Guilt about disliking certain people...

Reply Wed 14 Oct, 2020 01:58 pm
Hi Everyone,

First post for me - I've been dealing with anxiety and OCD thoughts for what seems like my entire life, but has got a lot worse in the last 3-5 years or so. I have been practicing meditation for 1 year, which has been a huge help, but I still struggle with decisions I have made in the past, guilt tripping myself to no end...even if it really isn't anything major. Which leads me to what I am going through now...

3 years ago, I worked in a sales office located just outside of the small tourist town that I live in. I had worked in the office for about 1 year when an opening became available, and someone in my friend group (not necessarily someone I was close with, but was friendly with) applied . Let's call her Kelly. She got the job, and we shared a smaller closet-like office for the next year.

This was fine in theory, and to the rest of our friend group it seemed like a good thing, but I was admittedly not thrilled when she got the job. I am a very easy going, non-confrontational, people-pleasure by nature who generally likes to go with the flow and do his own thing. Kelly was the polar opposite, and without seeming too harsh (lol here I go), needed to be at the centre of attention at all times, spoke about herself or other people (gossipy) constantly, and always seemed to turn anything that you send back around so that it was about her. If I were to mention how I was going golfing after work, she would respond with "I don't see the appeal of golf, I like spending my time doing things that at the end of it you can say you accomplished something" with a straight face, not as a funny jab (which I would be cool with). Huh? If there was an argument or fight within the friend group, she was at the centre of it (while I was far, far away). I listened to her talk about other people all the time - why would I, then, talk to her about myself, if the she was only going to turn around spew it to the next person?

On the other hand, I knew that she was putting herself out there to apply and take the challenge of a new job. I knew that she had good intentions and wasn't a bad person, just not a person that I found engaging or that I wanted to spend my time talking to or being around. That is obviously a problem when you share an office, which I'll get to. She was also caring and did want to help others. Long story short, I just described the qualities that I found most challenging, but she was not a bad person. Just not a person I wanted to spend 40 hours a week with.

Anyways, over the first few months of working together I become more and more tired of her, more exhausted by listening to her talk about herself or others constantly, and so I slowly just blocked her out, minimizing my interactions with her if I could. I wasn't mean or rude or anything, I just engaged with her less and less, keeping things professional and civil (so I thought anyways). I kept things brief, and went about my day as I normally would. This obviously cased a big riff between us - elephant in the room - as she expected us to be really close in the office, not knowing that I had no real intentions of ever living up to that. I wrongly assumed that she would just kind of move on and find a group of individuals that were more on her level, which did eventually happen, but not without a significant amount of tension being caused by the fact that I wasn't one of those who were really interested, and didn't talk about my issues.

As time went on, the elephant got bigger and bigger, but I was stubborn and unwilling to talk to her about my issues with her. They were, after all, MY problems with her. So when she asked what was wrong, why I was so quiet, I just said that that's just the way I like to work, and that it wasn't a big deal that I was keeping to myself most of the time. That was clearly a lie, seeing as I interacted quite a bit differently with those who I enjoyed being around! But that was a better option than stating that I really just couldn't stand her.

I knew that she wasn't doing anything wrong, that she was just doing her best, and so I still did try to support her whenever I could. I offered to help her whenever she needed it, to take work off of her plate when she was busy even though I had twice the workload, and always spoke highly of her to her superiors when they asked how she was doing. When she made a mistake, I would tell her how I have made the same mistake, even worse mistakes, and not to sweat it. I helped knowing that she wouldn't say thank you or acknowledge the fact that I was dropping my work to help her with hers, but that was ok. I felt guilty for not staying true to my "people pleaser" roots, and so helping out was the least that I could do.

But on a personal level, I just couldn't seem to do it with her. This was before I practiced meditation, which has opened my eyes to what I could have done, what tools I could have used to deal with her. Today, I see what my role was in making the office a less enjoyable place for us to both come to every day. In short, steps I could have taken are:

1) Instead of just putting up a wall and pretending like there was no issue, it was my responsibility to say something - anything - that would have at least acknowledged the fact that I was so obviously not engaging with her. I could have lied, said it was nothing to do with her just to ease her own insecurities about what was wrong. In my defense, I didn't see lying as an option and didn't want to insult her by saying everything I had an issue with, but going silent while pretending that there was no issue was not the right approach either.

