update: I talked to my colleague’s husband and now she’s making false complaints about me

Remember the letter-writer who had talked with her coworker’s husband at an office party, which seemed to lead to the coworker making constant false noise complaints against her? Here’s the update.

All was quiet after I spoke to my boss……until Friday! She sent another email, copying my boss and his boss. This time she memorized the conversation I had with a coworker (that lasted about 10 seconds), put that in the email, and said that if she heard my conversation then the people meeting in the conference room across from me must have, and if I wanted to discuss these issues further with Boss A/and or Boss B she’d be happy to.

I wrote my boss and said I did not respond to her email because when we spoke last he said he would talk to her the next time she complained and try to figure out where she was coming from with all this. I also told him the conversation she reiterated to him lasted exactly 10 seconds, and that her comment about the people in the conference room made no sense because her door was open, their door was shut, and frankly they don’t care about a 10-second conversation I had with a coworker! I haven’t heard back from anyone on this, so I will keep you updated.

I don’t know if I’m overreacting, but this seems to be veering off into VERY weird territory. I don’t want to seem dramatic, but at this point I’m starting to feel harrassed, and creeped out that this woman is listening so intently to my conversations and memorizing them to try to get me in trouble. I’m almost embarrassed for her.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. Kristin*

    Can you switch cubicles? It seems like she’s being insane but sometimes sound does carry weirdly. When I lived in a sorority house in college I’d have my radio on and it wouldn’t be loud but for some reason the girl below me could really hear it. She’d come up and ask me to turn it down (nicely) and acknowledge that it wasn’t even loud, it was just a weird trick of the layout or something. There’s a tiny possibility that that is what’s happening here. However even if that’s the case, she’s being WAY over the top about it. And if all she has to complain about is a loud voice, that’s pretty thin. My cube neighbors are incredibly loud and it can be very annoying. I’ve worked here a year and never said anything because the loud chats are about work 98% of the time. So I overlook it because it’s not like they’re talking about movies, clearly it’s just their working style and I’m an adult who understands that everything isn’t perfect. She should get noise cancelling headphones or a white noise machine if it’s so bothersome for her. Maybe you could purchase it for her even.

    1. Anonymous*

      These are some really nice suggestions, and I think a lot of them were recommended on the initial letter. The OP works the front desk, so it’s not possible for them to move, and combined with the rest of this person’s behaviour, it really sounds like an irrational, personal vendetta.

      I’m glad to hear an update, and while there hasn’t been any visible action based on the OP’s response to the weird email, I desperately hope that something is happening behind the scenes. Fingers crossed for an update on the update at some point!

      1. Ruffingit*

        Having read the first letter, it really seems like the OP is being targeted by this woman since, as I recall, the woman could move away from OP’s area, but refuses to do so. Also, she had her door open. If sound is such a bother for her, close the door. I would think you’d want to do that anyway if noise is a big thing for you because with an office near the reception area, you’d be bothered all day long by people coming and going, etc.

        Thing is, if the woman is really bothered by the noise, then it would seem she would be amenable to taking some concrete steps to handle it. But she won’t so I can only conclude she’s actually bothered not by the noise, but by the OP. This does sound like a weird vendetta thing and I’m thinking the OP should break out ye olde resume and get out of dodge ASAP. It’s ridiculous to continue having to deal with this kind of thing.

        1. StellaMaris*

          Agree, 100%. I am very sensitive to noise, and can tell you from experience that if the noise was really the problem for the co-worker, the co-worker would take practical steps to get away from it. There’s no winning move here, and the sooner OP finds something else, the better. You know who I feel sorry for? The husband, unless he likes living in Crazytown.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, I agree. In reading the original letter and in this one, it crosses my mind that life must really suck for the husband if this is the kind of woman he’s married to.

  2. AMG*

    I think we are going to need another update, OP! It’s too bad that we can’t have a ‘Wall fo Shame’ where people can network to avoid these places. Sounds very trying–and yeah–creepy.

    1. kat*

      Yeah! Once people leave for good, I wish we could get a list of all the places to avoid. I’m guessing that could have severe negative repercussions for the OPs though.

      1. Julie*

        Maybe it could be anonymous (although one would only need to read past postings to see the letters). I guess this is what Glassdoor is for.

    2. snuck*

      Except part of me wonders at times if this stuff is just personality clash stuff too – maybe the OP is being targetted by the woman – who isn’t targetting others? Then it’s likely to be down to the dynamic (whether it’s intentional, implied, whatever) between those two and you might not trigger the same response.

  3. Jamie*

    I hope the OP is still reading, because I have a question.

    If she memorized the conversation (and ten seconds of conversation is more of a recanting, it’s not like she had to work to commit something that short to memory) was it just your part, or your co-worker’s as well.

    Because if she could only hear your side of the conversation then it’s possible you speak louder than you think you do.

    I have worked with great people, heck I’m married to a great person, who not only have an issue with volume control but have no idea they are speaking louder than other people.

    And I’m not trying to be nit picky, but if 10 seconds of conversation can easily be annoying and distracting to those in the conference room depending on the intensity of their meeting (and if they heard it.) Your dismissal that even if they heard it it wouldn’t have bothered them, maybe you know that these particular people in that particular meeting…but if I’m in a meeting I’d be very annoyed by floating snippets of loud conversation.

    Your reaction seems kind of extreme to me. If our receptionist has a brief but loud conversation with a customer I could tell you what was said and it wouldn’t involve memorizing it or going out of my way to listen. If I’m trying to work and I can clearly hear the words others are saying that isn’t harassing.

