tales of office busybodies: your nosiest coworkers

Most office have at least one nosy coworker – that person who asks inappropriate questions about your personal life, constantly comments on what you eat, or tries to find out what every closed-door meeting is about. Sound familiar?

I recently asked readers to share their accounts of working with nosy coworkers. I’ve rounded up my 10 favorites below.

1. Share your weight with the office

“A few years ago, I worked for a large retail store. Our store team leaders decided that, to emphasize the wellness benefits we received, 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.”

2. Crawled through the ceiling to snoop

“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.”

3. Covertly followed a sick employee home

“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.”

4. What real men should do

“One of my current coworkers has trouble believing that I, a 24-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. It’s really best not to ask about people’s reproductive plans.”

5. Snooping secretary

“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.

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.

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 have had our own reality show filmed.”

6. Pregnancy prying

“The HR manager at our relatively small organization has, on more than one occasion, pulled me aside and given me the ‘You know, you really need to tell me if you’re pregnant’ speech, all under the guise of trying to be some sort of big sister figure to me. She keeps insisting its because I ‘go to the bathroom a lot.’ Obviously I’m thrilled that she’s that interested in keeping tabs on my trips to the bathroom as well.

She doesn’t realize that this is not only incredibly nosy and intrusive, but incredibly hurtful to me- about a year ago I found out that I am not able to have children, so it is a really sensitive issue for me. Yes still, it has come up about 3-4 times this past year.”

7. Executive assistant abusing her access

“Our CEO had to stop giving our office’s executive assistant 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.’”

8. Inappropriate question barrage

“I had a teenage coworker in a retail job who I think honestly did not know there was anything 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.”

9. Horrible cancer response

“I have cancer and shortly after diagnosis a coworker asked how much longer I was expected to live. I just shook my head, said ‘Wow,’ and walked away.”

10. Food monitor

“My coworker has taken it upon herself to monitor my daily food choices. She 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 originally published this at Intuit QuickBase’s blog.

{ 295 comments… read them below }

  1. Lucy*

    While this pales in comparison to some of these horror stories, I can’t stand when coworkers comment on what you’re eating (or not eating). If I decline cake at a goodbye party, I’m not “being good.”

    1. Once Anon a Time*

      100% agreed! I also hate when coworkers comment that you aren’t “being good.”

      Example: the other day I ate a cheeseburger for lunch because I was really in the mood for one. A coworker commented that it was so great that I didn’t have to watch what I ate. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable while she sat there eating her half sandwich.

      1. the invisible one*

        Would some snark back be appropriate?

        “I’m watching what *I* eat, not what *you* eat.” (eyes on own meal)

        Or some variation. “I am watching what I eat. I’m not sure why you’re watching what I eat too.”

        I’ve had people comment on how I’m “being good” for declining sweets or cake (no, I just don’t feel like eating sweets right now), or packing a lunch instead of buying a burger (I’m cheap, get over it).

        And the *pressure* to take a donut at work. Argh.

      1. Anonathon*

        HA. I’m stealing that.

        (Can’t even begin to describe how much I despise the “being good” phrase … Food choices are not moralistic.)

        1. KerryOwl*

          Eh . . . I use it (though only for myself, never to comment on anyone else’s choices) because I’d rather say that than say I’m on a diet. Because I’m not on a diet. I do have to . . . refrain from eating every single thing I want to eat though, because otherwise I’d survive on, like, blueberries and Twix bars, or something.

          Does anyone have a graceful way of saying “no thanks?” Actually I guess I could just leave it at that . . .

          1. James M*

            “No thanks” and variation thereof are short, sweet, and to the point. I see no need to launch the ol’ “Four score and seven twinkies ago…”

          2. Anon*

            If someone pushes for explanation after “no thanks,” you could specify that the food isn’t good *for you* to avoid the food moralizing thing.

            I don’t drink, and I find that the vague personal reason really makes a difference in how “no thanks” goes over.

    2. OriginalYup*

      The reproductive comments at work always blow my mind for sheer WTFness, but it’s the Food Police busybody-ing that makes me absolutely insane.

      I almost wish someone had an email service like the one Alison used to have for interviewers, to tell people anonymously that they need to keep their eyes on their own plate.

      1. Rebecca*

        Totally agreed! The food police are the worst. I finally shut down our Doctor Oz fan. She saw me with flavored coffee creamer, and asked if she could see it. She promptly flipped it over, read the ingredients out loud, and started to criticize it because it had artificial stuff in it. Then she loudly stated that she uses only Bailey’s coffee creamer, and read the ingredients. I cut her off and reminded her that she ate Swiss Cake rolls every single day, and how dare she criticize my coffee creamer when she ate that crap? I said “this is my Swiss Cake roll, so leave my creamer alone”.

        She’s never made another comment about my food choices, although I can tell she really wants to sometimes. I’m totally prepared to shut her down again. It’s truly none of her business what I eat or don’t eat.

        Sorry for the rant…this is one of my hot button issues.

        1. fposte*

          Seriously. Random evangelism, whether it’s about religion, food, or Amway, is out of line in the office and generally unwelcome anywhere.

          1. nep*

            Hear, hear on food-evangelism and any other kind of evangelism.
            The garbage-picker example — oh my goodness. There are some troubled individuals out there with waaaaay too much time on their hands.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I have to wonder if people like that don’t have some kind of mental illness. Picking through someone’s garbage for “evidence” at work when the evidence is pointing toward something innocuous and personal like what a person eats is just weird.

          2. Steve G*

            Agreed…but at the same time it can be uncomfortable watching someone very overweight, or with a face red form high blood pressure, etc. gorging themselves in the office.

            Same feeling as watching a drunk alcoholic ordering more drinks. The comments don’t always come from a place of nastyness….

            1. The Real Ash*

              It might be uncomfortable but it’s also none of your business and you have to no right to say anything to them.

              1. Ruffingit*

                This. Because they are aware of their health issues and what they should be doing to control them. They are choosing not to do those things. People are allowed to make bad choices for themselves without comments from others. That’s part of being an adult. Make your own choices.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          I just don’t get this. Who freaking cares? The only commentary I ever make on what anyone’s eating is to say, “Oh, that looks good!” if someone takes something yummy looking out of the office microwave, or is standing beside me in line with something from the office cafe that looks delicious.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I know, me too. I don’t care if my coworker eats McDonald’s every day–it’s not my stomach that has to digest it. But if they have something yummy, I want to know where I can get some.

          2. some1*

            Even that isn’t fool proof. One (socially awkward) co-worker took my “That looks good” as asking for some. And, no, I wasn’t over-eager.

            1. Mallory*

              Ha. One of the professors in my department gave me a slice of cake that she bought at a bake sale, and I had it sitting on my desk.

              Another professor came in and saw it and was like, “Madame Mallory, what is this I see on your desk?”

              “Prof. So-and-So brought me a piece of cake.”

              “It looks goood . . . ”

              I said something noncommital like, “Yeah, it does,” or some such. He waited around for a little bit, fidgeting with his coffee preparations and whatnot, and then with wistful hopefulness:

              “I wonder what it tastes like . . .”

              I’m kind of mean, so I just let his inquiry lie there and chose not to pick up on it.

          3. Ellie H*

            Heh, I am totally neurotic about such things and I hate even that. I wish I could become invisible while eating/preparing food (except with family or close friends).

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Ha. I never thought about that. I like talking with people when they have something that looks good, especially at the office microwave. Often they’ll tell me what it is, and I’ll add it to my mental to-do list to find a recipe and try it. I love to cook, and trying new things. I have a husband, 2 kids, and a mother-in-law to feed, so I try to have quite a few different things in the dinner menu rotation.

              One time I did surprise/impress the director I report up to. He’s from India, and one day I he saw what I pulled out of the microwave and asked what I had, because it looked like Indian food (which it was). I’d made up some samosas — the little turnover things that are deep fried and filled with meat and/or veggies — which I just love. The deep-friend part isn’t too healthy, but the filling is — ground chicken, chickpeas, spinach, and spices. I just make the filling, and then put it in a piece of flat bread.

              1. fposte*

                I love the typo of “deep-friend”–that’s how I feel too :-).

                My impression is that deep frying isn’t inherently bad anyway–that if you do it at the right temperature, stuff doesn’t pick up much more oil than if it was sautéed.

                1. Elysian*

                  I am going to take this comment at face value and not do any research at all on it, and just go forward in my life choosing to believe this is true. Thank you.

                2. Ann Furthermore*

                  Ha! Subliminal message if ever there was one. You’re probably right, I just don’t ever deep fry anything because it’s kind of a pain….all that oil, heat it up, wait for the right temperature, and so on. Then you’ve got a bunch of oil to get rid of, and at least in our house, my husband has told me it’s not good for the plumbing to pour large amounts of grease down the drain, even with the disposal running.

