have you had a nosy coworker?

We hear a lot about nosy coworkers here — from the person who opened everyone’s paychecks to see what they earned to the pushy dietician who demanded people track and report their eating, and oh so many more. For some reason, some people think they can ask about your finances, your weight, your reproductive plans, your sex life, and all sorts of other things you might prefer not to share.

I want to hear about your nosiest coworker. What did they say or do? And how did you react?

I’ll use the best answers in an upcoming column (keeping you anonymous, of course), so please share in the comments!

{ 767 comments… read them below }

  1. chmur*

    My boss keeps asking the 30ish women on my team if we’re pregnant because he’s worried about how to manage the leave.

    The best part is that his wife is having a baby in October and he’s planning to take some time off.

    1. Leah*

      My boss kept telling all employees nearing 30 that they’d better get started. Yes, she brought these things up entirely on her own and probably without considering that some people might have trouble conceiving, don’t want kids, or that this is entirely inappropriate to bring up with staff members.

      The things we both described are actually illegal but good luck convincing people who don’t have the good sense not to bring it up.

      1. Steve G*

        Curious what others think but I don’t think this comment is completely out of line, unless she expects you to respond beyond a “ok.” THAT would be awkward. I get random warranted career advice all of the time and just say “yes” and move along. And this is career advice, because many people are afraid to start families because of their jobs, so it is nice in a way that your boss is not putting pressure on your team to hold off.

        the issue I see is that she KEEPS harping on it.

          1. SCW*

            Yeah, career advice, even a little pushy career advice, is sort of your boss’ job. Personal choices and reproductive choices are none of his business. I am 30ish and if someone said something to me that I better get started with kids, I would be pretty offended. I would consider that way out of line–particularly since I’m single and may be more sensitive about that.

        1. Anonsie*

          It’s way, way, way out of line. Ignoring how it’s invasive and a little disrespectful (since not everyone agrees that it is), a lot of people who want to “get started” struggle with it– finances or relationships or fertility. If you don’t know someone’s situation, you don’t know if you’re twisting the knife, so just don’t talk about it.

          1. KellyK*

            Exactly! Though I might take twisted delight in mentioning my fertility struggles and my miscarriage to someone who encouraged me to “get started” just to see them apologize and backpedal. (If you’re going to twist the knife, I’m going to hand it right back to you—point first.)

        2. Del*

          […] it is nice in a way that your boss is not putting pressure on your team to hold off.

          Nnnnno. It is not “nice” to butt into someone’s sex life (!!!) unsolicited. It’s incredibly rude and invasive.

          1. KellyK*

            Absolutely. I can see not being pressured *not* to get pregnant as a relief for someone who wants to, but the pressure and intrusion is the same either way.

        3. hildi*

          Overall, I think it’s irrelevant and annoying when someone does this, but I am a big fan of context and every situation is different depending on relationship dynamics, etc. So, that being said – if an employee has a relationship with their manager where the employee brings it up and wants to discuss career progression, career impact, etc. then I could see that being ok. But I would say that unsolicited bringing that up is not ok. It’s mostly just annoying. I have two children and my husband and I have chosen to be done having children. As in, biologically not possible anymore. But I still have people say, “whoa ho, time for #3!” I’m not the type to get all indignant about stuff like that bit it annoys the shit out of me. It’s annoying because it’s overly personal, overly presumptuous, and doesn’t really leave any way for an un-awkward response.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            That’s when I prefer the most awkward response I can muster: Well, my husband had a vasectomy in 2006, so that’s not really going to happen, unless I decide to have an affair, ha ha.

        4. Jaime L.*

          It’s insanely out of line. I trust that the women nearing 30 are adult enough to have at least considered the thought of children and/or when it would be appropriate for them. By the time you’re 30 and haven’t have a child yet, it’s not like you haven’t had a child simply because you didn’t realize you had the option.

          It’s a personal decision. Some women choose not to have children. Some are waiting for a better financial situation or when it would be an okay point in their career to have children. Some couples are infertile. Some are going through a lengthy adoption process.

          As an anecdote, I had a miscarriage in January. My husband and I were trying at that time, but now due to some job uncertainty we are temporarily holding off. We might be relocating and I might need to seek different employment. You need to be at an organization for 1 year to be legally entitled to FMLA. I’m already upset about the miscarriage–it was an ectopic pregnancy and I was in and out of hospitals for a couple of weeks until I naturally miscarried. It was physically tolling on my body and quite an emotionally painful experience for my husband and myself. I would not appreciate comments like “Better get started.” Sorry if TMI. My point is that you cannot know what’s going on in a person’s life and what may be a painful reminder for them.

          Als0, it’s typically not one person telling you to have kids/asking when are you having kids/etc. As a woman, once you hit a certain age or you’ve been married a certain length of time, you start receiving many comments regarding children. Maybe one comment wouldn’t be too bad, but when several people are mentioning it in your professional and personal life, it gets old fast. The one coworker might not “keep harping on it” but when you’re receiving several comments about it, even if by different people, it’s hard not to feel a little “harped on.”

          1. Lamb*

            I’m sorry for your loss, and I agree with your points that 30 is plenty old enough to have had the “baby/no baby” thought oneself, and that every comment can hurt on its own without it being one person harping on the same thing.

          2. Jessa*

            I am so sorry for your loss, and you said it all way better than I could have. Thank you.

          3. KellyK*

            I’m really sorry about your miscarriage, and also that people keep making intrusive comments. Thanks for sharing something so personal to give a perfect example of why comments like that are not okay.

          4. Jaime L.*

            Thank you everyone for your kind words. I wanted to let you know that I have had time to process everything and am at peace with everything that has happened. Comments about children now would be an inconvenience/mild irritation to me, but back in January people urging me to have kids (“better get started”) or asking me about it would have been devastating when everything felt so raw.

            Other I folks have had other ongoing misfortunes–fertility issues, multiple miscarriages, stillbirths, etc. There’s just no way to know that’s what’s going on with a person unless they choose to share that with you so in my professional and personal life, I don’t ask people I meet about when they are planning to try for children. If they want me to know, they will share it on their own.

      2. Fabulously Anonymous*

        Eh – I don’t believe either of those are illegal. Nosy? Yes. But I don’t know of any statutes that forbid it.

        1. SCW*

          It is only illegal if your assumptions about pregnancy lead to decisions impacting employment. Like–I am considering you for a raise and promotion, but I’m going to ask you if you are pregnant so I can decide, so if you are going to get pregnant I need to know so I don’t give you the job and have you need leave. That is illegal. Or I may or may not write you up for something, but if I find out you are pregnant or planning on it, so I decide to go down the disciplinary route so I can fire you before giving you leave. that is illegal.

      3. Gene*

        “Thanks for the advice Boss. We’ve been trying for years, but it hasn’t taken. Do you have some advice on sexual positions or techniques that could help me get pregnant? What did you do to get pregnant at 14?”

    2. Lisa*

      Anytime a woman in our office was sick that was between 22 – 35, the office manager would immediately suggest they were pregnant. It was very annoying, and bad because the boss would think we were about to get pregnant and suddenly our reviews or just normal conversations with him would focus on personal next steps. Like we weren’t going to get raises or good clients if we even talked about babies as women in our office. Just her suggestion that we could get pregnant meant we were devalued in the eyes of the boss, and any good work we had done got wiped clean with these suggestions as suddenly we were given projects that were slated for us until it was clear we weren’t pregnant.

      1. iseeshiny*

        This IS actually illegal. Probably impossible to prove and not worth pursuing, but illegal.

        1. Lisa*

          Don’t you have to be pregnant to have it be illegal though? No one ever was until they left so I don’t think its illegal for a ‘perceived’ protected class.

      2. KrisL*

        This seems like an appropriate time to tell the boss, in wayyyy too much detail details about how sick you felt. Maybe enough of that kind of thing would dampen the boss’s interest.

      3. Ethyl*

        I really, really wish I could complain about my ongoing digestive issues, including frequent nausea (doc thinks it’s probably an ulcer, which would make so much sense), without some dodo saying “ohhhh are you pregnant? I bet you’re pregnant!” To me it seems really dehumanizing to constantly be reminded that basically all I am to some people is a walking uterus. Doubly so when it happens at work. Blahblah I’m sure they don’t MEAN it because INTENT IS MAGIC but it really sucks to feel like you can’t even once complain about ANYthing because it’s all about the babies — when are you having them, why aren’t you having them, are you pregnant right now, have you considered getting pregnant, ughhhhhinfininty.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t mean to hijack – but if you think it’s an ulcer oftentimes it’s caused by h pilori – a bacteria – which is pretty easily treated.

          I’m sure your doctor has had you tested, but wanted to toss this out there – I know people who suffered for a long time with ulcers and this cleared it up.

        2. Tami M*


          I’m sorry for your health issues. Hopefully you’ll continue to make progress on resolving them. It sucks to not feel as good as you deserve to.

          As for the Baby questions; I used to get them ALL the time! I even had several women tell me I HAD to have them.

          It usually went something like this:
          Do you have children?
          Oh, you HAVE to have them.
          No I don’t.
          Do you have children?
          But you HAVE to have them!
          So you’ll have someone to take care of you when you’re old.
          That’s not their job.

          1. Marcela*

            I always got an extra one: “aren’t you going to give grandchildren to your parents?”. My answer to this, ” if they want grandchildren that bad, yes, I can give birth and leave them with my parents (and return to the US)”, made an old lady, friend of my parents, so angry, that she complained to them about how a cold person I was, blablabla, and she refused to see me and talk to me for several visits. Better for me XD

    3. J-nonymous*

      My previous director held a meeting with the entire team to discuss high attrition in the department. The director announced that one person had left because the person was independently wealthy (not true) and didn’t need the money (not true).

      The director described another person’s leaving as ,”Well, his wife wears the pants in that family and she told him he needed to get a higher paying job.” The director didn’t say this in the same department meeting (because the employee in question was in the room), but the director would say it to anyone who’d listen.

      A colleague once described this director’s behavior as, “If you ever tell her anything personal, you can see in her eyes that she’s storing away that file for later use…as likely as not to use against you.”

      Of course, I’m not sure the director’s behavior counts as “nosy” since she as often as not just made up stories about people (including her direct reports) to suit her purposes.

    4. JC*

      Oh my lord, that is so inappropriate and that would make me fill with rage. I am a 32-year old married woman who does not plan on having children. Right now two of the other young married folk in my 10-person department are expecting, and after they announced it, I got a lot of, “So, is there anything YOU want to tell us?” That was annoying enough, but nowhere near as inappropriate as this manager seems! And I think I would find it even more deplorable if I did think I was going to have kids/be out on maternity leave sometime in the next few years.

      1. Darth Admin*

        I’d be so tempted to make up something obnoxious.

        “Yes! I’m joining the Glorious Ladies Of Wrestling!”

        “Yes! SO has just gotten his 12th tattoo and I can’t wait to see how it meshes with his neck ink!”

        “Yes! Our dog has learned to fly!”


        1. amapola*

          Some folks must. Every time someone in my office is pregnant, someone says to me “You’re NEXT!”

        2. junipergreen*

          omg – next time I get one of those “You’re next!!!” I’m just using a flat “Hm. Is pregnancy contagious? That’s not what I learned in school…”

      2. Ezri*

        I’ve noticed that this isn’t just an age thing, it’s a married thing with some people. I got married when I was 20, and apparently I missed the memo that marriage is only for reproduction. Tons of people asked me when we were going to start having kids, or if we got engaged because I was pregnant. I was in college at the time, so babies were pretty darn far from my mind. I’m one of those people who has an upset stomach pretty much every morning for about an hour, too, and I’m sooooo tired of people trying to imply that I’m pregnant when they find out.

        “Ohh, are you sure it isn’t morning sickness?”

        “Well, I’ve had it my entire life, so yeah.”

    5. A. D. Kay*

      I had a coworker advise me that I should have kids because I’m “built” for it. What am I? Livestock?

    6. PucksMuse*

      When I told my boss I was pregnant with my first child, he said, “Well, now everybody is going to know what you’ve been up to!”

      My response was to blink rapidly and leave that air biscuit hovering awkwardly between us.

    7. Cath in Canada*

      One former boss would never ask directly, but he once invited everyone plus partners round to his house for a party, and made a big show about saying that the home-made chocolate mousse had raw eggs in it and then looking at all the younger women. My colleague yelled “none of us are pregnant, boss, and anyway we’ve all been drinking wine for two hours!”

      He never tried that kind of thing again after that :)

  2. Lurker*

    At ex-job, anytime someone in my department received flowers, my former department director would take the card and read it to see who it was from and what the message was.

    1. kkb*

      I had a job sharing duties with a receptionst once, she would do this, just open the card and read it. Blew my mind.

    2. Nanc*

      I worked at an office where everyone except me would do this! I told my then-boyfriend and he always sent flowers and put the message in classical Latin. I knew just enough to read it. Actually kinda sweet, now that I think about it.

  3. Nusy*

    A few years ago, I worked for a large retail store. Our store team leaders decided that, to emphasize the “great” wellness benefits we received (2 calls to EAP/year for retail employees; corporate got far better), they should do some sort of a fitness challenge. So under two shift leaders, they organized a Biggest Loser competition.

    Every week, they posted the starting and ending weights over the time clock for every employee participating, along with combined team loss in pounds and percentage.

    The plan originally was to treat the winning team to pizza and ice cream (doesn’t that… defeat the purpose?), but the competition fizzled out soon after people realized the supposedly “motivational” idea of posting OTHERS’ weight on the biggest bulletin.

    1. HRNewbie*

      Urghhh no! I feel for you!!! A lifestyle coach was promoting this idea on a HR forum I belong to and was shot down immediately. I thought it was too ridiculous for anybody to have actually done it

      1. Nusy*

        Not for us. With name and photo and all, too. I mean, sure, it’s cool that we have a weight-loss support group and all, but the public display of 1) anyone’s weight and 2) their progress on weight loss is ridiculous, inane, insensitive, stupid, and downright ridiculous. And inane and insensitive, not to mention stupid.

        1. Jessa*

          And medically dangerous if any employees have eating disorders. That can seriously set people back in treatment or trigger them.

  4. Rebecca*

    Yes! She’s retired now, but sat in in the cubicle next door to me for years. She eavesdropped on EVERYTHING!! Then, she would ask my coworkers about my personal life to get more info, like “I heard Rebecca on the phone, and she said X to person Y, and is everything OK?” Once, I was on the phone with a coworker, unbeknownst to her, and I said “OK Bubby – will get right on it”. She scolded me for being too familiar with a customer!

    Plus, she was the master of one upsmanship. If you had a medical issue, she had it, plus two additional things that made it worse. If you saw a bear on the way to work, she saw 3 plus a unicorn.

    We started talking to each other about fake situations just to hear what she would come up with.

    I hate to say it, but I’m so glad she retired.

    1. D*

      Yuk. I hate that. I have a co-worker who is a peer, and would eavesdrop on my conversations and ask me about them. They would look at my monitor and ask me about what I’m working on. Then would ask me what I was working on almost as a status report, so he could present this information to our manager. I was tired of getting in his face about this. Like asking questions such as “Oh, are you the project manager on this project now?” Luckily my manager empathized with me and let me move to another location. The cube in front of the nosey-person-at-large still remains empty. Since my manager didn’t really want to confront the situation head on, people who work in our team know the situation, but everyone else gets some lame story about how the cube belongs to another department.

    2. Mints*

      The three bears plus a unicorn lady! I know her, haha

      The office had a couple slightly clumsy people, and it was an active job, and so they’d often get assorted bruises. But she wouldn’t just get a bruise, she would limp dramatically if she bumped her knee. And someone was in a MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, and came to work on crutches afterwards, and she also came on crutches after tripping and falling. If someone says “I have a stomach ache” she has appendicitis.
      (She was not an elderly lady. She was a drama queen and manipulative in other ways, this was just one manifestation of it)
      She was fired, eventually (finally)

      1. Anne*

        I work with this person too. Or her clone. Anything someone talks about she has had or done, or a relative had or did, except way worse every single time. And she reads my coworker’s emails over her shoulder and eavesdrops on everyone’s conversations – we’re in a small open-plan area so we can all hear each others’ calls, but the rest of us pretend that we didn’t hear a thing while she always has a comment or wants to know who it was and what they wanted.

        Her latest thing is giving out WAY too much personal info about other staff members when covering their calls for a day off or a long meeting. Telling callers that Jane is off today because her kid had a stomach bug, so Jane gets asked about how her kid is by complete strangers when she gets back into the office, Joe is out this week because his wife is having pregnancy complications, etc.

    3. AVP*

      At my company we call those people “toppers.” As in, anything you say, they feel the need to top it.

    4. Julie*

      Well, I did see a turkey walking down the street in Back Bay last month (not a unicorn, but still…)! :)

    5. OhNo*

      I had one of those people in my college job. Hers were always about medical issues – if you had a cold, she had the flu; if you had a stomach ache, she had appendicitis; if you were feeling sad, she was severely depressed and on five different types of medication. I have a sneaking suspicion she was a bit of a hypochondriac.

      She tried it on me exactly once. I mentioned that I had a backache, and she tried to “top” me by saying her backache was the worst pain imaginable. I pulled out the old, “Is that so. Tell me, have you ever felt your spine shatter? Because I have.” Not only did that shut her up, she never complained to me about her many mystery ailments again.

  5. Anonalicious*

    I have two coworkers who started asking me when I was going to have a baby which started almost immediately after I got married. After suffering through almost 3 years of fertility issues we have a healthy, happy little girl. Now these same 2 coworkers, who knew it took us a while to have a baby, keep asking when I’m having more kids and that I need to have more kids because kids need siblings. Yeah, sure great, the plan was to have 2 kids, but I’m not sure my 35+ year old body is ready for it (other health issues have come up) nor am I sure my head and my heart are ready to want something they might not be able to have.

    The worst part was the last time the one coworker asked me that it was at a table of almost our entire department out at a farewell lunch for someone who was leaving. I didn’t even know what to say at first because I was stunned she would ask that so publicly. Some coworkers know more about my issues than others, some don’t know at all. The conversations all stopped and everyone looked at me like I was going to announce I was pregnant or something. I mumbled out some response about one being plenty right now, and everyone went back to what they were doing, but on the inside I wanted to cry.

    I wanted to send her an email later asking her to stop asking me that because I may not be able to have more children, but I don’t want her questions to turn to “helpful” getting pregnant advice.

    1. Chelsea B.*

      You can still ask her to stop without disclosing why! And you should, it’s none of her business. She needs to understand that this is inappropriate behavior regardless of if you are having fertility issues or not.

      1. Angora998*

        I had my new boss ask me if I had any medical issues she needed to know about last week. That it seemed that admin personnel always have health issues.

        I informed her that people that work with public get sick about 20 – 30 % more than other places.

        Let’s put it this way … I am the 4th admin person hired within that last four year and I am all ready searching. I was so happy to get back with a former employer in a permanent position. I just moved back to the state.

        No wonder everyone had doctor appts … they were job searching.

    2. KSM*

      Follow Miss Manner’s advice: respectfully ask for the behaviour to stop, don’t give them a reason to wiggle out of. So cut out everything after the ‘because’.

      “While I enjoy our talks, unfortunately discussion of any potential future children of mine makes me uncomfortable. Is it possible that we could avoid that topic in the future?” If you want, you can add “but of course we can always discuss your kids/grandkids/plans” if you feel the situation is appropriate.

      If she asks WHY it makes you uncomfortable, just say it’s something you prefer to keep between your spouse and yourself.

      1. Anonalicious*

        I have said similar things to her before and it stops for a while, but inevitably she starts in again. I don’t know if she does this with anyone else in the department, but most of the women in our department either already have a couple of kids each, or are well into middle age with teenagers and their baby having days are long over. I’m basically the youngest woman and the most recently married/to have a baby.

        I think I will send her one last message, very clearly as you have suggested, and if she ever does it again, I’m going to my boss.

        1. Natalie*

          Yeah, with people like this you usually have to keep on them periodically. But you can be pretty short with her since you’ve brought it up before. At this point, she’s the one with the etiquette issue so you can be a lot more firm than you might be to someone who you hadn’t discussed this.

          Short and sweet: “Yvette, this is not something I will discuss with you” and walk away.

        2. hildi*

          I suppose if you’re up for it, you don’t even need to respond. I’m slowly learning that not every stupid, misguided, or nasty comment needs a response. I have been teaching in one of my classes about telephone silence (if a customer is ranting and ranting on the phone, just don’t respond at all. It forces them to respond to you, not the other way around).

          If you have already tried to tell her that those comments bother you and to stop and she doesn’t listen or doesn’t really take it seriously – I’d just overtly not respond to her next time she says something that is trying to illicit a response from you. That’s a power play she’s doing and don’t take the bait from her. It would take some aplomb to be able to pull that move off, but I think it could be very effective over time.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Drop the hammer the next time it happens.

          Forget being polite. “Jane, I told you before this is not a topic open for discussion. ”
          Then report her.

          No need to be nice. And there is no need for you to have to keep going through this.

