our new coworker is distracting and frustrating us

A reader writes:

I am writing on behalf of myself and 3 other men at work, all between ages of 36-55. We are having issues with a new coworker. Strange behavior over the past 2 months from her includes:

* asking us for all manner of random objects various times throughout the day (cookies, lemon juice, needle and thread, cell phone chargers, a brush, nail polish, and more).

*asking us to take her places at lunch time to get sandwiches and ice cream and whatever else she wants (no one has obliged this request to date).

*requests for our home addresses

*rides home (she has no car, as you can tell)

*leaving her cell phone on to ring and ring, thus disturbing the people all around her

*leaving work unannounced

*writing and passing strange notes that say things like “You have to say nice things to me when the boss says mean things to me.”

*getting up from her chair frequently, circulating around the cube farm, and talking to people for extended periods of time

*telling one of our bosses that she really prefers to work under someone else

The four of us are frustrated. Our productivity is hurting because of this person’s activities. As veterans of the company culture for varying periods of time, we have all offered our coaching and input into how company culture works and what she can do in order to be to be successful. We have also politely asked that some of the behaviors stop. When asked to stop the behaviors, she barely acknowledges that she is being asked to dial it back. She makes no real effort to honor our polite requests. Our words are going unheeded and we are concerned conditions are going to worsen.

We do not want to bother our bosses with this because we do not want to look like we cannot handle interpersonal relationships with coworkers, but what else can we do to mitigate these circumstances in the face of them becoming more difficult to handle? Is there a point where it become appropriate to involve a manager? Should all four of us go to him and make a case for our boss to address these issues with her?

None of us want anything other than a peaceful outcome. We don’t want her to get dismissed from duties. We don’t want her to lose out in any way. We just need her to understand that the constant requests for random objects, for rides to shopping plazas around our office park, and the note-passing, etc. has to stop so we can all focus on being as productive as possible.

How direct have you been with her? It sounds like it would be a kindness to be very direct, if you haven’t already. There’s so much of this that it would be hard to address it all in one conversation without seeming like you were berating her (which is a function of the number of issues here, not your stance on them), so I’d do it in the moment as each thing happens:

“Jane, can you please keep your cell phone ring off while you’re in the office? It’s very distracting and makes it hard to focus.”

“I’m on deadline right now, so can’t talk.”

“I can’t drive you around at lunch. I’m always going to say no to that request, so please don’t keep asking me.”

“I don’t know what this note means.”

That said … what you’re describing isn’t the kind of thing that you can fix issue by issue; it speaks to an overall bizarre orientation toward how to be in an office with other people. You can probably fix or lessen some of these, but not all of them, because you’re talking about a fundamental issue of bad judgment, and that’s going to play out in lots of ways.

I wouldn’t go to your manager about some of this (like her asking you for random objects during the day, or asking you for rides; that’s annoying but ultimately not manager-escalation-worthy), but the stuff that makes it hard for you to focus on your work? Sure. Anything that’s impacting your ability to do your work is reasonable to talk to your manager about, particularly once you’ve tried discussing it with the person directly and not been able to resolve it that way.

I don’t know if I’d do it as a group — that feels a little too “us vs. her.” Instead, I’d talk one on one with your manager, and you can mention that you know others are having similar frustrations.

It’s hard to imagine that your manager isn’t seeing some of this herself, although she may not realize the extent of it. But I’ll bet she has her own concerns too, which might be playing out behind the scenes in ways you’re not seeing. Either way, though, it’s reasonable to raise the fact that the new hire is disrupting the office pretty regularly.

(I’ll also add that it would be a kindness if one of you were to take your coworker out to coffee and give her some advice about your office culture and specifically where she’s going wrong. You’re not obligated to do this, and it could do more harm than good if you don’t get the tone exactly right, but it’s worth considering as a way to help all of you, including her.)

{ 319 comments… read them below }

  1. David

    Oh man…I’ve seen this. More than once. And based on previous experience this person won’t last too long. All the little quirks, especially this early on, ultimately culminate in either such out of the ordinary behavior that management is forced to let the person go or they oddly just stop showing up to work one day.

    1. AMG

      Wow, I have never seen this before. It sounds straight out of an episode of ‘The Office’. If it weren’t so distracting, it sounds as though it would be entertaining to see what she comes up with next.

      1. Ž

        some guys watch romantic comedies looking for how-to-behave-in-a-relationship advice, seems like some people also watch The Office looking for how-to-behave-at-work advice.

    2. HM in Atlanta

      I’m with you. I’m expecting an escalation around the ice machine in the kitchen ending in a standoff about how she’s the only one who can use it correctly.

    3. NJ Anon

      100% Me too. The worker lasted about 3 months. After trying to talk to her, several of us went to her manager with concrete evidence as to the issues. She get transferred and eventually got the hint and resigned. (Because for some reason we can never fire people . . .) We couldn’t figure out how she even got the job in the first place. Sleeping with the boss? relative of the boss? She was just so awful and a bad fit. We never were able to figure it out.

      1. Mabel

        Sometimes people interview really well, and you only discover their true (annoying) personality after they start working. Don’t ask me how I know this. :(

    4. Tracy Flick

      I’ve seen the same thing happen. We had a coworker who talked on the phone for long periods of time with friends or family, maintained a gross desk of like 7 used coffee cups, made loud eating noises at the desk, didn’t know to engage with her managers, and surely enough she was fired four months in. It was for a different reason than these things, but did these things make the decision easier? You bet.

      1. Annonymouse

        Why the hell does she want your home address?

        Do not go out for a one on one coffee with her.

        There’s a big, clear line between naive cluelessness (like a high school or college student in their first job) and seriously bad or complete lack of judgment.

        A naive person can be clued in – they simply don’t know better and are willing to listen to the things you point out.

        This coworker is clearly not like that. You’ve given them feedback, asked they not do certain behaviours that aren’t professional and they aren’t having any of it.

  2. Celeste

    She doesn’t sound like she is going to be around a whole lot longer to worry about. I mean, she doesn’t sound like any kind of a top performer. My feeling is she’s unhappy there and it just isn’t working out, if she’s so focused on distraction. She’s distracting herself first.

    I personally can’t understand why a woman would ask a man for nail polish. It’s got to be frustrating to be her.

    1. bridget

      Or anyone at work, really, unless you frequently see that person painting their nails at their desk. My nails are almost always painted, but if a coworker asked me for a bottle on any given Tuesday I’d look at her like she had two heads, because duh, I don’t just keep that stuff in my office drawer.

      1. Celeste

        Right–who does that?! It’s not even something that is compatible with work, from the odor, to the time it takes for nails to dry so you can work with your hands. It’s also like advertising that you literally have time on your hands with nothing to do, and there are soooo many better ways to address needing more WORK to do AT WORK.

        If she has been there for 2 months and hasn’t got a training schedule or any deliverables, I also question what’s going on with the manager. You don’t let a newbie wither on the vine.

        I still don’t think she’s going to work out; the situation is just too much.

        1. Blue_eyes

          Time on your HANDS. I see what you did there. (Actually you may not have even meant this as a pun, but it’s a pretty good one).

        2. JoAnna

          At one of my previous jobs, the office manager had to put a lock on the “Lactation Lounge” and hand out keys to all the nursing mothers because some women were using it to paint their nails, or sometimes take naps, which would frustrate those of us who needed to use it for its actual purpose.

          1. bridget

            At my current job, a lactation room was set up a few years ago when an attorney had a baby. Obviously need that didn’t last forever, so now it is the unofficial Nap Room. It’s pretty awesome.

            1. Stone Satellite

              I’m a fan of nap rooms. Really, if you’re so exhausted you can actually fall asleep at work, are you really going to be productive attempting to do anything? But take a 30 minute nap and you can be back in the game for the rest of the day.

        3. LJL

          The only way I can see this as remotely reasonable is to stop a runner if she’s wearing pantyhose. But I would NEVER ask a man for this!

        1. AW

          That makes a little more sense though I’d still think she’d explain why she was asking for nail polish since it’s not a common request.

          1. Beezus

            I am wondering if, rather than ask if he had any handy, she might have asked if he could grab some for her if he was running out for something else. It makes a little more sense in that context, and is consistent with the requests for rides and treats.

          2. Chinook

            I actually did have a coworker ask me if I had nail polish, but she was clear that it was to fix a run and she had already tried to find the other office fixes of a glue stick or liquid white out.

        2. Cath in Canada

          We used to use clear nail polish in the lab, too, for various things. But I’m assuming that the OP isn’t doing too much molecular biology in the office.

          1. blackcat

            Yes, it has some pretty useful properties for various things in labs! And it’s less toxic than some other glues…

        3. Artemesia

          Guys don’t do this and she is asking guys.

          And I really really would not recommend that any of these guys ‘take her out to coffee’ to clue her in. This person has all the vibes of a big problem for anyone who gets tangled with her. I’d be afraid of being sucked into some kind of stalker/sexual harassment fantasy. I know people who have tried to deal with disturbed weird people and then had to defend themselves against extreme weirdness (and only the extremity of the weirdness saved them from sexual harassment charges)

          1. afiendishthingy

            Yeah, since one of her weird behaviors is asking to be driven around at lunchtime and they have no desire to do so I would not recommend they start a precedent of taking her out for coffee!

          2. Jessa

            Yes, the first thing I thought about this suggestion is what a bad idea it would be to be alone with someone this out of touch. Especially outside of the work environment. It just makes me feel wiggy and uncomfortable. I can just see very bad things happening because of it. Either she won’t leave that person alone, or accuses that person of misbehaviour, or has a hissy fit if they won’t be nice to her at work since “they obviously like her they took her to coffee.” No. This bit of advice I disagree with.

            1. Another Job Seeker

              Yes – I agree with this comment completely. It’s too much of a risk that she would take it the wrong way, get her feelings hurt, and accuse the person of sexual misconduct just to spite him. I do like AAM’s intention, however. Maybe there are other ways the OP and his co-worker’s can help her without putting themselves at risk.

      2. Melissa

        I might have some clear nail polish to touch up an emergency run in stockings or something. But other than that, no.

  3. CrazyCatLady

    I don’t understand this at all. Alone, some of the things aren’t that weird but combined they paint a very bizarre picture. Maybe if she were new to the workforce, it wouldn’t seem so strange, but this is just very odd to me – particularly the requests for items like nailpolish or a needle and thread… and the writing/passing notes.

      1. Van Wilder

        Agreed. Almost everything else I could say is kind of annoying / she might be used to a friendlier culture / it’s hard to not have a car. But the notes. Although leaving a note for a coworker is weird, the content? “You have to say nice things to me…” Borderline creepy.

        1. Jeanne

          Where I worked, we would often write a quick note on a sticky and leave it on the computer. I don’t find that weird. It was all work related though. I don’t understand “say nice things about me” if the manager is saying bad things. Very very odd.