        3. Ann Furthermore*

          Also, that story reminds me of my sister-in-law, who will say things like, “Deodorant causes cancer, so I only use the all-natural variety,” while puffing on a cigarette.

          1. Cat*

            My friend’s douchey chainsmoking boyfriend once gave me a lecture about how unhealthy diet coke is (with some added “women are so silly for thinking it’s healthy for good measure). If I didn’t love that friend dearly I would have decked him.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              One of my most treasured memories is of the time in high school that a dude in the year ahead of me, the stoniest stoner in the place, looked at the can of Diet Coke in my hand and said “Do you know that every fluid ounce of that stuff you drink destroys, like, ten thousand brain cells?”

              I have three master’s degrees and no doctorate, so he may have been on to something …

          2. Rose*

            Oh my god. My brother’s girlfriend moved into my parents house while one summer (I was a college junior, they were 23, she moved in uninvited).

            One day, she took it upon herself to throw away ALL of my mom’s food, and replace everything, even the ketchup, with organic, vegan versions of itself. She told here that the local cheese we had was “unhealthy.”

            This girl smoked a pack a day and left the buts on our front walk. We should form a club.

            1. Jamie*

              Ketchup? My kids are lucky they are still allowed to live at home if they forget to put it on the list when they open a new bottle.

              You don’t throw out ketchup. How would I eat? Anything?

              Her smokes wouldn’t be the only butts on the curb.

            2. Ann Furthermore*

              In my house throwing away any food is a grave offense, because nothing ticks me off more than spending money on something that doesn’t get used before it goes bad. Grrr. I am the leftovers police with my family, and one night each week is deemed to be leftovers night for dinner. I do my part and take them for lunch almost every day, but I can’t do it all myself.

              It’s ridiculous for people to do things like this, because none of us is perfect. And I say this as a struggling-to-be-former smoker. I would never criticize anyone for their food choices, much less take it upon myself to remove “unhealthy” items from anyone’s pantry. I have plenty of bad habits myself.

              1. Laura*

                I would be so furious at the waste. It wouldn’t matter that she replaced it with “better” versions: she caused food to be wasted, *on purpose*.

                Wasting it because you don’t finish it is bad enough (but sadly, not uncommon around here…I try), but to deliberately throw out stuff – that someone else had and wanted–!

                Also, it’s entirely possible that she threw out things that were a better choice by the original owner’s food requirements and preferences (not just nutrition, but allergies, calories, fat, carbs, sensitivities of various sorts, taste preferences…).


            3. holly*

              that is so far out there. you don’t mess with someone else’s food! i am trying really hard to just imagine my mother’s reaction if a friend of mine did that. it wouldn’t be pretty.

              1. holly*

                haha, i’m also trying to imagine my boyfriend’s mother’s reaction if i did this. she is the nicest person and i think she would completely lose it.

          3. Ellie H*

            This is completely off-topic but I hope it’s not too derailing . . . regardless of whether or not it causes cancer, I did switch to the “natural” type of deodorant (I use Tom’s of Maine) about a year ago and it literally was life-changing. I used to think I was the kind of person who sweated more than average but it was just a reaction to the deodorant chemicals. I can rewear shirts now which I never could before. I’ve converted a couple people who had the exact same reaction (agreeing it’s “life-changing”!) too.

            1. Us, Too*

              It was life-changing when I did it, too. Unfortunately, not in a good way. I just stank. LOL.

              1. Ellie H*

                It took me a week or two before it started working. I know everyone has different chemistry or whatever but I absolutely sweat less, smell less and my shirts don’t smell after wearing them, and they don’t get those stains either.

              2. ChiTown Lurker*

                +1 except in the winter. I can use it then. Tom’s is the reason I have deodorant in my office drawer.

              3. Rana*

                My problem with most natural deodorants is that they only work for a month or two then they fail catastrophically. I was rotating between several for a while until I found out about the salt crystal kind. Those? Work.

        4. Artemesia*

          Dr. Oz fan says it all. If anyone has any doubts as to his credibility just look at the irrelevant but disturbing pictures he puts in his ads to suck people in.

          1. iseeshiny*

            Yes! Anyone see John Oliver’s bit on Dr. Oz’s “flowery language?” So hilarious.

              1. Alter_ego*

                You may have already heard of it, but he done a weekly podcast called the bugle with another comedian for years and years now. It’s incredible, and similar humor and setup to his show.

            1. Kelly O*

              If I were the kind of person who had a laminated list, I would put John Oliver right up top.

              I was laughing so hard at that I had to pause, regain my composure, and start over.

          2. Chloe Silverado*

            My mother is a Dr. Oz fan. At least once a week I get emailed a link about a superfood that is going to change my life. It’s exhausting.

            1. Editor*

              Sen. Elizabeth Warren really hammered Dr. Oz at a senate hearing. I saw the clip somewhere and it was awesome — I assume googling it would bring it up. She nailed him on recommending “cures” that don’t work, and his only defense was a lame, well, I’m enthusiastic because I want to give my audience hope. But I’m guessing his charitable attitude is undergirded by a nice, profitable return on his shilling.

            2. Rana*

              Dr. Oz accounts for a good quarter of my spam. (Not directly, but topics drawn from whatever miracle he’s currently hawking show up in the headers frequently.)

        5. James M*

          Lol! Sometimes tu quoque works beautifully.

          Personally, the most appetizing ingredient in flavored creamers is silicon dioxide (inert anti-caking agent). People think I’m crazy when I put dry milk in my coffee/tea at work; I don’t think they realize it’s just ‘dairy creamer’.

        6. Jessa*

          Honestly the food police are awful (what if you have an eating disorder, they could be so totally triggery.) Also so bloody judgemental about everything people do. Eat, not eat, whatever. And OMG if you say no thank you to booze, then you’re “Oh are you religious or pregnant or medical or what,” because you can’t just hate booze or not want to drink any, you have to have a reason, and that reason must be something they think is a VALID reason.

          I’m at a tie though with the pregnancy status people because, seriously? What if the person they ask just lost a baby, or can’t have one, or doesn’t want one, geez.

          Food and babies, people need to shut up about these things.

      2. BRR*

        Those were they two overarching themes to me from the original post. I can’t even imagine what makes people think it’s ok to go up to others and comment on what they should do regarding their reproduction or what they eat. I have a coworker who has talked about their struggle with their weight (unsolicited) and they eat this yogurt every morning that is full of sugar and I really want to let them know so as to help them but I don’t because I don’t want to be in their business.

        1. IndieGir*

          Bless you, bless you for your restraint. Because for all you know, the yogurt may be their one sweet treat for the day and fully integrated into their caloric requirements.

          1. BRR*

            I will admit I’m assuming. This person has also talked about improving their diet and yogurt is an item that is frequently broadcast as being health however many brands are not. But it doesn’t really matter because there’s no reason for me to discuss what they eat or drink.

      3. Lucy*

        Yes! Someone recently asked me if my boss was pregnant (“or, maybe it’s just the dress she’s wearing?”) I was stunned.

    3. Jen*

      Most of the time with the food-focused, you can’t win. I used to work with two women and they were impossible. If I had a small bowl of soup, I was harassed with “Is that ALL your eating? You aren’t going to eat more than that? Do you have some sort of eating disorder? That’s crazy! That’s not enough food!” but if I went to McDonalds and got a cheeseburger and fries I was harassed with “Oh man, how can you eat all of that junk?! Do you throw it up? If I ate all of that, I’d gain 20 lbs. How on earth can you eat that?”


      1. Muriel Heslop*

        My coworker likes to comment that I am “a cow” because I eat “grass” (otherwise known as “salad” and “broccoli”.) I prefer that to my other co-worker who is constantly worrying aloud that I am going to wear a skimpy bikini – inappropriate for moms, apparently- when I take my kids to the pool.

        People shouldn’t amaze me…but they do!

        1. en pointe*

          You can be a cow, I’m a rabbit. Seriously, my coworker who starts talking about my ‘rabbit food’ at the mere sight of a lettuce leaf pisses me off.

        2. Arbynka*

          Your coworker worried that you will wear skimpy bikiny ? When you take your kids to the pool ? Why…how…why… WOW.

        3. Ruffingit*

          Sounds like jealousy to me otherwise why mention skimpy bikini? UGH, such crap. What you eat or don’t eat is your business.

    4. Stephanie*

      I hate “live a little” from the Food Police because the food offered at my jobs was rarely worth “living for.” If I’m going to have some extra ass dimples, it’s going to be for a pecan bar from the bakery near my house, NOT dry Safeway cake in the break room, thankyouverymuch.

      1. iseeshiny*

        +10000 I don’t like cake. My not eating the cake is in no way a judgement on your eating the cake, nor do I want your opinion on whether or not I eat the cake or your feelings on whether you should eat the cake or what you have done or are planning to do in order to justify eating the cake. I just don’t want to eat the damn cake.