2) Mindfulness. I often went into the office expecting her to say or do something that would almost verify my feelings towards her. That's not fair. Being a people-pleaser, I felt guilty and strange not putting others before myself, and so in this instance, where I WAS putting myself first, it felt incredibly wrong. I therefore looked for validation, which reduced the capacity for positive interactions with Kelly. I could have noticed my bias towards her less flattering qualities, put those aside for just a moment, and tried to create room for even just a few positive interactions every day. We wouldn't have been best friends, but work would have been a lot more enjoyable for us both.

I think at the end of the day, when you have 2 people sharing a small space for 40 hours a week, 1 of which isn't terribly fond of the other, there is bound to be some tension. I accept that, but looking back on this experience 3 years ago, I can't help but feel terrible for the fact that my failure to be mindful or talk to her about my issues made her experience in the office worse. I just want everyone to be happy, and to have a positive impact on the world, and have a very hard time thinking back on a time where I made someone's life even marginally more difficult than it needed to be.

Should I feel guilty for not liking someone, for not making enough of an effort, or can I let this go, take those lessons, and use them to improve my future relationships? This does not feel good, even if the situation is over and has been for 2 years. Kelly has moved to another part of the country and is no longer a part of my life or in my friend group, for what it's worth.
Reply Wed 14 Oct, 2020 04:09 pm
Of course you shouldn't feel guilty about disliking someone.

Egad, you're entitled to your feelings. Yes, even you, people pleasing person.

Sharing an office with someone is almost like sharing an apartment with them. Some good roommates are pals who you do things with. Some good roommates are nice people but you don't connect, so you don't do things together, but they're pleasant enough to live with. Others are lousy roommates.

She wanted to be type 1, but the reality is, she's between a 2 and a 3. Probably closer to a 2.

That having been said, you do not, ever have to volunteer to do someone else's work, particularly if you are already overworked. I have got to assume you would not have been paid for this -- and that she would turn it in and, presumably, get the credit for it. If you're salaried, then it's even worse, as you wouldn't even get OT for it.

Cut that **** out yesterday.

I say that as a manager.

My job as manager is to hand out work according to skill level, hours, and deadlines. I expect the people who work for me to tell me if they're overworked, or if they don't understand something.

I also expect them to do the work.

Here's a fer-instance.

L and F share an office. L slacks off and whines and guilts F into doing her work. F's own work slips because she's picking up L's slack. And maybe F's OT hours start to rise, which affects the departmental budget.

But the work keeps on getting done, because F swoops in and saves the day, on a regular basis. F doesn't complain. L says nothing.

As a manager, I have no idea that F is suffering at the hands of L's laziness. No clue. All I see is F costing more, because of more and more OT. I also see F getting stressed, and maybe snappy. Perhaps F lashes out at someone, maybe even L.

Do you want to know who gets let go if I have to downsize the department and F and L are my only 2 candidates for that?



Because to me, since I don't know any better, F costs the company more $ and is harder to get along with.

Then L of course whines and guilts someone else into doing her work.

And the cycle continues.

You do not have to kowtow to the Ls of this world, and you don't have to like them. They don't have to like you, either.

And all of that is okay.

Work is for work. Be friendly, sure. Joke around a bit if you like. But at the end of the day, it's for work, and not for socializing. Next time this person whines, slap on headphones or earbuds (even if you don't have anything to listen to) and say, "Sorry, got a deadline. Thanks for understanding!"

Lather, rinse, repeat.
Reply Wed 14 Oct, 2020 04:37 pm
Hi jespah,

Thank you so much for your advice!!

To be fair, I didn't mean for it to sound like I simply took on her work out of guilt, or that he guilted me into doing it in any way. Long story short, she had an awful manager who gave her a bunch of crap jobs to do (vacuuming the office, counting inventory, etc), and if I could see that she was already stressed out about other work, I take it off her hands. We were at the same level on the totem pole, though I had the seniority, and so I considered it part of a team "pulling in the same direction".

I would agree, she was more between a 2 and a 3 Smile, but I feel that I need to be accountable for my own qualities as an officemate as well, and admit that I was somewhere between a 2 and a 3 for her as well. Not because I didn't want to be best buddies, but rather because I didn't have the tools (through mindfulness) that I do now, and often went into the day with a negative perception of her, rather than trying to put my feelings aside and try to at least connect with her on some level. I guess that's what the practice of meditation is all about though - noticing your feelings, not becoming them, and being able to choose the best path forward in everyday life.

Thanks again!
Reply Thu 15 Oct, 2020 06:41 am
I would suggest, BTW, that if your boss is having nonjanitorial staff vacuum the office, then your boss isn't so hot, either.
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