my annoying coworker is driving everyone crazy

A reader write:

I could really use your help. I work on a team of about 15 people. We have an open floor plan and we all get along very well. There are various ages, work styles, and senses of humor on the team, but everyone is sensitive to and respectful of the open floor plan. However, someone new started on the team about six months ago who we’ll call Sansa. Sansa has a different manager than everyone else. She is nice and she does good work, but she has some personality quirks that are driving everyone crazy.

She doesn’t know when to stop talking, she speaks and laughs really loudly after every sentence (even when nothing remotely funny was said), she constantly interrupts other people to talk about herself, and she explains EVERYTHING in a really condescending manner (particularly things no one even asked to have explained). We call it “Sansa-splaining.”

Overall she is just pretty insensitive and self-centered. To give you just one example, another woman on our team had a miscarriage last year, and this year announced that she was pregnant again. When she announced the pregnancy, everyone started applauding, except for Sansa who called out, “Don’t worry guys, we’re working on it too!” referring to herself and her fiancé.

It has gotten to the point that people avoid sitting by her at lunch outings or meetings, and even avoid talking to her. I have spoken to my manager about it, and Sansa’s manager is aware of the problem as well. I know her manager spoke to her about being more aware of the open floor plan and trying not to impact the people around her. She does good work and since she has her own manager it’s not really impacting work flow, it’s just annoying and we are all starting to feel guilty that everyone actively avoids her.

I have read Ask a Manager long enough to know that you will probably tell me to just say something to her, but I am really struggling with what to say or how to say it. I am a pretty blunt and honest person in my personal life, so were she someone I knew outside of work I would have said something already. The problem I have is 1) there is no way to say something discreet due to the open floor plan. The only way to get privacy would be for me to reserve a conference room and ask her to meet me there, which would be absurdly weird in our office. 2) I don’t know how to express that she is condescending and abrasive in a kind way.

We have all tried saying “okay back to what you were saying Arya” after she interrupts and not letting it derail the conversation. When she explains something to me that I don’t need explained I will say “I know, I don’t need you to explain that to me” and she will continue to explain it unless I literally walk away (which I sometimes do). If I am at my desk working and she tries to talk to me I will keep looking at my computer and say “I’m sorry I’m working on a project so I can’t talk right now” and she will continue to talk to me. If I really insist she will stop, but make off handed remarks every few minutes until I engage or walk away. Please help!

I’m actually not going to tell you that you should say something directly to her. I don’t think this is your problem to solve!

The reality is that annoying people at work are pretty common. It’s especially frustrating when one arrives and disrupts what had been a really good team dynamic. But for most people, annoying coworkers are a fact of life at work.

It’s okay to just accept that Sansa is annoying. It doesn’t have to be a problem that you fix, because you probably can’t fix it. If you were her boss, or a mentor, or if you had a close friendship with her, this is the kind of thing you could give her feedback on. But when none of those things are the case, you don’t really have the standing to have a big You Are Alienating Your Coworkers conversation.

What you can do, though, is to address individual instances in the moment. If she interrupts you, you can say, “Hey, please don’t interrupt me.” If she interrupts someone else, you can say, “Arya was in the middle of a sentence there — I wanted to hear what she was saying.” If she explains something you already know in a condescending manner, you can say, “I of course understand how to alphabetize. My question was about whether we’re putting this account under Lannister or Stark.” (And you can continue walking away, as you’ve been doing, if she doesn’t stop.) If she won’t stop talking to you when you’re trying to work, you can say, “I need to focus right now, so I can’t talk” — followed by, if necessary, “Hey, I need you to leave my desk right now because I’m on deadline” — followed by “I really need you to stop talking to me now” if she continues. And in response to things like the pregnancy spotlight-stealing, you can even say, “Wow, it’s not really the time for that.”

If you do that enough, it might actually nudge her to rein in some of her behavior.

But she may not. She may remain annoying, because annoying people often do. And if that’s the case, limiting your exposure to her is a perfectly reasonable response. You’re not obligated to sit next to her at meetings or talk to her beyond the obligatory office pleasantries. You of course can’t ostracize her — you have a professional obligation and a human obligation to be civil to her — but as long as you’re not doing that, you don’t need to feel guilty that her behavior is causing you and others to limit your social contact with her.

One caveat to all this: If other people do start actively ostracizing her, that’s cruel — and at that point it could be a kindness to talk to her about what’s going on. But unless that happens, it’s okay to just accept that sometimes people at work are annoying, and we’re being paid in part to deal with them.

{ 392 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Not Tom, just Petty

    Oh, wow, I worked with her. An interrupting, know-it-all, humble-bragging topper. Who was in my group, under the same manager. It was difficult. Fortunately for my sanity, the Great Amaze-O left for greener pastures. Good luck!

    Reply
      1. Nordica

        I humbly suggest that the problem is not so much with the co-worker, but with the fact you have an open office plan. (This goes for both “Disney Princess” and Sansa.) I’d say about 90% of this falls away if you had proper offices or at least cubicles.

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        1. Annabelle

          I think this is definitely a big factor. I had a coworker like this who has sense quit, but having individual cubicles really minimized the annoyance.

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        2. 2 Cents

          We are moving away from our half-cubes to a totally open office plan in the next few months. NO ONE who actually will have to sit there is looking forward to it. And we definitely have a Sansa (or 5) on our relatively small team.

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        3. Anna

          Pretty sure annoying people are annoying if you’re in an office or in a cube. Either way, that’s not really the issue being asked about and there’s not much that can be done about an open office. And as the OP said, everything was fine for them until Sansa started, so I’m not sure the open plan is the actual issue here.

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          1. Nordica

            There’s plenty that can be done about an open office: abandon it — and cite the Sansa situation as a reason why it hurts the organization’s productivity and hurts collaboration instead of fostering it. OP is an a great position as a manager to advocate for this.

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            1. Anna

              OP isn’t a manager, but even if she were, there are three other managers who are involved and chances are none of those managers are in a position to unilaterally decide to change the office set up.

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          2. TrainerGirl

            But it can greatly exacerbate the issue though…I used to work in an open floor plan, and when there are no barriers, it seemed to make people forget about standard office etiquette. When someone has to get up and walk around to your cube, they probably are at least a bit more cognizant of your space.

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        4. JulieBulie

          The open plan surely makes the effect more widespread, but I’ve worked with Sansa types in full-size cubicle places too. They are just as annoying and obstinately gabby regardless of the surrounding furniture.

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          1. Anonymoose

            + 1 YES they are. I have one adjacent to where I sit and it really doesn’t matter that there is a faux wall between us. She will gab and gab until people walk away. I’m so happy to be moving to another location, you have no idea.

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        5. MarciaX

          This.

          In my 30-plus year career, I have never had a positive experience with an open-plan office. It’s the single worst management fad of the 20th century and I can’t believe it has survived this far into the 21st.

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          1. rdb0924

            We’re a month into our move to a semi-open-plan (low-walled workstations for everyone, including senior management). I. Hate. It. I am already grossly underpaid, and have been looking for a new job for awhile. This move is another nail in the coffin.

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      2. Lauren

        Me too, apparently others call her ‘The Voice”. My clients are now complaining about how loud she is when I’m forced to take calls at my desk. Leadership won’t act, because she is their favorite. Though the President of the office recently yelled out his office – can you please shut the door!!! She was being loud in a conference room, announced – he can’t possibly be talking about me – and continued with the door open. Three minutes later, the President loudly closed his door. I have started to expense earplugs, and those who walk by me smirk every time. Pretty much we are moving offices, so no one will bother addressing her – though I did tell you to please quiet down, and she actually got louder – I”M SO SORRY!

        The CMO came to our office yesterday, and she was on her best quiet behavior. The CMO wasn’t supposed to come in again, but did and sat at desk without anyone realizing she was back. The Voice was her super loud self this morning, but when she got and saw the CMO was here – suddenly she is as quiet as a mouse.

        She knows she is doing it. We had a contest last week, and she literally asked 4 diff times over 20 minutes – where do i vote? how do we vote? is this where we vote? doesn’t vote, 10 min later goes back – is this where we vote? She then announced at least 2x – I voted! They told us where to vote, it was really obvious and she was like – ok, when it was announced. I was next to her!

        Whatever, no one wants to tell the favorite to shut up, because her boss would turn the complainer into the problem. He has done this before on more serious matters when dealing with a favorite. I’m just praying for a spot in the new office as far from her as possible.

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    1. Toadstool Sandwich

      Worked with her, too. Everything anyone ever said- she had to one-up it. You could have said that you went sky diving and she would insert that she jumped out of a plane while on an elephant, while holding sparklers and singing the star-spangled banner. She would talk over people regarding any subject and claimed to be an expert on everything from cooking to martial arts to tennis, to animation, to child rearing and beyond. If she heard you speaking to a co-worker about your visit to a relative, she would interrupt and hijack your conversation to talk about her own visits to relatives and turn everything into something about her. It was very painful having to deal with that person for the few years I did so. There’s one in every office.

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      1. Not Tom, just Petty

        Not to top your story, just agreeing that it’s true. And I have to share that one coworker could not catch a break. When she’d gotten a coworker came in the next day wearing a ring from on-again, off-again boyfriend and made a giant deal about her own engagement. When that person was replaced by the one I wrote about, coworker announced that she was pregnant, and topper did the same thing as LW’s Sansa. That woman could not get 5 minutes of attention!

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      2. Menacia

        I feel your pain (and that of the OP), I have two in my office who need to out-yell, out-do each other and the kicker is that it’s a manger and one of her staff who do this. I never talk about my ailments or problems because invariably one or the other will hear and come over to let me know they had it much worse, and then go into disgusting detail. I avoid engaging with either except for work-related items. Self-absorbed people just have no boundaries or self-censorship. I’ve actually never worked in an office like this, and I’ve been here for 13 years probably because thankfully we have some pretty terrific people here as well so it makes it easier to deal with.

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      3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Ah yes, “Elevenerife” – as in if you’ve been to Tenerife, s/he’s been to Elevenerife.
        Sometimes, the only way to cope is to learn to turn the drone of their voice into a kind of white noise, remember to hmm occasionally and wait for the oxygen thief to finish stealing, often by just carrying on with your work. Starved of attention, the Elevenerifer will eventually go away, if only to find another victim.

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        1. SS Express

          Haha, love this! My dad calls it blackcatting – if you say you have a black cat, she’ll tell you how her black cat is blacker than your black cat.

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    2. Sparkles

      I worked with one at my last job. If she started to talk over us we would just keep strict eye contact with the person we were talking to and not acknowledge her input. Never got the picture. Some people….

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    3. BookishMiss

      I’d think this was my bother in law (I’m not fixing that autocorrect. It’s too perfect.) if the LW hadn’t specified “she.” Dude tried this stuff on my father at my wedding.

      LW, 2 things my dad taught me seem to apply here: you can’t fix clueless, and bland civility can actually be a ton of fun in the face of someone like Sansa. Good luck.

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      1. Not Tom, just Petty

        I’d think this was my bother in law (I’m not fixing that autocorrect. It’s too perfect.
        I concur. How is this not a thing like monster in law?!

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    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

      I worked with a guy like this too. He was an expert in all kinds of things, usually stuff that nobody brought up but he managed to work into the conversation anyway. Highly irksome.

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    5. LawPancake

      Yup, I’ve got one too. She’s been told that it’s off putting and asked to tone it down but it’s so much a part of her personality that I don’t think it’s fixable. At this point, she’s the missing stair of the department.

      Reply
  2. neverjaunty

    It sounds like people have in fact been blunt with Sansa and she just doesn’t care. She isn’t a good worker, and her boss apparently can’t or won’t see that.

    It’s not cruel to limit your interactions with someone who is determined to make those interactions awful.

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    1. Lil Fidget

      OP says she does good work within her lane though. This can be true if someone is an individual contributor who is ALSO annoying. It’s not like they’re always mutually exclusive.

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    2. Snark

      Eh, my feeling is that people have had oblique, polite interactions with her about things and they thought they were being pretty up-front, but Sansa didn’t get the point.

      At this point, I think it’s fine to be as blunt as, “Sansa! SANSA. You keep explaining things at me when I ask you to stop. Why do you keep doing that? I don’t actually need the explanation and I already told you that.” “Sansa, I was talking, and you just ran me off the road. That’s super rude, and you do it constantly, and you need to stop.” “Sansa, I’m not sure how I can be clearer about this, but I’m on deadline and I need you to stop talking at me and leave my desk like I asked you to.”

      Yes, those are tougher, blunter, and borderline-ruder than most people want to be at work, but having worked with a Sansa, they’re so oblivious and so self-absorbed that sometimes the only thing that gets through is a firm shake.

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      1. Shiara

        Yeah, I agree with most of this. (Although I’d probably drop the “you do it constantly” from the one script, because in my experience that just leads to derailing about whether or not it’s really “constant” where just skipping it gets the result I need of them stopping. At least for a period of time)

        I have had a Sansa-like coworker in the past and I ended up just being extremely direct with them all. The. Time. “I am on my break to read and unwind, and do not want to talk.” “I do not need that explained, you have answered my question” + walk away. “I am asking you X, I just need a yes or no from you.” “I am busy with Y, please leave my desk if you do not have a work related question.”

        Despite stunning some of my coworkers who had never seen me be so “rude” things were actually fine between us, because they always knew where we stood. They were always my least favourite co-worker and a minor irritant, but once I got used to just being really really blunt about what I needed from them, it was tolerable.

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        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          It’s interesting. I have worked with a person very much like Sansa and had to do as you did. At first it felt like I was being mean (because this was not how I usually spoke to people…at all) but she responded to it each and every time and like you… she never thought I was being rude or mean to her, it’s just how we did things. Some people really don’t pick up on social cues at all – whether it be a medical diagnosis or an I don’t care about them attitude – but blunt and direct almost always works with them.

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        2. nep

          “rude”
          That’s what drives me a little nuts. When simply being as direct as need be (therefore, efficient at work) is taken as being rude. I reckon if rudeness was not intended and something was not said in spirit of rudeness, then it’s the perceivers’ problem period.

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      2. a1

        I know some people where it seems is a physical impossibility for them to stop a train a thought, even though they know you know, even after being told or asked to stop, they for some reason just keep going. I don’t know if they get so excited, or they can’t change gears easily, or what. For some of these people I just let them go and tune them out, but that’s social situations and not work.

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        1. Cassandra

          We have a (very goodhearted) person in our reception area who is like this. I have had to train myself to walk away from him. He doesn’t appear to mind that, and it’s the only way I have yet found to extricate myself from his talkstream.

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          1. fposte

            Hey, us too! He’s also gotten better since he first started, but I remember seeing senior co-workers cue him to dial it back when he started to rev it up, so I know he got some coaching. But he’s incredibly invested and helpful and I have the ability to walk away, so it seems a small price to pay.

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          2. Ann O'Nemity

            “Talkstream.” Yes. My father is like this. I can interrupt him and say, “Dad, you already told me that story.” Or, “Dad, I don’t want to talk politics with you.” Or, “Dad, that’s incorrect, that never happened.” Or, “Dad, the stove is on fire.” And he just continues talking like I never said anything! He’s like a runaway train on the tracks, there’s no stopping or turning or going backwards; the only way out is through.