    1. Nikki T*

      But, no one else seems to think she’s loud. From the first letter “At first my boss said he was confused and he didn’t think I had a loud voice. ”

      I’d like another update, it may answer some still unanswered questions..

      1. Jamie*

        Her boss said that, but he also wrote her up for it as well…which didn’t make sense to me.

        If you don’t think it’s a problem, why write her up? Either he did think it was a problem or he was pushed into the write up as a path of least resistance which means you can’t go by what he’s doing or saying at all.

        1. Nikki T*

          We know from this blog that bosses don’t always handle everything the best way. Maybe he wrote her up to quiet everybody down? That’s why we really need more of an update after this latest event..

          1. Jamie*

            I agree – he may have. But if you’d write someone up to quiet people down maybe everything he’s said and done needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

            If he will write up an employee for what he knows is a BS reason, who’s to say he wasn’t lying when he said it wasn’t an issue to avoid conflict.

            I agree we need another update because I guess what I’m most puzzled by is how a boss can say it’s absolutely not a problem, write her up, and then the OP still thinks he’s an awesome boss. Because if I get written up for something by boss knows isn’t true just to placate someone else…I’m not thinking he’s the World’s Greatest Boss.

            It just doesn’t make sense to me – but I don’t assume the OP is loud, either. It’s possible the complainer is just vindictive over this or any thing else…but I am just troubled by some of the things (like the write up, the insistence you can’t hear unless yelling if a door is closed (when sometimes you can, etc.).

            It just feels like we’re missing significant pieces to this and maybe it’s not totally black and white. But who knows?

            1. Lilly the OP*

              I was written up once right after I started, when the complaing first started..In 10 monthes she has confronted me or complained about me via email 8 times (that I’m aware of)
              I agree at this point I’m not on board with how this is being handled, and actually feel sort of bad that this womans complaints are being (seemingly) totally ignored. I’m a Libra, I can’t help but seeing both sides!

    2. some1*

      The LW stated that the conference room door was closed, and this woman’s was open. From where I sit, I can hear everything my boss says when her door is open, but not when it’s closed, so you don’t know that the people meeting in the conference room could hear her.

      She said in the original letter that this woman refuses to close her door because then her office is “too stuffy” and has also declined to moved to an open office away from the reception area, so while it could definitely be possible that the LW speaks louder than she intends to, it feels like her co-worker is refusing to meet her in the middle here.

      1. Jamie*

        frankly they don’t care about a 10-second conversation I had with a coworker!

        That was the comment to which I was responding. That’s why I qualified it parenthetically (if they heard it).

        I have no idea if the people in the conference room could hear her or not…but the comment that they don’t care (the implication being even if they could hear) makes it sound as if 10 seconds of conversation isn’t bothersome to people in a meeting even if they could hear it. And in some instances it certainly is, in some it’s not.

        1. Anna*

          My experience has always been if you’re being loud outside a conference room, someone will poke their head out and ask you to keep it down. Or say something after. This feels too much like she is being targeted by one person about a very specific, but non-measurable problem. And as others have mentioned, since the coworker had a lot of opportunities to move or make adjustments, this isn’t really the OP’s fault or problem.

          1. Lilly the OP*

            Right. The only time anyone has ever poked their head out of a meeting is when there was an infant in the lobby who was screaming it’s head off.
            I don’t think I’m off base when I say that attorneys in a meeting in a conf. room with the door closed don’t give a hang about any brief conversations going on in normal tones of voices, they simply can’t be bothered, they don’t care, not like this woman does. She seems to be going out of her way to hone in on every conversation I have, and interestingly the only time she complains is when it’s with a male co-worker. She’s never complained when I speak with female co-workers

    3. Ellie H.*

      I don’t think that the fact that she memorized the conversation is necessarily unusual – most of us could probably repeat a conversation we overheard a few moments ago – but the fact that she transcribed the ten-second conversation into an email is what is bizarre.

    4. Sydney Bristow*

      I was curious about whether she wrote only about what the letter writer said or both people. If it was both sides of the conversation then clearly it isn’t just the letter writer who should be thought of as too loud in this woman’s mind.

    5. Jessa*

      There’s a difference between hearing a conversation and going to a boss and repeating it verbatim in an attempt to get someone in trouble. One happens, the other is stalkery and bully-ish.

      1. Jamie*

        Depending on how it’s done. She’s an attorney after all, she may have been doing that to prove her case that she can hear specifics.

        It’s not a productive way to address it if your goal is to resolve the problem, because almost anyone would be put on the defensive after that email. But I’m not seeing stalkerish. Is she going out of her way to eavesdrop or can she just hear because she keeps her door open.

        I keep my door open and I just heard a conversation the receptionist had with the Fed Ex guy who just left. I’m not stalking her and I could type it up verbatim right now if I wanted to.

        I don’t because A. I don’t care, because if I wanted quiet I’d shut my door. B. They were talking in normal tones of voice and it’s not their fault my office is where it is and C. Even if it bothered me (which it does not) I know better than to piss off the person who screens my calls.

        So using the information in a quoted email may be bitchy – I won’t argue that – that alone isn’t a creepy stalker thing unless we know for a fact she went out of her way to spy on the OP.

        But if the tone was nasty I’ll give you bully-ish…because yeah, there is a huge dichotomy of power there and there are better ways to resolve things.

        1. Anna*

          Sure you could type it up. But that’s the point. Why would you? Why on earth would you email it to your boss? Even if you were complaining about how loud FedEx guy was, you wouldn’t say: And then he said. And then she said. And then FedEx buy repeated. And then he laughed. And then…You get the point. That is creepy and stalkerish. And maybe not because she remembered the conversation (although if it were word for word, yeah, that’s weird. Gist of conversation is one thing, word for word is weird) but repeating it verbatim to your boss is in no uncertain terms.

