employee is torturing her office mate with constant questions, sending a holiday card to your job interviewer, and more

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

1. My employee bothers her office mate with constant questions

I manage two employees who share an office. One is a long-term employee and stellar worker. She bit the bullet and volunteered to share her office because we needed the space. The other position is a new employee in an entry-level assistant role. My more seasoned employee has been venting that the assistant peppers her with many imposing questions. For example:
“Who was that on the phone?”
“What did you just print?”
“Where are you going?”
“Where were you?”
“What was that person talking about?”

I’ve seen it myself because she asks me similar, but much less frequent questions and I notice the awkwardness when I go into their office to discuss projects with the seasoned employee and can feel her staring at me, or making audible acknowledgments, as if she’s apart of the conversation.

I’m afraid this could lead to the seasoned employee quitting in the long run. Is this just a case of social ignorance or should I step in and address it? If so, how do I tell her to, professionally speaking, mind her own business?

Step in and address it! You’re her manager and she needs coaching on a behavior that’s disrupting your team — and is even making you fear someone will leave over it. You absolutely should speak up.

You could say it this way: “I wanted to talk to you about some of the protocol around sharing an office. It can be tough to work in close quarters like that, and so it’s important that you and Jane are both respectful of each other’s space and privacy. I’ve noticed that you ask her a lot of questions about what she’s doing, like who she was talking to, or where she’s going or coming from. I understand being curious, but when you’re sharing an office with someone, you need to give them more space than that. A good rule is to treat the other person’s comings and goings, and their conversations, as if you don’t see or hear them. That doesn’t mean you have to pretend she’s not there at all — it’s just about giving her privacy to carry out her work and any personal matters without being peppered with questions. Does that make sense?”

Normally I’d suggest that you first coach Jane to address this herself, but it sounds like this employee needs significant enough coaching that it makes sense for you to take it on.

2. I’m in trouble for not cooking for a coworker who’s about to have a baby

My manager asked the 25 people in our department if we’d be willing to cook meals for a coworker who is about to have their first child. While I’m happy and excited for this colleague and normally give when asked, it’s Christmas and I’m tapped out in terms of both expendable cash and extra time. It’s especially awkward for me to say no, since I just finished spearheading our corporate fundraising drive for a holiday charity. I responded to him privately that I would be unable to cook a meal, but that I’d be happy to drop meals off or contribute to our office mom-to-be in some other way. He’s been giving me the silent treatment ever since. What’s my next move?

That’s ridiculous, and no reasonable coworker would want her unwilling colleagues to be forced into helping her in her private life like this. I’m sure your manager means well, but this should be 100% optional. And his reaction is particularly ridiculous since you still offered to help in a different way (which you weren’t obligated to do).

Unless your manager is known for giving people the silent treatment over petty slights and then recovering quickly, I’d address it head-on: “I might be misinterpreting, but you’ve seemed unhappy with me since I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to cook a meal for Jane, although I could contribute in other ways. Did I do something that concerned or upset you?”

3. Should I send a holiday card to my interviewer?

I interviewed for a position — my dream job — earlier this evening via phone. The interview went well enough, but I think I was just shy of nailing it. I was told by the hiring manager that they would be interviewing candidates the rest of this week and next, and that they would circle back after the holidays for in-person interviews.

I’m working on an email thank-you note now to send as a follow-up after our conversation. Do you think it would be okay to also send a holiday / thank-you card via mail with the holidays approaching? I thought it might be a nice touch and a way of reminding them of me. I imagined addressing it to the department as a whole, as opposed to one person.

No, don’t do that. It’s going to come across as trying to curry favor. (You wouldn’t be sending them a holiday card if you weren’t currently being considered for a job there, right?) Stick with the normal interview thank-you, and leave it at that.

4. I want to stop networking with a vendor

Last year, I was at a job where I managed hiring a vendor for skills we didn’t have in-house. After we made a decision, I informed the rejected vendors and one of them asked me to lunch. The business was fairly new, and he wanted to pick my brain about their proposal and other projects our company was working on. My manager encouraged me to take him up on it in case we needed back up.

We developed a friendly relationship and had coffee a few times, during which I had nothing to really offer him because it turned out I was working in an insanely toxic workplace with terrible business practices.

I have since left that job, but he reached out to me to connect again. Where I was working for a small organization and was focused on an area relevant to his field, I now work for a large organization (and have a lot less influence) and focus on an unrelated area. He knows this. Even if I had a client lead for him, the reality is I have never worked with him, so I would feel uncomfortable recommending him to a colleague. I’m afraid we are wasting each other’s time and I don’t know how to politely decline. How can I address this in a kind way?

To preempt the questions, yes, I am a woman, but he is a happily married father and there is no romantic interest here.

Some sales people work this way — cultivating as many business relationships as possible in the hope that it will eventually lead to sales or referrals. But they’re used to being turned down, so you’re unlikely to hurt his feelings by declining future coffees.

That said, it might not feel clear whether these are business invitations or social ones, and so you might worry that if you decline him on business grounds, he might suggest getting together just to catch up. Given that, I’d just respond to the next few invitations by explaining that you’re swamped at your new job and rarely can get away for lunch.

5. We get charged double vacation days if we’re gone over a weekend

I live in Florida. Our company gave new vacation policies and really seems wrong. If we take a Friday and Monday consecutively for vacation, they will automatically deduct Saturday and Sunday as vacation days. Our business hours are Monday-Friday only. Is this legal?

It’s legal since no law regulates how employers structure their vacation benefits, but it’s incredibly wrong and illogical. There’s zero business reason for charging you for four vacation days when you’re only missing two days of work. You and your coworkers should push back on this one.

{ 432 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. KimberlyR

    #1: I hope you start coaching the new employee immediately! That sounds incredibly annoying and it would be terrible to lose a good employee over something like that. It would be hard for your seasoned employee to push back too hard without knowing you’ve got her back, so maybe you should say something to her as well, just to let her know that she doesnt have to answer all those questions.

    Reply
    1. KimberlyR

      Let me change “would be” to “could be”. Some people might feel comfortable with it anyway, but personally, I would have an easier time shutting it down if I knew my boss was backing me up.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        Yep, especially if any part of seasoned employee’s role is training and answering legitimate questions from new employee. “How do I reformat the X File to Client Y’s liking?” or other legitimate work related questions should be encouraged (assuming that is part of seasoned employee’s role), so shutting down *all* questions isn’t really an option. So OP should talk to both new employee to coach what kinds of questions are appropriate (and what aren’t), and to seasoned employee to let her know that she’s got it covered.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          This is what’s hard – it’s so contextual. “Keep your questions work related” is okay, but a lot of these are kind of work related. And someone this clueless is just going to be confused if you start talking about pretending the other person isn’t there or bubbles of privacy or whatever.

          Reply
        2. Mephyle

          I guess she has to be coached to distinguish between work-related questions abouy things she needs to know for her own work and her professional path, and questions that are just curiosity and Not.Her.Business.
          Also, for those who will think “but it’s obvious; she should know this already,” clearly it isn’t, and she needs firm but empathetic coaching. Like so many things related to personal relationships and behaviour, what is obvious to some people has to be taught explicitly to others.

          Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed. I’ve worked in shared offices—they require greater thoughtfulness than solo offices. I’ve had several experiences of undocking my laptop and moving to “less obtrusive” spaces, like conferences rooms, comunity training spaces, and the reception area because of obnoxious office cohabitants.

      Maybe she’s nervous, or maybe she’s just annoying/awkward. Regardless, OP’s new employee needs to know her actions undermine her ability to get along with others. I think she’d be well served by learning about forced obliviousness. But also, a lot of her questions are kind of rude for an adult to ask. So it might also help her better understand norms if she realized how often she’s doing it.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        I find shared offices also need greater thoughtfulness than open plan ones and – to me – feel less private. I either want my own space or lots of people around rather than just a few seemingly breathing down my neck. Maybe she feels uncomfortable due to being new and is handling it badly. I wondered if they’ve had any getting to know you time, like sitting down for a coffee and chatting through how the space will work and what they both need from it?

        Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      I think our OP also needs to shut down that “part of the conversation” stuff when she’s talking with the Seasoned Employee.

      She needs to bring it up specifically as well, and address it the moment it happens: “Jane, give us some privacy here.” Or “Ths is not your conversation.”

      And yes, absolutely our OP should tell Seasoned that she has spoken to Newbie, and maybe even strategize on a standard phrase that they both can use that essentially means “mind your own business” but isn’t so rude.

      It might also be effective to tcoach Newbie on how TO act in a shared office—that when one overheard, one pretends one hasn’t, etc., and also to reassure her that it isn’t rude—because if you were hanging out with friends and someone took a call, you probably would discuss it.

      And last—look harder for a different seating arrangement.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I agree on all points. One especially difficult aspect here, though, is the fact that…..well, this is hard stuff to teach. It’s sort of subtextual protocol that most people don’t really need to be taught.

        Reply
        1. chomps84

          Yeah, it’s tricky. To me, those questions are obviously overly nosy because they are clearly about things that newbie doesn’t need to know, but clearly newbie doesn’t realize that.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            Actually, this is one of the things to say in your coaching: “Ask yourself, Do I *need* to know this in order to do my job?”

            And then point out that she should ask, “WHEN would be a non-disruptive time to ask?”

            Reply
    4. Big Fat Meanie

      “It would be hard for your seasoned employee to push back too hard without knowing you’ve got her back”

      Very important point! People are often afraid to speak up with coworkers, because they’re worried the coworker will go to the boss and complain that so-and-so was mean, rude, disrespectful, etc.

      Reply
    5. Nervous Accountant

      I just want to commiserate. I have a coworker like that, who comes across as very nosy. He leans in whenever ppl around have conversations (open plan). I try not to say anything bc I feel equal parts bad and annoyed. The constant questions would drive me nuts.

      Reply
    6. Immersang

      I have someone in my social circle who does this, at least to me. When I first met her, our friendship was more 1:1 (going to have coffee together or something), but then we happened to stumble into a shared social circle and there she does that to me ALL. THE. TIME. Including the weird reaction noises when she’s not even part of the conversation. She will elbow her way into everything whenever she notices me interacting with other people or at least with certain people (and even run over from another part of the room specifically when she sees me talking to someone, just to somehow be part of it). I just figured she somehow thinks she will be missing something otherwise. (And no, she doesn’t have issues with approaching other people and thus hangs onto me. That’s what I first thought and cut her some slack, but I know it’s not true, at least not anymore.)

      Anyway, reading this I just hope she doesn’t do this to her co-workers in the office. I imagine that’s three times worse, considering you cannot get out of these situations as easily as out of social situations.

      Reply
    7. Specialk9

      “Why do you need to know?”

      “Why do you ask?”

      “Are you asking because you think it relates to your work?”

      Reply
  2. Mike C.

    So not only has your employer tried to screw over every employee wanting to take some time off, but they couldn’t think far enough ahead to realize that folks can still use the weekend to extend their vacation by taking Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday off instead.

    Stupid and spiteful are never good combinations for management.

    Reply
    1. chi type

      Posted this below but- Maybe they’re trying to discourage people from taking more than a week off at once?? That’s the only explanation I can think of.

      Reply
    2. Antilles

      folks can still use the weekend to extend their vacation by taking Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday off instead.
      Ironically, in my experience, the Thursday/Friday combination is very often *more* of a disruption than the Friday/Monday combination because a lot of things are due “end of the week”, but if someone’s out Thursday/Friday, that deadline is now actually “halfway through the week”.

      Reply
    3. Prince of Snarkness

      Oh the job actions I can think of pulling.

      Time to work to the book until you leave the company, which should be soon.

      Reply
    4. Zombeyonce

      A policy like that would make me way more likely to just take all 5 weekdays off, then I get to use both weekends, too. If I’m going to be charged 2 extra days of vacation for nothing, I may as well just add one more and be out a full week. And then the employer loses extra days of work from me. It’s just shooting them in the foot, really.

      Reply
    5. IL JimP

      My question would be is this the actual policy or just what their payroll system does when they enter the time. Our system will do that too if you put Friday through Monday but you can just enter it as 2 separate “vacations” to not have that happen

      Reply
      1. CheerfulPM

        This is what I was thinking as well. An old company I worked for used a time-tracking program that did that. Sometimes things like this can be software bugs or misses in testing of a new release. OP mentions that the new policy was “released”, so I’m wondering if someone from HR misunderstood a bug or a change to the software and announced it as a rule. I would definitely ask or see if entering an individual Friday and an individual Monday off would charge in the same way.

        Reply
    6. Violet

      Agree. It is dumb that Friday/Monday aren’t an equivalent and knowing that Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday aren’t options in all situations… they still allow the four day weekend.

      Reply
    7. Navy Minion (Retired)

      Interestingly, that’s the way that US military leave (vacation) works. Any time your leave includes a weekend (or weekends) you get charged leave for them. Perhaps that’s where the company came up with their “great” idea?

      Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, this would drive me out of my mind. It’s insane to charge you for days when you wouldn’t be in, anyway (but I agree with Alison that it’s not illegal in most states… unless you’re in California!).

