Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

I accidentally upset my co-worker

Hi, I’ve been reading a lot here lately, so hopefully will not be too newbie-ish.

I’ve been working with a really nice man for over a year. We have the same position. About two weeks ago, he said something just a tiny bit offensive, and in hindsight, it was trivial. I tried to speak to him about it privately, diplomatically, and things went really badly. He got very defensive, and I tried to backpedal, and I thought for a couple minutes we were having a discussion.

He started to say things like “I see patterns that no-one else can see” and “No one ever really understands what I’m saying.” Then he implied that I was warning him that I would go to someone higher up next time, which I had no intention of doing, so I’m wondering if he’s lost jobs before. He said something like “Well I’ll just not talk whenever you are around.”

Now he won’t look at me or speak to me. One day I tried to say hi to him and he waved at me without looking up. We are both in our 50s, so I’m finding this very unusual.

I’ve been wondering if he’s perhaps dealing with schizophrenia, though he is obviously doing great, aside from the wrench I threw into things. As I read more, there are other signs that fit. I realize it is uncool to speculate about someone’s diagnosis, etc. I’m feeling tremendous guilt about possibly upsetting an equilibrium that he may have had to work for.

Also, since I really like him as a friend, I am heartbroken at this sudden cutting off of communication. My other friend with social worker experience in this area (who doesn’t know him, just going by my story) advises me to give him space and not try to repair things with him. Well, I sort of did, and it didn’t fix anything as far as I can tell. I wrote him three emails saying I was really sorry to have even brought it up, and also trying to tell him things I appreciate about him, seeing as how the only time I got that personal with him was in order to criticize him. That’s as far as I am going to take that.

He has a good family situation and everyone likes him. There is no danger of his being fired from this job. Should I take the bullet and just let him ignore me for the foreseeable future? At this point I’m still thinking of trying for “hello” or “goodbye.”

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your feedback.

Not everyone is going to like you. As long as you’re both still capable of doing your jobs, why does it matter? Just leave him alone if that’s what he wants. You’ve taken your apology far enough and pushing it further sounds like it’s going into stalker territory.

You have already apologised for what you said. It is better to leave it on its own for awhile. He might have misunderstood some intentions. If it is possible maybe get your co-worker to talk about it again. Tell him what you are feeling, that you think perhaps something that you said or did upset him. This could just be you thinking that way but if it is true then he should speak because this is the only way to settle a situation.

If he still doesn’t seem interested then leave it on its own. Don’t feel guilty for what you never intended and you didn’t do.

If it were me, repeated overtures would make me anxious and more standoffish. Think of him like a spooked animal - if you keep going after him, even with the best of intentions, this would only frighten him further away.

Give him his space, and just be consistently pleasant with no attempts to take it further. Probably he’s just going to need to see for himself that things are okay. It sucks, but when you’re paranoid, even (sometimes especially) friendly gestures can seem threatening.

I agree with @Rhubot. Back off and give him some space. He is not necessarily schizophrenic because you had an awkward encounter with him. In fact, I doubt he is at all.