          1. Stone Satellite

            The sticky note thing makes sense, like if it’s late in the day and someone might leave without checking their email but you really need them to come see you before they go or something. Otherwise, that’s what email is for. And the content of the note made me wonder if OP is 100% sure his coworker isn’t a 3rd grader? I’m pretty sure that’s about the age I gave up passing notes in class.

          2. INTP

            It sounds like she’s trying to make her coworkers responsible for herself esteem when she’s being reprimanded at work. I can kind of understand saying to a very close work friend, “Ok, Feenix, you’re going to have to pump me up after Jane rips me a new one. Please be nice.” But with random people who you aren’t providing mutual emotional support with already, it’s VERY odd. Maybe she has such a distorted perception of the work relationships that she thinks she’s already in this kind of friendship with OP and the other men or maybe she just assumes men will be happy to play white knight for her hurt feelings. Both of which are so strange and annoying.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        I wonder if there is some problem with her health and wellbeing – that could be a variety of things, from not having the skills needed for work-based social interactions, an anxiety disorder, a stressful medical problem, a medication side-effect, a history of trauma, etc. It’s hard to know if it’s a new problem since she’s new to your office.

        While I’ve never seen this specific set of behaviors, this kind of grouping might lead me to make an EAP referral. They may be able to help the person address the root of the issue. It doesn’t sound like this is your role, but that might be a reason to bring the concerns to your manager.

        1. Ann without an e

          Maybe she is new to the area and has not made any friends yet. Most of this stuff reads as a person that is trying to use work to make friends. If she was stay at home anything, coming out of social isolation to lots of people can be overwhelming, I’ve seen lots of returning SAHMs be too chatty at first and then normalize after being among adults for a while, it takes about one month for every six months of the time the person was in isolation for.

          Alternative explanation: This happened to me when I was co-oping and transitioning between departments. During a performance review I was told that I was too direct, unfriendly, difficult to talk to because I never made an effort towards small talk. It is rude to only talk to people for professional reasons and I need to make more of an effort to get to know my co-workers. But I do good work. So at the next department in my rotation I took all of that feedback to heart and made a concerted effort to become a better professional, and in that performance review was told that I am overly friendly, gregarious and a distraction. But I do good work.

          The takeaway lesson is that I do good work.
          Its only been two months giver her some time.

          1. Kimberly

            I was a SAHM for years…and I don’t recall being ‘in isolation’, not do I recall having to learn how to behave like a professional all.over.again. Please don’t paint a broad brush regarding mothers (or fathers!) who return to the workforce.

          2. TheLazyB

            Ditto Kimberly.

            But also Ann, I bet if you were male you wouldn’t have got that feedback :-/

          3. Journalist Wife

            Yes, the only thing that stood out to me apart from thinking she’s a weirdo, is that I do remember once starting at a position in a small office where there were only 3-4 other people (all men) and while they acted very friendly when I interviewed, I became depressed after I started there and saw them all leave for lunch together every day without inviting me, etc., and it was hard to figure out how to act. Eventually, it turned out that my direct supervisor whose position I’d been hired to replace when he moved up the totem pole, was legitimately whack-a-doodle and was purposely engineering things to make me feel like I was out of place. After his departure, I became very close to my other teammates (bosses) and they felt horrible that he had created this tension when they were oblivious to the way he was parading his relationship with them around and excluding me. They were awesome coworkers/bosses, but it took removing the crazy guy I reported to out of the situation before I was able to learn that. So maybe she is just lonely and also feeling weird as the only female, and hasn’t had the opportunity to figure out a way to connect yet. Maybe the rest of you aren’t super-friendly to each other; focus more on individual productivity, etc., but if you’re part of an existing long-term office mate culture, it can seem more impenetrable to an outsider than to an insider. It sounds like maybe a misguided cry for help.

        2. runcherylrun

          I was thinking along the same lines. I’ve worked with people that were on the autism spectrum or have other medical issues that affected their ability to interpret some of the unwritten rules that occur in a work environment.

          I have encountered two male employees during my tenure at one job that would be seen lurking around corners or outside of closed doors (not together, they didn’t work there at the same time). One responded to direct conversation by correcting the behavior (he was just nosy) and the other…well continued that and other odd behaviors that eventually led to his termination (he was a creep).

    1. AW

      Actually, the needle and thread one made sense to me. She probably popped a button and was hoping someone had one of those mini sewing kits so she could fix it.

      1. Melissa

        Had she asked my husband, she might have actually gotten one. He carries one around for just such emergencies.

    2. KS

      Asking for home addresses really stood out to me as weird…er. I don’t understand any of this, either.

  4. Anon in SC

    You know, given all strange requests – including requests for rides and to get food, I wouldn’t suggest taking her to coffee. I agree with everything else regarding being direct and polite. But I wouldn’t want to engage any more than necessary.

    1. SevenSixOne

      Is she very young and/or inexperienced? Because these all seem like things a teenager would do because she doesn’t understand that the world outside of school doesn’t work like that.

        1. Steve G

          They don’t sound like a young person thing to me, they sound like an annoying person thing to me.

          1. Juli G.

            Yes… and no. I went to college in a city that wasn’t very pedestrian friendly and lacked reliable public transportation. I had a car and often got requests to tag along shopping or to drop people at the bus or train station. But even in college, most people realized they were imposing and asked sparingly which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

          2. INTP

            They’re requests that aren’t unusual coming from young people but still annoying. When I was in college and high school, the few people I knew without cars were alway begging rides and such. Annoying but it was so common I couldn’t call it strange in an 18yo.

            However, I was a fellow 18yo then. And I’m a woman, and it was only other women who I recall asking me with much frequency or persistence. I don’t know if it’s just as normal when the young person is badgering people of the opposite gender and decades her senior.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        This is my thought I’m actually picturing her walking around with a lollipop in her mouth at all times

      2. Artemesia

        Does not sound like young naive behavior to me AT ALL. Sounds like disturbed behavior.

    2. HDL

      This. And it sounds like the writer and his coworkers have already tried a similar approach.

    3. Cheesecake

      I believe some lucky people are not made for the office, so it is tough to explain the unwritten office rules. So i agree about not engaging.

      1. Anon in SC

        Yeah – I didn’t want to make assumptions or take the conversation down a “never take a woman out for coffee” rabbit hole. But that was in the back of my mind. For the record, I do believe men and woman who are coworkers can go to coffee, lunch or dinner together. I do so myself (I’m female). It’s just in the context of everything else that I would be more cautious.

        1. sunny-dee

          There have been some places where I was on such a footing, I would totally do lunch / dinner / coffee / random midday store run with a coworker and think nothing of it. There were other circumstances when it would be been wildly inappropriate. Context can make such a huge difference.

        2. Beezus

          Me too. I think it is normal for opposite-gendered coworkers to share a meal outside the office without anything inappropriate going on, but this person’s understanding of office norms is so out of whack, I would not trust her to interpret it correctly, and a misinterpretation could be messy. The fact that it is normal is exactly why I’m worried she wouldn’t get it.

        3. afiendishthingy

          I absolutely think it can be totally fine for coworkers of whatever gender to go out for coffee etc together. Just not this crazy person who is already angling for rides and a weird boundary-crosser.

        4. Erin

          Oh, definitely. I have a coworker right now who has a (fairly innocuous) crush on me – not sexual, but a kind of puppy-eyed infatuation for someone more senior, you know? I would NEVER go to lunch with him, because I feel like he’d misconstrue it. But I have lunch with other coworkers (men) all the time.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Occurred to me too since she’s the only female working with four males…don’t want her to get any crazy ideas to blame one of the guys for harassment. Op, if you think she’s worth it, I’d advise more training- lots more, and keeping her busier.

    4. Ben Around

      I don’t think taking her for coffee is a good idea. There are some really weird overtones to some of her behavior as described. Any situation that could later lead to a her-word-against-OP’s-word sounds unwise.

      1. nona

        Agreed about strange overtones to her behavior. I wouldn’t want to be alone with someone who acts like this. If she thinks this is cute or she’s trying to flirt, it’ll be uncomfortable at best.

    5. Jeanne

      I thought this too. Especially one on one. She could get a lot of weird ideas or if she’s really crazy accuse that guy of some bad behavior.

  5. PEBCAK

    The letter writer’s focus on both age and gender is pinging something, but I can’t articulate exactly what. I think maybe it’s that some of these are genuinely weird, while others seem to be thrown in to make the case against this new coworker as strong as possible.

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      Yeah, I agree. Nothing in the letter raised red flags about the LW, but I can’t figure why he mentioned the gender and age of those involved, unless it’s to show how weird it was that she asked for nail polish. It isn’t an issue for me so much as a question about why it’s there and if it means anything.

      1. Elysian

        That was my guess – her requests for things like nail polish are especially weird when made to a 50 year old man. I think it is also possible that the (older) men are cognizant of the fact that this young female coworker might be young enough to be their daughter, and that makes her requests to be driven places even odder. Or perhaps they’re concerned about the appearance of impropriety should one of the men actually drive her places, etc. Or maybe the letter writer has just seen how the comment section can go crazy with guesses at these sorts of things, so just spelled it out so we wouldn’t guess. No matter what, I doubt there’s really anything to read into it.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, we often end up speculating on exactly those questions, so or having answers that are in part based on assumptions in those regards, so I think including those things helped paint a fuller picture. The nail polish thing gets a lot weirder when you take that into account, for instance.

          1. Wildkitten

            I bet it was clear nail polish because she had a run in her tights. People at my work ask for the things on that list all the time and we don’t think it’s weird because we’re co-worker-friends and sometimes you forget your phone charger.

            1. Arbynka

              It might be “snowball effect” If a co-worker is frequently asking and it is distracting others , then even normal or not that unusual things can become annoying. Not because they are but because of the person who is asking them. You get irritated by the person and suddenly everything they do is annoying.

              1. java jones

                “You get irritated by the person and suddenly everything they do is annoying.”

                I was thinking this too. Some of these things are really minor in the grand scheme, but all together would probably make people feel understandably irritated.

              2. SevenSixOne

                Yeah, any one of these behaviors as an isolated incident would be easy to ignore and could even be endearingly quirky IF she were professional and a star performer otherwise… but everything all together just seems relentlessly awful.

            2. Melissa

              Yes…but at the risk of sounding gender essentialist, I wouldn’t ask a man. I’d also say asking for lemon juice randomly is kind of weird.

            3. Ž

              but why would a 50 year old man be wearing tights to the obvious and carrying around nail polish in case he got a run in his tights? if it happens i’m not judging him, I think he’s brave for it, but it’s weird for this young woman to expect a man to be carrying nail polish around on the off chance that he gets a run in the tights he might be hiding underneath his trousers.

              1. Ž

                I meant office, not obvious. Wearing tights to the office. I know people don’t usually correct typos around here and I think that’s a good thing but I had to stare at my post for a while to figure out what I meant, so I thought I’d throw everyone else a bone.