    Reply
    1. Blah

      I’m in Califirnia, I think it’s legal. It’s STUPID (WHY does the employer care if employees use time off in this manner? Why is it any sort of problem?), but I don’t think even we have a law against it.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        You know what, I bet you’re right. I’m thinking of the rules for salaried, exempt employees, not non-exempt hourly. (I could be wrong, but if this were an exempt, salaried position, I think they’d have to pay OP for the extra two days).

        Reply
        1. ainomiaka

          except I don’t think you would have to pay, because even salaried jobs have business hours? In none of the salaried jobs that I have did I get paid for weekends. and in none of them did I get to count my last day as a Sunday instead of Friday, for example.

          Reply
        2. Life is Good

          No, I was a salaried manager at old dysfunctional employer and they made us use vacation days to “pay” ourselves for some holidays that we were closed, but didn’t pay the non exempt staff. So, essentially we lost those days (4!) from our vacation time every year, even if we came in to work (because they were quiet days to get stuff done) in order to get paid. Wow, this makes me remember just how much that place sucked.

          Reply
      2. PollyQ

        It’s hard to make a law banning something no reasonable person would ever think to do. I suspect the solution for OP#5 is going to be finding a job where they’re not totally out of their minds.

        Reply
        1. Akcipitrokulo

          It’d be illegal here (UK) but not specifically nbanned – just you have minimum holidays and they are laid out.

          Reply
      1. wanda

        It could be that their vacation reporting system counts every day in between the start and end dates as a vacation day. Try entering Friday and Monday as separate vacations in the system and see what happens.

        Reply
        1. One of the Sarahs

          That seems like a terrible system, though – organisations all over the world can manage this, and it would be a major outlier in any business to not be able to cope with Friday-Monday=2

          Reply
        2. Red Reader

          Our PTO system actually requires a separate PTO request for each calendar week, so if I’m doing a Wednesday-to-Tuesday vacation I have to put in one request for Wed-Thurs-Fri and a separate one for Mon-Tues, probably to avoid just this sort of problem. I can do multiple requests in one entry, up to four I think, but each request has to be within the same calendar week and in the same time code. So when I did a M-W request for a conference, I put in one request for an educational day (just for tracking purposes) and a separate request for two PTO days – the conference is at Disney, so I’m extending – but still all in one entry.

          Reply
          1. Camellia

            Entirely possible. We are currently installing a Fantastic! Fully Integrated! State-of-the-Art! Best of Breed! new HR system. And it can’t tell the difference between salaried and hourly employees. We are having to do custom code to handle this.

            Reply
            1. Just Jess

              Was just about to post a similar response. Small and mid-sized orgs. encounter Good, Bad, and Ugly HRIS solutions. It can take a while to find one that truly works.

              Reply
            2. Observer

              But I’m betting it handles week ends properly. It’s easier and more employers actually know the difference.

              Although it’s pretty amazing that there is actually a system the actually can’t differentiate, and that anyone actually bought it.

              Reply
          2. JoAnna

            I was recently ill on both Friday and Monday (and yes, Sat/Sun too!). The following Tuesday, I put my sick time into our system as Friday – Monday, and got a message from the program saying that since Saturday and Sunday were not regular working days for me, only two days of leave would be deducted. So yeah, some systems have no problems handling this. We use Zenefits.

            Reply
          3. paul

            we have to submit separate leave request for any leave that falls around a weekend (i.e a Friday and Monday–they’ll have to be on separate forms as separate request) because apparently whatever software HR uses throws a fit otherwise.

            Reply
        3. ThatGirl

          We did have this with my last job, you had to enter Friday and Monday separately or it would assume you wanted to count Sat/Sun as PTO as well.

          But that was a thing with the software, and not any sort of policy.

          Reply
          1. Arjay

            Same here, but parts of our org do work weekends, so the system just isn’t quite smart enough to know everyone’s schedule.

            Reply
        4. Cookie

          I worked in an agency previously that did this. It was just the stupid software, not a real policy, to count Sat & Sun off if you took Fri through Mon. Everyone knew this and entered Friday and Monday separately and it worked fine.

          Reply
    2. Smiling

      We did this for one of our overseas offices. Boss said it was customary over there to do this. It was based on the idea that they were getting paid a monthly salary, as opposed to weekly or bi-weekly.

      The weird thing was that none of the workers in that office thought it was customary and would question why we were charging them extra vacation time.

      Reply
    3. IT Dweeb

      Maybe this is the result of a software issue? Like if I made a single request with a start date of December 15th and end date of December 18th this year, it could be calculating that as 4 days instead of ignoring the weekend days. Combine that with some dumb policy like “you can only make one request for consecutive days off” and suddenly people are getting “charged” for weekends off even though that wasn’t management’s intention…

      Reply
      1. Ayla K

        I was just coming here to say this. We moved to a new HCM over the summer and recently found a known bug where exempt employees are being charged for weekends when they submit PTO requests. The workaround is for them to submit multiple requests if time off includes a weekend (request Thursday and Friday off, then submit a second request for Monday-Wednesday, for example.) We’ve told employees this and have reminded managers to keep an eye out for multi-week PTO requests, but we’re working on a fix.

        This could be a similar issue, or they could even be using the same software we are! It doesn’t sound like this is definitively a management problem.

        Reply
  4. Knitting Cat Lady

    #2:

    If I were the pregnant coworker I really wouldn’t want my coworkers to cook for me! I don’t know how clean their kitchens are!

    Reply
    1. AnonAndOn

      I agree. Food cooked in unknown situations is bad enough for those who aren’t pregnant, so it’d be a lot worse for a woman who was!

      Reply
      1. Magenta Sky

        I’m reminded of a job where I was told I had to make coffee for the customers (and employees). I don’t drink coffee. I told them I had no clue how to make coffee. They insisted it was only fair. I explained my theory that the basket you put the coffee grounds into was made the size it was for a reason, and that I’d fill it up level to the top.

        I was told that, since I don’t drink coffee and don’t know how to make it, I was excused from this duty.

        Reply
        1. Just employed here

          To be fair, there are plenty of jobs where making coffee for the customers (and fewer where making coffee for the employees) *is* part of the job. Maybe not in the job you mentioned, but in many others.

          And just like learning to use a fax machine is probably not something one learns at home or at school nowadays, but still something some employees just have to learn, learning to make coffee is by no means an impossible feat. Whether one is a coffee drinker is beside the point.

          Reply
            1. Ghost Town

              My mom used to chide me for either not having decaf or only having decaf (when I was pregnant) coffee available b/c it was all I drank. She thought one should always have at least some of both available for guests.

              Reply
          1. KAZ2Y5

            As a pharmacist, my first hospital job had the pharmacy right next to the surgery waiting area. Whichever pharmacist was scheduled for the early shift (6am) had to make the coffee for the waiting room. I don’t drink coffee at all but this is where I learned how to make it.

            Reply
            1. Samata

              This was part of my duties as the Saturday receptionist at a car dealer in high school. I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was out of college, but I could make a pretty decent pot! And there were no fancy pre-measured pods – just a bulk sized Foldgers.

              Reply
            2. Nervous Accountant

              I once had an accounting internship where I learned how to use a keurig machine (wasn’t a big coffee drinker than either). That was the most useful/difficult thing I learned there.

              Reply
            3. Anion

              When I was an assistant manager, I learned how to make it for my manager–not because she made me, but just because I liked her and wanted to be helpful. It’s not hard to learn, really. (I’m not a coffee drinker either.)

              Reply
          2. Koko

            I do drink coffee but managed to go most of my life having friends and boyfriends and roommates brew the pot or picking some up from a convenience store. It was in my first professional job, after grad school so I was 24 by then, where there was an office coffeemaker provided, but nobody else drank coffee, that I trepidatiously embarked on learning how to brew it myself! Made me feel like such a grown-up, and it wasn’t all that hard in the end!

            Reply
        2. the gold digger

          When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, I got all pissy because my co-worker asked me to make coffee for a meeting.

          I told her that I do not drink coffee and hence I should not have to make coffee. I also may have implied that I was above such menial tasks.

          She listened, then said, “After they have fed the chickens, fed their children, washed the clothes by hand with water from the pump, and done all the household tasks by themselves because their husbands won’t help, the women in our co-op walk five miles to catch the bus to come here. They have almost no money, but they pay the bus fare. They then walk the mile from the bus station to our office. The least we can do is to show them a little bit of hospitality by making them coffee.”

          So yeah. I learned to make coffee.

          Reply
        3. Aces High

          I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell this story to demonstrate your inability to learn new skills, but that seems to be what you achieved.

          I don’t drink tea but I am certainly capable of making a pot for others to drink!

          Reply
    2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

      I had an (I thought) perfectly normal coworker who bragged that she found time the prior weekend to make the crockpot dish she planned to bring to the pot luck TWO. WEEKS. LATER. To cover my surprise I asked how she’d manage to keep it in the fridge that long with her big family, but she said that she put it on a shelf on her covered porch, where her chickens are wintering. I covered the phones for the pot luck and carried a sandwich. Yuk!!

      Reply
          1. Artemesia

            Oh we have friends with urban chickens in a cold northern city; proper preparations for ‘wintering’ is a big deal. That or dead chickens. Theirs involved a well insulated hen house with heat lamps; not a great place to store the shepherd’s pie for a couple of weeks. (anyplace where chickens are wintering is not going to be cold enough to store the casserole for 3 days much less two weeks)

            I used to avoid the odd looking casseroles at our potlucks because they often looked like science projects; I won’t eat my own leftovers after 3 days and I love leftovers.

            Reply
      1. Birch

        Uh, what?! Was the porch supposed to be the same temperature as a fridge? The chickens bother me but what grosses me out more is the thought of eating 2 week old crockpot meal, regardless of how good or not it was originally! Does this person regularly eat food that old? What was the crockpot meal? Did anyone get sick? Was it moldy? So many questions!

        Reply
        1. octocuddles

          To be fair, in winter it could definitely be colder outside than in your fridge… Fridges tend to be around 4 Celsius (just above freezing) and in Germany at least it definitely drops below that for days on end from about November to March. I don’t find the outside thing as crazy as the two weeks ahead thing!

          Reply
            1. blackcat

              Yeah, I’ve done this (Boston). But I also once tried to chill cans of soda outside and ended up exploding them. I intended to leave them out there for half an hour, forgot about it, and after about an hour when out to check and found soda all over my side porch and all of the neighborhood squirrels licking the sugary snow.

              So yeah, storing food outside isn’t nearly as strange as TWO WEEKS ahead of time. Ick.

              Reply
              1. the gold digger

                Yes – I cabbage stored in the foyer right now – it gets really cold by our front door – and I have more than once put a big pot of whatever outside the back door overnight when it was too hot to put in the fridge.

                But two weeks? That’s – ick.

                Reply
                1. Jennifer Thneed

                  I want your large cabbage. I’m learning how to make sauerkraut and it’s astounding how much that stuff compacts down.

              2. Big Fat Meanie

                We frequently put beer and white wine on the back patio during the holidays, so it’s chilled and ready to go without having to take up space in the fridge. And apparently it’s not uncommon to put milk and such outside in the snow during snowstorms, in case there’s a power outage. But keeping anything outside for more than a day or so is odd.

                Reply
            2. Sarah

              When I was in a freshman in college, our dorm window opened onto the roof and in the winter we stored ice cream out there. (Michigan.)

              Reply
              1. SignalLost

                When I lived in England, the house predated refrigeration, and it was at least the story that we had the window ledges we did off the kitchen for exterior storage of food. No idea if that was real, but it was interesting to see the things I took for granted, coming from a basically post-war-stock community. My bathroom is not visibly an add-on to the building.

                Reply
                1. Artemesia

                  There are many ancient buildings in Europe that have cold boxes built into kitchens with holes to the outside to allow winter air to cool food. I have seen it several times while photographing old buildings.

              2. MashaKasha

                When I was in college, in NorthWestern Russia, everyone had a wooden box installed outside their dorm window, that served as a fridge/freezer in the cold months. Sometimes people had food stolen from their boxes. Don’t know how, don’t want to know. Each dorm was a 14-story building.

                Reply
                1. Specialk9

                  I totally DO want to know now! I’m imagining those Mission Impossible building suction cups, or, like, a fishing pole.

            3. Blue Anne

              Yeah. This year work gave us turkeys the Monday before Thanksgiving, I just kept mine in the trunk of my car until I could drop it off with grandma two days later. Worked perfectly, it defrosted but stayed very chilled, as though I’d just stuck it in the fridge. I’m in Ohio.

              But it wouldn’t be warm enough in my trunk for any LIVE birds…

              Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              We went through a period where one of our kittens (the one nicknamed “The Spanish Inquisition”) would occasionally peer back at you from the crisper, so whenever getting something from the fridge you had to check it for cats before closing the door.

              Reply
          1. Artemesia

            If it is warm enough for chickens, it is not cold enough to store food.