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            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

              My husband does this sometimes. Usually I can just tune him out and only listen enough to try and respond appropriately but sometimes he expects me to really engage in what he’s saying. Which would be fine if some of his favorite topics weren’t incredibly dull to me.

              I tell ya, smart phones are the key to our happy marriage. He can talk to me about French trains while I read AAM, yet we are both sitting together and interacting, therefore it’s social.

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              1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

                Somewhere I saw a list of responses a person made for conversations with her mother, who would talk endlessly. It was things like:

                Really?
                Wow.
                I did not know that.
                No!
                And then what happened?
                Yeah?
                That’s interesting.
                I’m not sure.

                I use it all the time with my spouse, who more often than not just wants someone to be the recipient of his talking. I use it sometimes with my kid, who can ramble on for ages about video games and whatnot, but he actually picks up on things and will say, “You’re not even listening!”

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        2. Snark

          Ehhhhh. No. I really don’t think so. It’s a behavior, not an inevitability, and they need to learn. It’s not impossible.

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          1. MerciMe

            That’s… not actually guaranteed, and definitely not a thing they can just “switch off” once they’re notified. Lots of people are neurodivergent in ways that make transitions like this difficult. For that matter, “too loud” can be an artifact of deafness or other disabilities too.

            I’m not saying “don’t have standards” or that genuinely disruptive behaviors should be allowed to continue. But I’ve noticed that many times, when everyone just takes a deep breath and looks for ways to include and support all their team members (and appreciate them for what they bring that is amazing and unique), a lot of these sorts of behaviors do tend to iron themselves out.

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          2. OverboilingTeapot

            Straightforward yes-or-no questions in a neutral tone can be helpful.

            “Do you think I don’t know how to do this?”
            “I’m on a deadline. Do you think these details are necessary right now?”
            “Do you think we can cut this conversation short? I’m on a deadline.”
            “Is there someone else you and [other coworker roped into the conversation] can talk? I’m on a deadline.” (This sometimes has the benefit of allowing other coworker to escape as well.)

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        3. Alli525

          Hoo boy I have a new coworker like that too. They’re the nicest person on the planet, but just can’t ever stop rambling.

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        4. MsSolo

          I have a colleague like that. My coworker told her three times “please don’t interrupt me while I’m working; when I’m free I’ll come over and we can talk about this issue” and it was like she didn’t even hear it. As long as she’s talking, she’s not listening, and by the time she’s finished it’s hardly worth telling her to go away when the answer to her actual question is usually “yes” or “no”.

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      3. TootsNYC

        And: “Sansa, this is Janet’s moment in the sun. Don’t interject yourself in someone else’s moment. You’ll get attention from us when it’s your turn, but that’s not now. Now is for Janet.”

        Be authoritative but not mean.

        I call it “channeling your inner day care worker.”

        Reply
          1. GG Two shoes

            Immediately preceding my current job, I was a day camp director. My coworkers hadn’t ever heard me raise my voice I was still in the newbie quiet mode so they were quite surprised when, at a volunteer event with a bunch of kids swarming around pizza, I said in my camp voice, “Ok kids, the line starts here, everyone gets one piece at first!” They all looked at me like had toes coming out of my head. They commented the whole way back about the “other side” of GG Two shoes that can “take charge.” They wouldn’t bat an eye now.

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            1. Jaydee

              Mom voice/teacher voice/day camp counselor voice. Three different names for basically the same thing, and it can be insanely useful even in settings where everyone is an adult.

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              1. Casual Fribsday

                My wife has more than once used teacher voice on a group of adults talking behind us at the movies; I can’t believe how effective it is! (I don’t have any sort of authority voice.)

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            2. Not So NewReader

              I read a story (Reader’s Digest?) of a flight attendant who was faced with a group of hurried passengers trying to get off the plane. They were supposed to remain seated, but most were standing. Realizing the situation could get nasty fast, she finally pulled out her mom voice and said, “You’re still standing.” Everyone returned to their seats.

              Sometimes what we think won’t work, ends up working.

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        1. Laura

          Yep. Treat kids like kids and adults as adults. The ‘kids’ will be so grateful for it! They get scared without boundaries!

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      4. As Close As Breakfast

        I think asking those type of follow up ‘why’ questions is a tactic that could work well in this case. “Sansa, I’ve told you 3 times now that I am on a deadline and asked you to stop interrupting me, and yet you are still talking to me. Why?” And I might let that lead in to a toddler-style ‘why’ fest until she stops or makes the ridiculous admission that she’s trying to steal my job by annoying me into quitting or something! Alison often suggests this type of ‘why’ route when someone is ignoring a reasonable request and I think I’d try it with Sansa if I was the OP.

        Reply
        1. ChelseaNH

          I was thinking the same thing. Maybe not for the “I’m trying to work, so go away” scenario, but if you have time:
          “explain explain explain”
          “I don’t need an explanation, thanks anyway.”
          “explain explain explain”
          “Sansa, why are you still explaining?”

          One of the drawbacks to using cognitive therapy to change your habits is that you first have to notice your habits. So this might be a case where it’s helpful to have an outside cue. Or not. But worth experimenting with.

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        2. Not So NewReader

          Eh, you could even go with, “Sansa, when a person asks you to stop doing something, it’s really not cool/inappropriate to keep doing it.”

          Or you could do a count up.
          “Sansa, I have asked you once to stop, now I am asking you again.”
          explain, explain, explain
          “Sansa, I have asked you twice to stop, now I am asking you again.”

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      5. The Supreme Troll

        Yes; and I think that it is perfectly fine for the OP to raise her voice if necessary (not saying to scream or yell though) so that it can penetrate Sansa’s thick skull.

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        1. The Supreme Troll

          And I want to clarify on my comment above: I don’t want to accuse Sansa of having bad intentions at all when she is dealing with the OP and the OP’s colleagues. I just think that, after several times of repeating the same thing to Sansa, and Sansa not getting the message, it is quite alright for the OP to speak in a tone that will get her point across more definitively.

          Reply
  3. Snark

    How do we feel about maybe roping in Sansa’s manager? It may not be a good idea for OP to have a “You’re alienating your coworkers” talk with her, but if I were her manager, I’d want to know that she was alienating her coworkers.

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    1. Lil Fidget

      I just don’t know if there’s much you can do on the issue OP cares most about, which is that Sansa is annoying. You could elevate some of the work related stuff like her interrupting you when you’re trying to work – but even then I’d expect an employee to be proactively addressing this themselves, although I would additional give Sansa a warning about that. But most of these complaints are going to seem petty to elevate to a manager since OP says Sansa is doing good work. I suspect the manager doesn’t really care if you LIKE her.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, the only thing I can see elevating to her manager is the interrupting people who are working and who have clearly told her to go away. You could broach it in a “some coaching around these other issues would help her professional relationships,” but the OP says Sansa’s manager is aware of the issues and hasn’t done much.

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        1. Snark

          And I get that having the “so your personality is a problem” conversation is hard and awkward and will leave everybody involved feeling like crap….but if people on the team she works with are actively avoiding her and limiting contact with her, I don’t personally see a clear line between that and a performance issue.

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          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think that’s fair. I’d like to know more about what the OP means when she says “Sansa’s manager is aware of the problem.” I assumed that meant they’ve talked to the manager about it already. But if it just means the manager has seen the behavior herself, it could indeed be worth talking to her and pointing out that it’s impacting her relationships with people and explicitly request that the manager coach her on it.

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            1. OP

              I have not talked to Sansa’s manager directly, but my manager has talked to Sansa’s manager. Our team is split under 3 managers, and Sansa is the only person reporting to one of the managers. The other two managers received complaints, so my manager pulled me aside and asked me what was going on. I explained the situation and gave specific details and examples about behaviors that were bothering people. My manager then brought it to Sansa’s manager. What I know is that Sansa’s manager did say something to her, but I don’t know exactly what and I don’t think it was very detailed coaching, it was more of a “be more aware of your surroundings and limiting distractions given the open floor plan.” My manager checked in with me recently and said that she isn’t sure what can be done because it seems like a personality issue not a work issue.

              For what it’s worth, I am the youngest member of the team and started here about 6 months before Sansa. I have built up a very good rapport with everyone, but I would not feel comfortable going to Sansa’s manager directly 1) because she has been working here for decades and is the kindest person ever and 2) that would feel like going behind my manager’s back, and my manager is really great.

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              1. serenity

                Well, it sounds like your manager and Sansa’s manager have already talked about this so I’m not sure what you would hope to achieve by reaching out to Sansa’s manager.
                It’s been addressed, and regardless or whether or not it would be perceived as “going behind your manager’s back”, they’re aware of the issue.

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                1. OP

                  Yes, agreed! Just trying to give some more context. After my manager and I last spoke that is when I wrote in to AAM.

              2. Not So NewReader

                but-but-but… she is not kind. She is rude. This is not a kind person, no one wants to be around her.

                I think that if this is framed as “be polite to your cohorts” you might find more traction. This is not a personality issue, it’s simply getting along with others.
                No interrupting.
                No repeating yourself.
                No explanations of the obvious.
                Stop means stop. It does not mean continue.

                Basically this is a person that no one wants to deal with. The boss can explain to her that part of what she is paid for is her willingness to get along with others. Basic courtesy must be in place AT ALL TIMES. And this is required at any job, so it is in her best interest to pay attention to how she is handling things.

                The problem is that most bosses do not expect to have to work on job skills on a remedial level. Bosses rely on previous experiences, work place cues and so on for people to figure out how to fit in. So it is reasonable to assume that the boss does not know how to say what exactly is wrong and how to correct it. This is where you come in, OP. You provide the bosses with wording such as you see here, so they are now empowered to handle the situation.

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      2. Snark

        I suspect a good manager does care. How many times, right here on this blog, has Alison advised OPs that soft skills, interpersonal relations, and the basic ability to get along with your coworkers are just as important as actually being able to do the job? “Doing good work” is not the only determinant of performance.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          I just worry it would reflect more on OP’s soft skills to come and complain about another employee being annoying. I would hope a decent manager can observe Sansa’s soft skill deficits already and should be coaching her (although probably isn’t). But that’s not OP’s circus, not OP’s monkeys.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            Concrete examples of Sansa’s behavior are very different than “she’s annoying”. Especially when it comes to things like interrupting another employee working.

            Reply
          2. Snark

            My feeling is that Sansa’s soft skills deficits have been observed, but the manager needs some feedback on how it’s affecting her work relationships to overcome the awkwardness-inertia of actually initiating the convo. And I wouldn’t frame it as “Sansa is annoying,” I’d frame it as, “Sansa’s working relationship with our group is deteriorating and I’m concerned it’s going to make it hard for us all to work together if it gets worse, and these are the issues.”

            Reply
            1. Shiara

              I’m just not sure it’s on the LW to escalate that to Sansa’s manager, since it’s not clear how much of a relationship they have. I could see LW bringing that to the LW’s manager with that script, but maybe not until LW’s made some further attempts at handling Sansa more directly. Especially since Sansa’s still relatively new to the situation (would she have known the miscarriage context? It was still inappropriate, and I realise this is just one of several examples) and naturally an outsider due to having a different manager.

              Reply
                1. OP

                  Just wanted to respond to some of this – thank you everyone for the insight and ideas! I have brought this to my own manager – who is fantastic – but she has basically said she agrees that Sansa is annoying but she isn’t sure how much it’s possible to change her personality. She has said I can be direct with her and limit exposure, but as long as it is not negatively impacting anyone’s work she doesn’t know how much Sansa’s manager will do.

                2. TootsNYC

                  I think one problem is that the focus is on her personality, so that’s hard to talk about.

                  But her BEHAVIOR is the problem. So if her manager (or even you) were to intervene, pick the ACTIONS that are work-related and focus first on those. “You interrupted Arya–please don’t do that. Hold your thought until after the person speaking is done.”

                  “You are continuing to talk to people who have told you they can’t talk–you need to turn and walk away when they tell you they can’t talk.”

                  “You interrupted the conversation about Janet’s pregnancy to talk about yourself–You need to let other people be the center of attention.”

                3. Perse's Mom

                  @OP – She IS negatively impacting your work. Every time she interrupts you at your desk, or stands there and makes distracting gestures until you STOP WORKING so she can chatter at you about not-work things, she’s negatively impacting your work. This is, as TootsNYC pointed out, a specific behavior that can be called out and addressed.

                  As an aside, I would be very tempted to stare at her in confusion when she makes those gestures after you’ve already told her you can’t talk. “I’m sorry, that’s really distracting and isn’t going to magically make my work going away. I’ll try to stop by later* if I have time.”

                  *and if you don’t stop by later, it’s because you didn’t have time, perhaps?

                4. OP

                  Unfortunately, our desks are actually next to each other, so she isn’t stopping by, she is just talking to me while we are both sitting at our respective desks. This is what makes things particularly difficult. Since we have an open floor plan, there is a decent amount of chit chat that takes place (within reason) so it is difficult to demonstrate that Sansa’s chit chat is louder, longer, and more distracting than others.

                5. Cassandra

                  Ugh, OP, that makes everything harder, doesn’t it?

                  If visible earphones are acceptable where you work, I might suggest them as a signal, even if you’re not actually playing anything through them.

                6. Elizabeth H.

                  That is so frustrating that she can talk at you while you are working like that. If you look her in the eye and say “Stop talking to me” what happens? As others have said above it feels rude but sometimes people like this actually don’t mind it when you are THAT blunt.

                7. EH

                  Re: earphones, I use plugphones when I want to get work done and people won’t shut up. They’re visible and look like regular earbuds, but have built-in earplugs. Them plus some white noise or rain sounds equals near-silence. It’s pretty great.

                  Open office plans are the worst, and are scientifically proven to harm productivity in multiple ways… but those ways are a bit more abstract than the bottom-line immediate cost savings. Alas.

                8. Not So NewReader

                  @OP. Match what you see coming at you.
                  If a person can be rude enough to explain something to me 3 times I can be brassy enough to point out to them, “You have said this three times, if you do not have anything new to add, I must return to what I am working on.”

                  I see you talking about the open plan a lot. I would not let that deter me, if I were you. She is doing this in front of everyone, push back in front of everyone.

                9. OverboilingTeapot

                  I’ve had coworkers put up signs at their desks to the effect of “I need to focus, I’d appreciate if you didn’t distract me.” It’s heavy-handed and a little dramatic, and it does mean they’re cutting off conversation with everyone, but it may help to gradually start training her that don’t-distract-me really ~means~ don’t-distract-me.

        2. KC without the sunshine band

          +1000. When someone is being avoided by other workers, it always causes inefficiency. Even if you don’t work directly together, if you take the long way to somewhere to avoid walking by her desk, inefficiency has been created, not to mention the time LW and coworkers spend dealing with her (or talking about her).
          It’s also interesting to note that most of the folks on this comment string that have similar stories ended up leaving the job. Does the LW’s manager want Sansa running her good people off? The manager needs to revisit this, and if Sansa’s manager won’t, LW’s manager should have a chat with Sansa’s manager.

          Reply
        3. Katie the Fed

          Speaking as a manager – it’s REALLY hard to deal with personality issues. Generally my feedback is going to be about specific behaviors/actions and not personalities. And remember that these people annoy us as much as they annoy you! So I’ll try to do my best, but there’s sometimes not a whole lot I can do when someone is just….awful.

