is this email from my coworker manipulative and weird?

A reader writes:

I have a rather odd situation at hand. At my current job (that I’ve had for about 6 months), I hit it off with a coworker who works in the same division but not the same department. She was very enthusiastic about how I handle my role and how I dilligently handle sticky situations – wonderful, I love people who provide me with feedback (especially the good kind). We had a couple of lunches and she offered to do a career assessment for me (also very cool). It took me 3 months from when she sent that assessment (it was an online thing) to get it done – my job had ramped up and I had multiple deliverables on the go. In any event, I took the time and got it done.

Now she needs an hour to let me know how I did – great – just that my schedule doesn’t have the flexibility for an hour that I can realistically commit to her. (I literally didn’t see my family for a week) That’s the nature of my job, and pretty much everyone who deals with me knows that and that my time is very precious.

Today, I got an email from her telling me that this is the last chance she’s giving me to make time for her and that I’m avoiding her and that I shouldn’t. I was slightly taken aback by this. I pride myself on being emotionally detached from my work – and her (for lack of a better word) outburst caught me completely off guard.

I emailed her back and let her know that my schedule is quite hectic and that I definitely remember that we have to chat about the assessment. This was something I was quite interested in. However, now I’m slightly uncomfortable and I’m not sure that I do want to give up an hour of my time to someone who, from my point of view, tried to emotionally blackmail my time from me. (I probably am overreacting – but it just felt so bizarre.)

Maybe this is something that is probably far more important to her than it is to me, but giving me ultimatums and telling me how I feel feels a lot like manipulation and bullying to me – am I completely off base?? Any idea on how I should handle the situation without making her feel bad or letting her making me feel guilty?

Here’s the email she sent:

Hi ___,

It is NOT too late to meet and do the debrief on your Energy Leadership Index assessment!!!

I sense you have been avoiding this issue, and therefore avoiding me… and please don’t think that I hold anything negative about you for it.

I think you would benefit from going through the debrief process and closing the loop.

It takes an hour… that’s it. I have the time.

Let me know.

In response, I told her, “Thank you so much for your email. I have actually been thinking about the hour we need to schedule to talk about the ELI report – it is on my to-do list. So you’re most certainly on my mind. As you might know, the last 3 months were quite hectic. We are expected to go down into a lull soon. I am very interested in what you have to say, and please do not take my inability to commit to a time as avoidance. Until recently I hadn’t been able to give my son time. So as things slow down, I will be able to commit to a time.”

In response, she sent me this:

Well, we are all busy. We have to make time. I hope that you will make time for the ELI report, otherwise you have wasted both your time and mine and as you have mentioned time is precious.

If you cannot schedule the 1 hour in the next week, I wouldn’t bother.

Well, first, I’m wondering about what’s up with a coworker offering to do a “career assessment” for you in the first place — what’s her expertise here? And what’s her motivation? Is this a hobby for her? Something she’s developing as a side business? I’m dying for more context here.

Anyway … yeah, her last email is outright snotty. Her first email feels a little off too, but I might be overly influenced by her triple exclamation points and the “I sense you have been avoiding the issue and therefore avoiding me” (which assumes a lot and feels tone-deaf and oddly intimate). But the second one is rude.

To be clear, I can understand why she’s frustrated. She invested time in this on your go-ahead. (And yes, she’s the one who made the offer, but when you accepted it, you were telling her that you were on-board.)  After all, imagine that you learned that a coworker was really interested in, I don’t know, farming turnips. And you happen to have a special interest in turnips, so you offer to analyze the soil in his yard and make some recommendations about how he could start a flourishing turnip business. He says he would love that, so you go off and spend an hour or two analyzing the soil in his yard and deciding on the varieties of turnips that will grow best there, pulling the best information from your extensive turnip files on root cellars in case he wants to grow them indoors, and coming up with a few different marketing options for his future turnip crop. And then when you tell him you’re ready to talk through what you’ve found, he doesn’t bother to meet with you. You’d probably be pretty dismayed — and annoyed that he let you spend your time that way. It wouldn’t be emotional blackmail for you to say, “Hey, I put time into this at your request, and I’d like to close the loop.”

But that’s not how she’s handling it. She’s being rude, and that’s not okay (and it raises the question of whether you want advice from someone who communicates like this). If she’s frustrated with the delay and wants to put a deadline on this, she could have said, “I’m hoping we can meet about this because I put quite a bit of time into preparing for it. If we’re going to finish this up, I’d like to plan to do it in the next week; if that doesn’t work on your end, I’d prefer not to do it all, because at that point too much time will have passed.”

In any case, I could argue this two different ways: On one hand, this is a commitment you made, she spent her own time on it as a result, and you want to be someone who keeps your word. On the other hand, that obligation weakens when someone starts being rude about it. Of course, you’ve also got to factor in maintaining good relations with a coworker, and I’m generally a fan of taking the high road even when someone else is being rude, so … how about this: “I certainly didn’t intend to waste your time and as I said, I very much want to meet with you as soon as my schedule allows it. If you can’t do it after one week from now, I understand.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 257 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I wouldn’t meet with her. You sent her a polite note explaining the situation and her response was quite rude. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire hour was her insulting you.

    1. Bryan*

      Great article!

      I have been calling this phenomenon the busy game, that it’s a contest and I find it annoying. A sizable portion of the time I find situations where someone says they did work from 9:00-11:00 but that includes getting coffee and chatting with coworkers or back in school people would say they studied from 4:00-10:00 but I know that included a break to watch netflix. I think sometimes people pepper their “to do list” with leisure activities and just clock from when they started until when they finished.

      I remember during grad school someone said, “I haven’t slept more than 2 hours a night in the past month.” My first thought was, well I have so why have you not? Someone else responded back, “that’s not true, you’d be dead.” I don’t know if the person would be scientifically correct or not but I thought it was a great response.

      I think not playing the busy game has given me a better reputation at work too. It as helped in that when asked if I have capacity for an extra task and say no everybody knows I am too busy since I say yes when possible or volunteer to do the additional task if I am able.

      1. Anonsie*

        “The Busy Game” is brilliant– I’ve been trying to come up with a good name to call those people who make a big production out of how busy they are and how everything is so hard, but it’s ok because they’ll do it all because they’re just sooo amazing. But it’s hard and everyone should know that!

        Though as a student I never got more than four hours of sleep in a night. It won’t kill you, but you won’t be crisp.

          1. Anonsie*

            In my mind the office martyr is a different person than Captain Busybants. Both are posturing themselves to show how darn GOOD they are as people, but they’re doing it in slightly different ways. The office martyr will try to highlight that they’re doing so much then everyone because others are not stepping up to the game, and it’s a tragedy. They never get anything from anyone, the poor dears, they only ever give.

            Busypants will try to highlight that they’re doing so much more than everyone because they are just so special and capable. They’re sooo busy but it’s totes ok because they’re just so talented! It might sound like a lot to *you* but *I* just do it, that’s just how my every day is, and you couldn’t handle it.

            1. The Clerk*

              That’s a very good distinction. Man, every time I think I know every type of underhanded operator to watch out for, another layer of the onion peels off.

      2. Artemesia*

        Great idea ‘the busy game’. And generally true. Just as work tends to expand to fit the time available (that speech I need to write could be worked on right now, but I am reading AAM, LOL) people tend to do what they want to do.

        The only time I was really too busy to fit a single other thing in was when I was on my own with a demanding new job and a toddler (before my husband moved to join us) That 6 mos, I was just wadding through concrete to give my son adequate attention and work till the wee hours to get ready for the next days work (involved a lot of presentation preparation and it was all first time stuff.)

      3. Lucy*

        The sleeping thing in school always made me absolutely batty. I took 23 hours each semester AND I worked part time and I still managed to get a full 8 hours of sleep. I didn’t have much of a social life, but I sure was healthy! :)

        1. Anonsie*

          It always amused me because people would talk about how busy they were as the reason for not getting sleep in college. I never got any sleep because I liked to stay up all night on the internet or playing video games– I sure as heck wasn’t working all those hours.

          PS if you ever wanna make someone playing the I-didn’t-get-any-sleep busy game really mad, sympathize with their all nighter paper project by mentioning that you did the same, only with Mariokart.