            Years ago we stored jugs of apple cider on a covered back porch on the theory that it was very cold and this was as good as refrigeration. I didn’t factor in the sunlight on the porch. 3 jugs simply rotted and were disgusting and had to be thrown away. One jug was like champagne; it was light and bubbly and had turned to lovely champagne like hard cider. Could never replicate it. I am thinking a crockpot dish is not going to turn to something wonderful with aging.

            Reply
        2. Samiratou

          I live in MN, and we absolutely use the outside as an extra freezer in the winter.

          If the porch is below freezing and the crockpot well sealed and/or in containment, 2 weeks wouldn’t be a big deal, but with the chickens in there I kind of doubt it gets that cold. And…chickens. It would have to be pretty thoroughly contained (locked hardside cooler, maybe?).

          Reply
      2. Mookie

        Did she brag about this to enough people that the grapevine ended up protecting everyone, or did the smell and sight themselves warn co-workers off? I’m trying to think of the worst ingredient for this situation, and beans is my guess. Were beans involved?

        Reply
        1. LoiraSafada

          Have you ever seen that meme about chickens and eggs (I think the image was doing some kind of egg wash/breading on uncooked chicken)? The caption is “I WILL BATHE YOU IN YOUR CHILDREN.” Gets me laughing every time.

          Reply
      3. Thlayli

        Is there any chance she was just taking the piss? (Or whatever you call it where you are – this is a phrase I’m not sure how to translate)? Maybe she was actually putting it in the feeezer (which would be perfectly fine) and she just said the porch thing to mess with you and then added the chickens when you got more and more visibly freaked out. Some people would find that funny.

        Reply
        1. Akcipitrokulo

          I assumed freezer!

          TBH I could see someone’s cooking something for an event 2 weeks ahead, sticking it in the freeser, and then when someone is asking how they kept it in the fridge for so long, reading that as a bit passive-aggressive and replying with something sarcastic like “no, I keep it on the porch with the chickens…”

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            And I really doubt it was cold enough outside for outdoors to act as a freezer. You need to maintain temps below 10F, which is rare this early in the year, unless you’re in Siberia or something. Even places that I think of as REALLY COLD (Montreal, Minneapolis) aren’t nearly *that* cold. Maybe in January/February, but I think those places consistently have some days days in the teens/twenties F through the winter.

            Reply
            1. PB

              Yes, and whatever temperature the porch was, it was warm enough for the chickens not to freeze to death. I have no idea what temperature that is, but I think it’s probably too warm to keep food safe for that long.

              Reply
            2. JayneCobb

              LOL, it’s been *that* cold for at least 3 weeks (midwest US) right now. When the liquid outside is all frozen and staying that way, any food hanging out there is staying frozen, too.

              Reply
              1. blackcat

                Oof, really? I thought it was getting into the teens/twenties in most places and those god awful days of highs in the single digits were a month or so away.

                After going to a conference in July in Minneapolis, I thought for a while it would be a really lovely place to live. And then I looked more closely at my hotel windows. They were 4 inches thick. Boston is not too cold for me, but Minneapolis might be.

                On your second point, no, that’s not actually true. Water stays stably frozen if temps stay below 33F or so in the shade (once you’ve gotten it frozen). At least here in Boston, the ponds/lakes stay frozen if it’s getting down to the teens at night and no warmer than 30 or so during the day. You want your freezer significantly colder than that (around 0). Since most frozen foods are not, in fact, mostly water, they generally have lower freezing points and will degrade in temps above 5F or so. And if they are mostly water, it’s often salty water, which freezes at significantly lower temps.

                tl;dr, I do not trust the outdoors as a freezer unless it does not get above 5 or 10F, even if all liquid I see outdoors is frozen and has not melted in a while.

                Also, protip: packing food in a snow bank keeps it appropriately refrigerated, not frozen, even if it’s dipping down into the 20s. Snow is a remarkable insulator.

                Reply
                1. JayneCobb

                  For long-term storage, yes, you want the freezer ~0 degrees F. For a few days, mid-teens is definitely cold enough to keep edibles safely chilled. And yes, you would want to chill them first and not, say, put a hot casserole dish straight from the oven onto the porch.

                2. nony

                  Make sure you put a marker on the snowbank where you stored the food though. That was one on the snopes page for the turkey hotline calls.

        2. Overeducated

          Maybe but the porch thing isn’t as unreasonable as it sounds. My parents tend to store food on theirs during the holidays because the outdoor temperature is literally freezing all the time (and it’s enclosed, not open to animals and passers by).

          The chickens, though…

          Reply
          1. Just Working Here

            Yup! I’ve been using the (enclosed) balcony as an extra fridge for a couple of weeks now, because it’s right there and the temperature has been between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius (day and night) all the time. If /when it gets really cold, I might use it as an extra freezer instead.

            But I haven’t stored anything that goes off easily there (milk, etc.), and nothing has been out there for two whole weeks!

            Reply
          2. Parenthetically

            Yeah, my parents use their “garage-erator” to keep Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers in the absence of sufficient fridge space.

            Reply
          3. anon scientist

            I live in the Arctic, and use my porch as an auxiliary freezer/refrigerator. But only for stuff only I am going to eat, and I wouldn’t leave food out there for 2 weeks, even in freezing temps. For short durations, I don’t mind taking the risk, but I wouldn’t do that for a big batch of food I’m feeding to other people.

            And I don’t have chickens on my porch.

            Reply
          4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            Yep. My family up in Michigan uses garages as ginormous refrigerators during the holidays; when we’ve got 15 people in the house, there’s no way enough food for everyone can live in the fridge.

            Reply
            1. Jaydee

              Iowa. Porch and garage can definitely be used as auxiliary coolers in winter. But I wouldn’t, like, store meat or leftovers out there. It’s great for keeping drinks chilled or cooling baked goods or setting jello or cooling leftovers quickly before they go in the fridge.

              Reply
            2. ggg

              Chicagoan here. Mom and Grandma definitely use(d) the porch and garage as extra freezer space. We definitely got some rock-hard casseroles off Grandma’s porch.

              Reply
          5. LBK

            Yep, growing up in CT our (non-insulated) sun room was a fridge extender starting around November.

            That being said, I don’t know what kind of conditions chickens need to stay alive but if it’s warm enough for them to hang out in there for the winter, I think it’s probably not a food safe temperature.

            Reply
      4. HatesPotlucksSoMuch

        This is why I hate buffets and potlucks. I see how nasty some people keep their offices. I can’t imagine what their houses are like. Although I made the sauce yesterday for the lasagna I’m taking to the office potluck on Thursday. I’ll make the final product Thursday morning though. The sauce is in mason jars in the fridge, though.

        Reply
      5. MashaKasha

        And this, friends, is why I am always very cautious about work potlucks. Because there’s always at least one person in the office that can be counted on to pull this kind of stuff.

        Bonus points to coworker for leaving the dish with the chickens.

        Reply
      6. Ask a Manager Post author

        Y’all, there are now 58 comments here about wintering chickens and chilling things outside. At some point (well before 58) this becomes like flagrantly ignoring the rules of your host when you’re staying in someone else’s home. Please follow the commenting rules about staying on topic.

        Reply
      7. Lindsay J

        The thing that gets me about this especially is that it was a crockpot dish. Like, the point of crockpots is that the making of the meal is non-intensive. Just dump the ingredients in, turn it on and let it sit for several hours while you do other stuff, and go.

        If you need to schedule in making a crockpot dish 2 weeks ahead of time, maybe either choose a less intensive dish, or opt out of the potluck.

        The putting it on the porch thing to me wasn’t that bad, because I’ve done that before during winter in the North East. The chickens, though, make it something else entirely. First, I don’t want feathers and chicken poop near the receptacle I am going to be eating out of. Second, I assume if the chickens were wintering on the porch it is because it is warmer than outside, and so probably not cold enough to keep the dish cold.

        (I’ve also never done the porch thing more than like overnight. And more often with drinks or desserts than actual meals.)

        Reply
    3. Mr Grinch

      Yeah, it’s a strange thing for a workplace to organize for a lot of reasons…

      It’s sad that OP is getting punished for not cooking.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        It’s really strange. And it sucks to pressurise people who may have other commitments or caring responsibilities or just not have the time or energy. I take it you don’t work for a church?

        Reply
        1. AnnaBanana

          I work for a church and I still think it’s weird and completely fails to take people’s other responsibilities and preferences into account

          Reply
      2. tigerlily

        Sad OP is getting punished for it, but meal trains are pretty normal. I’m sure it all depends on the workplace, but for a smaller organization or a non profit, it’s not really weird at all.

        Reply
    4. chi type

      Plus if he’s pressuring everyone to do it that’s 25 meals. Where is she supposed to put all that or are they supposed to deliver them week after week? Weird.

      Reply
      1. namelesscommentator

        When I’ve seen these things executed before, you sign up on a roster for the month/weekdays so you know when to deliver it.

        It can work really well when it’s optional and you’re not getting two week old wintering chicken leftovers.

        Reply
          1. SignalLost

            It’s probably a lot more about “if I excuse one person I have to excuse everyone who wants out”, and that generous month of meals dwindles in a hurry than it is about making sure there’s X amount.

            Reply
        1. Grad Student

          This is what I just did for a friend/labmate who recently had a baby! (takethemameal dot com is made for exactly this.)

          It worked really well, but I:
          – sent only a single email to a list of people (given by the new parents) way longer than the number of slots on the meal calendar
          – emphasized that it was completely voluntary
          – am nobody’s boss or manager (see username)

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Yep — we had this after our son was born, and it’s a VERY common thing in our circle, to the point that we’ve perfected the roster — three or four meals a week, tops; people who don’t cook or don’t have time order pizza or similar; breakfast foods, snacks, and lunch trays are just as welcome as dinners; if the family have allergies, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY; some people like having visitors in those early days/weeks (I did) and others don’t — be sensitive; Chipotle gift cards are nearly always welcome. ;)

            It’s also 100% voluntary and organized by peers. Using managerial pressure on people to pony up money and time to cook for a colleague is so inappropriate I just don’t even have the words for it.

            Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        It was one of the nicest things people did when I had my first. But it was like a handful of close friends–we didn’t have the space to store 25 meals.

        Casseroles with vegetables– it’s a healthy one-dish meal you can prepare (spoon onto plate, stick in microwave) and eat with one hand.

        Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            It was amazing how having a child introduced “Can be made with one hand” and “Can be eaten with one hand” as major culinary criteria in my life.

            Reply
    5. Mookie

      Yep. It sounds like an imposition on everyone, and I’m inclined to believe the manager winged this and is now taking “non-compliance” personally. You are not doing your employee any (boundary-blurring) favors “advocating” on their behalf in this way and then punishing or ostracizing her peers. (It also feeds into the already toxic notion that pregnant colleagues are a drain on the system and a drag to their co-workers. Unless this is something the manager just as strongly advocates for on behalf of anyone taking, as this colleague is presumably doing, expected medical- or health-related leave or reduced hours.)

      Reply
    6. WellRed

      Yes, a group of coworkers wanted to do same for my boss. I gave her a discreet headsup and asked if she wanted me to kibosh it, but fortunately, another coworker said when she was on leave, even a friendly face at the door was sometimes too much (exhaustion).

      Reply
      1. Jesca

        OMG this is exactly what I was thinking. When you are completely sleep deprived and struggle to even find time to shower, the last thing you want is to entertain someone even for a few minutes (which in reality when is it ever just a few minutes) who is dropping off food. Haha that would stress me out to no end.

        Reply
        1. the gold digger

          When I drop off food for someone, I hand it to them and leave. Even better when it’s cold enough to leave it on the porch and text them that it’s there.

          Sick people/new parents need rest!

          Reply
          1. Judy (since 2010)

            The last meal train I was involved with, they put a cooler on the back porch. We just put the food in there on the agreed upon nights.

            Reply
        2. Anion

          When my first was born, my in-laws would drop by regularly, and when I told them how exhausted I was they would helpfully point out that I should try to sleep when the baby was sleeping.

          I managed to refrain from saying, “Well, she’s sleeping NOW…”

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            There are few statements that will more make a new mother want to strangle someone to death with a breast pump tube. Unless it’s “enjoy every moment”, while they can barely function.

            Reply
          2. Iris Eyes

            I’d be sooo tempted to say, “You are totally right, feel free to wake me up if you can’t make her happy.” Walks off to take nap or just lay there staring at the wall w/e

            Reply
      2. tigerlily

        We had like four babies born into our office team last year, and each time we did it we had one designated person who dropped off the food – usually whoever lived closest to the new parents. Whoever’s day it was would bring the meal to work in the morning and keep in the office fridge, and then that one designated person would drop it off. It didn’t need to be a big entertaining thing, just act like a delivery person – drop it off and leave. I think one time the delivery person had a key to the new parents’ apartment so they didn’t even need to interact with each other – the food just magically appeared in the fridge.

        Reply
    7. CheeryO

      We have a legendary food train for new moms. At one meal per employee who participates, it ends up being 3 meals per week for like 6 weeks. It’s way too much imo, but we’re one of those places that brags about being ~like family~, so I just deal with it. There is definitely too much pressure to participate (and ensuing unspoken competition to see who can make the best dishes), and it’s icky. Luckily we’re small enough that I only have to deal with it once per year or so, and the moms do seem to appreciate it.

