my nosy coworker keeps joining my conversations, re-interviewing after a job rejection, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My nosy coworker keeps joining my conversations

My nosy coworker (“Nancy”) and I both joined the company at the same time and sit in neighboring cubicles at the office. There are walls to our cubicles, but the walls are short.

Whenever another coworker come up to my cube to chat about anything at all (work-related or not, like where they went for fun last night), Nancy overhears some or all of the conversation and pops up from her chair, turns around, and joins the conversaiton! Sometimes, when she presumably can’t hear all the words of a certain conversation, she will get up from her desk, turn around, and ask “What are you guys talking about?” and then joins in that way. AND, there have been times when I am having a conversation with a coworker (who works in our unit) that is away from my desk, and she will approach us and then just stand there, listening/joining in on the conversation! I want to tell her to mind her own business but of course, I can’t. Besides, the people who are speaking with me at the time of her interruption don’t appear to think she’s rude or appear to have a problem with this —- so perhaps I am being too sensitive and uptight? I know that one can interpret her behavior as “friendly,” but I think it is downright nosy and rude to interrupt others and to join conversations uninvited. I can’t directly confront her about this because I don’t want to make this into a “thing,” and there is no possibility of changing my seat.

She overhears and joins other people’s conversations too, not just mine.

Well, I don’t actually think you can keep her out of social conversations; if you’re having a social conversation in a reasonably public area (as opposed to an obviously private pow-wow in, say, an otherwise unused conference room), it would be rude to insist on excluding her if she wants to join in.

But certainly when it’s something work-related, it would be reasonable to signal that you hadn’t intended to involve her — such as by saying, “Oh, I’m talking to Jose about a work project — did you need one of us? I’ll be about five minutes.”

But beyond that, since you say that you’re not willing to address it with her directly, there aren’t really other options. If you change your mind about that at some point, that opens up other options … although I’d proceed with caution there unless you can point to a way in which the interruptions are causing problems (beyond just annoying you on principle), like making conversations less efficient than they’d otherwise be.

2. Should we welcome the new CEO before he starts?

Our long-time CEO is retiring, and a new replacement from outside the company has been hired to start in a couple of months. Is it appropriate for department heads and/or staff to send a card or email to welcome the new CEO before he starts?

Sure, that’s fine to do. Not necessary at all, but fine to do if you’re moved to.

3. I’ve been asked to re-interview for a job I was previously rejected for

I received a call from a recruiter to be re-interviewed for a position that I previously applied and interviewed for. The first time, after a phone interview and two in-person interviews, they hired someone else.

I don’t know how to approach this new interview. I don’t know why they are looking to fill the position again or why they didn’t chose me in the first place. I believe that on the third interview, I was not at my best, but I would like the job and I want to *wow* them. Any suggestions?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the why’s here — although it’s certainly reasonable to ask during the interview, “What caused the position to re-open?” You can assume that you did well enough before that they think there’s a reasonably good chance that you could be their person this time, or they wouldn’t be calling you back in. As with any interview, just prepare the crap out of it. You wow them by being a strong candidate and being able to point to a track record of success in the skills they need — so focus on being able to show that.

4. Letting an interviewer know when references will be out of town

I’m interviewing on Monday for a job that’s a bit of a long shot. From Wednesday through Friday, two of my references and I will all be out of town attending a conference. Should I mention this? I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but we’re all heavily involved in the conference – my boss and I are presenting and my other reference is basically in charge of the program so we’ll be unreachable a lot of the time.

It’s not presumptuous to give them information that might be useful to them. Toward the end of your interview, after asking about their timeline for next steps, say something like this: “By the way, two of my references and I will all be out of town a conference the last three days of this week, and it could potentially be hard to reach them during those days. Thought I’d give you a heads-up in case that impacts anything.”

5. Customizing a cover letter when you don’t know what company you’re applying to

One thing I would really love to see addressed in detail on your site is how to apply to jobs on Craigslist where, most of the time, the post doesn’t give any company information or contact names. You talk a lot about customizing the resume and cover letter, but that’s virtually impossible when you have no idea what company you’re applying to. Can you please give how-to tips for this specific topic?

Ah, but there’s no need for your customization to be specific to the particular company even when you know what it is. In most cases, the most effective customization comes from talking about why you’d be awesome at this particular JOB — the work itself. Assuming you have a job description, that’s what you should focus on.

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. Penny

    To OP #1 – why are you so opposed to her joining your conversations? Is it counter to office culture? Do you dislike her specifically? It seems pretty standard office chatter to join in as folks are talking about their weekends or whatnot. If it bothers you so much, you should probably speak with her about it, but this seems like an odd thing to be upset over.

    1. Lee

      I thought that it was odd to be so upset as well. But thinking about it more, I guess it would be pretty irritating to have someone constantly interloping in every conversation the OP has at work. Unfortunately I think that’s just how some people are and it would be tough to address, unless the interloper is trying to get too personal, then the OP would have to change the subject and hope they get the hint. Personally I think some people just don’t like to feel left out. As an introvert I would probably want to join in but not want to interrupt.

      1. Lee

        Oh, another Lee! I’ve never noticed another Lee before. If you are a new commenter, would you mind changing your name? I don’t always comment but I sometimes do and it begins to get a bit confusing when two people have the same user name. Thanks :-)

        1. Lee

          Well, we’re in a pickle — I’ve been browsing the site since the early days, and comment sometimes. I’m not the Lee above, BTW; I’m a third Lee, and until now, I thought I was the sole Lee. Not to be presumptuous, but would you mind going by another name — maybe Lee2 and the first commenter by Lee3? Sorry.. it can get confusing, and it makes the most sense to assume names in a timely manner. Thanks!

    2. Jen RO

      I started a reply and it turned into a rant. Let’s just say that I would feel the same as you if I hadn’t met people like OP’s coworker. I can’t really pinpoint why, but they universally rub the rest of the team the wrong way…

      1. Jessa

        Yeh Jen I tried five times to make my point and couldn’t without it becoming a screaming rant. To me however the coworker is coming off creepy and stalkerish. She follows the OP over to other people when she walks away to talk privately. Serious issues. Very creepy.

        And yes I know I have issues which makes this feel skeevy and worse to me than the average person. I’m garbage with social cues except that I know some when I see em, and this is something you don’t do to people.

        1. MK

          However, given that a) the coworker is not targeting the OP with this behavior, but does it to everyone, and b) the rest of the team doesn’t seem to agree that the coworker is doing anything rude or pushy, I think the problem is more a combination of the coworker trying really hard to make friendships at work (and perhaps focusing on the OP because they are both new) and the OP not liking the coworker and being irritated with her efforts.

          Perhaps the solution would be for the OP to cool down her interactions with this person; remain polite, but be more formal than friendly. If the coworker is simply trying to be friends, she will get the message and back off. If she really is being stalkerish, her behavior might escalate, which will give the OP something more tangible to address.

          1. Jazzy Red

            This.

            OP, this is a problem in almost every office – there’s someone who seems to need/want more interaction with coworkers than most people do. Even if you try to talk to her about it, or go to your boss to have him talk to her, this problem will not go away. Your coworker does not know that this isn’t the way to behave, and she probably never will “get it”. Hurt feelings and worse problems could (and probably would) result. For private conversations, I suggest you go in a conference room, ladies room, break area, basically anywhere she can’t see you, and have your talk. For the rest of it, try to let it go. Remind yourself that everyone comes with baggage and you can’t change them. Try to think “poor girl, she really is clueless” occasionally. Mr. T (on television) used to shout “I pity the fool!”, but you might not want to go that harsh. Hopefully, she’ll make some work friends of her own and won’t bother you so much.

          2. Karowen

            The rest of the team might not think it’s too rude because they only have to deal with it occasionally, when they’re talking to the OP – whereas the OP has to deal with it all. the. time. Something that happens once in awhile is going to take a lot longer to rub the wrong way than something that happens 10 times a day. I have nothing constructive to offer the OP, just wanted to mention that.

        2. Jen RO

          My coworkers aren’t creepy, they simply seem to misread the “social environment” in our team… One of them is very outgoing, but he acts like a high-schooler (always quoting 9gag, talking about DOTA and LoL, brofists) in a team filled with people who are left puzzled by his jokes. The other one will swivel in his chair whenever someone is laughing or talking… he doesn’t join in, but it’s obvious he is listening. (OK, yes, you can’t really tune out everyone, but isn’t the social convention that you should at least pretend to?)

          1. EvaR

            OK, yes, you can’t really tune out everyone, but isn’t the social convention that you should at least pretend to?)

            This is why I occasionally make myself “Nancy” on purpose.

            I have difficulties tuning people out at times. I also tend to have different views than a lot of people in my area on “hot button” topics, which means I really like when the company rule we go over in training about not talking about religion or politics at work is followed. I’ve had coworkers who discuss things at work like what they believe will happen when the rapture happens, what they bought at a passion party in great detail, etc. The cube walls go up and people sometimes forget that everyone on our floor is not really supposed to leave their desk for several hours during the day. Or people get very noisy so it’s difficult to focus on your own tasks.

            Sometimes people need a friendly reminder that they are 3 feet away from someone they barely know who can’t leave.

        3. bluefish

          The getting up and following into a conversation seemed like a more one off egregious example when most of the time this is happening bc she is in the next cubicle with short walls and basically can’t help but be in the midst of the conversation.

          1. April

            Cant help it? Sure she can, bluefish. I’ve worked in those frustrating “partial-cubicles-which-might-as-well-be-one-big-room” environments before and there’s absolutely no need in the world to stand up away from your own space and your own task to jump in on a conversation two other people are having. Is it frustrating for them to converse within earshot? Yes. Does it mean you are physically compelled to stand up and join in? Hardly.

      2. Mrs. Batman

        I did the same but ended up making a separate comment rant anyways. Your composure is admirable.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        Yup, I totally get that. It’s awkward and weird. I know that workplace conversations aren’t private, but when two people are talking about a mutual interest or a mutual friend or something, it is so weird when another person hovers and tries to join in.

        1. JB

          Yeah, it’s weird and rude to hover around trying to join in on conversations you haven’t been included in. This isn’t like a party or a networking event where you are expected to mingle. I think it would also be fine if she was walking into the break room where the OP and another were standing by the coffee or water and talking, and she heard what they were talking about and joined in. But if two people are standing off somewhere, and she just walks up and stands there, it’s awkward and kind of rude. And I would be super annoyed to think that no matter where I went at work or who I talked to, I could not have a conversation without her.

    3. Mrs. Batman

      It’s hard for me to gauge exactly why the coworker bothers the OP without knowing a few more details, but I have a new coworker right now who is guilty of this in a way that is completely off-putting. He stands behind our front desk manager and corrects her on small misstatements or errors that she would have quickly corrected herself if he hadn’t spoken up. He interjects himself into conversations with clients when he doesn’t know what they are talking about. For example, I was checking out a guest who tipped her Teapot Host extra that day because he mentioned he had just closed on his house. This coworker steps over, interjects, and tells her “Congratulations!” She is of course confused and I have to explain to him that it was the Teapot Host that he should be congratulating. On another occasion, a new hire was sitting quietly in the lobby waiting on her paperwork to be printed out. My new coworker asks her whether she is applying to our company, and when she told him no, he immediately asked if she was waiting for Tea Service. I explained that she was waiting for her new hire paperwork, and he immediately begins to pepper her with questions like “What does she know about Tea Time Inc? Why does she want to work there?” Etc, etc. He is still in training himself and has only been with us for two weeks!
      I finally leveled with him (politely!) the other day that he was being somewhat inappropriate, especially in regards to his disrespect towards the front desk manager. I’m hoping if he is made aware of how he is coming off that he can make adjustments accordingly. Maybe a similar approach could work with OP? Though she did mention that no one else seems to feel as annoyed by her coworker as she does, so I don’t know if that is a viable option. I understand the frustration, regardless!