          1. Lilly the OP*

            Did you read my post on the latest incident? I’ll copy it here:

            Another weird thing that happened was a co-worker was getting ready to leave and came up to show me a book he bought about bread making. He said he was excited to get started since he also bought a bread maker. He tucked the book under his arm and went to the elevator lobby. (think of the reception desk as a very large U shape. MZ A’s office is on the North end and down the hall, my co-worker was standing at the far South end of my desk) Mz Attorney comes from around the corner a minute later, walks right up to him and say “Oh hi XYZ, is that a breadmaking book, did you buy a breadmaker?” Now I’m sorry, that’s just creepy. She had to have been standing at her door straining to hear that conversation. And what a creepy passive aggressive thing to do.

        2. FiveNine*

          There is something vaguely threatening just in the fact that not only did she tkype this up and send it to the boss, she cc’d the boss’s boss too. I can absolutely understand why OP would be on the defensive, and while “stalker” or “bully” might not be quite the right words for what’s going on here this woman is certainly being overtly aggressive in attempting to somehow threaten OP’s job stability.

          1. Lilly the OP*

            agreed. Maybe she’s amping up the complaints in the hopes she can get me fired before the next x-mas party!!!

        3. Bobby Digital*

          “She’s an attorney after all, she may have been doing that to prove her case that she can hear specifics.”

          I think this is a really good point.

    6. Lilly*

      I’m the OP. I hear what you’re saying Jamie. However, all signs seem to point to this being personal, not a noise problem. Like I’ve said, and most people here have concluded, if this person really was that sensitive to noise why in the world would she stay in an office that is the first office off reception, and next door to one of the busiest conference rooms in the firm.

      Another weird thing that happened was a co-worker was getting ready to leave and came up to show me a book he bought about bread making. He said he was excited to get started since he also bought a bread maker. He tucked the book under his arm and went to the elevator lobby. (think of the reception desk as a very large U shape. MZ A’s office is on the North end and down the hall, my co-worker was standing at the far South end of my desk) Mz Attorney comes from around the corner a minute later, walks right up to him and say “Oh hi XYZ, is that a breadmaking book, did you buy a breadmaker?” Now I’m sorry, that’s just creepy. She had to have been standing at her door straining to hear that conversation. And what a creepy passive aggressive thing to do.

      The latest is, after I wrote my boss and told him I wasn’t going to respond since he said he’d take care of it, and then didn’t hear back from him, I finally asked him point blank “Whats going on with the Mz. A thing?” He said nothing, that he was stumped, he’d never seen anything like it, and his boss hadn’t mentioned it to him, so he was just going to leave it alone!!! I said What is she going to do, just keep on complaining and complaining? He said probably, but don’t worry about it.
      So basically this woman has been put on Ignore by management, which I don’t happen to agree with… for either one of us.

  4. sunsan*

    Can you just have an affair with her husband?? ;-)

    OK, that’s probably out… I’d file a complaint with HR. Use the phrase “hostile work environment” that will get them moving.

    1. Jamie*

      It’s not a hostile work environment. Due to the name so many people think it means anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or targeted at work. Hostile work environment has very specific criteria and someone complaining that she talks loudly doesn’t rise to the level.

      I wouldn’t start throwing legalese around to get them moving, especially when you work for lawyers who will know it’s specious. That can only end badly.

      1. B*

        Agreed. Hostile work environment is not something you use to “get them moving,” it has specific criteria and OP would put her credibility and good standing at risk if she were to throw that into mix.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Yeah, you’re right…if there’s anyone that would know, specifically, what does or does not constitute a hostile work environment, it would be an attorney. You’d have to really be sure that’s what was going on, and have plenty of documentation to support your claim, before going down that road.

    2. kasey*

      Yes! Hahaha. I couldn’t deal with that level of crazy. She sounds really pathetic. Sad life that one.

  5. Shannon313*

    I am always intrigued by how Obviously Nutty People seem to slip by and keep jobs– we have a resident nut who sounds just like OP’s problem person and she’s been here forever. All I can say is hang in there, keep your head up, don’t stoop to her level, and hope that Karma comes around sooner rather than later. If you’re her target now, there was likely a Before and there will va an after- person. Try not to feel like you have to walk on eggshells, but like the others here noted, be cognizant of your voice’s volume and otherwise ignore this person!!

    1. Sadsack*

      She really can’t just ignore someone who writes to her superiors about her. She’s already been written up by her manager for it.

    2. snuck*

      Nutty people keep jobs because they are either nutty just to a few people (who may react in a nutty way back and therefore the threat isn’t perceived as valid) or really REALLY good at managing upwards.

      Managing upwards doesn’t have to be a positive relationship either – maybe they keep files and document everything so they are hard to get rid of (especially in Australia), maybe they have dirt on the boss, maybe they have key skills or knowledge they have exclusively, maybe they look like great employees from another angle, maybe their kid plays with the boss’s kid in after school sport. Doesn’t really matter how – reality is that they ‘manage upwards’ and the managers think they are valuable.

      I know in several large corporates in Australia the nutters get side lined into special project work and there their nuttiness sets off allergies country wide. ;)

      1. TrainerGirl*

        “maybe they have dirt on the boss”

        THIS. I used to work for a manager who I believed not only knew where the bodies were buried, but probably helped dig the holes. That woman had an HR complaint sheet a mile long but she’s still working at the company (I left her team 5 years ago). I figure that she must have someone in a very high place looking out for her.