      2. chewbecca*

        I hate hate hate food pushers. When I was using My Fitness Pal to lose weight a couple years ago, I started getting really frustrated with people who would comment on what I was eating and then try to get me to eat more.

        What I was eating was within the range I could have, and I was by no means starving myself, so it really wasn’t their problem. Except somehow it was.

    5. MM*

      I hate when people comment that I’ve lost weight or that I’m too thin. I’m totally average sized but I tend to lose weight when I’m stressed or busy. I find it so rude.I wouldn’t comment that someone has put on some weight or that they’re too fat. Talking about someone’s body in general is unnecessary!

  2. Agnes*


    Coworker: Oh, I’m just going through your trash looking for evidence that you eat.

    You: Now that you know I’m a robot, not a human, my programming requires me to kill you to keep this secret.

    1. Anon for this*

      The weight/food thing – if anyone reading is still doing this (because it’s so common stats would indicate some of you are guilty) please stop.

      I’ve lost some weight this year – about 50 lbs and no one had said a word until this week. 4 separate people came up to me to mention how much weight I lost. So 47 lbs was unnoticeable, but the last 3 made me a different person? I don’t know, I read somewhere this is a thing and not just with me.

      Anyway, I have to bite my tongue because I have the perfect response which would totally break them of this habit for life but I just can’t do it.

      Them: OMG how much weight have you lost? You look amazing!

      Me: Slightly scared, wide eyed expression and look them dead in the eyes and say, in total seriousness, “you still can’t have sex with me.”

      That would totally make them think twice before commenting.

      And I know they aren’t being sexual when they say it – but it might hammer home the point of how irrelevant my body is to you unless we’re in some kind of sexual relationship and the absurdity of my confusion over their interest might make the point.

      I wish I was brave enough to do this.

      1. Anon*

        So people complementing you on your weight lost is not appropriate? That’s not reasonable

        1. Arbynka*

          No, I do not think people should compliment others on weight loss. I have chronic condition that can make me lose (or gain ) weight. When I am losing weight I feel sick and miserable and depending on where my starting weight was, sometimes downright scared. Weight lost is not always a good thing. It is hard when I worry about ending up in hospital again and people congratulate me on weight loss. Oh , it is so great, how do you do it ? Ehm, I am sick.

          1. Maggie*

            I tend to agree. One never knows whether the gain or loss is their choice. I lost 20lbs from an already small frame last year due to stress and illness and BELEIVE ME I would much rather have my ass back then have people ‘compliment’ my weight. And I miss my wardrobe and can’t afford new clothes. Compliments just remind me of all the stress.

          2. Anonylicious*

            This, exactly. I lost twenty pounds in a month a couple of years ago due to illness and people told me how “great” I looked, which really only meant “thin,” because I looked as terrible as I felt otherwise.

            Just don’t discuss coworkers’ appearances unless it’s solicited.

          3. Jessa*

            My mother lost 100lbs over time (and was still obese,) everyone from her doctor on down was YAAAAY finally weight loss. However after 50 years of trying and not succeeding, nobody bothered to figure out why. By the time they found the cancer nobody was looking for it was way too late to ask why she lost 100lbs.

            SERIOUSLY talking about people’s food, weight, body size, etc. is just not ON. Someone losing weight could be ill, someone gaining weight could have a thyroid issue or a medication issue, someone could have an eating disorder (and BTW, people with eating disorders can go into relapses when people comment on stuff and point things out to them, leave it to their doctors please.)

            The person you compliment on losing weight could have been my mother.

            1. MinB*

              THANK YOU. I haven’t had an eating disorder relapse in 6 years but any time a coworker gets a piece of cake from the break room and jokes about how they’re “such a fatty” (seriously) or “sooooo bad!” those old thoughts start to creep back and I have to spend a lot of mental energy reminding myself that I’m fine how I am and I don’t need to go down that road again.

        2. superanon*

          How do you know it’s a good thing, though? The person could have cancer, or not be able to afford food, or have a tapeworm, or who knows what the problem is.

          Even if the person has been doing the whole “eat right and work out” thing, their body is none of your business.

          1. Laura*

            THIS! With the obvious exception of responding to someone who is saying something like “I’ve lost weight – what do you think?” or the like. That’s fishing for compliments, in which case giving them isn’t rude if you want to give them. (Yes, this has happened in my office.)

        3. Frieda*

          It’s impolite to comment on someone’s body at all. After my brother died I started having panic attacks almost daily, and the constant anxiety made me too nauseous to eat much–so I lost 50 lbs in 2 months. How does one respond to “You’ve lost weight! What’s your secret?” in that situation?

          Unless you KNOW someone is actively trying to lose weight, don’t mention it. Maybe they are dealing with an illness that is affecting their weight, or an eating disorder, or any number of things.

          1. Jamie*

            Yes, especially at work. Because sure, it’s a common social “nicety” that many people are okay with, but it’s still appraising someone’s body and giving them unsolicited feedback about it.

            People who are open about it and talk about it, totally fine, but if someone never mentions weight or food…general compliments like you look great, or whatever are fine – because it could as easily been about the outfit or a good hair day.

            It’s the appraising of someone’s body in the workplace where it’s a captive audience that makes it icky – as long as all of the other issues people have brought up. People get sick, people have eating disorders, all kinds of things.

            It’s just a good rule of thumb not to comment on someone elses body unless they have made it 100% clear it’s welcome. We don’t comment on other changes – if I got a boob job or a facelift no one would talk about it, weight should be in that category by default unless you know otherwise.

          2. Rose*

            Sometime really similar happened to me. I’m not even close to overweight, I exercise 4-5 times a week, and I eat healthy. I lost 10 pounds a few months ago because I was throwing everything I at (medical problem, not bulimia).

            Everyone told me how pretty I looked. ummmmm… thanks????

            It made me feel like shit about myself.

        4. Rose*

          Commenting on a coworker’s body is never appropriate. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re complimenting someone or not.

        5. fposte*

          Of course it’s reasonable. You don’t comment on people’s bodies, positively or negatively, unless you know that specific person in this specific situation would welcome such a comment. Even if it’s a desired weight loss, that doesn’t mean the person losing weight will be happy to hear that her co-workers are paying keen attention to her belly and butt.

          1. Mimmy*

            I completely agree that it is never appropriate to comment on others’ bodies. However, what about a simple, “You look good!” if you haven’t seen the person in awhile? I’m not being snarky; I’m genuinely curious for my own clarification.

            1. Jamie*

              That’s not only okay – but required! Seriously – “you look good/great!” is always nice, to me anyway, because it could be anything. It’s not drawing attention to a personal area.

              I also think it’s safe to compliment anything people wear or haircuts because they choose that look. Someone here once said a good rule of thumb is to compliment something people do or buy or wear – it’s safer than body or other more inherent attributes.

              Just like it’s nicer to be told you did a great job than that you’re so smart. One you can take credit for and the other – it’s hard to say thank you for genetics.

              And I’m talking about work btw – outside of work in social situations there is a lot more latitude. If I had ever seen my gramma where she didn’t gasp in amazement that I had such beautiful eyes my heart would have broken…and I can’t take credit for that. (Although come to think of it, I have her eyes…hmmm..I think gramma was taking some credit there!)

              So I’m just talking about work landmines – if you don’t know someone’s boundaries err on the side of caution.

              I have a vendor who every time he sees me says “you look great, life must be treating you well.” I like that – it’s vague and it makes me think life must be treating me well. :)

              1. CollegeAdmin*

                I’ve heard that rule of thumb before and I like it. I actually heard it while reading an article about how to politely flirt with someone – compliment them on something they chose (e.g., glasses, earrings, shoes) because then you’re admiring their taste.

          2. chewbecca*

            I have a male coworker who has lost a noticeable amount of weight over the past 6 months or so. We’re not close, so while I think it’s intentional, I’m not sure. There have been a few times I’ve been tempted to say something, but I remembered a thread similar to this a while back on here and bit my tongue.

          3. Anon*

            I think its because I’m from another country, another culture. Where I am from is very normal to become friendly and social with people we work with – and I an am in a serious profession, law – and I am also in country where fitness is very important. People here would rarely feel invaded or mad if you comment in weight loss, if not caused by a sickness, of course.

            1. arjumand*

              I’m sorry, but I too am from another country and another culture. And while in my country, like yours, it is apparently acceptable to comment on weight loss, you are fooling yourself if you think that people rarely “feel invaded or mad if you comment on weight loss”. Just because no-one has ever mentioned it to you, doesn’t mean you know their thoughts.

              And I don’t think cancer is restricted to the USA.

        6. Parfait*

          Of course it’s reasonable. there should be no body comments at work, positive or negative!

          Office etiquette is not the same as social.