      1. MK

        The OP doesn’t seem to object to what the coworker is saying, though, she objects to her joining the conversation at all.

    4. UKJo

      Mm, it could be a number of things (personal clash, low tolerance for that sort of thing) but it might be as simple as “Nancy” doing it every. single. time. If you feel you can’t even have a one minute quick hello-how-are-ya with someone without her butting in then that would get irritating, and fast. Other people wouldn’t be as irked because they don’t get every conversation interrupted. It’d probably bug me, to be honest.

      1. Mephyle

        OP, how do you know it doesn’t bother other people? If you are working hard to hide your signs of irritation, maybe some of them are doing the same. Perhaps they think, like you, that they’re the only one bothered.
        (I don’t, however recommend acting on that, like surveying people privately out of Nancy’s hearing.)

        1. fposte

          I’m opposed to this in general. I don’t think there’s any way to do this without it ending up as a middle school “Does Becky bug you too?” question, and I don’t see that it gets you useful information anyway.

          1. Mephyle

            Opposed to what? I am only suggesting that OP consider – in their own mind – that they may not be the only one who feels that way. I don’t suggest that OP explore that idea with anyone else, in fact I do not think that would be a good thing to pursue. I thought I had said that, but maybe I didn’t make it clear.

            1. fposte

              Despite your bolding, I completely misread your last line–sorry about that! And you made it perfectly clear, so that was all me.

    5. Another Nancy

      I’ve been guilty of being a bit of a Nancy myself at times. Last year, I took a job where I found my co-workers were not very welcoming people I had to try and find ways to make friends and build rapport with my co-workers and one of the ways I tried to do that by trying to join harmless conversations like ‘what did you do on the weekend’ and ‘wow, look at the clouds outside, I think it will rain’, it upsets me that these people would just prefer I continue to have felt isolated in the workplace and look for ways to shut me up.

      1. Lamb

        No one is saying that Nancy should sit alone in the dark and face the corner, but if you get up from your desk to join a nearby conversation but have to ask “What are you two taking about?” as your opener, that is on the awkward side. If you can clearly hear the conversation and can join in seamlessly, that’s a lot less of an imposition.

        1. bluefish

          From the letter, it seems to me like Nancy is not typically getting up and going out of her way to join the conversation. I got the feeling that she sits quite close and is basically in the conversation most of the time. The part saying, “what are you guys talking about” came across more like a one off instance that the OP relates because its the most egregious example.

          1. Squirrel!

            Did you miss the part where the OP literally said that Nancy will physically get up and walk over to interject herself into conversations?

        2. Biff

          I know I’ve said this at work personally, and it’s because occasionally when I take off my headphones I hear the worst possible isolated sentence. Perhaps, “Well, so that happened and then I’m sitting there with fudge sauce dripping all over.” or “So she bent over and flashed the whole room.” So it’s more ‘joking’ than butting in. I usually deliver it in a ‘goodness me oh my’ tone.

          I sort of wonder if the OP doesn’t get or doesn’t like Nancy, or has been sending mixed signals. Is it possible that Nancy and the OP work in an office where there are few women and Nancy feels like she has to chat to be one of the girls? I guess I have a lot of questions. The thing the OP says that sticks out at me is “the people who are speaking with me at the time of her interruption don’t appear to think she’s rude or appear to have a problem with this .” For some reason that makes me feel like this is a class issue, as in, the OP comes from a background where there are classes and Nancy is somehow a lower class individual that OP wouldn’t have spoken to previously.

          The whole letter just leaves me with this odd feeling of “who the hell does she think she is, talking to me?!”

      2. Felicia

        I may have been a bit of a Nancy too …. i had coworkers who had worked with each other for 5-6 years and would have prsonal onversations all the time, often when I was right there . it was an office of 4, and the other 3 were super tight with each other , having lunch together all the time, sometimes whispering and laughing to each other like right next to me. I felt isolated and left out and didn’t know how to go about joining in – it’s kidn of like moving to a new highschool in the middle of the year, when all the other kids had known each other since pre school. Not the most mature, but I think understandable. Not saying the OP is like that, I actually don’t think the OP or their coworkers are like that, it’s just another possibility when there is a Nancy

        1. Nona

          Me too, and you’ve described that feeling for a new hire in a tight-knit group well. A Nancy might be feeling isolated and going a little overboard.

        2. The IT Manager

          Yeah! Frankly this reminds me of an experience where I was in a group of newcomers. I’m shy and awkward, and I was probably overboard trying to talk and get to know the one person I felt a connection to and admired. It eventually led to me being excluded which probably led me doubling down on my efforts and then a nasty mean girls type scene with me as the target.

          For the LW, try to be kind because I think she sounds a bit desperate for work friends (which is an unattractive trait) but you may have to be explicit that you don’t want her to continue to do this. OTOH what’s wrong with your cubical neighbor joining in? Its not like you should expect to be able to have private conversations in the office setup you described.

        3. mirror

          Chiming in to say I could have been Nancy numerous times in my life. Getting the cold shoulder from someone I thought I was making friends with is the worst.feeling.in.the.world.

      3. Nona

        “… these people would just prefer I continue to have felt isolated in the workplace and look for ways to shut me up.”

        Absolutely nobody said that. It sounds like what you are doing is normal, friendly behavior, and not comparable to the annoyance they’re talking about.

      4. Anonymous1973

        I agree – it makes me sad too. It seems that some people doesn’t understand what it’s like to be lonely. They even put friendly in quotes, as if its a bad thing.

        1. Nona

          Yep, we’ve gone through our entire lives without ever feeling lonely once.

          Some people don’t like behavior like what the OP described. It’s not loneliness or friendliness (or fake “friendliness”) that anyone has a problem with. I think you might be projecting onto “Nancy” and taking comments personally here.

          1. Anonymous1973

            “Some people don’t like behavior like what the OP described.”
            And some people don’t like behavior like the OPs.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              But in fairness to the OP, who’s taking quite a bit of heat here, she hasn’t described any rude behavior of her own. She’s annoyed that her coworker inserts herself into every conversation the OP has. And she’s asking if she’s being overly sensitive or not. That doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

    6. UnEmplaylist

      I am Nancy. OK not literally, but I’m certain that is how some people percieve me. In a new office situation I am hoping to get to know my co-workers and become part of the team as quickly as possible, and I do it by being friendly. Sometimes that includes things like “Are you guys talking about Orange Is the New Black? I love Crazy Eyes!” Or whatever. Inocuous small talk. In a cubicle situation, especially with those annoying short dividers, I think everyone knows they are being overheard. Now maybe Nancy is really being obnoxious and inappropriate. But it sounds to me like she’s just trying to be friendly and wishing she had a friend. How about inviting her out for lunch and getting to know her a bit? That might help her to stop trying so hard.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But do you do it every time others are talking? I doubt that, and that’s what the OP is describing here. (If you are doing it every time, that’s probably worth rethinking! No matter how lovely a person is, people are going to get annoyed if they can’t have a conversation without that person interjecting themselves into it.)

        1. Anx

          That would be the distinction for me. I think in an office it’s perfectly normal to develop relationships with some people faster than others, to have varying degrees of friendships with workers, or otherwise just want to have different relationships with each coworker. It seems reasonable to me that people should make an effort to include everyone in some events or conversations and also allow others around them to have their own unique relationships.

          I would be quite annoyed at being completely shut out of an office or having to include someone in pretty much every conversation, even it has nothing to do with her.

        2. "OP"

          This is “OP” here regarding my (rude and obnoxiously nosy) coworker, “Nosy Nancy”. To respond to several posters’ inquiries and comments:
          – No, Nosy Nancy is not lonely — at least not that I know of. She does have some friends in the office. She has at least two or three other folks in our unit who she speaks to and is friendly with. Regarding her outside life, she lives with her boyfriend and seems to have a busy life. In fact, she will often tell me just how busy she is. Incredulously, sometimes she will spell out for me the tasks that she has to complete for each day of an especially busy week.
          – Besides, being lonely can be one excuse for some of her behaviors; HOWEVER, being lonely is still NOT an excuse to interrupt two other people’s conversations, even if the conversation is taking place inside the office where there are cubicles. The walls may be short but they are still walls! And to actually walk herself up to a conversation that I may be having with a co-worker away from my desk — that is just downright rude.
          – In my view, these are examples of what differentiates rudeness/nosiness and unacceptable behavior versus acceptable behavior: Maybe it’s sorta okay to overhear and then joining others’ conversation while in the office pantry/kitchen or bathroom, but not at an employee’s cubicle. It’s okay for Nosy Nancy to ask a coworker “How was your weekend?” but NOT “What did you buy?” (when she saw that I had an Amazon.com package delivered to me).

          1. Anne

            I really don’t see much egregious behaviour here… She’s trying to chat to you about work while in work (incredulously, though this is pretty standard work chit-chat) and asked about a package you had delivered to work. And sometimes joins in your public conversations. I’m also pretty sure the rest of the office thinks Nancy is friendly with YOU, as she clearly can’t be lonely since she talks to other people.

            Honestly, it seems like you don’t like her so get more offended than needed whenever she tries to interact with you.

          2. PK

            In my experience, think this might be just a bit of a personality conflict. It seems like you value privacy perhaps more than the average person, but what you’re describing is common in my office that has a lot of camaraderie. We get packages delivered and even guess what the other person ordered. I’ll admit that it has the potential to get out of hand if the person ordered something they don’t want to share, but I assume most people aren’t getting super sensitive things delivered in case the package is accidentally opened by someone else (this also happened to me, but mistakes happen and I didn’t take offense). So for my office culture what you describe is very normal… perhaps she came from an office previously like that as well?

            It sounds like the best thing you could do is be honest– “I appreciate that you’re curious about what I might have gotten from Amazon, but I’d prefer if you didn’t ask, thanks!” Or if that’s too confrontational, just a non-answer “Oh, nothing exciting— did you see X tv show last night?”

      1. vox de causa

        I was just coming to post that one! It’s so true – it seems like some people just have that “fingernails on a chalkboard” effect no matter how hard they try to ingratiate themselves.

        I think a lot of people find me off-putting in that way, so I try to keep a lid on it when I feel it toward someone else, but the feelings are still there.

      2. Nashira

        I’m late, but the only problem with being at the “jerk eating crackers” stage is when you act on it. I have a coworker who’s at that point, after years of specific annoyance culminating in her pinning me in a chair with a forced hug, but I still try to treat her decently and politely.

    7. Tex

      This could have been me writing the letter. I actually considered writing in with this plus add to other, complicating factors.

      On my part, yes, I can see the other person trying really, really hard to be part of the team. But the truth of the matter is that as a new person, they see a nice bunch of people but they can’t know the politics and the forces behind some of the interactions. Some of the questions I’ve had from New Person have been naive and shows they have not worked in a large corporate setting before, where issues are taken care of quietly. I’ve hinted at a couple of things but they seem to go over New Person’s head.

      On another level, I’m annoyed that my conversations keep getting joined in because it’s important to me to develop one on one rapport with colleagues. This is a medium sized group of us that breaks into smaller groups to work on projects and everyone gets to work with everyone else eventually. New Person is welcome to talk to anyone and we’re all pretty friendly but, gah, please some space.

      But the exterior personnel and projects we deal with vary quite a bit, so some of our conversations reference other people/situations that may not be apparent to New Person but NP still persistently questions about what’s going on. Talking about that stuff feels like gossip. For example, someone leaves early because he used to be on a chemo schedule and now that he’s ok, he still keeps the same schedule with permission. Telling New Person that person had cancer just feels like a privacy violation but the rest of the team knows because we were working there when the diagnosis came in.