      4. Carpe Librarium*

        Ha, I love to do this sarcastically with certain chores. As in, the hour or so that I am plonked on the couch with a book while the washing machine is going is guilt-free ‘productive’ because I am ‘doing the washing’.
        Normally because I already put off doing the washing about 5 times because I was slacking off on the PlayStation…

    2. C average*

      So, honest question: If you want to turn down an invitation in order to do something less redeeming but more enjoyable, isn’t “too busy” one of the better go-to excuses? I mean, sure, it’s silly and overused, but it’s often way better than the truth. (I’m talking in general here, not in reference to the specific scenario in this letter.)

      Would you rather hear, “Oh, thanks for the invite to do coffee and brainstorm about a chocolate teapot/caramel trivet collaboration, but I’m just so busy I can’t make it fit right now!” or “Technically, I have enough leisure time to accept your invitation, but I prefer to spend my leisure time watching ‘Law & Order’ reruns while teasing my cat with a laser pointer”?

      I reserve a certain amount of my free time (which isn’t abundant) for goofing off, and I do tend to play the too-busy card when I’m really just defending my goofing-off time from encroachment. I think it’s pretty common.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        “Technically, I have enough leisure time to accept your invitation, but I prefer to spend my leisure time watching ‘Law & Order’ reruns while teasing my cat with a laser pointer”?

        I hope to say this at some point in my life – I literally love everything about this sentence.

        1. tcookson*

          That made me LOL — I really want to say that to somebody (preferably someone annoying) and I think that when I do it, I will borrow Sheldon Cooper’s intonations.

      2. Lindsay the Temp*

        THANK YOU!!! I’ve spent so much of my life defending the fact that “doing nothing” IS what I’m doing right now. I factor time into my day/week to “do nothing”. That’s what I’m “doing” right now, and I’m busy “doing” it!

        1. tcookson*

          I’m took vacation over spring break, and what I’m doing right now is nothing. That is what I took my vacation for, because “nothing” is my favorite thing to “do”. Okay, for me, “nothing” includes binge-watching Dexter/The Office/How I Met Your Mother on NetFlix and reading AAM and books on my Nook. It also includes convincing my family (husband) that refried beans and tortilla chips is a meal.

          When I go back to work, I’ll describe this as “puttering around the house” because these are people who don’t do “nothing” (or maybe they just don’t admit to it?). They travel to Rome and Machu Pichu and take road trips to New Orleans to educate their children about the American South. At least the one doing that has the decency to also play Johnny CAsh and Willy Nelson while doing so . . .

      3. Emily K*

        Thank you for your gracious invitation, but I previously committed to spending the night doing weird stuff on the Internet by myself.

        1. Zoe UK*

          When I was at University we had somebody refuse an invitation to our house party with a note explaining that he couldn’t come because he was ‘going through a period of quiet reflection’. That was a good one.

      4. OP*

        I have been declining invitations by saying things like I’m So sorry that I can’t make it, or that I have other plans. It’s not necessary to tell people what those plans are. This has been really working for me.

      5. Ruffingit*

        If we actually told the truth: “Sorry boss, I cannot meet with you after work about the new and improved spout handles, I am too busy reading Ask a Manager in an effort to hang on to the last shred of sanity that this job has left me with and also to learn how to find a new job with health insurance that covers the therapy I will need to get over this work environment.”

        1. Anon from Oz*

          Thanks so much for that link CaliSusan – it’s fantastic and I’m going to give it a go

  2. JW*

    My reaction is just to take the hour, meet with her, and move on.

    How long did you spend writing the email to AAM? Even though your colleague is being rude, it might be worth it just to suck it up and spend an hour with her.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Yeah…maybe I’m reading this situation incorrectly, but I sort of feel like if the co-worker was the one who wrote in, we would be sympathetic toward her. Granted, we’d tell her the e-mail was rude, but we’d also sympathize that she volunteered her her time to do a favor for the co-worker, and later that person was too busy.

      And, honestly, I’m not sure that OP’s comment about not even seeing her son was very necessary – that smacks of guilt-tripping, even it if was unintended.

      Maybe I’m way off-base? It seems like both parties have been a bit inconsiderate.

      1. some1*

        Tbh, I would think it was bizarre if the LW was the coworker, and I’d wonder what her motivation/expertise is that she felt the need to offer this to coworker in the first place, and why is she so invested in her coworker’s career?

        & the son comment could be guilt-tripping, but so is “I know you’re avoiding me” which she was responding to.

        1. jmkenrick*

          I think that the co-worker’s career assessment thing IS weird. But I also think the weirdness is sort of removed as an issue when the OP took her up on the offer. After all, this is a co-worker, not a vendor or salesperson. Even if the co-worker is trying to sell OP something (as lots of commentators are suggesting and sounds like it could be on the mark) that wasn’t readily apparent in the letter (and, I’m assuming, not something that had yet been discussed, or OP would have likely mentioned it)….EVEN if that is true, it’s still your own responsibility to create & build solid relationships in the workplace. You can’t just shift all the blame to a co-worker because they wrote a rude e-mail.

          Frankly, if the co-worker was providing something that we all deemed a valuable service, I think we’d be looking at this differently. (Like, if she was a senior employee, and OP a new grad, or if she was helping her learn more about turnip farming.) I think that we’re letting the weirdness of the co-worker’s offer color the fact that OP took her up on that offer.

          I know that different workplaces have different paces, but to me, three months is a pretty long time to get started on something without a check-in, and that it would serve OP to take the high-road here.

          1. Anonymous*

            I disagree. These two people are co-coworkers. Their strongest connection is through work. We don’t know the nature of the LW’s job, but sometimes projects require all hands on deck. If you’re working through lunch and hitting the grindstone once you’re home, I wouldn’t give an hour of valuable ‘work time’ when I didn’t have it. It isn’t unreasonable to say ‘life is going to be crazy until X date, then I would love to sit down with you. I’ve been looking forward to it’. I’ve had times at work where more casual/less time dependent things totally dropped out of view for other things. LW would be rude if she didn’t commit to after the project/after X timeframe.

      2. angie*

        I had a similar read of it jmkenrick. Although it doesn’t rule out that the assessment is a sales pitch from the coworker, no one’s really commented that it took the OP 3 months from the time she said yes to complete the assessment! That’s a long time to go dark and OP doesn’t say that she got any weird or pushy emails in the interim. Maybe the coworker just snapped and – while she handled it rudely – I’m not sure she was wrong. Maybe coworker and OP had multiple contacts in that 3 month period in which OP kept putting coworker off and finally coworker resorted to the LAST CHANCE email out of irritation, just to bait some sort of commitment and response. Meanwhile, OP is definitely wishy washy and noncomittal–who among us hasn’t been irritated by someone who acts like that?

    2. Mike C.*

      How long did you spend writing that email to AAM?

      This doesn’t make sense to criticize, not all time is created equally, nor are the opportunity costs the same. An email pounded out on the bus ride home to a safe environment has a lot less opportunity cost than meeting with a coworker where you risk being subjected to overtly hostile or political behavior.

      1. L McD*

        Yeah, this is what I thought of. When all is said and done, an hour’s meeting with someone in person could be 2+ hours once you factor in the time to travel, schedule, agree on a place, blah blah blah. Not to mention the mental/emotional energy required for something like this. For me, just a casual social meeting can be a stressful event, but we’re talking about an evaluation here – I can see not wanting to spend time doing this, even if the hours are literally in the day, when you’re otherwise very stressed and busy.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, totally agreed. Sending an email is a lot easier emotionally and mentally than sitting with a co-worker for an hour who has now shown herself to be at least somewhat bitter and possibly downright hostile toward you.

        1. JW*

          What I meant by posting that was more “Stop wasting your energy on this issue and get past it” and less “How many minutes did you spend typing this out?”

  3. Artemesia*

    I’d be creeped out that someone who sounds like they may be developing a pyramid scheme business on the side or something has my detailed career information. Who is she? Why is she meddling in your career development? What does she expect to get from you?

    I’d back slowly away from this and hope she isn’t using my detailed personal information to put a voodoo hex on me.

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I thought this sounded really “sales-y” too… is she making money off of this? I feel like you could take her first email and [insert product here] and it would read just like a sales email.

      1. ChristineSW*

        I kinda picked up on that too where it says “It’s NOT too late…”. A possible sales pitch didn’t cross my mind originally, but hmmm….

    2. OhNo*

      My thoughts exactly. This sounds like classic salesperson manipulation to me – what is she selling that she is so eager to get you in such a hurry?