        7. Sigrid*

          You shouldn’t comment on people’s bodies at ALL. I spent much of my life with digestive troubles that left me undernourished and 20-30 lbs underweight. It resulted in hospitilizations several times and almost killed me twice. Nothing was worse than getting ‘oh, you’re so THIN! What is your secret?’ from people when I had just been in the hospital gettung IV nutrition because my intestines wouldn’t absorb the food I ate.

        8. Anon*

          Commenting on people’s bodies isn’t really appropriate, no.

          You have no idea why or how they lost or gained weight.

        9. Marcela*

          My mother was overweight and suddenly, or at least that seems to everyone outside our house, she started losing weight. Everybody started to congratulate her an tell her how great she looked. It was only many months later they discovered the weight loss was due to the stress and pain of the discovery of my father’s second family, with 3 other children more than 10 years younger than my brother and me. So no, it’s not appropriate to talk about other people’s weight, unless they say something first, because you don’t know what’s behind it.

      2. Fabulously Anonymous*

        I agree that it’s inappropriate, but disagree that retaliating against the other person is the way to go. IMO, just say thank you and change the subject. If the other person insists, shrug, say you don’t want to bore her with the details, and ask her how she’s doing.

        1. Jessa*

          Not retaliating but someone needs to make them shut up about it. The damage they can do to people is pretty bad. Also with a captive audience this doesn’t just happen once to one person. It’s a constant barrage.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        We talk about exercise and diet all the time here, but it’s because the company is VERY focused on employee health–we have the biometric thing for insurance, etc. (Though I refuse to use the FitBit or let the screeners weigh me.)

        I’ve been using the stairwell twice a day to work out on my break–six climbs each, plus push-ups at the top. It’s actually working, though too slow for my taste–I’m ramping up at home. No one has commented on it; however, I haven’t changed what I wear every day (baggy company t-shirt and jeans–I like to be comfy). I wouldn’t mind if someone noticed it, but they don’t need to comment on what I’m eating.

        I’m far from the only one doing it–others take walks to the nearby park on their breaks and I run into some other stair climbers every once in a while.

        1. Amy B.*

          I have lost 80 lbs since I started working at my nowjob about 2 years ago (50 in the last few months). Once in a while, someone will mention how much I have lost and I am actually glad for the acknowledgement because it is hard work (harder keeping it off)! But I will keep the sentiments here in mind when noticing others’ weigh loss. As always…one never knows what another is going through.

          Now, if I can just get my boss to stop telling me I “look nice” only on the days I wear skirts and high heels…

  3. Persephone Mulberry*

    First, that image is hilarious. Well done, faceless Intuit QuickBase Fast Track Blog editor.

    Second, that first one was pretty mild (somewhat clueless but not necessarily intrusive), but the rest were downright jaw-dropping. If I’d been the cancer patient, I might’ve punched that coworker in the throat, once I got over being completely speechless.

    I somehow missed the request thread, but I once had a coworker who, completely outside the scope of her duties, felt the need to monitor everyone’s PTO; she was one of the longest-term employees and “knew” how much PTO everyone (should have) had based on their tenure. We had one of those weekly in/out boards, and she’d study it over lunch. “I don’t know how MaryEllen is taking next Tuesday off when she’s been out four other days already this year; she only gets 10 days total, you know.” It really burned her biscuits that I took a week off a few months after I started and somehow managed to have PTO to spare later in the year (it was a previously planned family vacation; I had negotiated to take the week unpaid when I was hired).

    1. EAA*

      She’s have had fun with my son’s PTO. He negotiated an extra week when he started his current job.

    2. en pointe*


      I sometimes get the weight loss comments too (and I haven’t even lost any weight!) Like, I don’t even know what to say to that. Just stop.

    3. Blinx*

      She’d have a field day where I used to work — employees could have extra personal days given “at the manager’s discretion” if they are facing particularly difficult times, or occassionally as an extra perk!

  4. TotesMaGoats*

    It’s like you know that people like that exist but you don’t want to believe it but then you read these stories and your faith in humanity is diminished just a little bit.

  5. Brett*

    #4 is jaw dropping in social situations (had it happen in social settings), much less workplace. I think my wife would injure a coworker who did that.

  6. Tina*

    I think the woman who pretended to be her co-worker when calling the woman’s doctor to find out the gender of her baby should be on that list.

    1. fposte*

      Though I think there’s an honorable mention for horribleness for the boss who not only was overinvolved in the relationship between an employee and an intern, but who suggested years later that the hiring of a new staffer *of the same race as the intern* was going to make the employee happy.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I also missed that one. . .sounds like the coworker had been watching too much Disney TV or I Love Lucy.

    3. DLB*

      Being pregnant myself, and deciding to keep the gender a secret from everyone, that made me rage just a little bit.

      1. Tina*

        I’m not pregnant, but it did make me want to test out my doctor’s office and their privacy practices!

    4. Kelly L.*

      I really liked the academic secretary who was funneling test answers to her daughter so she could pass her classes.

    5. AGirlCalledFriday*

      What about the one where a coworker overheard someone talking about going to a cabin 2 hours away, and actually drove up there and knocked on houses until said coworker was found????

  7. Be the Change*

    Okay, but I DO want to know who cooked the friggin’ BACON in the microwave this morning and made everyone in the suite drool buckets for hours until the ventilation kicked in!

        1. PJ*

          You buy the pre-cooked bacon at Costco and warm it in the micro. It’s delish. And not at all rubbery.

        2. Aimee*

          Put 2 layers of paper towels on a plate, put the bacon on the paper towels, and cover with one more layer. Microwave for 1/2 the number of minutes as you have pieces of bacon (ie: 4 pieces of bacon=2 minutes). Remove the top layer of paper towel, flip the bacon over, replace top paper towel, and microwave for the same # of minutes as before.

          Basically, the rule of thumb is # of slices of bacon=minutes to microwave. I find it sticks to the paper towels if I don’t flip it over halfway though!

          If you like it less crispy, do a minute less on the second half of cooking. If you like it more crispy, put it back in for 30 seconds or so at a time.

          I almost always cook bacon in the microwave at home – I don’t have a lot of room on my stove, so it’s easier to do the bacon that way while I make eggs or pancakes or whatever. Cooking it in the oven is best, but it takes a lot longer and heating up the oven heats up the house too much.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      The supermarket near my work sells bacon jerky that you can eat right out of the packet, cold. It tastes just like regular bacon, but in a convenient office-acceptable format.

      The look one of my colleagues gave me when she tried the first piece I offered her was eerily similar to the looks I get from my cats when I give them a taste of canned tuna. (This is the colleague who claims to have married the first man who ever fed her bacon).

    1. Clinical Social Worker*

      As a young woman who is childless and plans to remain so, and is in a lifelong partnership, *yes* people really do obsess this much. It is truly awful.

      To the point that people will hold babies (yes even coworkers at outside work functions) in my face and say “How can you not want one! Don’t you want one?”

      1. OP1*

        Ew! That’s so wrong. I’m currently childless and have been married a year, so I get comments every once in awhile. My suggestion for that is (if true), that you love other people’s children… because you can play with them, but when they cry/scream/poop/spit up you can return them to their parents to do the dirty work. :-) I have some neighbors with ADORABLE children. But the best part of them is that I don’t have to live with them and give up all my sleep/energy/time. I can visit and get my fill and then go home.

        1. Clinical Social Worker*

          yeah I mean…I don’t really enjoy small children. Quit shoving your child in my face. It’s weird.

      2. Arbynka*

        People are weird. I have three kids and I have been asked how come I do not want more. The height of it was lady who questioned if I loved my kids enough since I did not want any more.

        1. Jamie*

          There is no rhyme or reason to it. As a kid I had a family member who struggled with infertility for years and she cried every month and comments from others were just salt in a very open wound. She was constantly being asked why they didn’t have kids, were they trying, what about adoption…I learned at a young age how hurtful thoughtless comments can be.

          From my own life I got married in my early 20s and quickly became pregnant. I had people counting the months backwards in front of me and then congratulating me when they did the math and realized I wasn’t pregnant at my wedding.

          I refrained from criticizing their inability to do math in their head.

          I had people asking me why so soon, didn’t we want to enjoy being married before kids?

          After the first baby, it was only a couple of months when people asked when I was going to have another one and lectures about the perils of only children or having them too far apart.

          When my eldest was a little over one I got pregnant again – and the questions? So soon? You must want a girl now that you have a boy. (yes, if we get another boy I’m sending him back – right back into my uterus and I’ll spend the rest of my life sending sandwiches up there but he won’t be allowed to be born because he’s the wrong one.)

          Ah…a boy and a girl 2 years apart. The perfect family.

          Pregnant again when #2 was about 6 months. Why? You already have a boy and a girl, why do you want another one? (didn’t know that once you had a set you were supposed to get out of the game. Was this in some handbook I’ve not seen?)

