m just ignoring it and hoping she gets over it, but i was planning on asking if i’d done something to upset her if it continues. i can’t imagine what i did, if it even was something i did, but it’s definitely disheartening to try and work around.

  42. Office Drone*

    I’m reminded of the letter from someone who went through this exact thing. Got along fine with a coworker at first, then the coworker turned into an ice queen who actively tried to sabotage the LW. Turned out, the LW found out long after she left the job that the coworker was offended by a witchy calendar the LW had at her desk. Thought the LW was an evil pagan who had to be crushed in the name of Jesus.

    Alison’s scripts might draw that kind of motive out of Paige, or you could ask, “Is there something about me that you find off-putting? If I’m doing something that you’ve found irritating, I’d be happy to try to fix that, if possible.”

  43. Ashley*

    Seems important to note that it’s not affecting your work NOW but something messing with your mental health, not to mention incorrect corrections, absolutely can affect it down the line. And that’s not even considering if things get worse. Adjusting your script accordingly (something like “I’m noticing x and it’s not affecting my work now but I’m concerned it could down the line”) when talking with a manager for advice might be helpful. I’d ask her directly first though (as kindly and nonconfrontationally as possible), if for no other reason than being able to tell your manager you’ve already tried to address it yourself.

  44. MuffinThiefOP*

    Thank you to all of you for your insights, and of course to Alison for answering my question! You have all given me things to think about and ways to possibly approach the situation, but more than anything you’ve made me feel less crazy. I was definitely partly convinced that I was overreacting or being too sensitive or something, which obviously makes it harder to address (with Paige or our manager or anyone) because, well, do I even have a valid complaint? I feel like you’ve all made the point that I do.

    I’ll definitely update if there’s ever anything to say.

    1. WhiskeyGinger*

      One random thought – I used to have this person at my team and I think it was related to a) me just not being her cup of tea and b) her starting a relationship with the (ex, but at the time not totally?) husband of my good friend, which I didn’t know about but I think she did, and c) just having totally different ways of relating. The only thing that kind of helped was bringing her a present….I saw a journal that JUST REMINDED ME OF HER…and she was nicer?

  45. Garblesnark*

    I once thought I was in this situation, but after the coworker left, we compared notes and realized she was icing out almost everyone in private, and at least 6 separate people thought she just hated them in particular.

  46. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    I had a coworker who absolutely despised me. I couldn’t figure out any reason so I just shrugged it off. Then she started ignoring any work requests from me. That was decidedly more aggravating.

    It did come to a head (I was younger and untrained in the ways of AAM) when I went to her desk one day to ask why everything I sent was ignored/left undone. And then she accused me of bullying her.

    Is it any wonder I prefer working with computers than humans?

  47. I&I*

    I’ve had this happen once or twice in different situations. The explanation turned out to boil down to ‘You accidentally got in this person’s way or otherwise mildly inconvenienced them one time, they took it MASSIVELY personally, and ever after concluded that everything you did was a secret jab at them.’

    If Paige is one of those, there’s nothing you can do about it; some people just have a psychological need for an enemy or twenty and cast you in the role, and once you’re in that role it’s part of their identity that you stay there. Making a point of being friendly to other people in front of you can be part of that – it’s a way of showing you that they’d totally be nice to you too if you weren’t SO INCREDIBLY BAD.

    I wouldn’t waste time worrying about why she’s doing it. Every now and again you meet someone who just does this. The drama going on in her head is likely to have very little to do with anything happening outside it.

    1. Enemy Target*

      I think you hit the nail on the head – some people just have a psychological need for an enemy, and OP is it! My direct report is this way. She always has to have someone who is her active enemy, and if she doesn’t have someone to be riled up against, she turns on me.

    2. Jan Levinson Gould*

      Your comment jogged a memory from a job in high school. A co-worker who was ~10 years older started acting cold towards me, then confronted me that I was disrespectful towards her. I honestly had no idea what she was referring to, but I apologized for whatever offended her and we moved on without issue. At least she was up front about my perceived disrespect, but it was weird between us from that point forward and I felt like I had to walk on egg shells around her, but she was weird. Some people are just that way, fortunately not everybody is.