      If she’s already put the time into preparing the assessment, why does it matter how soon you meet with her? Even in Alison’s example, the fact that you did the work and they don’t have the time right this second to chat about it doesn’t mean that the work has gone to waste. It might be annoying, but an annoyance is all it is.

      If it were me, I would send a thank, but no thanks email to her. Say you appreciate the effort, but you simply can’t take the time away from your work to meet with her. Surely a coworker ought to be able to understand that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I could see the timeframe being relevant, in that her thoughts won’t be fresh in 2 months and she’d have to do some of the prep work again to re-familiarize herself with the results.

        1. Artemesia*

          Good point. But I still wouldn’t let her get any of my fingernail clippings.

          I’d be very wary of giving a co-workers without career development portfolio this much detailed information about my career.

    3. Purr purr purr*

      I thought exactly the same as soon as I read it! It sounds like the sales spiel that Beachbody ‘coaches’ give their customers. I even had a look at the Energy Leadership Index website and how it mentions coaches and started to wonder if they had a network marketing model too. In any case, it sounds so weird to complain to the OP about wasting her time and then say, ‘If you can’t do it in the next week, don’t bother.’ It wouldn’t be a waste of time if they’re able to do it in two weeks instead – a lack of patience means she’s cutting off her nose to spite her face!

      1. stebuu*

        I had the same exact thoughts about “Energy Leadership Index”. This sounds like some variant of a MLM.

        I would avoid the coworker like the plague (says the guy who has had MLM-pushing coworkers in the past)

        1. Ruffingit*

          UGH, the MLM pushers are so annoying! I’ve had a few of them in my lifetime and I’ve learned to say “I’m not interested” on repeat. I’m amazed that anyone gets into MLM schemes anymore, but some people are just that gullible I guess, which is a shame.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Yep, it’s a marketing situation that the coworker is trying to maneuver the OP into. There are websites that say you can build a million-dollar business if you “know how to sell from an ELI debrief session.” And that’s what this one-hour “meeting” is, a debrief session to be able to sell a “leadership coaching package”. It’s so sad that this co-worker, who seemed so nice and took a liking to you, was just buttering you up for a high-dollar sale. (The sites I looked at bragged about selling coaching packages from $2000 – $8000). No wonder she is being so nasty now.

        Run, OP. Run very far away.

    4. Anonymous*

      Yeah…that was my thought too. You could be easily swapped out “career assessment” for Stella and Dot necklace, Cutco knife, or Mary Kay foundation.

      God help us all, the MLMers have gotten to job hunting.

      1. Ruffingit*

        LOL! Yeah, it’s bad enough when these people are in your life in general, but at work? UGH. NO.

          1. Stephanie*

            As someone else so astutely pointed out elsewhere in this thread, a “party” doesn’t usually involve crappy wine and a hard sell.

  4. AmyNYC*

    Can you do it over lunch?
    If you’re friendly enough with her, do it after work at happy hour (she’ll get more bearable this way, too!)

    1. PJ*

      You may be assuming that lunch isn’t a sandwich eaten over a pile of spreadsheets that need to be reviewed for a 1:00 meeting.

    2. nancypie*

      Since this isn’t something sponsored by your employer (I am supposing), I should hope it’s done over lunch, breakfast, etc. I can’t imagine your coworker really wants you to rake time away from your really busy project that you’re being paid to do to do this (that’s meant kind of sarcastically, but I might be inclined to get that on the email record).

  5. Anonymous*

    Well, first, I’m wondering about what’s up with a coworker offering to do a “career assessment” for you in the first place — what’s her expertise here? And what’s her motivation? Is this a hobby for her? Something she’s developing as a side business? I’m dying for more context here.

    Yes! Maybe it’s just the word “energy” in the name, but I was reading her email in the same tone of voice as someone wanting to, I don’t know, read your chakras or test your toxin levels. In any case, sounds like you’re dealing with a True Believer.

    1. jmkenrick*

      But, OP took the co-worker up on the offer! If someone offers to read your chakras, and you take them up on it, then the “weirdness” of the offer becomes irrelevant, no? It’s still polite to follow-up.

      I’m not trying to knock OP here, I just think that perhaps a bit more sympathy is due to the original coworker? We’re not sure of the effort she put in before that rude e-mail was sent. (Which, of course, I’m not condoning).

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      The “it’s not too late!” struck me as a sales pitch. I think I’ve seen that exact line in ads – “it’s not too late to take advantage of this great sale,” that kind of thing. Seems like this is her side business. OP, don’t be surprised if, after you do meet with her, she slaps you with an invoice.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        A quick google of this assessment shows most ‘coaches’ charging in the $270-$300 range for the test and “debrief.” I would be VERY concerned that she’s trying to charge you for this, OP.

        1. Kerr*

          After looking it up, it does look like the OP’s coworker might be starting a side business! I wonder if she only has a limited number of free assessments available, and she’s upset because one of her potential customers is now backing out. Or maybe she really did want to do the OP a good turn by giving her a free assessment, and now she’s irritated.

          Either way, the follow-up e-mail was extremely rude. And the first one wasn’t so polite, either.

        2. Jamie*

          A quick google of this assessment shows most ‘coaches’ charging in the $270-$300 range for the test and “debrief.”

          For that kind of money the “assessment” better come with a couple hours of the “coach” cleaning my house.

          / snarkiness…but seriously, do people really pay for stuff like this? They must or it wouldn’t be an industry. Just like telemarketing must work or they wouldn’t keep doing it, but I’ve never know anyone on whom it worked.

          1. Rayner*

            My grandmother got the telemarketing / tv ONLY best selling product thing bug. And it’s been going for twenty years. It’s hard to get enough people hooked but once you get them in, they’re in for life.

            I /loathe/ it.

        3. QualityControlFreak*

          Yup. That was my first thought; a high pressure sales pitch. I would send the graciously worded reply AAM suggested. Don’t find the hour demanded for the debrief, and hope your coworker doesn’t try to retroactively bill you for the assessment. (I know it sounds ridiculous … perhaps I’m just cynical.)

          OTOH, if you feel this information would really be of value to you, and you are willing to pay for it, that’s your prerogative.

      2. Jamie*

        Exactly – I would be shocked if the hour didn’t end in something like, “and since this unbiased assessment clearly indicates you’re meant for greatness…but only if you sign up for a weekend seminar…I can get you in with the insider rate of only $1299.99.”

        This reeks of snake oil to me.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah or even worse, the co-worker will want to do ongoing sessions with the OP that will cost her only $100 per session, but of course must be done weekly or monthly or whatever for years on end.

    3. Cat*

      Yeah, True Believer is exactly the vibe I got. Which is either going to be a problem (if she’s or the test are creepy or she’s trying to sell you something) or is fine (if you’re also down with the thing just not quite as enthusiastic).

    1. Candy Floss*

      “As part of the Energy Leadership Index assessment and debrief process, you’ll learn about the 7 levels of leadership and how much energy you currently have in the catabolic-suppressing range and in the anabolic-inspirational range. You’ll be debriefed on the findings of the assessment, and coached on how to navigate yourself to higher performance.”

      I wish we could embed GIFs here, picture an epic Liz Lemon eyeroll as my reaction to the above.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am sitting here hoping this great new MLM plan can convert some of my mass to energy — so I am thrilled to see Einstein quoted.

      1. the_scientist*

        WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?! That is a series of random words strung together to make a few sentences of absolute nonsense. All of the eye rolls, indeed.

        1. Elle D*

          I tried to read through their website and gave up after a minute – it is the most buzzword heavy copy I’ve ever read in my life.

          1. Jamie*

            I tried too, then I started drowning in my own sea of consciousness and had to crawl back ashore.

            I have to almost applaud the pushy co-worker just for being able to discuss this with a straight face.

            Seriously, though, if she is doing a for profit thing like this with co-workers…especially if she’s not telling them upfront about costs (assuming there are costs) that would be of huge concern to any employer.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “Anabolic leaders have the ability to motivate and inspire themselves and others to do extraordinary things. They have the ability to make energetic shifts in all levels of the organization. The most successful organizations are those that are filled with powerful, positive, anabolic leaders, and that means everyone in the organization, not just the “ones at the top.” ”

        Oh god, it’s like “The Secret” applied to management.

        1. Audiophile*

          Oh god I remember that craze! “Did you read “The Secret”? It will change your life!”

        1. Del*

          I have to admit I first read that as “energy you have in the catabolic-suppressing rage.” Sounds like the coworker could use a little rage-suppressant!