      2. GrumpyBoss*

        Miss Manners would not approve my way of handling this, but I have found that my only recourse in this type of conversation is to be rude and crass. When it comes to baby making, it seems that common courtesy does not apply. At some point, the average Joe (or Jane) decided that what goes on on my womb is acceptable conversation for near strangers. It is not. So I take matters into my own hands to make it clear that we aren’t talking about this.

        When are you going to have a baby?
        When the condom breaks.

        Offensive? I certainly hope so. People tend to receive this message loud and clear.

        1. Laura2*

          Yep. You get a polite response ONCE, and then I’m no longer required to pretend to think you’re not an nosy idiot. Everyone else in the world seems to get that these things aren’t appropriate workplace discussions, so I have a hard time giving leeway to these people.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          Yup. Sometimes it’s worth it to have a conversation-ending response that says, essentially, STFU. Sometimes it’s sarcastic (e.g. “When the condom breaks”), sometimes just truthful and deadpan (“Actually, I’ve had fertility problems, so probably never”).

          However, some people are immune to embarrassment, and this strategy doesn’t work on them.

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            “So when are you having kids?”
            “I don’t know… I’m not that hungry yet.”

        3. Darth Admin*

          Or something like “We’re not sure. Have you started menopause yet?”

          But I’m evil.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Guess that makes me evil, too.

            “So when are you going to get that plastic surgery done on your nose to have it removed from my business?”

        4. Sabrina*

          You could also go with “Enough about my sex life, let’s talk about yours. Do you like it up the butt?”

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I can’t believe how many people don’t get how completely inappropriate to ask people about their family planning, fertility, etc. I have talked about it with VERY close friends, but that’s it. If we’re not friends, why on earth are you asking.

      I did see a response once I loved, that I would never have the courage to use, of “are you asking me if we’re planning to have unprotected sex?”

      Because seriously, asking about these things is SO inappropriate you don’t need to give a reason.

      1. NylaW*

        Exactly. I would never ask about anything like that except very close friends that are probably going to tell me without me asking.

      2. Natalie*

        I don’t know if I’d actually do this, but it’d be so satisfying to get into the gory details. “Well, I have a Mirena IUD, so I’ll have to get that removed. Let me tell you how they do that. Are you familiar with how they dilate your cervix?”

        And that’s the non-pornographic details.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          My oversharing Millennial actually DID start trying to tell me about getting her IUD installed. I stopped her fast.

          1. Del*

            My oversharing Boomer stepmother did the same. And I was in the car so I couldn’t even make a quick escape!

            1. the_scientist*

              This is what the “tuck and roll” was created for!

              When I turned 21 my own mother cornered me and told me that my “eggs were now in their prime, so I better find someone to settle down with soon”. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a moving vehicle at the time because I would have jumped out of it to escape….

            2. Bea W*

              My over sharing uncle emailed everyone graphic blow by blows of his prostate cancer treatment, complete with actual graphics. Email us easy enough to filter, but some things cannot be unseen.

      3. HR Diva*

        lol – on the flip side that’s always my thought when coworkers or acquaintances announce that they are “trying”. “So, basically you are announcing that you are having unprotected sex.” yuck – don’t want to know…

        1. Anonna Miss*

          I’m with you, HR Diva. I really don’t need an announcement of this, and consider it oversharing.

    4. Anonsie*

      This is why you don’t get nosy about other people having kids. Take notes, folks.

      I wanted to send her an email later asking her to stop asking me that because I may not be able to have more children, but I don’t want her questions to turn to “helpful” getting pregnant advice.

      And that’s exactly what happens, too. At least in my experience. Or they just start poking you to adopt. “You have lots of options!” Stop this crap, people. Stop it.

    5. Kai*

      We had a temp who told us that her sister had some kind of condition that kept her from being able to carry a child, and so she was extra sensitive to those sorts of questions and comments. Fine, great. Then a week later she up and asked my other coworker whether he and his wife were going to have children.

  6. Diet Coke Addict*

    Ages ago, I had a teenage coworker in a retail job who I think honestly did not know there was nothing wrong with asking coworkers incredibly invasive questions. Everything from “What do your parents do? How much money do they make?” to “How much is your rent?” to “You were sick? Were you throwing-up sick, or sneezing everywhere sick?” to asking about my husband, who’s a different race from me: “Where do you even MEET someone like that? Does he speak English?”

    After I told her I picked him out of a catalogue, she didn’t talk to me much any more.

    1. Tea*

      While some of those questions are incredibly out of line, (“Does he speak English”?!? What the heck!) I don’t really see what’s wrong with asking after things like rent or parent jobs if it comes up in conversation. For example, if somehow the topic of parents came up, and you mention something tangentially related to their work– “Oh, what do they do?” Or if you were scoping out moving to a new place, and wanted to see what average rent looked like, maybe asking after that instead, so long as you’re not demanding any answers.

      That said, my tolerance for money-and-career related talk is high and I don’t consider it crass or invasive for other people to ask me about money or spending (so long as they’re not wanting me to justify any of it). Most of the people around me (family, in my social circle, at my work) are the same or similar, so having a question like that considered way inappropriate is pretty new to me.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Asking what my parents do is not all that strange if it comes up in conversation. Asking how much they MAKE is way out of line, considering that it is not my information to share. But I don’t like to discuss money with my coworkers, or anyone, for that matter–it just leads down a terrible road of “You make THAT much?” “You’re getting ripped off!” “They must have seen you coming” and so forth.

        1. Bea W*

          I wonder if she’s asking those types of questions because she is thinking about what kind of career she might want to go into and wants information, but doesn’t realize it’s not polite to ask people how much your parents make, at least not without some kind of context for doing so. “Oh, your mom is a teapot spout engineer? I’m trying to decide what career I want to go into and am really interested in teapot engineering. How much they make?”

          I actually had a college professor ask us to ask people how much money they made at their jobs so we could learn what to expect after graduating. I was appalled and just couldn’t do it, but the rest of the class seemed to be totally okay with it. The professor meant for us to do this in the context of having an upfront discussion adults about the details of their careers and not as personal probing, but I just could not get past my “OMG TOTALLY RUDE! You don’t ask people how much money they make EVER!” reaction. She may as well have told us to ask people if they like it up the butt. I did everything on the assignment but that and got dinged for it.

          Maybe someone gave this girl not an assignment specifically, but similar advice on what questions were important to ask to find out about different careers. Salary is actually important and useful information to have when considering what field to go into.

      2. Jen RO*

        Yeah, i don’t see a problem with the rent question. I won’t discuss my (or someone else’s) salary, but how much I paid for X item is harmless to me.

    2. Anonsie*

      I love that response.

      My partner is a different race from me, and our specific combination is an uncommon one that people love to talk about totally unsolicited in a really judgy way. They’ll comment that it’s weird and ask why I do it and if he’s actually from another country. He is, so I like to tell people “Oh yeah, I imported this one directly from the source.” That usually shuts it down, but a few times I swear people looked like they thought he was actually a mail-order husband.

      1. Jamie*

        I wonder if mail order husbands meet higher QC standards than the feral ones most of us have to trap from the wild? I did okay, but if I had to write the standards on those I think I’d require the ability to fold a towel properly.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          I dunno, my imported mail-order man can fold a towel OK, but seems to be wholly incapable of leaving his shoes anywhere besides immediately inside the entryway. (Why? Why? Why?) But as you know with these complicated transactions: you pays your money, you takes your chances.

          1. Anonsie*

            I’m just waiting for the day I can order a custom robot husband like Absolute Boyfriend or Chobits that is literally programmed to put their clean clothes away and degrease the stove and de-shed the collie they just HAD to have so we don’t get little tumbledogs of hair under all the furniture, Mr. Anonsie.

            1. Anonicorn*

              I was sorely mistaken during my first couple years of marriage when I assumed my flesh-and-blood husband came with the biological imperative to take out the trash.

        2. Tennessee*

          oh man, I can’t breathe for laughing! keep seeing groups of women stomping through the woods with nets…

        3. James M*

          If you’re trapping feral ones, the ones you catch are only going to be ones that fall for the trap.

          … maybe that’s the idea; I’m sure I don’t know…

      2. Diet Coke Addict*

        People ask that too! All the time! And then they’ll say “Oh, I just don’t like [x race] men, haha!” and I have to give them a weird look and tell them “I’m a strange person for you to tell that to.” I will never, ever, ever understand it.

        1. Mints*

          Wait what?! Those people will forever be filled in my head as “secretly/subconsciously racist.” I would avoid them at all costs
          I might actually say “That’s racist” if I can plausibly never see them again

        2. Anonsie*

          Oh man I’m pretty sure our guys are the same race. I am blown away by how many people think it’s totally normal to say this, sometimes right when I freaking meet them for the first time. But only for this one group.

          NPR’s Code Switch actually brought this up a few months ago to a chorus of “It happens to me, too!!” from readers.

      3. Mints*

        That’s too funny. I wonder if ever figured out the joke, or forever think of you as “Anonsie and her husband she custom ordered from a magazine”

        1. Anonsie*

          I like to think they’ll believe it forever. I feel like you wouldn’t want to cross someone who clearly has that many issues.

      4. Lamington*

        My husband is from another race and country and my friends when they met him, they said I liked exotic man.

      5. Carpe Librarium*

        I like my men like I like my coffee; imported from developing nations at exploitative prices.

    3. Kay*

      Honestly, I think I may have been a nosy person in general in my early to mid-teens… Kids overshare with each other all the time. Some take longer to grow out of it than others. And of course some never do. It’s like the conversation above about when people are having kids. I’m sure I asked some people that when I was in the 12-15 range which may seem like old enough to know better, but I obviously didn’t. Being an adult has taught me so much about stuff like that.

    4. Tami M*

      “After I told her I picked him out of a catalogue, she didn’t talk to me much any more.”

      PRICELESS!!!!! :)

    5. PJ*

      Oh, this is great! Reminds me of the person who asked me, upon learning that my then-fiance was Philipino, if having sex with an Asian was “different.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “Yes, it’s totally different. You have to get an instruction book.”


    6. Mel*

      Ouch, a catalog! My hubby is Russian, and I have been asked numerous times if he’s a mail-order husband.

      I don’t have a great comeback other that raising an eyebrow and staring, though that seems to work fairly well overall.

      1. Bea W*

        I hate mail order. I have to go to the husband store and try a few before I can decide which one I want. Ordering from a catalog you never know if they run big or small.

        1. Dmented Kitty*

          I order them through Amazon Prime. Two-day free shipping, and returns are easy!

    7. MinB*

      My 60-something manager always pries into the details if I call in sick. I said I had a stomach bug. Do you really want me to go into the details about what’s coming out which end? Really?!

    8. Bonnie Doon*

      Asking where you meet people like your husband and if they speak English is totally legitimate if he comes from Jupiter.

  7. Renegade Rose*

    One of my current coworkers has trouble believing that I, a twenty-four year old newlywed, do not want children for the foreseeable future. During lunch, I was talking to another coworker about how I enjoy volunteering at our local humane society. “Nancy” jumped in and said that I “should start popping out babies so I have less free time.” When she met my husband (he came to take me out to lunch) she told him that “A real man would have gotten me pregnant by now.” After I returned, she asked if we “made a baby over lunch.”
    At first, I just ignored her but as her comments got worse and more frequent I would stare at her and just say “Wow” or “I fail to see how my reproductive plans are any of your business.”
    The comments have mostly stopped at this point because she started making them to another coworker’s wife. He ended up yelling at her in the parking lot because it turns out they had been trying to conceive for over two years. All this to say, it’ s really best not to ask about people’s reproductive plans.

    1. TRT*

      I feel for you. I am also young and married and I can’t believe co-workers would ask these questions – even men! It is so personal and insensitive.

    2. TL*

      You…should start popping out babies so you have less free time?
      Like, oh, I actually really hate volunteering and the only way to get out of it is to reproduce?
      And god forbid any person asks if I’ve made a baby during lunch, because while I try to observe societal norms in regards to talking about baby-makin’ activities, it honestly does not bother me to share detailed, detailed reports and that would be my first impulse.

      1. Natalie*

        “god forbid any person asks if I’ve made a baby during lunch”

        The first time I read this I thought your co-workers were asking if you and your husband had sex over lunch. That was… weird.

          1. Natalie*

            2nd interpretation: that they were all talking over lunch, and co-workers asked about baby-making activities.

        1. Jamie*

          Makes my upcoming lunch of an italian beef seem kind of anticlimactic.

          Although it comping baptized Catholic. :)

          1. Barney Stinson*

            You said ‘anti-climactic.’ I’m laughing, because I’m twelve, apparently.

            1. Jamie*

              Wow that was totally unintentional. But now I’m laughing so I’ll take credit…totally did that on purpose. :)

        2. Jennifer*

          I think that’s exactly what she asked.


    3. Alex*

      A-friggen-men to this – first it’s always “When are you guys going to get married?” Then, once you’re married, it’s “When are you going to start having kids?” And then whatever you say to that, you’re wrong and not thinking clearly, obviously. I’ve basically elimated the phrases “Guess what?” and “I’ve got an exciting announcement!” from my vocabulary because everytime I’d say something like that, since I was about 19 years old, people seem disappointed when it’s not news about babies or engagements.

      1. Leah*

        I think you’re handling it backwards. Use those phrases all the time, even for small things. Eventually, people will stop being expectant of more fecund news.

        1. Mints*

          I have great news! I found $5 in the parking lot!

          Guess what everyone! My zappos package came two days early!

          I have an exciting announcement! My cholesterol is down!

          I like this idea

      2. Rin*

        What are the next stages? “When are you going to go through menopause?” and “When are you going to die?” – you could use those as a response, I suppose.

        Yikes, people, young women are not episodes of Days of Our Lives.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          In my admittedly limited experience, they ask you for a while longer if you’re planning to have any more kids (up through #3, maybe?), then you get a break, then lots of questions about where they’re going to school/college, then when are your KIDS getting married/having kids.

        2. Jillian*

          Ha, yes. I have cancer and shortly after diagnosis a co-worker asked how much longer I was expected to live. I just shook my head, said “Wow”, and walked away.

          1. Carpe Librarium*

            “A helluva lot longer than you, if you don’t shut your mouth and walk away right now.” is what I would say, very loudly, in my head, five minutes later after I stopped gaping at that person.

      3. Lisa*

        lol, oh man. I need to use this line to mess with these people. I think I will go up to the nosiest people and all happy, smiling with my left hand and proudly show off my non-existent engagement ring, ‘i’ve got exciting news! I got a manicure!’

        Might as well turn it around and have fun with ‘no news’. Though we worked with women that would announce their engagements during extremely difficult client meetings in which no one could respond to their rings until out of the meeting. They would hide their left hands until in the meetings and be super obvious so co-workers would notice the ring and not be able to gush. It was amusing.

      4. Jen S. 2.0*

        I think the progression is:

        *Are you dating anyone? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)
        *Any engagement news? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)
        *So when’s the wedding? (Am I invited? Are you serving X?)
        *Are you trying to get knocked up? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)
        *When are you due? (Insert unhelpful advice.)
        *Are you ready for another one? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)
        *Don’t you want to try for a [opposite sex]? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)
        *(after a third child) Ha ha, don’t you know what’s causing that? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)

        I THINK they may leave you alone if you are semi-happily partnered with a child of each sex, BUT I’m sure they have some stupid, unoriginal tripe they say to that as well.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Nooo…. next is the medical tests. “Did you have x test? You really should you know.” Then y test and so on.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Ha, I didn’t know that! I’m 38 and single, so I’m still stuck on “Are you dating anyone? (If not, what’s wrong with you?)”

            I guess once I move out of childbearing years, I’ll skip straight to medical tests.

        2. Amanda*

          This is 1000% true. Ugh. I’m between 2 & 3 right now and it boggles people that I I don’t already know every detail of the wedding that I have, quite frankly, not a ton of interest in planning. Can’t wait for the pregnancy questions. Ugh, again.

      5. Jamie*

        You know it’s funny – I have a work friend who is about 15 years younger than I and before she got married she would talk to me about her boyfriend and where she was at with marriage and her thoughts etc. She told me later I was the only one she talked to about it because I was the only one who never asked.

        She said she knew I didn’t care if she got married or not so she could just talk without it being a “thing.” Same deal now that she’s married – when she talks about babies or not she knows I just listen and don’t care if or when they do. I mean I care about them as people – I’m just in favor of people living their own lives and don’t need to push a weird time table or babies on other people.

        Why do people do that anyway? Why do people care when others get married or have kids? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did both…but I never felt the need to force people into joining “have less money and zero free time for the next 20 years or so…and say goodbye to white sofas” club.

        1. hildi*

          “Why do people do that anyway? Why do people care when others get married or have kids? ”

          I have always kind of thought that it was about those people trying to subconsciously reinforce their decision or something. Like, “if I pressure everyone else or if they do it then it means that my decision wasn’t so bad/the right one, etc. ” I dunno. I’m sure it’s more complex than that but I bet that’s at the heart of at least some people’s stupidity over this. Becuase i totally agree with you – who cares? (then again I’m too wrapped up in the world of Team Hildi to spend much time judging their decisions). :)

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            I think it’s very much this. There are a LOT of people who think, “If a majority of people around me are doing something similar to what I’m doing / have done / want to do, then it means that I’m normal and I’ve made the right choices.”

            In reality, it means no such thing, but that’s an uncomfortable thought.

  8. Not usually anon*

    It might be me!! When I worked in a busy healthcare office, we staggered lunches and I was typically alone when I arrived in the kitchen. The fridge was always full of takeout containers and I’d often peek in to see what tasty things other people brought and see if I could guess what restaurant it came from. I never touched the food and I DEFINITELY never ate/stole any of it but my husband tells me that was super weird/nosy behavior. But I like living vicariously through others’ food choices!

    1. Leeloo*

      Eh, I don’t really think that’s out of bounds. If you were eating at the same time as other people, you would naturally have conversations about “Ooh, that looks good, where is that from?” I mean, if you looked around in the fridge and then went up to someone and went “Was that you that brought in takeout from ___?” or made some inappropriate comment about nutrition, that’d be nosy and weird. But being interested in other people’s food seems… pretty normal to me, at least.

    2. Alex*

      Yea I’d probably think that was super wierd if someone was opening my food container for no reason, especially if was like in a lunch bag or tupperware from home. At least with a takeout box you can play it off like you were just looking for your takeout box.

      1. Angora998*

        I would have not have liked it. Once one of your co-workers catch you … you are going have something jump out of the tubberware at you.

        You could be accused of tampering with food. Please , leave it alone.

        1. Angora998*

          Clarification … if you are opening it; please stop. One thing to view it through a “clear” container.

      2. Tami M*

        I once worked with a Doctor who’d go through the fridge after lunch, and start eating the leftovers people saved. (he was new to the office).

        Fortunately, he didn’t try to hide it and came walking out eating someone’s food right in front of them. When they said ‘Hey, you’re eating my food!’, he replied that he didn’t realize it was theirs. Well, he for sure knew it wasn’t HIS!!! He didn’t stop until we explained that it wasn’t ok to eat the food in the fridge unless he brought it himself.

        Some mothers’ children. :/

    3. Jamie*

      You’d open the containers or look at the containers?

      Looking is fine – but even if not touching the food opening them to look inside definitely crosses a line. I’m with your husband on that if anything was opened.

      1. Leeloo*

        Ah- yes, this. I read it as that Not usually anon was just looking in the fridge at the containers, if it’s not that then it’s surely a crossed line.

      2. AMT*

        I interpreted it on my first reading as “I’d often peek INTO the food containers,” but I think I read it wrong. (If that was the case, yeah, that’s very weird. No touchy my foody.)

    4. Snork Maiden*

      I don’t think this is overly intrusive – you’re not hurting anyone, you’re not touching anything, and you’re not digging through someone’s desk or interrogating them about restaurants. This is sort of like admiring your neighbour’s front garden from the sidewalk – you’re not ringing their doorbell and walking all over their plants.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        though I wouldn’t go so far as to open the containers. Even if you’re not touching the food, it’s still a bit ew.

        Now I’m thinking about North American cultural mores for food! We have a lot of them and most of them we don’t talk about except when instructing children.

    5. Leah*

      If you’re opening other people’s takeout containers then, yes, your husband is right. That is invasive, even if your aren’t coming into contact with the food.

      If it’s just looking through a clear plastic lid on top, then that’s not so bad. However, when I get take out for lunch, I eat it immediately. Any takeout containers I put in the fridge are going to be things I brought from home.

    6. JoJo*

      It is weird/nosy behavior. Their food choices are none of your business, and if I caught a co-worker opening my lunch, I’d complain straight to HR. Do you really think anyone wants you pawing through/sneezing on their lunches?

    7. Anonsie*

      That is super weird, I’m not gonna lie. But if you’re not actually opening anything I wouldn’t say it’s invasive or that you shouldn’t do it. Just… Weird.

    8. Mena*

      You are crossing boundaries and it isn’t about what you like. Please listen to your husband.

    9. Amy B.*

      I personally would not care if someone popped open the top of my takeout container and looked at my food. Thanks for sharing and admitting you were the nosey one. It’s easy to point out other people’s faux pas, but not our own.