          Reply
    2. Shiara

      From the letter, “Sansa’s manager is aware of the problem as well. I know her manager spoke to her about being more aware of the open floor plan and trying not to impact the people around her.” Ideally the manager would get more explicit about certain behaviours, but I really don’t think there’s anything the LW can do beyond get more blunt about “I can’t talk to you right now” and “I do not need that explained” + walk away.

      At that point, either Sansa will start to settle in, get the message, or the alienation will become more plain and addressable by the manager. She may always be a slight minor irritant though, and sometimes that’s just the way it is.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I wonder if OP could try, one time, a level-setting conversation with Sansa, perhaps once they’ve worked together for a while and hopefully established some trust. Alison has remarked in the past that people often don’t notice the big picture / pattern until pointed out. “Sansa, in this office we don’t tend to interrupt each other quite as often as you may have gotten used to. This can be either in conversation, or coming over when somebody’s working. This is the kind of office culture thing that can take a while to figure out, and I know I’d want someone to tell me if I was outside of the office norms,” etc. OP isn’t obligated to do this and may certainly choose not to, but delivered correctly it could be a kindness?

        Reply
      2. Not Tom, just Petty

        Sansa’s manager may be aware of her lacking interpersonal skills, the explaining, the interrupting, the bragging, but not be aware that she goes out of her way to distract people. The first three habits are personality issues (that are annoying) but when we are all working together, you have to allow people some personal quirks or nothing will get done.
        I think LW needs to tell Sansa’s manager that when Sansa takes a break from work (which is fine) she uses the time to disrupt LW. “I tell her I’m busy and she stands and waits.” “I ask her to let me get on with what I’m doing, and she makes sighing noises and gestures…UNTIL I STOP AND LISTEN TO HER.” These are not quirks you have to roll with. These are habits she needs to change.

        Reply
    1. Purplesaurus

      This is just my opinion, but I think it’s fine for people to avoid taking lunch with her (because that’s their time, after all) or being the first to sit by her in a meeting, but it would cross into ostracizing if nobody invited Sansa to the holiday potluck or to a meeting she needs to be at.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Agreed. You can’t explicitly keep her out of things she should be a part of because you don’t want to deal with her, but you don’t need to actively invite her to things she wouldn’t naturally be involved in.

        The caveat to this is that depending how much stuff your team typically does as a group, you may not really be able to limit your exposure to her that much. If you have a group happy hour on Thursdays that everyone has historically been invited to, you’re kinda stuck including her. But if you and one other person on the team go out for lunch once a week, you’re under no obligation to include her if she happens to be around.

        Reply
        1. AcademiaNut

          And the sad thing is that this can totally destroy what had been a really nice group social environment. I find this is particularly true when the previous rule has been “everyone is welcome”, and the person is intensely annoying, but not actually mean. Suddenly changing to a closed invitation list is difficult to do, and they haven’t done anything to warrant being publicly kicked out.

          You can’t quite justify leaving her out of the group happy hour. But nobody enjoys happy hour when she comes (and she *always* comes), so people stop coming. Repeat that for all the other group activities, and in a short time you’ve lost a nice set of social events.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            I said this below, but I think you kind of have to accept the changing social dynamic of a group as you experience turnover. Having an entire team that gets along socially is a bonus at the workplace, not a given – there are so, so many teams that don’t ever hang out socially and it’s perfectly normal. It can certainly be disappointing when a group falls apart because the people change and now not everyone wants to have out together, but I don’t think there’s an expectation that that kind of group should exist in the first place. That seems like a recipe for “cultural fit” bubbles that are common in startups where suddenly you’re only hiring people you want to hang out with after work rather than the people who might be the best at the work itself (and those groups tend to homogenize in terms of gender, race, age, etc).

            Reply
      2. Naptime Enthusiast

        I think that’s the line – if it’s work-sponsored or going to a distribution list, you can’t exclude her. But if it’s something individually planned, it’s up to the planner’s discretion.

        We have a Sansa that has been officially removed from any personal, outside of working hours activities invitations. They pushed someone down the stairs at an amusement park “as a joke”, makes degrading comments to women at friendly get-togethers, and publicly punched down at an intern without provocation. Each time, this person has been called out in the moment and either doubled down or sulked away without an apology, so we have collectively excluded this person from non-work related activities because we don’t want to spend our free time around them. And if I see that person is invited and planning to attend some social event, I will excuse myself.

        Reply
          1. Naptime Enthusiast

            Luckily her boyfriend caught her before she fell, but yeah. They completely cut the person out after that episode.

            Reply
          1. Naptime Enthusiast

            Because none of this has happened at work. In the office the person is loud, obnoxious, and annoying to the point that people changed their lunch time to avoid them, but after hours this person is just awful.

            Reply
            1. Lance

              It doesn’t matter if it’s not happening at work; if they’re doing these things to co-workers, their manager should be told about it, period.

              Reply
            2. WellRed

              making degrading comments to women (co-workers?) should be reported. Also, not sure what you mean by “punching down” at an intern, but whatever it is, I am sure it’s inappropriate.

              Reply
              1. LCL

                Punching down is a modern phrase to use if you are sufficiently woke. The premise is, insulting and being snarky about someone is OK if they have more power than you. That’s punching up. Punching down is doing the same to someone who has less power than you. That is considered bad.

                Reply
          1. Naptime Enthusiast

            I’ve wondered at what point someone’s behavior outside of the office should impact them at work. I do remember a LW whose boss’s wife kicked her out for using racist language at a dinner party in their home (which I 1000% support!). But can/should someone report what happens at a party over the weekend at work on Monday?

            These instances happened in the past but from what I have seen the person has not changed enough that I would choose to spend any time with them.

            Reply
      3. paul

        That’s where I’d draw the line. I don’t like the tendency I’m seeing in some fields to act like it isn’t OK not invite people that suck the fun out of stuff.

        That said, they *are* still collegues and you have to try to act professionally with them at work. I have a coworker I can’t stand, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to loop her in on on stuff she needs to know.

        It does mean I wouldn’t invite her to a social get together though.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Hmm, if you’re inviting literally everyone else on the team, I don’t think you can get away with not inviting her. At that point I think it crosses the line from purely a social gathering to a semi-official work gathering, and it’s not okay to keep one person out of a work gathering. If you want to spend time with literally all of your coworkers outside of work and not have it be somewhat work-related, I think you have to do it more individually.

          Reply
          1. paul

            At this point it’s not an issue; right now we’re none of us socially friendly outside of work (except there’s one that just moved onto my block so I do see her more after/before work). There’s been past mixes that gelled better, if you know what I mean?? I’m not sure that’ll happen right now though.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              I follow you. I used to go out after work occasionally with the people that were on my team when I started, but I don’t do that with the people who work here now unless it’s a scheduled team event. I get along with them perfectly well at work but we just don’t have that kind of relationship where I want to kick back at a happy hour with them after hours. But I think that’s to be expected as the makeup of a group changes; things ebb and flow because ultimately you’re all bonded by working together, not a true social connection, so as your work relationships change the accompanying social interaction with those coworkers changes. I’ve found it rare that friendships continue with the same intensity after you’re no longer working with someone, even if you were very close when you worked together.

              Reply
              1. Lil Fidget

                This is so true, and so weird to me. I mean, I spend more waking hours with my coworkers than my loved ones, sadly. Yet the relationships are rarely as durable. (I’m sure many have made life-long friends at work, but my experiences have been as you described – intense, but brief).

                Reply
                1. LBK

                  I think those long hours together are part of what makes those relationships so weird and fickle – you have a vested interest in getting along with people you’re going to spend that much time with, so in some ways you relax your expectations for what would normally make someone a friend. Your friendship also comes with a built-in connection point, since pretty much anyone can kill an hour or two getting lunch or a drink while talking about work with a colleague.

                  But once you’re no longer forced to be around that person, your regular social expectations come back into play, and sometimes it turns out the main thing you had in common was being in the same building for 40-60 hours a week.

      4. Allypopx

        That’s a good line. Basically, she gets the baseline respect and decency everyone gets, but no one has to be overly warm, friendly, or quick to socialize with her.

        Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Yeeeah, I agree, this is tough. You can’t make people sit with her if she’s unpleasant to be around, but I’d worry about one employee being publicly excluded from everything. I think you’d need to be scrupulously fair to Sansa to feel okay about avoiding contact. And your close team might need to take a step back during work hours.

      Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          This is extra hard because the group formerly all got along and probably established some more-casual norms, which you can do if you know everybody’s on the same page. But sadly now that you have a new person it’s a wake up that you should probably revert to the more distanced interactions of larger, more diverse offices where people aren’t really friends. It’s unfortunate for Sansa that it looks like this is “her fault” on top of everything else and I get why that sucks for OP.

          Reply
    3. also has terrible coworkers

      this was my question too! I’d love some real-life, non-AAM Worst Story Of the Year kind of examples.

      Reply
    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      I think the line ends up being if something is a “everyone in the office (except Sansa) gets to be in on this” — that’s ostracizing — but “we coworkers who like each other are going to be in on this, and Sansa’s not invited” is limiting exposure.

      Reply
      1. also has terrible coworkers

        so does that mean the line is whether or not it’s coordinated amongst the other employees? So if I talk to everyone else and we say “we’re not going to include Sansa on this,” then that’s ostracizing, but if I and everyone else are purposely limiting our exposure to her but it’s NOT a coordinated effort – everyone’s doing it for themselves – then that’s … okay?

        Reply
        1. Observer

          It depends how. Like if you spend 10 minutes trying to find a seat that is NOT near Sansa, that’s bad. If people just go to easily available seats that aren’t near Sansa, that’s ok.

          Reply
        2. a Gen X manager

          I have the same questions! And at what point / where is the line on where management or HR needs to be involved – at what point can it be considered bullying? can actively being excluded from everything but the most fundamental work meetings be considered bullying from a legal perspective (especially if literally everyone else was invited!)? What are my responsibilities as Sansa’s manager other than the coaching that was mentioned?

          I have a Sansa-wannabe on staff and I am struggling as the manager to deal with her on behalf of the team. She is SO annoying.

          Reply
            1. Anna

              Probably at a point far, far down the line because bullying has a very narrow definition and just plain rudeness does not.

              Reply
            2. OverboilingTeapot

              Insensitivity to painful topics (like fertility struggles) and unwillingness to drop the topic isn’t deliberate bullying per se, but I don’t see it as all that far off.

              Reply
      2. Lil Fidget

        Sadly, I think it’s an issue if literally *everybody* gets together outside of work and invites *all* employees but Sansa. I use the elementary school that if you’re inviting more than half to something, you have to invite everybody. If you’re just inviting your few closest work friends, you don’t have to invite the sad-sack that nobody likes – but even then, it’s kind to be discreet, don’t rub it in his face. [My Sansa is a man].

        Reply
          1. The New Wanderer

            The stairs example from above was a physical one, but the punching down example (from same comment) is, I think, an expression for verbally ripping into someone and not actual punching (which I would hope is a clear firing offense whether or not it happened at work).

            Reply
      3. paul

        That gets tricky in smaller offices pretty quickly.

        We’ve got 5 or 6 staff in my group at any given time (including the supervisor). Right now it’s 5 until we fill a position (if, depending on the budget…gaugh).

        3 people is literally more than half the office here right now.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          TBH if you have five people on staff and three (the same three?) go out all the time and never invite the other two, I do that’s basically a clique. The other two people must notice and feel that it’s “us versus them.” In very small offices I think it’d be preferable to broaden your circle of friends outside the workplace.

          Reply
    5. Not Tom, just Petty

      When a group of people are chit chatting and Sansa comes over and starts talking, one can apologize out and go back to work. That is limiting. Ostracizing is walking away when she comes over without acknowledging her.

      Reply
          1. Emi.

            There are apparently three levels of cutting people. I’m not sure how you learn how to execute them well, unless you get a lot of practice. Honestly the closest I’ve come to actually pulling it off was closer to “making a dismayed face while getting hugged.”

            Reply
    6. neverjaunty

      When avoiding Sanda becomes a bonding thing between the employees, or she gets cut out of work functions like the holiday lunch or planning meetings, that’s ostracizing.

      Reply
      1. Allypopx

        “When avoiding Sanda becomes a bonding thing between the employees”

        Oof, that’s hard. It’s so common to bond around this thing. And it’s definitely happening to some extent when “Sansa-splaining” is a term. That kind of thing can be fine if it’s a lighthearted jest, but it doesn’t sound like it is. So OP in the interest of trying not to make the situation worse, maybe cut that out of your vocabulary if you can.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Yep I completely understand the impulse but it’s making everything so much worse – for you yourself even! – when this happens.

          Reply
        2. nonegiven

          If she isn’t getting the hint because people are being too subtle, maybe telling her “People are starting to call that Sansasplaining and you need to cut it out,” would make it stop.

          Reply
          1. XYZ

            What? Referring to a general group like that (i.e. “people” vs “I”) is ostracizing. And telling her about the Sansa-splaining is just saying “everyone here makes fun of you”. How cruel.

            Yes, she’s being ridiculous, but you have to chose not to take your response to this level. If polite & direct assertiveness doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. You don’t get to then be mean.

            Reply
    7. Antilles

      Personally, I’d put the red line as whether or not it crosses over into work-related functions.
      If it’s at the point where people avoid her even on business-related purposes (not inviting her to meetings, refusing to talk to her, doing everything possible to avoid getting her input on ongoing projects, etc), then it crosses over into ostracizing and is a huge issue for the business.

      Reply
  4. MuseumChick

    I love the “Sansa, please stop talking me right now” script and the “Wow, it’s not really the time for that.”

    I would say that if she continues to interrupt you, you have standing to speak to her manager. It’s interrupting your work flow and the fact that she won’t leave when asked give you a reason to speak up.

    Reply
    1. The Supreme Troll

      Exactly. The OP cannot just keep repeating the same thing to Sansa millions upon millions of times. Sansa’s tone-deafness (which I get might be very innocent, but still…) is affecting the productivity of the OP and maybe even several of the OP’s coworkers. This is not that Sansa is marching to the beat of a different drum; it is that her tone-deafness and denseness is causing drops in productivity for the OP.

      Reply
  5. Amber Rose

    I work with two of these people now. I’ll tell you what I told someone on a Friday thread: You are wasting way too much energy worrying about this person. During any given day, a thousand annoying things will happen. A loud bird will wake you up. A dog will bark like crazy. A child will start screaming. Someone will chew their gum too loud or talk too loud on their cell phone.

    You learn to tune out and ignore all this stuff. You may roll your eyes or groan, but then you move on. Throw Sansa into this category of “mildly annoying things you tune out.” I mean, you can’t actively refuse to engage with her at work, but you can choose how much energy you expend on being annoyed at her.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      I like to remind myself, “I am literally being paid to deal with these annoyances pleasantly.” That’s actually kind of better than in my regular life! Dealing with the Sansas of this world is why you deserve your salary.

      Reply
    2. Kira

      I like this take on it. Sometimes my boss has to remind me that I don’t need to spend a lot of energy and emotional investment on my difficult customers. I get paid to come in, deal with them, and do my job well for them. But I don’t have to fix them or carry a cloud of stress around with me.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        This. You are paid to provide them with a product or service. But you cannot Make Them Happy, because some folks just refuse to be happy and would rather pick fights.

        Reply
    3. Chandler Bing

      I really need to work on this.

