telling my coworker I don’t want to walk to work with him anymore

A reader writes:

I started a job about six weeks ago and it is close enough to walk. A coworker who I work closely with throughout the day lives a block away and passes my apartment on his way to work, so we started walking together (I’m female, and he’s male).

Now that I’m more established and getting in to my groove at a new job in a new city, I don’t want to walk with him anymore, for numerous reasons. I can’t think of a way around this without being rude and having it carry on in to work. Is there a way out? Should I lie? Should I be honest? Should I start jogging in the morning?! Maybe he feels the same way and honesty would be best? But his ego is huge, so I’m afraid he loves to talk so much that he’d be mad.

It’s hard to say if you should just be completely straightforward without knowing what your reasons are for not wanting to walk with him anymore. If your reason is that, say, you want to listen to books on CD while you walk, just say that. But if your reason is that you find him boring or you’re repelled by the copious amounts of sweating that he does as you walk, then no, don’t be straightforward; in that case, you’d want to come up with a cover story.

Whatever you do, don’t give him a reason that can easily be proven false, such as that you’re going to drive in from now on. That’s a recipe for creating awkwardness. But any of the following would be reasonable to say:

* You want to use the walk to start thinking about work projects.

* You’re using the walk to clear your head before the day starts and find you do better if you have some time alone to think.

* You’ve resolved to start listening to a book a week on your iPod and you’re using the walk to get big chunks of “reading” in.

Pick a reason, then be direct that you’re going to start doing __ in the mornings so can’t walk with him anymore. And if he’s weird to you once given any of the reasons above, just ignore his weirdness — that would be an unreasonable reaction from him, not anything that you’re responsible for.

If his weirdness crosses over into the office, lasts more than a week, and gets in the way of being able to work effectively with you, then you’ve got a different problem. (Write back in if so.) But most people can handle a polite demurral pretty well, so let’s assume he can until given a reason to believe otherwise.

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