      Reply
      1. Iris Eyes

        You could be the hero that brings the quick and easy snack food. Granola bars, veggie tray, cheese sticks!, things like that that are fairly healthy and work just as well for an older child to grab for themselves or for a parent held hostage by a cluster feeding baby. Those usually last for a while and might give them a chance to get through some of their leftovers.

        Reply
      1. Natalie

        The singular they is acceptable English grammar. And correcting someone’s spelling and grammar is against the site rules.

        Reply
      2. Myrin

        From the “How to comment” section: “Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices.”, which includes the OP (who clearly used it to not identify the soon-to-be parent’s gender, btw).

        Reply
          1. Elsajeni

            We really don’t — there’s what Arielle mentioned, plus it’s extremely common and normal to say “my friend just had a baby!” whether you’re talking about the person doing the actual gestating or their partner.

            Reply
          2. Myrin

            I’m only now seeing that the OP did indeed write “mom-to-be” so, yeah, we do know it’s a woman, that was my bad. However, that doesn’t change the original point (in fact, it makes the correction even more unnecessary since it seems like a simple typo which doesn’t impede understanding at all).

            Reply
          3. Specialk9

            As a matter of social justice, I work hard to use the (also grammatically proper, despite new rules made in the 1950s) “they” instead of he or she. I also use “kid” instead of boy or girl, as much as I can, and “person” instead of man or woman. It’s hard, but important to get right.

            And I have several friends who are men, and have uteri and vaginas. (I mean, I assume, I haven’t checked.) They could any of them have a kid, and still be a dude.

            Reply
      3. Runner

        In the United States, news organizations (AP style) are now in limited circumstances using “their” in publishing news reports, especially when the person has asked not to be referred to as he/she/him/her.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          Many consumer magazines simply use “they” as a gender-non-specific singular pronoun. In other words, they’ve given up the battle.

          Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        Not to mention, the child will belong to both parents, and only the mother will deliver it (if you define “have a child” to mean “birth a child”).

        Reply
      5. NotACook

        OP here. Yep, used ‘their’ to keep gender anonymous, but then immediately forgot and used Mom-to-be. I’m clearly as good at stealth as I am at cooking.

        Reply
    8. Rebecca in Dallas

      And if each coworker is providing a meal, that’s 25 meals? That seems excessive, especially if you consider that maybe friends and family are also providing meals.

      And I don’t typically cook for friends who have had a baby. I usually pick up a meal from their favorite restaurant, or maybe a gift card for somewhere that I know delivers. And if your employer is requiring that you provide a meal, a restaurant ticket is easier to expense.

      Reply
    9. Dust Bunny

      Seriously, this seems mostly to be a surefire way to end up with a lot of casseroles that aren’t to your taste.

      Every pregnant woman I’ve known of late has done her *own* pre-cooking and freezing so at least she knows her family will eat what’s been made.

      Reply
    10. anonymouscontent

      Yes! I’m pregnant and this is my thought too. I also enjoy certain types of food and there’s no way to guarantee that someone would cook something for me that I actually want to eat. I would personally be mortified if my manager asked other people to cook for me. If you’re truly insistent on helping, just get a gift card to a good takeout place instead.

      Reply
      1. Biff

        It’s also impossible to know if the food has something you don’t take well in it. The whole thing is just weird and invasive both towards the pregnant coworker and the coworkers who are expected to participate.

        Reply
    11. Zombeyonce

      And that many different people cooking probably means lots of different people dropping food off and interrupting all the exhausting things that happen at the end of pregnancy. I would not want to have to get presentable or give up a precious nap time when I’m just trying to get by waiting for the due date. Also to make the house presentable since half of the people will want to come in and talk.

      Reply
    12. NotACook

      OP here, and this comment really helped me feel better about the situation. I had not even considered that. (I mean, my kitchen is clean, but my colleague doesn’t know that.) Thank you!

      Reply
    13. CubicleShroom#1004

      This. All of this.

      Does this coworker even WANT these meals?

      I worked at an elementary school, and my principal was huge on Meal Trains. She organized them whether you wanted them or not. She made everyone participate. The principal was a vindictive loon, so you had to do something.

      Face it, Probably a good 80% of the food was trashed. I knew coworkers who would not eat anything from a home that had pets, especially cats since cats climb on counter tops. Coworkers who are uber pick/restrictive on their food. Those Mac and Cheese casseroles made with Velveeta hit the trash can.

      Some people thought certain coworkers didn’t have enough brains not to send a dish that wasn’t a candidate for future food poisoning.

      Waste of time, waste of food.

      Also you have the expense of packaging the food so it can be freezed properly.

      What is a better idea is gift cards to local restaurants. My area has a restaurant delivery service. My current work sets it up so we pay both for the dinner and delivery.

      Anyway…

      I get not wanting to blow ton of cash. I sent in Rice Crispy treats with dried cherries and chocolate chips. Used butter and marshmallow fluff, and wrapped each square individually. I knew all my coworkers loved them. The treats freeze well. For allergy homes, I just made them plain.

      If the boss is a maniac, you can go in with a coworker and prepay for pizza delivery.

      My old boss truly did hold it against people who didn’t participated. I feel your pain.

      Reply
  5. Blah

    OP#5: I’m at a loss for why the company even cares if employees turn weekends into vacations. Why are they trying to curb that practice?

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      Only thing that makes sense is to discourage two week vacations. But it is monstrous and the OP should look for a better employer who doesn’t enjoy petty torture.

      Reply
    2. g

      Maybe they’re expecting staff to be available for calls/email over the weekend, and this is their stupid way of trying to enforce that.

      Reply
    3. SignalLost

      So they have to functionally five out less vacation. Your 10 days or whatever suddenly isn’t enough for two work weeks out of the office, so you can produce more for the company.

      Reply
    4. LCL

      I can think of some reasons. I’m not justifying any of this, it is unfair and cruel. Their policy is done instead of actually managing vacation, which should include making a policy that only X number of people can be off at one time and actually saying no to employees’ vacation requests. They are trying to outsource the work of management back to the rank and file employees.

      Maybe the company is trying to work around the ‘everybody wants vacation at the same time’ phenomenon and has chosen a really stupid way to do it. Or they have a problem with too much vacation carryover, so they are trying to stop people maximizing their vacation days and want them to actually spend them. As things are now, 16 hours of vac buys 32 hours off. They want to stop this, and by requiring you to take vacation on the weekend they are making all time off equal in terms of time and vacation spent. So they are hoping this spreads vacation out.

      Reply
      1. Queen of the File

        This is my thought too. Fridays and Mondays were too popular for time off requests and they are trying to avoid managing their coverage by reducing the appeal of taking those days off.

        Reply
    5. Kateri

      And could you not just ask for a Thursday /Friday or Monday/Tuesday to make it a long weekend and circumvent whatever intent they have with this? This baffled me.

      Reply
  6. Stellaaaaa

    OP1: Since the newer emloyee seems to be asking mostly work-related questions, is it possible that she’s just trying to learn more about higher-level work or even just understand her own position better? She’s undoubtedly being annoying, but this may be an opportunity to offer training to someone who appears eager to learn. That might be one way of stopping the questions.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I don’t know… “Who was that in the phone?” and “Where are you going?” and “Where were you?” aren’t really work-related questions. They just sound like the questions my 5-year-old nephew asks (and which we’re training him out of asking).

      But I agree that coaching is in order.

      Reply
        1. Mookie

          Also, like she’s easily distracted or only superficially involved in her work, which are bad enough. Everyone needs downtime, but if she’s in observation mode eight hours a day I hope the work is easy enough that she can consistently interrupt it like this.

          Reply
        2. Anon non non

          My 41 year old sister does the question asking thing. To everyone. If my cell phone rings she’ll straight up ask who is calling me or if she runs into me out in public and she seems me talking to someone she’ll ask me who that was and how I know them. She’s never met a personal question she’s been afraid to ask. I shut her down with vague responses and often have to tell her to mind her own business – which she hates to do. She’s been like this since childhood. In grade school it was such a problem and she couldn’t be coached out of it that they put a cubicle around her desk so she wouldn’t be able to ask questions of other people during lessons. And the co-workers she has problems with? The ones who won’t answer her questions. It’s a strange habit of hers.
          LW, I feel for your stellar employee. I can’t spend more than an hour or two with my sister without snapping at her. If I was stuck in an office with her for an entire work day…every work day? Ohhh…that makes me cringe!

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            “She’s never met a personal question she’s been afraid to ask.”

            I’m stealing this. I know one or two people like that.

            Reply
      1. JamieS

        Agreed. It’s possible in context some of those could possibly be work related but that’s probably not the case more often than not.

        Also, you can train small children not to ask incessant questions?

        Reply
        1. PollyQ

          No, but they mostly grow out of it, right into the phase where they explain things to *you*, even without being asked.

          Reply
        2. Anon for this

          You can at least try… Many five-year-olds can inhibit these kinds of spontaneous questions perfectly well when required (such as at pre-school or whatever system they’re in in their country). (Source: I have one at home, and he’s certainly pretty spontaneous by nature.)

          Kids shouldn’t have to inhibit themselves like that all the time. But an adult should be able to inhibit it for the duration of the working day, regardless of whether the reason for the questions is cluelessness, curiosity, insecurity, a mistaken belief that this is small talk, or whatever.

          Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          You can’t :) But you can help them understand social norms about when it’s ok to ask these questions and when it isn’t. That’s how we frame it, anyway. Not that questions/curiosity aren’t ok, but just that there are circumstances when it’s more/less ok.

          I used to do this with my (now adult) nephew when he was 5, and he internalized most of those lessons by about 7/8 years old.

          Reply
        4. Kate 2

          Yeah, you can. It is part of helping them learn self control. They don’t have to say everything the minute it pops into their head, gaining social skills people need a certain amount of privacy and ignoring that will lose you friends, using judgement and figuring out when it is important to interrupt and when your question can wait.

          By the age of 10 most kids will have this down most of the time, with occasional slip-ups.

          Reply
      2. SignalLost

        Now we know where the stalker coworker from the shared desk setup works, having been fired by her employer for unreasonable behavior. :)

        Reply
    2. Amy

      This doesn’t really sound like someone trying to learn their way around the job to me. I was actually in a position like this, in a shared office with a coworker who had been there for several years, in my first office job. I did ask a lot of questions–any new person has questions! But they were about specific things about our job (how to document a specific thing properly, where people get lunch, what does this acronym refer to, how harsh is the company really on working from home in inclement weather, , any tips for getting through the major annual event thing, etc.). The point is, even as a fresh-out-of-school newbie, I would never have demanded details on where he went when he wasn’t in our office or what a phone call was about! That’s awkward and inappropriate, and I would question whether anyone who thinks it’s okay to talk to others that way really has good enough judgement to advance to higher level work, regardless of their interest.

      Reply
      1. Grad student

        Your questions are the type I expected when I read the letter headline! In which case it would have been a question of helping Jane balance assisting the new person with focusing on her own work. These questions don’t sound all that helpful or necessary, though.

        Reply
      2. JulieBulie

        For these kinds of questions (i.e. legit ones), the new employee and the old employee can schedule some time together each day so the old employee can have the rest of the day to herself without questions. Any out-of-time questions, including “who was that on the phone,” can be responded to with “we can discuss that later.” And then during the meeting, “I’ll let you know if there’s a phone call that concerns you.”

        Reply
        1. Amy

          Oh, it definitely wasn’t a ‘constant stream of questions’ kind of scenario! Scheduling time would have been weird for both our casual workplace and our friendly office-mate-relationship, but I tried to keep questions to one or two a day max, spread them around to other coworkers so it wasn’t just on him, and figure things out on my own where I could. Really, though, I was just trying to make a distinction between legit questions people ask when they’re new to the workforce or to a specific workplace and the kind of nonsense going on in this letter; none of this reads to me as a good-faith attempt to figure out the workplace, it’s just nosy BS.

          Reply
    3. chi type

      I could imagine a really socially awkward person deciding her new star employee office mate should be her role model and trying to figure out every single thing she does in her daily work. (I’m picturing stalker co-worker from the update the other day.)
      If that’s the case, hopefully Alison’s script will show her that’s not the way to go.

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        But it does sound from the LW that their duties might not even be really comparable or overlap, and that the shared space is about conserving real estate and not functional or for collaboration.

        I suppose if I was aspiring to the more seasoned colleague’s role, I’d want to pick her brain with her explicit permission and in the correct context. However, this employee will learn nothing about the substance of the role or the skills involved if she’s just asking about telephone calls (the existence of which is not novel nor particularly enlightening).

        Reply
        1. chi type

          Yeah it would have to be someone reeeeally clueless about all business and social norms.
          I personally think it’s more likely just a kind of annoying tic (or condition?). I have relative who just cannot keep a constant stream of words from pouring from her mouth. Se seems to know it’s not normal but just can’t help it…

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Yeah, this sounds like someone who has heard “Ask questions! Show you’re interested!” and is applying that without good judgment.