    10. Another Job Seeker*

      I think this is a bit odd. Would you do this if people were in the room with you? If not, it might be a good idea to consider the boundaries that other people may think you are crossing (even if you do not believe you are crossing any boundaries).

      This is why I do not leave food in the refrigerator at work. If my food needs to stay cold, I will bring it in a container with blue ice. (I will leave unopened bottles of water or other drinks, however). Just nothing people can open up and go through. Obviously, we do not know whether Not usually anon is opening people’s food, but it is possible for anyone to do so.

    11. Tami M*

      Not usually anon,
      I too like seeing what tasty treats people have. I won’t usually search it out, but if they’re at the table, I might ask where it came from, if they made it themselves, etc… Heck, it might be a recipe they’d be willing to share. :)

      Loooong ago, I worked with this girl who would always get something for lunch and bring it back to eat. Being the foodie that I am, I’d usually say ‘Mmmm, that smells so good!.’ She’d give me the funniest looks, until one day she (hesitantly) asked if I wanted some. I realized she’d been thinking I was ‘slyly’ trying to get her to share her lunch with me, (I was so embarrassed!) so I apologized for the misunderstanding and explained that I just enjoyed the smell of food wafting in the air. She laughed and from that point on we made a joke of it. Now I’m careful to add…’Where’d you get it, I might want to try it some time myself.’.

  9. johnny*

    I started on a new job recently and there’s a female colleague in my company who likes to poke her nose into everything. On my first day, she was so overly friendly that it sort of creeped me out. E.g. asking me for my Facebook, numbers, religion etc. She also likes to ask a lot of questions, be it personal life or about the work that people are do which do not concern her. I was shocked when, for the first time, she just entered my cubicle and looked right at my PC screen and asked “what are you doing”. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything confidential, just emails and she just assumed that I was clearing my inbox, when I wasn’t. :/ she did that to a lot of people, I realised. A colleague was so pissed that she scolded her right on the spot. I’m surprised that she does that even though she’s older and has more working experience than me. Recently she got complaint by a co-worker (heard from another colleague) and it sort of shut her up. I’m not sure if she knows who reported her, but I’m afraid she thinks it was me because it happened after I joined. Also, another problematic thing about her was that she likes to talk a lot of non-work related stuff at work, or make excuses for work. E.g. a supervisor told her to do things in A manner, she will kept insisting B manner and find whole lots of excuse. It’s kind of annoying since previous time are wasted, especially when one is rushing for a deadline or what. How should we deal with such colleague, without sounding mean? For myself, I don’t really see her as a potential friend, so would like to keep what I share with her to the minimal. I just feel she’s trying too hard to fit in. I understand that she’s new, but it’s just makes everyone awkard.

    1. Angora998*

      Be nice … but tell her that you do like sharing your private life with your co-workers.

    2. Chinook*

      “On my first day, she was so overly friendly that it sort of creeped me out. E.g. asking me for my Facebook, numbers, religion etc. She also likes to ask a lot of questions, be it personal life or about the work that people are do which do not concern her. ”

      I have heard of people like this but never met one. Which is good, because this many questions of that type would probably get answers like “I worship the Flying Spagetti Monster and I would really like to invite you to our bi-weekly dinner where we sacrifice small children. So, do you have any kids?”

      Sorry, but I have a low tolerance for the religion question unless someone actually knows me or we are in a setting that it makes sense in (i.e. you see the Sunday School textbook peaking out of my bag).

      1. Angora*

        Dear Chinook:

        Agree with you about the religion ?. Years ago the head secretary in my dept asked what church I go. I made the mistake of saying I do not attend church. I was her dirt list after that …. than a few years later she was spreading rumors that I was gay. I’m divorced and dating .. but didn’t share my details with her. One day she was going through the faculty and GTF’s schedule cards trying to see who lived with who …. IN SIN>

        Some people are so interested in what others, so busy snooping I do not see how they get their work done.

        1. Chinook*

          Angora, the irony about the whole thing is I love talking theology and philosphy and am very open about my faith but I also know it is information I should be free to offer and not demanded from me. When spoken about with the wrong type of person, it is a pointless conversation that can cause a lot of problems. When talked about with the right person (and by that I mean their state of mind and not their faith) it can be quite enjoyable and allow for great insight and even friendship to all parties involved.

  10. a.n.o.n.*

    At my former job I was a VP at a very small bank. We fired a branch manager for things such as drinking on the job, allowing his wife to forge her daughter’s signature so she could withdraw funds from the daughter’s account (large settlement; the daughter knew about it and it was a case of her not wanting to come into the branch so the mom would withdraw the money), borrowing money from a well-to-do customer and not paying it back, and a few other things. We told everyone that the manager is no longer with the bank. End of story. Most people had an inkling as to what was going on so it wasn’t questioned.

    The following day a coworker of mine came into my office, closed the door and sat down. She then proceeded to ask me what happened to Joe. I told her he left the bank. She continued to press so I said, “He left the bank. It’s none of your business what happened. It’s between him and his boss. How would you feel if people asked questions like this about you if you left, and we proceeded to air your dirty laundry? Would you want us to tell everyone?”

    She didn’t ask me anymore after that. But I found out later that she had asked everyone in the office and was gossiping about it.

    And this is the same coworker who would always complain that so-and-so got to “float into the office whenever she [felt] like it” and “it’s so unfair.” Um, the woman in question was the accountant and had different job requirements than the complainer, who had to deal with customers during business hours.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I can SORT of see asking about it to make sure you’re not going to get fired for the same thing.

      Like, we had someone fired here and it really spooked some of the newer people (we really can fire people in government). Several of them approached me to ask because I tend to be pretty in-the-know (this was before I was a manager). I asked why they were asking and they were just worried about their own futures, so I told them that the disciplinary process had been followed and nobody is ever fired without warnings, so it would never come as a surprise. That helped.

      1. some1*

        +1. I think it’s a good idea to reassure existing staff that it was an issue with the particular employee so people don’t think their jobs are in danger.

      2. A.n.o.n.*

        I see what you’re saying and if it was asked in a concerned manner by someone not known as a busybody I would agree; however, this was done in a “tell me the dirt” kind of way. And this wasn’t the first time she had done something like this.

  11. TRT*

    My former co-worker made it his business to know how much everyone’s house cost. We were interviewing someone once and while debating on his qualifications he said “Well I know they could afford to take this job because I looked up his address and his house is only worth x amount (we worked at a non-profit, so salaries aren’t fabulous).

    When he overheard that my partner and I made an offer on a house he immediately asked for the address and pulled it up online to look at it and was like “Oooh, well that’s a good price on a house. Don’t do what we did and spend $xxx,xxx (like $100K more than what we were spending). Apparently since his fiance is a doctor and they can afford a much more expensive house than some, that made him a better person. Ugh.

    1. butterbeans*

      I worked with a real winner who used her knowledge of my salary and other bits of overheard conversation to harass me about the house “mommy and daddy bought for me.” (though, she wasn’t actually nosy enough to look up the public records and see that I am the sole owner, I suppose.) It was actually constant enough that guilt over my parents generosity in helping with my down payment became a topic with my therapist.

    2. Various Assumed Names*

      This is horrible. I mean, I’ve snooped on a home value or two in my life but I keep it to myself.

      1. arjay*

        This! I like information as much as any nosy person, but when I go snooping (online only – so information that is publicly available), I keep it to myself. And I’m not interested enough in my coworkers to care to snoop. So I can be nosy, but at least I’m not a gossip.

  12. My 2 Cents*

    I have a coworker who has to know EVERYTHING that is going on in the office and it kills him when he doesn’t know. One day our bosses were having a meeting in the conference room, and after enduring many nosy questions previous, the conversation went like this:
    Co-worker: “What’s going on in the conference room?”
    me: “A meeting to which you weren’t invited”
    CW: “What are they discussing?”
    me: “Something to which your bosses did not find it necessary to include you in.”

    He got the hint.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      The guy who held my job before me was legendary for doing this. At one time he went into the boss’s office while three other people were having a meeting in there, paced along the back of the room, and asked “Did I get fired and somebody forgot to tell me?” before asking if he could sit in on the meeting that had nothing to do with him. Apparently he also used to stand up and listen to phone calls while leaning over the cube wall.

    2. Greyhound Mom*

      OMG – some of my co-workers thought that I had written this post!!! Too funny. I have the same exact situation with a male co-worker except he does NOT take a hint.

    3. some1*

      This reminds me of a great line a friend of mine used to use. If someone overhead him talking about someone and asked, “Who are you guys talking about?” He’d say, “Some eavesdropper.”

  13. Anon Name for Post*

    Our secretary would wait until you were out of the office (at client’s business or vacation day) and would snoop in your desk drawers and comment later on what you had in them. Whether it was client files, snacks, or pens she would bring it up exactly what was in your desk drawer.

    You’d be in confidential client meetings and she’d walk right in to hand you something completely unrelated to your meeting and then stand there and stare at you both or stretch her neck to try to see what was on the paperwork in front of you both.

    She took it upon herself to “dig up dirt” on employees that had angered her by seeing who she knew that may know them- their neighbors, possible friends, or relatives and would try to dig for some “skeleton in their closet” to use later against them.

    1. Anon Name for Post*

      Ooh I forgot. One of our company’s duties is preparing certain types of taxes for high net worth individuals. For a short time she knew where copies were kept and would pore over them to see info on the client’s taxes, income, investments, etc.

      Through an indiscretion at the company she discovered at one time what other staff made and had a screaming fit on her manager about how other secretaries made more than her.

      I think we could’ve had our own reality show filmed.

      1. OriginalYup*

        Even though I understand that the furniture is technically company property, I would be seriously outraged at someone digging through my desk drawers just to be nosy. Like, we would have to settle it at Fight Club because there would be no reasoning with me.

    2. Trillian*

      If I couldn’t get my hands on a key, I’d be off to the local zoo or insectarium looking for a rubber tarantula. Or snake.

      1. Lar*

        I have a staff person that has been known to snoop through my desk when I am out of the office. She will also find a reason to come in to my office any time I am meeting with other staff to try to find out what we are talking about. Sometimes when I am feeling particularly evil I will take a phone call with my door shut which just sends her in to hysterics speculating who I am talking to or what is going on.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know what it is about a shut door, but co-workers have the same reaction as toddlers or cats. They didn’t care about what was in the room before, but if the door is shut they assume something fascinating is going on and they must be let in. Now!

          It is an interesting phenomemon because people talk about closing the door to get work done, but if I did that right now without putting up my “I’m on a web conference” sign they’d be peering in and coming up with emergencies to get in and see what’s up.

          That’s why I only plot world domination with the door open.

          1. Diane*

            I put up signs to indicate I’m on a conference call or webinar. My boss walks in talking.

          2. Mallory*

            So true about [some] coworkers and closed doors! I closed my office door (back when I had one — le sigh) and put up a “Working on Such-and-Such Deadline” sign, and my nosiest coworker just walked right in to ask me about why I was so busy (!).

      2. Anon Name for Post*

        What a great idea. I like this one. Maybe both would be effective in deterring nosy people from digging through desk drawers and files.

      3. Xay*

        I actually had a supervisor who kept a rubber snake in one of his file drawers. He said it kept people honest.

      4. Blue Anne*

        Great idea.

        I think if this happened at my current workplace, I would fill my drawer with a rubber tarantula, a ridiculous brightly-colored sex toy, a few dime bags full of icing sugar, and a few envelope with things like STD TEST RESULTS and HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL PAROLE DETAILS – PLEASE CONTACT SHERIFF’S OFFICE IF FOUND stamped on them. Maybe some fake IDs with my photo and other names, if I could swing it. To make the point, and for shits and giggles.

        But that’s because I’m currently working in an office where everyone would find it hilarious and my manager wouldn’t believe a word of it, and because it’s that kind of office, I don’t think this would ever happen.

    3. Lils*

      Just when I started to think I was a little paranoid to keep confidential paperwork in a locked drawer, I hear a story like this…

      1. Anon Name for Post*

        If we could’ve locked the drawers we would’ve for sure. In my opinion it’s not paranoid to keep confidential paperwork locked up. It’s a good idea.

    4. bullyfree*

      Ugg, in one of my old offices, people used my office supplies to replenish their supplies. They’d go through my desk drawers and take things off my desk also. They were too lazy to take the elevator down three floors to the office supplies stock cabinets. When I returned from vacation, I’d frequently have to restock my office supplies.

      1. Anon for a moment*

        OMG, so much this. The supply cabinet was literally two feet from my desk, but people would dig in my desk for “my” pens, “my” paper clips, etc. And sure, mine were coming from the same place, but I’d stocked my desk on purpose with the right amount of what i needed, and it interrupted my workflow if that stuff was gone without my expecting it.

        1. bullyfree*

          LOL, I know what you mean. I used a lot of supplies and had to work fairly fast so I made sure to be prepared. Staples and staplers were a big part of my daily grind. They were the hardest supplies for me to keep stocked. Coworkers also stopped by while I was working and *asked* for supplies…..I was too willing to oblige. (Should have sent them to the stock cabinets)

          1. Jessa*

            That’s awful, and it’s worse when it’s your stuff not the company supplies. It was so fun chasing stuff down and explaining that no, I don’t mind you using it at my desk, but please don’t take my personal property into another group of offices.

            1. bullyfree*

              Oh, I know what you mean ! I eventually put a note that read ” Personal Property of …..please return to room ### if found” on each of the items I purchased myself (except for my favorite pens).

  14. AdAgencyChick*

    I used to share an office with one coworker, a graphic designer, who was just delightful — he’s not the nosy one. Keep in mind: the graphic designer was not on my team.

    However, the account exec on my team was a creepo. Once he came by, and my officemate wasn’t at his desk. Creepo started rummaging around my officemate’s desk. THEY WEREN’T EVEN ON THE SAME TEAM, so I can’t think of any good reason for him to have been looking for anything there.

    Finally I pointedly asked, “Looking for something?” and he slunk off. Wouldn’t shock me if he’d been poking around my desk when I wasn’t there, too. Freak.

  15. AHK*

    Upon hearing that I was pregnant, one of my coworkers asked if it was planned. He then turned to another of my coworkers (his direct report) and said that it was her turn next. (She and I both got married last year, within a few months of each other.) He has continued to ask fairly personal questions throughout my pregnancy, and I always cut off the conversation or just walk away.

    1. HM in Atlanta*

      I’m amazed at the things people think they can ask pregnant women. I was stunned to learn that they regularly have to put up with random people (strangers) coming up and touching them because they were pregnant, and then the strangers get bent out of shape when people yell at them.

      1. iseeshiny*

        This, thankfully, I have not yet had to deal with. Pretty sure it’s because I have BRF – so far the only time not looking overly friendly unless I’m actively trying has worked in my favor.

      2. Leah*

        A friend of mine had a total stranger walk past and rub her belly while doing so as if she was a lucky statue. The person just kept walking and she was too stunned to do anything in the moment.

        1. MaggietheCat*

          This makes me want to keep a ruler in my purse and snap it on anyone’s hand who tries that!

        2. Jamie*

          Miss Manners once sarcastically suggested that if women were to double over as if struck and cry out in fictional pain it would cure the toucher and all witnesses of this habit.

          I didn’t work outside the home during my pregnancies but I can testify that this happened all the time. Women more often than men, actually, ime. And it doesn’t stop after the birth – they just move onto the baby. I just loved having strangers reach in to stroke my babies faces with their disease ridden hands I’m sure they didn’t wash after using the bathroom.

          1. hildi*

            Ok, I’m going on a tangent, but your last comment about strangers touching your baby made me think of this.

            When my youngest was a few days old, I was out running errands. I stopped at the post office and there was, uncharacteristically, a line (small towns rule). I made it through and had to set her car seat down on the ground while I stepped aside to put my stamps and receipt back into my wallet. There wasn’t much else going on in there so all the people in line were looking at the baby and some made a few nice comments, etc. Whatever – typical stuff when you have a newborn. No problem. Then a man who looked scruffy, unkempt, probably smelly and just not someone I’d even give a second look to walked over to us and looked at her closer. He smiled and said some nice thing about her and then reached out to touch her foot. I had the momentary panic of “don’t touch her!” but quickly reasoned it’s only her foot, she’s not putting it in her mouth yet and I can wash it when she gets home. So that flashed through my mind in an instant and I had time to focus back on this man and my heart softened: he was so tenderly and gently touching her foot. I thought maybe his eyes teared up and I know mine were because the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: babies bring out the softness in people. They make us kind and tender and I have to think that this man was either thinking back to his own children, or something that was good and kind and wonderful in his own life. It made me realize how many people don’t have that and how easy I could have been a total bitch about it and missed that moment (I may or may not have been under the influence of some pretty wicked post-partum hormones. Everything was that mellodramatic) :)

        3. A Kate*

          A stranger once touched a friend’s sister’s pregnancy belly while she was in line at the grocery store. She, in turn, squeezed the woman’s breasts and responded to the shocked reaction this elicited with, “What? I thought we were touching.”

          I haven’t seen her in years, but she’s kind of my hero for this.

          1. 2horseygirls*

            SO awesome & totally appropriate! Remembering this for future use by pregnant friends (who will LOVE it!) :)

      3. kat*

        Yes! I’ve had an influx of pregnant women in my life the last couple of years. I always ask if its OK to touch them and all except my cousin looked at me like I was the weirdo for asking.

      4. Marie*

        Oh yes. As a currently-pregnant woman, I’ve had to have so many conversations with people I barely know, who want to know if it was planned, do I know the gender, what am I hoping for, what my husband is hoping for, will I continue working, have I been nauseous, etc., etc. Much touching of the belly, too, even when I am clearly backing away from the hand.

        The worst, though, was my MIL, who asked me, over a family dinner with all the in-laws present, “so, do you have any stretch marks yet?”

      5. K*

        That is such a weird thing to do. Haven’t these people ever learned that you never touch someone without their permission?

    2. iseeshiny*

      I was really surprised how many people saw fit to ask me that! And various other personal things. Like, yes, I DO have to pee all the time! Yes, I AM huge! How kind of you to notice!

    3. Observer*

      Does HIS supervisor know what he’s doing? It sounds to me like absolute fodder for a harassment suite. This is beyond nosy.

    4. PucksMuse*

      I had a random dude come up to me at the grocery store when I was seven to eight months pregnant and WEDGE his hand between my belly and my breasts, claiming that he was “trying to feel the baby.”

      I grabbed his hand and forcefully shoved it away and said, “Trust me, that’s not the baby you’re feeling.”

  16. Celeste*

    When my first and only baby was due, one of my male coworkers had this horrible anxiety that I would go into labor at work and that he would somehow be tasked with helping out with delivery, and he didn’t know how to do that so he was worried. True, I did get a bit past the due date. So he kept coming by during the days to see how I was and did I feel “like it was happening”.

    Maybe you have to be 9+ months pregnant to really grasp how nosy that question is, but maybe you don’t!

    1. Celeste*

      Who knows, AAM, you might even be able to get a whole post about workplace pregnancy from the responses!

    2. ClaireS*

      You definitely don’t need to be pregnant to grasp that. That’s super weird. What a strange thing to be anxious about. Maybe if you were at some remote research station in the arctic and it was just the two of you, but in an office that’s (presumably) relatively close to medical care!?!?

      1. Marai*

        Haha, I actually totally get that anxiety because it’s such a common plot for a million movies and TV show episodes. Still, it’s the kind of anxiety you keep to yourself, omfg.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, really, and it’s always a first baby, and it always just pops out in 45 minutes.

          Though my mother did tell me that she had all three of us three weeks early and was only in labor for about three hours each. I wasn’t sure if she was exaggerating or not, so I just said, “Thanks for the warning, Mom.” o_O

      2. Angora998*

        I would have been so tempted to grab my belly … and “oh, oh” real loud and grab his hand.

        Than after he catches his breath inform him that question was getting old.

      3. Celeste*

        I know! It was so funny, as if babies just fall out if you sneeze (how I wished).

        Our office was 8 miles away from the hospital and my husband worked in our office on the same floor. Sooooo my cube buddy was never going to get a crack at midwifery, no matter how badly he fretted!

    3. MaryMary*

      One of my coworkers had a baby in May. She started her maternity leave on her due date, even though she didn’t end up delivering for another week. So many people were stopping by to ask her work friends if she’d had the baby yet that they made a sign and posted it in her cube: NO BABY YET!

      1. Celeste*

        That’s brilliant.

        I swear people treat you like you’re a ticking time bomb, about to blow.

    4. chewbecca*

      While one of my former coworkers was pregnant, up to the time she delivered, one of the other people in her department (who, shockingly enough was the office busybody) was CONVINCED that she’d be the one to drive Jane to the hospital if Jane went in to labor at work.

      Jane was not a fan of this woman and she would have been the last person she’d want to drive her to the hospital. Luckily she went in to labor at home, so it was a moo point.

    5. JayDee*

      Proper response: “Well, at my appointment yesterday my cervix was 5cm dilated and 75% effaced, so the OB/Gyn said I could go any time.” If needed, you can add “Now that you mention it, I have been feeling a little loose in the lady bits this morning and OH GAWD IS THAT AN ARM?!? GET OVER HERE AND HELP ME!”

