You Can't Make Everybody Like You: The Time My Coworker Didn't Speak to Me For Two Years

Isn't there always that ONE person at work who everybody adores and you just can't?

May 13, 2014 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

I generally play well with others. 
 
In almost every office setting I've worked in, I've walked away with a few close friends. At my first job in St. Louis, the woman who shared my tiny office became, and still is, one of my best friends. My last boss in LA was part of my wedding party, and continues to be like family to me. A co-worker with me at the pet store, a 60-something year old local woman with whom on paper I have absolutely nothing in common, has become my dearest friend in Honolulu. 
 
And, no, I don't set out to be best friends with everyone I work with, usually far from it. But I've been told I'm the kind of person who people feel comfortable confiding in, and that, coupled with the sometimes "family-like" atmosphere of an office, tends to breed closeness. 
 
While at the very least I can get along with and foster a sense of camaraderie with my co-workers, I find there is always ONE person who I just can't get along with no matter how hard I try. 
 
What's usually even more baffling is that, typically, that one person is well liked and popular with my peers. I often find myself in the awkward position of simultaneously being both on the inside and outside of the office social circle. 
 
Anybody who's been in this situation can tell you how annoying it can be. You tell yourself that it doesn't matter, you're there to do a job, not to make friends, and that you're being too sensitive, and to get over it. But sometimes, especially if that person is directly necessary for you to do your job, it's not so easy. 
 
Take for instance, my ex-coworker "Jake." 
 
Jake and I worked at a boutique shop together. Everybody from the customers to my boss loved Jake. I tried to love Jake, but we were like oil and water. 
 
I would hear all the time how "funny" and "sensitive" and "cooperative" Jake was, but to me he was always cold. The other women in the office would speak in an almost motherly way about Jake, but I just didn't get it. There were times I tried to engage him, trying to talk with him about the things we had in common -- our love of animals, probiotics, coconut oil -- but my questions were usually met with abrupt one-word answers. 
 
image

Not talking. Nope. Don't do it. 

 
Not wanting to just assume Jake sucked, I thought that maybe it was my demeanor. I've been told on more than one occasion that my loud voice and forthright way of speaking is hard to swallow for more laid back folks. So I tried to tone it down, for everyone's sake.
 
But nothing.
 
"Hey, good morning, how's it going?"
 
"Mm."
 
Right.
 
I suspect that the beginning of the end for Jake and I was Christmas a couple years ago. I was putting up Christmas decorations in the store, and some lights kept falling down. My boss, laughing at my bumbling attempts to keep the lights in place, mentioned that maybe I ought to try a different way of putting them up. 
 
Let me just emphasize we were all KIDDING AROUND. Louise would put up the lights, they'd fall down, she'd scurry up the ladder to tack them in place again, and as soon as she climbed back down, they'd fall. And repeat. 
 
So in exasperation, I JOKINGLY said to my boss, "No, I'm just going to keep trying to put these up in the laziest way possible, is that cool?" Humor, laughter, holiday fun ensued. 
 
But then before I could do anything else, Jake had the offending lights in hand and was pointedly climbing up the ladder saying, "If you're going to do something, you should do it right." 
 
OK. (Cue awkward silence.)
 
So after that I left Jake alone more. In the almost two-and-a-half years we worked together, I doubt the words we exchanged could fill one post here. On the days we worked together, we settled into this really uncomfortable routine of saying hello in the morning, informing each other of random store business that came up, informing each other when we went to lunch, and saying goodnight. On most days, less than 20 words were exchanged. 
 
But we made it work. The store ran smoothly, the bosses were happy, and we got our respective work done. Jake was actually a really good worker -- knowledgeable, great at customer service, and diligent. 
 
But our relationship was really freaking weird. I'd never in my life met someone who disliked me so much that his solution was to suspend almost all verbal communication. 
 
And while work doesn't always have to be fun, it was an incredible drag, for both of us, to be stuck together for 10 hours at a time. There was more than one occasion when a customer would turn to one of us, and in regard to the other say, "Isn't he/she great?" We perfected the art of the gritted toothed smile. 
 
As much as I told myself it shouldn't bother me, that we didn't have to be friends, the whole "You can't make everybody like you" thing -- it did bother me. I fully admit that one of my greatest weaknesses is that I worry too much about how people think of me. I'm a people pleaser, and when I can't at least find SOME common ground with a person I start to obsess. Typically, if somebody really doesn't like me, I can figure out why, but with Jake I never quite could.
 
But I suppose this isn't an entirely isolated incident. Work, school, even with friends, isn't there always that ONE person who everybody adores and you just can't? The person that for some reason everyone has an inside joke with, or a great story about, or they just love to be around, but with whom you're left with awkward one-word answers? 
 
The "Jakes" are everywhere. 
 
Have any of you ever had a "Jake" in your life? How did you deal with them?