      1. BausLady

        I know I’m late but I can’t let a Mean Girls comment pass without adding, ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink!’

  2. Fish Microwaver

    I’m all for friendliness in the office but OP#1’s co-worker would irk me too. It’s one thing to join a conversation about weekend plans etc or to say “what are you guys talking about” if you join them in the breakroom for lunch. But leaving her desk and going out of the way to join in spells nosy to me.

    OP#2, seems a bit butt kissy to me, unless you hold a very senior position.

  3. EngineerGirl

    #1 – I’m going to disagree with most and say that the problem is with the OP. First, you want to have a private conversation in a public area. That’s just not reasonable. In fact, it is rude to have a conversation in a public place and exclude others (caveat – social only).
    Second, it is unreasonable that you don’t want to bring this issue up while it is a small thing. So that means that you’ll let this build up until you snap at her. Then it will be a Thing. Really, just have the conversation with her if it is annoying you. Your ability to handle annoyances/problems in a non-confrontational manner is an indicator of maturity. Start exercising it now before you escalate.

    1. MK

      I agree that it’s more likely to be the OP who has the problem (barring more information about the coworker’s behavior) and that it’s probably as simple as her not liking her coworker and being annoyed at things that she wouldn’t even think about, if anyone else did it. But I don’t see how the OP can bring up the issue without sounding hostile or even crazy. With work stuff, she could say something along the lines “please don’t interrupt work conversations, it makes me lose my concentration”. But with personal chats, how can one exclude a person without being rude?

      1. Molly

        I agree – OP#1 seems like the rude one to me. “Nancy” sounds like she is trying to be friendly and fit in. It sounds like when she approaches a conversation she listens for an appropriate time to join, not just butting in.

        And for the OP – it is rude in the extreme to try to exclude one particular coworker from conversations taking place in public areas. Maybe instead of getting upset at someone trying to get along with you and others, you could try to get along with her instead. If no one else seems to see anything wrong with this, but you are cold and standoffish to her, YOU are the one who is going to come off as rude and cold.

        Plus, no decent manager in the world will appreciate you trying to exclude another team member socially. You’re running a very real risk of becoming a problem your manager has to solve.

        1. Another Nancy

          I’ve been in ‘Nancy”s shoes. I’ve been a new hire at a workplace where no one was really welcoming and I felt like the new kid who transferred halfway through junior year of high school when everyone already had their friendships established and no one wanted to take the new girl under their wing. I had to awkwardly try and include myself and at some points, I wondered why they seemed to think it was OK to be so rude. It’s one thing to have an office friend, but to roll your eyes every time a coworker speaks and act irritated when they try and be included in the work place seems rude of the OP, not of ‘Nancy’.

        2. "OP"

          To Molly, MK, and Engineer Girl: Regarding what is “reasonable” and what is considered to be a “public area” — When you are having a conversation with a fellow co-worker that is not in a loud voice and that did not include an express or implied invitation for others to join, how do you find it acceptable for Nancy Nosy to just come up to the two of you and then put in her two cents in when no one asked her to? How is it not rude to just insert oneself into other people’s conversations, 9.5 times out of 10? What if you were telling your coworker about something semi-private (like a sick family member or a personal medical issue or whatever) but it is not practical, convenient, or even conventional to leave the building? It would be ridiculous and an unnecessary waste of time to leave the premises, take the elevator down, leave the actual building (!), tell your coworker what’s going on in your life, and then go back into the building, wait for the elevator to arrive, take the elevator back up, swipe your ID to get in, go back to your desk, etc.?

          1. Sophia

            Yes it’s a bit rude that’s she’s inserting herself into every conversation. No she shouldn’t do so when it’s a work conversation. From your comment below it sounded like you thought I missed that she was jumping into work conversations. I get that she is doing so, and you need to say something to her just like Alison suggested.

            However, it’s FAR more rude to exclude someone at the office from a conversation that is in a somewhat public setting and isn’t work related. Like I said below, that kind of behavior is bad for moral and causes divisions. The work place is not a place to be chit chatting with your just those who you deem as your friends. You are all co-workers. Choosing to talk about personal private information in a public place at the exclusion of another co-worker ranks as far more rude than wanting to join in on a public conversation.

            I’m not saying this to criticize you as a person but to show you that the behavior you described sounds very rude to me. Why does co-worker x get to know information about a sick family member or a personal medical issue but Nancy doesn’t? What is Nancy supposed to think – that she’s not good enough to be your friend? This is why people go to bars after work or out to lunch together. It’s just not okay to exclude co-workers in order to have conversations with your “friends” at work.

            If I were to comment here where you could “overhear” what I wrote and continue having a conversation with one of the other posters in the thread without acknowledging your presence in the thread – wouldn’t you feel a bit slighted? I know it’s not a perfect comparison, and I’m not saying that Nancy is feeling slighted, but I am saying it’s unreasonable to expect to have private conversations in the presence of other people.

      2. EngineerGirl

        You need to go somewhere private to have a private conversation. My Mom was from a family of 14 kids. If you wanted privacy you quietly went to the root cellar or went on a walk or waited until early morning or late night. In short, you didn’t do it in front of others if you wanted privacy.

        1. "OP"

          To Engineer Girl: Okay, then what do you suggest happen when my manager and I are having a conversation that IS work-related, and she joins in and puts in her two cents into an issue that I am having with my work? Why don’t you find it to be acceptable that she eavesdrop on pretty much ALL conversations AND wants to add in her opinions/comments/recommendations/jokes?

          1. PK

            What I’ve always done with a conversation I don’t want a co-worker to overhear, I’ve asked my manager if we could please step into a conference room or empty office to discuss it. I ask myself, “Am I okay with someone overhearing this?” If yes, cubicle is fine, if no, conference room. It sounds like if Nancy is around you’d be more comfortable in a conference room.

        2. RecruiterM

          I always thought there are certain – unstated – conventions about private conversation in public areas. It is usually very easy to see when a conversation is a public or a private, and a fact that you can see and overhear two people talking should not indicate an automatic invitation to join.
          I (used to) have a better-than-average hearing, and cannot turn out what I hear around me, so I used to sometimes join in thinking it’s OK to do so if I can clearly hear what is being said, and get a stunned look in response. So now I try to first gauge if a conversation is meant to be heard – and, well, sometimes it is not!
          I think we are here confusing a “private” conversation with a “confidential”. One would hope to be able to have a private conversation without taking specific steps to seclude oneself.

          1. Dmented Kitty

            Late in the game… but — thankfully we’re blessed with high cube walls, and nosiness isn’t really a big issue. If I hear a conversation over the walls, work or not, I just pop my head out and join in, or even just ask loudly (if they are equally loud anyway), “are you talking about ?” and join the conversation. I don’t do this all the time, and I don’t feel any negative vibes in those conversations I’ve joined. One way to know I’d know if I’m not invited to a conversation if it dies the minute I joined it and leaves a sour air of awkwardness. Or if I feel they are looking at me funny. Then I gracefully back out.

            Otherwise, if I hear neighboring chat, if it’s in hushed tones or if I won’t really be valuable in the conversation, I just keep to myself. Luckily I can also tune myself out with my headphones. I at least think of which conversations it would be appropriate to butt in and which aren’t.

            All-in-all I think the key here is to ask if this Nancy nosy enough to go WAY out of her way to join in conversations? Like, “OOOOH, look there’s those two people a hundred feet down the hall who seems to be in deep conversation — Imma go and join in and see what it’s about.” Or just hovering three feet away pretending to do something else but obviously wanting to butt in at the opportune moment. From the letter it seems she is, but if that happens in my case I’d just either switch to a more general topic, or just politely let the conversation die down, “Anyway, Jane, I’ll talk to you later. And I’ll see you around, Nancy.” with a smile. And just walk away. Just don’t do it in every single conversation she joins in, because that’d just be a slap in the face. Balance it out by starting conversations with her once in a while, too.

    2. Sophia

      This is exactly what I thought when I read the letter. To me the OP’s behavior sounded kind of “mean girl/childish.” The office is NOT a place for cliquish friendships that exclude other people. And to me, wanting to have social conversations in public at the exclusion of others makes it appear as if that is what is happening.

      If you want to have personal, social conversations with your friend from work, do it in private! This isn’t high school. You don’t get to have besties at work at the exclusion of other coworkers. It’s bad for work, bad for team morale, and just kind of rude.

      Now, it is very different if the person is butting in to work conversations. Here I think Alison was spot on with her advice!

      1. NOT a MeanGirl

        Thank goodness someone finally said it. When I read that I felt like I was reading the opening credits to “Mean Girls 5 – The Office Edition”. Cliques in the office are divisive and cause massive problems within the culture. Why don’t you instead of being annoyed, include her in the conversation. And if it is something of a personal nature, leave the office for a mid-morning Starbucks run? This kind of treatment of others is supposed to be left behind the doors of every high school in North America.

        1. "OP"

          There are no “cliques”. I was simply describing situations whereby other coworkers approach my desk to talk to me about whatever. Or, if I and another coworker were already in the middle of a conversation about whatever. Two people having a conversation does not equal a “clique”.

      2. "OP"

        Sophia: As mentioned in the original post, Nosy Nancy IS butting into work conversations (as well as non-work ones). As discussed in the original post, Nosy Nancy includes herself into almost every conversation that someone is having with me while I’m at my desk (and sometimes even when I’m standing somewhere away from my desk).

  4. Chocolate Teapot

    2. Well I suppose there will need to be some contact with the new CEO before they start, even if only to say where to park the car and whether they need to bring some paperwork on day 1. Perhaps such a communication can be signed off with a “We are very much looking forward to you joining us” or words to that effect?

    1. GrumpyBoss

      I worked at a place once that got a new C level and everyone did this on LinkedIn. I didn’t, personally, because I didn’t want the first time he saw my name to be in, what seemed to me to be, a hamfisted attempt at networking.

      Turns out I was wrong. The new guy said several times in his first month how much he loved the LinkedIn attention he got and gave some early preference to the people who had added him as a contact and made public posts about how excited they were to come on board.

      On a side note, it was the most sincere thing I ever saw out of this exec while I worked with him.

  5. anon1

    As someone who’s kind of a Nancy (I’m seriously wondering if this was written about me!), what kind of behavior would you guys recommend? In my case I sit near my team but just separate enough that I can’t easily participate in spontaneous conversations without explicitly injecting myself into them, which ends up making me feel a little excluded – and because I can’t hear the rest of my team that well, I can’t know whether the conversation is relevant to me without trying to listen. What’s a good way to try to be conversationally a part of the team without annoyingly intruding?

    1. Clover

      Oh, that’s hard. I don’t know what the solution would be from your side, unless you are able to change your desk set up to be a close enough to join in spontaneously.

      My team is spread out across four rows of desks with two people stuck on the periphery being each individually the only one on each of the ‘back’ rows. We can’t change the desk set up but I sit in the middle and I make an effort to include both of those colleagues in conversations and other colleagues are pretty good about doing that too, particularly first thing in the morning when people are getting settled and chatting about their evening/commute/news etc.

    2. misspiggy

      If you want to build up a good social relationship with your team without injecting yourself awkwardly into cubicle conversations, get up regularly to make a coffee/get water at the place your team uses, and strike up conversations there. Say friendly hellos and goodbyes to people as they enter and leave for the day. If people are used to interacting with you on a friendly basis a couple of times a day, they’ll come to you when they want to talk to you.