        Reply
        1. Micki

          I wonder if the new employee knows that their jobs are different. If the new employee thinks that they are shadowing the old employee, the questions make a little more sense.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Thneed

            A few of them, sure, but a lot of them just sound like nosy-parker stuff. The OP didn’t say explicitly whether they work together, but it didn’t seem that way to me. So my answer assumes that they do not work together.

            Some of the questions *could* be work-related, in which case the answer is always “If it actually concerns you, you’ll already know about it.” And every single one of them *could* be an intrusive question about someone’s personal business.

            These are the examples given:
            “Who was that on the phone?”
            >>> If they don’t do the same job, it’s very unlikely to matter to the new person. If they’re new at the company, it’s not even likely that they’d know the person.

            “What did you just print?”
            >>> There’s nothing the OP would print that would affect the new person, if they don’t do the same job.

            “Where are you going?”
            “Where were you?”
            >>> Ditto. If they don’t work together, this doesn’t affect the new person. It’s curiosity, but a person will not die of curosity.

            “What was that person talking about?”
            >>> If it affected the new person, she would have been part of the conversation (OR ideally she would not have known that it ever took place).

            If she’s entry-level, I wonder how fresh out of school she is. I wonder if anyone has ever told her “MYOB”.

            Reply
    4. BRR

      I think it’s possible the coworker is eager to learn but while these questions are about work, they don’t seem particularly relevant to their job.

      Reply
    5. Myrin

      These are only work-related questions inasmuch as it’s a coworker asking them at work, if you ask me. They sound much more like one of three scenarios (or a combination of two or all of them):
      1. New employee is a nosy busybody.
      2. New employee thinks the simple act of “asking question” shows engagement and enthusiasm.
      3. New employee can’t stand silence and has a compulsive need to do something against it.

      Reply
      1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep

        If it is #3, I would see if the employee could wear headphones in order to have some sort of white noise like appropriate music. That way, they’re getting their “omg silence what do I do?” need met and the seasoned employee can work without being interrupted / feeling like she’s being tortured.

        I live with someone who needs to fill the silence and I’m a person who loves silence. Music that we both like helps so much, especially on car trips. Or with her being on the phone and me in music that drowns her out.

        Reply
  7. AnonAndOn

    2. I’ve never heard of it being mandatory to cook meals for a pregnant co-worker. Is this a normal thing at your office? Usually people contribute money towards a baby shower but I’ve never heard of anything like this!

    Reply
    1. Magenta Sky

      If it’s mandatory, the quickest way to shut it down is to ask, in all seriousness, how the time should be recorded for payroll purposes. And if I were feeling especially puckish, I wouldn’t ask the manager that, I’d ask HR.

      If it’s mandatory, it’s on the clock.

      Reply
        1. Mookie

          And ask where the on-site kitchen is that can accommodate that kind of cookery in a sanitary fashion. Are they going to need food safety certificates? And when is the local health department inspector expected?

          Reply
    2. Zip Silver

      I’ve never heard of it for pregnancy, but I know it’s a common thing to do for surviving spouses right after a funeral.

      Reply
      1. Murphy

        Meal trains are definitely a thing for people who who have babies (after the baby is born). My friends did one for my husband and me, and it was really helpful!

        Reply
        1. all aboard the anon train

          This is honestly the first time I’ve heard of it. I’ve only ever heard of it in relation to funerals.

          Reply
          1. Lindsay J

            Same here. I wonder if it’s regional, or more common with single parents or something?

            My best friend recently had twins, and even though she was home and on bed rest for a little bit before birth nobody did meals for her.

            I have seen and heard of it done after a spouse passed away unexpectedly, or if someone was in a major accident or recently diagnosed/undergoing treatment for a serious illness, etc.

            Reply
        2. AKchic

          Meal trains are from friends and family. Certainly not coworkers. The majority of new moms do NOT want to see Gary from Sales or Sally from Accounting with a casserole they couldn’t stand at the potluck now standing in their house expecting to see your brand new baby while you are hormonal and haven’t showered and wearing sweatpants and dealing with post-partum stuff.

          Office appropriate would be to have everyone sign a congratulatory card, maybe chip in for a gift card; or throw an office baby shower; but that’s about it. If the company and it’s workers are really nice – donate some extra leave time (looking at you, US companies).

          Reply
      2. AnotherAlison

        I could see it for someone who was on extended bedrest with kids already at home, having multiples, or some other extenuating circumstance, but I think a woman who is home on maternity leave with her first child and presumably a partner in the house does not need 25 meals. I would see this as more of a pain in the butt to break from my normal eating routine than helpful.

        Reply
        1. VintageLydia

          I mean, the first couple of weeks are physically and mentally exhausting on its own, even without other kids or responsibilities. Very often that partner is working all day and for me literally all I could think about was sleep. If you’ve ever had major surgery, recover isn’t dissimilar (especially if there was a c-section because you literally are recovering from major surgery) especially when you add in childcare with no predictable schedule.

          So food prepared by someone else and delivered to you is a godsend. I think making meals was the only serious request I had from friends and family who offered to help.

          Reply
      3. Amy

        Helping out with meals is a common way for friends, family, and communities (e.g. fellow church members) to support people going through pretty much any tough time, whether it’s emotionally difficult like a death in the family or just plain physically exhausting like a new baby. But 1. it’s generally a volunteer thing, not mandatory, and 2. it’s for social communities, not workplaces! This reads to me as a workplace that’s WAY too into the “We’re a family here!” thing, and I’d consider it a sign that I should be on the lookout for other overstepping.

        Reply
    3. MashaKasha

      But this is what drives me batty – he did not make it mandatory explicitly. He asked them if they would be willing to cook the meals. And when one person out of 25 said “no, I won’t be able to”, he threw a fit. What kind of a yes/no question is that when the only acceptable answer is “yes”?

      Also, I would bet that he’d say it would not be on the clock, because people volunteered. He asked them if they would, and they just happened to say yes.

      Reply
    4. LoiraSafada

      Pregnancy/the birth of a baby strikes me as a wildly inappropriate reason to cook meals. Cancer, a sudden death, a major family emergency, ok. Something you’ve had 9+ months anticipating…not so much.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        Yeah, I’ve never heard of it for pregnancy before, either. I can see if for a single parent on bedrest, but otherwise it seems incredibly odd to me.

        And, honestly, in this day and age I would prefer a giftcard to Grubhub or UberEats or Postmates or InstaCart or something rather than random meals made by coworkers whose homes, cooking habits, and tastes are unknown quantities.

        (Though, for the topic at hand I guess none of those things matter. It would still be inappropriate for the job to be guilt tripping her if it was for someone who had cancer. And she cites money as an issue stopping her from doing it so contributing towards a gift-card still wouldn’t be possible.)

        Reply
        1. Biff

          It’s possible that this office is located somewhere rather rural, and such things aren’t an option in their area, and so the only reliable source of prepped and delivered food would be the old-fashioned way — neighbors.

          Reply
  8. AnonAndOn

    1. Please speak up on behalf of your employee. Being interrogated like that is aggravating. You shouldn’t have to worry about losing a good worker to something like this.

    Reply
  9. Cheshire Cat

    #1 Wasn’t there a letter recently that could have been from the seasoned employee? Or did I read an older letter with the same issue? I can’t seem to find it in the archives, but it sounds so familiar!

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      If you’re thinking of the LW irritated by her colleague constantly mimicking her every move (not the one who dressed up as the other for Halloween), there’s an update!

      Reply
    2. Broadcastlady

      I posted something very similar, and then an update in the open threads. (junior co-worker calling with the same questions over and over after they’d been covered over and over).

      Reply
  10. Jenny

    OP1 Ugh. Some (low) level of this kind of thing probably comes with sharing an office, but that sounds incredibly irritating – not to mention a distraction from work. Definitely agree with Alison’s advice!

    Reply
  11. AK

    OP#5, is it possible this is a shortcoming of whatever PTO system is in use, or those who are trained (or not) to use it? Ours will automatically count time for weekends if you book Friday THROUGH Monday, but if you book Friday AND Monday it only counts 2 days. Maybe someone just needs a clue about the software capabilities?

    Reply
    1. Gaia

      That is what I thought. Our new system did the same thing until enough people got irritated enough and emailed Benefits to get them to input a Monday – Friday schedule for everyone and all company holidays. Before that the system assumed everyone worked every day of the year.

      I’d like to think OP5 is in the same situation with just a bad system setup and not some crazy town situation where her boss thinks her weekends belong to the company. Literally the only other situation I could think of is if the OP has a Monday – Friday schedule but is expected to be on call over the weekends? It still sucks, but maybe? I dunno. This is crazy.

      Reply
      1. I'm ready for ice cream

        I agree. It sounds like the timekeeping system needs a setting changed or everyone needs to submit time of for requests separately for Monday and Friday. Although it’s possible the employer is that ridiculous, I’m thinking it is an quirk for the system to fix.

        Reply
    2. LJL

      You know, that makes the most sense….I always book a Friday-Monday combo as 2 single days off for fear my system will do exactly that.

      Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      That’s only a marginal improvement in the stupidity department, though. “Darn, this software counts the weekend as a vacation! Okay everyone, new policy.”

      Reply
  12. Startup HR

    #5 I agree that this is a terrible idea, especially if you only have two weeks of vacation anyway. Is the company an American one or foreign? There are countries like Russia where this is the standard way to count time off. You also get way more vacation time than in the US.

    Reply
  13. Mark Roth

    I am wondering if the owner/HR person/Idiot-in-Charge who came up with the Friday-Monday equals four days charged PTO Time was formerly in the military. I believe, though I welcome correction, that if someone is taking extended time in the military every day is charged as leave.

    Though I like the theory that someone just ticked the wrong box on a computer program and this isn’t a conscious decision

    Reply
    1. Thlayli

      My husband is in the army (not USA though) and yes technically they can be required to work 7 days a week (in case a war breaks out I guess) and so any weekends off are counted towards holiday since he’s unavailable. He prefers not to take 2 week hols for this reason.

      Reply
    2. Adara

      My husband is US Navy and it is standard to charge leave for every day gone, including weekends. The reason is that the job is basically on call 24/7 and they need to know exactly what days a service member is on leave/unavailable. Moreover, leave check-in/check-out procedures take place during normal admin hours, which makes it difficult to check back in on a Saturday or Sunday should he be available for work, so they check back in Monday morning and charge the weekend as leave.

      Reply
    3. Sienna B.

      I’m an US Army veteran, and that is correct – weekends are included and counted as part of your leave.
      However, since leaving the service I’ve worked for several small veteran-owned contracting companies, and none of them ever thought of making their employees charge vacation time that way. This is very odd and perplexing indeed.

      Reply
  14. Ramona Flowers

    #3 This is one of those scenarios when it can be helpful to compare with dating. Imagine if you talked to someone on a dating site about going out, but hadn’t said yes yet – and then they sent a holiday card to your whole family.

    You don’t want to be known as that weird person who sent the card. So don’t do it! And good luck.

    Reply
    1. Lars the Real Girl

      Additionally, a holiday card is a social correspondence, not a professional one. (At least in this direction – companies send out holiday cards but they’re marketing products, not really social cards.)

      And sending it to the whole department, who may not have met you yet (?) seems odd.

      Reply
  15. Cnon

    Ask a Manager said:

    Normally I’d suggest that you first coach Jane to address this herself, but it sounds like this employee needs significant enough coaching that it makes sense for you to talk it on.

    Don’t you mean take it on?

    Reply
        1. Aces High

          And that’s why there’s a link to send those comments directly to her in private, handily positioned right above the comment box.

          Reply
  16. Ruth (UK)

    5. At my last job, th system we used did this automatically if you put it in as eg. 12th-15th of a month if 12th was a Friday but not if we separately entered the 12th and 15th the same way one might ask off individually a Monday and a Thursday.

    Anyway I haven’t checked but I am fairly certain this would be illegal in the UK and most (probably all) European countries. But we have legal requirements for leave (UK is not as good as most of Europe but obviously better than US). I would be extremely shocked if that was legal here…

    Reply
    1. Bagpuss

      Yes, when we had a new system it did this initially, it took a bit of tweaking to teach it about weekends and bank holidays.

      If LW#5’s employer is actually implementing this as a policy, rather than it being a software glitch, then I agree that it stinks, and it would be worth them pushing back as a group, and perhaps trying to clarify with the employer why they are looking to introduce it.

      It seems to me that it might be that they want to discourage people taking long weekends and perhaps leaving the office short staffed on Mondays or Fridays, but if so, that would surely be better addressed by simply making clear that requests will be approved taking into account business needs .

      Reply
    2. Just Working Here

      Nope, not illegal in all European countries, and not even all EU countries.

      In the EU country where I work, you basically have a minimum of 5 weeks of annual leave for “normal office jobs”. The complex thing is that these weeks aren’t counted as 5*5=25 days, but as 5*6=30 days (probably because office jobs used to include half days on Saturdays or something), and then when you take a week off, 6 days are used up rather than 5 days.