      Was it just embracing that mentality that helped you tune it out or did you try any specific methods? I wonder if I would try but fall back to wasting that energy.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        It’s stressful to be annoyed. When I notice my mood sinking into a bad place and my shoulders creeping up around my ears, I take a break (even if it’s just a bathroom break) and start comparing myself to sitcom characters. At the point where I am getting worked up about a stapler, for instance, I can laugh at myself and let it go.

        If I can’t, then I try to pretend that the irritating thing (usually a noise of some sort) is a particularly noisy bird and double down on focusing on whatever my work is. Headphones help.

        I’m not perfect. Even I have days where I just can’t settle down. It takes some practice.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Yeah, I have to do this FOR MYSELF and that’s what I remind myself. I’m being paid to be here, I’m not being paid to dwell on it and feel like crap about it outside of work. If you’re miserable, it’s time to look for a new job, but otherwise just put in your hours and think about your life outside of work.

          Reply
        2. Bobstinacy

          Off topic, but I love the strategy of comparing oneself to a sitcom character! I’m going to steal that in the future when I need to check myself.

          Reply
          1. oranges & lemons

            In the British version of the Office, there is one character who often looks appealingly at the camera when particularly weird/infuriating things are happening around him. Sometimes I like to pretend that I also have a sympathetic audience out there somewhere and just look at a blank wall for reassurance.

            Reply
        3. Chandler Bing

          It’s totally stressful. That sitcom idea is a brilliant way to get some perspective, thank you!!

          I do love my headphones and they really helped with noise but my latest job requires you to kind of be available to collaborate and talk all the time, so I don’t use them much. Will take your ideas with me into the office next week and see how I get on.

          Reply
    4. Happy Lurker

      Amber Rose – your “A loud bird will wake you up” reminds me of Mary Poppins when the maid is shutting the window because Mr. Banks has a headache. She tells the bird “Quiet! Your giving the master an ‘eadache”
      Excellent advice…Don’t be a Mr. Banks (before Mary Poppins).

      Reply
  6. Steve

    It would suck to be that annoying and not know it. I guess people that worry about that are not going to be that way. It would be a kindness to help her realize, but I don’t know how one would do that, if hints don’t work.

    Reply
    1. Anon for this

      Well, not exactly.
      I am 99% sure I am “the annoying co-worker” at work, though not necessarily to Sansa’s extent (the miscarriage comment, oh my!). After a lot of self-searching, it does come from wanting to be acknowledged. And even aware of it, it is HARD to turn off, and when you do, it’s a slow process.

      As a Sansa, I’d kill if someone pulled me aside and gently went, “Hey, not right now, okay?” Eventually, she might become more self-aware?

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        And…just saw the OP tried something similar. At this point, she might just not care. :( That is a tough situation.

        Reply
      2. peasandcarrots

        I find it really interesting that you acknowledge this in your own personality. I’d always assumed that people who act this way don’t know that they’re doing it. I would personally find it really valuable (because I know quite a few one-uppers) if you would elaborate a bit on your feelings on the subject, if you feel comfortable doing so.

        Reply
        1. Kira

          I’m always afraid of letting this part of myself out. It’s hard for me to tell if I’m just being me, and social, and normal, versus when I cross the line into “won’t stop talking”.

          Reply
        2. OP

          OP here! I am interested in you elaborating as well. Sansa seems very oblivious to how she is coming off, even after the comments others have made and some of the limiting exposure. She even remarked the other day that she knows she is really easy to get along with and we were all shocked.

          Reply
          1. BadPlanning

            I had an Ex who liked to say, “I’m easy” in response to what we should or shouldn’t do. Yes, if I guess the right the thing.

            Also, I’m amused that someone would announce they are easy to get along with. That’s like claiming, “Oh I am soooo modest. I rarely mentioned My Fancy Degree and Lovely Watch.”

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              or, “I have class.”

              Some “honors” are really not something you can award to yourself.

              I mean, you can say “I try to be easy to get along with,” but…

              Reply
            2. RVA Cat

              Gahh, my husband is “I’m easy” if I guess the right thing too. No wonder I often hear marriage described as “arguing over what to have for dinner until one of you dies.”

              Also, is Sansa like the social version of the Dunning Kruger Effect?

              Reply
          2. Different Anon

            Hi OP! I am thinking this is not the case in your instance, but at my current job (also open floor plan) my manager asked me to be a little more quiet and jump into conversations less. Now I was not “one upping’ or anything like that. So I was a ‘Sansa’-lite. But my current job is very clique-ish. And honestly, I did not feel particularly welcomed at the beginning – so I tried to join conversations so I could feel like part of my team. Her remarking that she is easy to get along with and you mentioning your team gets along really well , makes me think that maybe she has felt a little left out from the beginning.

            Reply
            1. Coldbrewinacup

              I was just thinking this too.

              Maybe Sansa came into the department and could tell how everyone already got along and maybe, without intending to, people made her feel left out. Hence the current behavior– she’s trying desperately to fit in and be liked, be part of the group, but due to a lack of social skills, she’s not going about it the best way?

              Just a thought

              Reply
            2. OP

              Hmmm that’s a good point. I am not sure how to correct it at this point though? I know people were excited to have her join at first and were friendly, but now people are avoiding her.

              Reply
              1. Different Anon

                Perhaps just try to correct the most egregious social interruptions? And I would make sure that you are including her in the regular team activities you would hold (IE team happy hour). Also does your team tend to take a moment to share personal stories (IE look at my cute newborn niece’s picture) with other team members around her but not her? That might not feel exclusionary and it might feel like she brought this onto herself. But in an open office plan all is open and it can hurt. I think the best plan is to take Allison’s advise and honestly not bring it up with her. Just cut off the instances of interruption, disruption and inappropriate one-ups. Learn to live with the rest.

                Reply
                1. OP

                  Thank for you for the advice! She has still been invited to everything work related, and yes people do take a moment to share personal stories, but it is usually “anyone who wants can walk over to my desk and look at this picture of my new puppy” so she is not excluded. However, she usually won’t engage in those moments unless she can share a related story about herself. I am not sure if this is because she feels left out, or if she just doesn’t care.

                2. Different Anon

                  OP – you and your team sound way nice! As I thought initially, your Sansa just seems to have some less than desirable qualities and it is not a side effect of a clique-ish team. Really unfortunate, but ultimately all you can really do is try to stop the worst offenses. Anything more will come across as strange since you are not her manager and honestly might make things worse.

                3. OP

                  Thank you for the kind words! I do suspect it is somewhat of an insecurity thing/trying too hard to fit in, so I’m doing my best to make her feel included while maintaining my sanity.

          3. Machiamellie

            Ok so I have Aspergers and I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 39 so I struggled a *lot* at workplaces until I learned this about myself. I think I’m a pretty great person, but neurotypical people can be quite annoyed by me and I don’t even know it.

            If you think she might be open to it, what would work for me would be “Machiamellie, remember during that conversation with Arya where she was telling us about her engagement and you turned it into a discussion about your wedding? That was pretty rude to her and hurt her feelings.” And see what she says. If she’s all like “naaah” then you’ve just got a narcissist, but if she’s like “oh my gosh I had no idea” then you might have someone with a social disorder, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed.

            And really, if she’s diagnosed with something like Aspergers and the OP’s managers are aware, that might be why nothing’s being done – they can’t tell her coworkers without her consent. But one would think they would be giving her feedback about her behavior.

            Reply
            1. Annon for this

              I have family members with diagnosed Aspergers and some not diagnosed. Some have a very hard time keeping a job.
              My sibling and I spend a lot of time trying to decide if we are “Aspies” or “raised by Aspies”. There are alot of social cues we have had to self teach. Some, I may never get.
              Sansa sounds a lot like my family members.
              Machiamellie has some excellent advice to determine the difference. Best of luck to OP. Please come back and update.

              Reply
          4. Sarah

            So, my boss is a Sansa and holy smokes do I feel you. It is really difficult because you want to be kind and compassionate (and I don’t want to end up in trouble) but it is also extremely difficult. Even knowing him for years and caring about him as a human being hasn’t made it that much easier to deal with. And when they say things like Sansa said….well. It makes things almost harder to deal with.

            Reply
          5. Anon for this

            I’ll reply directly to the OP so they see it, maybe?

            So, disclaimer: This took at least two years of therapy to figure out, so YMMV.

            I grew up in a stereotypical Jewish household as the youngest of two. My older sibling has Asperger’s. I, personally, haven’t been diagnosed with it, but I suspect, growing up, I took a lot of my social cues (or lack of) from him. My parents were pretty cutthroat and put a lot of teaching basic social skills on the back burner in favor of us getting stellar grades. I was barely praised for things I enjoyed, and the only way I could get attention was by doing things to their standards. I wasn’t allowed to date, and I rarely got to have friends over. Not exactly the best way to exposed to the world. As I got older, I found myself enjoying things in nerd and geek culture, and they made me happy, and I wanted to share that joy, not quite realizing a large majority of people weren’t into those things. So coupled with that, I grew up as “that weird kid” in school that a lot of people didn’t associate with (and even teased and made fun of) unless they needed schoolwork help. This continued until I left college and left the working world.

            Cue me, ill-equipped and shoved into a world of “adults” where everyone was as smart as I was. I didn’t know how to really handle it until a boss pointed out to me that my abrupt demeanor was causing a lot of friction with the team. I rebelled against it for a long time; I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Eventually I had to take a step back and see that the problem came from myself. I was steadfastly aware people were getting annoyed with me or bored when I rambled on, but undoing 30+ years of personality is TOUGH. I’m just now starting to catch myself. I still feel vaguely threatened if I feel I’m being outshined. My solution was to start constructing a “mask” at work: a hint of my personality coupled with showing interest in others. I started learning to ask about other people and their life happenings and their feelings versus focusing on me. It’s not 100% all together yet, but it’s getting there, and I’m hoping eventually it’ll all come together and I can save the verbal diarrhea for my friends.

            I suspect Sansa might come from something similar. A lot of people who want to “one up” people or focus attention on themselves come from backgrounds where a lot of expectations are heaped upon them but didn’t really get acknowledgement for the things they, themselves, thought were noteworthy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what Sansa’s struggling with. It’s really up to her whether to change that, however. Sometimes it triggers self-awareness, and sometimes it doesn’t.

            Reply
            1. Lil Fidget

              You sound very self aware and I’m glad you’re learning to deal with it! I’m 33 and haven’t really learned to share nicely so I sympathize :P

              Reply
            2. OP

              Thank you for your insight! I don’t know too much about her family life growing up, but it is worth considering where this is stemming from.

              Reply
          6. Sarah

            My grandmother used to tell everybody what a lovely person she was and how everybody else thought so when being told to knock off making nasty remarks or bullying her DIL. She honestly believed she was wonderful. The only thing that worked was being told to hush by her husband or her son, and that only worked for about an hour.

            Reply
          7. NaoNao

            I have an oblivious family member who is a genuinely nice person but she is *totally* the type of person who would shout out a version of “don’t worry we’re trying” during a pregnancy announcement. As far as I can tell, it’s a misguided sense of “I’m trying to make/keep a playful, fun, joking atmosphere during a happy time!” and she’s likely seen others pull off what to *her* seem like similar riffs and “keep it going” jokes.
            People like this lack what I call “fine tuning the dial” where they can’t tune into those ultra fine social distinctions, like how is it funny when everyone is standing around telling “one upping” jokes and laughing their heads off in the break room and then glowering at me when I try to do it at a different party?

            This family member noted “Every suggestion I make is greeted with disgust, all the time. Immediate no. Everyone else at meetings, they give a suggestion, it’s “oh, how great, what a great idea”; I go to give a suggestion, barf bags are passed around.”

            She doesn’t seem to make the connection that she’s *ultra* negative, critical, and hard to please and has a haughty, school teacher, scolding vibe and comes off very scathing and harsh most of the time. So maybe people think she can handle reactions like those that she doles out? Heh.

            The thing is, certain people *love* her. She can schmooze it up with the best of them and elderly people adore her. So she has this idea that because some people love her over the top, ultra high energy, demanding, almost manic persona, on top of all the other vibes I mentioned, *everyone* must love it.

            Just a window into a Difficult Family Member’s mind.

            Ooh! That reminds me, OP, get the Dealing With Difficult People book! Very helpful.

            Reply
        3. paul

          I suspect a lot more people have some annoying tendencies than want to admit it for one.

          But I have tendencies in this direction and can comment on some of where I think they stem for me.

          I do have mild social anxiety (worked on it therapy for a few years and that helped substantially). As far as I ever figured out, *for me* there is a mix of wanting to know that people saw me as a person, a desire for recognition, a desire to be viewed as competent/able to function. There’s that underlying sense of “If I can demonstrate that I understand this topic/have a logical thought process/have a good insight I’ll be more accepted and valued!”

          There’s also, in my case, difficulty reading soft social cues (it’s part of why I like online interaction more than in person–there’s not any body language online!). Stuff like body language and non verbal cues can be hard for me to decipher, although I don’t know if that’s tied to anxiety or just it’s own weak point in my social skills.

          That said, it’s kind of everyone’s obligation to try to *not* be a PITA in the workplace. And other people aren’t required to magically put up with it–they have their own work to do, may have their own internal issues too, etc.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            I was just thinking to myself, “It’s the person who believes that she is ignored, who actually does ignore other people.”

            Why not call her on that, OP? “I have asked you to stop explaining and you are ignoring me.”

            I have also seen people use “shock”: “I know you think I am stupid and that you must explain something obvious to me. People aren’t as stupid as you think they are!”

            Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      I suspect it is sad for Sansa! She probably is aware that people don’t like her and wishes that they did (even if she doesn’t really register that her *changeable behaviors* are *causing* this to happen). Perhaps this can help OP be a little compassionate to Sansa, even though that doesn’t mean she has to let herself be interrupted or go out of her way to engage with her.

      Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Yeah, but that’s still so sad. Think about it from her perspective: “I’m so great and easy to get along with, but somehow my coworkers cut me off in the middle of my sentences, and now they avoid me. I want to be friends with them but it seems like we’re not friends. But I can’t imagine what could be wrong.”

          Reply
          1. OP

            I think this is a good perspective – it helps to understand where the behavior might be coming from. Thanks for sharing!

            Reply
    3. BadPlanning

      For me, I have a need to be clever. And this can come out in annoying ways. I am trying to reign it in, but sometimes it still pops out. This can be annoyingly explaining things or stealing someone’s story telling thunder by blurting out the conclusion (and the story teller isn’t cue-ing you to guess what happens).

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        Yeah, most people do some one-uping on occasion, and I think feeling insecure or out-of-place is a very common cause.

        I tend to ramble when I’m nervous, and I can certainly see that being irritating to people.

        Reply
    4. C Average

      I have been the annoying coworker. I’m trying really hard not to be.

      My self-awareness and efforts to improve are 100% attributable to this column and this commentariat. Both nature (autism spectrum disorder) and nurture (raised by bookish hippies way the hell out in the country) ill-prepared me for playing well with others. I barely knew soft skills were even a thing! I assumed work was about doing your tasks well.

      Looking back, I can see that various colleagues tried (kindly and sometimes not so kindly) to correct me, but they often weren’t specific enough or direct enough to really reach me.

      Something about seeing specific behaviors specifically described brought home to me, “Hey, wow, that’s a thing I do, and apparently it bugs people. I’m going to try to stop.” And the fact that the observations were general ones, not criticism directed at ME, defused any defensive instinct on my part.