          Lost that baby to a miscarriage at 19+ weeks – 4 days before my mom passed away. At the funeral I’m still recovering from a late miscarriage of a baby I loved…well meaning people told me it was a blessing because miscarriages happen when the baby is deformed, and it was a blessing because I have enough to deal with considering two young babies and the loss of my mom…(yes, the loss of a child made that much easier.) And my favorite: I’m not surprised, with all the stress of taking care of your mom it’s no wonder you lost the baby – I told you too much stress while pregnant is dangerous. (Thank you – next time I watch someone I love die of cancer I’ll not give a shit, save the stress.

          Got pregnant within a week or two of losing the baby – had no idea it could happen that fast. Again?!?! Aren’t you afraid there will be something wrong with it? (my eldest had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum at that time.) What if it has special needs, too? Do you really think that’s fair to your other kids, they need you. (No, it’s not fair to them because as soon as the new baby is born I’m leaving them out by the curb – I can only love one at a time.)

          And after they are born it doesn’t end. Do you ever feel guilty you got your kids vaccinated and maybe that’s why he has autism? Don’t you think getting a divorce is selfish – the kids being raised by a single mom? (actually, since you barely know me I’d love to discuss the failure of my marriage with you and hands down the most heart wrenching decision of my life – yes, it was all about my desperate selfish need to experience what it’s like to be broke and alone for the first time – worrying about the electric bill for the first time ever is my summer in Paris. Dead parents, no husband, and 3 kids under 8 one of which has special needs and I had never had a job. I was living like a Kardashian – not scary at all.)

          When I remarried the kids were 12, 10, and 8. Are you going to have kids with DH2? I know he loves your kids but it’s not the same, you owe him kids of his own. (according to him it is the same, they are his kids, but you’d know how feelings better than he does…) or you aren’t going to have more kids are you? You need to start some kind of career and if you have more you’ll never be anything. Are you trying? You’re not that old…does he have “problems” since he didn’t have kids in his first marriage either…(thanks for asking, distant acquaintance – lets talk all about my husbands reproductive organs and choices! He’ll love that!)

          Are you ever sad you didn’t have kids with DH2? Does he resent you? It’s so great that he’s been there for your kids, but it’s never the same. (Again, according to him they are his kids since he doesn’t go around paying orthodontists and tuition for strangers…also, funny, but we made decisions on this stuff together. I didn’t send him a text limiting his reproductive choices without input, but thanks for assuming I run my marriage like Machiavelli.)

          TLDR – it never ends – no matter what you do nosy people want to know why and tell why you’re doing it all wrong.

          When I was a SAHM I got a ton of comments about how unfair it was to put the financial burden on my husband and why didn’t I want to do something with my life. Once I went back to work I got comments about how I need to make sure I don’t get wrapped up in my job so I neglect the kids, because they come first.

          None of these ever come from people close to me, or who know me well, that’s what’s so f’ed up about it. It’s periphery people who don’t know when to stfu.

            1. Arbynka*

              Yeah. My problem is I usually come up with great comeback too late. I wish I was quicker on the spot.

              1. Muriel Heslop*

                I almost always come up with it on the spot. And say it. This is not good.

                Random coworker: “You’re having a baby at 40? Aren’t you worried it will have birth defects?”
                Me: “Wow, I never thought of that. Can you follow me around for the rest of my pregnancy with constant reminders?”

                To be fair, I had gestational diabetes and was definitely sugar-deprived.

          1. Arbynka*

            Yep. I kinda think people like that are not quite happy with their choices and instead of coming to terms with their own life they decided to question someone’ s elses.

            1. Girasol*

              That’s what I imagine, or that their families leveled so many “shoulds” on them when they were kids that they’re jealous of people who appear to have more freedom of choice.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Love it, Jamie.

            Even the most innocent quasi-personal comments and questions can be dangerous when you are not close friends with people.

            People at work (or conferences, or on the damn street) will interrogate me about my son if I casually mention his age or grade. They say, what, did you have him when you were 12? Um, no, but I was not married yet and in college, and it’s really not your business.

            My husband has some friends and business acquaintances who make comments like “how do you put up with him never going to work” and such. I have a F/T job that pays well, and he’s self employed. He goes to work every day, but he also takes a lot of vacations. People have the false impression that I’m his sugar mama. Whatever. It works for us. (But sometimes, it actually doesn’t work, and then it’s is a huge problem in our relationship that I don’t want to discuss with you, casual friend).

            Some People. : (

          3. Sascha*

            Wow. I just really want to punch people.

            This is encouraging and discouraging at the same time.

          4. Elizabeth*

            It ties into something Tatiana Maslany has said about playing the clones on Orphan Black, where the DNA of the (currently 6 living) clones is patented and owned by a corporation. She likened it to the idea that women’s reproductive & life choices are public property and thus up for discussion, review & judgment by everyone around them. She felt like if you started with that as the central premise of modern societal attitudes towards women in the US & Canada, then it isn’t a far step to a corporation actually owning their DNA.

          5. Snork Maiden*

            And then, if you express umbrage over being asked these idiotic questions, you’re “touchy” or “hormonal” or “you’ll change your mind when X”. I think what’s most prevalent in the busybody thread is the fact that women’s bodies and lives are considered public property.

          6. WorkingAsDesigned*

            I’m so sorry for your losses, Jamie, and for the thoughtless comments you’ve endured.

            1. Jamie*

              Oh thanks – I’m fine – it was a long time ago. My long point was just that this happens to everyone no matter what choices you make or at what stage in your life – there will always be someone somewhere who thinks you’re doing it wrong.

              People just have to learn to one ear and out the other people who aren’t close to them who do this. It hurts when it’s from people you love, and that’s not easy, but the co-worker, bank teller, lady at the zoo? When they want to pay your bills they can live your life for you.

      3. Mimmy*

        I can attest to that too, especially in the first few years I was married. I still sometimes get the “Any children?” question. Not having kids was absolutely by choice and for US, it was the best choice. (Although I have to admit that, since everyone in my family has children (3 siblings, 3 kids each!), it makes me and my husband feel like the oddballs at family gatherings :( )

    2. Jess*

      This boggles my mind. Why do people care about other people’s reproductive status so much? I honestly could not care less. I mean if somebody has a baby I’m happy for them but it doesn’t affect me in any way. These people need to find some outside interests.

    3. MW77*

      Yes. In my part of the country it’s almost standard small talk. And the day I was late to work (after about a year of marriage) because I was nauseous (and naive enough to say it – with the true explanation that I had taken an antibiotic on an empty stomach) EVERY single person in my division visited my office to find out if it was morning sickness. I think they finally believed me when I didn’t actually have a child until 8 years later.

      1. Midge*

        I was having a friendly conversation recently about only children vs. siblings and got the questions, but if they don’t have siblings who will they be friends with? Um, their friends?

          1. Reader*

            5 siblings – all different. None of us would be friends with each other and don’t really see each other. The only thing the oldest 4 had in common is we all liked the last one. Although when you’re trying to tell your 4 kids ages 5-10 about the new baby don’t ask if they want one first.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah – my siblings were married before I was in 5th grade – we weren’t peers yet I managed to find kids to play with. Turns out other families had children, too. Who knew.

          Funny someone I knew read a birth order book and was quizzing people about their birth order – apparently being the youngest by as much as I (about a decade +) is the same as having all the negative traits (?!) of an only child.

          But by being the baby girl in a family with the age spread and sibling composition I was supposed to have all the bad traits of youngest kids, but magnified.

          Her blurting out, “but you’re not that horrible!” was the funniest and most awesome compliment I ever got. Whatever else I am – I’m not that horrible. And the confusion where she realized that perhaps a book on birth order bought on impulse at the checkout stand of the grocery store might not be infallible.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Heh, that reminds me of the time a friend of a friend asked me for my star sign, and then refused to believe me because apparently I don’t match her perception of what that star sign is supposed to be like. She went on and on about it, asked me if I was sure, then when I gave her my birth date, asked if I was sure about that, too, because there was no possible way I could ever be that star sign! I asked if she was sure that there was such a strong correlation between birth date and personality, but she just stared at me then went to talk to someone else.

            Next time someone from the same group of friends asked me what my star sign is, I just said “scientist”

          2. Mints*

            Haha that’s funny. Apparently that birth order shindig means I’m horrible too. I’ll tell my mom it’s her fault (jk)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Grrr. Just because you have sibs does not mean all of you will get along….

        Parallel Concept:
        Just because you have children does not mean they will take care of you in your old age.

        Some people have a tough time wrapping their minds around this stuff.

    4. Samantha*

      Unfortunately, yes :( My husband and I have been married a little over a year and I get questions about if I’m pregnant, when I’m going to get pregnant, etc. frequently. What makes it worse is that I want a baby more than anything, but I had a miscarriage late last year and haven’t been able to conceive again since. I really can’t comprehend why people think it’s appropriate to ask these kinds of questions, especially to coworkers they really don’t even know very well.