    3. Artemesia

      I think it is always wrong to chime into a workplace business conversation . e.g. if the worker is talking about the Teapot leakage problem with the engineer then chiming in is intrusive. It is like the co-workers who hears someone on the phone and tries to direct the conversation or shouts out answers to questions they are struggling with. Just because we are forced to work in a cube farm with little attention to privacy or human dignity doesn’t mean that there are no boundaries at all. Just butt out of work related conversations.

      That leaves purely social conversations and joining or initiating those will not generally be as irritating. A good rule might be to try to initiate one or two a day and join one at first — adding more as it goes well.

      People feel smothered by the cube prairie dog who has to pop up and put their two cents in on every conversation. That same person walking by the cube and pausing and initiating a social conversation might have a different feel.

      1. Jen RO

        “Cube prairie dog”, I’m sooo going to use this! I am in an open-plan space, no cubicles, but this describes one of my coworkers so well.

        anon1, I think you should try to pass by their desks and engage them in conversation, as opposed to inserting yourself in an ongoing discussion.

      2. anon1

        Thanks for the thoughts!

        Hmm, do you feel the same way about staying out of work-related conversations if this is a team where everyone does the same stuff and concerns that affect one person typically affect everyone? I actually feel much more awkward joining private conversations because they’re *less* likely to be relevant to me.

        And starting a new conversation always feels like interrupting someone, especially since we all use headphones. I’m kind of not sure how to do that considerately.

        1. Artemesia

          When people are transacting business then joining in will mostly be construed as intrusive. The occasional insertion may not be a problem but it rubs people the wrong way just as when someone asked you a question and your mother answers.

        2. Cube Farmer

          Anon1, are you me? Because I’ve been contemplating writing in with this exact question.

          One of the things that happens a lot in my office is that informal conversations pop up about work among the people who sit near each other (including my manager). People come up with ideas and fine-tune an aspect of our shared project or work out ways to do something that are helpful to everyone. But I, sitting farther away, don’t always know the conversations is happening or, if I do, I have to get up, walk over, and “butt in” if I want to contribute. So I end up not being able to contribute to the project we all work on and occasionally have to implement an idea that comes up during these informal conversations (and maybe isn’t so great or as doable as the rest of the team thinks). Being left out of impromptu social conversations bothers me a lot less because even though it’s nice having friends at work, it’s not essential to the job.

          This is all complicated by the fact that I have to wear earphones a lot of the time because I sit close to some very chatty people that I don’t work closely with, and I need to drown out the chatter. A colleague has become aware of the problem and has begun making a point of stopping by my desk and letting me know if there’s an impromptu meeting or something important that I didn’t hear about, so that helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

          And I agree that a cubicle farm isn’t public the way a coffee room is. If someone is standing in or right next to a colleague’s cubicle having a conversation with that colleague–work-related or not–I would generally treat that like a private talk and only interrupt I have some specific and pressing work matter to discuss. I feel like in a cube farm, there’s a tacit understanding that we all overhear stuff (phone calls about doctor’s appointments, chats about weekend partying, etc.) but we have to pretend we don’t. What’s tricky is knowing when it’s OK to indicate you’re overhearing (and to join in) and when it’s not.

          1. "OP"

            I agree with you: “… in a cube farm, there’s a tacit understanding that we all overhear stuff (phone calls about doctor’s appointments, chats about weekend partying, etc.) but we have to pretend we don’t. What’s tricky is knowing when it’s OK to indicate you’re overhearing (and to join in) and when it’s not.” and “If someone is standing in or right next to a colleague’s cubicle having a conversation with that colleague–work-related or not–I would generally treat that like a private talk”

        3. RecruiterM

          When I was new and not sure if a work conversation has any relation to what I am doing, I’d just ask – “Do I need to know about this?” – and sometimes they’ll expand the conversation for me, and sometimes they say “Nah, don’t worry about this”. Eventually I had learned all the terms and projects’ names and knew whether to participate or not.
          And for social interactions I second the previous recommendations – while getting a drink just stop over if you see your co-worker not looking too terribly busy and engage. I usually preface by acknowledging it’s a social visit.

    4. Jessa

      I think the big one is, it’s probably okay sometimes when they’re talking near you, but the walking over somewhere else, is kind of really off (that’s the bit that REALLY made me feel Nancy was being creepy, walking over to other people’s conversations and going “what are you all talking about.”)

      Also start your own conversations. Talk to the person next to you without butting into their other conversations. And yeh it’s one thing to chime in on weather and stuff, but make it clear that when it’s obvious they’re just talking to each other you know when to pipe down.

      I personally do not believe a cubicle farm is public space in the same way talking in a coffee shop standing around or in the break room even. Because there’s no walls any more and no real way to have privacy without going somewhere and that can also be off putting (she always talks in the conference room geez.) You have to pretend there are walls and privacy. You don’t stand over someone staring at their computer screen, you try not to focus on obviously listening in when they’re on the phone. If they’re clearly talking to someone else you don’t butt in. So I kind of disagree with Alison that there is no privacy issue just because nobody has an actual office anymore.

      1. "OP"

        I agree: “If they’re clearly talking to someone else you don’t butt in. So I kind of disagree with Alison that there is no privacy issue just because nobody has an actual office anymore.”

    5. Jillociraptor

      Start meetings with a little bit (like 5 mins or less) of social time. What did you do this weekend, have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m really hungry for Thai–what’s your favorite place around here?

      Another thing that’s worked for me is a couple times a week go out to Starbucks or similar, and just float by the area and ask if anyone wants to go or just get outside for a few minutes. My colleagues would often just walk with me even if they didn’t have the same afternoon hankering for a chai latte.

      I think the key to not being a Nancy is to make sure you give your colleagues a reasonable way to opt out without feeling like they’re being rude and keeping an eye on their body language and responses.

  6. Clover

    #1 – I wonder if OP is new to open plan offices. I found it an adjustment when I started at my current job, where everyone sits at adjoining desks (no walls/dividers of any height between them). In that environment all conversations you have at your desk are public, people around you can’t help overhearing and it’s just accepted that people will join in, particularly on conversations about weekend plans or other non-work topics. It would be rude to exclude people from those conversations.

    That said, the walking over to join in on work related conversations seems like it would be outside of the norm. I wonder if the OP’s coworker has had some trouble fitting in and has attached herself to the OP because they started at the same time and sit next to each other. I can imagine a scenario where OP was particularly friendly to the coworker when they were both new and glad to have someone else in the same position and then OP integrated into the office better than co-worker and co-worker feels left behind/left out. Not that that is OP’s problem, but it might explain the behavior.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, I have seen this lots of times. Two people hired at the same time, one blends in well and the other not so much.

      I think encouraging people to build their own relationships is a good idea. For OP, I would try making suggestions to Nancy such as, “Oh, you know I am not up to speed yet on how to do X but Amy does it really well. Why don’t you go over and talk to her?” Maybe Nancy likes gardening and has too many tomatoes, you know Bob just mentioned the other day that he is a tomato addict. Connect them. “Hey, maybe Bob will help you with your tomato problem.”
      Incrementally, you are helping her to feel connected and feel like she is part of the group.

      Key points- When building connections, keep it sincere and keep it truthful.

  7. Arjay

    Re #1, it’s interesting to me to think about what we define as a “public space.” This comes into play for me too when we talk about personal grooming in one’s cubicle. I feel that my “office” should be treated as a private space whether it’s in a cubicle or a room with a door. I intentionally ignore what’s going on in someone else’s cube, whether it’s a conversation or someone brushing their hair, unless it involves me. Just because I can overhear a conversation doesn’t make it any of my business.

    1. Clover

      I think this depends on how separate of a space the cubicle really is. The OP says theirs are divided by low walls so I am envisioning ‘walls’ people can see over, meaning you would be able to make eye contact with as well as overhear the person next to you. I can’t see any way that could be considered a ‘private’ conversation. That’s not to say the OP’s co-worker needs to join in on every conversation but it would be rude to deliberately exclude her and silly to think of your conversation as private.

    2. MK

      No, but we are not talking about people overhearing conversations in the bus; these are coworkers in a shared office. If two coworkers next to me are talking about the weather or a film one of them saw or even a work-related matter that I know something about, I would not feel it was overstepping to add a comment (and then play it by ear as to whether my joining the chat was welcome or not). If the conversation was more private (about a mutual friend or something they were planning to do together), yes, I think’s it’s pushy to inject myself in the middle of their talk. I am guessing the OP’s coworker is beign tone-deaf about when it’s ok to interrupt, as well as doing it too much.

      1. Jen RO

        That’s my guess too. I can’t really put my finger on the difference, but the same behavior would bug the hell out of me if Coworker 1 did it, and it would be totally fine coming from Coworker 2. I think ultimately it’s a matter of relationships – I would call Coworker 2 a work friend, but Coworker 1 is just a coworker.

    3. EvaR

      I define it as “If I need to make an effort to see or hear it, I won’t make the effort unless asked.”

      So if someone is 3 feet away, talking to someone three feet away from them in the next cube, and I can hear it perfectly fine, there should be no expectation that I should pretend I can’t hear it- It should be like being at a dinner table- people can talk to one another, but you can feel free to join in with relevant comments.

      Whereas, if you can’t see over the cube wall, and I want to trim my fingernails and put the garbage in my cube garbage can, or if I am the only one who uses my work computer and I want to change the settings to be high contrast because it’s easier for me, I should be allowed to do those things. Stuff like smells is kind of a grey area.

      1. EvaR

        Wrong. I define “forcing someone else to listen to your personal conversations when they are not able to get up and leave and still earn their livelihood” as rude.

        If you wouldn’t want everyone in the room watching a video of you saying it, you need to say it outside of work.

      2. Dmented Kitty

        If I know I’d be of significant value to a conversation (esp. work stuff), I’d butt in by saying, “I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation, but I think I may be able to help you on that…”

        Occasionally I admit I can be Peanut Gallery, but for the most part, if I can’t really give good input in a conversation, I just sit and “hear” the conversation, not “listen” to it — meaning, I keep to myself, not stop what I’m doing just to absorb every single word. Or distract myself with my headphones.

        1. Dmented Kitty

          Also, I typically butt in conversations with, “What are you talking about?”, because that implies I really didn’t hear what they’re talking about and IMO it sounds kind of nosy (depending on the situation). Like I said if I can’t hear it clearly from where I’m sitting, I’m not going to invite myself. If I can hear it, and if it’s something that is of my main interest (e.g. Game of Thrones) I would start by poking my head out and asking, “Hey, are you guys talking about last night’s GoT?” At least if they say it’s a different thing I can just back out by saying, “Oh, I thought you were, never mind.” and pop my head back into my desk.

  8. Anon9

    #3: When asked to reinterview for a job I got rejected from, I assume that it was because things didn’t work out with the person they did hire and without trying to overstep the boundaries try and probe a little bit as to why, in case there is a clue to be found that might tip me off that the company is not that great to work for and the job could be one of those ones where you instantly regret accepting it.

    1. Anonnn

      I am the original poster to #3 and I appreciate the advice. I was pretty disappointed when things didn’t work out the first time. Unfortunately the recruiter didn’t get any feedback as to why. I’m going to prepare like crazy for the interview but it’s good to hear I shouldn’t take it too personally. I mean, they did like me enough to keep me in the running for so long the first time and called me back, so I can’t be completely ruled out. Thanks again for the advice!

      1. Jen RO

        The HR manager in my company was originally the runner-up for the position. The other person took the job, but she didn’t like it and left after 3 months. The runner-up was then called up and she has held the position for a year already. I think in the first candidate’s case it was a fit issue – I never interacted with her, but she seemed to be much more formal than the rest of the people in the company. I think she was perceived by everyone as stuck up, she perceived everyone as lazy… so it was best to part ways.