      Maybe Sansa needs to start reading AAM . . .

      Reply
      1. JeanB in NC

        I know that I, for one, would have been a lot better off in my career if AAM had been around 30 years ago. Getting the benefit of other people’s experience without having to be defensive would have been so good for me.

        Reply
      2. Libritech

        Yeah, it’s a bit disheartening to see how many people here are sure all of this is knowing and intentional rudeness. Sansa’s behavior does sound pretty extreme, but some of it matches up with a lot of things people do -with positive intent- when, for reasons of culture/neural difference/experience they are unaware of some of the related norms. Direct and non-blaming feedback related to specific behaviors is often kind and appreciated, by people who want to learn those norms. Of course, some norm-violators may not be interested in learning new norms (again for a variety of reasons), and that is not much fun for co-workers, and may legitimately be something that prevents workplace success, but is probably also not much fun for the Sansas of the world.
        Also, reiterating from my own comment down-thread, there are cultures and sub-cultures where responding to someone else’s story or anecdote with a related one of your own without direct solicitation is an expected and appropriate pattern of fully interactive communication.

        Reply
    5. Jon Snow the umpteenth

      I’m glad someone said that. I used to be (probably still am to some extent) one of the annoying people. My parents wouldn’t let me hang out with anyone as a kid – heck, they wouldn’t even let me go down to the playground because they were terrified of letting me come into contact with dirt, diseases from the other kids, strangers, the works. And although it pains me to say this, my mother was just like Sansa. The one-upping and making it all about herself sounds horribly familiar. Long story short, I grew up to be a Sansa-type with a severely underdeveloped understanding of social norms. If someone had been kind enough to tell me what I was doing wrong, my adolescent life would have been so much less painful.

      I hope OP or someone in their office has the kindness (and strong stomach!) to tell Sansa where she’s going wrong. Sometimes people just need guidance to get in touch with everyone else’s reality.

      Reply
  7. Reinhardt

    It seems like being ostracized is the natural consequence of how she continues to treat her co-workers, despite the issues having been brought up to her before. Could it be the wake up call she needs, since less harsh methods haven’t worked?

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      To be honest it sounds like OP has been pretty direct already! Those phrases are clear, and OP has even walked away while Sansa was talking. It sounds like she really just Doesn’t Get It at all.

      Reply
      1. Reinhardt

        Drastic times call for drastic measures. I have a co-worker similar to Sansa in level of annoying. It’s at the point where I’m probably ostracising her. I completely ignore her presence and don’t acknowledge her as long as there’s a reasonable excuse (I’m wearing headphones, and she wasn’t where I could clearly see her and she didn’t do anything like tap me on the shoulder).

        Kind? Not really. Crossing the line into ostracising? Probably. Effective? Yes. She generally leaves me alone much more than she used to, and my sanity remains intact.

        Reply
    2. Observer

      No. For one thing, it’s not the OP’s place, or that of her co-workers to administer “wake up calls.” For another, rude and obnoxious behavior is NOT an appropriate response to annoying behaviors in another person.

      That’s not to say that the OP and the rest of the office need to continue to just take it. But Allison gave some good advice in how to minimize the real problems. And perhaps another chat between OP’s manager and Sansa’s manager about the work interuptions would be in place. That’s a totally actionable item.

      Reply
  8. also has terrible coworkers

    ooh, interesting response! I have coworkers that, when I know I will have to consult them on X project or talk to them for whatever reason, it absolutely fills me with DREAD. I’m really ruminating on this line: “You’re not obligated to sit next to her at meetings or talk to her beyond the obligatory office pleasantries. You of course can’t ostracize her — you have a professional obligation and a human obligation to be civil to her.”

    Like, if I purposely choose to email this colleague rather than have a face-to-face, or consult someone else regarding the project, is that ostracizing? The two people I’m thinking of are just so DRAINING. I guess I know it’s wrong if in my head I’m saying to myself “I am taking actions to purposely avoid interacting with this person,” right?

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      I think email versus in person is just sanity preserving. The line would be crossed if you didn’t rope them *at all* in on something that was reasonably their purview because of interpersonal reasons, IMO.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I agree. Altering your method of communication to one that’s going to be less painful is fine, as long as you’re not losing anything in the process. Choosing to not contact them at all and doing the work based on your best guess because you don’t want to have to ask for their input would be a problem.

        Reply
      2. also has terrible coworkers

        Out of curiosity: does it make a difference if my default form of communications is face-to-face with everyone else in the office? Like, if other people notice that I don’t have face-to-faces with Sansa, is that worrisome?

        Reply
        1. LBK

          I think it’s probably only noticeable to you because you know you’re doing it – I’m trying to think about my coworkers’ communication habits and I don’t think I pay attention enough to note any patterns. If anything people generally seem to default to the preference of the person they’re contacting (so most people email/IM me because that’s what I prefer, whereas people generally call my coworker that sits next to me because that’s what she prefers).

          Reply
        2. Lil Fidget

          Hmm, if people were raising this to me I might be concerned I was being too obvious! I would probably just start a habit of emailing a few other people in the office more often so that it wasn’t such a bright line, haha.

          Reply
        3. Shiara

          I don’t think it’s a problem to have different communication styles with different people. I have had coworkers where I had to hunt them down in person if I wanted an answer in under 24 hours, whereas other people preferred e-mail and others preferred chat depending on what the question was.

          That said, if your office as a whole has a strong face-to-face culture in general, then it might be noticed and it might be commented on. But assuming that it’s mostly you with the preference for face-to-face and other people do things their way, it’s unlikely that you e-mailing some people instead will even be noticed. And if it is, you can say something along the lines of “I didn’t need an immediate answer, and though this might give me something to refer back to in the future.” depending on the specific situation.

          It’s good to be efficient about your time and energy levels at work, even if that means being strategic about how you interact with certain coworkers.

          Reply
        4. Rusty Shackelford

          Yeah, I doubt other people notice. There’s one person in my office who is Not Speaking To Me. We only communicate via email. Our supervisor hasn’t noticed.

          Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      No, choosing a different medium for communication is not ostracizing. Not communicating at all would potentially be ostracizing.

      Reply
    3. Rincat

      I’m curious about this as well, because in my last position, there was an Office Jerk who was just so draining to be around. Any question or request from him resulting in 30+ minutes of lecturing, and usually went off-topic. Often, he would just take my work from me instead of answering my question, so I never had a chance to learn how to do something correctly because he’d just take over.

      It got to the point where I would email him only when I was working from home – so he couldn’t come to my office and yell at me. I also asked other coworkers for help. I’d say hi to him in the morning, or occasional “how are yous” in the break room (which resulted in more shouty lectures!), but I just didn’t have the energy for anything else.

      Reply
      1. Lissa

        Yeah, this is where it gets challenging. Everyone is *somebody’s* version of Annoying Coworker and there’s gonna be someone who’s just like “oh god them” because their quirks just rub them the wrong way. avoiding them is a reasonable reaction. It doesn’t become less reasonable on an individual basis if somebody is, well, many people’s Annoying Coworker, IMO. But then you have the whole office avoiding and it becomes way more noticeable.

        Like me not going to a party/club night because I see 50 others are going and I am peopled out – fine. Then if each of the other 50 people does it it’s somebody’s high school nightmare of “and nobody came” and yikes…even though each individual person is doing nothing wrong.

        Reply
  9. High Score!

    If Sansa is talking to you while you’re trying to work, that IS an issue you should bring to the attention of your manager and hers. And like others have said, be very blunt with her since she isn’t picking up on social cues.

    Reply
  10. Dawn

    My old neighbor is like this, super loud and abrasive, complete one-upper, but an excellent neighbor. She moved 3 months ago, and I still talk to her at least twice a week, I just had to learn the best ways to talk with her. If I need to talk I call her, so she knows I need a friendly ear, she initiates the call when she needs to talk. Approaching the person with a clear simple reason, and staying on track works, and don’t feel rude for interrupting an interruptor.

    Reply
  11. namelesscommentator

    It sounds like this might be a “bitch eating crackers” situation. She might be highly annoying – but all that gets amplified when you focus on it, especially if you talk with other coworkers enough to have a “Sansa speak” codeword.

    I’d limit my interactions with, AND about her. And in the moment with things like “please let me finish” “can we please have it a little quieter in here – there’s x space if you need to have a conversation”

    But talking with your coworkers about how annoying Sansa is only ever results in her being more annoying – so as relieving in the moment in may feel – I’d do my beat to stay out of those conversations.

    Reply
      1. OP

        You are definitely right! We have acknowledged that we are all at the point where anything she does is annoying, and that’s not a good place to be. Unfortunately there is no way to limit our interactions. Our desks are next to each other in an open floor plan, so much of the time she is talking to me we are both sitting at our respective desks.

        Reply
        1. WorkerM

          OP, I know this is so much easier said than done, but can you declare a temporary moratorium on your involvement in any Sansa talk among your co-workers? Even talking about how you feel guilty is still talking about her. You can just tell your co-workers that talking about it is not helping you, you’re going to try to avoid those commiserations to see how that affects your ability to cope with her, and then change the subject.

          Reply
          1. OP

            Yes definitely. We really don’t talk about her too much – in fact most of us thought we were the only ones annoyed with her for a while because no one said anything to each other about it. Then we slowly realized everyone felt the same way. It is definitely not something we are all standing around discussing, but there are the eye rolls and such which I can do my best to not participate in.

            Reply
            1. Lil Fidget

              I guess the only other comment I would make (one that I had to do for myself) is a little soul searching here. Is your office maybe a little cliquey, having worked together well for so long? Totally understandable, but not ideal. Are you maybe from similar backgrounds or have similar sense of humor? This might be a sign to change it up and be more open to new people. Groupthink can feel really good when you are on the team, but if your office is going to grow, you have to welcome diverse people and find ways to work with them.

              Reply
              1. OP

                I am always willing to learn and do some introspection, so I appreciate the comment and will take it to heart! Just for context, I started about 6 months before Sansa and was able to get along well with the team, and two other women have started since Sansa who also have not had issues. I do think many of us are from the same background which is unfortunate because I think we would benefit from a more diverse team, but Sansa shares the same background.

                Reply
            2. WorkerM

              OP, you seem like a good co-worker for the Sansas of the world to have. It sounds like while you definitely want to be an efficient, productive employee and be proactive about issues with workplace culture, you are also following your moral compass in terms of being empathetic and kind to Sansa. I hope the situation improves.

              Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          “Unfortunately there is no way to limit our interactions. Our desks are next to each other in an open floor plan, so much of the time she is talking to me we are both sitting at our respective desks.”

          You can interrupt her and say, “Sansa, please don’t interrupt me when I’m working. I’m trying to focus so I need you to stop talking at me.”

          Even if you were talking with someone just a little bit ago, or even if you stop to talk w/ someone else in a minute.

          Reply
          1. LKW

            I like to impart conditions on the interrupter:

            Is this work related?
            Are you completely stopped?

            If the answer is No… go away. I’ve been known to make the shut mouth gesture with my hand while simultaneously saying “Shush. Just shush.” or bringing out the “Shut it” but usually that’s when I’m paying for coffee and they’re trying to protest.

            Reply
            1. Lil Fidget

              I have a very effective way of not moving my eyes from the screen and not turning my body when people come to bother me. I finish typing my sentence and then sort of half-turn my head and say “hmm?” in a distracted manner. They usually realize they are wasting my time, trail off, and sidle away.

              Reply
              1. Anon for this

                Oh this has worked so well for me. We have a couple of coworkers who tend to stop by for an interminable chat. They’re older guys, so maybe Theons rather than Sansas. When a Theon would pop into my work area, I also would finish typing my sentence, and act distracted. I’d answer Theon’s work-related question, if he has any, and then when he starts to ramble I’d excuse myself and turn back to my work and start typing again. At this point, Theon usually leaves. He might not be happy, but my work gets done and I am not feeling annoyed with Theon to the point where I’d never sit next to him at meetings. Win-win. The only downside is that Theon then finds another coworker to talk at; someone who cannot say no. I’ve heard someone tell me that they spend up to three hours per day listening to an office Theon; and then staying late after Theon leaves to make up the work.

                Reply
    1. Hc600

      Yup. Some people are socially clueless or have weird tics but the best way to deal is to just internally shrug and be like “oh there she goes again.” If someone’s violation of a social norm is gnawing at you in a way that’s disproportionate to the harm and there is little chance of fixing it there’s not many other options.

      As for continuing to talk, you just have to be blunt but polite. Some people really need that to be explicit. I don’t read social question well and struggle with knowing when someone wants me to go away, so I have some internal rules that trigger my pulling the plug on a convo, especially when they are traptat their desk. We also have a support staff dude who comes round every day for pick ups who’s further along the spectrum than I am, and I will sometimes initiate small talk with him but the ONLY way those conversations ever end is if I say something like “well thanks Fergus! Got to get back to work.” He doesn’t get offended as far as I can tell.

      Reply
  12. Decima Dewey

    “She is nice and she does good work, but she has some personality quirks that are driving everyone crazy.”

    Why does OP say that Sansa is nice? She sounds anything but nice.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Because the OP works with her day to day and sees a lot of her beyond what’s included in the letter. People aren’t going spend time detailing the ways in which their co-worker *isn’t* a problem.

      Reply
    2. Myrin

      I’ve found that people tend to use “nice” as a shorthand for something like “meets general social expectation of basic politeness”; I’ve become kind of known in my social and familial circle for saying “well, everyone is nice, that’s not really anything to write home about” because rare are the people who can’t even manage to stop themselves from saying “oh, it’s all you f*ckers in this godforsaken decrepit sh*thole of a building again, like always, gosh” when they arrive at work in the mornings.

      Reply
    3. boop the first

      Hmm… If I consider someone I know who is also a bit narcissistic, I would also have said she was “nice”. Always smiles, acts modest, offers gifts, and I wouldn’t have believed back then that the compliments were actually backhanded/sarcastic yet (they just… seeeeeemed to be, but no, surely that’s just awkwardness! Surely!). That is, until enough time has passed and enough dreadful “slip ups” finally affirm that suspicion that so-and-so is so incredibly NOT a nice person underneath it all.

      It’s possible that after only six months, OP hasn’t met Drunk Sansa yet. Or Opportunistic Sansa (planning a long, expensive trip? I’ll invite myself and offer nothing!).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Or that people can be simultaneously nice and really annoying. I think we tend to overlean to making people into villains when they can cause problems without being bad humans.

        Reply
          1. Decima Dewey

            I’ve found generally if someone tells me X “is so nice” or “has a good heart”, that sooner or later I’ll be able to list a dozen meaner people that I’d rather work with.

            Reply
        1. Lissa

          Yes! I see this a lot when people write letters detailing problems “Oh, you say they are nice/good etc., but they actually aren’t…” .well, no, they easily could be. The OP shouldn’t have to spend a paragraph detailing how Sansa brings cookies to sick coworkers or something – she really easily could be a genuinely kind person, and also annoying!

          Reply
        2. Someone else

          I took it to mean “nice” as opposed to “mean”. As in, Sansa has shown herself to be often rude or condescending (and thus annoying), via the examples in the letter, but has never shown herself to appear to be deliberately unkind. I don’t know that it changes the advice, but that’s how I took the remark, as additional context.