      I often take off a day here and a day there, which means I have no idea when I should consider “having taken a week off”. So instead, I recalculate my 30 days into 25 “real” days, and then keep track of how many of those I still have left (and then report it to the company — we have a great system whereby you keep track of your own leave, unless it seems you start overdoing it). I think I now have 16 “real” days left, and the guy who keeps track of these things at our office is thankfully only slightly confused but not opposed to me reporting to him that I have 19.2 days left…

      When I used to work in another EU country it was a very simple 4 weeks of annual leave = 20 normal business days, no weekends counted.

      Reply
    3. Brock

      #5 I’m in the UK and I totally do not understand how #5 could be legal. ‘It’s legal since no law regulates how employers structure their vacation benefits’ isn’t enough of an explanation, and makes about as much sense as ‘they get to do it that way because they feel like it’. Could anyone expand on this?

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        Apparently in the US there is NO legal requirement for paid leave/vacation, so it’s entirely up to employers how much vacation time they give and how they give it. They can legally give as much or as little as they like and put any weird rules they like on it.
        I was talking to a guy at the weekend who is English but lives in Texas told me he’d once worked 2 years without a single day of vacation.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Sort of? The individual states have different laws, too, which is why the OP needed to specify she was in Florida.

          But it is true that there is no national requirement for vacation time or paid time off.

          Reply
        2. Lindsay J

          I hope you realize that that one guy is likely an outlier.

          In some types of positions and industries (retail, specifically, that I know of) paid vacation is rare.

          But in those cases you can request days off to take trips, tend to personal appointments, etc. Those days are unpaid, but you can often pick up a shift from someone else to make up the hours.

          In blue collar jobs (aircraft maintenance, oil rigs, etc) that I’m aware of generally the scheduling for those positions is done in such a way that there is a lot more flexibility built in – lots of 7 days on, 7 days off schedules and stuff like that. (And the aircraft mechanics that I have know get paid vacation time and personal days.)

          In white collar positions, having no paid time off for two years is pretty much unheard of in my experience.

          Reply
          1. Biff

            I had a friend in a profession that is both white and blue collar (depending on your point of view) and he worked two years with no paid vacation. Then he got a week.

            Reply
      2. TL -

        Well. They get to do it that way because they feel like it, essentially. It’s the company’s benefit and they can decide how to give it.

        Reply
        1. Brock

          Yes, but isn’t it a contractual violation? If it’s at a whim, what’s to stop them from offering 2 weeks’ vacation when you take the job, and then finding out ‘but there’s a policy in this company that every ‘vacation day’ is really 4 hours’ so you really only have 5 days off per year?

          And if someone is considering taking a new job, how can one take offered benefits into consideration if they can be changed at a whim, especially with hidden ‘rules’ that reduce the actual benefit significantly, like the one in #5?

          Reply
          1. Lany

            It’s just a chance you take. My job just switched up our vacation benefits and it made a lot of people very, very upset. So far no one has quit over it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does.

            Reply
          2. Anononon

            Most jobs in the US aren’t contract based. Even if you have a job offer in writing, it’s not a contract.

            Also, in general, most employers will never be this awful. We only read about the bad, unusual ones here. The system may be different from other countries but it generally works.

            Reply
          3. Lars the Real Girl

            Ditto on the no contracts in the US thing, but also want to point out that most even halfway decent companies don’t do these things on a whim. It’s in their interest not to thoroughly piss off their employees, and to act in good faith in representing benefits.

            Reply
          4. g

            Welcome to US employment law. Many 20thC labour improvements never made it over there, and employment is much more of an informal agreement than in Europe, particularly for ‘white collar’ workers who it seems are assumed can fend for themselves. Typically there is no employment contract, nor are contract terms implied by ongoing working arrangements. Although paying salary is well regulated, Employers have more carte blanche on benefits as long as policies are not discriminatory. They do have to worry about retaining good employees though, which is why a lot of Alison’s advice is “This is not illegal, try complaining as a group”.

            When accepting a job you should always ask for benefit policies in advance, but in the USA there is no guarantee these policies will stay the same for the duration of your tenure. They could even change 5 seconds after you accept the offer and all you can do is complain or quit.

            Reply
            1. blackcat

              ” They could even change 5 seconds after you accept the offer and all you can do is complain or quit.”

              This happened to a coworker of my husband. Took new job with Company A. Company A had excellent benefits, including 6 weeks PTO and paid parental leave. The day before he was supposed to start, it was announced company A was bought by company B. Starting January 1, all workers at Company A would only get 2 weeks PTO, have crappier health insurance, etc. Coworker asked for more $$ to make up for it. Was declined, was told firmly that he would no longer be eligible for any sort of parental leave, paid or unpaid (and no FMLA b/c wife was already pregnant and due in the new year). Coworker turned to his current manager, asked to keep his job at husband’s company. Manager fortunately said yes. He had to block phone numbers from Company A and B since they kept calling him to harass him for going back on their agreement. WTF did they think would happen?!?!

              Reply
              1. LKW

                Ha – so to them he went back on the agreement, but they didn’t. Sadly it doesn’t surprise me that they framed it this way.

                Reply
          5. the gold digger

            If it’s at a whim, what’s to stop them from offering 2 weeks’ vacation when you take the job

            Nothing. Which is why my company’s new owners converted our five personal days – which were pitched to me as vacation days – to sick days for which we need documentation if we take more than two in a row.

            I. Am. Pissed.

            Reply
          6. Lindsay J

            We don’t generally have employment contracts in most industries here, so there really isn’t a contractual obligation of any sort.

            Places can change their benefits on a whim (or put whatever stupid stipulations on them as they like. I’ve worked places that have blackout days where nobody is allowed to request off. And these happened to be weeks – like the week between Christmas and New Year’s – where many people would like to have off to see their families, etc.) The stupid stipulations you try to suss out before you take the job. Changing them after the fact there’s not a lot you can do if it happens – at least not legally.

            The thing that stops them from doing these things is that most people are reasonable people and are not out to intentionally screw their employees. And also intentionally screwing their employees will cause word to get around via sites like GlassDoor, Indeed, etc, and lead people to choose not to apply/work there. So most places try to act in good faith on these things. Not all of them, obviously, which is why we read about a lot of the bad ones here.

            Reply
      3. fposte

        What you’ve described is basically the foundation of the U.S. approach to law–the default is legality until the law states otherwise. They get to do it because they feel like it. There is no federal protection for vacation benefits, and its state protection varies from no protection to protections about paying out unused vacation, but no state requires vacation time at all. U.S workers, as noted by other people, tend not to be on contracts. The main power workers have is to vote with their feet and leave if they don’t like it.

        Reply
          1. LBK

            FWIW, just because it’s not legally protected doesn’t mean most companies are this stingy about it. Plenty of people in the US get normal vacation time that they’re free to use in normal ways; examples like the OP’s are very far out of the norm.

            Obviously it would be better if this were standardized by law, but don’t let letters like this give the impression that US workers as a whole are generally subject to such ridiculous rules.

            Reply
    1. Doreen

      I’m wondering if #5’s employer is connected to the military in some way. I was never in the military, but my understanding from people who were is that you can’t leave the area on your regular days off . So if your regular days off are Saturday and Sunday and your vacation starts on Monday, you can’t actually leave until Monday. And if you wanted to leave on Saturday, you would have to charge leave for Saturday and Sunday.

      Reply
      1. Sienna B.

        I don’t think it’s necessarily that. Of all the small, veteran-owned contracting companies I’ve worked for, none of them ever made employees charge leave/vacation time that way. The veteran-owned companies my old Army buddies work for don’t make employees charge leave/vacation time that way. I think this company is just filled with people who don’t like or value time off…

        Also, don’t forget – a lot of us military veterans used to work civilian/private sector jobs prior to joining the service. It’s not that we’re so removed from civilian norms that we’d forget what is and isn’t the norm. At least, not completely. I don’t think that’s the case with this situation.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        You know, military people and ex-military people are not that stupid. They know perfectly well that civilian life and jobs are different from military.

        Others have mentioned that they (veterans) or people they know (veterans) never thought to treat vacation this way. I believe them completely.

        Reply
  17. Myrin

    #1, you ask “Is this just a case of social ignorance or should I step in and address it?” and I did want to point out that both can be true at the same time! In fact, from reading this site, it seems to me that it’s social ignorance (or people hiding behind the cloak of plausible deniability of social ignorance) more often than not which leads to trouble in the workplace. If someone is from a culture where it’s normal to lather your feet in onions and then put them on your desk, that’s not really a problem with their work but I’m sure your employees would thank you to step in!

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      Great point. Ignorance is reason enough for a manager to introduce enlightenment; that’s what you’re there for, and particularly for new and entry-level staff.

      Reply
    2. Just Working Here

      “If someone is from a culture where it’s normal to lather your feet in onions and then put them on your desk”

      Now I want to know whether this place exists! And maybe go there for a (brief) working holiday…

      Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      Someone posted a piece that was along the lines of “If you are stepping on my foot because X, you need to get off my foot.” Behavior doesn’t have to be malicious before you address it.

      Reply
    4. Parenthetically

      Yes, was just going to say this! I teach middle and high school students and it’s pretty obvious that lots of authority types in their lives never address things with them until an issue becomes truly intrusive or even discipline-worthy. You really can say to someone, totally dispassionately, “Hey, FYI, this isn’t a thing that’s done in this context, so you need to do X instead.” It doesn’t have to be, “How dare you do this thing! You are in so much trouble!”

      Reply
      1. Grad Student

        Yes to all of the above! “Stepping in and addressing” something doesn’t have to carry the connotation of “you have failed to meet expectations and need to feel bad about yourself now.”

        Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        I love that phrasing, because there probably is a context where that behavior is fine, even positive. Just not this current context right here.

        Some socially gifted people instantly figure it out; lots of people need someone to tell them the rules that apply in this context.

        Reply
      3. Nervous Accountant

        Wow. Such a simple thing but it makes sooooo much sense. What I see (both work and non work) is that lot of the time, bad habits are pointed out after the “offender” had no clue. Others may let it go many times until someone says it in a fit of anger. So now the “offender” feels embarrassed and they might be in trouble.

        Reply
      4. Kate 2

        Agreed! I have a relative who works in a school with that age group, and unfortunately they have been banned from helping them in this way because “it might embarrass them and hurt their feelings.” BS! You know what really hurts a kid? Not getting told that they are losing friends because they reek and they need to bathe more than once every 2 weeks. Not being told they need to brush every day because their breath is bad and they could LOSE their teeth. And so on.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Yeah, it’s way better for me to tell a kid in a cheery, informative tone, “Hey, lots of women don’t like being asked their age,” or “It’s impolite to comment on people’s bodies,” or “Don’t touch people’s hair, please, it’s not appropriate to get into people’s space without permission” than to have them develop a reputation as a pest (or worse).

          Reply
  18. sheworkshardforthemoney

    No.2. You just spearhead the company’s charity drive! Mention this to your boss if he thinks you are not a team player because you aren’t able to come up with one meal. If push comes to shove after that then a frozen lasagna transferred to your own container is going to have to work.

    Reply
    1. LKW

      But the issue was funding on top of cooking. The OP shouldn’t be asked to spend money he/she doesn’t have for a charitable act. Especially when the OP offered to drive or do other things that don’t require as much money.

      Reply
  19. QualitativeOverQuantitative

    OP5–is it possible it’s just a weird software glitch? My company’s system will automatically take weekend time if you enter it one way, so we just work around the glitch. If it’s intentional though, your company is the worst.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      How could this be a glitch when people have been taking off Friday and Monday to take advantage of the weekend for longer than computers have existed? The software libraries for handling dates are out there and would take care of this very, very easily.

      There’s no need to make excuses for bad behavior.

      Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Sure, but it makes no sense for the company to then say “oh well, I guess we cannot work around this problem in any way other than screwing employees out of two vacation days!”

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Exactly. “Our company gave new vacation policies” reads to me that, whatever the cause, the employer is explicitly endorsing what amounts to arbitrary punishment via loss of their benefits, whether the impetus was a change in policy or a technical issue. If the employer didn’t want it to work this way, they could: tell people to input the days individually, which most everyone has said is a way around this technical issue; manually add back wrongly deducted leave; track leave manually in a separate system; or anything else other than issue an edict that this was the policy.

            Reply
        1. Observer

          No, but if something is common, then it’s likely to be covered by the software. And, even when it’s not directly covered there tend to be work arounds built in.

          The issue here is NOT the software, because even if it’s a piece of garbage, there ARE ways for the company to work around it, in the software or out of it.

          Reply
        2. Mike C.

          No, I’m explicitly saying that software programs have figured this out. This is nothing more than a conditional FOR loop. This was a solved problem years before I was even born, there’s no excuse here.

          Reply
  20. Cobblestone

    I have a coworker like LW #1. She’ll ask me who was on the phone after I’ve hung up, or even repeat parts of my conversation back to me word for word and ask what it was about. As I am not her boss, how would I tell her that it’s not her business?

    Reply
    1. SallytooShort

      The woman in the office across from me does this all.of.the.time. We aren’t even in the same department!