      1. caraytid*

        my son’s due date was April 3, and i had a great plan to bring a water balloon to work with me on April 1 and strategically drop it on the floor at an opportune moment, since one of my male coworkers had this same weird anxiety of me going into labor at work.

        joke was on me though, since my son was born on April 1 (fortunately going into labor at home).

    6. Rin*

      I was worried my water would break at work, because I didn’t want to ruin my chair. But my boss had a plan to drive me to a hospital if anything happened there. I would not have asked for assistance from anyone who does my yearly evaluation…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That actually happened to someone I worked with (I wasn’t there that day). And someone else I knew had their water break in the middle of the grocery store. All over the floor like in the Coneheads movie.

    7. StarHopper*

      At least he was delicate enough to avoid asking about the state of your cervical mucus.

    8. Anonamama*

      I work for a non-profit which gives tours to potential donors. The Center Director was giving one of these when I was 8+ months along. When he got to our area, he described what we were doing, and added, “and this is Anonamama – who will be giving birth any minute…” I smiled and told the group, “I hope you brought your ponchos…” I don’t know what got into me, but at least it got a laugh.

  17. OriginalYup*

    Oh God yes. I had the nosiest coworker who ever nosed. And she loooooooved to gossip. She was the executive assistant for our office, and the CEO had to stop giving her certain documents to handle (which was part of her job) because she would read them, get the content wrong, and then spread the wrong content around. We had to hide the seating chart from her when we redid the floor plan because, in the prior round, she’d told people that a department was being downsized because she misread the plans. One time a different coworker congratulated me on getting a promotion—which I hadn’t—because Nosy Parker had found a confidential board memo about growth paths personnel, and concluded that anyone mentioned was getting promoted (and receiving raises). If any of the female employees looked ill or threw up, she would instantly start speculating whether that person was pregnant. She also used to bring up people’s Facebook statuses and personal lives in work meetings: “Does anyone know if Sue is in the office today?” “Well, she said on Facebook that her flight was delayed last night, so she’s probably home sick, because she gets the migraines, you know, and they’ve gotten worse since her husband got laid off.”

    And unfortunately she was also BFF with Steve in Accounting, who was the biggest drama llama I’ve ever seen. (Dude was like a walking opera of tragic wrongs and scurrilous rumors.) The two of them together were like Leopold and Loeb. I so don’t miss that toxicity.

    1. ClaireS*

      10 points to gryffendor for drama llama reference!

      Also, as a woman in my late 20s whose stress reaction is an upset stomach, I’m terrified of the “you’re pregnant look.” No, dude, I’m not pregnant, my stomach is just being a little a-hole right now.

    2. Angora998*

      I dealt with someone like this … at a defense contractor.

      I really believe that employers need to block my space and facebook on their networks. They did when I worked for the defense contractor … they also blocked Linkedin. She was on the cell a lot. We were not supposed to use our personal cells at work .. but they didn’t call her on it. I was a contractor and she was a fixture … she got by with a lot.

      I blocked her and the individuals that I figured out where her clique. In this type of situation . . . everyone that works with that co-worker … should just block them … totally. Than if they ask; say you are not on it. Than limit what is viewable by the public.

      1. Leah*

        I have really strict privacy settings and I don’t accept friend requests from any current coworkers. LinkedIn is fine. When people I’d want to be in contact with (or interns I supervised) sends me a request I tell them in person that I like to keep my work life and Facebook seperate but they can connect to me on LinkedIn. No one has complained and eventually a few colleagues would get friended.

        1. Anonna Miss*

          I do this, too, Leah. LinkedIn is for coworkers. Facebook is for people I would socialize with (or socialized with in the past) outside of work. And the occasional family member.

          Like you, I just tell interns that send requests that I keep work and Facebook separate. My politics are pretty evident on Facebook, and I do NOT want to get into it with coworkers.

    3. Mallory*

      I don’t see how she even kept her job. Confidentiality is the largest part of executive assisting. I don’t even bring up confidential matters with my bosses (even ones that they’ve previously discussed with me) because talking about it is at their discretion, not mine. At any given time, I cop to knowing only what I’m supposed to know and no more. I actually think my bosses are more forthcoming with me because I maintain a fairly detached manner (even when I’m goggling my eyes out on the inside).

      1. Jessa*

        This, so much. It’s like number one on the job description. You will find out things you’re not supposed to know, and you’re not to let anyone know you know about them. You don’t ever bring up stuff that you haven’t been told about unless it’s a serious problem for the company and that only behind closed doors in a private meeting, not blabbed where just anyone can hear. Your boss has to be able to count on you keeping your mouth shut. They know you know stuff. They rely on your discretion.

  18. Liz*

    I had a boss who was obsessed with money. Had the nerve to tell me he could ask what my car payment was because he was paying for it. The morning my mother died, I went into the office early to drop off some files I had (at that time I was allowed to work from home) before I left town for her funeral. Just he and I at the time. He had the nerve to say to me, “oh, now you are getting an inheritance” , and was practically dancing up and down with glee. No I ‘m sorry, no travel safely. Where he got that from, and how he thought it was any of his business, is beyond me. When my niece took a position in Iraq working for a company that deals with refugee re settlements, his comment was, oh, she will be making lots of money.

    1. Liz*

      *he was paying my salary, which in turn I was using to make car payment. He was not paying the car payment directly. Felt like I needed to clarify that.

  19. LittleT*

    Wow, it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one that has experienced overly snoopy coworkers!!

    I have a current person, we’ll call “Marcy”, who has taken it upon herself to monitor my daily food choices. Marcy regularly comments that I don’t eat much of the food provided in meetings (usually because they are all meat/fish/chicken sandwiches and as a vegan, this doesn’t leave much for me to eat, so I eat beforehand).

    She even went as far as going through my personal wastebasket at my desk to see if I had thrown out any wrappers, containers, etc. as “proof” of whatever I eat.

    I caught her red-handed one day and asked her, “What the hell are you doing?”
    She said she “wanted proof that you actually eat, so I’m checking your garbage”, as though this was a perfectly natural thing to be doing!!

    I told her to mind her own business and that, Thanks, but I already have a mother and don’t need another one to criticize me.

    Interesting point: Marcy is not a mother hen type who worries over other staff. She is 10 years younger than me, not married and no kids! I think she is just too nosy for her own good.

    1. karowen*

      I have a similar issue about the food critics. I’m overweight. I am aware of this. I don’t particularly feel the need to count every single calorie I eat, but it’s my body and my choice what to do with it.

      So one day, I got twizzlers for a snack and when I had eaten my fill I wrapped them up tightly so that no bugs got into them. My coworker saw the packet sitting on my desk and said “You bad girl! You ate all of those?! Bad!”

      Then just yesterday, another friend made me a birthday cake which I shared around the office. I was going to wrap it up, so I took the plastic wrap off as she was walking by and she slapped my hand and said “no!” because she thought I was taking more cake.

      I’m getting more infuriated just typing this. It’s not quite nosy, but still way too interested in my food choices.

      1. kkb*

        “you bad girl” and slapped your hand…. My head is spinnng. How did you not not tell her to back the eff off?? No one touches me, ever… especially not that way.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah – I would have been completely shocked and weirded out —and then an official conversation would have happened.

      2. Angora998*

        I’m sorry, but “slapping” another’s hand at work is uncalled for. I would take this to your boss …. this is way past the bounds.

        Since this is a co-worker; and not a supervisor I would be tempted to send her an e-mail and cc: your boss and your HR rep … so everyone is in the loop.

        Inform that individual that her comments regarding your food is paternizing. That talking to you like you are five years old is not appreciated. That you had chosen to ignore her improper comments, but slapping your hand and telling you “no” was so far out of the bounds you felt that it was necessary to to address this via e-mail.

        That you formerly asking her to withdraw any comments regarding your food, diet and weight from any future conversations with you.

        This burns me up for you.

      3. BRR*

        This is more than just being nosy (well a lot of these are more than just being nosy). These comments aren’t ok at all and the slap on the hand is even worse.

      4. Celeste*

        “If you want to monitor what goes in, then be prepared to follow me to the ladies’ room and monitor what comes out.”

      5. LittleT*

        Karowen: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had to deal with such inappropriate & completely rude behaviour. That is way out of line and to top it off with someone slapping your hand?? Hell no, and I would’ve mentioned this one to your/her boss.

        Nobody should be commenting on or offering unsolicited suggestions re another person’s food choices. If I want to eat a bag of M&M’s for my lunch, hey, that’s my decision! Alternatively, if I choose not to eat lunch at all, again, I’m a grown adult & can make that choice.

        Don’t patronize me (or anyone else) as though we’re unable to feed ourselves or get through life without your “helpful” advice.

      6. Tina*

        SO. NOT. OK. If a coworker (or a friend for that matter) slapped my hand and said “no” to me in that situation I would have lost it. I’m angry for you!

        1. Jessa*

          I’d be glad to bail you out, if you bailed me out in turn. Hit me and I’m likely to reflexively hit back.

    2. Coffee Lover*

      My coworker is vegan; I’m trying to lose weight. If I go to a meeting before her, I let her know that there weren’t any vegan options so she can plan ahead. She does the same with me.

      Your coworker is weird.

    3. Headachey*

      I used the “I already have a mother” line on a nosy coworker, too! If two or more people were having a conversation anywhere remotely within earshot, she would get up from her desk, come over, and try to insert herself in the conversation.

      One day a manager was speaking with the office manager, who’d just returned from maternity leave. He noticed Nosy listening in and whispered to the office manager that his wife was pregnant. Two minutes after he got back to his office, Nosy rushed in to congratulate him. He just played dumb and said “No, we’re not expecting. Where’d you get that idea?”

  20. AT*

    While I was pregnant, I had a coworker ask me what I would do if my baby came out “differently-abled” or deformed. I sat there, too flabbergasted to answer. Another pregnant coworker answered her with “leave it on the top of a mountain and hope it doesn’t cause the downfall of an empire, probably.”

      1. AT*

        No kidding! We became friends after that and banded together to answer all other inappropriate pregnancy questions and inquiries.

  21. NylaW*

    My father has several very nosy, gossipy coworkers, but one in particular recently did something I could not even believe. A few weeks ago my dad was working and thought he was having a heart attack. He was taken to the ER, spent the night in the hospital, had some tests, and was determined to be fine. It was not actually a heart attack. Of course everyone in his department something had happened because it occurred at work.

    This one coworker, we’ll call her Ellen, was telling everyone that she talked to my father and that he had a massive heart attack. She said he told her it was worse than he was letting on to everyone, and that he especially didn’t want to tell my mom the truth because his brother died of a heart attack very suddenly 2 years ago, and he didn’t want all of us to worry so he was keeping his true condition a secret.

    Side note: My dad did call and talk to her, the morning after he was in the hospital, to say he wouldn’t be in the rest of the week. She does the scheduling for the department so she needs to know these things, but he did not tell her anything like what she was saying. He told her the truth, that it was no big deal, but because of the testing procedures he had to have the rest of the week off.

    When my dad got back to work, he told everyone the very mundane story, and wondered why they were all so shocked he was back at work and fine. A few days later someone finally told him what Ellen had said and he hit the roof. He talked to his boss but so far Ellen is still gossiping away!

    1. Angora*

      Your Ellen needs to overhear a conversation that management is discussing cutting back her hours ….. that she is spending so much time gossiping that apparently doesn’t have enough to do.

      1. Angora*

        … you can forget the gossiping thing … just have her overhear a conversation about cut backs & that they may making her part-time … than she may start job searching

        If she’s good at the job except for the gossiping /// just call her on it

  22. HM in Atlanta*

    At a former employer, it was a big warehouse space. To create offices, they built them with drop ceilings (which left a huge gap between the drop ceiling and the warehouse ceiling).

    The HR and CFO offices were next to the R&D lab. One of the chemists decided to climb through the ceiling, and searched the HR and CFO offices after work one night. He gathered materials from both offices, and then took them to his boss to ask for a raise. When asked where he got the materials, he told his boss what he did.

    The best part – they didn’t fire him and several other people left the company over it in the next month (they were hot-shot R&D scientists that were snapped up in a minute).

      1. Tina*

        I think that’s one of the worst stories so far! and I thought the woman searching paychecks in the staff mail room was bad.

        1. Angora*

          I have heard of graduate students climbing over walls etc.. but it was to play pranks on their professors and co-workers. Or use office equipment in another’s space that they didn’t have access to after hours. They got in trouble for it, threatened to be kicked out of the program if they did it again..

          He so should have been fired. Or suspended without pay for a couple of weeks.

  23. Episkey*

    Not such an unusual story, but I worked in a relatively small office previously and one of my co-workers had to know everything that was going on in the office and would basically throw a tantrum if something happened that she wasn’t involved in.

    She had her own office, but would routinely listen in on any phone calls I had to make/answer. Afterwards, she would come out of her office and interrogate me on who I was on the phone with, what did they want, etc. She was not my manager nor even worked on the same program as I did. I tried speaking very quietly whenever I had to talk on the phone, but it didn’t really help.

    I remember one time my own manager planned an event on a topic that had a bit to do with her regular job and involved me in the event. When this co-worker found out about this and that my manager didn’t include her, she had a fit, yelled at me (never mind that I had no decision making power on this event), and stormed off. It didn’t really bother me because I knew it just drove her crazy to not have a hand in everything, but it still amazes me what kind of behavior people can get away with in a professional capacity.

    1. Angora*

      Do you have the freedom to have a radio and/or white noise machine that you can place near the door and/or wall (if you have a shared wall)? That might help … another thing you can do and I have seen co-workers do this. Tell them you think their phone is ringing and they may run back to their office. Have someone else all her office extension when she heads into your office (they pay want to block their phone number). They may be able to do this only a few times; but it might help. We had co-workers that would do that for some office busy buddies … they would run back to their offices quite fast.

      Another thing is; I have to get this done and turn your back to them; hence cutting them off with your body language.

  24. Bea W*

    At first I read this as “noisiest”, and perked up because oh boy do I have some stories about that. Thankfully, my co-workers have not been nosy. Although I did have one co-worker who, knowing I have rabbits as pets and volunteer for a shelter, horrified everyone when she asked me

    Co-worker: Have you ever eaten rabbit?
    (Other co-workers in the room gasp and jump on her before I can even answer)
    Co-worker, now confused why all the fuss: What?! It’s less gamey than squirrel.

    She wasn’t trying to be rude, and the follow-up comment was totally serious. She wasn’t from around here.

    I always feel kind of bad when I tell that story, because I don’t mean to make fun of her (she was actually well educated and intelligent), but I just found it so freakin’ hilarious that the next thing that came out of her mouth came across as even more outrageous than her original question.

    1. Biff*

      Oh man…. had a similar conversation once. Somehow it didn’t compute that I could keep a bunny as a pet AND think Rabbit was pretty good.

      I wanted to ask if they knew that beef came from cute widdle cows….

    2. Rebecca*

      I guess this depends on the area. I like rabbit, and squirrel too – and have eaten and will eat both if the opportunity arises. For me, as a country girl, it would be perfectly natural to ask if someone raised rabbits if they ate them, as people where I live raise all sorts of animals for food.

      1. Bea W*

        This was a major city in the north east US. Not one person in the room expected that. I don’t think anyone even thought squirrel was a food source anywhere. Rabbit isn’t common eating up here, but people at least know other people eat rabbit. Squirrel was just completely out of left field for this group.

    3. Chinook*

      “I always feel kind of bad when I tell that story, because I don’t mean to make fun of her (she was actually well educated and intelligent), but I just found it so freakin’ hilarious that the next thing that came out of her mouth came across as even more outrageous than her original question.”

      While I admit that she was culturally insensitive to the area (meaning she didn’t understand the culture, not that she was rude), but my repsonse to that question would have been an honest “fresh or canned?” The reality is that, in some places, even within my province, rabbits are pets, in other areas they are pests and considered a good source of meat.

      1. samaD*

        they’re both here too. I haven’t seen rabbit in the grocery store recently, but would definitely expect to see it at a farmer’s market

        1. Bea W*

          It’s not too hard to find in large grocery stores in this area, but that’s due to the demand created by cultural diversity. Americans up here generally aren’t interested in it or consider eating rabbit to be like eating cat or dog. I’ve never seen it at a farmer’s market, even though I know some of the vendors do raise rabbits for meat.

        2. KellyK*

          Definitely both here. I know people who have pet bunnies as well as people who raise them for food. (I personally don’t have any qualms about eating rabbit—or squirrel for that matter.)

      2. Bea W*

        I never even had a chance to respond on account our co-workers immediately jumped on her for it, but even in cases where people ask this question, it’s totally off my radar to even joke about it on account I’ve been in rescue for nearly 2 decades and that experience just makes those kinds of jokes instantly not funny. We’ve done a number of large intakes of meat rabbits confiscated by law enforcement from just the most nasty conditions imaginable. My head just can’t even go there.

        I’m actually used to being asked if I’ve ever eaten rabbit, because for some reason it seems logical to people who think of rabbits as food to think that since I have them, I might have also tried it . I hate having that conversation, but most people aren’t intentionally being rude or hurtful, and when you can just keep cool and talk honestly everyone learns from it.

  25. Jamie*

    I have three which left me feeling various degrees of outrage and violation: (none of the below were given any opening by me to think this would be okay)

    1. Said his wife was having issues related to her periods and heavy bleeding and proceeded to ask me about mine to see if her complaints were legit or if it was normal.

    2. I have an issue with startling very easily and it’s something I prefer people ignore as I’m self conscious about it. (I don’t yell or fall out of my chair – except in extreme cases) just a silent jump. One guy I worked with was convinced the only cause had to be PTSD (he fancied himself a amateur psychologist – his words) and told me with 100% certainty that I was clearly sexually abused or assaulted at some point because that’s the only explanation. He was dying to help me recall whatever repressed memories I had to get to the trauma.

    Needless to say he got a cease and desist quickly – but every time I jumped you could tell he was dying to find out. Very creepy and salacious – like he was excited at the thought of whatever horrible thing he assumed happened to me, but hadn’t.

    3. A celebrity died of the same thing that killed my dad and they were talking about it and I corrected them on some detail – I don’t know, just in passing. Then someone came to me later and talked about how extremely painful they assume it to have been and asked me details about my dad and if he was in agony as he died and did blood pour out from his orifices at the end.

    Never have I given a blanker stare.

    Some people need to start each day with a heaping bowl of STFU.

    1. NylaW*

      I am impressed with your restraint and ability not to punch each of these people in the face.

    2. Abradee*

      #1: Oh, ick. #2: I suffer from the exact same issue and can guarantee you I have never been abused or assaulted. What a weirdo! Watch Dr. Phil to get your psychobabble fix and leave me the hell out of it!

    3. A Kate*

      I feel bad for 1’s wife. What, did he think she was just being dramatic? How disrespectful.

      1. Jamie*

        He absolutely thought she was being dramatic. What was the plan? Collect data and go home and say – btw you’re not getting any sympathy from me because my co-worker said…

        Because I’d appreciate any anecdata my husband got from sharing my menstrual problems with people at work.

        Oh and #1 and #2 – same guy. Oddly enough when I misread the title and thought it was noisiest coworker he’d have been at the top of the list for that, too.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          I wonder what happened in his past to make him this way. You should investigate.

      2. KellyK*

        Yeah, I do too. I’m not sure which is worse: the fact that he didn’t respect her enough to take her issues seriously or the fact that he shared very private information with his coworkers.

        Personally, I wish I could have been in Jamie’s shoes so I could tell him that I had a family member with such severe fibroids that she almost bled to death (literally—-there was an ERF visit and blood transfusions) because doctors brushed her off, and no, really, this stuff should be taken seriously. (Though that’s my well-thought-out response with time to think about it. In the moment, I’d be much more likely to turn bright red and go, “Wait, what…who *asks* that?”

        It’s so weird because I know so many guys who will freak out at the very mention that women have periods, or who would rather handle a dirty diaper than a sealed package of pads.

    4. Kay*

      Wow. I feel sorry for the woman married to the guy in #1. Is it legit or normal? That’s a question for a doctor… not your female coworkers!

    5. Ruffingit*

      It’s pretty sad when you can say that the least offensive guy was the one asking detailed questions about your period. This is horrible Jamie and I am sorry you had to deal with any of this jerks.

    6. Bea W*

      #2 Creeps me out. He could have totally been wanting to help you because he’s a creeper and secretly gets off on that kind of thing. I’ve met people like that who creep around hoping to get of vicariously through other people’s sexual trauma. *puke*

      #3 WTF?!!!!

  26. mel*

    Maybe I’m just oversensitive because I don’t like to be interrupted, but the unending pointless questions from certain coworker are unbearable!

    “What ingredients are in that?
    Can I make that?
    Is ______ working today?
    Why not?
    Well, WHERE IS HE right now?
    Move over, I’ll do your job
    WHY NOT?
    You working tomorrow?
    Why not?
    Where are you going?
    I’ve been eating toast for 30 minutes instead of working, don’t you want to eat toast too?

    And then I fantasize burning the whole thing to the ground.