          Reply
    4. BananaRama

      I used to have a “chirper” at work. She was a nice lady. Kind and polite. However, she had a maddening quirk that drove me crazy. She would be looking at something on the computer and say “huh,” “oh,” “uh huh,” or other points of explanation that a reasonable individual keeps to an internal monologue. Nope, not this lady; she chirped those exclaimed utterances all freaking day. It drove me IN-SANE. Headphones couldn’t keep out that upbeat pitch. After a few months, she moved to a different office; but up to then, it drove me crazy. I would still call her nice though.

      Reply
  13. Ramona Flowers

    I had a colleague who would not stop interrupting people at their desks at really inappropriate moments eg interrupting a conversation I was having with my grandboss and great-grandboss.

    I ended up having to really practise saying things like: “I can’t talk right now – you need to ask someone else” or “This is not a good time.” Do not make eye contact or smile while saying these things!

    Reply
  14. EA

    How would a manager deal with someone who is annoying? I feel like she might be able to give some feedback on interrupting, but most of this is her personality, which isn’t going to change.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      You can try to give very specific examples around active listening when others are talking. Certainly bothering others when they’re working is something you can say to cut out. I’d guess someone who interrupts someone else’s baby shower isn’t ever going to become a super smooth communicator though. EQ is a thing.

      Reply
      1. IvyGirl

        This. I’ve even assigned some lynda.com active listening training for my “Sansa” staff member.

        It’s tough, though. This person thinks that they are the nicest, bestest employee ever, and that I’m the only manager they’ve ever had, EVER, that tries to address this behavior. They are very emotional, and take on the “office parent” role to younger staff, unsolicited, and often takes it upon themself to “speak for the group”. Yep, that’s my Sansa!

        It’s hard to keep on track and assert that no, me managing you is not “bullying”, that if your manager is mentioning something to you at every one on one and in performance evaluations that YES, it is something that you need to change. I’ve also gently suggested to get their hearing checked, since I think that is a contributor as well.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          > I’ve also gently suggested to get their hearing checked, since I think that is a contributor as well.

          Ugh. A member of my knitting group is incredibly self-centered. She often interrupts others, sometimes to ask questions that the sentence they interrupted was in the middle of answering. She tries to join conversations in progress but only repeats what others have said. She interrupts her own conversation with someone else to ask another conversation to repeat everything they just said. And if anything isn’t right for her, we all get to hear the details of why it isn’t right. In general, she tries to make herself the center of all conversation and it gets really annoying in a group of only 6-8.

          At one point, we were on an outing, and I asked her about her hearing. She’s of an age where it could be a factor. I was trying really hard to come up with innocent reasons for why she was so annoying (this is a skill from Crucial Confrontations) and that’s what I came up with. SHE WAS SO INSULTED that I asked about her hearing. I *almost* said, “Look, would you rather have a hearing problem or just be an a**hole? Because that’s what you’re doing and I was trying to give you an out.” But I didn’t. I just gritted my teeth and avoided her that day.

          (A few months ago, I noticed that she was interrupting A LOT less and even caught herself doing it sometimes. I figured that someone she respected – like her adult daughter – had finally blown up at her. It’s been wearing off again.)

          Reply
          1. Sarah

            Behavior reinforced is behavior learned. Could you say, maybe on the way out the door for the evening, you’ve noticed how she’s not interrupting as much and just had to say how much more fun it is to be around her now? Or something. I’m sure somebody could come up with a better way to say it, but saying something is key to her being able to maintain the change.

            Reply
    2. Observer

      Well, there are some clearly actionable items here – and the interrupting is clearly a major irritant here. But, things like “please keep personal conversations to a minimum” or “You need to keep the volume of your conversations down” are things that a person CAN change if they make the effort.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        The problem is with people who have very low EQ – they’ll often need you to be even more specific than that. It’s not enough to just say “keep conversations to a minimum” – they don’t know what that means. They need to know (or will ask) exactly how many conversations is too many, how many they’re allowed to have, etc. Those are weird things to micromanage.

        Reply
    3. Katie the Fed

      It’s REALLY hard! And not something I’ve done particularly well. To be completely honest – they annoy us as much as they annoy you (if not more so). There are people I avoid more than I should because interactions are just so awful.

      I TRY to focus on specific behaviors and not personality, but it’s really hard to do that too. Interrupting is an easy one – I can easily tell someone they need to let others finish and not interrupt. But just weird social skills, one-upping – that’s REALLY hard. Especially when it’s just interactions with coworkers. I’m not a camp counselor.

      Reply
  15. WorkerM

    I’ve worked with this person and been driven BANANAS by them, so I get it, but to take Sansa’s POV for a moment, let’s assume some of these annoying habits are due to nerves. For me, the more nervous/self-conscious I feel, the more I find myself doing some of these things. (The nervous laughter especially!) If it has been only 6 months and a. these annoying/disruptive habits have already been brought to the attention of two managers and b. people are actively avoiding her and talking about her behind her back (“We are all starting to feel guilty…”), I have to wonder how quickly this group opinion of Sansa was decided. If it was decided pretty quickly, it could be self-reinforcing, with selective attention to her negative behaviors, rather than her positive ones or the negative behaviors of others.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      I thought that about the laughter. Often a sign of nerves. Still super annoying but dig deep for some compassion and it might fade over time.

      Reply
    2. SoCalHR

      I agree. That’s part of the problem with “annoying people” is often times they are annoying because they are insecure/nervous/lonely/desperate/etc…but then their status as annoying gets solidified pretty quickly…which then changes how people treat them…which usually amplifies whatever underlying feeling they have…which makes their behaviors worse. Its a bold move for someone to try to ‘lean into’ the annoyance to see if a little extra attention could help the situation.

      Reply
  16. Browser

    Alison, one of your ads is trying to install a virus on my computer via Chrome. I can’t tell which one it is, unfortunately.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      This is not the place for that. Right above the comment box, there’s a link for “You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here” and it’d be appreciated if you used that.

      Reply
  17. BePositive

    I echo Allison. Not your problem. Just continue to ignore and walk away (professionally)

    My Grade 6 daughter is going through this. Example, peer leaves jacket on the floor. Daughter happens to be standing close it it. Peer say “Don’t step on my jacket” When it’s clear daughter wasn’t (according to other classmates)

    Daughter was annoyed. I explained people like that do not deserve attention or set up real estate in your mind and heart. And then gave examples of my life learnings. She was appalled that adults can be like that (insert ask a manager worthy topic here)

    I advise when you push back, make it about the problem. Never get personal, never get angry, do not disrespect her when you engage. “I clearly didn’t step on it with my dirty shoes but why you leave it on the floor where anyone could step on it?”

    Best was I said to ask the peer if she did anything that would make the peer upset. Maybe she wronged her unwittingly.
    If she did, apologize for what she did. (Apparently peer could provide a reason other then she found daughter annoying)
    So daughter ignored the peer, which of course defused it. After a few weeks of that, peer stopped picking on my daughter.

    Sansa reminds me of that peer

    Ah…Grade 6 drama

    Reply
    1. boop the first

      I sometimes look back on grade school drama and wish I had some of those witty, mature-adult retorts we don’t get to learn about until later in life.

      Reply
      1. BePositive

        I been training my child, I’m sure she would have pushed back immaturely had she didn’t talk to me. I bet I would have retorted ‘WELL YOU DROPPED IT THERE, IT’S YOUR FAULT IF I DID STEP ON IT’S when I was in Grade 6

        Reply
  18. I'd rather be blue

    If management isn’t willing to check people on their crap behaviour, then there’s not much you can do other than assert your boundaries and protect yourself. The scripts offered above are really good ways to do that. You shouldn’t be mean, but it is entirely fair to behave the way you have been. It’s also reasonable that people haven’t wanted to socialize with her. That’s the natural consequence of being an annoying jerk who sucks up all the air in the room.

    My entire office is at war over a very similar issue (though we all pretty much hate each other), but management has done very little to correct it. So there’s not much that I can do other than keep my head down and push through each miserable day. I wish I had something more hopeful to offer, but people like this can poison an office.

    Reply
    1. a Gen X manager

      But a lot of the issues with Sansa are personality related or quirks, rather than actual performance behaviors (except maybe the interrupting work). So, how should management “check” Sansa for this?

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Actually, the “personality” bit is something of a lame excuse. No “maybe” about the interrupting. That’s a clearly changeable behavior, and it should change, even when she’s not interrupting someone’s work. Also, things like providing unsolicited “explanations” and a concrete behavior that can be changed. Talking at high volume in an open office is harder, but it’s not an immutable personality trait.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Right. Even if there is a personality that’s common to these behaviors, you address them as behaviors; it’s useless to tell somebody “stop being who you are” but it’s actionable to say “please modulate the volume of your voice more often.”

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          Yeah, I am seeing this personality stuff down through the thread. No, it’s a lack of basic manners, which are necessary at any job.

          Reply
      2. I'd rather be blue

        Consistently being noisy in an open office and interrupting people while working are performance issues that can and should be checked. I would suggest that management talk to her about it, make it clear that it’s a serious concern and that it’s hurting her professional reputation, and then keep their eyes out for if/when it happens again. Then, in the moment that it happens again, gently reminding her about that talk and call her on the behaviour. This should be done kindly and respectfully, but it should be done in the moment. That way she’ll have a very clear idea of what the behaviour is and can more clearly address it in the future. If it persists after several reminders, well, then something else has to be done.

        Also, if she’s interrupting people in the context of a meeting or work discussion, management could use the same script that was provided for the coworkers. If she’s being particularly unkind, a manager could say so. That might go a long way for morale in the office in general and might hold more weight coming from a position of authority. I’m not saying going out of your way to pick out these things, but if there’s an obvious example, I think it’s fair and appropriate to point it out.

        I don’t think it’s okay to just toss up your hands and blame it on her “personality.” Getting along is part of any job and there are a lot of things here she may be able to improve on, if she hears the message enough times and from the right people. It’s really doing her a disservice for her future career if it isn’t addressed and it’s putting the rest of the team through hell in the meantime.

        Reply
  19. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

    Oh dear. I have also worked with a Sansa. Your options are really limited. Even if you try to pull her aside and gently tell her how her behavior is affecting people, she may not have the self-awareness to actually believe you. It’s possible she lacks the social finesse to read the room and would try to do better if someone pointed out the ways her behavior sucks, but I think there’s a good chance Sansa would not be receptive to that. Considering the larger pattern, someone who would try to co-opt someone else’s pregnancy announcement is likely to be self-centered to the point of total unwillingness to reflect on her own behavior, rather than just kind of awkward.

    Be kind and professional to Sansa, of course, but be diligent about protecting your time, as you have been. Continue being firm when she tries to distract you from work. Be cordial at any work socializing situations, but you can end your interactions there – you don’t have to go to lunch with her, hang out with her after hours, or take the affordable open room in her great apartment with the convenient location and short commute because you tell yourself it “won’t actually be that bad, I know my boundaries and can deal with her.” Not That I’ve Ever Made That Particular Mistake Before Or Anything.

    Reply
  20. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    I have a really annoying coworker too! Right down to the loud talking and laughing in an open floor plan, and interrupting all the time. Problem is, there are things about her that make her obviously less privileged and could make her a target for being made fun of otherwise…

    But sometimes, people aren’t annoyed because you’re whatever-it-is. Sometimes, you’re just annoying, but the former can make it harder to address.

    Reply
  21. WorkerM

    I’m a little confused about the pregnancy comment. I understand it was just one example of her social gaffes, and there are likely others, but… if she started 6 months ago and the co-worker had a miscarriage last year, isn’t it possible that she wouldn’t know about it? Like, that’s a suboptimal way of involving yourself in someone else’s pregnancy announcement anyway, but it seems like the co-workers are assigning too much gall to this comment in a subconscious effort to support this negative view of Sansa.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Even if the coworker hadn’t had a miscarriage, that’s a pretty weird/inappropriate thing to say at that moment. Nobody was asking her – and to say “don’t worry” is especially weird, as if people were somehow expecting her to be getting pregnant?

      Reply
      1. McWhadden

        She probably meant it as a joke. The “don’t worry” thing is common in punch lines.

        Still super weird but she probably didn’t mean to be as invasive as it turned out to be.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Who was prompting her for a punchline there? A coworker’s pregnancy announcement doesn’t seem like the right time for a joke, never mind a joke that makes it all about you.

          Reply
          1. McWhadden

            Which is why I noted it was super weird. But I’m sure she didn’t mean it in a harsh way.

            Some people don’t really understand normal social rules or how it’s different in work from social setting. That is very annoying. But it’s not mean.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              I don’t think anyone was saying it was mean, just wildly inappropriate and rude; the OP uses that as an example of being “self-centered and insensitive,” which I’d say it is.

              Reply
          2. Not So NewReader

            I think it will be awhile before she gets the idea not to steal the stage from someone else. One thing she could be told there, is that the coworker was addressing the group and it did not require a response form her about her own setting.

            Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Even without knowledge of the prior miscarriage, this is just really out of touch – to yell and attention seek during someone else’s moment. My six year old niece is learning this right now. How old is Sansa?

      Reply
    3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

      Is there really an optimal way of involving yourself in someone else’s pregnancy announcement?

      Reply
      1. Malibu Stacey

        Yup – I think is the crux of it. It’s rude to try to hijack someone’s milestone announcement, even putting aside not having the context of why a joke would be inappropriate.

        Reply
      2. WorkerM

        Nope! It is inappropriate and annoying in any form. But I think it’s worth keeping an eye on how we construct the stories we tell ourselves about other people…the miscarriage detail is included because it makes her sound worse. I’m not trying to drag OP here; it sounds like this is part of the Lore of Sansa in the office.

        Reply
        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

          That’s a fair point, but I do think it underscores Sansa’s inability or unwillingness to read the room. Everyone was applauding, and instead of thinking “hey, this is a lot of reaction, there might be backstory here,” or even just “this is a particularly friendly and effusive office and I should act accordingly,” Sansa’s first impulse was apparently “attention being paid… to… not me?? Must change.”

          Reply
          1. WorkerM

            Yeah, and I have to be honest with myself, if someone said this when I announced a pregnancy, regardless of the backstory, I would be like HOW DARE YOU MA’AM.

            Reply
        2. LBK

          I think that detail was included as a way of saying “This comment would have been weird and inappropriate anyway, but in this particular case it’s doubly so because of the context.” Pregnancy can be a really sensitive subject – bad enough that she tried to be the center of attention, but to do so in this case was particularly oblivious. You have to expect that if you strut out into a minefield, you might step on a mine.

          Reply
          1. OP

            Yes – this is what I was trying to say. Thank you! I had more examples but I tried to keep the word count within Alison’s limit. For the record, she did know about the miscarriage. Two women in our office sadly miscarried around the same time, so it was talked about and I was present in a conversation when it was told to Sansa.

            Reply
      3. LKW

        Nope! I think if I were at the end of my rope with Sansa I might have said “Wait – did you just interrupt a pregnancy announcement to tell us that you’re not pregnant? Just be happy for the pregnant person – this her great news!”

        Reply
    4. Murphy

      I’d be appalled by that comment without the miscarriage aspect of it. To me, it’s just more of a “This moment is not about you at all.”