      3. Sigrid*

        I… just… what?

        Seriously, what? “Catabolic-suppressing range”? “Anabolic-inspirational range”? …….what?

        I don’t even know where to begin with that.

    2. Steve*

      And it’s not $800! It’s not $600! Right now it’s only $415!

      But wait! …..

      Yep. It’s a sales thing!

    3. MW*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who got “pyramid scheme scam” and googled “Energy Leadership Index.”

      I want the “It’s a trap!”GIF to post.

    4. Mike C.*

      If this might be true, you should report this coworker to your boss for using company resources to further their own side business.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, my dad’s job recently fired someone almost immediately for this. Some of it was because they’re a defense contractor, and things could get bad fast.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        +1. Every place I’ve ever worked has had a ‘no soliciting for side businesses or even Girl Scout cookies’ rule. For this exact reason–it introduces salesy pushiness and awkwardness because you don’t want to disappoint your co-workers by not buying their Mary Kay cosmetics or whatever, but they never should have introduced it to the office in the first place.

    5. EM*

      +1 — I instantly got a sales vibe from this. I wonder if the company knows she’s preying on new employees for her own profit.

    6. Sunflower*

      Ok now that I’ve searched Energy Leadership Index I am TOTALLY convinced she is trying to sell you something. At first I thought maybe she was new to management and just desperately wanted a mentee.

      I say OP goes to the meeting because I am dying to see the competition of the sales pitch and for OP to call her out on it

    7. LBK*

      “There are no limits as to the potential growth that you can achieve. Once you realize that your level of consciousness is directly related to your actions, you can move from functioning effectively, to functioning optimally.”

      Ah, this is what was missing from my leadership – I’ve always been unconscious when I try to lead people! Now that I know I just need to be conscious, this will probably be a lot easier.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      Ah I wish I’d seen this post. It seemed a little snake oil-y to me too (I used that term below).

      At this point I’d say “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to schedule a time, and to avoid wasting your effort/time any further let’s just leave it alone.”

      If she brings it up again you can say something like “I’ve done a little more research on ELI and I don’t think it’s the right program for me” or even mention that you probably shouldn’t be doing this kind of thing on company time unless it’s sanctioned by the company.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. OP, turn the tables. Give an answer something like “Oh okay then. I am so sorry that you wasted your time.”

        I bet she sings a different tune.

        It would seem to me that if she were a graduate of the program her sales pitch would have been persuasive rather than rude.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I would love to see co-worker’s response if OP sent such an email saying no problem, sorry. I agree that co-worker would be singing a way different tune then. I really want her to do it just to see what co-worker says.

    9. Stephanie*

      Ok, I’m reading this website while on the train. I just snorted loudly enough that another passenger looked up.

    1. twig*

      I wondered about that myself. “Energy Leadership Index” sounds like a variation on “tone scale.”

    2. iseeshiny*

      Naw, if it were on letterhead the coworker could just email the report with her observations instead of requiring an hour(!) in person to discuss the results. I’m so not surprised this ELI thing is monetary – I’m just surprised the coworker didn’t offer a dinner buffet and tickets to a show in order to get the OP to listen to the hard sell in person.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’m just surprised the coworker didn’t offer a dinner buffet and tickets to a show in order to get the OP to listen to the hard sell in person.

        HA. My mom left a voicemail to the effect of “Hey, just get dinner on your own. Your dad is going to a seminar about how to maximize your Social Security with a ‘free’ dinner. I have to go to stop him from buying some high-cost annuity.”

    3. Anon from Oz*

      I got that same vibe – I’d be very wary about the follow up although it doesn’t sound like the co-worker is all that good at it yet.

    4. Lindrine*

      The website – looks a bit spacey to me. By which i mean jam chocked full of WORDS! PICTURES! THINGS TO BUY!. Scamity scam scam scam.

  6. Apostrophina*

    I really dislike the coworker’s first response, more than anything: I find that people who try to assign me psychological motivations I don’t have are magically placed into a little CANNOT BE TRUSTED file in my head.

    And while you should probably thank her for her time, I personally would be taking anything said in the assessment with an enormous grain of salt after this.

  7. BCW*

    I’m kind of siding with the other person here. I do see how its rude, but emotionally manipulative? No. As Alison said, if I offered to analyze someone’s resume, even if I offered, and I came up with a bunch of stuff to go over, and in a couple of months I couldn’t even get 1 hour, yeah, I’d be a little annoyed too. Its possible that my emails may not be super nice either, especially because I’m guessing this wasn’t her first email trying to meet with you. More like its a “Take it or leave it” type of thing, and I don’t think thats wrong.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yeah, I don’t see it as bullying either. Something about OP’s post was off to me, but I can’t really articulate why it bugged me. Maybe because she kept referring to her time as precious like no one else is busy. I just get a “I work so much harder than everybody else and don’t have time to wipe my own butt; I slept one hour in the last week and no one understands how hard I have it and how dare someone not related to me want some of time” vibe from it.

      1. Sunflower*

        I definitely was on the coworkers side until I googled ELI and discovered that I think it’s some sort of side business selling scheme. I thought at first the coworker was just looking for a mentee and genuinely wanted to help but the more I read, the more I feel like she was trying to sell OP something

        1. jmkenrick*

          This seems to be a big focus in the comments, but I question the relevance – In the sense that I don’t think that necessarily shifts any responsibility off the OP for her to maintain a good relationship with her coworker.

          I think we should defer to the way that OP presents the relationship in the letter. OP does not discuss this as a sales meeting she’s been pushing back…but rather that the coworker offered her a favor, and OP took her up on it.

          True, now it sounds like coworker was waiting to spring a sales pitch, but without that certainty, I think OP owes her coworker the consideration of a polite follow-up. If only for the sake of office diplomacy.

          1. Sunflower*

            My opinions on the coworker would change once I found this info out though. My first instinct was to say definitely meet with the co worker but now I am on the side of sending a polite email saying ‘I’m sorry we couldn’t have worked this out. If things change and you have some time when I also slow down, I will chat about it then’

            If I was OP and this was indeed a sales pitch, I would feel angry that she played the card of pretending to be genuinely concerned about my career when in reality she just wanted to sell me something. It would be different if she was upfront and said ‘hey you should do this test. There’s this great book associated with it..etc’ and OP could have made the choice to get into it or not. Also I think if OP knew that there was time limit, she may have not agreed to it in the first place.

            I think it’s important for both the OP to send a polite email and for the coworker to accept it.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes, this.

              MLM schemes work by blurring the lines between social and business etiquette, and making people feel like they need to purchase the MLM’s crap (product or service) in order to not “be rude” or lose the friendship. But this is not personal at all, it’s business, and the OP is well within her rights to cancel IMO.

              1. Jamie*

                Agreed. One way for the OP to go would be to write a polite email mentioning she googled the test and wanted to double check there were no costs invovled before she carves out that hour.

                If there are no costs involved she can do the hour since she did obligate herself initially. If there are she regains the moral high ground because she was being scammed.

                1. jmkenrick*

                  I think this is a great solution. But in deference to the workplace, I really think that more politeness is due the coworker than some people seem to be suggesting.

                2. Jamie*

                  Oh, I agree…that’s why I do think that if there is no cost she should meet with her because she said she would and keeps everything civil on the workfront absolutely.

                  But, devil’s advocate, if it is a sales pitch and that was not specifically and clearly stated upfront then I don’t know how that gets salvaged no matter how polite one is.

                  I’d be civil and professional…but I’d have a chat with tptb if I felt someone was running their own MLM on company times suckering co-workers.

              2. jmkenrick*

                Absolutely. I don’t think that OP can’t cancel. But I think the burden is on her to be polite and mend any burnt bridges. If this was just a salesperson, that would be one thing, but it’s a coworker and part of your role is usually to maintain good relationships with another department. This woman’s bad behavior doesn’t necessarily let OP off the hook, and waiting three months after taking her coworker up on a favor (because the letter gives no indication that OP thought she was signing up for a sales meeting) is a pretty long time in most industries.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  On the other hand, I hardly think pitching MLM schemes to one’s co-workers is “maintaining good relationships” either! ;)

          2. JustKatie*

            I think the obligation to the coworker changes in this circumstance. If it were strictly a mentor/ mentee situation, then yes, you owe them the courtesy of meeting to go over feedback, since they’re putting themselves out on a limb to help you. If it’s a sales relationship and you’re the client, you have the right to cease that contact as you see fit.