  27. Nelle*

    I once had a manager who was nosy about EVERYTHING and would ask very inappropriate questions. In particular she would ask our entire team who they thought was cute or who they had a crush on, among our other coworkers. She mentioned one coworker who was a friend of mine (we had been friends before working at the same company and saw each other socially)… that was pretty awkward.

    Later, she started snooping around and asking one of our other team members (a friend of mine) if I had a crush on Male Coworker X, because she had seen me dressing differently and “deduced” that this was the reason. Of course, it got back to me and I had no recourse but to write it off.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I keep expecting people to grow up, but I’m starting to realize some are perpetually stuck in junior high school. I haven’t had a “crush” in a decade and I’m in my twenties.

      1. Mallory*

        I adore having crushes, and I can’t recall ever not having one (either celebrity or real-life), but I keep it to myself and nobody ever knows.

        1. Mallory*

          I should have added “having crushes” to my list of non-impressive hobbies a few threads back. That and reading. Yeah.

  28. Allison (not AAM!)*

    In my case, it wasn’t so much “in your face nosy”. A non-management co-worker at my previous employer happened to be best friends with the big boss (VP of our division). Somehow co-worker was privy to a lot of information that I had only disclosed to my boss – she actually came out and asked me about a couple of situations! This is not information that I would have ever shared with her, and had seen evidence of the VP sharing info about other employees (even with me!) that should never have gone anywhere. As soon as I realized, I avoided confiding in the VP every chance that I could.

    As time passed, VP ended up getting fired (largely due to her protecting and covering up egregious, expensive errors of said co-worker) and then that office was shut down. I no longer have to ever worry about either one of them, TG. :-)

  29. The Nosy Drive Me Crazy*

    As someone who handles/is exposed to a fair amount of confidential information, I’m always amazed at how others with similar roles can be so gossipy/nosy. That said, I also get a fair amount of off-hand comments from the nosy people in my office about what I may or may not know, which is so irritating. Sorry, not taking the bait. If you need to know, you’ll know when you need to know it.

    I also have a couple of co-workers who thought I was pregnant because my husband sent me flowers for no reason (why is it so hard for people to believe that?) and I had a doctor’s appointment around the same time. Again, sorry to disappoint but no. Our organization is child-focused so having kids if you’re married tends to be a given and is readily discussed. So I get a lot of “you’re next!” and “when is it gonna be you?” In the meantime my husband and I are still trying to decide if we want kids or not, which given the culture is something I do not want to discuss at work, even with my closer colleagues.

  30. Alex*

    A woman who used to work at my company was notorious for being a terrible manager – one time, she actually followed an employee home when the employee left because she was feeling ill. The manager tried to be incognito about following her, but she was discovered sitting in her car outside of the employee’s house. Yikes.

    1. Liz*

      Wow. I was going to offer a comment about my old manager, who interrogated us about any sick days we took, and even phoned a colleague’s doctor to ask if he had really broken his arm. (The clinic’s receptionist declined to share information, then contacted my coworker to warn him he might have a stalker.)

      But no, that manager takes the cake.

    2. Vicki*

      “Hello, Police? I think someone followed me home. Yes… it’s a blue sedan. It’s sitting in front of my house. There’s a person in the car.

      Can you send someone around to check?”

  31. MYOB*

    The boss is the nosiest person ever. In interviews, she asks about religion, marital status, and desire to have children. She seems to have zero boundaries and will ask employees about their weight, health, relationships, and reproductive plans. She gets into the internal evaluation results to try to figure out who said what. On occasion, she’ll even gossip and share confidential information about other co-worker’s health and job performance. She’s one of those people who view information as power and she gets a great sense of satisfaction by knowing what’s going on with everyone. I think she gets away with it because she’s been here forever, it’s a small company, and there’s a very familial culture. New employees either learn to put up with it or leave quickly.

    1. Biff*

      WHOA. WHOA! That IS illegal in most scenarios. You really cannot ask about religion and the desire to have children in interviews.

      1. Jamie*

        The sticky thing is you can ask – it’s not illegal to ask…it’s illegal to factor it into the hiring decision.

        However, once you ask you have a harder time proving it wasn’t a factor in the decision. Which is why it’s wise to stay miles away from those kinds of questions.

        Don’t get me wrong – MYOBs boss shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near hiring…or people..because that’s awful. But people do conflate the questions with the actions and assume both are illegal and they aren’t. I think the only thing you can’t ask is about disability – I could be wrong on that – but I think that one is the only one it’s actually illegal to ask.

        1. Befuddled Squirrel*

          I once interviewed with a long-time friend of my parents and grandparents to work at his small business. He spent most of the interview asking if I still attended church regularly and what role religion played in my life. I assume he felt safe about it because of our family connections.

    2. BRR*

      You should probably tell HR that she’s asking these questions in interviews. As Jamie said its’ not illegal, but it’s such a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    3. ACA*

      There is almost no way I’d accept an offer from anywhere that asked me questions like that in an interview. That’s appalling.

    4. Alice*

      Regarding the religion question during an interview. I wonder if there would be a way to sidestep it. Like respond with a question: ‘Oh, is there something on the weekends for the job I would need to plan for?’
      I guess that wouldn’t necessarily dissuade the over-eager boundary-over-steppers, but maybe?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      There was someone like this that I worked with. I wondered if it was just about power. Oddly, I felt that this person did not have much understanding of how life and relationships worked and this was the plan to learn about that stuff. (Person grew up very disfunctionally.) I started leaning toward this theory because this person shared way too much personal info. I could see where the person had not been exposed to many aspects of life.

      Whatever the case, it became apparent to me the behaviors would never, ever change.

  32. littlemoose*

    In high school I worked at the same retail job for a while. A male coworker, who was a couple of years older than me and with whom I had never socialized or even conversed with beyond cursory work stuff, came up to me one day out of the blue and asked if my breasts were real.
    I think I said something like “Yes but that’s none of your business,” I can’t remember exactly what. I was too shocked to reply with anything snarky.

    1. AGirlCalledFriday*

      OMG this has happened to me too! I’ve also had a request for a threesome with a male coworker and his girlfriend. Disgusting!

      I’m going to say this because it’s happened to me several times at work – I know I’m large chested, and I do NOT want to talk about it with you. Like ever. For any reason. Why do people think it’s ok?

  33. Bend & Snap*

    I had a frenemy coworker who would ask questions in a very innocuous way to get information. She would then use the information to her advantage (and to my detriment).

    That happened twice before I stopped talking to her completely–she convinced me the first time was an accident. When I called her on it the second time, she shrugged and said, “I do whatever I can to get ahead.”

    1. Celeste*

      I have actually heard someone say, “I’m cutthroat.” And it just makes you say, Wow.

  34. AndersonDarling*

    I’m not sure it counts a nosy, but I had a coworker at an old job who couldn’t stand that I left papers out on my desk. I can be messy, but I’m by no means filthy.
    I was going on vacation and cleaned up all my files and wiped my desk down. When I came back from vacation, she had cleaned my desk. Like, CLEANED it. She reorganized the desk set, got new inbox/outbox, put my nick-nacks away, took stuff off my walls… it was crazy! My other co-workers stopped by the next week and apologized because they knew she was doing it, but couldn’t get her to stop.
    It didn’t bother me too much because the gal was nutters and this was just par for the course.

    1. Steve G*

      We have an overzealous cleaning lady that dabbled in these items, which is ironic, because she doesn’t recycle (I carry my plastics home).

      Once she took the coins off the corner of my desk while “cleaning” and get them to me. I was like, where the heck am I supposed to put my stuff if I can’t put it on my own desk? She also threw out clean, nice dept store plastic bags I had hidden (not well enough!) to carry random stuff home from work in, like sneakers or my recyclables!.

  35. AnonymousOne*

    A few years ago, I was leaving work at the same time as one of my coworkers (someone I never really interact with), and I noticed that he and I were driving home in the same direction – apparently we lived in the same neighborhood but in different subdivisions. The next day, he told me that he noticed that we live nearby each other, and asked me what subdivision I’m in. I told him, and then he asked me what my exact address was. I thought it was kind of strange, so I jokingly called him “creepy,” laughed, and tried to ignore the question.

    A couple hours later, I come back to my desk and find a printout of a Google Street View picture of my house, and he had written “found you!” on the bottom. Apparently he Street Viewed his way through my entire subdivision until finding my house, by recognizing my car in the driveway.

    He skyrocketed to #1 on my “people to avoid” list.

    1. Del*

      That’s terrifying, lordy.

      If it wouldn’t be provocation, I’d be tempted to leave a printout of a Fatal Attraction poster and tag that with a “found you!”

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Wait, so it is creepy to google-stalk a co-worker? I wouldn’t tell a co-worker when my birthday was, so he found it online. I have a fairly common name, and I was impressed.

      Turns out it is easy to get names, addresses, and birth dates of people living in our state. At least for people who vote and own property.

      1. Angora*

        I have dealt with some weirdo’s over the years. But I agree with the other responders … this is right up there on the creepy scale.

        Sometimes I believe people think they are being cute, smart or have such a desire to up one everyone. But this is so odd. I will never ask someone if they live near my neighborhood again. I have seen one of the faculty members (different dept, same bldg.) on my street a great deal for a couple of weeks. I asked him if he lived near my street and he about tore my head off. Found out later on that he lived near campus and not in my neighborhood. I suspect he had a girlfriend on the side. But I have learned that my polite conversation and curiosity overstepped into being nosy with him.

  36. MaryMary*

    We have the Calendar Police in my office. A couple women routinely see who is in the office on a given day, check their Outlook calendar to see if they have an external meeting, and then check our (shared, public) PTO calendar to see if someone took a PTO day. If there’s nothing on someone’s calendar and no PTO, they complain to a manager about it. Unfortunately, instead of telling those individuals to mind their own business, the managers then “investigate,” (even when it doesn’t concern their direct reports) which leads to awkward conversations about unexpected illnesses, emergencies, personal appointment, meetings that didn’t make it to Outlook, and the occasional undocumented PTO day.

    1. Celeste*

      OMG we’ve had that, and it makes me INSANE that these little pot-stirrers put down their work to go on witch hunts…and nobody ever tells them to knock it off!

      Talk about demotivators.

    2. bullyfree*

      I’ve worked with a couple of calendar hounds too. One wanted to know where I was going and why, and she really got her feathers ruffled if I went to an appointment that she didn’t know about. She was just a peer and complained to my supervisor everytime I left the building and the office calendar didn’t list anything for me. Eventually, the office calendar was brought up in a meeting and we were told we all were required to list when we would be out of the office. Everyone obliged – except nosy coworker. Apparently, she was above all that.

  37. No Name This Time*

    This was many years ago – I was a single guy in my early 30’s in Atlanta working in a department where everyone was older than me and married. Ever since I started working there I had to deal with the “when are you getting married” stuff. Most of the time I was able to play it off with the “yeah I want to be as miserable as you are” remarks that may have hit home for some of them enough to make them back down for a few days or weeks.

    During a company buyout, we had a bunch of internal auditors from the new parent company in working with us for several weeks. The auditor I was paired up with was a very cute and sweet girl around my same age. We actually hit it off really well and had a good time working with each other, lots of common interests and the same sense of humor, etc.

    Boy oh boy did the matchmaking ever shift into high gear. Daily I had to hear advice about how to ask her out how to transition our good working relationship into a personal one, even what cute babies we could have. And they were pushing and intervening from both sides, doing the same to her they were doing to me. I kept trying to tell everyone I wasn’t interested in dating someone I worked with and that I was NOT going to get involved with her.

    Just about the time that her assignment was up, they started pushing even harder, and I tried to maintain the stance that I wasn’t interested in getting involved with a co-worker; but since she was soon leaving that wasn’t satisfying them any more. They just kept wanting to know WHY I wasn’t interested and what made me think I could do better than her, and what exactly was I looking for that she didn’t have? It all came to a head when two married to each other co-workers were literally on either side of me at a work station telling me it was my last chance and for me to tell them ONE thing that was wrong with her.

    And then it happened – I outed myself long before I was ready to be out at work and said “I just don’t think her d!€k is big enough for a size queen like me.”

    Even in the late 90’s in Atlanta, co-workers weren’t really ready for gay matchmaking, so I really didn’t have to deal with that issue again. :-)

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      I’m sorry you had to out yourself earlier than you wanted to, but my god, what a way to do it. Spectacular answer!

    2. HM in Atlanta*

      The late 90s, you should have joined my office, but the gay matchmaking would have started.

    3. Anonylicious*

      Well, if you had to come out before you planned, at least you did it with style. Bravo, sir.

    4. No Name This Time*

      Thanks for everyone’s kind support. After reading about all the other nosy co-workers, I’m not sure this qualifies for this nosiest. Yeah, they were nosy and pushing for too much information on my private life, but thankfully none of them followed me to a cabin in the woods, or googled my house looking for an image of my car in the driveway, or looked through my desk, car or mailboxes, or some of the other crazy things. Holy Cow!!

    5. Chris*

      Isn’t this annoying? Like, they never want to hook you up with a Tim Teebow look-alike, it’s always a girl!

  38. Jamie*

    Some more garden variety nosiness which always pisses me off:

    Every place in which I’ve worked has at least one person who self-appoints themselves time monitor and vacation police. Every time someone takes a day, or leaves early, or whatever grumbles and tries to find out if they had the time on the books, were they docked PTO and everything is “unfair.”

    Eyes on your own papers, people.

    Ditto one person who is dying to know what everyone makes and God forbid s/he is privy to the information and the snide comments about how so and so should work a million hours a day because they make so much…or as bad when they don’t know and just make it up and assume everyone but them is pulling in million dollar salaries and have diamond shoes and use c-notes for toilet paper.

    The one who has legitimate access to addresses, but uses google earth to see how nice everyone else’s house is in comparison to his.

    More and more common lately of people asking what you paid for your house, car, what your spouse makes, whatever. This is so common now I sometimes think I’m the outlier because I think money is private – but I don’t get mad. I don’t answer, but I don’t get mad.

    Unsolicited comments on weight loss. If I’ve never spoken to you one time about weight or diets or anything related* then I’m not interested on knowing that you noticed my body in any way – good or bad – and I certainly couldn’t give a rats ass about your approval.

    I know most people mean well and I’m the outlier on this – but stfu – I’m not flattered – I’m uncomfortable and annoyed…and I kind of hate you for the duration of the conversation.

    if you’re a co-worker that’s a totally safe bet, because I don’t talk about eating at work

    1. Me Too*

      I SO can appreciate this. I tend to be a private person to and share my workspace with someone who is not. Constant chatter about all of your examples above and despite my increasingly snarky answers I see no end to it.

      1. Jamie*

        Too obvious. I’m planning subtle but far more sinister revenge.

        Once I become the reigning overload they will all be on the “no-cupcake” list.

        The world will not be a happy place for those who have wronged me – once I take up my rightful mantle of ‘benevolent for the most part but Machiavellian when I need to be’ despot.

        Fwiw people who chew too loudly or smack their teeth – also on the no cupcake list. And bad drivers.

          1. Jamie*

            I’m embarrassed to ask this – but there are references on here to Skull Island a lot. What is it?

            The only Skull Island I know is from Scooby-Doo and I don’t get the reference to an island run by Scrappy-Doo inside the body of Mr. Bean?

            1. LD*

              I believe it’s from King Kong…the big guy was worshipped by the natives on Skull Island.

        1. bridget*

          I’m not really a cupcake person, so now I have no incentive to not be very interested in your personal details or drive poorly around you.

        2. LD*

          Ooh. May I just say, I think you might be my hero. A benevolent dictator has always been what I wanted to be when I grew up.

      2. FatBigot*

        Read Jamie’s other posts, she runs their corporate IT. She can deal with offenders in a BOFH way.

    2. Bea W*

      Unsolicited comments about weight…I wish people would stop asking me how I stay so small. It’s not on purpose! My standard answer is simply “Genetics!”. For some reason people find that really uninteresting and don’t want to discuss it further.

      1. CA Anon*

        My sister was born with copper-red hair (both our parents have dark brown hair) and people would always come up to her when she was little and ask “where’d you get that pretty hair”? Eventually, once she could talk, my mom and aunt taught her to respond “recessive genes” with her little lisp. Both cute and freaky.

  39. Interviewer*

    I used to work for a mid-size company with one IT person – we occasionally ate lunch together or chatted, but he was very arrogant and hard to take for very long. After I left the company, he would occasionally send me work gossip emails. Eventually, I figured out that some of the stuff he heard, no one would possibly share with him, and after I finally questioned him on it, he admitted he may have read an email or two on the server. He was fairly proud of knowing all the juicy stuff ahead of time. I was horrified. A few years later, he emailed me about possible job leads, and mentioned that he ran across an email about his upcoming termination – his job had become redundant due to a recent merger.

    Another co-worker later told me that they all knew he had been reading their emails for years, and some stuff they would purposely discuss offline because of this.

  40. Katie the Fed*

    Jeez, reading all these I’m appalled at how many people will talk to women about their reproduction (not men, of course).

    PSA: STFU about other people’s family planning, reproductive health, everything. If it involves internal organs, do not ask. Just don’t.

    1. BRR*

      I thought this would be fun but I just want to reply to every one, “mind your own business.” I’m surprised so many are about reproduction too. It seems like every person has someone in their office who goes through the same things: when are you getting married, when are you having kids, why are you waiting to have kids is something wrong with you, when are you having more kids.

      1. Bee*

        Oddly enough, at my fiance’s place of work, he has a slightly older (late 20’s), married, and childless male co-worker, and his other male co-workers (most of whom are older and married with kids) seem to be CONSTANTLY badgering him about children. Are you going to have any, have you talked to your wife about it, did you consider the school district when you moved, on and on. Fiance makes it sound like the subject comes up once a week, and as a result, he has not told a single person at his place of work that he’s just gotten engaged, because he doesn’t want to deal with the questions. So I guess men do get asked those questions – but perhaps only in environments that are predominantly male?

  41. Cruciatus*

    Maybe I should consider myself lucky my coworker doesn’t get too personal, but he is super nosy in another way (he’d probably say inquisitive) about everyone’s jobs. This might seem not too bad, but there’s really no reason for him to know more than the basics and he has question after question after question. “So when you’re putting together that document what font do you use?” Why do you freaking care? You will never see them. We’re talking minute details. Yesterday he asked about my experiences with IT and how they can just access our computers at any time and did I know that? (duh.) They logged into his computer for something and it freaked him out. Then it was about how he doesn’t think that’s good for them to have this power. And “What about older people? They might not know IT can do this. They shouldn’t be allowed to.” Uhh, really? I guess that IT example was less about being nosy than it was just annoying to talk about. I think he thinks he’s “making conversation” but what he does is drive people crazy. When we see him at someone’s desk we find ways to save that person (a phone call that must be answered immediately!, another coworker who has a question they need to know right then!) But then he tries to see who is calling and then ask about that! I always hate when I see him do this “hover step” around my desk because I know he’s planning to stop and inquisition me about something, and you never have any idea what it us until he starts talking.

    1. Jamie*

      Then it was about how he doesn’t think that’s good for them to have this power. And “What about older people? They might not know IT can do this. They shouldn’t be allowed to.”

      Literally laughing out loud at this one. Because he’s right – he’d totally on to us. The only reason we go into IT is for the power to scare the old people.

      Those of you who care about the elderly might want to be on your guard because we’re coming for ’em and it’s okay that I tell you this because there isn’t a darn thing you can do to stop us.

      Well, our plan to terrorize old people and our insatiable curiosity which compels us to read all of your email.

      We don’t have lives of our own, or friends, so we live for the moments when we can catch a fleeting glimpse of yours…because I need to read that email thread between you and your husband about who is taking little Jimmy to the orthodontist – or the emails back and forth where you and Jane from finance figure out where to go for lunch. :)

      1. AMT*

        There is a comment upstream about an IT guy who did just that. I can’t imagine it’s a common practice. Jane from finance is not a terribly interesting person.

    2. Del*

      They logged into his computer for something and it freaked him out. Then it was about how he doesn’t think that’s good for them to have this power. And “What about older people? They might not know IT can do this. They shouldn’t be allowed to.”

      Makes you wonder if he had a guilty conscience behind all that protestation, hm?

  42. CPA Sarah*

    I had a boss once who would always ask me how much I paid for things. I was a near minimum wage bookkeeper, and she was the VP of finance at this place, and she was weirdly competitive and judgmental about money.

    For instance, we both bought houses around the same time and she straight out asked me how much we paid for our house and then told me how much hers was (twice as expensive as mine). She also asked me how big the diamond in my engagement ring was and made sure I knew hers was as big as mine, asked what brand my purse was and how much I paid for it, and asked how much I paid to have my favorite shoes resoled (and then was shocked and judgey over the fact that it was something like $20).

    We came from very different backgrounds, and I got the feeling that she was uncomfortable in the white collar world and needed to “prove” herself. It was just bizarre, especially considering the difference in “status” between the two of us. When does a VP need to prove herself to a bookkeeper?