        1. Jessa

          I’d think that was the case or the other person was flaky or didn’t work as well as they thought they would. Someone is always 2nd place in an interview situation. I would however be very inquisitive about the how and why of the other person leaving. Before I was willing to take the job I’d definitely want to know they didn’t leave because the boss was unreasonable or the company lied about the job duties to the point that the negotiations of salary and benefits were in bad faith. Or that one recently where the person was told “some travel” and then got there and it was a month away at a time more than once a year.

          I’d be far more interested in making a list of questions for THEM than swotting up for a second interview where they’d already of their own volition called me back.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Definitely don’t take it personally.

        After a round for hiring, we can come up completely dry, not a single candidate we want to hire or we can come up with three great candidates for one position. If there are three, I’ll do my damndest to work magic with numbers and see if we can hire all three. If I can’t, the one chosen to hire might be on the smallest of reasons – say, a couple more years work history or somesuch.

        What would you do if you had three great candidates and could only hire one? You’d hire one and try to hire the other two as soon as you could.

  9. KCS

    #3: I was rejected for a job. Then HR contacted me in a few weeks and told me someone else in the same role was leaving. And so HR asked me if I was interested in that person’s position. Because my interview was only a few weeks before, I didn’t need to re-interview.

    My point is, maybe an identical role opened up. The person who was hired instead of you might still be there (as was in my case). The question never came up as to why I was rejected and the other person was hired. It’s a little weird, but I got over it.

    In any event, good luck to you! Do everything Alison says, and you’ll be great.

    1. Jen RO

      I seem to have a lot of examples this afternoon. The same thing happens (quite frequently) on my team. We had found two very good candidates for a position, but we had to make a choice and reject one of them. Because the team is continually growing, an identical position opened two months later, and we simply made an offer to the second candidate without interviewing her again.

    2. Thomas W

      Yep, echoing this statement. We passed over a good candidate a couple months back, and now someone else on the team is leaving, and he specifically recommended the guy we passed over. So we hired him, and it turns out he’s excellent! Lots of perfectly normal explanations for this — and Alison’s right that you can ask why if you’re curious.

      1. The_Artist_Formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        When this situation becomes problematic is one in which they call you back in – and you are a “standard point” – a stake in the ground, and they proceed until they find someone who exceeds YOUR qualifications.

        But yeah – sometimes it IS a tough managerial decision – where you have two or three people who could be fantastic assets for your firm, yet you only have one opening to fill. If the job search process is performed correctly, you will no doubt end up with more than one, great, qualified individual.

        And if you’re smart – when you do have an opening – your second choice should almost always be the first person offered that second opening.

        I once worked in a place that had a very pig-headed policy of blackballing ANYONE who had been rejected for a job. A one-strike-and-you’re-out position. Foolish. We lost a lot of good candidates that way.

  10. GrumpyBoss

    #3: I’m not sure how much you like this company, or how long you have been searching, so those are going to be major factors here. But when I’ve been in this situation, I don’t accept the interview. I’m not interested in being a consolation prize. I just see so many issues with going back to the well that would be red flags for a bad employment situation, including indecisive hiring managers and a manager who initially felt that I’m not good enough, but now has lowered his/her standards for whatever reason. No thanks.

    Of course, YMMV and if this a job you really want, I hope you knock it out of the park.

    1. MK

      I think that’s too rigid. What if you were the candidate that didn’t get the job by a hair the first time? What if the person who did get the job turned out to be a lunatic or had to resign for personal reasons or died suddenly? There is need to assume something is wrong with the company. As for being a consolation prize, most positions open because someone left or was promoted; the employer would probably rather they had their long-time tried employee in the role and not have to take chances with a new one. Would you turn those down too?

      I agree that it’s wise to approach this with caution. But there is no reason to decline the interview outright.

      1. Anonnn

        You said it exactly the way I am going to approach it. Cautious but open to the fact they are calling me back for a reason. I got pretty far in the interview process the first time and it is possible there are others applying with more experience out there, especially since this is definitely a big step outside of my normal place (back of house) and to the front of the house. I have everything they want, I just hope I can get them to see that.
        I considered rejecting the offer to reinterpret, but considering the fact I had little to go on, I wanted to be open and what they brought to the table. If I get a weird vibe or meet resistance, I can always refuse the position, if it is offered.

    2. MissM

      I don’t think this is the same as being a “consolation prize” or an indication that the hiring manager is indecisive. Sometimes in an interview situation there are two really great candidates, but only one open position. You can only hire one person, but you know if there is another opening, you’d like to bring the other person back in. Sometimes it’s a tough choice between two top candidates, and you’d really like to hire both.

      You don’t know what really happened until you get in to the interview to ask. Maybe this isn’t the exact position that was open earlier, but a similar one. Maybe the person originally hired had to back out for some other personal reason. If the OP was asked back, that means that they were considered good enough the first time, and may have just missed being the one chosen.

    3. the gold digger

      I know of two separate situations at different companies where friends of mine hired Option #2 because Option #1 failed the drug screen. They weren’t settling – if they had really though O2 was horrible, then they would have started interviewing again.

    4. B

      We just had a second interview for a post. Both candidates scored exactly the same at interview and it was almost impossible to choose between them. If the first person didn’t work out, I’d snap the other one up in a heartbeat.
      Everyone involved said we wished we could have kept both. Indeed one of our senior managers has been walking around looking thoughtful and I think he’s trying to think if we may be able to offer the other one a position.
      I can understand your thinking but it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    5. Jazzy Red

      Grumpy, this works in dating, but it can really be cutting off your nose to spite your face in business. Let’s face it, there is always someone else interviewing who is better than you in one thing, maybe only a little bit better, and it might not even be one of the most important things for this job. Refusing to interview again could make your miss out a really good job, but you’ll never know for sure.

    6. fposte

      I disagree hugely. I mean, if it’s going to poison your work there to feel that way, you totally shouldn’t take the job. But you’re talking as if hiring weren’t a zero sum game, and it is–it’s not that you weren’t good enough, it’s that they had two or three people who were good enough and only one position. It’s not like my hiring process means I’m passionately in love with number one and am repulsed by everybody else; usually I have several really strong candidates who are likely to be equally good at the job, and I’m bummed that I can’t hire them all. A situation that allows me to hire one more of them than I expected isn’t a consolation; it’s a relief for me that I know quickly of somebody else who’s likely to do well in the job. It’s happened to me a few times now, and it’s worked out brilliantly every time. That’s why I’m a big fan of not burning bridges after a rejection–I’ve hired people who tended those bridges well.

    7. Kyrielle

      We had one round of interviews where there were three candidates. We desperately wanted all of them on the team, but we had one position, so we picked the top candidate and hired them. (It was so close that “top candidate” meant very little difference from the other two.)

      When another team member left (not the one we had hired, and not for reasons related to the job as far as I know), and we added a similar but slightly variant position at the same time, you BET we reached out to those two candidates again – we wanted to hire them in the first place, after all!

      I’m glad they didn’t think they were “consolation prizes” and did take the job; they’re great to work with. :)

    8. some1

      I’m surprised that a manager would have this stance. You’ve never had two-three candidates that were virtually a tie but only one position? You’ve never passed over your first choice because they wanted more compensation than you could provide or wanted a start date that was too far out? Never had your first choice get a counter-offer and end up not taking the job? If so, do you consider the employee you ultimately hired a consolation prize?

    9. Not So NewReader

      I can see the consolation prize thing IF there were other yellow or red flags coming up in the interview process.
      If nothing else was amiss, I would at least go see what the offer is. You can always say “no thanks” later on.

      Exception to my rule: In younger years, I applied for a lot of crappy retail jobs. If I saw that change of mind going on, I would not have accepted the job, either. In crappy work places this rule of thumb is a good one, just my way of framing it though.

  11. Rebecca

    I immediately identified with OP#1. In our old offices, we sat in cubes in an open floor plan. Nosy Nancy sat in the next cube. She also joined conversations, took them over, told stories about her family, kids, grandchildren, her companion, and on and on. Everything that we talked about, she experienced but it was better/worse/whatever.

    The kicker was if I was on the phone, like if I had to make a doctor’s appointment because they worked when I worked, she would ask other people in the office if Rebecca was OK because she heard me making a doctor’s appointment! Or if I was on the phone with someone about a personal bill, trying to straighten something out, she’d ask other people if I was having money problems. When I finally got a cell phone, I’d make the calls from the parking lot to avoid her. She never asked me, but nosed around the office and asked other people about my personal business.

    I empathize with people who sit next to Nosy Nancy’s. It gets tedious and tiresome after a while, and like the others said, there’s nothing you can do that doesn’t make you personally look like a bad person.

    Everyone knew she was a giant busybody, so unless she was gone from her chair, people stopped dropping by to discuss anything. My cube mate and I went to their cubes instead. If she interrupted our conversations and took them over with her own stories, someone else would dial us from the outside line as if it were a business call, so “sorry, gotta take this”, and that ended the conversation.

    Hopefully OP#1 will find a workable solution!

  12. Mouse of Evil

    #3: I actually got one of my favorite jobs that way. They had hired someone WAY overqualified for the job (literally a PhD in a data-entry position) and after three weeks she just left. So they called me back, this time with more realistic expectations–I was fresh out of college, and my only work experience was data entry–and I took the job and was quickly promoted within the department.

    That said, these days my ego tends to get in the way more than it did earlier in my career. :-) Right now I know I’m not the top candidate for a job I interviewed for, but they seem to be having trouble finding anyone else (thank you, social media and, IMO, indiscreet interviewer), so I’m contemplating what I’ll do if they call with an unenthusiastic offer. My ego says, if I’m not the first choice, then forget it. But then I remember that first job, which worked out really well for everyone.

    I think part of it is that once you’ve accepted that you didn’t get the job and you’ve moved on, it’s kind of hard to get back the level of enthusiasm you had before. There’s only one company I’ve ever received a rejection from that I’m still as enthusiastic about as I was before, and that’s partially because the rejection letter was absolutely lovely. Although it was a form letter, it was a REALLY nice one, and it was sent promptly, but after enough time that I felt like my application had been considered. If they contacted me tomorrow I’d be even happier than if they had contacted me the first time I applied. But that’s not the case with most places where I haven’t been hired.

    So… I understand how it would be difficult to face another interview with the company that rejected you, without letting any negative feelings from the initial rejection get in the way. But if you’re still interested, go for it. Good luck!

    1. Lamb

      It sounds like if they call with an offer now, you’re still the first choice, they just *thought* they would find someone even firster.

      1. Mouse of Evil

        I like “firster.” :-) In a way it’s good–just getting an interview built my confidence enough that it spurred me to go ahead and apply for another job that’s closer to home and *probably* pays better. So I’ve got something else to think about while waiting to hear.

    2. Anonnn

      Thanks for your well thought out reply.. You hit the nail on the head about enthusiasm. Once I was rejected, my husband and I spent the next few days rationalizing why it wasn’t a good fit. It was tough because there were so many reasons why I really want the position! Now, my mind is going to the negatives that we focused on after the rejection, so it’s hard ti get super ousted about the call. I’m trying to and I’m sure I will get there. I’m trying to see this as a new opportunity. If they were smart, they would take a chance on me and I will work very hard to get up to speed and learn the whole system from start to finish… Now it’s just a matter of convincing them of that. It’s hard because, On paper, I look slightly under qualified, but I have all the experience they want/need. Trying to see this as a challenge!
      By the way, for your situation, just because they think they haven’t found the right person, doesn’t mean they are right. Your first job they made a mistake and it’s likely they did here too. We have one man here who interviews and always picks the best candidate as the one he does not want. Fortunately, it’s a team decision and he is overruled most of the time. After the person is hired, he’s always amazed and grateful that he was wrong about them :) good luck to you too!