          2. Arbynka

            Yep. Long time ago, I wore pantyhose and I remember, if you got hole (“the eye”) in them, putting little nail polish around would stop it from running. So I did ask women co-workers couple of times if anybody had nail polish. But honestly, it would not have crossed my mind to ask a man. I just would not think he would have any.

            1. Kelly L.

              +1. If she was just asking “the whole office,” it’s not that weird in and of itself.

          3. Steve G

            Even the “lemon juice” is odd. Its an obvious cry for attention. I am part of the 1% that actually brings lemons to work because I make unsweetened iced tea a lot. But I am definitely not in the norm!

            1. Kelly L.

              I think lemon juice is to get stains out. Presumably she spilled something on her clothes.

              1. bridget

                This woman seems to have a lot of clothing-related issues (if we assume the needle and thread was to mend a tear, the lemon juice was to get a stain out, and the nail polish was to fix a run in her stockings). All in two months of working! Perhaps she should start carrying her own “clothing emergency” kit if she’s experiencing such an alarming frequency of issues.

                1. Arbynka

                  Unless you work with Johnny Depp. I saw a picture of him with nail polish. Not bad, actually. But I don’t think it will catch on in the office culture anytime soon.

              2. Melissa

                Why ask for lemon juice and not a Tide pen, which someone is much more likely to have in their purse or desk drawer?

      1. MsM

        I think the cell phone, leaving work unnanounced, and spending too much time chatting with people would be more annoying than weird if it weren’t for the other stuff.

    2. NP

      I kind of agree, but I think gender and age play a role in why the OP is asking for advice. Assuming this is a younger woman (younger than the youngest man, at least), that may be causing some of the discomfort around how to deal with some of these issues. “Why is she asking us men for our home addresses? Why is she asking for rides at lunch and to go home? Is she flirting with us? I don’t know what to do about a younger woman flirting with me in the office. I also don’t want to assume she’s flirting, but this is still weird.”

      I guess my answer changes if she also asks this stuff of the women in the office, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

        1. Cordelia Naismith

          This. Everything else was either just annoying or weird, but asking for your co-workers home addresses is…I don’t even know. Creepy and weird. Creepy-weird.

          1. sunny-dee

            I did this for some coworkers, but it was people I’m remote from so I could mail thank-you cards for wedding gifts they had given me. I had a reason!

            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              Don’t sweat it! That’s perfectly normal. As is asking for an address when a co-worker has had a baby, falls ill, etc. It’s the arbitrary “can I have your home address” which is weird.

            2. Cordelia Naismith

              That makes sense, though…it’s not the random, out of the blue cherry on top of the weirdness sundae. That’s not creepy!

        2. Jackie

          I wonder if it was more along the lines of her trying to find someone who might give her a ride to and from work. I can imagine the question being asked in an innocent way or a creepy way.

          1. Pennalynn Lott

            But if that were the case, wouldn’t she just ask, “What part of town do you live in?” instead of asking for the actual address?

      1. PixiePaint

        I’m wondering if the request for home addresses has something to do with her transportation issues. It might be an awkward and quirky way to see who lives closest to her and thus ask them to drop her at her house on their way home?

    3. blu

      I suspect the OP might think that some of this behavior could be an attempt to be “flirty”. Like the “You have to say nice things to me when the boss says mean things to me” could be coming off as some awkward and inappropriate flirting.

        1. afiendishthingy

          It strikes me as that weird phenomenon of women acting like little girls to flirt! Totally creepy.

    4. Stemmie

      I think even if gender and age hadn’t been mentioned, I’d still be picturing a Zooey Deschanel character just as much. (Ice cream and lemon juice?!)

    5. Tinker

      I also get an “oh nooooooo…” feeling when folks cite gender and age (or other demographic parameters, but those seem most common) in what seems to be a non sequitur fashion. Sometimes it ends up apparently being a way to include by reference some sort of wretched expression of bias (and often in an “of course everyone knows so I don’t have to spell it out” fashion), hence my discomfort.

      (I noticed that there was recently a terrible train wreck of a letter on Captain Awkward that started in a vaguely similar place but ended somewhere else entirely, as an example.)

      However, I think the material there is probably that they feel like there’s some component of attraction involved on her part, that they will be perceived as being wrapped up in some sort of romantic drama (which I can empathize with, as when people exhibit odd behavior that seems to be directed at increasing our level of relatedness, particularly if they are apparently male and interacting with me in a heterosexually flavored way, it’s embarrassing and awkward for me), that they’re concerned that they are being sexist or might be perceived that way unintentionally, or to illustrate the strangeness of the particulars of the requests. These things may still be related to a set of underlying assumptions that might be a bit premature, but I think in this case it’s immaterial; the situation is odd on its face, premature assumptions or no.

      1. bearing

        Yes – my impression is that there is an unspoken “and maybe she’s flirting with us!” concern here that the LW didn’t want to just come right out and say, perhaps because he was worried he might get called out on it, so instead decided to leave it to see if anyone else would pick up on it.

      2. So Very Anonymous

        Was that the “am I the next Bill Cosby?” letter on Captain Awkward? Because wow, I couldn’t finish reading that letter.

      1. QAT Contractor

        And why not read it as ice cream sandwiches? They are a great little treat and I look forward to eating one from the new box at home later today. :)

        1. Rebecca

          I read it that way, too! And I had a mental picture of asking one of my older, male colleagues if he would take me to get an ice cream sandwich. Except I’m pretty sure he’d be all about ice cream sandwiches!

          1. Wildkitten

            One of my male colleagues keeps ice cream sandwiches in the work freezer next to my lean cuisine. They look so good.

      2. Adrienne

        I thought it was ice cream sandwiches also, which made her sound more interesting and weird!

  6. Nanc

    I have no additional helpful advice but would like to ask (rhetorically) HOW did this person get hired?! Surely these behaviors weren’t apparent in the interview process!

    1. Lily in NYC

      How would this come up in an interview? I doubt she asked anyone for nail polish or to drive her around during the interview. We’ve hired lots of odd ducks who seemed completely normal during the interview. The last one was so entertaining. She was an admin who thought it was ok to throw stuff at people (for fun) – I can’t tell you how many pens she chucked at my head. When people asked her for staples, she refused to give an entire box and would hand them out strip by strip. And she cried and made a huge scene when someone ate fries in front of her because she was on diet. She finally got fired after screaming at a VP who was less than 5 minutes late to a meeting she asked to have with him (she was planning to ask for a promotion to project manager after being here for two months and alienating everyone she met).

      1. Lily in NYC

        Sorry Nanc, I completely misread your comment and thought you wrote that “surely these behaviors WOULD be apparent during the interview process.

        1. Nanc

          No worries. It is scary how well some people interview and after they’ve started you’re wondering if their evil twin offed them and showed up in their place. Thank goodness for probation periods!

    2. Juli G.

      Some people aren’t as good at identifying crazy. My team interviewed someone who came off totally off (the biggest flag was that she answered three questions in a ninety minute interview that was supposed to last an hour). Everyone thought she was so enthusiastic. I thought she was nuts.

      When we filled that role again, my I opinion had much more weight.

      1. Windchime

        Interviews are so weird that way. We just interviewed someone who gave long, rambly, somewhat antagonistic answers to our questions. Several people thought she was awesome (a real “go-getter”); I just thought of having our customers having to talk to someone who is so adversarial and can’t be succint.

    3. Snarkus Aurelius

      Don’t ever underestimate people’s ability to hide that crazy flag in job interviews.  They know what’s at stake so some can turn into Oscar-worthy actors/actresses.

      My former coworker hid her religious fanaticism throughout the whole interview process.  During her first week, it all seeped out in a few days.

      Plus, what a lot of uninformed, naive and/or just plain stupid bosses believe is that quirkiness and other “out of the box” behavior means innovation, creative, and “bucking the trend” type of people.  This is similar to the idea that if someone is a complete jerk, then he must be really good at his job.  (See very single anti-male hero in a sitcom or drama.  Dr. House, Hank Moody, and any male Aaron Sorkin character come to mind.)

      When in reality, job candidates who exhibit non-traditional behaviors are exactly that: annoying and/or jerks and nothing more. 

      Oh but they want to believe SO BAD that all the negative behavior is somehow worth it.

      1. Mabel

        This makes me glad that my company has a “no jerks” policy, and they really mean it. I saw a video last week of two VPs talking about the policy and owning up to situations in which they had been jerks and how they could have handled things better. I thought it was great that they were giving the message that anyone can be a jerk at times and that it’s important to work harder to not give in to that impulse.

    4. Allison

      Weird people are really great at appearing to be normal, even really sweet, when making a first impression.

  7. C Average

    I think certain environments (high school clubs and groups, certain college sororities, certain very casual workplaces with a lot of young people in them) can reinforce the idea that this kind of behavior is cute or appealing. In such environments, it tends to get rewarded, especially if (I hesitate to say this, but it’s true) the woman in question is attractive. I’ve seen parents reinforce this kind of behavior in kids, too.

    She needs to hear in unadorned terms that this is not cute, not professional, not appropriate, and not going to get results. Full stop. She’s not going to be pleasantly disposed toward the messenger, but she’s not going to quit doing this until someone does deliver that message.

    1. blu

      +1 and this is what I was trying to get at with my comment above. I think the genders *could be* relevant here, because a lot of this sounds the kind of behavior that some people use to get the attention of the opposite sex.

    2. Cheesecake

      I had a similar colleague. She came to us from other dept and those guys told me she is problematic and not to be engaged with at all. I was confused with what they mean by it and went on. First i was polite, then direct (then i run to boss for cover). Nothing worked because there are people who just.do.not.get.it. She did not understand people are busy because they have a deadline and did not understand that people want to ride home in silence. The explanation was taken as something specifically against her “no, you don’t seem busy, you just don’t like me!”. It did not matter if it came from a boss or peer. I am not sure anything will help. I bet my money she is new and will soon leave.

    3. Person

      Spot on, C Average. It would be a huge kindness to tell her exactly this, in a compassionate tone, before she’s hearing it (or not hearing it) in the context of losing her job.

    4. FD

      I also have seen it work for some people in more entry level jobs (food service, low-level hospitality, etc.) where the rules about fraternization tend to be less strictly enforced, and a lot of managers are also inexperienced at enforcing professional norms and boundaries. This can easily lead to a situation where someone who’s transitioning to the professional world is just trying to continue using strategies that have worked before, and doesn’t realize they aren’t appropriate in this setting.

      (Well, really they aren’t appropriate in any work setting, but they’re much more accepted in some settings.)

    5. MaryMary

      I’ve seen similar but slightly different “cute” behavior from young men too. Some people go through high school and college thinking they’re charming, and it’s not until they get to a professional setting that they find a wink and a grin (or flirty notes and silly chit chat) annoys more people than it charms.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I was thinking that Manic Pixie Overdrive would one day look back on this time in her career… and be one of the people who have a That Time I Was Soooo Unprofessional story like last week’s post. “And I even asked an older man in the office who reminded me of my Dad if he had any nail polish. Nail polish! What *was* I thinking?”