      1. Davey1983*

        I’m sorry for your loss. Sadly, the insensitive questions and comments keep coming.

        My wife and I were diagnosed with infertility, and those questions and comments stung. I decided at one point to start telling people that we couldn’t have kids, but that then lead to comments about why we didn’t just adopt (we were trying to, but there isn’t a baby store where you can just chose a kid and take him/her home).

        The worst was when several individuals/coworkers (some of them supposedly our friends) made comments to our faces about how we must have committed some sin and God was punishing us (they are now our ex-friends).

    5. Episkey*

      You know, other people seem to have it rough, but I’m in my early 30s and have been married 9 years now (childless by choice) and nobody really hassles me about it. I’ve had a few people ask me and I usually just say that I’m happy with my life and don’t want children — that seems to be good enough and I haven’t had anyone really rude enough to challenge me.

      1. KerryOwl*

        Me too! Thirty-six, been married four years, and no one really gives us grief about it either. My dad mentions it sometimes, but in a melancholy “you will never understand how much I love you” sort of way.

      2. periwinkle*

        Married 13 years, voluntarily child free, and oddly enough I’ve never had to deal with any intrusive questions about babies.

        I think even casual acquaintances are relieved and happy that I’m not reproducing…

    6. DLB*

      My boss’s wife is the worst. We got married a few years ago and every time she comes into the office “are you pregnant yet? you know you’re supposed to get pregnant on your honeymoon!”. It took us over 2 years. And then we a *just* found out, and she came to the office, asking again if I was pregnant. “Nope!” Then a month later I told my boss I was.

      I’ve also had people ask right after we got married if we were having kids. I’d say yes, and they would answer “good for you!” Just seemed like a strange statement to make!

    7. Sascha*

      Dear god yes. It’s insane. My former coworker was dreading telling her manager about her pregnancy, because he had demonstrated he couldn’t be trusted to be discreet or appropriate about pregnancies in the office (or anything, for that matter). While he was happy for her and made sure she had time for appointments and such, he asked such horribly intrusive questions the whole time, the worst being when he asked how her cervix was doing and if she was dilating yet (a week or so before going on leave). Ew ew ew. You do NOT discuss body parts with your subordinates!!!

      I’m also not looking forward to telling my bosses whenever I do get pregnant, as my manager always puts his foot in his mouth (not the same guy as above, but almost as bad), and my director gets grumpy and stomps around the office and lets us all know what a big inconvenience it is for him.

      1. Mephyle*

        @Sascha, you had a good response there that you can keep at the ready for when you need it: “I don’t discuss my body parts with my {superiors/coworkers}, actually.”

    8. Mike C.*

      Yes, so many people think that if you’re young and childless it’s their place to dictate your sex life and childbearing choices.

      And heaven forbid they find out you don’t actually want kids. They’ll spend all this time trying to convince you otherwise about how selfish you are and how you’re making a huge mistake and so on.

      1. Sascha*

        But if you have more kids than what is “acceptable” at the time, you will be told you’re selfish for burdening society with all your offspring. Haters gonna hate.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, you’re really screwed no matter what way you go. As most of the folks with kids will tell you, “Once you finally have one, then no one will shut up about the next one, and the next and the next, until there is one too many next ones.”

      2. Stephanie*

        The “selfish” comment always confuses me because wouldn’t it be less selfish to refrain from bringing a kid into the world you don’t want?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          As if it is totally unselfish to have a child so you can have something cute dangling off the end of your arm. Children are not a fashion accessory.

          1. Sascha*

            What really confuses me are the people who make these kinds of comments when they themselves are childless (often by choice). It’s like they are saying, “You – young, fertile female – it’s all up to you!! I MYSELF do not want children, but you HAVE to have children!!!”

    9. LizNYC*

      Someone asked at my wedding reception when we were planning on having kids. I replied, “Can I finish my steak first?”

    10. Kelly O*


      I am still constantly shocked at people who seem genuinely surprised I only plan on having my one daughter, and who continually remind me that I “don’t have much time” if I want to have another.

      I fight the urge to tell them they should have told me that BEFORE my husband had a vasectomy…

    11. Blinx*

      People are curious about everything, but especially your decisions around family. My Mom had the best zinger — as a teenager, I once asked her how she and my Dad decided not to have any more kids (I was the youngest of 4). She said “We let God decide.” Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and never asked again!

      I think people mostly want affirmation that THEY made the right decision, and want you to hurry up and have as many kids as they did.

  8. Jamie*

    This list makes me want to hug all my co-workers.

    But not really, since then one of them would write into Alison asking her how to get me to stop.

    1. LiteralGirl*

      Apropos nothing, Jamie – we just got my daughter Hello Kitty Vans for her birthday. They’re freaking adorable.

      1. Jamie*

        Sunday open thread for non work topics post which ones – I have 5 pair and am always looking for a reason to buy more. :)

  9. Clinical Social Worker*

    People comment on my food choices (and monitor it) and comment on my lack of children (and I don’t plan to have one) all the time! Yeesh, it’s sad this happens other places.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You could probably cause these people to go into total meltdown by saying “I am planning on having ten kids and THIS is the food they will be eating.”

      I’d be sorely tempted, just to watch the meltdown.

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        People freak out when I’m not dieting. People try to tell me I’m losing weight and I smile and tell them I still weigh the same, I just look fantastic today. People freak out when I eat unhealthy. People freak out when I eat very healthy. People freak out if I work out. People freak out if I admit I skipped my work out. People freaked out when I converted my desk to a sort of stand up desk to stand more. People freak out when I sit and don’t stand.

        Common things I’ve done to fight back: When told that eating a washed carrot that wasn’t cut up into smaller sticks was “weird,” I made eye contact with them while crunching away on that sucker, the entire time. I did not stop looking at them until I finished eating that “weird” carrot.
        When asked “Are you really going to eat *all of that*?” While eating a bag of rice crisps (yes this really happened) I asked the person how many calories were in the tortilla chips they were eating. “110 calories.” I pointed out that was *per serving* and they’d eating pretty much the entire bag “Oh there’s 12 servings in here! I thought these were healthy!”
        I’ve also just straight up pointed out the behavior. “So do you keep a log of what I eat or what? That’s weird.” or things like “Oh so we’re going to make unpleasant comments about each other’s life choices now?”

        I can’t win. Literally everything I do is up for criticism or comment. Thanks, y’all know how to make a woman feel welcome, jeez.

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        I read too fast and thought you said “I’m having ten kids and they’ll be the food.”

        1. Lindrine*

          That would still be an awesome reply.

          I think a lot of it is out of being nosy/gossipy or control issues. Then there are the people who have no filter.

          I was at a “ladies who lunch” type of event with co-workers from different departments, when someone asked a co-worker of mine when she and her live-in boyfriend were going to get married. It was said in a light/fun jokey tone, and I did a dramatic gasp and said the offender’s name in mock-shock. We all had a giggle about it but I was a little miffed for my poor co-worker, who is at the bottom of the totem pole, new, and was desperately trying to think of a way to reply to such an awkward question.

  10. nyxalinth*

    Why do people even do this? Is it some kind of weird control issue thing?

    People always ask if I have kids, and most are content to let it drop when I say “No, I’ve known since I was five that motherhood wasn’t for me.” One did get a little naggy and nosy once, but stopped when I said, “I guess God just didn’t see fit to grace me with the “I want to be a mommy gene”.” Overall I’ve been lucky. I think my bad case of Resting Beeotch Face has something to do with it lol.

    Now someone in public did poke his business into a salad I was having once, as I’d fixed it up with all sorts of goodies, not just three lettuce leaves and some vinegar. He said it kind of defeated the purpose of a salad. I told him that I wasn’t listening to concern trolling that day. That was the end of it.

    1. Alex*

      “Concern trolling” – Ha! Love this and am stealing it :)

      I think also some people comment on the kid thing because they don’t know how else to make small talk with women sometimes. Kind of like the go-to small talk with men tends to be sports related, the go-to small talk with younger women is either their appearance (clothing compliments), wedding stuff, or family/baby stuff.

    2. Fabulously Anonymous*

      Agreed – I think it’s a small talk thing. But I also think some people feel challenged when you offer a reason, so I never offer one. When someone asks me, “do you have kids?” I just say, “no, do you?” and then I turn the topic to focus on that person. I don’t think the other person really cares why I don’t have children, but if I were to give a reason I think the person would believe it’s open for discussion. It’s not.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That is an excellent tactic–I’m going to borrow it. People love to talk about themselves and they’ll just think I’m a great listener, rather than bug me for hours about why aren’t you married yet, you’re running out of time, you need to have kids NOW, you’re so old that it’s dangerous, etc. etc. etc. (like I don’t know all that already, thank you so very much for rubbing it in!).