      Reply
    5. Observer

      Well, who interrupts someone’s pregnancy announcement with their own – especially in this manner. “Oh, that’s nice! We’re trying too.” would be odd, but much less so and a lot less offensive. Also, when everyone applauds, that’s a clear signal that there is something out of the ordinary going on here. So, it’s just not the time to insert yourself, especially like this.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        So weird. And weird in general when people tell you they’re trying. Um….thanks for letting me know you’re having unprotected sex. Cool?

        Reply
        1. Caitlin

          Thank you! I don’t want to hear that, either. I’d like to know if someone wanted kids or if there’s good news in that area, but I’d rather they keep the trying stuff to themselves.

          Reply
  22. McWhadden

    I work with a dude like this who especially was big on the explaining everything and it would drive me nuts. Ironically, one example is he’d always try to explain the plot of Game of Thrones to me. I watch the show, I’ve read all the books (including supplemental books), I read about it online. Why are you constantly trying to explain basic plots and characters to me? And I’d nicely say that.

    Honestly, four years in, I’ve mostly just gotten used to it and have learned to manage it. I’ve also gotten comfortable with cutting him off. Or being what I would normally consider rude. And the good thing about it is he’s pretty oblivious to that just as he’s oblivious to more polite social cues.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      He probably thinks you’re bonding over mutual enjoyment. I have a cousin that enjoys explaining things about his hobby, and he doesn’t think about the experience of his listener at all – he just lacks the ability to put himself in their shoes. You’re kind to listen though.

      Reply
      1. McWhadden

        That’s absolutely it. I realize now. At the time it was like “what the hell?”

        At this point it’s endearing, honestly. But it definitely took some time to get there.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          This is the status I wish for OP! “Oh dear, well Sansa’s gotta Sansa.” I am now somewhat fond of my Sansa even though he’s no less annoying than ever. I just reached a place of compassion and (kindly!) amusement. It helps that he *is* trying and does mean well. I’m not so sure this person is benign honestly, given the baby shower thing.

          Reply
  23. TootTootTootsieroll

    Agree that she is not your problem to solve. Be careful to not fall into the mind-think of “everyone dislikes her” – while it may be true, that way of thinking can make it more difficult for you shake off the irritating behavior. Instead of a growing irritation based on your personal interaction, the open floor plan gives you the opportunity to be irritated based on any observed interactions as well.

    Keep your boundaries, keep your calm, and remember that her attempts to make herself the main character of every story, does not mean she should be more than a side note (she is JarJar binks, not Darth Vader).

    Be boring, be uninterested, be factual and be cardboard (Maude Pie if you were a little pony). And as Allison recommend keep doing what you’ve been doing: “Hey, please don’t interrupt me.” “Arya was in the middle of a sentence there — I wanted to hear what she was saying.” Continue walking away, as you’ve been doing, if she doesn’t stop.

    Reply
  24. EddieSherbert

    I had a friend like this (I genuinely liked her, just in small doses!). The worst was saying goodbye to her…. The convos would go:

    “okay, Sansa, it was nice running into you at the coffee shop but I got to go!”
    “… yeah, don’t want to be late. Hey, I read this one study about timeliness…”
    “That’s cool, but really, I got to go!”
    “Oh right! But this study was done by some college and….”
    “Bye!”
    “Right, but to wrap up that study”
    *I leave*

    I had a couple other friends who didn’t know her that witnessed one or two of those and were horrified I was so rude to her – but it never seemed to bug her and I think she honestly thought that was a normal way conversations ended? Because it happened to her a lot? Haha.

    But I couldn’t imagine working with her. I’d be walking away from everywhere, for everything, all the time, because it was the only sure-fire way to end a conversation!

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      I think if you loved a person who had this habit, you could address it big picture and see improvement with a few reminders. “Sometimes when it’s time to leave, you seem to have trouble ending the conversation, and it makes me feel like I have to walk away while you’re still talking. I’d love it if we could get to a place where, once I say I have to go, you say, *Okay bye.*” Then, next time they do this, you could say, “Hey sorry, this is that thing we talked about. I have to leave, can we try *Okay Bye*?” After one or two times, this might make a difference. However, it’s not a technique for acquaintances or even coworkers with limited interactions. They have to know you’re doing it out of love for it to work.

      Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford

      Is your friend my mother in law?

      Actual conversations with the husband:

      “Bye Mom, I’ll talk to you later.”
      “Okay, dear. Oh, how is Rusty?”
      “She’s great. I’ve got to go, I’ll talk to you later.”
      “Okay. I hope you had good weather today.”
      “Yes, thanks. I have to go, love you, bye.”
      “It’s going to get colder this weekend!”
      etc.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        Ha, my mom says bye and then keeps talking!

        She’s 80. So I give her a break.

        But, after a third “okay bye” from her, I say, in a super chirpy voice, “OK bye mom talk later!” and hang up.

        Reply
      2. Decima Dewey

        The answer to that is what one batter said to Yogi Berra when the batter came up to the plate: “I’m fine. You’re fine. My wife is fine. Your wife is fine. It’s a nice day. Now let me hit in peace.”

        Reply
  25. Admin Amber

    She may be socially awkward and does not know how to interact with people. I am thinking of a young woman at an engineering firm I worked with. Sweet girl, but really overpowered conversations and had a lot of socially awkward behaviors. Some fields have more weirdos than others. You just have to be kindly blunt with these types of people.

    Reply
  26. Guacamole Bob

    I’m a little surprised that Sansa’s comment at the pregnancy announcement isn’t getting more attention in the comments, and I think it casts all of this in a different light. “Don’t worry guys, we’re working on it too” doesn’t read to me just as “look at me!”, but also as being downright cruel to a colleague who had had a miscarriage. “Don’t worry, it’s okay if she loses this baby too, because I’ll get pregnant soon and surely that pregnancy will stick so the office can still have a baby to celebrate!” I mean, who says something like that, especially in front of someone who is going through the emotional roller coaster that is pregnancy after a miscarriage?

    If that type of comment is typical, I think OP and everyone else involved have more standing to complain to their own manager and/or Sansa’s manager and ask them to talk to Sansa about how to not be offensive and insensitive. And OP can be more direct at calling out these kinds of comments in the moment.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      She has only been there six months and the miscarriage happened last year. I would hope the co-workers don’t gossip about miscarriages behind people’s backs. So, she very likely didn’t know.

      It is still a very weird thing to do. But I doubt it was intended to be cruel.

      Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      I think we assume Sansa is new and doesn’t know about the miscarriage (or just meant “don’t worry” as a way to break into the conversation, rather than addressing the subject at hand), and isn’t being deliberately hurtful here by suggesting that the coworkers baby might not make it. I wouldn’t attribute to malice what is probably (social) incompetence. However, if she did mean it as you suggest that would be a whole different level of hateful.

      Reply
    3. OP

      She did know about the miscarriage – unfortunately two women in our office miscarried around the same time and were open with the team about it so it was talked about. However I agree that I didn’t read it as malicious, just oblivious and self-centered.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        My inner 7th grader liked Sansa’s remark about ‘working on it’ and says it was intended as dirty joke camaraderie, not malice.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        She probably thought she had to say something. This can be discouraged by telling her that she does not have to respond to everything that is said, no one expects that of her.

        Reply
    4. Lissa

      Whoa, I think that’s reading a lot into her intent! Honestly, it probably didn’t even occur to her that she should be more gentle because of a past miscarriage/she had forgotten/wasn’t thinking about it. I agree Sansa sounds incredibly annoying here, but I really think “ignorance, not malice” is what’s going on here, or as someone said below, a bad attempt at a dirty joke.

      TBH until it was pointed out to me I would not immediately think this was worse than if it was any other coworker, though I accept others do, so I don’t think it needs Sansa to be malicious to do this.

      Reply
  27. Emma

    I am having a similar dilemma with a person at work and could use any advice someone has. This coworker used to be my formal company mentee, so I feel some sense of obligation to her even though she works with a different team now. She’s really annoying people to the point they avoid her, and I think it will hurt her long term chances here if no one wants to be around her. Part of our job is some self-selection by senior people of who they give work to, so if you don’t jive with them eventually they’ll stop giving you work, and then your long-term chances here aren’t so great. People who don’t have enough work eventually get pushed out. It hasn’t gotten to that yet, and she’s really junior and new to the workforce, and it’s not malicious at all, so I want to help her. But I’m having a hard time putting a finger on what it is exactly that is so annoying to others. The one concrete thing I can point to is that her stories are always long. For example, everyone will chime in a sentence about the topic of conversation at a similar pace, and she’ll start on a long tangent (actual example–she once said: “There are 3 things that bother me about this. #1. [long explanation], #2 [long explanation], #3..” you get the idea.) By the time she’s done, everyone is totally bored of what she is talking about. I could tell her about that, but I don’t think that fully captures what is going on. How do you tell someone that their personality is annoying and they need to tone it down?! Should I maybe quietly ask people I trust (who have expressed their annoyance about her to me) for some specific feedback I could give her?

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      If other people are telling you how annoyed they are, you should hop on the chance to ask them what it is that’s bothering them, and since you’re her old mentor and in a good place to offer her feedback, I think it would a good idea to follow up on old complaints (not just in the moment). Do you think maybe they were complaining to you in a “Maybe Emma can tell Sansa to stop being so aggravating” way?

      Reply
      1. Emma

        Hmm…..I don’t think they were hinting that necessarily. It was more that when Sansa leaves the room, they roll their eyes and make comments about how she’s annoying. But I do think I could follow up with them as you suggest and say I was thinking about it and I wanted to give her some feedback so maybe she can fit in a little better. I think they would be open to that, though they may have the same struggle as me and not know how to put their finger on what the behavior is exactly. As others say below, though, it’s going to be a really hard task for her to change the perception of her being the annoying one…

        Reply
    2. fposte

      Agreeing with you and with Emi–there’s nothing you can do without specifics, and people shouldn’t just be moaning to you without actionable details, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask. “I’d love to give her some coaching on this–can you give me a specific incident? And if you can’t right now, can you shoot me the details when you remember one or if it happens again?”

      Reply
    3. Observer

      I don’t think you can usefully tell her that her personality is annoying. But you CAN pick a few specific, although broad items. Like “You need to pay attention to people’s interest levels. And take your cues on how long to speak from others.” Then give her a few examples.

      Reply
    4. silence

      Perhaps pointers on conversations aren’t monologues and keeping on point.
      advise to keep responses to either a certain amount of time / sentences / less then the last person

      Reply
  28. Overeducated

    Our Sansa settled down after a few months. First they were moved to a desk directly in front of their boss’s office because they were distracting others too much. Then…I think we crushed their spirit and they quieted down a LOT. I feel a little bad because I had to be a little unfriendly on purpose – e.g. most people get my full attention when they stop by my desk to say hi on the way somewhere because then they LEAVE, but Sansa would just want to have a long conversation at these random times, so I would say “hi” while mostly keeping my eyes on my screen and looking busy. A few months of little coldnesses like that had a real effect on toning down the behavior, but Sansa is also publically job searching, I think it hurts.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, it does stink. Especially because people’s first impressions are really hard to improve, so once everybody thinks Sansa is annoying, it’s hard for them to notice any good changes she might be making – even ONE irritating giggle takes you back to 100% hatred even if they have cut down 99.9% on the annoyances. So often once the relationship sowers the person will end up leaving.

      Reply
  29. LBK

    Some of this sounds like a new person who’s trying to break into a group dynamic and isn’t quite getting the rhythm of it. I’ve both been that person and seen that person, and Sansa sounds like a particularly bad example, mainly because she’s not realizing that she’s out of sync with the rest of the group. At a high level, most of these examples sound like trying to force herself into conversations by interjecting when she thinks she’s got something relevant to contribute, even when it’s totally inappropriate like during a coworker’s pregnancy announcement. Even the over-explaining of things could be related, since she’s trying to make it known what she’s knowledgeable about and therefore what conversations she might be a good contributor to.

    I worked on a team of pretty sarcastic people at a previous job and we had a certain snarky group dynamic even when discussing work-related things, but we’d all known each other for years and had a firm grasp on where the boundaries were. A new guy came into the group and tried to jump right into the bantering, which resulted in occasionally taking a big swing and missing. I ended up having a conversation where I basically told him to just back off a little and listen more rather than contribute as much, which was painful but ultimately helpful in the long run since he stopped making himself look like an ass in every meeting.

    (For the record, this was in retail where the standards of professional conversation were slightly lower – I wouldn’t expect people to get accustomed to a dynamic like that in an office.)

    Reply
    1. OP

      Thanks for your insight! I agree that this is probably the underlying cause, but I am not sure how to fix the group dynamic. I started 6 months before Sansa, and two others have started since her, so it’s not like she is joining a team that has been together for 10 years.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Unfortunately I’m not sure there’s a whole lot you can do – it doesn’t sound like you have a relationship with her where you could take her aside and point out to her that maybe she should take a backseat for a while until she can get a better sense of how the team tends to communicate.

        The only thing I can think of is something that kind of sounds counterproductive, but might help in the long run: let her run with her interjections and over-explaining sometimes, even though it will be super annoying. If you let her feel like she’s contributing and essentially let her work that urge to be a part of things out of her system, she might be less inclined to force her way in all the time.

        My interest in social conversation at work tends to be pretty low, especially face-to-face conversations that I can’t hold while multitasking like I can with IM. My coworker that sits next to me loves to chat, though, and while she’s gotten better at sensing when I’m in the midst of something and don’t want to be interrupted, I have found that it helps if I just indulge her sometimes when I can afford the free time. It also helps remind me that she is actually a funny, interesting person that I like talking to when she’s not bugging me mid-work task, which helps me get less annoyed in times when she is a little more intrusive.

        Reply
        1. OP

          That is very helpful – thank you! I will try that. I’m always hesitant to engage with her because I never know how long it will take, but maybe trying a few times a week will help.

          Reply
      2. serenity

        OP, as Alison said it’s not up to you to *fix* anything and it also sounds like you don’t have the standing to do so unilaterally either (as you said, Sansa’s manager is aware of some of the issues).
        Use Alison’s suggestions to clearly and directly let Sansa know in the moment that she is interrupting and needs to back off, or that you are busy and can’t talk.
        Otherwise, it’s not incumbent on you to *fix* social awkwardness with someone less adept at reading social cues.

        Reply
        1. OP

          Good point! I need to remember that I can only do so much and just be at peace with the rest – something I am working on in general.

          Reply
  30. The Ginger Ginger

    I think the only thing I would add to AAM’s excellent advice is – don’t let yourself fall into gossiping about her behind her back with your other coworkers. It sounds like you all might do this a little bit given you have a name for the way she obnoxiously explains things. A one time private convo with a coworker about how you handle her behavior (if you’re asked) is fine, of course; but don’t let your annoyance (and boy, does she sound annoying) lead you into pulling up a bowl of popcorn and going to town with coworkers about all the ways she drives everybody up the wall. So tempting, but avoid it; it ends up in unkind territory, and actually will make everyone’s attitudes/feelings towards her worse in the long run. Just be coolly civil and professional with her, and allow her to reap the social consequences of her own behavior.

    Kind but distant sounds like the only workable strategy here.