      1. Mouse of Evil

        If they’ve already interviewed you and want to interview you again, I’m sure they’re confident of your qualifications. I doubt you have anything to worry about on that score. Maybe you can turn the negativity around into questions you didn’t have last time you interviewed. :-)

      2. jag

        “Once I was rejected, my husband and I spent the next few days rationalizing why it wasn’t a good fit. ”

        Unless they said you weren’t a good fit or you got that impression during interviews, getting rejected does not necessarily mean you were not a good fit. It means there was another stronger (or sometimes cheaper) candidate. That’s all.

        I recently hired someone. We did brief pre-screens with about 20 people and detailed interviews with three. Of those three, I wish I could have hired two. The third was actually not a good fit, and when I wrote to her that we weren’t moving forward with her, she said she felt that made sense and wasn’t interested in our position either.

  13. Mouse of Evil

    #5: I agree, it’s hard when you have NO idea what the company is, and especially on craigslist, where there are so many ads that look like they might be scammers and they give NO information. One thing I’ve done is pull out any distinct phrases in the ad and Google them, combined with your city. I once found a company with nothing more to go on than the intersection and what kind of work they said they do. At that point I hit their jobs page and found a much more complete job description, as well as detailed instructions on how to apply. But that’s not often the case. I think essentially, anyone who goes to so much trouble to obscure their company and the job duties that applicants can’t write a decent cover letter is probably not looking for a customized cover letter, and it’s a HUGE red flag for me when they do that. I understand that they don’t want people walking in off the street and bothering them, but c’mon. Just do the best you can and realize that they are not looking for customization, but for some undefinable thing that they think they’re going to magically intuit from your resume.

  14. Johnny

    #5 – Be VERY careful of craigslist. Do not respond unless they give you an email (not a gmail, etc) that is the same as the company website (and check that website. There’s a lot of scammers on craigslist that want your identity.

    1. Sharon

      Came here to say the same thing. OP #5, if you can’t find any information about the company in the Craigslist, just assume it’s a scam and move along.

  15. misspiggy

    I don’t think I’m quite the Nosy Nancy in #1, but I do join in conversations others are having close to me in the office.

    Sometimes people think they’re being private and I want to make it clear that I have no choice but to hear. Other times, it goes on so long that I can’t concentrate to work, so I figure I might as well join in. Either people will realise they’re disturbing someone’s work and stop or move away, or they’ll enthusiastically continue, and at least I’ll get a social break for a couple of minutes. Sometimes I’ll use my words and ask for a bit of quiet, but doing that every time can make people scared of you and less likely to approach you for work stuff.

    This is in the context of crowded nonprofit offices in the UK, where it’s generally considered rude to have a personal conversation at a desk for more than a couple of minutes because it’s so disturbing to others. I want people to have fewer conversations near my desk, and if I can encourage them in this, I will.

  16. Nethwen

    #1 People who have difficulty with small talk or who are the sorts to get told things like “I thought you hated me because you never talked to me” sometimes are told the way to “fit in” is to simply join conversations, or if they are too uncomfortable with that, then to stand around with the group and eventually they will be accepted, but at the very least people will stop thinking of them as aloof and standoffish. I’ve definitely had times when I was trying to be friendly so that people didn’t think I hated them and I got the “what are you doing here; this conversation doesn’t involve you” look, upon which I promptly slunk away feeling embarrassed and frustrated. Tell me I’m mean when I mind my own business; reject when I try to participate. What do you want from me?

    1. fposte

      Taking your question as non-rhetorical, I’d say what they’re looking for is some judgment beyond the simple binary of participate/don’t participate. That judgment isn’t automatic if you’re still figuring this stuff out, but it makes a big difference on the recipient’s end. The “simply join conversations” advice is a bit of a blunt instrument, because you need to be in a situation where it’s appropriate to do so (a party would be a good example, whereas it would be a bad idea to wander into a conference room at work to join a discussion in progress), and it’s important not to *always* join conversations, which seems to be one of Nancy’s problems. In situations where groups spring up spontaneously, and people are absolutely there to chat (like breakrooms/lunchrooms and parties), you can also explicitly ask, “Hey, would you mind if I joined you if this isn’t a private talk?” Be ready to see a hem and haw and respond swiftly with “I’ll catch you another time, then!” The other thing missing from that advice is initiating anything–it’s all passive. You can offer to get people something from the coffee shop if you’re going; you can sit down at an empty table in the breakroom first and then invite somebody to join you to tell you about what’s up with that Marketing meeting or where you can get a better sandwich than this.

      I think also that there’s a ring theory (as in the onion cross-section kind of ring) here that doesn’t get talked about much, in that there are levels of social intimacy that generally are surmounted one at a time If you’re in the outermost ring, it’s generally counterproductive to behave as if you’re in the innermost. You just want to move up a ring or two at a time, and maybe you don’t even want to get to the innermost ring. Nancy’s mistakenly going for the inner ring right away.

  17. Bananana

    #3, we recently had two applicants for the same position who we thought could both work out well. They each had different strengths which could be great assets to the company, but as we only had one position open we hired the applicant whose strengths were most needed in the team mix at that moment in time.

    Shortly afterwards, another employee left, and we were able to call the other applicant and offer her a job as well. They are now both great members of our team, bringing skills of different kinds, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to employ them both after all.

    Sometimes not getting the job doesn’t mean they actively didn’t want to employ you – maybe there were 3 people they wanted to hire but only one place. If for whatever reason that place becomes open again, great: they get to bring you on board after all.

    Good luck!

    1. Anonnn

      Thanks! I hope this is the case! I’ll keep everyone posted. It’s hard not to take it personally when you really want the position, but I’m trying to see this as a fresh opportunity!

    2. LBK

      This happened in my department too – my manager had 3 great candidates but only 1 position open. Shortly after hiring them, 2 other people in the department left, so the other 2 who had been top contenders before both ended up getting hired as well. They’re all great employees who were clearly evenly matched in the running, but if there’s only 1 spot, there’s only 1 spot.

  18. the gold digger

    s it appropriate for department heads and/or staff to send a card or email to welcome the new CEO before he starts?

    If, however, your organization is not doing well – has seen a huge decline in revenues over the past few years – I would suggest not having every department dance and lip sync to the song “Happy” while someone from Communications films the activity.

  19. Rebecca

    Alison, thank you for the link to the “How to Prepare for an Interview” document in your answer to OP#3. It’s saved to my desktop now, and I’m working on a cover letter using your tips from another post.

  20. KM

    #1 — From what was described, it sounds less like the problem is Nancy doing something weird or wrong, and more like the seating plan worked out in an unfortunate way, since the OP is stuck sitting with someone s/he doesn’t like.

    If the OP has friends in the office and doesn’t want to include Nancy in every single conversation, the only thing I can suggest is maybe going out to lunch somewhere? Going down the street to get a coffee?

    The office itself is kind of neutral social territory that belongs (or should belong) to everyone who works there, so it would be weird to specifically exclude Nancy from joining social conversations.

  21. Karen

    #1. I completely disagree that we should view someone’s office space as a “reasonably public area”. If you were in an office with a door & walls and you could hear the conversation through those walls, would you get up, leave your office, and go join in the conversation in the office next to you? Having an open office space shouldn’t sacrifice our ability to engage in a conversation with someone without getting interrupted by someone sitting next to you who feels like joining in. Sure, it involves the polite “I’m pretending there are actual walls here” but if you want to be a good neighbor an a semi-open office space, that’s part of the deal. (Side note: IMO, there is context to this, though. If you have developed rapport and understanding with your coworkers and everyone is fine with open and shared conversation, so be it. But that is not the case with OP and I don’t think OP is alone in that regard.)

    The OP indicates that she and Nancy joined the company around the same time. OP is likely trying to develop relationships and an independent identity with these other coworkers and not as an extension of Nancy. If every time someone stops by to chat with OP and Nancy joins it, people will invariably start viewing OP as “Nancy & OP”. That’s not conducive to OP’s career.

    It seems that OP has people coming by to chat with her and Nancy doesn’t seem to have enough social interaction to the point where she’s seeking some out via other people’s conversations. I have to wonder why that’s the case and if there isn’t more going on.

    That said, if I were going to advise OP, I’d suggest a few things for the interactions that veer on the social side. 1) When someone stops by to chat, say to the person quietly something like “Hey, I need to go get some coffee. Why don’t you follow me?” This gives you a chance to get a way from Nancy so you can have your discussion without interruption. 2) Talk to Nancy. I realize OP doesn’t want to do that, but that’s likely because OP can only frame it as horribly confrontational but it doesn’t have to be. It could be something along the lines of: “Hey, Nancy, I realize we both started at the same time and we are trying to get to know our co-workers. When someone comes over to chat, I really need these moments of 1-on-1 with our colleagues. I don’t want you to feel excluded or left out, though, so how about if you give me the space and time to have these conversations when someone shows up, and after we’ve had a chance to chat a bit, I’d love to bring you into the conversation too.”

    1. Kimberly

      Just choose to coexist and stop with this petty complaining. If you are in an open office space, others are going to hear your conversations! Maybe your conversations are disturbing those colleagues who are trying to, I don’t know, work? Be mindful of how *your* behavior is affecting those around you. It’s not just about you…

      And that little speech of yours will do much more harm than good. If you want privacy—DON’T CHIT CHAT AT WORK. As for conversations regarding work, that is fair game…unless it’s confidential. In which case, book a conference room.

      1. Jillociraptor

        OP doesn’t need *privacy* though. She’s not objecting to Nancy hearing what she’s saying. She’s objecting to the fact that she can’t talk to anyone else without Nancy insinuating herself in the conversation.

        1. Karen

          Exactly — OP never complained that Nancy could hear what she was saying and obviously the “chit chatting” isn’t bothering Nancy since she’s apparently eager to join in on it so not sure how any of that speaks to this case. However, I don’t find it unreasonable or petty to want someone to not insinuate themselves into every conversation.

    2. Karowen

      Sure, it involves the polite “I’m pretending there are actual walls here” but if you want to be a good neighbor an a semi-open office space, that’s part of the deal.

      I think that perfectly explains why it rubs me the wrong way. I work in a closed door office that holds 9 desks/people. There are definitely times when you have to pretend that you can’t overhear, just out of politeness. It is very frustrating when you’re having a conversation as quietly as possible, as privately as possible, and then all of the sudden there’s someone yelling in your ear about how they’re going to go hang out with you that weekend or whatever. Part of being polite in the workplace is knowing when to ignore what’s happening around you.

      Unfortunately, though, I don’t think that the OP can say anything to Nancy. No matter what, it’ll come across as petty. The best option – maybe the only option – would be to walk away. But at the same time, I can see that being awkward – like if it starts as a one-off comment and turns into a conversation, if my co-worker were to say “hey, I’m going to get coffee, walk with me” I’d probably just wave it off because it’d make me realize that I need to get back to work.

  22. MK

    What makes an open-plan office a public area is not that conversations can be overheard, it’s that many people are basically in the same room and anyone can walk in without knocking. When the OP has a talk with someone in their shared office, she is basically having it in what is (also) the coworker’s office. Yes, people should exercise discretion about joining these chats, but treating them as private is not realistic.

  23. C Average

    There’s more going on with Nancy than just her joining conversations that are happening in your/her shared space.

    We have a newish guy in our office who’s the nicest guy in the world but who drives me nuts, and I’ve been trying very hard to figure out why. I’m hoping that I can defuse my feelings about him by understanding them a little better. Like Nancy, he gloms on to in-progress conversations in my/his shared area, and like you, I’m bugged by it.