  6. PPK*

    Bad passive aggressive suggestion: Start using a very low tone for all conversations around the office. Scatter compliments about coworker in conversations. Coworker picks up their name, but not entire sentence. Freaks out. All other coworkers say, “Oh no, OP wasn’t gossiping, OP commented on how well you handled Angry Client last week.” Coworker driven to insanity by paranoia.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Actually, I think that’s a good passive agressive solution. One, you’re deliberately lowering your voice to below the standard volume, which means there is even less basis for a complaint. Two, you’re saying something nice about her, which will actually help your own attitude towards her, because you’ll be looking for good things about her. There’s no downside for you. If she becomes paranoid about it, that’s just a bonus.

      1. Jamie*

        How low do you go, though? In trying to make a point is she going to annoy everyone else who will ask her to speak up and repeat herself.

        I absolutely think she should evaluate whether it’s a real problem or not, because she makes a statement in the first letter that you can never hear if a door is closed unless people are yelling and that’s empirically not true. I can speak in a normal tone of voice in the phone room upstairs and be heard plain as day in an office on another floor because of how the ventilation system runs. And there are tons of examples of this being the case in the comments…so I think the OP needs to take an objective unbiased look and see if this is an issue.

        If not, she needs to address why she’s being reprimanded for something that isn’t a problem.

        But if she’s not talking too loudly and drops her voice to make this point – seriously – she’s going to annoy everyone else. If there was someone who mumbled and I had to ask them to speak up every time I’d be avoiding them when possible. If they were reception? That’s a problem.

        1. Cat*

          he makes a statement in the first letter that you can never hear if a door is closed unless people are yelling and that’s empirically not true. I can speak in a normal tone of voice in the phone room upstairs and be heard plain as day in an office on another floor because of how the ventilation system runs.

          But even assuming that she doesn’t know that it’s true in her office, that’s just life – she can’t speak at a whisper just so that a normal tone of voice won’t be picked up through the ventilation system.

          1. Jamie*

            Totally agree – but that’s something that can (and should) be determined one way or another.

            All her boss needs to do is a little test – have her speak in a normal voice and see how loud it is in the complainers office. If it’s inordinately loud, then it’s an acoustic problem and the complainer needs to shut up and forever hold her peace while she moves to a quieter office.

            If it’s not, and the test shows the boss finds the tone reasonable but the complainer is still saying it’s too loud…again, the complainer needs to get over it.

            But the OP also needs to be open to the fact that there may be something weird acoustically going on which would mean the complaints weren’t based on petty jealousy but a building issue that was unfairly being blamed on the OP. And that she’s not being creepy or memorizing her conversations, but she can just hear way too many of them way too loudly.

              1. Jamie*

                I said several times it could be she’s being targeted, but it’s also possible that she isn’t and I just have a hard time assuming something personal and malicious when someone could just be being a run of the mill jerk.

                Because even if there were a logical reason for her thinking she was loud this is still a really bad way to handle it.

                By the same token the attorney isn’t exactly undercover with her nastiness…she’s complained in front of others and cced upper bosses so it’s possible she really believes there is a legitimate business problem.

                I have no idea what’s going on between the two – but the fact that the boss said it wasn’t her fault, then wrote her up, then she still thinks he’s an awesome boss even though he wrote her up for something she wasn’t guilty of…the whole thing is just weird to me.

                And yes, you can have the odd person who sees you talking to her husband at a party and hates you forever…but you can also have other stuff going on.

                Maybe it’s just my temperament, and maybe I’m the one off base on this…but my boss writes me up for something I didn’t do and caves to someone trying to bully me by giving me a formal reprimand that would poison my relationship with him.

                1. Jamie*

                  I think she was reading my posts as saying that this was a legitimate noise problem and I wasn’t – I was just commenting about some things that didn’t make sense to me – but even if you were answering all questions by shouting into a megaphone there is no excuse for how this is being handled.

                  I wasn’t trying to prove anything was or wasn’t an issue.

                  I just do not understand, as from other posts you’ve made you don’t either, why your boss is just ignoring it. This has to be an incredibly stressful situation for you.

        2. Ellie H.*

          I think that she and her boss have already evaluated whether there is a real problem with noise or not. It’s her boss who would be the best person to make an objective evaluation and, if necessary, instruct the OP to modify her behavior. I agree that it may be technically possible that the acoustics of the building are unusual and the reception desk can be clearly heard from only this one woman’s office and nowhere else in the building. However, this strikes me as extremely unlikely to be the case. Given the other hostile behavior of the attorney toward the OP, it seems like the simplest, most reasonable explanation is that she is being deliberately vindictive.

          It’s also possible that because she developed an irrational dislike of the OP based on the few moments of speaking with her husband at an office party, she is now paranoidly driven crazy by the OP, and consequently perceives everything the OP says or does as loud, annoying, etc. when a reasonable person with a neutral outlook toward the OP would never be annoyed by any of that. When you hate someone every little thing they do drives you ballistic. But this isn’t a reasonable way to behave – in life, and especially not in a way that inhibits a constructive work environment.

          1. Ellen*

            “It’s also possible that because she developed an irrational dislike of the OP based on the few moments of speaking with her husband at an office party, she is now paranoidly driven crazy by the OP, and consequently perceives everything the OP says or does as loud, annoying, etc. when a reasonable person with a neutral outlook toward the OP would never be annoyed by any of that.”

            AKA the “B!tch Eating Crackers” stage.