    1. SerfinUSA*

      Reminds me of when I was a mail clerk in an old-school brokerage/venture capital firm. In the elevator I mentioned to a close coworker that I had just bought a piano (I was maybe 22 and it was a beater $400 piano). A broker listening in snarkily asked “aren’t pianos expensive?” in a tone of how does a lowly mail clerk afford such luxuries. I snottily replied “I don’t know, it depends on how much money you have”, hoping he would assume I was just fronting as a mail clerk, but secretly a trust fund baby (it was pre-crash 1987 after all).

    2. Blue Anne*

      This kind of thing makes me so angry. My manager doesn’t ask me about any of it, but I know how much she paid for her wedding dress, how much she’s getting for the house she’s selling, how much her vintage collector’s car cost… I hear about it when my managers are going on expensive vacations, when they’re having scuba lessons, when they’re buying sailboats.

      Meanwhile I’m just barely above minimum wage and they cleverly side-stepped any discussions of a raise at my last performance review.

      1. Blue Anne*

        (I should clarify that I know these things because she happily tells me about them, not because I’m at all interested)

  43. StevenO*

    My coworker is perfectly nice but I dread seeing her or running into her in the hallways now. It doesn’t matter, she always looks me up and down, and urgently asks “What’s wrong?” as though I have some major medical problem if there’s anything remotely out of place to her. Here are examples of what I mean: (1) I had scraped my elbow over a weekend and had forgotten entirely. She was behind me, expressed horror at my red elbow, wondered aloud if it was poison ivy or something worse, advised me to go to a doctor. (2) I had red eyes at the end of one day; I had been pulling long hours, and on this day didn’t have my newest computer prescription eyeglasses, which made it worse. She pulled me aside and talked in hushed and urgent tones, inquiring whether there had been some major trauma at work that I was upset about or in my family. (3) I was walking for coffee, but was doing it somewhat awkwardly because my foot had fallen asleep. She gasped “StevenO!” and pointed at my leg and mouthed “WHAT HAPPENED?”

    I almost cannot take this anymore. I have become increasingly short with her, waving these things off. I’m tired of explaining things so inconsequential — she doesn’t seem to believe me, so it apparently doesn’t matter what I say anyway.

        1. AMT*

          I’m glad you clarified that he shouldn’t actually die.

          Seriously, though, I’d love to see a video of her reaction.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have sensitive eyes and allergies can really set them off, plus as I aged dry eye became a problem (and it is oddly characterized by teary eyes — always a great look) I was shocked one day when one of my male peers asked with concern if my husband was abusing me. This was so out of left field, it left me gob smacked. (and no, my husband has never smacked my gob and if he had, I would have been out of there so fast) I sort of appreciated the concern but it was really creepy. It was so far out of the kind of relationship I have or would ever have — that the idea just shocked me.

    2. OriginalYup*

      Can you modify JayDee’s pregnancy response above? For example: with the red elbow, look down and shriek, “OH MY GOD IT’S EBOLA, HELP ME, HELP ME.”

      (It wouldn’t resolve the situation, but it might make you feel less like a bug on a slide.)

    3. NavyLT*

      Just start giving the names of some rare tropical diseases (different one every time she asks).

      1. Mints*


        Actually I just realized I’ve done this to kids. When they’re overreacting about a tiny little scrape, I’ve said “What! Oh no! Your knee! Do you think we’ll have to amputate it?! Bob, hold her down! I’m going to cut it off!” By then they’re giggling, and I’m like “Okay maybe you can keep your leg but I’ll just a band aid on it, yeah?”

        1. NavyLT*

          The best will be when a coworker comes back and asks about it. (I was going to say tell her it’s a botfly, but thought that might have been a bit much.)

          (Seriously, don’t look up botflies if you’re squeamish.)

          1. UK Nerd*

            And I’d just managed to forget about that particularly disgusting episode of Bones…

    4. ClaireS*

      Ah! She’s a concern troll. She hides her nosyness with concern. They are the worst.

    5. TempAnon*

      I had a friend who did stuff like this. I was eating lunch with her once and suddenly she gasped and started wildly pointing at my hand, shrieking “OMG, are you OK? Do you need help? OMGWTFBBQ!” Well, I looked at my hand and it looked like it always did, so I was confused and said, “Yeah, I’m fine. What?” She kept flailing at my hand: “That! That!” I finally figured out she was pointing at a wart I’ve had on my hand for at least 20 years. I didn’t even register it when I looked, because it’s been on my hand for 20 years after all. Turns out she thought I was going into anaphylactic shock.

    6. Seeking anonymity*

      We must have worked together. I suffer from IBS and my coworker would follow me to the restroom if I was on her opinion there too long to ask if I was OK. And would look for me on each restroom floor. UGH! So glad I’m not there anymore.

  44. Who are you??*

    At my last company I worked with a woman who wanted to be involved in everything I did. I was planning a family vacation to a place she’d never been but she wanted to know where I was staying, where I planned to eat, what activities I had planned and then would go research them herself to “give me options”. I was working on losing weight and being more healthy and she would sit with me at lunch and ask questions about my food, my work out routine and then would proceed to tell me how things “should” be done. I have children, she did not. She would ask me questions about my kids and husband and then would, again, tell me how she would have handled things differently. It was always like this. She’d ask, I’d tell, and she’d tell me that her way was better. I’d try avoiding her but she’d seek me out.
    Our boss had invited a bunch of us who had been working on a huge, time-sensitive project to a special luncheon as a thank you for all of the extra work we did. This woman and I were both part of the roughly 25 people invited. During the lunch, several people (myself included) decided to order desserts to share. My co-worker sat across the table from me and when the desserts came she attempted to shame me into not eating. Only me. The others at the table, including our boss, all sat there with mouths agape. The co-worker proceeded to instruct me in what I should be eating, that my husband might not be attracted to me if I got larger, and that I would probably die of weight related diseases and leave my kids orphaned. (For the record, I’m heavy…not morbidly obese so these comments were uncalled for and off base) I could see my manager stepping in but decided to stop it myself. I told my co-worker that while I appreciated her input I was going to have to demand she stop. She laughed. I followed it up with “you know for someone who has all the answers as to how I should live my life…you’re sitting home alone with your cat, no man, no kids, and apparently there’s nothing good to eat in your cabinets. Here, have a cookie.”
    She never bothered me again.

    (Please note to all the cat lovers here: I have no issues with people who live alone with their cats. Just don’t tell me how to live my life. ;) )

    1. Anon.*

      From a woman with a cat…ugh, people like this really do need to get a life. What a bully. I’m glad you could give her her comeuppance.

      1. Anon.*

        Oh, and I’ve gotten the inverse too, being a single woman with a cat, and my coworker wanting to invite me out with her family, since it was obvious I was so ‘lonely.’ Yeah, unfortunately, I was “busy” and couldn’t go to any of these, I’m sure, fun-filled dinners and outings.

        1. AMT*

          “Your purse seems oddly free of dusty Cheerios and I’ve never seen you peel a sticker out of your hair. Are you…lonely?”

        2. Windchime*

          Ha. As another single woman with a cat, I keep being prompted to “put myself out there” and date. Oh, OK. Because sitting at home with a quiet, loving pet and doing the things I want *all the time* is such a horrible way to live!

        3. Dmented Kitty*

          Why do cats have to equate to lonely, meaningless single lives?

          I’m married, we have a cat that we spoil rotten, and we don’t plan to have babies because we’re not parent material and we will spend significantly less on getting our cat a diploma (seriously, someone has gotten a degree for his own cat) than a kid.

          We don’t go around telling single people to “get a life”, much less going around asking them “when are you going to get a cat?” So please stop asking when are we having kids like it’s inevitable. I don’t mind the question of “are you planning to have kids?” vs. “when are you having kids?”. And stop there — no follow up questions of “why not?”

          “Because if you throw a cat up in the air, it will land on its feet. Babies — NOPE.”

      1. Who are you??*

        Then maybe I should have asked her to send her Kitty into work for her. It would have been much more enjoyable than listening to her. And I’ve been told that aside from on occasional hairball, they keep their work stations clean.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Mine has: Where have you been? I’m hungry! Why were you late? I’m hungry! Are you going to feed me now? Why are you ignoring me? Why are you showering instead of feeding me? What do you have to do that’s so important? You do realize that it’s past time to feed me, right? Hssss! Were you touching that other cat? If you would feed me I wouldn’t give you a hard time about relationships with other cats.

        1. CA Anon*

          God this sounds so familiar. Except mine also complains about our bunny.

          Why is he out here? Why is he trying to sniff me? Go awaaaaaaay! I hate you all. Why did you have to bring that THING home? What the HELL, he TOUCHED me!

          Meanwhile, the rabbit is hopping away looking pleased with himself and utterly unconcerned with how pissed the cat is.

      3. Bea W*

        Rabbits want to know everything. What’s that on your plate? Why are you sitting there? What are you doing? Are you hiding cookies in your pockets? Down your shirt? What are you reading? Does it taste good? What did you get in the mail today? Let me open that for you. What’s in the box? I like to watch you poop.

        1. CA Anon*

          Mine is a broken record of “is it FOOD?!?”, but he sometimes goes over to sniff the cat because the cat hates it so so much.

  45. Abradee*

    I had a coworker who drove me up the wall with a myriad of annoying behaviors, nosiness being just one of them. I’m sure I have a lot of examples, but the one that sticks out in my mind didn’t happen to me but to a Fellow Coworker (FC) who shared my annoyance with Nosy Coworker’s (NC’s) antics. I just happened to witness the incident:

    One day NC stopped FC and said, “I noticed that sweater in your car yesterday,” referring to the top FC was currently wearing. FC later told me the sweater wasn’t in plain sight from the car window or anything, which means NC must have been actively peering into her car the day before. And NC was so proud of it too, like her powers of observation should have been applauded instead of realizing that such a comment was so downright creepy.

    I was appalled, as was FC, but she was brilliant in the moment. Without missing a beat, she looked NC straight in the eye and said, “yeah, I definitely needed it this morning since I didn’t go home last night.” NC was a little on the old-fashioned side, so the thought of FC being out all night doing “godknowswhat ” left NC speechless and she quickly scurried away.

  46. BlueSunday*

    I have spent the last five years suffering from some pretty severe fatigue and trying to get a diagnosis. I have had loads and loads of doctors appointments as a result. After having 2 or 3 doctors appointments in a month, my boss asked if I was dying. Apparently a friend of his was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness so it was on his mind, but still it was so wildly inappropriate I didn’t know how to respond. He has moved on to another job since then and I have finally gotten a diagnosis, but I’m still blown away by it.

    1. Celeste*

      When will people learn that you might not be able to make it better for someone, but with the wrong choice of words, you can always make it worse!

  47. Seal*

    Years ago a department that my department supported had a horribly incompetent and just plain weird secretary. She was always coming through our area when she had no reason to, just to see what was going on. Because we recycled a lot of paper, we had a large recycle bin (think 55 gallon trash can size) just inside the door. For reasons known only to her, this woman started regularly going through our recycling. The first time we saw her, everyone assumed she had accidentally tossed something she intended to keep, which happens to everyone on occasion. But this happened just about every day. She wasn’t looking at just the top layers, either; she spend a considerable amount of time each visit digging all the way to the bottom looking for God knows what. Often times people would come into the office and the first thing they’d see was this woman’s considerable backside sticking out of the recycle bin.

    Needless to say, this got very annoying very quickly. So one of my coworkers put a note a few layers down in the recycle bin addressed to me that said “I caught the secretary snooping in the recycle bin again – do you think we should talk to her supervisor?” That put a stop to the dumpster diving, but then we had to contend with daily stink eye from her – a small price to pay, I think.

    1. Mallory*

      Brilliant response! I’m a little jealous that not all nosy coworker problems can be so summarily handled.

  48. GrumpyBoss*

    Not sure if this is “nosey”, or was someone who was just insanely jealous or had boundary issues.

    When I was first married, my husband and I came into an unexpected windfall from a profitable investment. We decided to buy a condo in a very exclusive neighborhood. We were young, dumb, and obsessed with status. At work one day, I mentioned I was leaving for a long lunch break because I had a showing at the new luxury building that just opened on the corner of some street and that avenue. One of my coworkers immediately said, “you can’t afford that!” I told him, “don’t worry about my finances. I’ve got it under control”. But this went on for a couple of weeks. I’d get questions about my finances that were more accusations. “How much are your parents giving you?” “Your husband must make a lot, right?” “There’s family money somewhere but why won’t you go out to lunch with all of us?” I tried everything from polite (“it’s nice that you are concerned about my situation, but really, I have it under control”) all the way to curt (“don’t worry about where my cash came from. It isn’t a topic I’m discussing with you”). It just got worse. He called a family member that was a realtor and came back to me saying that his relative even says that someone my age and income bracket can’t afford that neighborhood.

    I finally lost it. I said, “I’m sorry that I’ve made some decisions and have managed my finances that have resulted in me being able to make a transaction that obviously makes you jealousy. Actually, scratch that. I’m not sorry. I am in a position to do something that makes me happy and if you aren’t willing to share in that happiness with me, then that’s on you and I don’t need to be part of that conversation”.

    He continued to gossip about my real estate purchase for another 18 months before he quit. I can deal with it behind my back. I was happy he stopped doing it to my face.

    1. PucksMuse*

      I have found that the best response to this sort of thing is, “OK, then.” It’s an acknowledgement that the nosy jerk has spoken, but doesn’t indicate anything more.

      I, too, had an admin at my first job who seemed to think I was “too young” for everything. I was 21. I was ‘too young’ to be getting married. I was “too young” to be taking on the responsibilities at the office that I was promoted to. I was “too young” to be traveling alone for business.

      When my husband and I bought our first house at age 22, she just about lost her mind. It wasn’t even anything special, just a little ten-year-old two bedroom in an old suburb. But she couldn’t believe the “financial risk’ I was taking, buying a house so young. She couldn’t believe I’d found a lender who would give money to someone so young. She told me I would end up defaulting on the mortgage, losing my house, getting a divorce and end up homeless and alone.

      And to all this, I said, “OK, then.”

      I would like to say she gave up, but she didn’t stop until I left six years later. I honestly, think it was a combination of factors, one, I do look really young for my age, and two, she was older, single and stuck in a job she didn’t enjoy. I think there were a lot of sour grapes involved.

  49. YoungProfessional*

    I had a manager ask me personal questions about my dating life. She’d then ask about the “hotties” on the street. She also followed me around the office as I performed my job duties (i.e., straightening up conference rooms), checked the trash cans, and came running out when she heard me opening my vitamin bottle. It got to the point where I felt like I had to ask permission to do anything.

  50. j_e_tothe_double_n*

    I once worked with an older woman who insisted I would be the perfect wife for her son. After her badgering me for about a month, I agreed to go out with him. He wasn’t awful, but he never called me back after our date. The worst part is, he never told his mother that we were no longer seeing each other! She continued to ask me how things were going and eventually I had to bite the bullet and tell her that we wouldn’t be going out again. She was heartbroken and never let up on her insistence until I stopped working there.

  51. Artemesia*

    I worked in an academic situation where the AA for a unit was hostile to women professors and incredibly snoopy. Her daughter entered the grad program and was doing suspiciously well on exams in spite of being rather dim. I suspected that Mom was getting advance copies of exams for her daughter and so I quietly instituted a security process where copies were made by a trusted aid while I was there and I then took them home with me so there were no copies in the office. I also password protected my computer.

    She got increasingly frantic, asking me if I needed to get the exams copied, (‘Oh no, I have that covered.) and I came in one day to find my office obviously ransacked but surreptitiously so. Oddly her daughter started doing much less well in my class. I passed the info on to my peers who also started securing their exams with similar results.

    1. Celeste*

      Wow, crazy that she actually thought she could get her daughter a graduate degree like that.

    2. snuck*

      Classic! That’s all kinds of horrid. And fits strongly with the AAM theme lately of “don’t call for your kids” etc.

      :) I love it… I used to work (soooo many moons ago!) in the print division of a large university and the security process for exams was really tight but we still had all sorts of crap from non-authorised staff trying to access the files etc – I can totally see this happening.

  52. Got Boundaries ?*

    Years ago, a company I worked for hired a Receptionist who listened to every conversation that happened in the lobby where her desk was. She would insert herself into many of the conversations, making comments or acting as if she was some type of authority on certain subjects. Then, she spread rumors and gossip continuously, always with a twist or spin for dramatic effect. Two of her most nosy boundary crossing events however, were driving to my house while I was on vacation and looking in the windows and trying the door. (She used the confidential employee home list to find the address) I still have the video surveillance tape showing this. (She was there for several minutes) The worst though was when she “overheard” a conversation that took place in the workplace lobby where two co-workers discussed weekend plans. One, “Mandy” was heading to her vacation house in the woods, 2.5 hours away. She described to co-worker “Sally” that her vacation house was on such and such road a mile from a landmark. That weekend, a dark and stormy Saturday night, there was a knock at Mandy’s vacation house door at 9:30PM. Mandy opened the door cautiously and standing there was the Nosy Receptionist. She had driven 2.5 hours then went door to door until she found Mandy’s house. Mandy still talks about how creepy that was to this day.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Oh my god. I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of a horror film. Please tell me she was disciplined for these things???

      1. Got Boundaries ?*

        I’m not sure if she was ever officially disciplined. She was given a “talking to” several times. She however, was never promoted so she quit. She returned a year later and harassed the person who replaced her and tried pressuring people into rehiring her. This went on for awhile and she even applied for openings that were posted but was never called in to interview. The end result was first she banned from the building then later on when she crossed the line into criminal intimidation, (I don’t want to write out what she did but it was bad) police were contacted and I believe she was trespassed from the property and/or a restraining order of some type issued.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Yikes! This serves to stress the importance of addressing this behaviour in a serious manner before it turns into, uh, restraining orders.

    2. Jamie*

      I have to know – what did she say when Mandy opened the door? What did she want? To hang out? To determine if it was the right place? I really need more on this – this is like the beginning of a really good book!

      1. Got Boundaries ?*

        The story Nosy Receptionist told Mandy was that she had a Family Reunion to attend but had no place to stay. Mandy could tell she was lying but didn’t know what to do. Mandy was freaked out and frightened but allowed her to spend the night. Nosy Receptionist left the next morning.

      1. Got Boundaries ?*

        That she had a Family Reunion to attend but had no place to stay.
        (One-to-Two miles away, there were many local hotels with rooms available being it was somewhat of the off-season= if fact Nosy Receptionist had to drive right past many of them to get to Mandy’s house)

    3. littlemoose*

      That is so disturbing. I can’t even express how creepy I find that. In my opinion that would be a fireable offense.

  53. Dasha*

    My cubicle is right in front of the kitchen so I get a lot of traffic and my computer screen is pretty much open to anyone that passes by. One of my coworkers likes to sneak up behind me and start reading out-loud any instant message that I have on my screen.

    1. Sascha*

      Ack! That’s what my sister did when we were teenagers. Is this coworker 14 years old???

      1. Dasha*

        Right?! It’s so bizarre to me that a grown adult would be doing that, especially in the work place.

  54. Sascha*

    My nosiest coworker was a guy who was very good at getting people to talk about themselves. He would start with casual questions about hobbies and such, but kept pushing more and more. I overheard some people telling him about childhood trauma, health issues, personal problems – and these were people who were normally quite private. When people would ask him similar questions, he would balk and deflect, and refuse to answer anything personal about himself. After a while, I noticed he would use the information he learned to try and “help” people, like finding doctors for them, trying to plan vacations, researching medicine, and push his “solutions” to them. If they didn’t show interest he kept pressuring them almost to the point of harassment, and was visibly frustrated when people didn’t do what he said. The only way to shut him down was to just stop talking to him, and he would leave you alone after a while.

    For reference, this is the same guy who came into my office and shook my chair while I was sitting in it. :) A real charmer.

    1. Jamie*

      OMG I worked with that guy – he’s # 1 and 2 from my first post above. I never caved but others did – and right down to the chair shaking!

      There can’t be two of them out there?

      1. Sascha*

        Ew I hope not! At first I thought this guy was just really friendly, and then I started noticing the patterns. He doesn’t work here anymore, thankfully. Not a good employee to boot!

      2. PucksMuse*

        Possibly three. My sister has a bit of PTSD due to sexual harassment in school. She does not like to be touched without permission and she REALLY doesn’t like people sneaking up behind her and grabbing her. A guy she worked thought it was hilarious to do this so she would jump and yell. She was young. It was her first job. She didn’t want to sound like a whiner by reporting the problem. One morning, he walked up behind her desk once and jerked her chair HARD. She just so happened to be standing up as he grabbed the chair and was startled by the sudden motion. She yelped and threw an elbow back, connecting with his head.

        Dropped him like a sack of concrete.

        He whined and complained to HR about being “assaulted” but fortunately her boss had the sense to ask, “What were you doing grabbing her chair in the first place?” Coworker was told to keep his hands to himself. Sis was told to report future problems directly to her boss.

  55. Anonsie*

    So this isn’t one nosy person, it’s just a weird phenomenon where I work that I can’t explain.

    I sit at the desk just inside the front door of my department, and the way it’s angled means that everyone is walking up to a full view of my whole area when they come in the door. No other workspaces on the floor are like this– they’re all angled differently. The consequence of this is that people come by and talk about whatever is on my desk a lot, and the #1 thing people bring up is how insane my carb intake is to them.