    I think part of it is his blatant neediness–he SO transparently wants to be liked and included and considered part of the group that it’s a little cringe-inducing. In any schoolyard, he’d have a target on his back a mile wide, because he’s the kid who’d wander up to the already-established group of friends and invite himself to play and be oblivious to the cold reception he was getting. I don’t know what it is about someone who wants badly to be part of a group that makes the group close ranks against that person, but I’ve seen it happen a lot and it’s definitely a real thing.

    Part of it, too, is his tendency to overshare and to not realize when he’s boring people. I know more about his kids than I do about my own stepkids at this point, and I very much hope I don’t have to learn more about them. I don’t mind hearing a little about people’s personal lives at work once we’ve established a work relationship, but my preference is for our conversations to initially be mostly work-oriented and for more personal connections to emerge organically, and even once they do, I think I favor about an 80% work / 20% personal split when it comes to conversational topics.

    Finally, I think he does a lot of things that are just plain irritating, and when someone who’s already in the “irritating person” category does something that can be perceived as either irritating or not irritating, it’s never going to go in his favor. Every morning he comes in and makes himself some kind of iced drink at his desk, and there’s a lot of splashing and rattling around of ice cubes. He’s an audible sigher, and it seems he’s always got some kind of sinus thing going on–lots of throat-clearing and coughing and sniffling. There’s always some flavor of noise going on in his area, which adjoins with mine.

    So when he wants to chat, I have to remind myself, “He’s a fellow human being trying to fit in at work. His efforts are a little clumsy, but his intent is entirely good. It may take a little effort, but you should be nice to him. You are not six years old. You are a grownup in a professional workplace.” When I give myself this little pep talk, I can then execute. And I’m finding that if I open up my mind a bit, I discover things about him that I do genuinely like. He’s very, very bright and he’s doing interesting work. He has some long-term goals (unrelated to his specific job) that I find quite admirable. And he has a corny sense of humor much like my own, so we can indulge in some enjoyable banter.

    1. Mister Pickle

      This. In fact, I’d almost swear I used to work with exactly this same person. I’m reminded of a quote from a movie:

      “Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If “needy” were a turn-on?” – Broadcast News

      This was quite a few years ago, and I never managed to “open up my mind” to him. The situation is, I think, simply one of the less-proud parts of being human. One question I was never able to settle in my mind: was it just him and me not meshing well? Or was he a ‘universal irritant’?

      To #1: the only thing I can think of, in terms of a practical “solution” is to see if you can move somewhere where you’re not such an easy (and frequent) target. I think that a lot of the problem may come from constant exposure. So if you can reduce your interactions with her to once or twice a day, you might be happier with life.

    2. Jillociraptor

      I totally hear you. What makes stuff like this so frustrating is that it’s both inchoate and objectively *not a big deal* so you can’t really be direct. What you really need is for the other person to be mindful of how they’re coming off.

      In my own Nancy situations, what feels so irritating about it is that it seems like the other person is saying, “Well, I need some conversation, and hey! Here’s a conversation!” without really looking for evidence that it would be appropriate to join. It’s just all about them and their needs, without considering the effects on others.

      It’s not that it’s a deep faux pas or anything. It’s like someone cutting in front of you in line (in the US at least): they should really just know that the behavior is inappropriate and not do it. It’s not the kind of thing you should have to manage!

    3. snapple

      You don’t sound like a very pleasant to work with and unfortunately I’ve worked with plenty of other people like you which has made me adopt a new approach to being new.. I’m the new girl in my office and I”m doing the exact opposite of what you’re new guy is doing. I’m not barging into conversations and keeping things very work-oriented for fear that people will have your type of attitude. But Im still training so I don’t really have the opportunity to talk to people about work-related stuff so I spend most of the day in my cubicle and I’m worried that people might think i’m standoffish. I wish more people didn’t have your icy attitude and were more friendly. It would make being the new person a lot easier.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Wait, really? I think what she’s saying is actually incredibly kind. This is someone who just rubs her the wrong way, but she’s trying really hard to be nice to him and find things about him that she likes. I wish more people would do that!

      2. C Average

        Thanks for providing the point of view of the new person. It helps to be reminded of how that feels.

        As I mentioned above, I’m trying to figure out why I sometimes have less-than-kind impulses toward this particular new colleague, and I’m trying to adopt a friendlier demeanor and a more open mind. I think it’s dumb to form negative impressions of a co-worker based on microaggravations like throat-clearing noises or the occasional overshare about his kid. In the scheme of things, these are pretty harmless and non-malicious behaviors, and I don’t want to be mean or judgy about them. It’s uncalled for. I know it and am working to keep these impulses in check.

        That said, the honest truth is that I’m not looking for friends among my colleagues. I’m looking for harmonious working relationships, and that’s a big part of why I prefer to keep conversation work-focused and small talk fairly small. The attitude I’d like to have toward my colleagues, and the impression I’d like to convey, is pretty much this: “I’m here to get my job done, and you’re here to get your job done, and we’ll both be better at that if we have a congenial, pleasant relationship. I wish you all the best in your personal endeavors and will gladly banter about the movie you saw or the sporting event I attended or the book we’re both reading or the trip you just got back from. As we’re going about our workday, I’d like to focus primarily on my work, as I hope you’ll focus primarily on yours. If you talk to me in a way that makes me think you want to be BFFs, I’m going to clam up a bit, because I don’t want that kind of relationship with a colleague, no matter how nice he or she is.”

        I don’t honestly know whether my colleagues would say I’m fun or not. I hope they’d say I’m effective and hard-working and generally agreeable to work with. That’s honestly good enough for me.

        By the way, one thing I can say I do well is field questions from new people. I know there’s a lot to learn when you’re new, and training is seldom comprehensive enough to truly prepare new people. Although I’m small talk-challenged at times, I’m always, always willing to talk shop, even if it’s your very first day and you just want to know how to find the shared drive or who can replace your mouse with the kind you prefer. I’m an ace at that stuff and am happy to assist.

        Good luck in your new role!

    4. Dmented Kitty

      LOL we have that same guy. He was from another team we work with occasionally sitting on another cube aisle. One time my team were gathered around our cube aisle trying to figure out where to go out for lunch, and he wandered from his cube down our aisle to join in our conversation.

      Manager (to us): “What do each of you guys feel like eating?”
      Him (walking over): “Oh, how about Pei Wei for lunch?”
      [naturally we assumed he wanted to join, even if we never invited him]
      Manager: “Umm… I don’t feel like doing Chinese for lunch, unfortunately…”
      Him (in a bit matter-of-factly): “I wasn’t TELLING you to eat there, just suggesting.”
      [we look at each other awkwardly]
      Coworker 1: “Hmm.. There’s Mexican, or there’s burgers…”
      [he was just standing there, and conversation went on until he decided to go the restroom]
      Manager (whisper): “We should go while he’s in there…”

      So we ducked into a neighboring hallway out of sight of the men’s restroom so he wouldn’t see us when he got out, and had our lunch. I haven’t worked with him, but based on my other coworkers he strikes them as “weird” and one time he happened on two of them having lunch and just sat on their table and started rerouting the conversation to his life. So it looks like they really didn’t prefer to have him (especially if it’s just us and we’d likely be talking about our lives and our work stuff which he won’t be able to relate to and probably would just dominate).

      P.S. We even practiced our lines if he ever saw us come back for lunch — “Oh, you wandered off so we thought you’d decided to have your lunch someplace else…”

  24. Illini02

    #1. Some of you are really hard on Nancy. Its hard to make friends as an adult, even work friends. Nancy seems to just be trying to do that by hanging with the other person she can relate to since they are both new. I guess I can see how some could find it irritating. Luckily, I’m not someone who gets irritated easily. But to me, it just seems that she is trying to be part of a conversation because she is mistaken in thinking the OP likes her, which she clearly doesn’t. I mean at this point, I say just blatantly let her know, because it seems that already anything she does will annoy you. So you may as well let her know that you don’t like her, at least then she isn’t thinking she is talking to a work friend when you are talking about her behind her back.

    1. Anx

      That’s an interesting perspective. From the OPs submission, I never would have thought that Nancy was interested in making work friends. If she put a premium on work friendships, I wouldn’t think she’d make it so difficult for others to have personal conversations.

      1. MK

        She isn’t stopping personal conversayions, she is trying to participate in them. I would think that’s a pretty standard way to make work friends. Unless something more than the OP mentioned is going on, the coworker’s only mistake is being over-eager. And the main problem seems to be that the OP doesn’t like her.

        1. Anx

          I’m not sure that the OP doesn’t like her.

          There are people I love very much that irritate me a little bit because I feel like whenever I am around them, I cannot have a single personalized comment to another friend. For example, I might want to make a one-off comment to a friend and she’ll say “what?” every single time. So I stopped talking to my friend around her, and I feel like I cannot share anything around her. Because once its explained, she doesn’t understand why I bothered saying it. So I just don’t have any personal asides anymore.

          I find that a person joining into a conversation often kills the one already established. Of course, I would minimize the amount of exclusive conversations around someone else, but if every conversation were a group conversation, that would make me feel very isolated and lonely.

          This seems to be less of an issue of the OP disliking coworker, and a difference in communication styles to me.

          1. MK

            Well, usually when people complain of a single trait of an otherwise liked person, there is a ”she’s great in X and Z ways, but …” vibe, which is entirely missing from the OP’s letter. And, though I am sure the coworker’s behaviour is annoying, the OP’s reaction seems to me to be out of proportion.

            Your feelings are your own, but I don’t see how ”isolated and lonely” follows logically from not having one-on-one conversations at work.

          2. Fee

            I’m not being funny but could your irritating friend be slightly hard of hearing? I’m just saying that because this is a terribly annoying habit I’ve experienced with people who are (mainly older relatives, granted :) ). When something is said slightly out of earshot, they know you’ve spoken but not what you’ve said and don’t know that it’s irrelevant until they’ve forced you to repeat yourself. It is infuriating.

            1. fdgery

              I think my roommate has that problem. She talks very loudly; if we’re both in the apartment and she’s talking, I can hear her no matter where I am. If we’re all in the same room and I say something to our other roommate and she almost always says “What?”

              Sometimes when we’re having a conversation, I’ll say something and she’ll go, “Well, actually . . .” and then she’ll make the same point I just made. It’s very difficult for me not to get annoyed by it, because it comes across as her wanting to always correct me. I have to stop and remember that she probably doesn’t mean it that way.

    2. Tex

      It just takes time to make work friends. It’s an organic process that’s a lot more subtle and mellow than the pattern of making school friends. Like fposte’s ring theory above.

  25. Aardvark

    I try to read these types of letters (#1) from the perspective of the non-letter-writing party, and as an easily-distracted introvert who does work requiring concentration in an open plan office myself, I wonder if your coworker is doing this on purpose because you have a lot of conversations and they are annoying to her?

    “Sometimes, when she presumably can’t hear all the words of a certain conversation, she will get up from her desk, turn around, and ask ‘What are you guys talking about?’ and then joins in that way” makes me think that maybe she knows it drives you up a wall…and hopes you take it elsewhere. (You also mentioned she’ll join in conversations with you with other team members away from your desk, but you don’t mention how far away they are from her workspace.) It’s not a nice strategy, but I can’t say I don’t have similar thoughts myself from time to time. “Oh, you want to talk about that Weekend Teapot Retreat? I’LL TALK ABOUT THE WEEKEND TEAPOT RETREAT!”