            1. coconutwater*

              I agree with Ellen here. Also OP, you are being harrassed, no doubt about it. The crazy paranoid lawyer is obsessed with everything you say. She is hypertuned to your voice. She could easily move offices but she is still obsessing about catching her husband talking to you. If she moved offices, she would not be able to keep track of you to make sure you are not talking with her husband. I worked with someone for a number of years who was obsessed with everything I said and did. Unless she gets real serious help, she will not change and may become worse. If you start whispering, OP, to those who approach the front desk, it may drive her off the deep end. If you let people know that you are whispering because of her complaints, the crazy obsessed lady lawyers *might* wake up and realize she needs help.

              1. Lilly the OP*

                talking to the husband was a one time thing, it was at the Christmas party, I had only worked at the firm one day, I didn’t know who anyone was. SOmething tells me they won’t come to this years party!

          2. fposte*

            It didn’t sound like they did any serious evaluation of the noise–just that they said the OP didn’t seem that loud. But I also don’t think they would, because this isn’t that important to them. It’s only important to the OP and the annoyed lawyer.

        3. Lilly*

          What I’d really like to do, and maybe I will tonight, is test this. I’ll have a co-worker of mine go into her office and shut the door. Then I’ll talk in my normal tone of voice and see what happens. I know what the outcome will be though. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but the few co-workers that I’ve mentioned this situation to are stunned because they have all said the receptionist before me was SUPER loud, and even had a really high pitched annoying cackle, and that she laughed constantly.

    2. FiveNine*

      Except the lawyer’s not wasting time talking to coworkers; she’s sending email straight to the boss and to the boss’s boss.

  7. Yup*

    The only helpful suggestion I have at this point is to ask your boss for permission to buy a small white noise machine to place near your desk. You can present it as a sincere suggestion to minimize disruption because “it seems like sounds travels very easily between my desk and Coworker’s office.”

    1. Lilly the OP*

      I’m at reception, that’s not an option. And that quote isn’t from me, I don’t know whose that is, sorry

      1. Pam*

        I’m not sure why this wouldn’t be an option. At my last job the entire office was outfitted with a white noise system, including reception, and no one noticed it until the thing got turned off for one reason or another and suddenly everyone could hear EVERYTHING. It’s worth a shot.

      2. Yup*

        The words in quotes were my suggestion for how to phrase the request to your boss in an easygoing way if you thought there’d be objections.

  8. Ann Furthermore*

    This is completely weird and creepy. What makes the whole thing sound suspicious to me is that this woman is the only one, as far as we know, that’s complaining about the volume of the OP’s voice. If it was really an issue, surely her boss would have said, “Hey, I know that this situation with Mrs. Attorney is really odd, but someone else mentioned the volume of your voice to me, so it does appear to be a problem,” and then they could have tried to figure out a way to handle it.

  9. Adam V*

    One question – is she actually memorizing conversations? I know in the past, when I had something I really wanted to transcribe correctly, I would tape it (smartphones generally include a voice recorder nowadays) and then play it back while I typed things up.

    Not that this makes anything better (you’re not having your conversations memorized, you’re having them taped!) but it does beg the question, as Jamie states above – how loudly are you talking if she’s able to tape you while you’re at your desk? Or alternately, could she be moving closer to you to listen in?

    1. Anna*

      But this is STILL nuts! Why is she recording the conversation? Why on earth would word for word matter? It’s not a question of how she memorized or was able to transcribe verbatim the conversation, it’s a question of WHY WOULD SHE? That’s the part that screams “This person is crazy and has a weird obsession with the OP and since it seemed to have started right after the convo with the husband, it seems this attorney is hella insecure and now is being just bizarre and freaky”.

      1. Lilly the OP*

        I agree, don’t know if you saw my post way above so I’ll copy it her. This is reaching creepy levels. Also quite telling is she is trying to drag other people into it now to what …try to make her point? Mentioning that if she heard my (10 second) conversation (she didn’t think as soon as I read the email that I wasn’t going to go over and see that her door was wide open, and mention that to my boss???!!) that surely the people in the conference room must have heard it. Here’s the thing, no one who is having a meeting (with the door closed) cares one bit about a 10 second conversation I’m having. If they did and was an actual issue I would have heard about it

      2. Lilly the OP*

        Anna, here is my post from earlier

        Another weird thing that happened was a co-worker was getting ready to leave and came up to show me a book he bought about bread making. He said he was excited to get started since he also bought a bread maker. He tucked the book under his arm and went to the elevator lobby. (think of the reception desk as a very large U shape. MZ A’s office is on the North end and down the hall, my co-worker was standing at the far South end of my desk) Mz Attorney comes from around the corner a minute later, walks right up to him and say “Oh hi XYZ, is that a breadmaking book, did you buy a breadmaker?” Now I’m sorry, that’s just creepy. She had to have been standing at her door straining to hear that conversation. And what a creepy passive aggressive thing to do.

  10. dilladop*

    I dealt with a subordinate like this once. Very, very scary after awhile. Can you say personality disorder? I would try to distance myself from her in any way possible. She will not change or see the error of her ways or ever feel she did anything wrong or weird. Read Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry.

    1. coconutwater*

      This. With the personality disordered, if they don’t get help (which often they don’t because they do not see their behavior as problematic) they may become worse over time.

      1. Anna*

        I worked with a woman like this. I’m still sort of friends with her. She’s entirely pleasant and charming, but then she does some WEIRD sh*t and I actually wonder what the world looks like to her. Because it must be an interesting place where you don’t realize there’s something wrong with you while everyone around you does.

  11. Tiff*

    Personally, I would mutter the foulest things about this woman that I could think of. I’d target her weight, her husband, her marriage, her looks, her breath and size of her feet. Just one time.

    But I can be just a little vindictive.

    1. dilladop*

      The only problem with that approach is that people with a personality disorder are SO MUCH WORSE than you can ever imagine. They will do anything at all to get back at you. Anything.