        1. smilingswan*

          I feel the same way. I guess it doesn’t occur to people that: YES I AM DESPERATELY LONELY THANKS, but maybe it would be nice if you didn’t comment on it!

      2. Mike C.*

        Eh, there are times I get sick and tired of hearing about someone’s kids. Occasional talk is certainly fine, but it’s rude to dominate a conversation with a topic only the speaker is interested in.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      The purpose of a salad is to be delicious. If it is not delicious then it should not be.

    4. Sascha*

      Yep, I think it’s about control. If someone does something DIFFERENT and it doesn’t end in death or despair, then everything Concern Troll believes is a lie!

  11. Gallerina*

    I worked in a Development Office in an institution once where the Head of IT would spy on what you were doing and then come and call you out on it when he saw your around. I managed the social media community and he was always threatening to tell my manager that I was “spending too much time on Facebook”.

    We also did prospect research and he would approach our administrator and me in the halls, accuse us of spending all day reading the newspapers and heavily insinuate that our department was a huge waste of space/money…we were collecting information on our big donors and prospects or reading the business pages.

    You would think as a Head of Department he’s have better things to do with his time.

    1. Jamie*

      You’d think.

      You’d also think someone in IT would have more interesting hobbies. Do you know how boring weblogs are?

      People like that give us a bad name.

      1. Gallerina*

        Well, every other IT department I’ve worked with has been brilliant – he was the only bad apple!

        I got my revenge on him though by googling intimate female problems and then scrolling through the photographs. I assume that he stopped stalking us after that, or at the very least he was so embarrassed that he stopped making comments.

    2. Stephanie*

      My friend’s husband is in IT. I asked him if they monitored people’s goofing off. He was like “Do you have any idea how boring most people’s search histories are? We only do that if told. We’ve got better things to do.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The IT guy at one place I worked said he didn’t care what people googled, as long as they didn’t download anything that made extra work for him.

      2. straws*

        On the other side of this, my dad was testing a monitoring system at his job and had his tech flip it on for 15 min or so. If I remember correctly, they found 5 employees viewing porn during the test window.

    3. Observer*

      You would also think that someone in that position would have a clue about what you do.

  12. LV*

    This pales in comparison to the stories on the Quickbase list, but the other day a coworker of mine was shocked and horrified to find out that I don’t drive and proceeded to interrogate me on how I do basic day-to-day activities. She seemed totally unable to understand that I do, in fact, live a happy and productive life without access to a motor vehicle.

    “But what happens when you need to buy furniture?” All furniture stores that I know of offer delivery service, and a one-off delivery costs way less than the constant upkeep of a car. “But what if you want to leave town for the long weekend?” I’m a city girl, so if a place is so small or remote that buses or trains don’t go there, then I’m not interested anyway. I almost lost it when she asked me how I get groceries home. I have these things called arms… at the ends, they split off into five much smaller armlets called “fingers” which I can use to lift and carry things! It’s so convenient!

    1. Kay*

      LOL! I admit to being shocked when people who live around me don’t have cars, but I live in an area which has laughable public transit. If I were asking these questions, they would be to a friend, out of genuine curiosity, not to a random coworker. I know it’s even a struggle for a friend of mine who only have one car between her and her husband. Because of the place I live and things I do, I couldn’t make do without a vehicle, but there are definitely many places that it would be possible and even desirable to not have the cost/upkeep.

      1. LV*

        Yeah, it definitely depends on location. I’m in a major city with decent public transit. A lot of my coworkers who drive still take the bus to work because parking is $15 here, and I would do the same if I had a car. Also, I’m happy to spend most weekends in my own, quite walkable neighbourhood, because it’s a really pleasant area. So I would have very few opportunities to use a car if I had one. Even if I could drive, it would make no sense for me to get a car, and I have much better uses for the money it would cost!

        1. some1*

          I live in an area with decent transit, but I hear the same thing said to people who don’t own cars or homes. I think some of it is class bias; people think if you’re old enough to drive you should so you aren’t seen as poor.

          1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

            Yes–I have a driver’s license, I don’t have DUIs or epilepsy, I just don’t own a car.

            One the one hand certain people think I’m a weirdo flake, but I am just cheap and live in a really convenient apartment and have spare time.

          2. OhNo*

            Some of it is definitely class bias, at least where I live. Every time I mention that I take the bus, the follow-up question is usually “Why? Can’t afford a car?” (Which is actually the reason. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to share that info all over the place.)

            It doesn’t help that I live in a state with snowy, cold winters. Apparently most people are unable to comprehend walking to/from a bus stop in winter without freezing to death.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I would LOVE to live somewhere I didn’t need a car again. I’d still have it if parking wasn’t too dear, but man it would be nice to just get on the train and read while going to work instead of dodging giant trucks on the highway.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          One of my secret goals for a couple years from now is to find a job I can get to via public transit, for this exact reason. I’d do it now, but it doesn’t quite work with the logistics of our schedules at the moment.

        2. Laura*

          My job plans to move offices next year and will be starting the location selection later this year.

          A lot of us are advocating for a particular location that is convenient to food, convenient to public transit, and located closer to the homes of many employees (because last time they moved the office, they moved it away from us, adding about an hour to our average daily commutes).

          What I covet is that this spot happens to be a straight shot from my town on the commuter rail!

    2. JMegan*

      Oh, this is the one I get all the time too. People are genuinely boggled that I manage to live my life without a car – in a major city, with plenty of access to public transit.

      The grocery shopping thing kills me. There is a grocery store right at the intersection of Major Bus Route Street and Minor My Address Street – I literally pass it twice a day. So I go in, shop, and walk home with my food. Not a big deal to me, but some people are really amazed by it!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It’s because people like me wait until there are, like, two frozen peas left in the house before going out to get food. And then I fill the car.

        1. LV*

          The few times that Husband and I have bought a large amount of groceries at once, most of the food ended up going bad before we could eat it. It’s less wasteful and cheaper for us to do 1-2 small trips to the store a week!

    3. Mimmy*

      I would love to know the secret to “live a happy and productive life without access to a motor vehicle”. I don’t drive at all–completely not by choice. If only I had the means to live where a good public transit system and two feet are all that’s needed!

      P.S. Love the “armlets” comment!

    4. Finny*

      I am legally blind. So is the husband. Neither of us can drive, for should-be-obvious reasons. Yet we still get people asking if we can drive, while we are using our white canes!

    5. Sharon*

      Isn’t it amazing? I too don’t own a car, and people act like this is something completely crazy. It makes for a fun conversation when new people ask me about “my car.” If I really, truly need something that my legs or the bus cannot get me to (at all or in a timely manner), then I will ask for a ride.

      1. anonintheUK*

        I don’t have a car (because I work in Historic British City with no parking) and I don’t have a TV. Someone once asked me ‘do you belong to some wacky religion or something?’

        1. Editor*

          What drove me crazy was talking to the ecologically minded city woman who was convinced that everyone lived in cities with good transportation. She was saying that no one should own a car, and I said that people living with good public transit might not need cars, but people in rural areas needed cars. She did not believe that by the time I had graduated from college, my mother couldn’t get groceries in our town of a few hundred people and had to drive five miles to get to a pharmacy and a grocery store. There was no public transportation because it wasn’t economical.

          There are some people who just don’t understand their experience of life — whatever it is — is not the daily experience of life for everyone else. It gets tiresome.

  13. Angora*

    My best friend was gay and out only to good friends. We went to lunch all the time (we both work on campus). I had a supervisor that kept asking if particular people I knew were gay. Be my friends, my instructor, or the faculty I used to work with. My response was always “no” or “how would I know?”

    I got her goat a couple of weeks later … told her someone on campus asked my mother if I was gay. That there was a rumor going around campus. That Mom was madder than a hornet and was going sue who ever got that started. That I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t show up at their office once she traced it back to who originated it. She got real pale and totally dropped the subject.

    I was dating some, but not seriously. Just didn’t feel the need to share that info with her.

  14. BadPlanning*

    My favorite bit was “After I told her I picked him out of a catalogue, she didn’t talk to me much any more.” High five for a great comeback.

    And yes, people are very concerned about reproduction. I’ve been advised on more than one occasion that I will die old and alone if I don’t get cracking on children.

    My current coworkers are very non-nosy. Hurray!

  15. Katie the Fed*

    I didn’t mention this in the original blog, but I get slightly snarky comments about my love of travel. “You’re going on vacation again? How do you afford it?”

    Um, I budget really carefully, buy my underwear at Costco, don’t spend money on things I don’t need, have less house than I can afford, and save for it?

    Is that really want people want to hear? I do it because I make it a priority. Kind of like asking about weight loss – mostly the answer is going to be some combination of “I ate less/exercised more” – what are you expecting to hear?

    1. Jamie*

      You know the exact moment I care about how other people spend their money? The second they ask me to pay their bills.