    I tend to snack while working, but I’ve actually had to cut it back and change what I snack on to avoid people getting really weird about it. My normal snack is something carby (baked goods, popcorn, sandwich) and for some reason this is an issue. I’ll be working and eating a bagel and someone will come up behind me and get my attention so they can say something sarcastic like “Woah! Eating that whole bagel? Having a healthy breakfast, huh? Heh heh heh” or “Oh my gosh that bagel is as big as you are. Look at you. I couldn’t eat that many carbs.”

    If I eat absolutely anything else, no one says a word. It’s just the carbs.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I hate that. I was thinking one upside of moving departments will be that no one in the next one will be as food obsessed as they are in this one. I eat cookies and stay slim because 1.) I am genetically freaking lucky, and 2.) I work out hard and regularly. The person who comments the most on my food (although there is more than one person) also tells me how she cannot and will not ever run.

      1. Anonsie*

        I cannot and will not ever run, but god help me if that ever stops me from eating biscuits.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I’ve said that the only time I’ll run is if I’m chased by a lion – and even then, I won’t run long.

          I exercise regularly, but running is not my thing.

          (I don’t care what you eat, though. Have a cookie!)

    2. L McD*

      The food-commenting is such a strange phenomenon. My mom was no master of etiquette, but even she taught me that it was shockingly rude to comment on what someone else was eating, unless the comment is “wow, that looks good” or something similar. As an adult I’ve seen people make faces, “ewww” noises, make disparaging comments, or just feel the need to point out the obvious (like “wow, that’s a lot of carbs!”) in a judgmental way like it’s any of their damn business. What goes through people’s heads???

      Also focusing on carbs seems oddly dated to me, lol. Wasn’t that all the rage like 15 years ago? Surely they should be commenting about your gluten intake or something a little more trendy.

    3. OhNo*

      Yeah, someone who sits near me does something similar. I get a lot of comments about the fact that I buy chips pretty frequently (I just love salty snacks). I can buy a truckload of chocolate and eat it all day with no comments, but the second I grab some chips… “Oh, you’re eating chips *again*? Do you ever eat anything else? How can you stand those things?”

  56. JBeane*

    A week after I started my current job, a group of co-workers cornered me in the bathroom and asked me point blank what was up with the discrepancy between my Asian last name and my non-Asian features. Apparently when I first showed up they originally discussed it and assumed I was married to an Asian man and had taken his name, but that theory fell apart when someone saw the desktop picture of me with my Caucasian girlfriend.

    Honestly, I couldn’t believe they had the time and energy to devote to this “mystery”. This is definitely not something that is tolerated in our workplace culture, which explains why the confab took place in the ladies’ room. It was a startling experience!

    1. BRR*

      I’m kind of getting Mean Girls from this. You can’t just ask people why they’re white.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Ha, that was my thought. It is completely shocking how many people think it’s appropriate to ask mixed-race people, “What are you?”

        1. Jamie*

          If they are asking due to race, that’s weird – but people do ask that a lot just to make small talk – referring to ethnic descent.

          I have a very Polish last name and a very Polish maiden name – so I’ve gotten “you don’t look totally Polish – what are you?”

          Maybe it’s just a Chicago thing, but I pretty much know the main ethnic makeup of most white people with whom I work. Not because anyone is nosy, but because it just comes up a lot. We have a lot of ethnic festivals and everyone has an opinion on ethnic food – maybe that’s it.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I had an older relative who used to ask everyone he met about their ancestry, just because he was fascinated by it. That didn’t really bother me. I also have a last name that doesn’t match my appearance, and it’s led to some questions (which I don’t mind) and some assumptions about both my ethnicity and my religion (which I do). But I’ve seen my mixed-race friends get a lot more questioning about their backgrounds, and it’s often oddly hostile, like it’s their job to classify themselves and/or justify their ethnicity to whoever’s asking.

            1. Mints*

              Yeah this varies a lot based on how you look. I’m mixed race, but often read as white. And I get more questions when I’m not white passing. I used to sometimes say “Guess” when people asked “Where are you from / What are you” and it really really varied. Half white half…unicorn? Half black? Filipino? Mexican? But if they assumed white I usually wasn’t asked

              And if you want to hear a lecture, let me hear you say “How are you Latino/Mexican/other country if you look white/black/Asian?”

              I don’t mind talking about any of this, it’s the challenging tone that I hate

              1. JBeane*

                THIS. I get this question often and when it’s asked in a hostile manner, I get angry. This particular incident stood out because it took place at work (last place I’d expect), and I was a temp hoping to become permanent, so I didn’t feel like I could resort to my old standbys of sarcasm or creative storytelling. I honestly don’t mind telling the simple truth about my mixed heritage in response to a sincere question, but when I’m being interrogated about my ethnicity it feels like I have to justify my own existence.

          2. cuppa*

            It’s definitely a Chicago thing. I used to live there, and people ask a lot about your nationality or try to guess from your last name.

          3. Chris*

            this annoys me too. I am part polish and people mention the same thing. There is no answer. And I have been to Poland a few times and not everyone there looks “typical polish” either, so….

            1. Christine*

              I’m part Polish, and I have no idea what “typically Polish” looks like! I’m curious now!

    2. Jamie*

      Well can you blame them? How dare you go walking around with your own face and your own name? Kind of presumptuous to assume you can go through life being yourself.

      / sarcasm

      That’s shocking.

    3. Steve G*

      I don’t think this was a crazy question on their part. If I set up an appointment with a guy names Shlomo Engelberg and I get there and a black guy is standing there, I’m gonna ask a question or two before we get down to business! Like, are you the right person?!

      1. Mints*

        But there’s a pretty wide difference between “Oh you’re Kelly Nguyen?” in genuine surprise, versus interrogation. Because even if her coworkers were pretty confused, the only thing to say next is “Nice to meet you.” Not “I thought you would be Asian. Why aren’t you Asian?” And she had been there a week

        I know the difference between actual curiosity (which I love to indulge, and will talk to your ear off about my country) and interrogations from people who want to tell me about my identity

    4. Befuddled Squirrel*

      “What’s your ethnicity?” – Makes me uncomfortable, but most people seem to consider it friendly small talk.

      “Let me guess your ethnicity. Are you ____ ? You look _____.” – Also common but comes across as really creepy. What am I supposed to make of being told I look like I’m from a certain country?

    5. Marie*

      I get this SO MUCH! I do my best to share no information, and it makes them so mad. E.g.:
      “That’s an interesting name combination.”
      “Yes, isn’t it?”
      “Very unusual.”
      “Where does it come from?”
      “Well, it’s a double-barrel, so it’s a combination of two names.”

  57. Elizabeth*

    Not sure if this is “nosy” or just lack of boundaries, but when my boss learned my boyfriend is involved in TV production, she exclaimed loudly (in the middle of Starbucks, no less), “Elizabeth! Sleeping with the producer!”

    I get that she was teasing (she cultivates a very casual workplace), but as someone who tends to keep my personal life private, I got all tongue-tied and couldn’t do much more than offer an awkward chuckle while blushing about six ways to Sunday.

  58. Emmers*

    My mom is a notoriously picky gift recipient, and it can be difficult to gauge what she might like and what might ale her cringe. One Valentines Day, my dad enlisted my help to pick out something nice for her from the boutique where I worked. I chose a necklace and earring set that I thought was really pretty, wrapped them up, and handed them over to my dad. She hated them, and brought them back to the store one afternoon while I was working.

    My nosy coworker hovered around as I went through the embarrassment of my mom returning what I had picked out for her. After my mom left the counter to peruse the store, the coworker–let’s call her C–proceeded to tell me that she didn’t think my mom would like the jewelry when I picked it out, “but didn’t want to say anything.” Irritated, but not wanting to snap back at her, I left the counter and went to see what my mom was looking at. Undeterred, C followed us around the store until my mom found something she liked. C honestly meant well, but she turned what was already an uncomfortable scenario into a humiliating one.

    There were myriad other situations where she repeatedly stuck her nose in where it wasn’t desired. Private conversations with our manager were rarely private, and when she inadvertently found out about some major changes to our business before the manager and me, she let it slip that she knew something and then lorded it over us, “Oh I wish I could tell you, but I can’t…”

    She’s a great human being and we still keep in touch, but I am glad to not be working with her anymore.

  59. AGirlCalledFriday*

    When I was teaching overseas, my boss was very worried about me going back to America. Therefore, she would always question me about whether I was dating someone, why don’t I date this or that coworker?!!!, am I ok with being married and having children, she could set me up with a wealthy acquaintance that she knew…and if we hired another male employee, she and others would suggest that we date. It was…awkward, to say the least!

  60. GigglyPuff*

    After reading only half of these, I feel much better about my gossip, and oversharing habits. I like knowing gossip, but I know boundaries and when to keep it to myself. And while I dive right into certain personal details of my life, I can definitely read people well enough to know who couldn’t give a flying fig, and who wouldn’t mind at all hearing about my personal life. Seriously it’s nice to know, that for the most part, my tendency to overshare (within some limits), is not the worst thing in the world, in the lines I could overstep at, at work.

  61. Purr purr purr*

    I had a colleague who wanted to know how many men I had slept with! She asked me when we were at an informal pub quiz and literally all of my colleagues went silent. I told her that it wasn’t any of her business and then she was like, ‘Ah ok, you must be a slut then.’ I was furious! So furious that I said, ‘I could count them all on less than one hand,’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, right, OK,’ (with a snort, as though I was lying) and then asked, ‘So how many men have paid you for sex?’

    She was a cow. That was the moment when I slammed my drink down and considered smacking her in the face. Not my finest moment but thankfully my friends calmed me down before I inflicted any damage.

    1. littlemoose*

      My eyes. They have bugged completely out of my head. I wouldn’t ask my best friend that question, much less a coworker, whether in a pub setting or not!

  62. donne*

    This one wasn’t mine, but at my girlfriend’s old office, the “tier” you were in for insurance (and thus how much you paid for premiums) was based on a yearly health screening. She was placed into a “riskier” category based on being three pounds over “normal” weight. (And that was the only thing– everything else, cholesterol, etc, all well within normal ranges.) Aggravating for many reasons, but not the nosy coworker part.

    At her annual performance review, her (male) manager super awkwardly brought up the health screening, and started trying to discuss ways she could “improve her health”, i.e. ways to lose weight. My girlfriend has a history of anorexia, and was *flabbergasted* that her manager would talk to her about this. It was one of the finals nails in the coffin that led to her finding a new job, esp. when she found out her male coworkers didn’t get this “how to improve your health” discussion.

    1. Rat Racer*

      I had no idea that it was legal for employers to use those HSAs as a means to “tier” employees into risk brackets for health insurance. And then for a manager to bring it up at an end of year evaluation? That sounds like a serious HIPAA violation (unless you are not in the US, in which case I have no clue)

      1. MaryMary*

        It is legal (and not unusual) for employers to use biometric screening results or health risk assessments to tier health premiums.

        A manager could know what tier their direct reports are in (as could HR, payroll, etc), but knowing what medical conditional or health reason put the individuals in that tier is a HIPAA violation. Discussing it with your employees is definitely inappropriate, whether it’s a HIPAA violation or not.

        Last enrollment period, I purchased additional critical illness and accident coverage for myself (I’m single, those benefits are more beneficial for me than life insurance). My manager, who works with our internal benefit programs, told me he approved of my choices and congratulated me on my financial planning. Potentially a HIPAA violation, certainly inappropriate. The kicker: I work in employee benefits consulting.

  63. nuqotw*

    Not sure if this was nosy or just wildly inappropriate. I am female. When I was 17 or 18, a man (probably in his early 40s) whose job had nothing to do with mine asked me at the office water cooler if I ever thought about sex, and if so, what did I think. I was naive and had no clue what to say or even that this was totally out of line. I just remember how completely uncomfortable I was. I fumbled some response and excused myself. A woman (a full-fledged adult) in the office must have overheard the exchange because she pulled me aside later that day for a private conversation to explain that if anyone said anything that made me uncomfortable, I should by all means speak up and shut it down, and some ways to do that. I suspect she also said something to this man because he never spoke to me again, thank goodness.

    1. Observer*

      Wildly, outrageously inappropriate.

      And, good for the woman who gave you some pointers and shut the guy down.

      I’m not surprised that you didn’t know what to say – I think a lot of full fledged adults would have a problem with that. But, how do you reach that age and not know that such a question is inappropriate? That’s a genuine question, not a criticism.

      1. Flashback Thursday*

        In my previous job (at a call center), there was a person I had to work with to coordinate deliveries. He was creepy for a while, calling me sexy, etc., and I had to tell him several times that it was inappropriate and I wasn’t comfortable with it. Then I got married and moved to a different branch of the same company. I had to come up, and he had the nerve to ask me how my sex life with my husband was! Something nasty about newlywed habits. I was so disgusted I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I’m pretty sure I gave him stink eye and walked off.

        1. hildi*

          Something similar happened to me one time, too. It’s about the only time I wish I was a bitch because I was too shocked to say anything. Which made me look weak. It was worse becuase I was an officer in the military and the guy that said it was enlisted, which added a whole other level of wrong. I was so young and naive (i WISH there had been AAM back then) that I just laughed it off and moved on.

      2. nuqotw*

        I felt that something was wrong, but I thought that perhaps it was just my perception, and therefore dismissed the feeling – something possible only because I was young and had no frame of reference. Sure, I had been told that certain *categories* of behavior (sexual harassment, for example) were not okay, but I didn’t have the experience to recognize it in the moment for what it was. (I don’t think this phenomenon is uncommon among young women, actually, and more generally among young people. You know something is wrong, but you don’t know how wrong it is, if it’s worth making a stink about or if you will just come across as a whiny kid, you’re 17 and desperately want to appear “grown up” etc.)

        1. Flashback Thursday*

          This. It took me years to realize that inappropriate behavior on another person’s part is, by definition, not in my head. I don’t even like to think about the crap I put up with. It’s horrifying.

          I was so scared to speak up and have someone pooh pooh my feelings or experience that I hardly ever did.

          It’s sad.

  64. Jubilance*

    I just came in to say, I’m so glad I don’t have any truly nosy coworkers. I do have a coworker that loves to gossip, but at least she knows how to ask a question tactfully.

    I have never had someone say anything really rude to me, like “when are you going to get married?” or “when are you going to have a baby?” which is a shame because I’d love to tell that person to stay out of my relationship and my uterus.

  65. Andrea*

    OMG-K! She had real boundary and control issues:

    1. Commenting later on the conversation (client or personal) you had on the phone earlier (why do people hate open floor plans?).
    2. Insisting people dress up (read: where cheesy, color-coordinated sweaters) on major and minor holidays. Reminding people before and castigating after.
    3. Taking away her colleague’s CALCULATOR, stating she didn’t need it. We only worked on negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

    1. Jamie*

      I am dying just picturing my face and that of the vast majority of my co-workers if we were told to wear coordinating sweaters.

      What are we, the Von Trapps?

      I did have someone once give me a frowny face along with a “I thought you were Irish?” because I didn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

      I never wear green – I hate it and it does me no favors. That fashion choice doesn’t really change where my grandfather was born, though…not sure where the correlation is there.

      Seriously? The matching sweater thing would set off my cult radar and I’d be super nervous!

      1. Chinook*

        “I did have someone once give me a frowny face along with a “I thought you were Irish?” because I didn’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.”

        Ooohhh…if someone had the gall to say that to me, I would be tempted to say that my family always preferred orange. If that got a blank stare, which I totally would expect, I would then go on about how not every Irishman is Catholic and the colours usually represent which side of the religious/political divide you are on and, more importantly, my family left that type of division when they moved here. I would then follow up by pointing out that we are a complicated people from a complicated country who are more than a sterotype and, if they don’t ask Jim Cardinal down the hall why he isn’t wearing feathers for Aboriginal Day, then he sure as darn well better not be asking me where my green is.

        Yup – I have a high horse and I like it up here. And, for the record, I happen to have lots of shamrock jewelry and my dad does kind of look like a leprachaun, but I do resent that it is expected.

        1. OriginalYup*

          If I’m in a good mood, I say, “I’m Irish every day.” Otherwise, I just raise my eyebrow significantly and say, “How do you know I’m not wearing something green…somewhere?”

        2. MaryMary*

          My Dad is Polish, wears red and white on St. Patrick’s Day, and growls at anyone who tells him ‘everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!”

          I also have a friend who is Irish but Protestant, and she does wear orange on March 17.

      2. Malissa*

        Try having an Irish last name and being born on St. Patrick’s Day. By the time I was 15 I hated the color green. I have to be picky where I go out on my birthday because I have no patience for drunken tom foolery.

      3. Mallory*

        A bunch of coworkers spontaneously decided to wear a certain t-shirt on Fridays once. Our student professional organization chapter had t-shirts made up, and our dean bought all the staff one. Someone said, “I’m going to wear mine on Fridays”, someone else said, “Me too”, and an informal trend was born.

        Then when our new dean’s assistant came aboard, she tried to seize the trend and formalize it into “Everyone must wear university color t-shirts on Fridays” with nagging reminders all week long followed by castigation of the non-compliant from Friday into the next week . . . and our happy, spontaneous habit was abandoned by one and all.

    2. Pickles*

      Yes, this! When I got to my current office, they told me all about their blue Mondays, red Tuesdays, yellow Wednesdays, purple Thursdays, and green Fridays. I am not kidding. And some folks actually did it.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Did you actually work at the high school in Mean Girls, where on Wednesday they wore pink? Oh my god.

      2. arjay*

        I’d have to take PTO every Wednesday. I cannot successfully pull off any shade of yellow.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        At a previous job we had Argyle Wednesdays, but it was a) mostly a joke and b) became a joke because, for several weeks running, at least two coworkers in my department showed up wearing argyle sweaters on Wednesdays.

        1. Mallory*

          My coworker’s wife and her gay work husband have “gingham Fridays” in which they are the only two participants. They each have closets full of gingham clothing and they parade around in it every Friday. I kind of want to participate!

          Another group of faculty have been doing “jersey Fridays” for at least the past 8 years. It’s a longstanding tradition for some of the young men faculty (well, they were the young men faculty when the tradition started; they’re more the mid-career guys now).

          The rest of us just do jeans on Fridays. Now that it’s summer at the university, every day is Friday and we wear Friday clothes all summer long.

      4. MaryMary*

        I used to work at a casual dress office, and one manager jokingly instituted Dress Up Wednesday after a charming saleswoman at Men’s Wearhouse sold him several unnecessary dress shirts and ties. It was fun to swap the jeans for a dress on the occasional Wednesday. However, Formal Friday, where we would wear tuxedos and ballgowns to work, never got off the ground.

        1. Mallory*

          Some of the kids at my kids’ school do “Fancy Friday” where the boys wear suits and ties, and the girls wear dresses and heels. Neither of my kids does it so far, but they ‘ve both been talking about starting. My son asked me to buy him a Fancy Friday suit.

        2. Bender B Rodriguez*

          I occasionally did Formal Friday when I worked at a warehouse. Nothing quite to the fancy degree of tuxedos and ballgowns, but I would make my hair look nice and wear a blouse and dress pants with my sneakers.

      5. LD*

        My dentist’s office does this…but they are wearing company polos with the office name on them. It’s a uniform for them, not a choice.

  66. Chinook*

    My nosiest coworker would cover the reception desk while I was on coffee break. The company insisted that they couldn’t give us separate logins at the desk, so, in order to manage any urgent courier requests that came to the desk, I was required to let anyone covering the desk to be logged in as me. Well, I was having a personality conflict with nosy coworker and sent an email to my Office Manager explaining an issue (I couldn’t go and talk to her in person because reception always had to be covered and it wasn’t a private place for this type of conversation). I filed this email in my mailbox folder labelled “personal.”

    A few weeks later, Office Manager said that nosy coworker had complained that I was talking behind her back and had lied about her in an email. I asked O.M. if she had shared the email and she said I didn’t and neither had I. When we both asked N.C. whered she got her information, she said she figured that an email with her name in the subject line was meant for her or why else would I leave it in my mailbox (in a collapsed folder labelled “personal.”)

    The next day, they arranged for IT to get me a new computer that allowed for a separate login for those covering reception and N.C. was never asked to cover the front desk ever again.

  67. Transformer*

    I used to work in HR. Our department had an internal email group that we used to dicuss need to know HR information between locations (terminations, medical leaves, new policies that we were considering implementing, employee complaints, etc). Somehow, the VPs new admin convinced the IT guy to add her to all email lists including ours. It took two weeks of hearing anonymous gossip through the org before I figured out what was going on and removed her from all the lists and updated processes to make sure it didn’t happen again.

  68. ElleD*

    I complimented a coworker’s fabulous leather jacket and she told me that she would give it to me if I lost weight. She said this in front of my office nemesis and then cornered me in the elevator (office nemesis still in attendance) that she was being serious and wanted me to lose weight because she was concerned I may develop diabetes like her parents and lose a limb. She thought she was doing me a favor. Even though I am overweight I have no health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure. However, she still felt she could speak to me this way. it was totally humiliating. I went to HR and they told me there was not law to prevent a co worker talking to me about losing weight. *grumbles*

    1. KellyK*

      Wow. That is awful. I’m sorry anyone was that rude.