      1. the gold digger*

        Amen to that. People ask why my husband doesn’t confront his alcoholic parents about their behavior (I consider their behavior grossly disordered) and I try to explain how it’s just not worth the price he has to pay. If you have never dealt with someone that mean and manipulative, you have no idea.

  12. CF_programmer*

    Am I the only one (and yes, I read the original letter) who thought of the receptionist in “Office Space”…just a moment!

  13. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    Even if you are a loud talker (and sometimes people just are), she is going way overboard. I hope that your manager puts a stop to this, whatever this woman’s reason is. She might be holding a grudge because of the office party, or she might just be an overly sensitive, cranky person. Either way, it is your supervisor’s job to manage you, and not hers. It sounds like you are doing the right thing, you shared the details with your boss and you are not taking her bait and getting into a confrontation. I have worked with these kinds of people before and yes, sadly they are in practically every office. Good luck. I am interested to see how this one pans out.

    1. Lilly the OP*

      Yes, in the 10 monthes that I’ve worked here she’s complained about me , or confronted me EIGHT times…..that I know of personally

  14. Allison (not AAM!)*

    Since it’s gone this far and doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon, would it be possible to proactively ask your boss to set up a meeting with himself, the attorney and you in order to hash this out and try to come up with a solution? Rather than all this she said/she said and unwarranted discipline, confront it head-on, face-to-face with your boss as the mediator. You could go to the table armed with some of the great suggestions that you’ve gotten from the AAM community – and maybe she could shed some light on her side of it. Also, I’m not sure if you’d even be comfortable addressing it, but maybe you could subtly make her aware of your sexual orientation by saying something like “when my girlfriend and I disagree, we approach it like xyz” or something to that effect. Then continue with the conversation asking if that could be another optional solution. Either way, approaching it directly and asking for her input on a solution, with your boss there as a witness/referee could be so much more effective than all the behind the scenes BS. Plus, your making the suggestion would demonstrate your real concern and desire to fix it. But be sure to make the conversation ONLY about the noise issue; don’t bring up the party or any other personal thoughts. That’s my opinion.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Wait, what? Why should she have to make the idiot attorney aware of her sexual orientation? No, absolutely not. It’s none of Cranky McParanoid’s business.

      If I were the OP, I would be looking for another job. Her boss is not going to handle this, and he wrote her up for it without even checking to see if he could hear her in the office, which is something a reasonable person might do if there were a noise complaint. With a wimpy boss, the attorney will win by virtue of her higher position.

      I’m more and more sure this is because of the husband–being single, I have run into many vindictive and paranoid women and they all pull crap like this. They think because I’m single that I must want their husbands–no, lady, I don’t want his baggage, and he’s not my type anyway!

      1. Ruffingit*

        Totally 100% agreed that sexual orientation has less than nothing to do with this issue. This woman is being vindictive over a petty issue. Whether or not the secretary was after her husband has nothing to do with this situation. And, it doesn’t matter if the secretary is gay or not, it’s likely that Ms. Attorney is upset because she thinks her husband is hot for the OP and finding out he has no chance doesn’t make it any better in Ms. Attorney’s mind. She’s blaming the OP for something that is out of the OP’s control entirely. People with personality disorders do that a lot.

    2. Forrest*

      It doesn’t matter what the OP’s orientation is. The Lawyer is freaking out because of what she thinks her husband thinks of the OP, not the other way around.

      1. Allison (not AAM!)*

        No, of course she doesn’t have to and of course it doesn’t matter. I merely suggested that if it was something that OP was comfortable doing, it might matter-of-factly show the lady lawyer that she’s being more ridiculous than we know that she already is, without making a huge deal about it.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I don’t think it would help at all and in fact, depending on where the OP lives, it might actually hurt her professionally (sad to say, but that is true in certain places). And, it has nothing to do with the problem at hand. The problem is Ms. Attorney thinks the OP is being too loud. If that is the case, then Ms. Attorney needs to come to the meeting table with ideas that don’t involve OP piping down since it’s clear Ms. Attorney refuses to do anything to mitigate the issue. Knowing that her husband has no chance with the OP isn’t going to solve the problem. I’m betting Ms. Attorney doesn’t care that husband has no chance, she cares that her husband thinks OP is hot (or interesting or whatever) and somehow that is OP’s fault in her twisted mind.

        2. Forrest*

          My point is the Lawyer Lady doesn’t care what the OP thinks of her husband. She thinks her husband is attracted to the OP; finding out the OP is gay isn’t going to change that.

          1. Lilly the OP*

            I can see it all now……..Mz A goes home and says “well well well, you know that receptionist you were so hot for at the x-mas party…too bad , she’s a LESBIAN” husband has a wet dream that night moaning “lesbian, lesbian!”

        3. Lilly the OP*

          Allison, I hear what you’re saying, and may consider that if it was a social situation, but definitely not for work. I’m not closeted at work, but I just feel it wouldn’t help in this situation

    3. FiveNine*

      The only reason I could see to bring up sexual orientation is if OP believes the lawyer might be harassing her because OP is lesbian. This doesn’t sound like what OP believes is going on. (Although, it might make the lawyer back off of her harassing behavior real fast and make HR and the bosses suddenly treat the behavior more seriously, but I know this wasn’t why you were suggesting she share that information.)

      1. Allison (not AAM)*

        I was mainly suggesting that LW should be proactive and request a meeting between the three of them, herself, her boss and the lawyer lady. Rather than all of the third-party hearsay, it would make more sense for everyone to speak face-to-face.