      When I have my door open she can hear my phone calls and asks what it was about. When people pop in my office she’ll interrupt and inject herself in the conversation. Even when it’s about work. Which, again, she does not do the same work as us. She isn’t in my department. If I bring in a bag with food in it she’ll grill me on what I have to eat.

      It drives me nuts.

      Reply
      1. AKchic

        I’ve had coworkers and have family like this. Deflecting with humor sometimes works.
        “Are you writing a book?” “Huh?” “Well, it will have to remain a mystery!”
        Or, the “Thanks for your unsolicited/unrequested/unasked for input/opinion, I’ve got it.” Never say “assistance” or “help”. It makes them think that they were justified in butting in and giving their opinion.
        I’ve also used “your opinion has been noted. Goodbye”.

        When dealing with the food police, look down your nose and give a frosty “I don’t recall asking for your advice. Goodbye.” Seriously ram home the finality of the goodbye.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          I like to make them work for it. Ask me an impertinent question – me: “Huh?” make them repeat it. Look puzzled. “You want to know who I was talking to? Do you think it was a misdialed call or something?” Make them admit they’re just being nosy or have no reason to need to know. Then shrug and say mildly, “I’ve got to get to work now, good talk.” Never answer. Next time, they don’t bug you.

          Reply
          1. AKchic

            My last landlord was also my mail carrier. She was super nosy. Oh my cheesus was she nosy. If there was a strange car parked on the street, she wanted to know who it was (it was a duplex, her daughter lived in the other half). Most of the time, it was someone down the street parking in front of our yard because they had no real parking in their area. We didn’t care. It was a terrible neighborhood. If I had friends over and we were in the front yard, she’d make a point to stop over after work to visit her daughter and ask what we were up to. Then call me later to lecture me about parking (on-street parking is something she can’t regulate, it’s not her property), bending the grass (seriously?), and noise (um… it’s 3 in the afternoon on a weekend?) and being courteous to neighbors (dude – its a weekend in a bad neighborhood – there are literally shootings, hookers wandering the alley behind me, and drug deals happening on our street. You rent the house behind us to a grow operation).
            What were we doing, that had her interest so piqued? Puppet and prop-making for the renaissance fair. I had about 10 people between the ages of 19-65 sitting in my yard. Real hoodlums, I tell you, what with our arts and crafts.

            Reply
    2. Princess Loopy

      “Why do you ask?”

      Seriously, make them explain it–to you and to themselves. If they have a good reason (I can’t imagine, but who knows) then you can answer them; if they struggle to answer why enough times, maybe they’ll stop.

      Embrace the awkward question and the awkward silence that often follows it.

      Reply
    3. Specialk9

      “Why do you need to know?”

      “Why do you ask?”

      “Are you asking because you think it relates to your work?”

      Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      I think you can have a similar conversation with much the same wording.

      You just frame it as “This bothers me. Please stop doing it.”

      In the moment, you can say, curiously, “Is this something you NEED to know for work?”
      Or maybe make it a statement: “This isn’t something you need to know.”

      And even the blunt: “You ask me a lot of questions about things that have nothing to do with you. Please stop grilling me.”

      Reply
  21. The Cosmic Avenger

    OP #5, do your employers also send around emails about new policies every time someone does something wrong? Like “No dishes can be left on the counters…no dishes can be left in the sink….no personal dishes allowed….we are removing the dish soap from the break room because someone spilled it last week and didn’t clean it up…”

    This is classic management-by-reaction. They don’t spell out what they want, they may not even know, but once something bothers them, they create a specific policy about it. And for this one, it’s even more ridiculous, because they could just NOT APPROVE leave on a consecutive Friday and Monday, but no, they’re going to ALLOW IT and THEN dock you extra pay???

    I know other commenters have said that some payroll/leave systems do that, but this sounds like it is being made into a formal policy, or at least this buggy system is being fully endorsed by the employer. Run, don’t walk, to the help wanted ads.

    Reply
  22. Imaginary Number

    OP #5: Coming from the military, where that’s how leave always worked, I was actually surprised to discover in the real world that it was just your normal working days that you miss that are counted. It makes sense to me if it’s the sort of job where you not being available in emergencies is an issue, although I would expect there to be more vacation days available, on average, in that situation (for example, everyone in the military got 2 1/2 days a month, which came out to 30 a year which is a ton if you didn’t count weekends.)

    Reply
    1. OtterB

      I was coming here to say this. Possibly the person setting policy is former military? In which case the response might be more usefully “this is not the way things work in the civilian world” instead of “what power-mad idiot does this?”

      My parents had a honeymoon story that involved this rule and my father’s very limited available leave from the Navy because of having used a lot earlier in the year during my mom’s life-threatening medical emergency, leading to him planning to call in Monday morning for his time off rather than signing out Friday afternoon before the wedding, and followed by a June ice storm that took down telephone wires to the Shenandoah lodge where they were honeymooning and required him to drive down to the valley to phone in so he wasn’t AWOL.

      Reply
  23. Say what, now?

    OP #2, if you really would like to do something for the coworker who just had a baby maybe you could team up with another coworker? You could find one that doesn’t like cooking and offer to do that portion of the work if they buy the ingredients. Although, that doesn’t solve your time expense issue. You could also offer to make a side to go with someone else’s meal. Say someone makes meatloaf, you could offer to make green bean casserole to go with it (cheap and quick). That might appease your boss, although I don’t know if it’s great to appease him since he is being juvenile.

    Reply
  24. Some Sort of Management Consultant

    #5 happens in my Scandinavian country if you work a schedule that usually requires you to work on weekends. Say, you’re a construction worker who is contracted to work Wednesday-Sunday schedule. Then your normal workweek is considered to be Wed-Sun and your “weekends” Monday-Tuesday.

    But you have a contract that specifies that.

    That’s really the ONLY situation that could happen here. I’m baffled.

    Reply
  25. Nisie

    The question about meals made me remember an incident when I was just out of college. My boss had a baby, and her assistant sent an email out asking for meals for the family- the mom, the dad, the grandmother, the teenage son (it was noted that he’d need twice as much) and the two school age kids. Meals had to be salad, meat, two sides, rolls, drink and dessert. We would have to bring the meals over after work.

    I declined.

    Reply
      1. CubicleShroom#1004

        I got off cheap with the Rice Krispy Treats.

        Our meals had to had serve 4 generously, and packaged to freeze. My sister’s work does Meal Trains like above. Providing a total meal to all family members in the home. That can run you easily over $100.

        Where I worked, you can’t make canned soup casseroles and call it a day. Making lasagna (meat or cheese) is not cheap.

        The rules where..
        -no prepackaged mixes/gravies/canned soups/processed cheeses
        -must have a protein and a vegetable
        -must free well
        -must be packaged to free

        I make a mean, from scratch tuna noodle casserole. It still cost me $50 after all was said said and done because I would have to purchase the ingredients that I don’t have on hand.

        Also the list couldn’t have 20 different chicken dishes or lasagna. People drew names out of a hat for easier, cheaper dishes like taco meat for tacos.

        Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      That is ridiculous and over the top (one-hand casseroles, people!) except the part about the teenage son, because if you are not feeding one you can really underestimate how much they can eat.

      Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          It’s possible that the people on the list hypothetically tall enough to operate a stove have some sort of limits that make that a bad idea.

          The problem isn’t whether there are people who could theoretically cook–usually there are around funerals, yet that’s a hugely popular time to leave food–but with asking for food more elaborate than “please drop off a casserole or soup if you’re able.”

          Reply
        1. VintageLydia

          Depends if that teenage son is 13 or 17. A 16+ year old I can see handling that responsibility so long as school and other stuff allows. But a 13 or 14 year old may be too young for that.

          Reply
          1. Nisie

            At 14, I was in charge of preparing 2 meals a week. By 18, 4- and I had a signed check to buy food. I really didn’t get it.

            Reply
            1. VintageLydia

              I mean, the entire premise of the employee providing that sort of meal for their boss is a little ridiculous, but human development is such that some young teens can handle cooking three meals a day for a half dozen people, but many (most?) will not be.

              Reply
          2. Jennifer Thneed

            Kids can cook. They might not be as good with the whole “meal planning” thing, but they can cook. The problem, of course, is that it’s not an inborn skill, like walking is. Just as with reading and bicycle riding, it must be taught.

            I know this because I had a “Betty Crocker’s Boys’ and Girls’ Cookbook” when I was in single-digit ages, and I used it a lot. Of course, it was mostly the cookie pages that got used, but it really was a whole cookbook and I really did use it all.

            Reply
    2. LKW

      Oh hell no. I’m really hoping this was the assistant’s idea and not the bosses request. You got a teenager and a grandmother in the house? That means this isn’t the first kid. You know what this takes.

      Plus, you’re the boss, you should be able to manage your finances.

      And as someone up thread noted, you’ve had over 6 months to plan this.

      Reply
  26. Big Fat Meanie

    #5 That is a ridiculous policy and I don’t agree with it, but I wonder if this is an office where people are expected to be somewhat available and responsive to work-related requests that may roll in over the weekend, possibly even able to go into the office if needed, and the assumption is that if you’re on vacation over the weekend, you won’t have that same partial availability and that’s why you’re charged vacation days.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      But that would also be true if the employee took Thursday-Friday (or Monday-Tuesday), and the new policy only applies when someone takes Friday and Monday off.

      Reply
  27. SallytooShort

    OP#5 This is just so stupid. Obviously, no employee is going to waste vacation days like that. So, everyone will genuinely use the four (just take off Tuesday-Friday or Monday-Thursday) or take off Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday.

    Did no one bring that up?

    Reply
    1. PersephoneUnderground

      Yeah, this was my exact thought. I schedule around weekends to, you know, take fewer days at once to be nice to my employer as well as spread out my own leave and get a long enough trip to count. But if I were going to lose the time anyway I’d just take 4 weekdays- cheaper hotels and flights to boot.

      Reply
  28. John Rohan

    #5 is not necessarily wrong or illogical, depending on the job. This is exactly how the military handles leave time. You set a start point and an end point to when your vacation is over. So you will be charged vacation days for weekends or Christmas if they fall inside that vacation period. You can’t just take hours/or specific days off. This is to protect the servicemember, otherwise if there’s an emergency they could be called back to work on a weekend or holiday, even though they may be in another country on vacation and unable to get back that quickly. On the other hand, everyone gets 30 days vacation a year to help make up for this.

    If the LW is similarly working in a job that requires them to be on-call to come in and work on any day or time of the day, then it makes sense. If it’s a 9-5 job that never works on weekends/holidays, then it doesn’t make sense.

    Reply
  29. ss

    I worked at a place where I took 1 hour off for a doctor appointment and then worked the rest of the day. Then a few days later, the admin for our department came to me and ordered me to change my time-off in the HR system and said “you have to take time off in 4-hour increments.”. I said that”I was only gone 1 hour, so it’s not fair to dock me for 4 when I was working 3 of them. Where does it say I have to take 4-hour increments? She informed me that it was a departmental rule. I asked her for a copy of the ‘departmental rules’ and she said they weren’t written down. I then pulled out the CORPORATE rules that stated that all employees may take up to 12 hours of their PTO in 15-minute increments (it specifically said this was to allow employees to go to doctor and other wellness appointments to maintain good employee health). The best part of the corporate policy was that it explicitly said that no other regional or local policies may override this policy. Each time she tried to force me to take 4-hour increments, I pulled out a written copy of that corporate policy with the section highlighted and refuse to change my PTO. She finally stopped when I told her I was going to report this harassment to corporate.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      This reminds me of the letter about an admin who was making up all sorts of rules and making everyone nuts.

      This admin sounds like she was on a power trip. Of COURSE the rules were not written down- that would have opened her up to problems since she was flouting pretty specific company policies.

      Reply
  30. Narise

    OP#1 I have had to coach an employee over a few years regarding interactions with coworkers. She has no self awareness and cannot pick up that she’s bothering others or insulting them or being unprofessional. It is rows of cubicles and she will comment on what others are saying, eating, discussing in person or on the phone, and when we address it with her, her defense is that I don’t hold others accountable for their behavior.
    It took several conversations and documentation for her to improve. There is still a concern that she will cross the line but it has gotten much better. She is never going to be self aware and I can’t change that however I can make it clear that those actions will cause strife within the team and there will be consequences to those behaviors.

    Reply
  31. Guitar Hero

    I wish people would not push baby/baby shower related activities on others at work. Lots of people struggle with infertility, pregnancy loss, etc and having to participate in these things at work can be excruciating. I was recently shamed into participating in a baby shower after a pregnancy loss (granted, nobody knew I was pregnant). The company ordered in lunch, and I declined. I did contribute to the gift card. I just didn’t want to do the games/activities, and I told the organizer when she approached me that I was going to sit out. She got attitude with me so I eventually caved to hopefully not start crying at my desk. I cried in the bathroom later.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      I feel like “I recently lost a pregnancy of my own, and this would be too hard for me to attend,” would have shut that right down.

      Reply
      1. Kate 2

        I agree with Silent Night, plus the kind of person who forces people to join a baby shower is also the kind to over-involve themselves in the lives of others, and give them “helpful” advice.