      2. Awful Waffle

        We had a guy EXACTLY like this in my old office. It was his first professional job and he thought he was majorly charming and adorable. He would constantly wink and smile at all of the women in our office, try to touch them daily, etc. The kicker is that he would openly flirt with the younger, single women in our office. His signature move was to drop a sugar packet behind the woman’s chair, tell her that she dropped something and when she turned around to pick it up, he would make some remark about her being sweet.

        He was hired before I came on board, but it’s my understanding that he did great in the interview process and didn’t exhibit any of these behaviors.

        He ended up getting fired for taking other job interview calls at his desk…in our open floor plan.

      3. blackcat

        When teaching high school and college kids, I think I’m doing a public good in squashing this behavior. I’ve always been very blunt: “X behavior may make people take you less seriously for Y reason. X is inappropriate. Do not treat me like I am your friend [or parent!]. Acting like this in the workplace will get you fired. It is my job to prepare you for adulthood. Consider this discussion part of that preparation.”

        Sometimes it’s a hard pill for them to swallow, and the level of compassion depends on what behavior they’ve busted out and in what context (DO NOT bat your eyelashes/flash a grin at me when you say “Awe, shucks, I didn’t realize copying from the internet was plagiarism. Can we let it go, just this one time?”). What I find remarkable is how many colleagues I’ve had who give into that behavior…

    6. Serin

      When you put it that way, I remember my cousins from the South saying, “Carry us to the store, Daddy!”

    7. Mallory Janis Ian

      You’re articulated exactly what I was sort of thinking but couldn’t exactly put my finger on. She probably thinks she’s being cute or appealing or charming. And, like MaryMary below, I’ve seen this kind of behavior from both young men and young women (although more from young women, probably because it’s more typical that social conditioning rewards them for it). And as C Average says, the behavior comes primarily from people who are (or who think they are) attractive, probably because that sort of behavior can get rewarded when people are attractive.

      She probably doesn’t realize that the behavior has most likely been successful for her before is working against her now. She might just keep trying harder and harder to be more cute and more charming if someone doesn’t say something fairly direct to her.

      1. fposte

        This actually makes me think of the baby talking employee; I think it could be a pretty similar thing. People have thought this was cute. It’s kind of like it being bad to teach a Great Dane puppy that it’s cute to jump up on you, because later it’s going to be a problem.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        Yes, it reminds me of the baby-talker, too. We also had an employee who only knew how to interact with men in an elaborately coquettish way, and apparently that had worked spectacularly for her, given that it was as ingrained in her as breathing. She would be all fluttery and breathless, bat her eyes, giggle, the whole nine yards. She wasn’t entry level or young, either; she was a budget director in her fifties. She was, however, traditionally attractive (a tiny, blue-eyed blonde) and raised in the deep south. She also was sickly as a child, so she had all kinds of learned-helplessness behaviors.

  8. QAT Contractor

    Very odd behavior regardless of being new to the office culture. I would think she’s at least held other jobs before this in different settings, and perhaps this behavior was allowed there. But asking for home addresses, rides and nail polish (From a guy? To each their own though.) it just seems to me more like she’s flirting and trying to find someone willing to play her games.

    This could be wildly off base, but that’s just how I’m reading the situation.

  9. AMG

    I would love to hear from her exactly what the angle is. My votes are boredom, flirting, trying to be friendly, first job ever, or raised by wolves.

      1. Chinook

        “Wolves use nail polish?”

        Since I am the one with a pet wolf, I can could so see Marley enjoying having bright pink claws to match her rhinestone collar. Too bad she doesn’t like her front paws being touched, though, because I could so see doing it to her.

        1. Chinook

          I should also add that I would totally prefer someone raised by the wolf I know because she is quite clean, quiet, happily keeps to herself and deferrential to those in charge. Nothing at all like the OP’s coworker

            1. Chinook

              The wolf (technically wolf dog though the dog part is definitely hiding) is a rescue from a wolf dog sanctuary. They naturally occur in rural areas when people don’t spay or neuter their larger dogs. DH wanted something intimidating but controllable because we have a weapon in the house (he is a cop – esssentially I am married to the lead charachter of Due South). She is a loveable creature who is focused not on praise (like dogs are) but on obedience and ensuring that there is a pack order. In our house, she ranks slightly below the cat and my 15 year old dog and slightly above the bull terrier mix that she raised from a pup and whom she shares a kennel with when no one is at home. She loves sleeping on a couch and watching TV.

              If you want more details, AAM, feel free to contact me.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I want so many details! What’s the wolf/dog breakdown in terms of characteristics? Like would you say she’s 50/50 wolf/dog or more dog-like? Or are the species so similar that it doesn’t break down like that?

                I remember you talking about her before. She loves the cat, if I remember correctly, right?

                1. Chinook

                  The cat – she loves him as a friend, not dinner. Though we did initially joke that, if that wasn’t the case, all we would was tufts of fur.

                  Wolf/dog percentage mix – short of a DNA test, there is no way of knowing. Any dog traits are well hidden, she looks like a grey wolf at the zoo but is a definite runt. She has a delicate stomach, no grains, and is only interested in kitchen food before it is cooked. The only thing I have ever seen her steal from the other dogs (with in-laws, we can have 1 wolf, 3 dogs and a cat) is rawhide and she devours bison knuckles/angles (available from the butcher)

                  Wolf dogs are difficult to train as they are not food or praise motivated like dogs. You have to show them you are boss. When she went into heat the first time (so a teenage wolf), she tested the pack order and was quite content with the result when DH pinned her on her back at her throat. That being said, I would never leave her unattended with someone under 18 or someone who didn’t know her well as she could choose to challenge.

                  I got a meeting but will give more info soon.

                2. AMG

                  I have to train my Doberman that way. Pin him and snarl so he knows I’m the Alpha. It seems so weird but it works.

                3. Mabel

                  I’d love to hear more about Marley! For my birthday, my partner took me on a surprise trip to Wolf Hollow, the wolf preserve in Ipswich, MA. It was amazing! I learned that wolves are more pack (family) oriented than dolphins. So I have removed “raised by wolves” from my vocabulary (it’s hard to come up with a substitute that doesn’t insult an animal, though, so I’m still working on it).

              2. Nanc

                You save a wolf’s life and they make you pay and pay and pay . . .

                Due South is still my all time favorite TV show!

                1. AMG

                  We have about 200 pounds between 4 dogs, anywhere from 7-85 pounds. The cats are in charge of all of them.

                2. DMented Kitty

                  LOL I think cats just inherently are born being the boss. I know my two fur-kids can make my household heaven or hell at a twitch of a tail.

                3. Cath in Canada

                  I dunno DMented Kitty, I have a “special” cat who is subservient to a sock on the floor. I’ve actually seen her enter a stand-off with a sock on the floor, get suddenly intimidated, and run away. If she saw a wolf-dog she’d probably just die on the spot.

                  This is the same cat that once forgot how to lie down. Instead of going stand-sit on hind legs-put front legs & belly down-roll onto side-roll onto back, she’d try to get from standing to lying on her back all in one movement. There was much pausing and confusion at this stage. Eventually she’d just squawk and kind of flop over. This lasted for a couple of weeks, then she suddenly remembered how to do it properly again. She also falls off the sofa sometimes, from lying down, and gets startled by her own leg.

            2. ThursdaysGeek

              She can wear nail polish for the interview!

              I have a question too! How does she move? Does she move like a dog, all bouncy when she runs? Ok, that question is because I came face to face with what I though looked like a huge coyote or a greyish german shepherd, and I was trying to decide what it was (and I don’t expect wolves or wolf-dog hybrids here, unless they are pets running loose). Then it glided into the sagebrush and disappeared, moving completely unlike a dog.

              I want to read an interview, and even these few comments are fascinating.

              1. Chinook

                Walking – she does move like a dog at times. In fact, she learned to wag her tail and shake her body like my dog (think start at the head and move the shake to her tail). But, when she runs at the off leash park (especially if she spots a rabbit), she is pure wolf. Ditto when she walks down the stairs to see who is at the door (everyone who meets her for the first time al. Think the same thing – gulp!).

                I should warn people that wolf dogs are considered exotic animals (even though wolves run wild around her. True story – bylaw called DH once because there was reports of a grey wolf on the golf course. He confirmed she was sleeping on the couch, so it wasn’t her). He knows optics are everything so is always on leash and he often takes her to his office, which is shared by by-law, and all law enforcement in town know her by name. In fact, when they go into the office, the leash drags behind her and she gives hugs to everyone (sits and leans in to your arms).

                The only time she acts dislike is for my mother-in-law who treats her like a grandbaby by spoiling her with attention when dog sits. At that point, Marley will sit in the kitchen, ready for any food that may be given to her.

    1. Steve G

      If it is flirting, then I’m totally picturing this as EG Daily in the Say it Say it video where she is playing with a hoolahoop and sucking on a lollipop trying to act innocent to lure their 50yo+ tenant. Not normal for work!

  10. Name-O

    If she doesn’t have a car, and she works in an office park, she’s probably asking for rides because nice people would help and it would save her a lot of time. She’s probably leaving unannounced because she’s on a bus schedule or has someone picking her up. If she’s new and young, she’s probably glued to her phone, or hasn’t been trained or shown what she’s supposed to be doing and is idling with it instead of her work computer, and needs a charger to get through the day. Some of these “weird behaviors” are a stretch to call them that. Since you mention sex and age of yourselves, what do the women in the office say? Is this just a middle-aged male issue or an entire office issue?

    1. Lily in NYC

      The reasons don’t matter. She’s been asked to stop and she hasn’t. That’s a problem. And it sounds like it’s a constant thing, not just once in a while. It’s not normal behavior to ask people for annoying favors multiple times a day. Nor is it professional to leave the office unannounced unless it’s the culture there. So what if she takes the bus; how would that stop her from telling someone she’s leaving?

      1. Wildkitten

        I’d like more information on how she was asked to stop all of these many activities. “Stop walking around and being friendly!” “Stop asking your colleagues to grab lunch with you!” “Let your phone die, nobody wants to share our chargers!” I find it hard to believe that she was clearly asked to stop.

        I also agree that most of them don’t seem weird to me.

        1. Meg Murry

          Yes, I wonder if she’s really been asked to stop, or if she’s just been put off – “No, I can’t give you a ride, please stop asking” is different than “no, I can’t give you a ride today, sorry, because I have to X, Y, Z” which an oblivious person might interpret as “He can’t give me a ride today, but maybe tomorrow or the next day?”

          It sounds like this person is extra clueless, so this is not the time to be polite and vague. Be specific. “No, I can’t ever give you a ride after work” “No, I don’t keep things like needles and thread in my desk.” “No, I don’t ever go out at lunch to run errands, I prefer to eat at my desk alone.”