      2. Rindle*

        Sexual orientation is not a protected class. In some states, you can literally be fired *because* you are gay.

    4. Lilly the OP*

      I think I will suggest that the next time this happens. You guys are right, this shouldn’t be ignored. If I was this attorney I’d be pissed that my email was ignored, it’s only going to amp up the crazy directed at me obviously.

  15. Nodumbunny*

    I think I recall (and from reading the original letter but not all our responses I think I do) that this is not a case of two equal co-workers having a disagreement. The complainer is an attorney in the firm, pretty high up and been there awhile, and the complainee (the OP) is a pretty new receptionist. This is not to say that this makes harassment, if that is what is going on, okay – just to say that there is a difference in power there that is not going to work to the OP’s advantage. If OP and OP’s boss can’t find a way to resolve this, it is OP who is going to be shown the door, not the complaining attorney. I’m sorry OP, I know this isn’t fair, but you really need to find a way to get on this woman’s good side, rather than feeling “embarrassed” for her.

    1. fposte*

      Totally agreed. I don’t think the manager has the power to make this woman stop, either. So living with her complaints may be your best-case scenario.

    2. Lilly the OP*

      They’re not going to fire me over this, my boss has told me several times not to worry about it. Although I can’t say I agree with the way they’re “handling” it, or should I say ignoring it.

  16. Interviewer*

    Rather than writing someone up for a problem he doesn’t believe exists, the manager should have attempted to resolve the issue proactively for the attorney – closing the door, running a fan, moving her to a different office, etc. Being near the lobby comes with drawbacks, and noise is one of them. You can’t go out & shush the receptionist several times a day. Clients come in, deliveries arrive, and phones ring. Receptionists have to talk. It’s not all happening in a vacuum. So setting expectations for the attorney and getting some buy-in on the solution to the problem (noise) is something the manager should have done at the beginning.

    Having said that – I wonder if anyone else in OP’s life has ever mentioned her being a loud talker. It could be building acoustics (we have our fair share in our space), but the attorney’s laser focus on this issue, along with repeating all of the conversations verbatim, makes me wonder if there’s at least an ounce of truth to the complaints. Attorneys do like to prove their case. Just a thought.

    1. Lilly the OP*

      That’s very true. However it doesn’t explain why she never complained about the former receptionist who according to co-workers was extremely loud, and she doesn’t come out and shush any other person who stands in the reception area talking loudly for extended periods of time, which believe me happens frequently.

  17. Anon for now*

    If I recall correctly, in the comments discussion on the original post, the OP did say that she’d asked others about her volume level & been reassured it was fine AND told that the previous receptionist had been much louder, describing that person as really loud.

    Given her manager’s reactions, I’d say that this is a situation in which to quietly start job hunting again. Meanwhile, take her up on the offer for a conversation with her own (& possibly the ranking) manager. Come in with suggestions of things that you can do & that can be done at the reception counter. Do NOT suggest the attorney change offices or do anything else to mitigate the issue. Those suggestions need to come from management or from the attorney herself. Do your best to stay calm, & to avoid anything that sounds the least bit defensive. And please do not bring up the issue of her catching you sharing a smoke break with her husband. That will not go well for you.

    You may want to research costs & specs on some of the equipment suggested here (equipment for your desk, not for her), & bring that info to your boss or to the mtg with boss & attorney. Be proactive, look for solutions – & start looking for another job, options make everything easier.

    Good luck!

  18. The FutureMgr*

    Wait a minute. Are we really having a conversation about being quiet so you don’t ‘bother’ others at work. REALLY? Wow. So, what if she is loud for 10 seconds. Does she get her work accomplished? Does she perform her work to her manager/business standards? I’m really getting tired of hearing of workplace bullies, and others having to walk on eggshells and checking themselves so they don’t offend the bully. Please! Find another job, or learn to deal. It doesn’t seem like she’ll give up her antics. A 10 second convo – even if you are loud, shouldn’t be a big deal if you didn’t use profanity, no one else is complaining, and you get your work done.

    That said, my ex-manager and her buddy (who was a member of our team) would be in said manager’s cube whispering about us AND I heard every word. I have a ex-manager/bully story for you. Oohh, I’m going to write this up for AAM to share.

  19. Not So NewReader*

    Mrs. Paranoid is high maintenance.

    OP, it is a reception area. It is going to be noisy. drrr. We all know that except for this woman here.

    How much of your day is spent just defending yourself from her? I would be willing to bet she is big time interfering with your ability to get work done.

    Out of curiosity, why did the last receptionist leave? How long had she been there?

    Are you keeping any kind of a log book of her accusations? I know that is tough to do at the end of the day. But, oh, so worth it.

    Sometimes, (not all the time) with stuff like this there is something going on behind the scenes that everyone is actually arguing about. It has nothing to do with you, except superficially it looks like it is all about you. There could be some internal power struggle going on- something like this that has nothing to do with you.

    It’s a small consolation but it’s posts like this that make me wish we could name the employer. FWIW, I would never, ever do business with this law firm if I knew who it was.

    You have nothing to lose. Confront it. Tell your boss that you are losing too much time over all these complaints. Ask him where he stands on this matter because what he says and what he writes do not match up. Find out why the last receptionist left. Ask him what is going to be done to resolve the situation for once and for all.

    Personally, I would start applying around. Mrs. Paranoid has something that she holds over everyone’s head. And it could be as simple as no one can reason with her, therefore she rules the roost.
    I had a boss that thought one coworker was totally nuts. (His words.) He saw it quite clearly. And it never occurred to him to fire her. Time to move on.

    1. fposte*

      “You have nothing to lose. Confront it.”