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                Right, but in that case (as jmkendrick, Jamie, and others keep pointing out), the OP would have to be sure of that and make that known before declining, because without that circumstance/factor, the OP is just being rude (by declining) and busy and wasting the coworker’s time. As someone who is trained in doing legitimate career assessments, I would certainly be upset if someone agreed to it, had me do all the analysis, and then didn’t come in to debrief (which is valuable, billable time). To be clear, I don’t think this coworker is a qualified career counselor, I just think that until it’s transparently proven otherwise, the OP is slightly more in the wrong.

          3. Kelly L.*

            I don’t think we need to defer to that–the OP didn’t know it was a sales meeting. She was misled.

    2. Sadsack*

      I would give up after the first time the person who was supposedly looking forward to my comments blew. The fact that the coworker keeps coming back to OP about it makes me believe what others here are saying about this being a sales pitch for something.

  8. alma*

    “please don’t think that I hold anything negative about you for it.”

    I think the fact that LW accepted the coworker’s offer does obligate at least some follow-through, but this line stood out to me as a little manipulative. It reminds me a little bit of the pick up artist concept of “negging.”

  9. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    The coworker’s first email reads to me like a copy-paste form letter – it’s very sales-y, and doesn’t read at all like a casual reminder email between two people who know each other well. I agree the second email is just plain rude.

    I say meet with her for the assessment, and bring some tupperware for her to buy or something*

    *not actually a serious suggestion

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Oh, but I’d seriously like for this to happen. OP, please could you oblige? But only with a full report after the meeting.

    2. Yup*

      I had the same reaction to the first email — it read exactly like a bunch of hard sell MLM communications I’ve received. “You’re missing out! Supplies are limited! Only *you* can start your journey to financial freedom!”

      That, combined with reading the ELI link posted above, make me inclined to think that the OP would be best served by treating this like a sales pitch, rather than a favor from a coworker. Her emails are manipulative, sure, but more in the manner of a marketing ploy that I’m free to reject rather than a breach of personal boundaries that needs to be addressed.

  10. Just a Reader*

    I like Alison’s suggestion. In the OP’s shoes I would be very, very tempted to just ignore and move on, but she’s right that the high road is the better way to go.

    In my personal life I tend to just drop the rope when people pull this kind of stuff with me and never engage again. Wish that were possible at work.

  11. Candy Floss*

    Pitching her side business to co-workers during work hours exempts her from sympathy in my book.

    1. some1*

      No kidding. At a former job there was a manager (not mine, thank god) who sold Avon on the side and was always sending me emails like LW got. How it was my “last chance to order before Christmas” and how she wanted to meet and give me a “free makeover”. It was obnoxious.

      At current job, the folks who sell Avon or Pampered Chef just leave their brochures on the break room table. The people who want to order have the chance and the rest of us are free to ignore it.

  12. Chriama*

    This might be because I was on a Captain Awkward binge last night and am now on a crusade to have all the Difficult Conversations I’ve been putting off, but… this just bugs me. People don’t get to decide your motivations for you. I’m not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt because I’m convinced her email was as passive-aggressive as she meant it to be, and I’d listen to the commenters who are warning about pressure to purchase coaching from her. Especially if you go to the meeting because she guilted you into it, you may find it difficult to refuse her offer (you wasted her time, dragged things on for weeks, etc). In the interests of preserving the relationship I would probably tell her “I expect to be free on x date (preferably at least 3 weeks in the future) and would love to talk then, but I understand if that doesn’t work for you. In that case I appreciate your help and I’m sorry I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of this opportunity.” Obviously if she agrees to that future date you have to go, so prepare some scripts beforehand to use if she tries to pressure you into buying something from her.

    1. Sadsack*

      I am curious how OP’s employer feels about an employee targeting another with side business that would take an hour out of OP’s work day in an attemp to sell something. Is the employer going to cover the cost of whatever improvement course this is?

      1. Chriama*

        Depending on how comfortable she is in her new role “politically” and her relationship to the coworker as well as how often they may need to work together, she may not feel comfortable saying anything. Again my brain has been saturated by Captain Awkward, but sometimes the healthiest thing to do is not engage. There is no moral imperative to her employers or any potential new coworkers to protect them from the awfulness that is this coworker.

        HOWEVER: If you are in a privileged place professionally (including how people view your work and how much your environment will back you up if you point out Issues that need to be Addressed) and you feel comfortable or at least neutral about speaking up, I’d say go for it. Your health comes first, OP, but the world in general could always use more people speaking up about bad things and trying to address them.

    2. Anonymous*

      Scripts like:
      Hey pushy coworker! Sorry it took me so long to set up this meeting. I can’t wait to her what you have to say but first, I want to sell you this amazing thing I found online called [generic ripoff of ELI]!

  13. John*

    The value in this question is as a cautionary tale. This sounds really shady and now the OP is painted into a corner.

    I mean, my temptation is to say, schedule a lunch with her. But if she is looking to sell him something — and she HAS to be, the way I read it — then when he doesn’t buy her serivices, her attitude/sales pressure will only escalate.

    Sorry, but if she wasn’t trying to make money, she’d have said, “Here’s a link to this nifty career assessment tool. Try it.” Why is she in the middle of it?

    She was enthusiastic about her new co-worker because she saw a mark.

    1. John*

      And a note to OP to say that I throughly understand why you took the time to write to Allison.

      During crunch times, when people show blatant disrespect for how under the gun I am, it sends me over the edge.

      So you have my total support.

  14. Celeste*

    It’s very manipulative, because she got kind of personal rather than making it about setting a calendar date. I also wondered about the OP and did he/she think that maybe the assessment shouldn’t really take a whole hour, because the reply said they were looking to “chat” with her about the assessment.

    Anyway, if it was me I would just say that I changed my mind. I think she saw a mark, where the OP saw a relationship. Friends don’t act this way, especially new friends who don’t even know you well enough to comment like she did.

    1. Anon*


      We had “friends” who tried to push their tacky pyramid scheme/sales pitch on us for the longest time. Knowing what it was ahead of time, we repeatedly refused to schedule a meeting, then finally did so – with the up front caveat that we were not interested and had no intentions of spending any money – to get them to stop. At the meeting, the “friends” gave their memorized talk, pausing for prompted responses that we refused to go along with. Things like “A rate of return like this is too good to pass up – you are ready to give it your all, right?” When we refused to agree or said something non-committal (“apparently you believe so”) they became irate. It was scary to see people who previously had been normal, level-headed human beings lose all common sense due to whatever indoctrination they received when they signed up to sell this program. We ended up having to show these “friends” to the door, and have not heard from them since.

      1. anon for this comment*

        UGH I nearly got sucked into a pyramid scheme by a friend under the premise of having a get-together. I don’t remember if she fessed up or what happened because I never went to this “get-together”. She still attempted to get me and my husband involved–I think she even had one of her friends call us–and I flat out refused. I haven’t been in touch with this woman ever since, and I generally will not attend any gatherings that have a hint of possible sales pitches.

        1. LV*

          I was touched and pleased when an old friend from high school, whom I’d lost sight of after graduating, contacted me through Facebook to say she wanted to catch up… after 5 minutes of chatting online she revealed that she had an exciting business opportunity for me! I could make so much money working from home for just a few hours a week! She confessed that she was under her quota for the month and needed to pull in more clients or she was at risk of getting fired.

          I suppose I should be grateful she only wasted those 5 minutes of my time! So much for catching up with old friends…

          1. Kelly L.*

            I’ve defriended probably half a dozen old high school friends for that. It’s a wonder there’s anyone to sell the stuff to, as apparently every woman in the whole town is hawking this or that.

      2. Artemesia*

        Our experience with this also mixed in religion — to not buy their soap was apparently a direct assault on Jesus Christ. And ‘friends who are really friends, help their friends make money.’ A lot of cult like stuff here. I have refused to attend so much as a tupperware ‘party’ since then and dropped a bookclub in my new city when without announcement, one of the meetings including a pampered chef presentation. I think these MLM schemes are grotesque and very great impositions on co-workers and friends.

        The only way I could see this going down and not being an MLM scam would be if it were a co-workers doing grad study who needed to administer tests as part of their coursework. I know people, for example, who had to give the WISC to 5 people for a course.

        1. the_scientist*

          Right, and the WISC doesn’t come with a 40-minutes sales pitch tacked on to the end, although a good assessment should take some time to debrief.