  26. bluefish

    I know we’re only supposed to say nice things here, but OP 1 really bothered me. This is work. Not the high school cafeteria. If a coworker tries to join in your conversation its because they’re trying to be a part of the team. I don’t see how it can be rude to join in on conversation in the way described. I know I’m assuming but it comes across like OP thinks she’s better than this person or something. You should try to be inclusive of others at work. Not exclusive. And I’m sorry but talking about what you did for fun last night is not a private conversation when you’re having it in the middle of the cuberhood.

  27. Christine

    #3, I’ve seen situations were we had multiple fantastic applicants and had a very tough decision to make, where we’d happily reach out to any of the remaining candidates if the one we placed a first offer to didn’t work out. I’ve seen situations (so many times!) where we made a hire and had another opening for the same position and asked previous applicants to re-apply. I have seen us hire an applicant with one mix of experience, and pass on someone with a different mix, only to have our needs change (another team member leaving once, another time a client approaching us with an opportunity that was right up the other candidate’s alley), and we realized that the candidate we passed on would have worked out better.

    It might be easier to handle if you think of your first application ending in your not being selected, rather than in your rejection. It’s a subtle difference, but it’ll help you avoid taking it personally, and that will matter on the second round.

  28. Rita

    I used to have an issue with a coworker similar to OP1, but he would get up from her desk and walk over to not only join, but pretty much overtake the conversation with her opposing views. What would happen is a lot of times I would stop by one of the exec’s offices to tell her something, and 9 times out of 10 we would tangent into chit-chat. This coworker had a cubicle nearby, and after a few minutes of us talking, she would come over and jump in and derail everything we were talking about (usually stuff like “Well *I* heard blah blah blah”). The simple chit-chat between two people would start turning into a debate. And it’s not like she was getting up to go somewhere, because she always went back to his desk after our conversation stopped. It was annoying. Hasn’t happened lately though, probably because she’s been more busy than usual.

    There’s definitely a lot on both sides of this issue. It makes me wonder if it’s an extrovert versus introvert thing? As an introvert, the idea of people joining in a conversation, especially if they overtake it, makes me uneasy.

    1. Dmented Kitty

      I’m an introvert. I actually would like a more delineated personal space even if I understand it’s an office space and you’ll unavoidably hear stuff. But I guess it works for me because I don’t butt in when I know I’m not really going to help “carry” the conversation. I normally don’t initiate one (which I know it may probably seem standoffish which I’m trying to work on), and I am really not a small-talk person. As an introvert starting up a conversation takes up an amount of effort for me to start with, how much more having to handle another person jumping in the conversation? I get to think — how do I now engage this new person? How am I going to end this conversation gracefully now that there’s another person that just joined and he/she may not be entertained enough? Gaaaahhh!!!

      This is why I feel so uneasy mingling in parties, because I have the mentality of NEEDING to fill up that lull in the conversation otherwise I feel like a failure and that no one wants to make friends with me because I’m that boring, quiet girl. Frankly, I’m the listening type, not the talking type… and not everyone understands that.

  29. hayling

    #3 – I was on the hiring manager side of a situation like this. It was a new position so it was not something we were familiar with hiring for. One candidate who I really liked on the phone was so nervous for the in-person interview that the rest of my team couldn’t get a good read on her. We ended up picking another woman whose personality really shined in the interview. After a few months it was clear to her and us that her skills were not really a good fit for the job. So we ended up calling back the nervous candidate. In the few intervening months she had really gained a lot of confidence and was totally different. It was obvious that she possessed the skills that we needed. We ended up hiring her and she’s been an amazing addition to the team.

  30. Ellie

    #5 drives me crazy! There are so many people on Craigslist who do not post what company they are. An example of a job ad would be something like

    “Local shop needs retail salesperson to work nights, weekends. Please reply if interested.”

    I disagree with Alision that you don’t need to know what company it is that you are applying to. When I write a cover letter, beforehand I *research* the company… I figure out who they are, what they do, if I would make a good fit. In the above ad, which are frequent all over Craigslist, they don’t tell you the name of the company, what exactly they sell, what their mission is, where they are located. There is no way to determine “fit.”

    Please people if you write an ad on Craigslist, spend some time telling us about yourself!

    1. LBK

      A cover letter isn’t a binding contract to work there if they end up giving you an offer, though. You can certainly turn that down or even turn down interviewing at all once you find out what the company is if you determine at that point that it’s not the right fit.

  31. Denied Employment

    #1
    I have one of the same name at work. She’s loud and “friendly” but there is just something not so genuine about her behavior. Does anyone remember the character Benita Butrell from In Living Color?

  32. JustMe

    OP, IMO If joining in on conversations the biggest thing your coworker is doing consider yourself lucky. She isn’t backstabbing you at work, she isn’t trying to secretly destroy you, she isn’t exhibiting jealously of you and your work assignments, she isn’t talking badly about you to others…etc. This. Isn’t. That. Bad.

    1. "OP"

      Well, actually, I’m not so sure if she is completely innocent of all ill intentions based on “jokes” that may be masking her underlying true feelings. For example, she may be a little jealous. One time she overhead that I needed to personally deliver a check for the CEO to sign, and she stated “OP is spending a lot of money”. I believe she was trying to make a joke but was secretly jealous because I was going to get a little bit of face time with the CEO. Another time, when some people came by my cubicle to take some candy (I leave a bowl of treats on my desk for anyone to take), she saw that said (in a seemingly insecure and derisive way) “OP is a very popular girl”. There may have been some other examples as well.

      1. Dmented Kitty

        I don’t personally know her, but if the “jokes” do sound as passive-agressive — maybe she just wants to “fit in” with the “popular” one and she is doing it in all the wrong ways. People can be inherently socially awkward (like my guy in one of my comments at the top). Or maybe she genuinely doesn’t really know she strikes everyone as “nosy”, or maybe you have confirmational bias because she hasn’t really been likable to you right off the bat.

        Alison was right — you have very limited subtle options here aside from directly telling her… good luck.

  33. Bimmer Guy

    I myself am sometimes guilty of doing this. I don’t mind when others do, but yes, it’s considered rude a lot of the time. It’s possible that Nancy feels a certain camaraderie with you since you both joined at the same time and may have gone through training together. I think Alison’s suggestion was perfect, and Nancy would have to be pretty thick/inconsiderate not to be able to read between the lines at that point. If you said that to me, I’d get the picture…and not even be offended by it.

  34. Opposite Problem

    Late to the party, but I’ve got the opposite problem to OP#1. My boss will regularly have conversations with co-workers at their desks which are quite close to my office door. He then assumes I was part of that conversation or listening somehow and I don’t need to be informed, or that I intentionally chose not to be part of the decision making process. What I wouldn’t give for a quick gesture or a “this involves you too.”

  35. LV

    A lot of my coworkers can turn into Nancy or exhibit Nancy-esque behaviour at the drop of a hat, and I’m fine with it most of the time, but sometimes it can be really overwhelming, especially when there are multiple coworkers do it at the same time!

    For example, the other day Jane came to my cubicle to discuss a work project. While we were talking, Tim walked past, overheard us, and came in to offer some well-meant but unsolicited advice about the project – after which he started asking us about our weekend plans. I wanted to steer the conversation back to the project, but Jane seemed eager to chat with Tim and while I was waiting to get a word in edgewise, Sarah and Joe appeared. Since it looked like we were all having a great time chattering away, one of them joked, “Wow, there’s a party at LV’s desk!” and joined in. All of a sudden there are FOUR people in my small workspace, talking to each other about all sorts of things that aren’t related to anyone’s work tasks. I’m no longer part of the conversation at all and trying to figure out a polite but firm way to get everyone to pipe down and get the hell out so I can get back to work…

  36. funnyone

    Commenting late on the nosey co-worker. The workplace is no place for cliques. This is not high-school. I think it’s important to build an inclusive culture in the workplace. If you want to keep your social interaction between you and your ‘friends’ and exclude others, then schedule an off-site lunch.

    1. Victim

      To “funnyone”, no one here is talking about a clique or a high-school-like setting. If/when this happens to you one day you’ll finally understand how it feels and how irritating and intrusive Nosy Nancys are. When you’re just casually talking about your weekend with a coworker/friend, does the whole office have to know about your personal business? If you had to tell your manager why you need to take a week off, is it appropriate for Nosy Nancy to make an appearance and be in on your conversation? No! It is neither practicable nor reasonable to go off site just to tell a coworker something that you don’t want Nosy Nancy or anyone else to hear.

  37. Laura the Librarian

    Hi everyone,
    I was the OP for number 4. I’d like to thank Alison for answering my question. After interviewing, I decided I really don’t think I want the job after all. One thing I did like was that they gave me all the salary and benefit information up front at the interview, including the per paycheck rates for health care etc. I thought that was great and I wish more companies would do this.

  38. Erin

    I could probably relate to Nancy. I started working at a new job in a small department of 4 people. The other ladies seem to be fairly tight. While they are friendly to me, I don’t feel like I am really part of their circle. I am floating somewhere on the outside, sometimes I feel closer to the circle than others. They often chit-chat about general stuff and I will try to join in on the conversation when it seems appropriate–a topic that I know about, a great milestone another co-worker made and to offer congratulations, etc. Example: Recently, one of the coworkers got engaged and was showing photos of her engagement party and talking about the venue she wants to have the ceremony and reception. If I just stayed at my desk and kept quiet, it may seem like I didn’t care or wasn’t friendly. The times I don’t get involved are when it is of a sensitive personal topic, if it is on the other end of the office where I am not in earshot, or if it is of a topic that I do not know anything about. I’m just trying to feel a part of things. While it may seem to some to be an undesirable trait, I want my coworkers to like me. I am a temp and their opinion of me matters whether or not they decide to keep me. I do my job well but your coworkers need to like you to an extent. They don’t have to be pals with me outside of work or share with me all the intimate details of life. That is a completely different thing and you need a special connection. But I do not want to be the loner in the office. I am an introvert and can be very quiet. I was never the “popular person” from way back to elementary school. I always had a small group of friends. Some people who are very extroverted and always were surrounded by friends do not understand what it is like not to be included. I need to share in with laughs and smiles with others. It makes the work day go better. I want to chit chat with others here and there. Humans need social interaction. One question that is on many HR questionnaires is “Do you have a friend at work?” While I agree that Nancy shouldn’t join in EVERY conversation, I think the OP is quite stuck up. Personally, I would not want to work with the OP. If the OP needs a personal conversation, perhaps do it by going out to lunch or hanging out after work. Or draft a memo with a quota for the amount of conversations Nancy can join in. “Nancy, you already joined in 3 conversations today. Please return to your desk.” The OP doesn’t have to be friends with Nancy but making her feel isolated is not cool.

  39. Karen Anderson

    I’m an co-working space with several freelancer writers and designers, and one of them is a great guy, very helpful, but he doesn’t know where to draw the line. He apparently listens in when I’m talking with my clients on the phone, because it’s not unusual for him to call over to me (while I’m on the phone) corrections or suggestions for the interview I’m conducting! This is disconcerting to the person I’m speaking with (“Is somebody else there?”) and often disrupts a line of questioning I’m developing. He really is just trying to be helpful. I’ve told him, nicely, that while his suggestions are excellent (they are) his calling over to me worries my clients and throws me off balance. He apologizes — but then he keeps doing it. Ideas for making it really, really clear that this needs to stop? I find my self avoiding making phone calls until he goes away from his desk and it’s “safe,” which is turning out to be a costly (time-wasting) strategy for me.

  40. Andrea

    It is rude to invite yourself into an ongoing conversation. It is not rude to assertively let the uninvited person know that they are not welcome to join in just because they so desire. It is the behavior of bullies and people who believe they are entitled to do whatever they please.

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