      I think in some situations that would work, but a new receptionist confronting the office manager demanding that one of the law firm’s attorneys be whipped into shape? She does indeed have something to lose here.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. What is going to resolve the situation once and for all is the OP leaving and that is exactly what Ms. Attorney wants. If it comes down to a pissing contest between Ms. Attorney and OP, Attorney will win. It’s not worth the strife, I say OP put your resume out there and move on.

    2. Lilly the OP*

      There is no way I’m giving up this benefit package for this woman, no way!

      The other receptionist had been there for 13 years, apparently she turned a certain age had a mid-life crisis and just quit.

  20. AB*

    Reading the update and all the comments, the thing that most surprises me is HOW BAD THE OP’S MANAGER IS.

    Regardless of how right or wrong the complainer is, a good manager would have solved the problem a long time ago, even if saying, “look, we recognize it’s noisy for you, but I’m afraid the only thing that can be done is to move you to a different office that is far away from the reception area, where conversations are bound to happen all the time.”

    The fact that the manager doesn’t seem able to manage (when s/he should have an extra incentive for doing so, if the emails, with copy to the manager’s boss, are happening), makes me agree that it’s a good idea to start looking for another job.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think the lawyer reports to the OP’s manager–in fact, I think the lawyer outranks the OP’s manager.

      1. AB*

        Oh, I have the same impression, fposte. Still, if I was the OP’s boss, I’d go to my boss, or my boss’s boss if needed, to get to a solution that would stop my direct report from being harassed (even if by someone who outranks me).

        1. fposte*

          I wouldn’t go that far, for a lot of reasons. But I do agree that her manager isn’t handling this very well–if this is something they expect her to put up with, he needs to clearly state that, and if it’s not taken seriously, she shouldn’t be written up.

          1. Lilly the OP*

            I was written up the first time she complained, which is right after I started.

            Since then they’ve pretty much pressed the Ignore button on this, according to my boss. I don’t have any soft spots for this woman, but honestly, if I was her, I’d be pissed. But like people have said, maybe something is going on behind the scenes, who knows.

  21. Jeanne*

    There is nothing left to do here but look for a new job. The woman hates you and is out to make your life hell. She will work on this consistently and it is obvious your manager will not help you. You will either be fired or be driven to constant expensive therapy just to be able to get up and go in to work each day. (Been there done that.) Just look for a new job now. It is better for your health to get out of there.

    1. Lilly the OP*

      Not going to leave, the benefit package is too awesome for words. When I walk out this door this crap stays right here. I’ve never sweated one drop over this on my off time.

  22. Anonymous*

    Wow, what a load of boolsh.

    OP: You need to defend yourself as your boss won’t. So, start documenting her a$$, noting all times when she comes out to complain, etc. Next time she emails your boss & others, reply all with something like:

    I am confused because:
    – Up until approximately Xmonth/yr, you never complained about my voice, although your office has been in the same location.
    – You also leave your door open.
    – Nobody else has ever complained to me or my boss about my voice.
    – On X, Y, Z (or last 3) occasions when you complained, I was told by everyone else around that my voice wasn’t loud.
    – I am a receptionist and part of my job involves communicating clearly and talking frequently, to a variety of people on any given day.
    I strive to have a great professional relationship with everyone I work with and I am open to discussing this in a meeting to see how we can resolve this.

    1. Anonymous*

      Basically, the sooner you can have it clearly documented with different people that she is a paranoid insecure bizatch, the better. This also increases the possibility for someone else (eg her boss) to tell her to knock it off, since your boss won’t.

  23. Mr. Meow*

    Unless you are a jackass whisperer, there is no reasonable solution to this woman’s problem – she’s a jackass, just that simple

  24. Sally*

    Two things, as I’d ha this happen once at a NP where the lobby was across from 2 offices, the LW can go another route and bring in some cookies on her desk for people. The crazed attorney will then at least have a mouth full as she’s harping away, which puts her in a negative light depending on how many trips to the cookie jar she makes. OR just snap ( use Mom voice) on crazed attorney. Snarking back sometimes is what’s needed.

    Had one big boss pull this with me and fortunately for me she had the audacity to come outside while I was on my lunch break to tell me she’d “had” to answer the phone herself. I screamed at her (reflex) I was on my assigned break and to deal with it.

    Believe it or not she only respected people with a backbone and we became not BFF, but cheerful break buddies. Shocking wasn’t the word for it, but true story.

  25. Andrea*

    I think the best way to deal with crazy people is to be the *really* sane and reasonable one in the transaction. It shows up their crazy and, bonus, frustrates the crap out of the mean ones who are doing the crazy things in order to make you defensive and combative.

    Accommodate, pleasantly, as if it doesn’t bother you at all.

    Crazy people show their stripes to everyone when they are left to be the only emotional ones in a transaction.

  26. Faith*

    Why not just write an apology and copy it to everyone including the doorman?

    Dear Ms XYZ,

    I apologize for socializing with your husband at Last Years Christmas Party. I realize now that I offended you. I must have spoken to him much much longer than the 3 or 4 minutes that I remember. Clearly, I was a victim of the Demon Drink! I shudder to think of what indiscretions I may have committed under its influence within that space of time.

    Let me assure you that I will not be present at THIS Year’s Christmas Party. I will instead do penance at home. Just let me keep my job, I beg of you.

    1. Grace*

      The woman attorney should up her game when it comes to being a good wife to her husband. If she married a good man, she should have nothing to worry about. Does she even bother to ask herself: What can I do for him every single day to make him happy he’s married to me? (If she’s giving an employee this kind of grief, imagine what she’s doing to her poor husband for speaking to the co-worker at the party?)

Comments are closed.