          MLM stuff is just SO tacky. My mom had a brief foray into Mary Kay and she didn’t have the stomach to be pushy enough to be successful at it.

          1. Elle D*

            I got suckered into Mary Kay and instantly regretted it. In the moment, I really believed it was an exciting business opportunity/easy way for me to make money on the side, so I signed on. Such a mistake! I never hosted a party or bought any inventory merchandise cause I realized almost instantly it was a bad call. I could just never be that pushy, especially with co-workers, family and friends. Lesson learned – and my $200 consultant starter kit purchase wasn’t a terrible investment, since I gave my mom and sister the sample skincare products for Christmas.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I hate those things. Once, long ago, my aunt got sucked into one of those. I was living in California and she had traveled out there to visit family, and we got together for lunch. She spent the whole entire time trying to get me in on the melaluca oil thing.

        I was so disappointed; what I thought would be a nice lunch with a family member turned out to be the Sales Pitch from Hell. Thankfully, she dropped that crap later.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I’m going to go on a little tangent here – I really, really hate when friends try to sell things. Whatever candle/jewelry/whatever else MLM scheme they’re involved in – please just don’t involve me. I don’t want to come to or host your stupid parties, I don’t want the awkwardness of telling you no. Friends are friends, not customers. I would rather give you $10 than be pressured to buy something.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Word to the wise… an ‘origami owl’ party will NOT be a party of people making paper owls. It will be someone selling you jewelry.

              1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

                This is awesome! The entire time I was there, I was like, “So we REALLY aren’t making paper owls, are we?” …I was really sad! I think I just might have to have an ACTUAL origami owl party now :-)

      2. some1*

        So much this! It’s so insulting to call it a “party”, too. A) A social gathering at a friend or family member’s home should NEVER involve asking your loved ones top open their wallet*, and you especially should not invite people you wouldn’t invite or haven’t invited or to your house for an actual party. B) If the product was worth the money you wouldn’t need to resort to high-pressure sales tactics to push it. I actually like candles and make-up but am completely satisfied at the selection of both available to me at Target.

        *and they want you to buy something because if enough people do, the host gets a bonus, so you basically are just making money of your “friends” when all you did was open a bag of Chex Mix and a couple bottles of Yellow Tail.

        1. Kay*

          You know… I see both sides of the MLM thing. On the one hand, you’re right that you shouldn’t be invited to a “party” where you’re expected to spend money. On the other hand, I’ve purchased Mary Kay cosmetics and liked them and I do love me some good tupperware. Someone needs to sell these items and I think where things cross the line is when there’s pressure either from the sales people or from the host of the party to spend a certain amount. I have been invited to “parties” for things I have no interest in, and simply declined to attend.

          What bugs me most about this particular situation is that this coworker was not upfront about their intent to try to sell something. When someone invites you to a tupperware party, you know what you’re getting into, just like when someone offers you a free cruise if you’ll just listen to their sales pitch about a timeshare. If you’re not into tupperware (or hard-sell timeshare spiels) then you’re free to decline. If a friend offers you some help with your career and then after both of you invest some time in this tries to sell you something, that’s deceitful and scummy.

      3. Simonthegrey*

        I have a legit jewelry business, not one of those “buy a kit and scalp your friends” deals, and I do mention it on FB and post about it when we do shows or events. However, I don’t market it to my friends and I keep the FB stuff mostly confined to the business page, not my personal page.

  15. LV*

    I wonder, was the OP aware that this ELI thing is a “service” (I have to put that in quotation marks since it’s so shady) that people normally pay for?

    1. ChristineSW*

      I have a feeling that she had no idea. This is definitely manipulative.

      I was originally thinking this was a mentoring thing that the coworker was offering; the first email was a little meh but not horrible. OP responds in what I assume was a timely manner with a legit reason for not responding sooner (yeah, maybe the son thing was a bit unnecessary, but many people talk about the challenges of work-life balance). Anyway…the second email is way out of line. Clearly the coworker is putting a lot of pressure on the OP.

      1. LV*

        The weirdest part about this whole thing, to me, is that it’s not clear from this post whether the OP is aware *now* that her coworker intends to charge her for it.

        Being overwhelmed by work/short on time is one reason to decline or postpone a meeting with this coworker, but if it were me, the first thing I would have responded was that I had misunderstood the initial offer and did not realize that I would have to pay for the ELI assessment and would not be moving forward for that reason. So it’s very strange to me that the OP makes no mention of this being something that costs in the $400-800 range (going by previous comments here).

        1. Elle D*

          It seems to me like the OP doesn’t realize that this was a sales pitch. I’d never heard of this ELI thing before, and if someone I worked with and trusted offered to help me with this (possibly referring to it as a hobby or interest rather than a side business), I’d probably take them up on it without realizing it was a service for sale.

          1. LV*

            But the OP took the online assessment. On the ELI website, if you click on “Take the Energy Leadership Index Assessment” it says very clearly that one of the assessments/debriefs costs $415 and the other one is $695.

            I suppose it’s possible that the coworker, as a “coach,” has access to direct links, etc. that allow her to conveniently bypass any mentions of the price until she feels ready to spring it on her victims… but I find it odd that OP didn’t take a good look at the website and figure out for herself that this is a weird MLM-type scam.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I’m thinking there’s probably a “backdoor” into it that the salespeople can send to their marks that doesn’t mention the price upfront.

  16. KJR*

    I’m wondering if the OP was told ahead of time she would be charged for that last debriefing. Doesn’t sound like it to me. (Not that we know that for sure yet, but something is off here.)

    1. bullyfree*

      Yes! I would really like to see how this all turns out. A red flad went up as soon I read that co-worker was so complimentary with her feedback shortly after OP started working. It sort of struck me as grooming the OP. The personal jabs and pressure in the emails show me something else is going on here. After reading all of the above posts I wonder if OP will end up being forced to pay for thr debdebriefing ?

  17. Katie the Fed*

    This is such a strange letter.

    On the one hand you have a coworker peddling what sounds like some kind of consultant mumbo jumbo. Why? Is she starting a side business on this? Why is she doing this?

    On the other hand, you have someone who committed to something but can’t find an hour to sit down to meet. Come on. Everyone can find an hour, even if it’s before or after work. We prioritize those things that are important.

    On the OTHER other hand (I guess this is now a Hindu god), the managmenent mumbo jumbo lady seems to not take a hint and is a little too pushy. Also, using strings of exclamation points? Don’t do that.

    OP – either apologize for wasting her time or find the hour. And don’t accept unsolicited assistance from people if you can’t really commit.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Oh and, on the other other other hand, if this is something that she intends to charge you for or is developing into a business, then she’s probably in violation of some company policies right there. She can peddle her snake oil on her own time.

    2. Sadsack*

      I wonder if the OP knew she was going to have to have an hour meeting with the coworker to review the assessment. Maybe she thought that she was going to receive an assessment to review at her leisure. The original assessment was online, so why exactly do they have to meet in person, can the coworker not just write an email? Why wouldn’t the assessment system send the OP something?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Exactly. It’s because the sales pitch will work better in person. If it was a legit online survey, it would email the results directly to OP.

      2. Elle D*

        Because the assessment is probably 10 minutes of discussing the actual results of the OP’s assessment, and another 50 minutes of selling services and/or convincing the OP to become a “coach” herself.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I would chew off my own arm to get out of that situation.

          OP, send a “I’m so sorry, but I don’t see being able to make time for this, but I’d love to read the results if you can send them” and then leave it alone.

      3. Anonymous*

        This is what I was wondering too. She described it as a “career assessment” so perhaps she also thought she could go over it during working hours. 15 minutes might be reasonable to take while at work, depending on the workplace, but an hour of time during working hours doesn’t seem reasonable. I wonder if she would have agreed to it knowing there would be a 1-hour “debrief” that would need to be done on personal time.

      4. Anon*

        Yes. I’d agree the OP was out of line if they committed knowing this coworker would expect an hour, AND knowing that work would get really hectic (as the original letter implied it got more hectic than normal). But absent one or two of those pieces of data, I don’t think the OP has a particular obligation to find the hour, even if this weren’t looking like a shady sales pitch. (To be polite about it, yes; but to make time that isn’t there to be made, either due to changes in workload or lack of communication that the time would be needed or both, no.)

