Recently, on one usual morning at work, I got a message on the professional chat tool, from a colleague I barely knew, asking if I was fine and offering me to take a coffee together. I did not find it strange because we already talked a few times at coffee break, mostly about training programs at work.
We agreed for a coffee a few days later and it was nice, we talked about several colleagues that had resigned and I explained why I had decided to leave too.
When I came back at my desk, he started to send me smileys and pictures on the professional chat, an HR document on stress I had asked for during coffee break, along with an invitation for lunch and his personal e-mail. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable about this behavior and I started to space my answers and pretend I had too much work.
A few days later, I sent the conversation to my best friends, asking for advice, and they found that I had been way too familiar in my conversation, with personal details about my health and my professional issues.
Browsing again through the chat, I quickly identified every sign showing that the colleague was clearly not in a professional conversation, and I was horrified to discover that in a way, I had encouraged this inappropriate behavior. Needless to say, I would have understood his intentions right away if it was in a bar, or on the Internet, but the fact that it happened at work made it much less obvious.
I thought to myself: but that’s the exact type of things about myself that I had shared with other colleagues before and we became friends, there never was any ambiguity. Where was the f#cking difference this time?
Immediately, the 18 persons in my head started to shout simultaneously. The disturbed one, who always shouted the loudest, required that, first time on Monday morning, I ask my most friendly colleague at work, if he thought that I might have an ambiguous behavior toward him.
The insecure one worried that we shouldn’t bother people with such questions and that we should just stop being friendly with men.
The rational one objected that our friendly behavior had brought us the nicest and dearest friends that we ever had. If we had behaved differently, maybe they would not have become our friends. Maybe our attitude is right. Maybe that’s who we are. Maybe making friends with some people is worth it, and we shouldn’t care if sometimes it means that we have to deal with malevolent or disturbed people.
I’m responsible for my behaviour and I’m certain that my behavior is not wrong. I am not responsible for the wrong interpretation. I will pay more attention to avoid bad relations but I will not stop trying to make friends who will love me for what I really am.