          And if she is saying weird things to the boss like that she would rather work for someone else – the boss has noticed.

      2. LisaS

        >>The reasons don’t matter

        Yes, this. My students pull this on me all the time, telling me why they didn’t come to class/why the homework isn’t done/why they plagiarized their paper, as if offering a reason means the subject is closed.

        I don’t care if there’s a good reason; what’s your plan for fixing this? is all I’m really concerned with…

    2. MsM

      She’s a young professional, not a middle schooler. Asking if anyone in the office is interested in a shared ride arrangement is fine. Persisting when nobody’s taken her up on the offer just lacks common sense.

    3. MK

      I think you are confusing “nice person” with “chauffeur”. It’s one think to ask someone who is going somewhere already if you can tag along, another if you are trying to use them as an unpaid taxi service. I also don’t see what bus schedules or car pooling has to do with leaving unannounced.

      1. Name-O

        Sorry-my thinking was that when you’re on someone else’s schedule like bus or ride-share, you don’t always have time for pleasantries as you walk out for the day. I often sneak out to make the bus on time to make the train on time.

        1. some1

          I take the bus to work. I don’t leave earlier than I am supposed to (especially without telling anyone), I don’t ask people for rides or to bring me somewhere to get lunch – I bring mine or go somewhere I can walk to buy lunch.

        2. cardiganed librarian

          But when you say you sneak out, you mean you don’t stand around saying lengthy goodbyes and chatting about your evening plans, not that you defy the office norms about letting people know that you’re leaving and staying until an agreed-upon time, right? I’ve certainly run out the door before, but everyone expected that I would have to do that from time to time if I was slightly delayed in finishing up my work. While buses might not arrive on schedule, it’s not like their schedule changes daily.

    4. bridget

      I think many of these requests, in isolation, wouldn’t raise eyebrows if they were occasional (maybe the home address thing would be weird, or mentioning a lunchtime need for ice cream). People are coming up with plenty of situations where they would make sense (stains, stocking tears, etc.). It’s the combination and the frequency that makes her seem bizarre and/or out of touch.

    5. The Toxic Avenger

      I see your point, on the one hand, but as Alison says in her answer:

      “That said … what you’re describing isn’t the kind of thing that you can fix issue by issue; it speaks to an overall bizarre orientation toward how to be in an office with other people. You can probably fix or lessen some of these, but not all of them, because you’re talking about a fundamental issue of bad judgment, and that’s going to play out in lots of ways.”

      Taken individually, these behaviors aren’t all that weird (well…except for the note passing. That’s weird). But her behaviors have a common theme of helplessness combined with excessive cutesy-ness, and that’s not pro.

    6. Melissa

      Buses run on schedules; she could announce that she was leaving before catching a bus, or catching a ride with other people. I take the bus to and from work a couple days a week and given that I always know when it comes, I have time to say goodbye to my coworkers (at the same time every day).

  11. mskyle

    I wonder if she’s used to a very casual and friendly work environment and is desperately reaching out to people?
    I mean, obviously she’s got bad judgment if she doesn’t realize how poorly it’s going, but I feel like this is mostly just poor cultural fit. Maybe she even recognizes the poor cultural fit and is trying to get “in” with the OP et al., but just going about it very poorly. And I wonder if there’s an element of mismatched class expectations here too?

    I get that the OP finds her annoying to work with, and I think I would feel much the same, but a lot of what the OP describes is nitpicky. Asking for favors is hardly beyond the professionalism pale. Leaving work unannounced and wandering around talking to people, while certainly not good work practice, are acceptable in some organizations and positions and not in others. The note-passing is super-weird, but again seems to me like an attempt to reach out and become part of the group. Telling your boss you want to work under a different boss (that’s what that last one means, right?) is a pretty terrible idea.

  12. AMG

    I think the idea is the comprehensive picture; all of these things paints a weird picture.

  13. Sunflower

    It sounds like she came from a workplace where socialization and being ‘besties’ with everyone was a big thing (I’m wondering if she came from the office where the manager wanted everyone to have a drunk sleepover!). These all sound like things I might? ask my best friend, but not my coworkers. Maybe this is her way of trying to get to know people? I think it would be really beneficial to have someone talk to her about office norms so I would pull her aside in the office and mention it. You can continue to politely decline but given what else you’ve said about her, she might get the impression you’re just simply declining and not that you are annoyed being asked. If pulling her aside doesn’t work, I’d just stick with directly telling her ‘no and don’t ask me again’

    1. Meg Murry

      Yes – I’m wondering if she came from an office that was the polar opposite of this one. Or if the other place had an “office mom” type of person who babied her a bit. My new office has a few people who have never worked anywhere else, and I worry a bit that they will have a rough time if they ever went to a bigger and more formal place. For instance, I know that I could find all of the things on her list of requests between our kitchen, bathroom and supply closet – simply because there is a lot of storage here and a drugstore down the street, so whenever someone needs one of these items they tend to buy it and then put it on the common shelves to share – and because our office manager is a bit of an “office mom” and does things like buy us cookies and our favorite snacks whenever she runs errands.

      Regardless, I think the best defense is a standard, short answer. “No, I don’t have any ____. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me when I’m working on A, its hard for me to get back to my focus.” And then if you ARE socializing at all, like at lunchtime, it would be polite to include her. Or if you are working on a task you think she would benefit from learning – because she might just be bored and not been given enough to do yet.

  14. Katie the Fed

    Oh man, I’m dealing with a bizarre new person right now I was planning to post about tomorrow.

    This is a different level of weird. Like others have said I wonder if she thinks it’s cute or funny? You all need to not encourage it in any way – be dead serious when you respond. Any hint of laughing or amusement will probably just encourage her.

    If she’s doing this stuff around the boss too I would bet her days are numbered, and it would be good of you to tell the boss some of what’s going on – we don’t always see everything.

    1. Arbynka

      I usually miss the Friday thread because once I get there, there are already 400 something posts .. but you have my attention :) I think I’ll try to make it tomorrow. I don’t know what it says about me but here we are.

      1. Merry and Bright

        Whatever it says, it applies to me too then. Anyway, AAM is all kinds of therapy.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I hate to say it, but I live for the bizarre stuff on the open thread. I usually read it when I’m at the front desk (because I can’t really work on anything down there with all the distractions).

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I’ll make an effort to be there. I’ve got a couple stories myself.

      (We like weird people. I’m weird. I’ve been known to yell out “Anybody got a ham sandwich?” because, I really wanted a ham sandwich right that sec — one time, somebody had one and gave it to me! :-) Weird is fine. It’s Weird + sucking everybody elses time that becomes issue.)

      1. Arbynka

        This. :) Weird is fine. I am bit weird. And normal is subjective, anyways. But when weird starts to suck the life out of other people, then it becomes a problem.

        1. fposte

          Or suck the life out of productivity. We have a lot of goofing around, but it’s never bugging people when they’re working, and it’s never repeated asking for favors or weird clothing assistance.

        2. Nervous Accountant

          Is it good? I see lots of ppl in my office who are good weird and have quirks. But a coworker called me weird AND a bitch and I’ve been told that I was weird and that’s why I liked. So…..idk…

  15. Erin

    Oh, man. I’m going to say something that even my feminist self regrets to say, but she sounds like she’s playing “sexy baby,” i.e. purposely infantalizing herself because she thinks it will A) get her ahead in life or B) make it easier to work with an all-male team or C) some sort of head injury. (Oh also I do not recommend googling “sexy baby.” NSFL, the things you’ll see.)

    I mean, telling your coworkers (via note!) that your boss was mean to you so they have to be nice? Asking for rides or errands performed like she is not a grown-ass adult? I have worked with some women who have done this, particularly early in their career, because they think it’s the best way to get ahead and/or want to walk a path of least-resistance in a male-dominated company, etc. (And to an extent, I empathize with their position and their motivation. I work in a male-dominated industry and I at times go the opposite way – total hardass, even though I don’t necessarily want to be – in an effort to get noticed/be able to actually do my job/etc.)

    Or it could just be a weird personality quirk. I have an employee who thinks it’s his job to be the team cheerleader, and it’s like he drives into work wondering what ZANY personality trait he can show off today. He gets his work done and the people in closest contact with him don’t seem to mind it, so I’ve let it go . . . this woman’s former job may have been like that. Is she working effectively, despite the quirks?

    LW, I’d suggest that you are firm but kind and maybe see if you can draw an instance from your own work experience that you realized was unprofessional (or hell, crib from some of the answers in that thread last week). You could be like, “you know, when I first came to this company, I used to ask my boss to personally sign my chocolate before I turned it into the teapot! I didn’t realize how silly this made me look! Sometimes when you ask Bob to get you a sandwich, I think you might need to think about how that makes you look.”

    Or something, IDK. This one’s weird.

    1. FD

      It’s also possible that she doesn’t necessarily realize she’s doing it per se. Especially women who are particularly conventionally attractive are often socially rewarded for accepting an infantalized role, through getting additional attention and praise, gifts, etc. And, unfortunately, I have seen some workplaces where this behavior is reinforced.

      She may not think of it as a role as much as “the way women are supposed to be.” Additionally, if there are only five on her team, herself and four men, she may not be seeing enough of an example of how a professional woman in your culture ought to behave.

      1. Erin

        Very true about the lack of role models. And agreed on the conventional attractive people of the world – they do seem to just assume the rest of us are there to serve them!

    2. some1

      Fwiw, I think this is a genderless thing. Most good-looking people who become used to almost everyone being attracted to them become accustomed to that. Some use that to their andvantage.

      1. Stemmie

        True, but I think requests made and rewards received are probably a little gendered. I can’t recall the last time I saw a pretty man ask someone for a snack.

        1. some1

          My younger brother is apparently good-looking per my female friends and he would and has absolutely asked women he barely knows for random things. Going out for meals with him is maddening.

        2. EEE

          I have! I had a very attractive (abercrombie model) friend who TOTALLY lived in the bubble as described in 30 rock. He would request that I make him cookies, then smile at me dazzlingly. When my response was to look at him confusedly and ask “uhh why, is it your birthday or something?” he seemed genuinely confused and said that girls always seemed to want to bake him things.
          it must be nice to be so beautiful that you think that everyone wants to be that nice for purely selfless reasons

  16. Hermoine Granger

    Playing devil’s advocate here, could it be that she might have come from an environment where this kind of stuff might have been normal? Requests for tagging along to get lunch or carpooling to / from work aren’t that weird either as some co-workers / offices do that kind of stuff. I’ve worked at companies where it was normal for people to chat during downtime, tea/lemon juice/snacks were available, and people kept little quick fix kits in their desk. Having had those experiences, most of the actions described didn’t really strike me as being weird. However, (depending on the context and tone) her requests for home addresses and the notes are odd.