    Reply
  31. clow

    I wonder if Sansa is doing some of this in an attempt to feel part of the team. If OP and the rest of the team have worked together for a while, I can imagine sansa feels like an outsider. The laughter at weird times is a common thing people who are nervous do. We have someone who laughs a lot at weird times at my work, and people tend to avoid her/make her feel unwelcome just because of that, it makes her talk more out of nervousness and honestly i think its a mean thing to get hung up. Sansa might interject herself into conversations to feel acknowledged or feel like she is one of the team (not saying its ok to interrupt people). The condescending thing might be something she isnt aware of, or maybe she is and doesnt care, either way, that for sure is something to be brought up. I guess I really want to know how Sansa feels in this environment, there may be a reason why some of these seemingly annoying personality quirks are showing up.

    Reply
  32. Yeah, anon

    Wow, it appears nearly every office has a Sansa. We have two right now. One is newer and reasonably competent but a ladder climber looking for upward mobility in a flat organization with no real path for career progression in their field. The other is not very competent, pushes work onto others, and has been outright abusive to coworkers but has worked here forever and appears to be protected from any consequences of their actions or inactions. Both share the loud laugh, loud voice, and both frequently and obviously suck up to the boss. They also seem to share a lack of compassion for others, or awareness of how what falls out of their mouths affects others. (Example: I lost my spouse to cancer a month ago. Both of these two have lost a parent to cancer, but for them this was a few years back. I had to walk out of my work area while they were animatedly discussing a “grief concert” one of them had left early the day before to attend. I sincerely hope it’s easier for me to deal with when I’m that far down the road, but at this point we hadn’t even had the memorial service. I’m sure it wasn’t aimed at me but it’s an open office and they are loud. I had to escape.)

    I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for the OP. Just sympathy.

    Reply
  33. persimmon

    This may seem crazy, but since it seems like she’s insecure about getting enough attention and you do have to sit next to her, what about “scheduling” her interruptions? Say, “I am focusing super-hard until 11.” Then, at 11, before she can say anything, you say, “Wow, I got a lot done. How’s your work going?” After 1-2 minutes you explain you’re back to focusing until lunchtime. Maybe knowing you will talk to her at a specific time could help her ease up the rest of the time–kind of like scheduling ONE weekly phone call with a needy parent.

    Reply
  34. Edmund

    I have a Sansa who is a student in a college music ensemble. I would love advice for how to deal with Sansas when you are the teacher, not a manager or co-worker. I’ve already decided I need to pull her aside and have a talk about her behavior, but find myself thinking a lot about the difference between manager vs. professor, and what my obligations are.

    Reply
    1. Gloucesterina

      Hi Edmund, my thoughts are that it’s actually easier (comparatively speaking, of course, it’s never super comfortable to have to address problems with students!) to deal with this type of issue when you are a teacher as opposed to a work/manager context, because your job description is to help students learn, and depending on your context, you may have a little or a lot of autonomy in determining what helping students learn looks like.

      So you might prepare for this meeting by thinking about a few questions, such as: What does successful learning look like in my context? It might look different in a music ensemble than a more typical college classroom context, but you probably have a number of ideas about what students should get out of performing in the ensemble.
      What are the behaviors that you have observed Sansa doing (or not doing)? Being prepared to bring in at least 1 or 2 specific examples from specific class meetings will help.
      How are these behaviors affecting Sansa’s ability to learn/benefit from performing in the ensemble and/or other students’ learning experience in the ensemble?
      I find it’s always helpful to frame the feedback in terms of concern for the student: “I’m concerned because I have noticed X behavior”
      One example in my experience is that I had a student falling asleep in class on several occasions, so I told them I was concerned that they seemed to be very tired. (I didn’t have to ask them to meet with me in this case, though since I had a pre-scheduled individual meetings with all students.) They told me that they needed to take better responsibility for getting sleep, but it could also have opened up a discussion of health concerns or other concerns where I could have directed them to the appropriate resources.
      Good luck! It is very awesome of you to care about your students in this way!

      Reply
      1. Edmund

        Thanks for the feedback! I definitely have some specific examples lined up, and plan on thinking carefully through more before the meeting. I like the “concerned” frame – I had been planning to frame things in a sterner way but it’s probably better to lead in a warmer manner.

        Reply
        1. Gloucesterina

          Happy to help, Edmund! It makes sense to start warm, and if needed, to escalate to stern in a second meeting if you are really seeing the student make no effort at changing their behavior. (Though if your semester is anything like ours, it’ll be a fast rush to end of the term from here so you might not have time for a second meeting.) Given that, it might also be good to consider if/how you want to follow up with Sansa after the meeting, to let her know how you plan to do that in the meeting, if possible). It could be a quick 1-minute check-in after the next class or two; if you don’t even have time for that, just acknowledging her in some way (hellos and how are yous) can go a long way in terms of reinforcing your investment in the conversation and the importance of her responding to the feedback!

          Reply
  35. jj

    This seems to fall under my dad’s greatest piece of work/life advice: there’s always an a$$hole. Every workplace has an a$$hole, “your” a$$hole (LOL) may be different from someone else’s, you may even be someone’s a$$hole. Sometimes it’s easier to just accept that you don’t like someone and stop fighting it.

    Reply
  36. Knitting Cat Lady

    I have a coirker that I want to gag sometimes.

    He has a tendency to talk at people.

    And I hate working in open plan offices.

    I have hyperacusis, which means sounds at a normal volume are painfully loud for me.

    And then there is the misophonia.

    I would go postal if I didn’t have my fitted musician’s earplugs.

    Reply
  37. LadyKelvin

    This letter is timely because we also have a Sansa except there is a healthy dose of insecurity and sexism from him since there are only 2 women on the team in a male-dominated field. Something we struggle with the line between being polite and being ostracizing, since we also tend to socialize a bit outside of work. We might get together once a month or so with our familys for a bbq or happy hour and everyone is invited, however he will text you every day (every day!) to see if you want to hang out/hike/beach/etc. And takes it really personally when you say no, to the point that he gave a friend of mine the silent treatment for 2 weeks when she asked him to stop texting her because she had already told him five times that she wasn’t available to hang out. I feel bad for him because he is single and the rest of us are partnered/have families and he is used to having a very active social life (which I know because we were in grad school together, I just started the job 6 months before he did). We (the women) have strategized on how to deal with him and limit our socializing with him to maybe once a month, etc. just so that we can continue to work with him but also don’t have to deal with him as much. These situations are challenging but as long as you don’t actively push her away and leave her out at work then you should be ok.

    Reply
  38. The Bimmer Guy

    I especially don’t like the “Sansa-splaining.” At the point in which you’re giving mean nicknames to coworkers or their behaviors, you are engaging in bullying. And does anyone really want to have the workplace version of Mean Girls?

    More than that, it’s hard to tell if this person is genuinely annoying, or if everyone has just turned her into their bitch-eating-crackers because she’s an easy target.

    Either way, the least you could do is refuse to listen to disparaging remarks from other coworkers.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      That seems really unfair. The characteristics described are annoying. And occasional venting isn’t the same as a Mean Girls culture.

      Reply
    2. nonegiven

      You can call it Sansa-splaining, mansplaining, over explaining, I don’t care. I do care it’s condescending and rude and she needs to stop.

      Reply
    3. Observer

      I don’t like the “sansa-splaining” thing. But, the rest? No, totally NOT BEC. The most obvious one is the pregnancy announcement. Even with the most charitable interpretation, it’s just incredibly inappropriate and rude. And that’s without knowing that her co-worker had had a mis. (The OP confirms that she actually did know about that.)

      Reply
    4. Not So NewReader

      Sansa-splaining.
      These terms are the type of thing that comes up when people do not know how to handle a problem and they feel they have no power over the situation. It’s a negative method of taking back one’s power.

      The fact that the behavior has been given a name, indicates that this work group is already in trouble.

      Reply
  39. Q

    I worked with a Sansa, it was not fun. She would walk into the breakroom, pick a poor person quietly reading their book at lunch, and start a 45 minute one sided conversation. It was horrible. If you made eye contact with this woman she would take it as a sign you wanted to hear every detail about her vacation from five years ago. She did not pick up on social signals from other people, so it was very hard to disentangle yourself from her non stop verbal diarrhea. Multiple people complained to her boss who wrote it off for years as a personality tick, last I heard someone finally escalated to HR.

    Reply
  40. Not Necessarily Spartacus

    Sometimes I AM Sansa. Not so much at work because I know my job and can keep my head down. But in my personal life I’ve been known to interrupt quite a bit. This is due to anxiety and my compulsion to try to Solve ALL Problems (because in my home growing up, it WAS my job to solve all the problems, leading to chronic anxiety… but I digress.) I’m just saying my annoying behavior comes from not wanting the attention as much as HELPING Being Helpful Helper Helperstein. As soon as I realize I’m doing this, I remind myself ‘I don’t have to fix this’ and then I can take a breath, calm the F$%* down and listen.
    So I’m saying you could try saying “I need to you to listen” or perhaps “It’s not your job to fix this” to get Sansa’s attention. It might not work if she’s a ‘center of attention’ kind of person, in which case, even the negative attention is still ok with her.
    Just my 2 cents…

    Reply
    1. LCL

      The ‘not your job to fix this’ has been the most effective thing for our Sansa. Be prepared to answer his next question, which will be a variant of ‘whose job is it? Can I go talk to them?’

      Reply
  41. miyeritari

    Lots of people have good advice here, but I’m just baffled by the horrible rudeness of someone announcing a miscarriage and Sansa saying “We’re trying too!”

    Jesus.

    Reply
  42. OP

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone – and Alison – for giving me great advice! It actually alleviates a lot of guilt to know that this is not my problem to solve. I think a common thread in the comments has been trying to understand that Sansa might be coming from a place of insecurity/trying to fit in, so I am going to do my best to be kind while maintaining boundaries where necessary and calling out some things more clearly in the moment. Thank you!!

    Reply
  43. Libritech

    I’m in the definitely have been/probably still am sometimes Sansa camp, and aside from the (yeah, quite weird) comment related to the pregnancy stuff, a lot of this sounds like things I did when I was younger. Professional feedback on related topics that has focused on things I’m doing -wrong- has been hard, and things about -me- (i.e., personality things) that are wrong have been much harder – sometimes actively damaging. (Middle age insight: you, employer, like and value that I am a confident and well-liked public speaker? This is -the same trait- as the one that makes me willing to have opinions out loud in meetings, and I realize that I have some co-workers who find having opinions out loud aggressive behavior, but if they cannot articulate particular things that upset them, I cannot do anything about it without questioning -all times I speak out loud- and you know what, that makes me a crappier and less confident public speaker, that thing you keep telling me you love about me.)
    What has helped? Super-direct action/behavior/related feedback. I’d like to think that even at my least-experienced no one would have had to tell me more than once that they need to focus on their work right now, but there are -still- times when I am not 100% sure if we are all having fun social time at work or someone would like the convo to end. (Not helped by Midwestern leaving-takes-forever norms.) I -love- it when someone does tell me directly “I need to focus on my work now/need to be done chatting/gotta go/etc”. Wouldn’t need anymore to be told this over time, but at younger ages, it might take a couple different instances of that for me to be aware that a friend/co-worker often does not want to talk when it looks to me like they are okay to talk (after which I would have, even at younger ages, -definitely- realized I needed to be -way more limited- in social convo with that person.) (I still sometimes find myself interrupted in -purely- social situations in a way I don’t understand that I think correlates to me over-talking, but since I don’t understand it, I just take it as an indication that either these are cool people and I need to listen more, or that these are assholes and I should find more fun people to hang with. I can hack both of those. :) )
    One addition that I don’t think I’ve seen directly addressed above: what a lot of people are describing as “one-upping” is actually a legit conversational style. If you are accustomed to conversations where people work to draw one another out, the “one-upping”-ish style (apparently, I have had to learn) can look super-insensitive and braggy. But for some folks, the expected response to “This cool thing I know about/experienced/etc” is “Wow, I too experienced/know something cool kind of like that!” and back and forth. This, too, can be a great and interactive conversation where both people learn about one another. Unfortunately, these two interaction styles go -very poorly together-, especially where the person using the “let me tell you things!” style is someone who doesn’t get indirect cues well. I’m not sure I ever had to have this explicitly explained to me, but it is something I explicitly codify internally as a social rule: “Oh, hey, if I start to notice that I am doing a ton of talking about myself, it may mean that the other person is a person who expects conversational partners to ask questions before that kind of response. Ask more questions, self!” It is still easier for me to have convos with “let me tell you!” people, but I’d like to think that the “Please do ask me” people don’t find me nearly as abrasive as they probably did before I knew the divide existed.
    I’ve never met/heard of someone on the “please do ask me” side who worked to match a “let me tell” culture, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but I -think- it may mean that “please do ask” people might could stand to consider the possibility of other ways of being a little more often.
    Also also, there is -definitely- a gendered element to reactions to “let me tell you!” styles. I have rarely met men who have this style who’ve -ever- gotten workplace feedback on it, and I have received the most (direct and indirect) “wow you are doing this all wrong and you suck a lot ” from women (some of whom happily tolerate the same stuff from men.)
    All that said, Sansa sounds fairly extreme and it seems like she has maybe not been responding at all to feedback even direct and actionable stuff, so grain of salt, but some insights from someone who has had similar issues.

    Reply
    1. Libritech

      (And wow, that looked shorter in the text box. Look, I ‘splaineyed here, too! There really are elements to this that are personality things that are difficult to rein in. :D )

      Reply
  44. Narise

    We had an annoying coworker for some time and she would interrupt or try to add to conversations she wasn’t apart of and so her information didn’t make sense. Finally coworkers started telling her she didn’t make sense, didn’t knw what they were talking about etc. She left to make more money and that job fired her because she was so bad at following directions. She tried to come back and that was a big no.

    Reply
  45. Thebe

    I worked with a Sansa years ago; she was crazy annoying to nearly everyone in the office. Our director actively avoided her. We had a rather arrogant project manager and our Sansa just made her nuts, talking over her (which was quite a feat), writing on the project manager’s little white board, etc.

    I, however, found this Sansa hilarious. I privately felt our office was a little set in our ways, and having someone break all the unspoken norms was kinda funny. I took the direct route with her when we interacted, saying things like “Are you nuts? I’m not talking to you about that” or “Hey, I’m busy. Come back at 11:13.” We got along fine.

    I did try to quietly guide her a little. I once said, after she was being particularly aggressive to Director about moving a file cabinet, “When you suggest something and Director says, ‘hmm, I’ll think about it’ and never gets back to you, that means he doesn’t want you to do it. Then you have to decide whether it’s worth fighting for.”

    She never took any of my advice, though, and went on to get a crush on our web guy, which she demonstrated by eating fruit off an edible bouquet sent by his mom (it was still wrapped!), which really ticked him off. She finally left, and I think I was the only one who missed her.

    Reply
    1. Traveling Teacher

      This is a thing of beauty–hats off to you for how you handled her and your perspective on the whole situation! I’m going to keep this in mind… :

      Reply
  46. Traveling Teacher

    This is a thing of beauty–hats off to you for how you handled her and your perspective on the whole situation! I’m going to keep this in mind… :)

    Reply
  47. advocate

    These comments are a little harsh. Based on the reported comments, Sansa sounds mentally ill. Hard to work with, okay, but also try to consider that she might not be able to control the tone or frequency of her comments. Buy a pair o headphones and try to find some compassion.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      You really don’t have any evidence whatsoever to make such a statement. This kind of “diagnosing” is, at best utterly useless.

      Reply

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