      Otherwise I figure people can live their lives just fine without input from me.

      (If my husband ever reads this: that does not apply to you. Just everyone else in the world.)

    2. BRR*

      I’ve heard so many things like this in the broader category of finances. How can you afford ____/ Why don’t you just get a _____. I won the lottery, I had expensive medical bills, I just got an inheritance, I’m trying to pay off my student loans fast, I’m a spender and go to starbucks twice a day. It doesn’t really matter.

      1. LV*

        A former coworker took it upon herself to remind me every week or so that I could save a lot of money if I started making my own coffee and lunch at home.

        That’s true… but I don’t want to! So that’s the end of that.

        1. JMegan*

          Ha. I feel like you’re my long-lost soul sister – I’m exactly the same way about coffee and lunches! I know it’s cheaper to BYO, of course. But if I have the option, I much prefer to spend the money for other people to make them, than to spend the time to make them myself.

          1. Angora*

            I had someone inform me that I go to Starbucks an awful lot. My response was but I don’t eat and go to the movies like you do.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I give my new employees one talk, and only one, about retirement savings. Investing in TSP (our version of 401(K)), starting early, getting the government match. Sometimes I’ll run some numbers like “if you put the $50 you spend on lunch every week into TSP it’ll be worth XX” by the time you retire.

          After that I don’t talk about it again. But a few have thanked me later for the lecture :)

          1. LV*

            My husband and I have relatively low expenses (no kids, no car, decent rent for the area) and could afford to live pretty comfortably on his salary alone. I sock away around 75% of my own salary every month in various savings accounts (TFSA, RRSP, etc.). That’s the main reason that coworker’s little lectures really grated on me – I’m already saving a ton of money, so I resent people getting on my case about indulging in the luxury of a latte every morning!

    3. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I get the occasional comment about my “impractical” sports car. “Oh, you’ll need to sell that once you have kids.”

      Then I tell them one of the reasons I have the car instead of a kid is that people don’t get mad at you when you put a car up for sale on Craigslist. ;)

  16. saro*

    Sadly, I’m not surprised that there are so many instances involving babies. I’ve struggled with child loss and infertility (though I’m blessed with a baby now) and oh my goodness, so many comments and useless advice. It really was painful. I struggled with dealing with my grief while maintaining my composure at work and could not come up with smart replies.

    Now, I am quick to intervene when I hear these types of comments directed towards others.

    1. Jean*

      “Now, I am quick to intervene when I hear these types of comments directed towards others.”

      Good for you for changing the dynamic!

  17. Carrie in Scotland*

    #2 is unbelievable! How on earth they thought that would get them a raise I don’t know.

    And I want to give interweb hugs to #6 & 9.

  18. blinking cursor*

    I just thought of one, having not contributed originally but a few months ago my office manager said that the new person in the office & I would get on well “because one of her parents had died” (one of mine died a few years ago). I was WTF. You don’t tell people you should be friends, especially not for that reason!

  19. Mimmy*

    #9 (horrible cancer response) actually made me gasp out loud. That one tops the list for me. I’ll admit that I’m never too sure what to say to someone who is ill or in other serious circumstances, but I *do* know that what #9 got is out of bounds!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      The best thing you can really say is “I’m so sorry you’re going through that. If there’s anything I can do (donate leave, watch the kids, etc) please let me know.”

      Definitely don’t do #9, or mention someone you know who died of cancer, or talk about the power of prayer/gluten free diets/etc unless they mention it first.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It’s also a good idea to toss out the types of things that you can do. For example, if you are always cooking big meals and “it’s nothing to throw in a tray of X or Y and you can freeze it too. “. Or “I know you have a dog, and if you want help with the dog give me a shout. I looove dogs.” Rides, groceries, drug store runs- anything like that that fits into the conversation you are having in the moment.

      Caregivers go brain dead some days- it’s such a drain. So it’s handy to have specific examples of what someone is offering to help with.

      (I’ve never been a patient in a critical health issue, so I can’t comment to that.)

  20. Another J*

    I unfortunately have the tendency to gossip. I try very hard to stop that behavior by telling new employees to never tell me anything that they do not want everyone else to hear. I have a few other tricks that I employ to help me shut up but so far that is the best one. I also don’t look for gossip either. Mercifully, it has stopped a lot of gossip from ever reaching me and I am so much happier at work. I do, however, still crave the kind of gossip that I call happy gossip – who is doing well on a project, who is getting a promotion, etc. I love to hear good things about the people and projects in my work area.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I sometimes ask people point-blank: “Do I get to gossip about this or is it on the DL?”

  21. M*

    One of my colleagues asked me at a conference if I was pregnant. I’ve been gaining weight recently due to medication side effects, so it was particularly awful. “Nope, just fat!”

    Apparently no amount of dressing for your size or whatever will stop nasty comments–last night I had a random neighbor ask me if I was pregnant because I shouldn’t be drinking beer. I told him I was not and he persisted (“Are you sure?!”) and so I told him how rude that was!

    1. Turanga Leela*

      This is awful both because of (a) assuming that you’re pregnant (and that you wouldn’t know!) and (b) thinking that it’s fine to lecture pregnant women on what they are eating/drinking/doing for exercise/etc. I understand people worry about FAS, but honestly, it’s not their business and there’s a lot of disagreement about what’s safe and what isn’t for a developing fetus. And as your situation illustrates, you can never be sure that a stranger is actually pregnant.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Addendum: “stranger” in this context extends to colleagues, neighbors, distant cousins and anyone else who wouldn’t know if you were pregnant or not.

        1. saro*

          Had a friend ask me multiple times if I was pregnant during the same conversation. She kept asking me if I was sure, even when I said I had just gained weight and generally gain weight in my stomach area. Thankfully, this was before my fertility issues or I would’ve cried.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      Reminds me of a few months ago while out shopping with my husband, some employee (who was an older lady) patted my belly and asked if I was excited about the forthcoming baby. I just looked at her confusedly and said, “What…??” then “…I’m not pregnant…???’ I mean, I know I’ve gained some weight but I’ve never seen this woman before and for the record, even with the extra pounds, I don’t at all look pregnant!

  22. IvyGirl*

    I got asked about when I was starting a family at my wedding reception.

    A week after I informed my female boss that I was pregnant, she asked me if I thought I was showing.

    Since I was JUST getting out of the first trimester, I wasn’t sure, and I said, “Um, well, I guess so, maybe.”

    Her response? “Well, you certainly have put on a considerable amount of weight.”

    There are no words, really.

    1. LizNYC*

      I said this above, but people asked me at my wedding reception too! I replied that I really wanted to finish my steak first before figuring that out. :P

      And really, how rude! I’ve had friends say that people will ask if they’re having twins or something, and when they say no, just one, the person will say “are you sure?” *So hilarious*

      1. Frances*

        And if you are having twins (as happened to a friend of mine), the next question is “So are they natural or did you do in vitro?” Apparently perfect strangers will also continue to ask you this after the twins are born every time you are out in public.

        1. Sharon*

          “Did you want twins?” And my mom said “Well… they’re coming whether I wanted them or not.”

          Some people right?

    2. smilingswan*

      Why would she ask that? By her response, it’s obvious she thought you were showing.

      1. IvyGirl*

        Becuase she is socially inept and prone to opening herself up to a lawsuit? I have no earthly idea, but it’s definitely not something that is OK, or to further the comment by remarking on my weigt.

  23. Not So NewReader*

    I could add one to the list. Bosses, don’t tell your employees that their doctor is not good enough. You are just waaaay to involved in their lives if you find yourself saying these words.

  24. Parfait*

    I forgot about the colleague who told me, when I said I didn’t want to have kids, “Oh come on, you can’t know that unless you try it!”

    I was dumbfounded. OK, so what do I do if I try it and I don’t like it? Send it back?

    1. Clinical Social Worker*

      People are super weird about recruiting you to perpetuate the human race.

      1. jmkenrick*

        One of my coworkers, when asked about children said “oh, we’re not ready just yet – still have to get a lot of training in.”

        That was a good one.

  25. Kelly O*

    The nosy coworker who used to bother me the most was one who would absolutely make no bones about walking up and just looking at your desk, your monitor, anything she could see. She’d even come around to the other side of the desk.

    It wasn’t just me; she did this to anyone at any level in the organization. Totally annoying and inappropriate, but she kept on until the day we all left.

  26. Maddy*

    Just wanted to say , well wanted to say this today to some gossips…


    Cuz….guess who is the topic of convo when you are gone?

    1. anonintheUK*

      I once reduced a co-worker, who was determined to find out WHY I was single*, to scarlet silence. She asked me ‘How come you aren’t married?’ for the 59th time, to which, having run out of patience, I answered ‘How come you are?’

      *because there cannot be anything simple, like nobody around you find particularly attractive. No, it must be daddy issues, secret lesbianism, or SOMETHING

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