Ask For Advice

Send your questions and concerns to Dr. Marie McIntyre. Marie has more than 20 years experience in coaching, human resources, and management.  She writes the syndicated column “Your Office Coach”, which appears in more than 70 newspapers nationwide. Marie has authored two books and serves as a workplace expert for the National Institute of Business Management.  (Due to high volume, not all questions can be answered, but Marie will respond to as many as possible. Your question may be reprinted online or in the newspaper column unless you request otherwise.)

Coaching Q&A

I don’t know why my coworker stopped speaking to me.

One of my coworkers has almost completely stopped talking to me. We used to joke and laugh all the time, but now she barely speaks at all. I feel as though she’s freezing me out.

I can’t think of anything I’ve done wrong, so I am totally confused about her change in attitude. If I ask what’s the matter, she just says “nothing”. This has been going on for several weeks. Do you have any suggestions?

Marie’s Answer

Your chilly colleague might be troubled by personal problems which she prefers not to discuss. If that seems like a reasonable possibility, just keep being friendly and wait for the situation to improve.

On the other hand, she may be trying to send a nonverbal message that she is upset with you. The psychological label for this type of foolishness is “passive aggressive behavior”.

Passive aggressive people fear conflict, so instead of addressing issues directly, they express their angry feelings through behavior. When someone asks what’s wrong, they invariably reply “nothing”, thereby making it impossible to resolve the problem.

Because this is a childish game, the solution is to stop playing. First, make one final attempt at communication: “Mary, even though you say everything is okay, I still have a feeling that you’re upset about something. Is there anything we need to talk about?”

If your colleague still insists that nothing is the matter, simply reply “I’m really glad to hear that”. Then take her at her word, ignore her silly pouting, and communicate with her as you normally would. Eventually, she will either voice her concerns or gradually return to normal.

NOTE: Questions on this page have been edited for length, grammar, and confidentiality.  All material on this website is copyrighted to Marie G. McIntyre.  All rights reserved.

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Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

Marie McIntyre has more than twenty years’ experience in career coaching and organizational development. She has held management positions in both business and government, including Director of Human Resources in a Fortune 500 company.

Marie writes the weekly syndicated advice column, “Your Office Coach”, which appears in newspapers throughout the U.S. & Canada.  She also writes a monthly Career Commentary for CNBC.com and serves as a workplace expert for Business Management Daily.  Marie conducts webinars on a variety of topics related to leadership development and career success.

As a consultant, Marie has assisted a wide variety of organizations, including Cisco, The Home Depot, Tyson Foods, the Federal Reserve, AT&T, Walgreens, Macy’s, and Habitat for Humanity. She has experience in working with business, government, and non-profit groups.

Marie is the author of two books, “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics” &“The Management Team Handbook”.  She is frequently quoted in business publications, including Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.