      Also, your HR is filled with cowardly weasels. There doesn’t have to be a law for her boss to tell her to knock that crap off.

  69. Lora*

    At a crappy summer college job, two of my co-workers went to a particularly…odd…church, which was very assertive about its members being on the alert for signs of the devil. Upon finding out that I did not go to a church they approved of, they took it upon themselves to go through my handbag and credit cards, looking for any combination of numbers on anything that could be remotely interpreted to say “666”. When I complained to the manager about people going through my personal things, I was told that it was OK for them because freedom of religion.

    Other stuff:
    -I’m from Amish country, and parts of my family are indeed Amish and Mennonite. When all the Amish TV shows were on, I got some really awesome questions about it.
    -Similarly, just because I grew up in a rural, conservative state, does not mean that I personally am conservative in my politics, and I would appreciate being left out of political discussions entirely, thanks.
    -As many other women have mentioned, my reproductive plans & love life are frequent topics of conversation.
    -What is it with asking people their age? FYI, all women everywhere are 27. We just are. What am I supposed to say to “wow, you look great for your age”? “Thanks, the botox is really helping I think”?
    -Yes, my sunburn is peeling. Nobody, NOBODY other than a dermatologist may peel bits of skin off my shoulders though. Jeez. On a similar note, don’t touch my hair. Yes it is long. Yes it’s my natural color. No, none of it is grey despite my advanced age (see above), it’s just genetics. Just don’t TOUCH people!
    -I indulge in spendy Lush shampoo/conditioner/shower gel sometimes; commentary such as “your Thursday shampoo smelled better” is unwelcome.

    1. Jamie*

      The shampoo thing is weird. I’ve had that, too.

      An old boss would walk by my desk and bury his face in my hair and inhale deeply and say – just what I needed, I love the smell of your shampoo. And when I changed he didn’t like it and asked me to go back to the old kind. He’d also comment on how soft my hair was and rub his cheek against my head before walking away.

      He also had a thing for noticing my socks – and if I went too many days in a row wearing plain colors he’d complain and ask when I was going to wear X or Y – and request specific socks I owned. It was really weird.

      He also, in the middle of a benchmarking event, where I was just standing quietly and people were speaking to him ( he was a very big deal – top of tptb chain) he made a clawing motion at me with his hand and meowed loudly. When I didn’t reply, because at this point I’m mortified and everyone is staring at him, he did it again – louder.

      The went back to talking to the suit he interrupted to do this. Still have no idea what that was about.

      Also called me on a Sunday morning because he was at the airport and bored and wondered if it was my job to come and keep him company until his flight left. I said no, that wasn’t my job, and he said okay – just checking.

      It definitely wasn’t flirting or anything sexual – just really bizarre. He was a difficult man to work for and could get very angry – but never at me so I actually had a better working relationship with him than anyone because he didn’t scare me. That created some weird bond I still don’t understand.

      But yeah – the shampoo. On season 1 of Everybody Loves Raymond Frank smells the babies heads deeply and sighs loudly saying “sucking in the youth! I’m sucking in the youth!” Except for the words it was the exact same action – and when I told my husband that when we were watching I got the weirdest look – like oh right, it’s not normal that my boss buries his face in my hair.

      1. Blue Anne*

        “An old boss would walk by my desk and bury his face in my hair and inhale deeply and say – just what I needed, I love the smell of your shampoo.”

        Oh my god. No, no, no. I would have punched that person in the face, no joke. You know when people rub their face in my hair and lovingly compliment me on how much they love the smell of my hair? When we are sweat-soaked and snuggling after awesome sex. That is it. That is the only time it’s appropriate. Holy crap.

    2. Lo*

      Your descriptions are absolutely hilarious, thank you for providing me some afternoon amusement.

      Your coworkers who have done the things you mentioned, as well as that original manager who clearly has no idea what freedom of religion actually means….WAY less hilarious.

    3. Jamie*

      The age thing – yes, why is that something people think is okay to ask now.

      I get that they think it’s a compliment but gasping when you hear my age and saying you didn’t think I was that old…or asking if my kids are stepkids because I don’t look old enough to have kids in college…well thanks. I know you think you’re being complimentary but all you’re doing is prolonging the conversation about how old I am.

      And I’m not bragging – I just have good skin but looking young =/= looking gorgeous so since I don’t take looking like a younger version of myself as much of a compliment this isn’t really doing anything for me.

      I did get some good advice from a family member ages ago…

      If you are going to lie about your age lie up. You don’t want people thinking you had a hard life if you shave too many years off – so add 20 years. Then no matter what people think you look fabulous.

      I may start using that so as to avoid the conversation.

      1. Lora*

        I’ve recently started saying “older than dirt,” “152,” “when I was a kid, we rode our pet dinosaurs to work” etc. and when they say, “you look good for your age” I tell them I drink the blood of virgins every full moon. Or that my secret is healthy exercise, green veggies, yogurt and tequila.

        Once, one of the new guys asked if, being Amish, I grew up without Internet. *sigh* When I was growing up, in order to use a computer at all, you had to learn FORTRAN…

        1. Rebecca*

          I tell people I get regular injections of nanobots. That shuts them up. And yes, my hair is natural, not dyed…just because I’m 51 doesn’t automatically = grey hair!!

      2. cuppa*

        I had someone recently ask me at work for my age out of the blue. I told him a ballpark figure and he said, “oh, I thought you were much older than that.”
        Thanks, dude.

      3. HR Diva*

        That’s what I do – I tell people that I am 72 and just lost 100 lbs. Then they stumble and say I look great.

    4. Rebecca*

      I had to chuckle at this – my social security number has 3 consecutive 6’s, and when people get all freaky about the ‘666’ thing, I love to bring it up just to watch the shocked facial expressions. I’ve actually had people say I should contact the government and demand they change it. Oh boy.

        1. Artemesia*

          A house the Reagans wanted to buy in California after they left office had a 666 address and they insisted it be renumbered.

        2. Mallory*

          I worked in the state revenue office for a couple of summers in high school/ college, and we always had to offer people the right of refusal when we came to the 666-numbered license plates. We’d always go through a few customers before somebody would finally say it didn’t “make no never-mind” to them.

      1. kat*

        Lol. My phone number contains 666 in the middle. I can always tell who is freaked out by it by the sudden pause.

        1. Windchime*

          I used to have a coworker who was married to a crazy guy. She borrowed my new Carlos Santana CD and loved it so much that she wanted to buy a copy, but he forbid her to because apparently “Santana” = “Satan”……because, y’know…..letters.

        2. A. Nonymous*

          I once stayed in a hotel room that was numbered 666. I laughed when the desk clerk told me the number. He told me that some people flat out refused to stay there.

          I was in the hotel for a conference and this was before cell phones, so my room phone rang a lot. I took to answering it, “Room 666! How the Hell are you?”

    5. chewbecca*

      On the age thing – I had someone try to surreptitiously try to gauge how old I was by asking me vague questions about when I went to/graduated from college.

      I had just gotten engaged and I think he was trying to figure out if I was “old enough” to get married, since I look like I’m in my early 20s (and I’ll appreciate that when I’m older!). I didn’t see why it was any of his business, even if I was 21 and engaged instead of 31.

      1. Bender B Rodriguez*

        I am so worried that gauging is going to come up when an interviewer goes over my resume.

        “Wow, you started that job in high school?!”
        “No, where did you get that idea?”
        “Well you earned your Bachelor’s five years later.”

        Cue embarrassed awkward explanation of why it took me eight years to get my degree, coming across as indecisive, flighty, a dreamer, and/or someone who makes terrible life choices.

        And on the other hand, there’s all of that grey hair thanks to genetics. My mother started going grey in her 20s; decades later, so did I.

  70. Anon*

    This can’t be completely unusual situation. At my previous job I had a coworker who some of us referred to (behind her back of course) as “the scorekeeper.” She had to know what everyone was doing at every point in time. She had to know what time people arrived at work (our set up was such that she could go the whole day without seeing whether someone was actually in the office and we often worked at other sites) and what time people departed. She had to know what everyone was working. She had to know whether everyone made deadline. She gossiped like CRAZY about everyone. She wasn’t a superior of anyone, a peer to all of those involved but she did also keep tabs on management. Much of this was her martyr syndrome, she wanted to make sure everyone knew she was working longer and on more projects than everyone else. But it got exhausting just working with her. To stay in her good graces and out of the target of her gossip, I would often make sure she knew when I was at work or when I was leaving and what I was working on. If we wanted to leave work early (and by early I mean long after we had been working 8 hours but before her) we would often sneak out. Sometimes this meant changing our exit route. If she asked someone else about your schedule or what you were working on, we would warn them that she was tallying the score and to be careful. It wasn’t nosey as in personal details like many of the posts above. If someone wants to ask about my child bearing decisions, I feel like I can just deflect. It was the professional nosey that drove me crazy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      And these are the people who have the lowest productivity, yet will tell you that they are absolutely killing themselves because they are working so hard.

  71. SerfinUSA*

    I have an extremely nosy coworker who monitors people’s monitors as she makes her rounds up & down our floor (among other nosy behaviors). I found a wallpaper sized meme saying “I found your nose. It was in my business again.” and used it as my desktop picture until I felt my point was made. I also found an animated wallpaper of a WW2 anti-Hitler poster depicting an ominous silhouette of a German soldier’s head. The eyes blinked periodically, and I think it said something about the Hun is watching you.

  72. Toothless*

    This is nothing compared to some of these, but when I lived in Illinois, I had a coworker who thought it was just fascinating that I’m from the South. Her questions started out fairly normal, but quickly began to reveal that her fantasy South was something out of Gone With The Wind and very, very racist. (“And the neighborhood you grew up in – were they plantation houses there? And the kind of neighborhood that keeps the wrong type out?”)

    She was very disappointed to learn that one of my grandfathers was a chicken farmer and the other was a chauffeur and that I never even met a debutante.

    1. Jamie*

      I find cultural stereotype questions baffling and sometimes hysterical when asked with a straight face.

      I did a semester abroad in high-school and met this awesome Dutch guy – first guy I ever saw who wore eyeliner who wasn’t in a band…anyway when he learned I was from Chicago (well the Chicago area, but I don’t expect people in Europe to recognize the suburb) he asked me how old I was when I got my first gun and do we keep them with us in school or is there a place we put them? Also, he was shocked I was not of Italian descent.

      So apparently all his info about Chicago came from seeing the Untouchables. :)

      When it’s not done with malice I find it amusing. The racist stuff you experienced, not so much.

      1. Chinook*

        “So apparently all his info about Chicago came from seeing the Untouchables. :)”

        As a Canadian, I know a lot of us who get this type of stuff a lot but there is a standard reponse that we all seem to have on hand from birth – the more outlandish it is (and as long as they are not berating us for not fitting that stereotype), the more we agree with them. This may explain why there are groups of Americans who not only believe that we go around in dog sleds and live in igloos but can honestly say they are right because this Canadian they knew confirmed it.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        In 2003, I was living in New York and visiting Europe. I met a German man through a class I was taking, and when he found out where I was from, he said, “Oh, New York! Didn’t you get attacked a few years ago?”

        Better than a cultural stereotype, I guess–I’ve gotten lots of questions about guns–but much harder to respond to in the moment.

      3. hildi*

        This makes me think of a work related association that I was part of several years ago. We had a national conference and the core group that I hung out with included a really fun loving woman from Arkansas with a deep and thick (to my ears) accent. I loved saying words after she said them because I was rolling them over my tonuge and just loved the sound of them. Fast forward to the following year when we all met up again and I apparently did the same thing (repeating some of her words). She told me that when she first met me she thought I was making fun of her, but then realized that it was just how I learn! haha – she was totally right. I’m glad she didn’t get offended becuase I’d never make fun of someone about that – especially to their face. But I didn’t realize I was doing it so noticeably!

    2. Anonsie*

      Oh I hear this one. I’m from Texas and it’s insane the things people believe about the state, or the South in general.

      Though I usually get the opposite of this specific reaction. A significant part of the American population sincerely believes that the South is just racism (and the only place racism exists, natch) and anti-intellectualism turned into flesh and soil. A lot of folks really believe Texans are single-handedly keeping this country from becoming a utopian society with streets paved in gold.

        1. Anonsie*

          Oh no, I’m talking about other Americans. If it was someone who grew up somewhere else, I’d understand it more.

        2. A Kate*

          Whaa??? But this goes against the stereotypes most Americans have about Germany. You all drive BMWs really fast on the Autobahn, right? ;-)

        3. Peep!*

          An acquaintance of mine asked our German friend (first time meeting) if Germany had re-built much since WWII.

          WHAT. I almost fainted! SO AWKWARD. And he wanted to be a history teacher, too, which was embarrassing.

          1. Eli*

            Oh my GOD. I would have died. (Although, Brit here, so it would be even less excusable). Have you seen that Fawlty Towers sketch? :)

            1. Peep!*

              Oh man, I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like if we were British instead. Sigh. But no! I’ve only seen a few episodes of Fawlty Towers, so I guess I need to catch up on netflix! I’m cringing in anticipation, haha! ;D

    3. Anonylicious*

      If you’re white and from the South, you will so find out who the racists are when you move to other parts of the country. They’ll just say things and assume you’ll be okay with it, and I’m all, wtf is wrong with you? It’s an interesting, if disturbing, phenomenon.

      1. KerryOwl*

        It might not have anything to do with being from the south. I’m white and in the northeast, and am always amazed when people are casually racist in front of me, and expect a “I know, right?” reaction. I guess racists think that everybody is racist? You’d think they’d want to feel out their audience first.

        1. Bea W*

          I’ve had the same experience my entire life. Definitely not just a “I know you’re from the South” phenomena. It’s more of a “casual racism is acceptable” kind of thing, more pervasive in some areas than others.

        2. AC*

          This happened to me in Target! A guy literally looked me up and down, then started talking about how disgraceful it was that Spanish was on the labels. What makes it worse? Yeah, I’m mostly Caucasian, but I’m also part Hispanic. STFU, dude.

          1. Bender B Rodriguez*

            My s.o. once had a customer who was discussing the imbalanced amount of snow this region received. Lots of snow in our neighborhood which has predominantly (but not 100%) low-income households. Not much snow in the affluent suburb where he works. The customer insisted, “that’s what they get for living down there.”

      2. Artemesia*

        So absolutely true. I am not from the south but lived there for several decades, so when asked where we moved from, I say ‘big southern city’ — and get the exact thing happening you mention.

  73. Pickles*

    My nosiest coworker likes to know everything, but refuses to share sources. He might be useful, except I’m in a position to find out the real story most of the time, and he’s often misconstrued or warped something. The number of times he’s given out information to the office or given project direction as if he’s in a position of authority (he isn’t) is astounding, and he’s confused a lot of his peers as to whether he’s in charge of things. He asks a lot of nosy questions that aren’t his business, shows up to high-level meetings he wasn’t invited to, refuses to share office leadership what he’s working on (or that he’s going to these meetings), disappears for hours at a time, gets away with doing very little work that’s usually poor quality, switches conversations on his career goals to someone else entirely as if it’s his business, and uses his wife’s position of authority to try to task people. (Sadly, I’m not in a position to do much about his behavior.)

    Speaking of his wife, for someone who’s really nosy, he was deliberately silent about his wife. They were both in the same office at the time they got engaged, and thought they could keep working directly together without issues even though she’s in a position of authority and he’s not (being the person who got to clean up the mess, there were a TON of issues with this). Most of the office found out they were dating when she showed up with a giant rock on her left hand – and the entire thing got a lot of raised eyebrows because a) no one knew she’d gotten divorced until then, and b) everyone thought it was incredibly weird with how sneaky they were being about the whole thing.

  74. Xay*

    Many years ago, I had a coworker who thought she was a supervisor or at least her idea of a supervisor. She arrived first and left last and kept track of everyone’s comings and goings, including walking past everyone’s office and cubicle to see what they were doing. She also liked to hover around the fax machine to see if people were getting personal faxes and then gossip about people who have the nerve to use government resources to buy houses or handle medical business. Away from work, she was a nice person but as a coworker, not so much.


    I had a supervisor that was going through my desk at night. After a couple of side-bar comments in which left me puzzled as to ‘how did she know?” type of facial expressions. I finally figured it out. I started leaving notes in my desk to her. She stopped.

  76. Mena*

    Early in my career I had an older colleague present me with “Dress for Success,” explaining that the book could help me. This person was a freak in her dressing choices and as soon as I could afford to dress for success, I certainly did (but at that time, food, shelter, and transportation took much of my salary).

    I still laugh remembering her suits!!

  77. MDum*

    Not a nosy coworker but a nosy classmate who opened everyone’s mailboxes (so about 400 mailboxes) to check their test scores on the TOEIC and went to see the few who obtained better score than him to yell at them that it wasn’t fair.

  78. CAS*

    Some years back, I was working as a bank teller with a coworker named Nancy. Nancy had embraced the idea of reducing her dietary fat intake. She decided not only that she wasn’t going to consume fat; she also decided the rest of us also should not consume fat.

    Nancy paraded around the bank lobby several times each day with stories about the minuscule amount of fat she’d consumed. If she had a no-fat day, it was a big deal.

    Then Nancy began patrolling the break room, where she monitored everyone else’s fat consumption. Over the lunch period and break times, Nancy entered the break room, observed our food, and commented about the fat content. The comments always began with, “That has a lot of fat in it,” and ended with, “Are you sure you should be eating that?”

    No one appreciated Nancy’s commentary about their food choices. We would respond with some variant of, “You’re not eating it,” or “Yes, and I’m enjoying it.” This went on for months.

    The problem resolved itself naturally after Nancy had a doctor’s appointment. She’d been looking forward to the appointment because she was certain her doctor would be blown away by her fabulous cholesterol level. Seriously.

    Her doctor was blown away, but not in the way Nancy had hoped. Her diet had completely messed up her blood chemistry, and the doctor referred her to a dietitian for help. I give Nancy credit for sharing that with us. We never heard another word about fat again.

    1. Onymouse*

      Poor Nancy. It sounds like she wasn’t trying to pry as much as “mother” everyone around her. I’m sympathetic, especially after how it ended.

    2. Rebecca*

      Yep, the no fat police. People need fat in their diet, and while sitting down with a big spoon and a five gallon lard can isn’t the solution, there are good fats that are beneficial.

      I had a former coworker who jumped on this bandwagon when the Snackwell cookies came out, trumpeted as No Fat. She ate boxes upon boxes of them, and was shocked when she gained 8 lbs in a month. She was almost crying when she said “but they don’t have any fat in them!!”, and we had to gently remind her they still had calories.

      1. CAS*

        Exactly. I wish I could explain Nancy’s attitude. She bragged constantly about how little fat she was consuming and used herself as the barometer for what the rest of us should be eating. It would be one thing if she were expressing it in a caring manner, but she wasn’t. She was bragging and judging and putting her nose in other people’s lunches. It was obnoxious.

        “Peanut butter?! Do you know how much fat is in that?!” Yes.
        “There’s fat in that turkey, you know.” Yes. Yes, I do.
        “I don’t know how you can eat that cheese.” Watch me.

        1. Laura*

          “I don’t know how you can eat that cheese.”

          “Well, I insert it into my mouth, and then I close my jaw so that these hard objects called ‘teeth’ cut into it, and….”

          …also, she would have driven me utterly batty in very short order.

  79. AVP*

    I’m 29, female, and I happen to have dense bone structure and weigh significantly more than I appear to (if you were just guessing based on my appearance). Recently we were doing a video shoot and needed someone to stand on a scale for a shot. Not thinking about it too much, I volunteered as I happened to be wearing the right kind of shoes. Would have been fine, except my (late 50’s male ) boss could NOT believe the number on the scale, and kept telling me that it must be broken, could not be right. “You weigh MORE THAN ME how is that POSSIBLE” on and on for like 5 minutes straight while I cringed. So then he gets on it to prove it must be wrong and of course it wasn’t. All while my two very sweet colleagues were trying to run interference, “AVP don’t listen to him you’re totally fine this is ridiculous DUDE SHUT UP” and, totally oblivious to the awkwardness, my boss just kept going and going on how crazy my weight was and how I shouldn’t worry because people would never know.

    I’m not weird about my weight and I don’t really care who knows what the number is, but I do regret volunteering for that particular task.

    1. Jamie*

      Are you going to be around for the open thread tomorrow? Because I’ve never known anyone else with this and I have questions. :)

      1. AVP*

        Yes! Not on Sunday though. Since it technically relates to my boss in this situation I’m sure you can slip it in :)

    2. Nelly*

      I’m the same. Massive shoulders/bones for a woman, plus I do weight lifting so I’m heavy with muscle. I look solid, but not like I’d weigh a whole lot.

      Many years ago I was at a fete, and they had a ‘guess your weight’ guy, and I won a really good prize as he was about 20 kg off! It was an almost life-sized toy leopard, which I still have!