  18. Andi*

    I’m sorry but I do not see her co-worker as being rude. She took her precious time to work on a project you both committed to. In my opinion the OP’s email was vein and self righteous. Everyone is busy and I agree with her co-worker.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m pretty sure the co-irker hasn’t done all that much work and that everybody gets a relatively generic “assessment” followed by a sales pitch.

    2. John*

      But the results came back during a crunch time. If the colleague had offered a favor, why would OP have expected there would be time restraints on the debrief? OP was interested in the results but didn’t present as being in desperate straits so really unfair for the colleague to set one-sided terms of delivery.

      Also, consider that OP is relatively new in the role so is just learning the ebb and flow of the busy seasons.

    3. LBK*

      You can’t see how “If you cannot schedule the 1 hour in the next week, I wouldn’t bother” is rude? The coworker being frustrated isn’t rude in and of itself, but the way the email is phrased definitely is.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And that’s very much characteristic of MLM. I started looking into Mary Kay’s shady practices after I “won a makeover” in college and the saleswoman got massively snippy with me at said “makeover” (which was not a makeover at all, but that’s another story) when I wouldn’t commit to booking a party for my friends without talking to them first. Everything in MLM is rush rush rush now now now, because if you think it over or discuss it with others, you’re more likely to say no.

        1. Jamie*

          This so much. Ages ago I knew someone deep into a company that rhymes with scam-way…and it was exactly like this.

          And we didn’t even agree to anything – my husband at the time just knew him from work so they were over for a BBQ. It’s hard to get away when it’s your own house.

          After a ridiculously hard sell which got pretty insulting (along the lines of being so sad I’m happy living my life this way and afraid to be rich) I mentioned that we’ll think about it when I see him driving that Jag he kept talking about. (I was less diplomatic then.)

          His whole pitch was that he deserved to drive a Jag and this was the way to get there. Considering a couple of days after this he hit my ex up for gas money so he get to and from work it seems like he should have worried a little less about fantasies and a little more about real life.

          This stuff just kills me.

          1. MiaRose*

            I missed seeing this, but I wrote about this same company just now. I do remember that the “professional” couple that approached me talked all about how they could eat out all the time and have time to do all these fun things. Living the high life is one of their mantras.

            1. JustKatie*

              Ugh, a former college classmate of mine is deep into Ambit Energy. Every. Single. Post. on Facebook is about how well it provides for her family, how they’re on their way to retirement, ridiculous postings of pictures of (tacky) multimillion dollar homes they’ll own “one day” all thanks to their Dear Leader.

              Even the post announcing the birth of her daughter ended in thanking Ambit for “allowing her to stay home”- even though I’d call “staying home” a stretch, she’s out every afternoon and weekend for conferences and sales pitches!

          2. Stephanie*

            Ugh, I’ve gotten some pretty insulting MLM pitches. I met someone at a Meetup who invited me to a “networking lunch” which turned out to be a pitch for a MLM company called ACN. Soon as I figured out that the “networking lunch” was a pitch to get me to buy into a MLM, I was like “eff no.” I sat through it and told the guy “thanks, but no thanks.”

            After this, I got emails like “What, so you’re just going to wait around for someone to give you a job?*” or “You’re missing out on an opportunity to make serious money. You don’t want that?”

            *I was unemployed when I got this pitch. It was just like “Seriously? You want me to pay $500 to get a starter kit for this crap when I can barely pay for gas?”

    4. Anon*

      I don’t see her as being rude either. Also, jeez OP, one hour? What on earth is your job so that I can never do it?

  19. KimmieSue*

    I’m curious if the co-worker is the company designated “coach” and her job is to provide internal survey assessments and help identify future leaders at their company? It doesn’t sound like the OP paid any fee so I’d be inclined to think that the company actually paid for it. If so, then I’d warn that it might actually be in OPs best interest to make it a priority to meet with the co-worker and receive the results.
    While I’d argue that I may not agree with the vendor choice, just want to point out that if they are using this tool as part of their internal high potential leadership program, I’d probably make the time.

    1. Kelly L.*

      If this is true, it should be pretty easy to find out. If not, co-irker could be in a load of trouble for misrepresenting herself.

    2. John*

      It doesn’t read that way at all. And wouldn’t it be coming from HR, along with an explanation about how they see great potential in OP and want to assist in that development?

  20. MiaRose*

    I’m not feeling too sorry for the coworker. These companies recruit heavily and prey on your weaknesses. In college, I almost got suckered into a pyramid scheme company with a name starting with “A” and ending in “Y”. They use very manipulative ways to get you interested. The recruiters of the company never name themselves at first, and they try to get you interested by implying that your degree/job skills is in line with what they were doing. I got out after a few meetings when I realized how naive I had been.

    Fast forward several years, and I’m a stay-at-home mom looking for part-time job opportunities. I was approached by this professional-looking couple while shopping. They used a more sophisticated set of speeches because I was not a naive kid, and I happened to mention what I had studied. Still, once I talked to them more, my Spidey-senses started tingling, since they were using similar tactics, and I flat out asked them if they were from that same company. They didn’t want to say, but they did finally admit that they were from the company, and I said no, thank you.

    I don’t think the OP realized that this was a “product”; it was probably simply presented as a favor (notice the flattery OP was given). I wonder if it is legal to charge for something if you did not read any disclaimers or were told of charges up front.

      1. MiaRose*

        I tend to err on the conservative side with names/absolute identifiers being posted publicly. People can guess given the clues, or if they really want to know, I can PM them with the info. As Stephanie said below, I don’t want the comment pinged by anyone on the lookout for mention of the company.

  21. anony*

    totally a Scientology test (and the OP is a Busy Game queen, so she’s not totally in the clear either)

  22. Not So NewReader*

    You’re not losing a friend here. OP. She never was one. I feel she drew you in by taking an interest in you. It started out that it was all about you and the new job. etc. She pumped you up.
    Now suddenly you’re dirt.

    If it is possible quietly check around with your coworkers to see if they have had similar experiences.

    Are you getting an inkling that something is not right here, is that why you put her off? Sometimes I get the feeling that something is wrong but I don’t take the time to figure out what. I end up postponing and postponing when what I really need to do is figure out why there is a nagging feeling in my gut.

    1. bullyfree*

      I feel similarly as you, and definitely think the OP should ask to see if other coworkers have gone through this process.

  23. Dani*

    If it weren’t for the pyramid scheme, I would have thought the OP’s actions to be rather rude. It might be a cultural (Germany) or generation thing. I feel like “Generation Maybe” (basically anyone who grew up with a cellphone) has a tendency not to commit their time to anything, because something better might come along. It sometimes seems that they don’t actually realize that there is such a thing as being committed and then having to MAKE time for it (as opposed to HAVING time = nothing better to do). Taking someone up in an offer that is going to require considerable effort in their part is a committment and the OP not putting in a similar effort to see it through seems rather disrespectful to me. Being busy is a convenient excuse but unless you are an emergency room surgeon, it’s probably not valid. It’s usually a case of priorities rather than actual time. That said, the coworker’s e-mails were less than polite and I feel that the MLM scheme voids any obligation in this particular case.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I think the scheme aspect puts a whole new light on it. Not just on whether the OP is doing right or wrong, but also how this whole situation came about, which puzzled me from the get-go. My reaction to a volunteered career assessment from a colleague isn’t “How cool,” it’s “WTF?” If there’s something you have experience on that I don’t, fine, say “Hey, you’re pacing when you present–try standing more still,” but why on earth would a colleague at my level who doesn’t work close to me have anything useful to say about my overall trajectory?

      And the answer is that she reeled in the OP from the start in a way that the letter still doesn’t realize. She managed to frame it all in a way that had the OP bypassing the usual reasonable reservations, probably by moving the goalpost bit by bit (I’m betting the “it’ll take an hour” part didn’t even get mentioned at the beginning). I think the OP’s resistance to an hour isn’t just to the hour, it’s to the fact that this whole thing seems to have turned into something way different from what she signed on for and she wishes it would just go away.

    2. Zed*

      I agree! Before I realized it was a scheme, I was thinking, “…really? You had enough time to meet for lunch, committed to something, took THREE MONTHS to finish it, and now you can’t spare an hour to meet with her about it?”

    3. Del*

      Once again, can we please stop with the generational stereotypes! Everyone under 30 is not part of some monolithic “they” who have the same attitudes, upbringing, and habits.