  48. Doc McCracken*

    Sometimes people are just crazy and wierd and it is legitimately not about you. I like the idea of asking once what the problem is with a script like Alison suggested. If that doesn’t solve it, you can come to terms with the fact it is most definitely not about you. The YouTube Chanel The Wizard of Words has some good suggestions for workplace bullies you might also find helpful.

  49. Just Smile and Nod*

    I had this happen at my old job. Not quite as bad as this but definitely a coworker that couldn’t even give me common decency as should be expected in a professional environment. We don’t need to be best friends. Or friends at all. But just basic adult politeness. And not saying the homemade cookies I’m sharing with everyone look like dog food. Kthxbye.

  50. Good Morning Everyone*

    Random thing to think about – is there a cultural element here? I’m guessing not, but I am reminded of a time years ago when I was new to the area (had moved to the Mid-Atlantic from New England) and was also a student, so I was in “try to be as out of the way as possible” mode – I noticed after a few weeks that the staff at this office were super cold to me, but didn’t know why until someone pulled me aside and let me know how important it was to pop my head over to the front desk and say good morning instead of just going directly to my little work cubby and getting started in the morning.

  51. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

    I had two former co-workers who seriously disliked me for the same reason – I was always on time.

    The first co-worker was late practically every day and always said that it was because of an accident or gridlock, but she was constantly reminded that I (who, like her, took a bus that went north on the New Jersey Turnpike and then through the Lincoln Tunnel to get to the bus terminal) was always early, so she decided that she didn’t like me.

    At another company, I was told that the hours were 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but that Jane’s hours were 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Fine, but she was never there when I got to the office. I figured that if the owner called before 9:00 AM and the call went to voicemail, Jane would just say that she was talking to a client at the time and couldn’t put the client on hold. So Jane had a really sweet deal – she got to pretend that she arrived at 8:30 AM and got to run out the door at 4:30 PM.

    Until a few times when the owner called before 9:00 AM and I answered the phone. The owner was surprised that I answered and asked for Jane, and I said that she wasn’t in yet. I don’t know what transpired between the owner and Jane, but shortly afterwards, the owner asked me if I were willing to change my hours to 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Sure! I was at the office before 8:30 AM anyway, and now I got to be the one who ran out the door at 4:30 PM. Needless to say, Jane then decided that she didn’t like me.

  52. Sparkles McFadden*

    I don’t think talking to her will do much good. People who cannot manage basic civility aren’t reasonable, and they are usually very attached to their weird office feuds. I know it’s exhausting to be in a situation like this, but, in my experience, the best thing to do is just treat your colleague like anyone else. It helps to pretend the colleague is someone else that you actually like.

  53. Hedgehug*

    Honestly, at this point, I would disengage with Paige on pleasantries. She isn’t accepting of it, so I would stop them and see what happens. I would only speak with her unless required.
    I would also stop complimenting her work which you said you’ve been doing often in an attempt to make nice. It’s possible that she finds it patronizing/antagonizing and not sincere.
    You’ve been understandably over-analyzing this and trying to kill her with kindness to try to fix the situation, and it’s not working. In fact, it seems to be having the opposite effect. So I would shrug my shoulders and move on. The other option – which I know you don’t want to do – is to confront her and ask her outright what her problem is.
    OR be passive aggressive about and put on a shawl every time she walks by and loudly exclaim “BRRRR!!! It just got real chilly all of a sudden!”

  54. blood orange*

    My eyes popped when you said she’s 10 years younger than you. I can’t imagine putting up with that kind of treatment from a colleague, especially when there doesn’t seem to be a power dynamic (position, age, experience, etc.) at play. Granted, my personality doesn’t put up with BS when I can help it, and this situation feels like there’s some BS. Even if there’s a perceived slight, the behavior is uncalled for in the workplace.

    For that reason, I definitely like Alison’s latter two script suggestions.

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