    The OP didn’t seem to mention that this lady was a bad employee so maybe she’s not really weird but just a bit tone deaf to the office culture? I agree with Alison’s advice to talk to her and then take things from there. Most normal folks will apologize and adjust accordingly while goof troops will insist on trying to make you see things their way. I hope everything works out ok.

    1. Liz

      I wouldn’t find most of it unusual if she were asking other women for a needle or nail polish. Those are not things I’d ask *any* male coworker about (unless I happened to know that one worked in the theater, for instance). The notes are completely unprofessional, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to take me on errands at lunch unless I already knew them well.

      So on the whole, I’d say she’s either really young or has absolutely no real world experience of working in an office.

        1. MsM

          …Because someone with theatre experience has probably learned to be prepared in case of sudden wardrobe issues? I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think that’s what was intended.

          1. Arbynka

            I travel bunch and I have this little sawing kit in my purse/bag. Always. It has some pre-threaded needles, couple of buttons, pins and tiny scissors (with dull rounded top). I know couple of guys that travel a lot for work and they do carry similar handy kits.

            1. blackcat

              “little sawing kit” made me giggle. I pictured a tiny saw, complete with tiny sandpaper and ruler.

          2. Tinker

            Yeah, pretty much that. As it happens I just recently bought an emergency sewing kit for what amounts to precisely that reason, although I don’t carry it at work. Maybe I ought to?

            I’d think to add to that list guys who are into outdoor recreation or preparedness, who travel a lot, or who pursue textile-oriented crafts. Or larpers, but I repeat myself.

      1. Hermoine Granger

        I thought asking for nail polish was weird but figured that would depend on if she actually walked up to a male co-worker and specifically asked him versus asking out loud if anyone in the office (women from other departments included) had nail polish.

        I think it would be different if she randomly asked her co-worker to give her a ride to like the dry cleaners during lunch. However, some people (even new employees) go to lunch with co-workers so it’s not that weird. I’ve worked at places where groups of people will also leave the office in the afternoon to take a break and get coffee from Starbucks, snacks from the corner store, ice cream from McDonalds. If someone is new they might be asked if they’d like to tag along or might invite co-workers along if they’re stepping out for a few minutes.

        I agree that she’s probably new to the workforce or came from a different environment but the letter didn’t contain enough information to confirm that she was weird rather than just simply not following the office’s culture.

        (My comment below at 3PM was meant to be an add-on to my original comment but I somehow cut off part of it.)

      2. thisisit

        my male boss was in the army. he’d be the first i would have gone to for needle and thread. it’s not that odd for men to have emergency sewing kits.

        1. Melissa

          Yeah, my husband is prior Air Force and he carries a little emergency sewing kit (along with a lot of other really useful emergency stuff).

    2. Hermoine Granger

      Without knowing the tone or context, most of these things could be fairly innocent but there’s also a chance that this could be a misguided attempt at cutesy flirting. Certainly talk to her but I would not recommend asking her out for lunch in the event that she actually is a bit off. To avoid any further issues I would just say something to her while at the coffee machine or water cooler.

    3. afiendishthingy

      The fact that she leaves unannounced and she is new but apparently the boss is “being mean” to her are kind of red flags about her performance to me.

  17. MMQB

    I know Internet diagnosis is bad, but she sure makes me wanna pull out the DSM and shadow her for a day.

    1. MashaKasha

      This is what I came here to post – my concern is that the coworkers will go after this person with guns blazing, and then find out that she has a legitimate disability and can’t help herself, oh and they have just made it worse by confronting her. Only time I saw this kind of behavior (random boundary-crossing, weird notes, personal requests to semi-strangers), the cause of it turned out to be brain damage from an accident many years ago. Unfortunately, this information only came out after the person had alienated everybody in the group, and yes some of them did give her the “here’s a list of everything you’re doing wrong” talk, only to make her feel upset, confused, and helpless. Not to pass out Internet diagnoses, but I think with a coworker like that, I’d maybe check with HR or a manager first – “Jane is habitually doing X, Y, and Z in the workplace which is very distracting – do you know if there’s any reason why?” And I would definitely not invite her for a 1:1 coffee to give her the laundry list of her odd behaviors – just because she’s been so unpredictable this far, I’d honestly be scared to.

  18. YandO

    Some of these requests would not seem weird to me at all. I used to have a tide stick, needle and thread, nail polish, and a bunch of stuff in my emergency drawer at work. People asked me for these things all the time. My phone charger became a communal charger pretty quickly too.

    However, the context in which she is asking for these things + the careless attitude she does it with + wildly inappropriate note passing = bizarre situation

    I think I would try to ignore it as much as possible.

    1. afiendishthingy

      I definitely ask my coworkers for things sometimes – phone charger, a laptop cord a couple times when I left mine at home, painkillers, a nail file when I broke a nail – but so many requests in so little time, many of which are kind of weird(lemon juice??) strike me as attention seeking behavior.

    1. Wildkitten

      One of my colleagues asked for my address and I gave it to her and she sent me a lovely note through the mail. It was delightfully weird not annoyingly weird.

      1. Meg Murry

        Or to know whether you lived in the same neighborhood so she could ask for rides? I could see someone this clueless thinking “If they live near me maybe they can pick me up on the way to work too!?!”

      2. the_scientist

        I’m thinking she’s sending invitations to her America’s Got Talent finale party, a la Kelly Kapoor. Because mostly this woman reminds me of Kelly Kapoor.

    2. Green

      Usually someone who asks for your address says why or else you already know (i.e., you know they’re engaged and a wedding is coming up, or you bought them a baby gift and they want to send a thank you card). I wonder here though if she’s trying to figure out where they live so she can do more of the “Hey, can you give me a ride home? It’s only a few minutes away from your house!”

    3. thisisit

      yeah i want the context for this one. well, for most of them, actually, before i decide anything (beyond the note passing) is weird or red-flag-worthy.

      in my mind, it doesn’t really matter what she’s doing or what i think about what she’s doing, only that it’s eating into productivity of her co-workers and needs to be shut down for that reason.

    4. Awful Waffle

      I used to work remote, and one year my boss sent me a very thoughtful Christmas gift. I asked her for her home address so that I could send her a thank you note.

      FWIW, I’m forever sending thank you notes to people, for even the smallest of things.

      1. the gold digger

        I’m forever sending thank you notes to people

        As someone who swoons when she actually gets a thank-you note, thank you. I bet people love giving you a reason to send a note!

    5. MashaKasha

      I did once have a coworker ask me for my home address, so she “can stop by in case she’s in the area”! I was so unprepared for this request, first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Actually we’re selling our house”.

      Who knows why OP’s coworker asked them for their addresses? Could be anything. I’m hoping she had some kind of a semi-sane reason like getting rides.

  19. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things."

    This is one of those things where I think around it from different angles but there doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation that explains all the behaviour, so it is tempting to mentally file it away as “weird”.

    For a while I thought maybe she had a troubled background of some kind and was looking a for a father figure (e.g. the car rides, lunches). Then there is the nail varnish. I mean. I’m not sure if she is asking the guys to buy her nail varnish, or if she thinks they have some lying around their desks to lend her.

    Then again, there is the request for home addresses. Now, I don’t have the specific context for this but this seems to be bordering on the creepy. In some offices this would really be playing with fire.

    Are there women in the offices that she bothers with all this?

  20. ZenCat

    This is a stretch on my part because of my own experiences, but she could have a mental illness. There are many socially “tone def” folks who have some conditions that could be considered a form of disability and some aspects of their behavior may not be under their control. I feel the need to add the caveat that in no way am I implying people with emotional or mental disorders aren’t also utterly ordinary and socially conscious.

    Anyhow – it was the notes and what I perceived was a lack of “filter” (chatting with whomever, saying weird stuff, asking for things that would be okay in an established relationship but not necessarily upon first meeting) that made me wonder.

    The most uncomfortable conversation of my professional life was addressing with a woman my age at the time (mid 20’s), an issue staring at the chests of everyone she talked to. This made not only myself uncomfortable, but it had to be addressed when three separate women said they were uncomfortable. This employee ended up having something I struggle with – anxiety – and it made eye contact amazingly difficult for her. She would occasionally do weird things like move to sit beside certain people in meetings and tell them she just wanted to be close by them… Anyhow it was addressed and it improved, but she was terminally awkward. Thankfully she didn’t do stuff like interrupt to ask for kind of weird things, or leave her ringer on, etc. Your manager may know something like this (if she has a disability) but not the things directly impacting you… Like the phone.

    I think the coffee idea may be good… To get a chance to understand her more and hopefully calm down any issue that may have her acting this way.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius

      I understand what you’re trying to do, but it really grates on me when someone tries to justify odd behavior with the mental illness card.  

      It’s not this woman’s coworker’s or boss’s responsibility to deal with her weird behavior.  It’s hers regardless if she’s mentally ill or not.  If she is mentally ill, then the onus is still on her to figure out how to deal with that and how the ADA comes into play.  This justification is really destructive and insulting to those with mental illness who have found ways to deal with their struggles.  Whatever her problem is, that doesn’t excuse, explain or justify anything.

      I’m not denying that mental illness exists; I’m saying that it’s irrelevant here.

      1. ZenCat

        I wasn’t attempting to use it as a justification. Nor did I mean to or feel like I did imply it wasnt her responsibility to control herself. I myself have mental illness and have “found ways to deal with my struggles”… I was only musing If it was a possibility, and actually in some cases people do need to deal with some personality annoyances no matter how they are brought on. Sorry to strike a nerve.

    2. HRish Dude

      I really think we should all avoid armchair diagnosing a person with a mental illness when it’s someone we’ve never seen and the only information we know has been relayed to us by a party we have never met.

      1. ZenCat

        Was not meaning to “diagnose” it was merely a suggestion based on some experiences I’ve had with similar issues. Others have said perhaps she is “young” or “needs attention” – I’m not sure why the possibility of a disability of some sort is so egregious and offensive.

        1. HRish Dude

          Because at some point in everyone’s life, everyone is young. Not everyone has a mental issue and many of us who do are able to function fully well, but have to deal with the stigma that somehow having your brain not fire the way it is supposed to somehow makes you “wrong”.

          1. ZenCat

            I don’t believe I said she was “wrong” just that a health issue may be one source just like being inexperienced may be a source of a fixable problem. I’m not sure how I communicated incorrectly but it is clear the message I was trying to get across (as someone who does have a mental illness and knows tons of people with mental illness) didn’t come across. A physical illness can be a source of some problems at work as well. I was merely attempting to suggest it may be one source of an issue for someone… How I’m painting mental illness as wrong or making people defective is lost on me here… But if that’s how it’s coming out I apologize. I have no stigma about mental illness and I work regularly with people who have them, have learning disabilities – I regularly deal with people who have anxiety and cry about difficult concepts and if someone discloses that it helps me help them function in the workplace and find a cognitive approach that works.