        Reply
    2. Thursday Next

      I think Snark is absolutely right. It’s fine to honor your own needs! There are always going to be celebrations that are difficult for some because of their own personal circumstances (weddings for the don’t-want-to-be single folk, anniversaries for the painfully divorced, etc.) and I think as you put it, Guitar Hero, the key is not to push them onto others. I’m very sorry for your loss.

      Reply
    3. Tuxedo Cat

      That’s awful and I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

      I agree that these things should be voluntary. It doesn’t matter why people don’t want to participate and they shouldn’t have to share why.

      Reply
    4. Anonnnnnnn

      Yes. This. After three miscarriages which were early enough that I did not tell anyone at work about them hearing or seeing anything at all about pregnancy or babies just makes me feel sick and sad and all I can think about for the rest of the day is how I almost died. The absolute best I can do for someone who wants something from me for a pregnant person is to not actively wish them harm. That’s it. They aren’t getting anything else out of me. I have nothing to give.

      Reply
    5. Nervous Accountant

      Oh I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve been through 3 myself. I was never in this specific situation, but everyone who’s gone through this. Should do whatever keeps them sane.

      Reply
  32. Sabine the Very Mean

    Oh OP #1, how I can relate. I have this person in my work life except that I work in an open plan office filled with folks who work for four different agencies. My cube neighbor doesn’t even work for my agency and she still asks where I’m going, where I was, why I’m mad (?), what’s for lunch, who are you talking to, and even plays secretary when I’m not there and I often come back to several notes about who was at my cube. My boss is almost 100% hands-off so I would either need to address this with her or her boss which seems odd. Doesn’t help that I only recently started therapy for in-directness and in-assertiveness. I simply don’t have the skills yet to deal with this.

    Reply
  33. Toadstool Sandwich

    For letter #1, I dealt with a coworker just like the entry-level employee. At first I thought she was just socially awkward. Eventually, I realized she was just really nosy. She would hear two people talking a few feet away and immediately hijack their entire conversation. For a couple of years, we were at the same level, but I was eventually promoted and became her manager. She was really tough to deal with.

    One time I was discussing a private matter with an employee in the conference room about him taking some time off due to a family issue. When we exited the room to get back to work, she rushed over and asked, “Did I miss a meeting?” I told her no and she asked, “Then what were you guys talking about?” I told her it was a private matter. She did not like my response and spent the rest of the day going around asking other staff members if anyone knew what I and her colleague had met up about in private. Quite a few people were nonplussed and came to me about it. I scheduled a private meeting with her for the end of the day and proceeded to tell her that when I have private meetings with staff members and she is not included, it means it is a private matter that is none of her business and does not concern her and she needs to stop making an effort to find out what was discussed. I told her that if it was a matter of importance that pertained to her, she would be informed.

    She actually had the nerve to get upset and go to HR to complain that she was being kept out of the loop about something and that I was refusing to tell her. HR read her the riot act and the HR lady, who gave zero f**ks, told her to stop being so nosy. That shut her up for a while.

    Reply
    1. Mephyle

      At first I thought she was just socially awkward. Eventually, I realized she was just really nosy.
      Isn’t nosiness like this just a special subcase of social awkwardness, or more specifically of not having twigged that this particular social norm applies to her?

      Reply
      1. AKchic

        Not always. Sometimes, nosy people just like to be able to say they *know* everything that’s going on. They like to feel special in knowing *all*. Or they like to be the one to control the flow of information (selective gossiping), or they are a complete gossip.

        For some, it’s like an itch they just can’t scratch, the not knowing. For others, there’s the reward of knowing those “secrets”, or what they perceive others would consider secrets. And then gossips just love being the center of attention, even if its for a brief moment in time while they tell that juicy tidbit they managed to find out (and in some cases, exaggerate).

        Reply
      2. Kate 2

        Some people know and just don’t care. They want to know what’s going on, and they know they are violating social norms, but knowing is more important to them than being a polite and decent human being.

        We discussed this in the comments a few days ago, but someone who is socially awkward/doesn’t know is really apologetic when told and doesn’t violate the social norm again. Someone who doesn’t care or hides behind “socially awkward” as an excuse for bad behavior gets defensive and makes excuses for themselves.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Thank you, this is an excellent comment. The recent post about the creepy co-worker (but was he creepy or just awkward?) kept getting objections about it all being so so mean to men. But this shows how it’s exactly the same when it’s a woman. A socially awkward person is mortified when someone explains we did something rude/uncomfortable, and we don’t do it again.

          Someone who is told but doesn’t care is not ‘just awkward’, they are feeding some desire in themselves that they think is more important than others’ feelings. Whether it’s trying to sleep with a co-worker who is uncomfortable, or to push into the private business of a co-worker who is uncomfortable.

          Reply
      3. Lil Fidget

        There can certainly be an issue with people not having sufficient social skills to understand that their desire to know is not greater than other people’s need for privacy – it can be an inhibition problem (need to know right now) and an empathy problem (oh maybe coworker doesn’t *want* to tell me) as well as a failure to recognize the negative feedback she’s getting when she asks questions like this. However, this doesn’t mean she can’t learn by rote what doesn’t come automatically. The boss should tell her to only ask the questions she needs to know to do her job well, and only at a convenient time.

        Reply
  34. Jaydee

    #5 – Your employer’s policy is both ridiculous and short-sighted. Sure, for an employer it’s mildly inconvenient that more employees like to take days off surrounding a weekend or holiday to maximize their time off while minimizing their use of PTO. But let’s think through the next couple of steps.

    Step 1: Employer charges 2 extra days of PTO for anyone taking off both Friday and Monday.
    Step 2: Employees change their patterns and start taking off Thursday/Friday or Monday/Tuesday.
    Step 3: Employer starts charging 2 extra days of PTO for those two scenarios also.
    Step 4: Employees start taking days off mid-week because that way they get days off without losing extra PTO.
    Step 5: Hopefully employer realizes the plan backfired and now employees are missing more work days in the middle of the week, which is more disruptive.
    Step 6: Hopefully Employer rescinds original plan, allowing employees to take time off whenever works best for them.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Good point – if I’m going to get charged for 4 days when only taking off 2-3 days, why wouldn’t I just start taking off Tuesday-Thursday since that’s the most efficient way to maximize my PTO-usage-to-actual-time-off ratio?

      Reply
      1. Prince of Snarkness

        I worked in a union shop where we would do things like that to prove our points. It usually caused very quick reversals of bad policy

        Reply
  35. Prince of Snarkness

    #5 is legal, but very VERY bad in practice. This is a morale killer and if people are not leaving in droves, they should be. The practice in and of itself is bad enough, but it’s a red flag that the company is authoritarian and has strange practices that do not foster a constructive working environment.

    The only advice is deal with the practice or get out. I’d recommend the latter as once a bizarre policy like this comes into place, others follow.

    Reply
  36. That's Mrs. Librarian to You

    OP #5, this is actually how my husband’s job works, but he’s active duty Navy. Maybe they took a page out of the military handbook? ;)

    Reply
  37. CML

    OP #1, definitely speak to your employee soon. I deal with this on a personal level and it’s aggravating. My father-in-law is constantly asking these questions when we visit – “where did so-and-so go?” “what did you ask?” (inserting into a private conversation) “where are you going?” “what do you need?” He’s the kind of person that talks through movies. Agggghhhh, it gets on my nerves. I think it’s a combination of habit and totally being unaware. It’s possible your employee is clueless these questions are interruptive and there’s a good chance this is how they operate in their personal lives too.

    Reply
  38. AKchic

    Letter 1: I HAVE had this issue. Nobody addressed it. It was a “it’s your problem, you deal with it” issue because the only people that had to deal with it were admin assistants. One bad pain day, I finally snapped and got snarky.
    *Me, hanging up the phone*
    Her: Who was that?
    Me: Nonya
    Her: Huh?
    Me: Nonya Damn Business. As in, mind your business. If I wanted you to know who I was talking to, I would tell you. I would clear my schedule through you. I would have you sit in on my calls. Butt out.

    She complained to management. They didn’t do anything. She was gone within two months. I would have understood if I was training her up on anything I did, but I wasn’t. They just kept all admin assistants for the executive floor in the same cube farm to save space. She was young, and probably bored. Either way, I was tired of the 3rd degree line of questioning every time I so much as blinked.

    Letter 2: Unless this is a family company, why on earth is everyone in the company expected to pitch in and help one co-worker with a baby? This is what family and friends are for. Not co-workers. Did the co-workers help create this baby? Help pay for the creation of this baby? Have some sort of vested interest in this baby? I doubt it. The manager making this request is too deeply invested in the pregnant coworker and needs to back off. I wonder if the pregnant coworker even wants this kind of well-intentioned help. Most people have way too many offers of help for the first-born, to the point they are overwhelmed. None want to see their coworkers post-partum.

    Don’t feel bad for saying no. Either pretend the manager isn’t weirdly sulking, or call him/her out on it.

    Reply
  39. JD

    If someone was questioning everything I did I would at some point go off. This for sure needs to be stopped. I would be miserable sharing an office also but the line of questioning would make me bonkers.

    Reply
  40. puzzld

    #5. We used to have a different but related problem. We are an academic library. We have a 7 day schedule. Some folks work Su-Th some M-F and others T-Sa as well as other stranger variations. Whenever someone wanted leave (either vacation or sick) on a Saturday or Sunday they’d have to request the Monday or Friday they weren’t scheduled to work because the leave system couldn’t imagine someone needing leave for the weekend.

    Reply
  41. Noah

    Re #5: In a state where you’re required to pay out unused vacation days when an employee leaves, I believe this would be illegal unless the employee gets paid for Saturday and Sunday.

    Reply
  42. WorkingFromCafeInCA

    #4 – I find that adding “Best of luck with [your projects this year]” or something similar is a strong but polite signal that I don’t plan to have an ongoing conversation from that point forward. I’ve used it in personal and professional contexts and it’s worked well for me. I think the key is to have whatever precedes the text also be short and maybe a day or so after their last contact. Otherwise, a prompt and long/thoughtful response would conflict with my attempt to signal a cutoff.

    Reply
  43. Observer

    #1 I want to point out something. Any time you have an issue that might cause a really good worker to leave for legitimate reasons you NEED to step in. It’s not just OK, it’s MANDATORY and part of your job. Your Start really does sound like a star, not just in work quality, but also personality. Talk to Jane ASAP, and make sure Start knows it and that she also knows that she can tell Jane to knock it off.

    And, if Jane fails to knock it off after reasonable coaching, consider letting her go. Also, start looking at her productivity and judgement in other matters. I’d be willing to bet that she’s not getting as much done as she should because sh’e so busy with everyone else’s business.

    Reply
  44. TootTootTootsieroll

    I can’t imagine anything more awkward than having my coworkers try and cook for me/my family.
    There are so many foods my spouse can’t eat, a couple that I never eat, and several that my kid won’t eat.
    While the intention sounds good, unless they got the recipient to agree to it, this could just be a train wreck of an imposition rather than a feast of generosity.

    Reply
  45. NotACook

    Cooking OP here; I’m grateful for all the advice. I’m planning to casually chat with my superior tomorrow, since the silent treatment is unprecedented in the 10+ years we’ve worked together.

    Reply
  46. Khlovia

    Please immediately give Stellar&Seasoned your explicit and wholehearted permission to respond to the constant interrogation with “Don’t worry about it; it doesn’t concern you”, “Please explain your grounds for needing to know”, “I have already memo’d everyone who needs to know that”, “Not your circus, not your monkeys”, “Why?”, “Why would anybody ask such a weird question?”, “Why do you believe this concerns you?”, as well as everything that Specialk9 suggested. Stellar needs to know you have her back.

    Do this even before you have your own talk with The Interrogator; but definitely have that talk. Don’t fear hurting her feelings, though, and don’t mis-ascribe this behavior to her noobitude. She isn’t doing it because she doesn’t realize that it’s inappropriate; she knows it’s inappropriate and doesn’t care. She is doing it because that’s what she does.

    What neither you nor Stellar seem to understand is that there are people who push boundaries for entertainment. This is how they come to understand their relationship with each new person they meet. “I can push her this far, but then no farther.” As soon as you draw a hard and enforced line, they just think, “Okay, I can’t play with her any more” and find someone else to harrass.

    I had one of these, not exactly in my office, but in a sort of runner position in which she inter-acted with every office in the building. When I finally had enough, I barked, “Knock it off!” She laughed and said “Okay”…and knocked it off! She didn’t even pretend not to know what I was talking about. She had found my boundary and was no longer entertained by me. When I got an assistant in my office, she started in on the new person. As soon as the new person was out of the office, I told Interrogatra to knock it off again…and she did.

    My hypothesis is it’s a matter of unaddressed sibling rivalry left over from childhood: younger sib discovering they can drive older sib insane by persistent tagging along and butting in.

    Oh, and speaking of butting in: If she still tries to deal herself in on conversations after you have your little talk, or even just seems to be listening real hard, say “Go file this. Right now. It’s going to take you about fifteen minutes.”

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