  24. The Clerk*

    OP, it’s worth taking into consideration that you’re probably going to come out of this meeting feeling miserable if you do take it. It’s come to light in the comments that this is not unlike those “free personality tests” the Scientologists are always hawking. The coworker isn’t going to tell you that you’re awesome and give you a list of your strengths like this is an aptitude test; she’s going to tell you what’s “wrong” with you and then try to sell you courses to “improve” it. Even if you know that intellectually going in, are you really prepared for how gross you’re going to feel after getting negative feedback? Think how you feel when it comes from a manager you don’t respect or you know is deliberately downplaying you to avoid giving a raise–it still stings and you fret over how much of it might actually be true. I hope you’ll decline to put yourself in that position.

    There’s a reason charities will send you a pen or a quarter or some address labels with a donation request–for many people it creates a sense of obligation to pay for the “gift.” The coworker almost certainly spent time on you in hopes of getting a sale; you don’t owe her anything. It’s actually kind of weird that in the collection post many were so concerned that the ticket money was “forced” on the coworker who specifically priced a flight, while you apparently took something from this calculating coworker and owe her back.

  25. Snarcus Aurelius*

    I’m not going to get too much into your line about being “busy” as I’m saving that for Alison’s future post. I’m saving the best of my rant for that.

    But people like you, who claim to so super busy all the time that you don’t even have an hour to spare for coworkers? Irritating. I get that being busy has an air of importance. Yet because of the nature of my work (PR), I’m constantly being blown off with that excuse.

    “I’m super busy right now. Can it be later? Like next year?” Ha ha.

    “Can it wait?”

    “Can you do that conference call that I committed to without me?”

    “I’m super busy right now putting out fires.” [barf]

    And then…nothing.

    Yet those people have time to sit with the Big Boss for a three hour lunch. Or just sitting in Big Boss’ office talking about football. Or grabbing coffee with Big Boss and disappearing for three hours and not responding to emails. Or their own meetings that they personally run by themselves.

    Interestingly enough, those same people magically have the time when I go over their heads to the Big Boss. Then I discover those people have an ENTIRE hour for me that very day! Or I find out that I can have an in-depth two hour meeting with them the following afternoon. It’s amazing how that schedule opens up once I have written proof of all the times I’ve been blown off!

    So pardon me if I’m not buying that you’re just too busy even to play with your own child.

    1. Mishsmom*

      people have priorities and it’s not for me (or you) to do that for them. if sitting around watching the clouds for 5 hours straight is what i want to do it’s as legitimate as anything else and it’s no one else’s business.

  26. clarka*

    ….That’s the nature of my job, and pretty much everyone who deals with me knows that and that my time is very precious. Yup, time is only precious to you.

  27. louise*

    Pretty sure she projected that whole “you’re avoiding me” thing into the OP because everyone else IS actually avoiding her. The OP is just new enough there and has been busy enough that the OP didn’t realize how much was behind the not-so-innocent offer to assess her career. I bet anything there are others at the company who, if they heard this story, would roll their eyes and say, “Jane has tried that on everyone. Just ignore her–the rest of us do.”

    1. Ruffingit*

      Pretty sure she projected that whole “you’re avoiding me” thing into the OP because everyone else IS actually avoiding her.

      HA! Yeah, probably. But it’s also emotional manipulation because the co-worker knows many people would say “Oh no, no I’m not avoiding you, so sorry you feel that way, let me make time for you right now” because those people are susceptible to guilt. Unfortunately for co-worker, it appears the OP is not easily guilted, which is helpful.

  28. The Dude*

    Ok, I’m no Joyce Brothers, but this whole scenario seems to have nothing to do with the “Career Assessment” or whatever smokescreen “evaluation” scheme she cooked up. She was hittin’ on you dude!

    Minus 20 points for your lack of intuition.

    Her anger had nothing to do with your busy schedule. She looked at it as a snub and therefore, rejection . . and oh, how women hate that, especially this one! Men are more used to it . . . usually.

    My advise? Run from her as fast as you can. Don’t give her another minute of your precious time. Don’t answer her emails. Believe me, she WILL be emailing you back . . obsessively. She may end up being another Glen Close from Dangerous Liaisons. Next thing you know she’ll be killing your pet rabbit!

    1. Mrs. Badcrumble*

      While Glenn Close *was* in Dangerous Liaisons, I think the movie you’re referencing is Fatal Attraction. No bunnies in Dangerous Liaisons.

    2. Sadsack*

      “and oh, how women hate that, especially this one! Men are more used to it . . . usually. ”

      Your comments here about women and men are truly irrelevant to the subject and all the other comments.

  29. Ruffingit*

    So it seems that this whole assessment is an MLM type of thing. How many of us have been subject to this stuff from our friends/associates? I know I have. The following things have made an appearance in my life in the last few years. I didn’t bother to get into any of them of course as MLM stuff is NOT my thing at all:

    1. Advocare
    2. Amway
    3. Jewelry trunk shows
    4. Origami Owl

    There are others. But it’s all so irritating. I really don’t know anyone who has made enough money with MLMs to make it worthwhile so I’ve never understood why anyone would bother, but then they are cult-like in their pitch tactics so I guess there’s that.

  30. Esra*

    The whole ‘are you avoiding me?’ question is so loaded and relegated to friend/lover relationships, that someone would have to be commando-crawling away every time they saw me before I’d ask someone at work if they were avoiding me.

    1. Ruffingit*

      LOL, love the imagery and yeah, I agree. It’s an oddly intimate thing to say and not work appropriate.

  31. Anon2*

    What I can’t understand is why OP didnt do a quick google search to unearth that this actually was a MLM sales pitch and no career assessment. Really….people here nailed it fast enough!

  32. Anonymous*

    I cannot WAIT to hear how this one turns out!

    It is puzzling that the LW didn’t sense that something was up right away, given that this person is not even remotely her supervisor, and at least dedicate a few minutes to googling this ‘process.’ But I think a lot of the people who Play To Win at the “Busy Game” have self-esteem issues, and the initial flattery the co-worker offered her was irresistible.

    I’d feel sorry for LW except that I do feel that it’s obnoxious to commit to something and then use the busy excuse, even if it does turn out that it’s a MLM. I bet she will be more cautious in future about being susceptible to flattery and not doing her homework. I predict some awkward times ahead whether she concedes her ‘precious’ hour or not.

  33. JustMe*

    Surely no one is so busy they don’t have an hour, or even half of that to spare. Why not meet for 30 mins over 2 days…or have 20 mins touch base meetings. Sounds like a lot of excuses to me. If you don’t want to have a follow-up meet with her, then say that. I agree her email responses are strange, and confrontational. But, it sounds like she feels bamboozled because she ‘spared’ her time to help you, you committed to meet back with her, and now you are using the I’m too busy being awesome excuse.

    When I was leaving old job, I asked two of my work friends to lunch the day before my last day. A lot was going on at the time, and I had told them I wouldn’t be there much longer. They were both so busy that they couldn’t find an hour to go to lunch. That wasn’t the first time I asked, and they claimed to be drowning with work. When one got a promo, I dropped everything and took her to lunch. Needless to say, I wouldn’t drop my now awesome life for them. I’m busy.

  34. Stryker*

    Does anyone else have a skeevy feeling with the caps and the exclamation marks? It feels like a weird email marketing scammer. OP, you *do* work with her and didn’t sign up with a site that sold your info, right?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ha, I posted about that above. Anyone who uses strings of exclamation points loses credibility in my book. It’s the email equivalent of this horrid woman I work with, who whenever she is going to try to dump something on you approaches you with a singsong two-syllable “hi” that sounds like “hiii-iyyy!!!” and makes me want to slap her.

  35. Catherine*

    This is the first time i’ve ever posted … I usually lurk. But I am SO CURIOUS to know what happens. I hope the OP comes back to share!

  36. Anonymous coach*

    So I’m normally a lurker, but as a certified coach who has conducted several ELI assessments, I just want to correct a few assumptions. Yes, the language around the assessment is ridiculous and pseudo-scientific. However, the assessment can provide some useful insights into how you see the world and how you might be getting in your own way. Also, it isn’t a MLM scheme; you can do the assessment, go through the debrief (which should take about an hour but can be done over the phone) and walk away having learned some interesting things and with no further obligation. Each coach is free to set their own prices for the assessment and debrief, or to provide it on a complimentary basis. I would be surprised if the coach would try and charge for the assessment or debrief after the fact; that’s not at all how the organization suggests you use the assessment. For the record, I don’t think the coach handled things well, but at the same time I don’t think she had any evil intentions regarding the OP.

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