            I really did not intend to be offensive it was just a suggestion born of my own experience. Because I work with mental illness myself and every day at work it seemed like a reasonable possibility and it wouldnt make this employee incapable in some way. I’ve made accommodations for others and had them myself to help adjust. For example, my manager helped me make a checklist of things to verify before my presentations so I could physically check them off and I wouldn’t be leaving myself open to panicking and checking things over and over – once I saw the paper complete I could breathe and focus on something else. I don’t view this as a bad thing at all and appreciated my manager working with me so I could grow in my industry to who I am now. i was also able to speak to my doctor about what had been pointed out to me at work and get solutions there.

            1. HRish Dude

              There is no need to apologize. You intended no offense and I’m sorry that I kind of jumped at you.

    3. AnonAcademic

      “The most uncomfortable conversation of my professional life was addressing with a woman my age at the time (mid 20’s), an issue staring at the chests of everyone she talked to…this employee ended up having something I struggle with – anxiety – and it made eye contact amazingly difficult for her.”

      I am somewhat amazed this was her justification, as someone who has had issues with social anxiety. Staring at someone’s mouth, top of their head, behind the shoulder – sure. But c’mon, being anxious doesn’t have any bearing on understanding of basic social decency (don’t stare at people’s chests or crotches). It’s almost insulting to anxiety sufferers to use that as an excuse. Now I get that she might have been colossally socially tone deaf IN ADDITION to being anxious , but my anxiety has never made me stare at someone’s boobs!!!

      1. ZenCat

        It don’t believe she was using it to “justify” her behavior and nor did it make it in any way appropriate or acceptable – we helped hook her up with some health services offered through work (EAP) to work on the CAUSE of the behavior, a mental illness is not an excuse or free pass to be inappropriate. It can be a source of some behavior just like being young can, for example, and people learn. No one had informed this girl that she did this, and that it made others uncomfortable and had to change. I would never ever say “no problem, it’s not your fault and you don’t need to do a thing” to inaporopriate behavior. She identified the source as her anxiety and it gave us a direction to problem solve, not a reason to forgive the behavior and furnish the team with turtle necks.

        1. Chartreuse

          I appreciate your well-articulated explanations in this thread, ZenCat – what you are saying makes sense to me. Thanks!

      2. ZenCat

        Side note but until I started public speaking and was forced to put on a big confident presence my eye would twitch when I talked and Id talk reallysuperfast and quietly. It drove me and others bananas and I joined a presentation group to fix it. The anxiety was the source but not a justification to continue to do something that hindered my job performance.

  21. Lanya

    At OldJob, I had a coworker like this. Her sole purpose in life was to attract attention to herself. She was loud, overly bubbly, obnoxious, asked for weird things, etc. I was not upset to leave her behind.

  22. Stemmie

    The more I reflect on this, the more it seems like the coworker might not ever respond to feedback, or it might take years at best. She reminds me of a woman I knew who definitely wasn’t ever going to “get” working in a typical office setting. She was sweet, but quirky and inappropriate in practically every setting she walked into. Somehow she managed to got a job as a bank teller and then got fired a week or so later. She incredulously told me about her bosses’ complaints. “They’re the ones who told me to start dressing ‘more professionally.’ So what happens when I’m late because I was ironing my skirt? They tell me it’s not professional! What happens when I freshen up my nail polish at my desk so customers don’t see a chipped nail? They tell me that’s not professional! Honestly! And they never laughed at my jokes. Those were unprofessional too, apparently.”

    (If they were anything like the jokes she told friends, they were DEFINITELY not professional.)

  23. some1

    Did my former best friend actually get a job? She also never learned to drive and expects rides and favors from people, especially men. If the coworker is like my friend, it will work itself out because she will just stop showing up for work.

  24. Amy

    She needs a job where she’ll be the center of attention. It’s not a good fit, so I think telling the manager is in order. She probably isn’t very happy there anyway. She needs to go.

  25. Petronella

    Manic Pixie Dream Girls, while intensely annoying, can reform and grow up as long as the behavior is not rewarded. Alison’s advice, as always, is spot on. Just refuse to play along with MPDG and she will either cut it out or move on to a more conducive workplace. As long as all your co-workers are on the same page. LW, are you sure that none of the men in the office are encouraging her? No one is flirting back, or laughing at her attempts to be cute?

  26. C Average

    I’ve been thinking about this letter way too much, trying to work out in my mind what a person would even say in a sit-down conversation with this person, and I think I’d go with something like this.

    “Jane, I’ve noticed there are some things you do that no one else in the office does. I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed that, too. Anyway, I’d like to talk about why you might want to align the way you behave with the way others in the office behave, because as it stands, you’re irritating some of our colleagues. They’re hesitant to speak up because it’s awkward for everyone concerned, but I think you ought to know so that you’ll have a chance to make some changes.

    “We’re all grownups here. That means that we each take care of our own basic day-to-day stuff, and we don’t ask each other to do things we ought to be doing for ourselves. We need you to come to the office prepared every day, just like everyone else does. If there’s something you need to have with you, you need to plan ahead and bring it. If there’s something you need to go out and get, you need to take care of that yourself, without relying on others, in a way that doesn’t interfere with your work. You need to take care of your own food, supplies, transportation, and so forth. You should not be asking your co-workers to take care of these things for you. It isn’t their responsibility.

    “We also need you to communicate in a grownup, office-appropriate manner. No note-passing, no excessive socializing when people are trying to work, no unsolicited and unconstructive feedback about the management.

    “Finally, we need you to be considerate of the people you work with. We need you to let people know when you’re going to be out of the office. We need you to silence your cell phone’s ringer, since we’re in a shared space. It’s not big stuff; it’s just stuff you need to be cognizant of when you’re part of a team.

    “I know this kind of feedback can be hard to hear. But all of us here like you and want to see you succeed, and for that to happen you’ll need to leave some of these behaviors behind and adapt to professional norms.”

    If I had a good relationship with her, I’d consider getting her the book “Adulting,” which does a terrific, non-preachy job of breaking down some of the mysteries of adulthood. (True confession: I needed it, got it, and benefited a lot from it. Wish I would’ve read it years earlier!)

    1. The Toxic Avenger

      Sorry – I typed “Applause!!” in brackets, and it translated to three exclamation points. :-)

      1. fposte

        There’s a lot of stuff in her blog, too, and I’ve found a lot of good advice in it–and I’ve been adulting for decades.

    2. Jaune Desprez

      This is great, but can I make a small suggestion? I would say “adult” or “professional” instead of “grownup” in that context. “Grownup” is a word people use when they’re talking to a child.

      Also, I’m going to look for that book — and I’ve had decades of being an adult.

    3. Sigrid

      I just bought that book, and I’ve been adulting officially for a decade. I still think I need it.

  27. Joey

    Why does she have to announce she’s leaving to anyone but her boss?

    Why is walking around the room talking to co workers weird?

    Why is it anyone’s business that she tells the boss she’d prefer another manager?

    Why is it strange that she doesn’t answer her cell phone at work?

    Yes some of the things are weird, but it seems like you’re conspiring with the others and feeding off of each other to make it sound more extreme than it is.

    I know you say your productivity is hurting but you should be prepared to say to what degree. Is it a minor annoyance or really preventing you from doing your job?

    I get the feeling It just feels extreme because she doesn’t fit in.

    1. Clever Name

      Those are fair questions. I think each one, taken in isolation, isn’t that big of a deal. However, that there is a whole list of items I think shows an overall disconnect with the existing company culture. Although, the coworkers may simply not like new coworker and have veered far into bitch-eating-crackers territory.

    2. AW

      Why is walking around the room talking to co workers weird?

      Because you left out the words “frequently” and “extended periods of time”.

      Why is it strange that she doesn’t answer her cell phone at work?

      It isn’t. What’s strange is that she just lets it ring and disturb other people.

      1. Arbynka

        This. It’s fine with me if you are not planning on answering your cell, but silence it. Listening to phone ringing over and over and over gets annoying pretty quickly.

      2. Awful Waffle

        Personally, I think it’s strange when anyone doesn’t turn off/silence their personal cell phone when they’re at work (with the exception being that they get work calls on their personal phone, of course).

        It could be worse. I worked with a guy who always put his calls on speaker phone in an open floor plan. He talked super loud too – like, almost yelling level. Unfortunately, he was pretty high up at the company I worked with so no one had the guts to tell him that he really shouldn’t use his speaker phone in an open floor plan because it’s really distracting the other 100 people that sit within 10 feet of him.

      3. afiendishthingy

        Yeah, it definitely sounds like she is walking around and talking to people who are trying to work, which clearly impacts everyone’s productivity, including her own. I wouldn’t classify that one as weird, especially, but definitely annoying and tonedeaf to the culture!

  28. Yep, me again

    Was anyone else weirded out she tells her boss she wants to work for another boss? Just seemed odd to me….

    1. afiendishthingy

      Yeah, I don’t know why nobody seems to be talking about that one! Reminds me of the person the other day who told his boss he didn’t want to be given feedback.

    2. AW

      It’s definitely weird but it doesn’t really affect the OP or other co-workers. I suppose it’s something to warn her away from if they have that talk about office culture but it doesn’t really prevent them from doing their jobs.

      Mostly I’m just confused as to how the OP knows about this in the first place.

    1. Jeanne

      It’s like secret shoppers but at work. Surprise! We wanted to see how you reacted! You win a toaster!

      1. afiendishthingy

        Ha! I worked with a guy for a little bit who I STRONGLY believe was on the autism spectrum. He was a fellow paraprofessional for a classroom of kids with autism. One of my friends suggested my supervisor was just testing the rest of us to see how we treated a peer with autism. Poor guy. I’m sure he meant well but I do not know how he got hired. He was not a good fit. He did not last. I have a feeling the OP’s coworker will not either.

  29. voyager1

    At two workplaces I have seen women paint their nails. Granted it was on their lunch, but I have seen it.

    I think this woman is just weird.

  30. AW

    *leaving work unannounced

    Is she just not announcing it to her co-workers or does the boss not know about this either? If her leaving early is impacting your work it’s OK to bring that up. But if the boss knows and is OK with her weird schedule due to her not having a car then maybe y’all need some kind of shared calendar that you can put regular schedules and time off on. That way everyone can see when person A is or isn’t supposed to be in.

    1. Green

      I don’t think this is particularly weird. I don’t tell anyone when I leave at 3 p.m. to go to a doctor’s appointment. It was also like that in my previous job. HOWEVER, when I started I’d e-mail my boss about taking a late lunch, running to an appointment or an errand and after a few times she just said, “Remember you always have flexibility to take care of the things you need to do.” Obviously it’s a mistake to assume that’s OK in a new work place, but she may have only worked in places that let you duck out early if your kid has a soccer game, etc.

      (Note: As I said above, though, the combination of the behavior is super weird.)

      1. AW

        Oh, I meant “weird schedule” as in “erratic schedule” not weird as in she’s weird for not doing 9-6 or 8-5.

  31. KT

    I’m going to be *that* person.

    Is the employee broke? I had an employee like this, and it was because they didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together. They subsisted off of whatever we had for free in kitchen (hot water, lemon wedges, coffee, whatever stale cake someone brought in), and relied on the admin assistant’s sewing kit (and clear nail polish!) to mend her threadbare clothes. Transportation was a real problem-she took the bus, but it was erratic at best, so a ride home was a godsend and would save her from walking 8 miles through a sketchy area. She did frequently borrow chargers for her phone at work, because she didn’t have electricity.

    Once we discovered the root of the “annoying” behaviors, I was horrified at how we had misjudged her. She wasn’t inexperienced/annoying, she was desperately trying to keep afloat. I worked with HR to discretely leave some information on her desk before she came in about getting basic wardrobe essentials from the Junior League for free, an agency that offered transportation assistance, a food bank, etc. Within just a few weeks, she had apparently taken advantage of those services–her clothes were better quality/better kept, she actually had real meals, etc.

    So maybe have some compassion?

    1. Lisa

      I was thinking this, too. Sometimes “bizarre” behavior is actually the behavior of someone with no choice but to lean on the only others they have in life. Even if she makes enough to survive, she could be the only person in her extended family with an income and obliged to send money home for the welfare of elderly parents/younger siblings/etc.

      IMO someone should speak to the manager, but not as “she’s annoying and we can’t work with her” but as “We are concerned about her well-being and think the most appropriate person to have a conversation with her is the manager.”

      A peer should probably not directly ask “Are the odd requests at work because you are hungry and broke and have no choice?” but a manager could. It’s like a body odor issue in the workplace… some things are the manager’s job.

      And if she is indeed dealing with poverty, then something like the above (connecting her with resources) would be a real kindness.

    2. Karowen

      I think everything you’re saying is a really really good point, and I think it’s worth considering. In fact, I think there are a lot more mundane excuses for all of the items you listed. But. Things like the note passing and asking for home addresses are uniquely strange and should be addressed on their own. Combined with the other odd behavior, it’s not much of a stretch to think the woman is just…odd.

    3. Name

      Finally, someone who isn’t being judgmental. All I could think while scrolling through the comments was ‘I hope to God she never sees all these strangers gossiping about weird she is’.

    4. peanut butter kisses

      I think your explanation makes the most sense with the requests.

      And with the phone left ringing at her desk. Why not just bluntly come out and tell her to put her phone on silent while she is at work? Suggested script -” Jane, you forgot to put your phone on silent today”. Rinse and repeat when necessary.

      1. Lindsay J

        Or if you want to be more explicit, “Hey Jane, I sometimes have difficulty concentrating at work, and every time a phone rings like that it pulls me out of what I’m doing for a few minutes. Would it be possible for you to put it on silent mode? Thanks.”

        With some tweaking it would also work for the random chit-chat.

    5. fposte

      I get what you’re saying, but it doesn’t cost her anything to turn off her cell phone or to focus on her work instead of talking to her co-workers. So even if there’s a financial element, there are behavioral elements that more money won’t fix.

  32. Marie

    I have to strongly disagree with the last suggestion of taking her out to coffee. As I understand it, OP and colleagues are all male, with a female coworker asking them for rides for personal matters, their home addresses, and praise when she’s feeling down. Can two people of the opposite gender have a professional coffee encounter? Absolutely. Can she? Not so sure. I would be worried about how she might latch on to that and make something of it that’s not there, to OP’s detriment.

  33. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

    I admit to chuckling at the reactions to asking men for nail polish. My dad ties fishing flies for commission and would sometimes bring his stuff into work so he could make good use of his lunch break. His “stuff” always included nail polish for finishing the fly heads. Of course, unless the coworkers have been seen doing this, it’s still a random ask- I’m a lady and I’ve had too many nail polish leaks to even carry a clear bottle in case of runs (though I am the person to ask if you need a fork or assorted OTC stomach relief).

    I think the only hope of solving this is to be direct- incredibly direct. If you think you’ve already been direct, be direct-er.

    1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      Is it wrong that I was hoping you would comment in the style of your namesake?

      Seriously, love the username.

  34. Creampuffs

    The only reasoning I can think of for some of these actions is that she thinks she’s being funny but her humor just doesn’t mesh with her coworkers. I just had a coworker today ask me if I had any chips several times because he thought he was being funny.

  35. Name

    Being “as productive as possible” makes you sound like machines. Try some kindness when you do talk to her ’cause I’m seeing a sore absence of it.

    1. Person

      Yes. I’m feeling really bad for this co-worker. There are some great, empathetic and insightful comments here and I hope OP takes those into consideration.

  36. nona

    This is very weird. It reminds me of how kids treat their parents. I couldn’t add anything to Alison’s advice, but I would change one thing: Do not take her out anywhere. You don’t want to be alone with her and you don’t want to take her out.

  37. Laura2

    I wonder if she’s imitating someone at a previous job, and isn’t experienced enough with work to know that it’s weird to act like that.

    I worked in an office a few years ago where some people DID get away with acting in strange, disruptive, unprofessional ways – and it was chalked up to just part of their super outgoing and friendly attitude (or being a “go-getter”), and I can see how someone with poor social skills might pick up on someone else’s weird (but for whatever reason, tolerated) behavior and try to imitate it.

  38. Ruffingit

    Maybe the next time she passes a note, OP could write one back that says “you have to be nice to me by not asking for nail polish, rides, or anything else. Also stop talking to me. That would be nice.” ;)

  39. Dawn88

    Who hired this person anyway? What redeeming qualities did she have (before she did the 180) or skills to get the job?

  40. looking forward

    Don’t make eye contact. Keep declining and responding in the negative. She is looking for some interaction and it will only get worse if you engage. Crazy pants. We have all met them. To clarify, I am not saying to be rude. Just keep your eyes on your computer an keep typing while you give a quick “nope!” response. And don’t apologize.

  41. shep

    This woman actually reminds me of the woman hired to take over my position at OldJob, and I think that’s coloring my own interpretation of her actions. I hear a lot about her from my old co-workers: She cornered “Jane,” for example, in Jane’s office and asked her if Jane was angry at her. Jane said no; this woman pressed the issue, then proceeded to follow Jane out of the office and into the break room to ask again.

    She also engages in weird power plays, trying to monopolize duties the office traditionally shares (opening mail, filing, etc.). It leaves everyone else baffled, because WHY would anyone think exercising authority over opening mail would give one some sort of serious office leverage? It’s such a small office, with a communal feel, that it doesn’t make sense. (Nor would it make sense in a larger office, but at least that dynamic tends to exist among cattier circles of people.)

    The icing on the cake was a few weeks ago, when the woman commandeered another co-worker to complain about Jane. But she did this in the break room, which is adjacent to Jane’s wall, and Jane heard everything. The other co-worker was so embarrassed, he emailed Jane an apology and said he had no idea the woman was going to go off like that, and that he didn’t encourage her at all but wasn’t sure how to get away.

    So it’s interesting to me that a lot of people think the woman OP is talking about is young, because the new woman at OldJob is approaching 60. (However, all the behavior I’ve just described could definitely be attributed to someone MUCH younger, and completely inexperienced in the workforce. That’s partially why it’s so bizarre.)

    Anyway, I’m quite curious to know how old the OP’s co-worker is, just academically speaking.

  42. Tracy

    It sounds like she’s trying to present herself as the resident “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (MPDG), described by film critic Nathan Rabin as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”
    Her office mates, however, do not seem to be interested in harboring an MPDG.

  43. AW

    I hope the OP is still reading comments.

    Please, PLEASE ignore the people who think that your co-worker is flirting. I have no idea why they’ve interpreted constantly asking for favors and being loud (talking/phone ringing) at work as “flirting” but that is not what’s going on here. Treating her as if she has or is even affecting any kind of romantic interest is the wrong move here. You don’t want to turn into this guy: http://captainawkward.com/2015/03/14/678-am-i-the-next-bill-cosby-no-thankfully-youre-just-really-sexist/

  44. 4 Guys in Marketing

    Hi there. I am the OP. I briefly read over all the comments and want to express that I am truly surprised and pleased with all the responses. My buddies and I have been really suffering with the shenanigans for the past few weeks.

    To address a few key points:

    No, we will not take her our for coffee. It’s not appropriate (in my belief system) for 4 married guys to take one unmarried lady out for coffee to “correct” her behavior. The chances of that blowing up in our faces in nearly 100%.

    Is she flirting with us? – No. Definitely not. There is nothing sexual at all going on. Instead of a sultry seductress, she reminds me more of a busy-body 16 year old girl with social issues.

    Some people mentioned giving curt responses and staying focused on work – this has been VERY effective.

    As an update – one of the guys (the elder in our group and the one with the most corporate experience) and gently but firmly told her that she is putting her career in jeopardy if she keeps it up. He said that she responded with a vacant stare and a giggle.

    So, what to conclude about all of this?

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. She strikes me as a lonely person who struggles at work and was trying to make friends but completely botched the job.

    The best part of being human is being forgiven, so none of us hold any rancor against her.

    This week has been better – somehow the weird activity has declined a bit, but I think it’s just the eye of the tornado. Her phone still has been vibrating like crazy and she has been leaving early.

    As a wise man once said: We shall see….

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful responses. Much appreciated.

    4 Guys in Marketing

    1. NickelandDime

      I think you guys are being more than fair. And someone on your team reached out to her and spoke to her. The blank stare and giggle doesn’t bode well to me – a normal person would have been mortified – but we shall see. Good luck. Hopefully she can turn this around and this doesn’t have to become a “lesson learned” for her.

    2. Afiendishthingy

      Thanks for the update! Sounds like you guys have done all you can, and in a pretty compassionate way. Keep declining to engage in her distractions. Unless her leaving early impacts your work (like you need something from her to complete a project, or her absence means the rest of you have to cover) I’d leave it up to her manager, who hopefully believes in actually managing, and keep your eyes on your own paper.

  45. Sally Forth

    ” I’m always going to say no to that request, so please don’t keep asking me.”

    Brilliant! Why have I never thought of this? It is such a good line. If you are doing “the talk” once to someone about something you don’t want to do, might as well make it firm for not much more hassle.

  46. Sarah

    It sounds like she has some pretty significant problems reading social cues. The assorted odd things she asks you and your other coworkers for is concerning, as it seems to demonstrate a disconnect with reality. The note-passing is very child-like, which adds to my concern about her mental state. I think you definitely need to start individually communicating the more significant work related concerns to your boss, who probably already has similar concerns. I would not be surprised if this employee ends up requiring psychiatric care. There’s no shame in that, of course. I think you are probably seeing the best version of herself that she has to offer. I’d advise you to continue to be kind and give her feedback, even though it doesn’t sound like she’s able to incorporate it. Your boss will have to do the bulk of the work with her, so it’s impirtant to communicate with him or her.

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