my coworker aggressively digs up information when someone has a death in the family

A reader writes:

How do I deal with a coworker who takes it upon herself to do investigative research online whenever there is a death in someone’s family? She likes to peruse the Internet, look up links, addresses, and family bios, and share them with others. Sometimes she does this verbally, but more often she send out the obituary to employees company-wide. It’s almost as if she is racing to find out information before anyone else can. This seems to be tolerated by my manager, who is fairly new in her position.

My dilemma is that my elderly mother may die soon. I also have a sibling in her 50s who was recently arrested for meth possession and has been in and out of the court system for the past year on the west coast. Her troubles are detailed online. All someone needs is a name and location. She lists her occupation as “teacher” and poses suggestively for the mug shot (shirt pulled down over shoulder, etc.), which is beyond embarrassing.

My coworker would love to see this information.

I know I’m working up a scenario in my mind before anything should happen, but I’ve been working with this coworker for 15 years now. I know she would love to be the one to “find out” this dirt and only too happy to pass it on.

How can I proactively handle this before it happens? (Truthfully, I can’t stand working with someone so fixated on others’ personal problems. Just a gossip monger and malcontent.) My manager treats her with undue respect simply because this person has been there for 25 years.

This is bizarre.

I see three options:

1. Say something to your coworker the next time she does this. For example: “Jane, I know you’re coming from a kind place when you look up and circulate this information, but I’m concerned that we risk violating people’s privacy if they don’t want this information shared, especially people who are estranged from family members or have situations in their families that they don’t want shared with others. I know that I personally wouldn’t want information like this circulated if someone in my family died — so at a minimum, I’m asking you not to do it for me, but also I think it’s worth considering whether to at least check with others before sharing their info.”

The problem with this approach: It may be highly unlikely to work, given that she’s someone who clearly thinks this is a reasonable thing to do. It also may just encourage her to look up your family now to see what you don’t want her to share. Still, though, I’m a believer in saying something directly when you can, and I think there’s value in going on the record with her about it, regardless of whether she changes what she’s doing.

2. Talk to your manager. Your manager apparently hasn’t considered that people might not want this happening. Say a version of the above to her, and ask if she’d be willing to intervene.

3. Decide that you don’t care if your coworker learns about your sister’s problems or shares them with others. It’s not really “dirt,” after all. Many people’s families include people who struggle with addiction and legal problems, and it doesn’t reflect on you. And really, if she were going around sharing this with people as if it were some kind of gossip or intrigue, most people are going to think it makes her look incredibly bad.

I’d probably do both #1 and #3, but any or all of these are reasonable approaches.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. TL -

    Seconding number 3. Lots of people have families or pasts that don’t reflect on the kind of person they are now, so don’t feel like it should reflect badly on you – any reasonable person will know that a) it doesn’t and b) it’s probably a painful subject for you and they should keep quiet about it.

    My guess is you’re not the only person wishing your coworker didn’t do this.

    1. AMG

      I like 3, with an added 4: Take extra measures to be certain nobody (especially Battie) finds out about your mother’s passing. Sorry you are going through this.

      1. AnonaMoose

        That’s what I was thinking. Maybe plan a ‘last minute holiday with family’, versus taking care of details post-passing. It’s sad that you can’t share the info with your close work friends but until that completely toxic waste of space retires, you’re kind of forced to be stealth at covering your personal business.

        ps. She SUCKS.

        1. "Reader"

          Thank you! I agree with #3 myself. We have no control about what others think of us, and I spend far too much time worrying about guilt by association. I have also considered, when the time comes, to take a brief leave for getting my mother “situated.” For all they’ll know, my mother might need help with finding assisted living. I can leave out details.

          Thanks to all for each and every comment!

          1. Rose

            I would never judge someone if I found that out about their sister. It would be like finding out their dad had cancer. I’d think “oh, that must be hard to deal with! how sad.” and then move on.

            On the other hand, if someone came to me to tell me that a coworker’s sister had a drug problem or police history, I would think that person was being horribly invasive, gossipy, rude, and insensitive.

            The situation reflects terribly on someone, but that someone isn’t you.

            1. OhNo

              I agree – I try never to judge people on what their family members are like, and similarly I try not to judge people on their past if they’ve made some obvious effort to change. Hearing this about a coworker’s family from a different coworker, however… That would definitely lower my opinion of the gossiper quite a lot.

              If it’s something you can put up with, you might actually combine #3 with the knowledge that in the eyes of (almost) everyone she talks to, she will be making herself look really bad by sharing this information about your family. That might be some small consolation to you.

      2. JoyMc

        I think this is a good thought but might backfire. What if the co-worker decided to investigate OP’s story, found mom’s obituary, and then had the sick pleasure of announcing to everyone that OP was not actually on vacation but had covered up her own mother’s death? And considering the co-worker’s previous behavior, I bet this is exactly what she would do.

        I totally agree with #3 and #1 seems like a good idea too.

        1. Chinook

          “What if the co-worker decided to investigate OP’s story, found mom’s obituary, and then had the sick pleasure of announcing to everyone that OP was not actually on vacation but had covered up her own mother’s death?”

          I second that hiding the death could easily backfire. As well, knowing that there is a recent death in the family can, in a compassionate office, allow for others to give the OP a little extra work support and/or leeway when she is back on the job in case her mind isn’t 100% on the job (think things like missing details that are usually caught, needing extra time off to deal with legal issues or random red-eyes). I may not know the colleague’s family well but, if I know they are going through some type of grieving, I have been know to offer an extra hand at work to help reduce that stress as well. If I don’t know, odds are pretty good that I am going to silently judge you for slipping work habits and think the change is permanent and not a temporary reaction to something.

        2. Anonsie

          I would think that would look a hell of a lot worse for the nosy coworker than the letter writer… Not that I entirely doubt she would do it, but wouldn’t you think people would react pretty negatively to someone going around saying “she saaaid it was just personal leave but really her mother passed away” like it was gossip? Feel like that would bite back more at Nosy here than LW.

          1. AW

            I agree. There’s a difference between hiding something and simply not disclosing something that’s no one else’s business. The OP is under no obligation to tell her co-workers that there’s been a death in her family.

            1. charisma

              We as reasonable people know this, but there are some seriously disordered organizations with very flawed interpersonal dynamics, so I would carefully consider how it would be perceived within my own organization, to make sure I am not creating a situation where it is perceived by many that I “lied through omission.”

              It’s frustrating that this even needs to be considered a possibility, but even though no one has a right to know certain details about our lives in the office, there are some places where the OP could be seen as a liar, even if she was only withholding information she is under no obligation to share.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        Wait, no — the OP shouldn’t have to hide a major event in her life because of this awful coworker! She needs to be able to be free to tell her managers and coworkers what’s going on to explain why she’ll need time off, maybe some flexibility, and possibly a general understanding that she might seems pretty sad right now.

    2. AGirlCalledFriday

      I’m just sitting here wondering – has NO ONE called out this coworker for discussing a relative’s death?

      If this were me, I would say something completely cutting about how cruel and horrible it was for her to discuss my family member’s death and I would probably not be able to stop myself from crying and being extremely upset. How are people NOT reacting this way? I’m not even sure how this kind of action from her could be considered kind!

      1. Andrea

        If it had happened to me, I would absolutely react in the way you describe, and I don’t think that is a very rare way to feel in the moment, given those circumstances. It’s difficult for me to understand how this has been allowed to go on for so long.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I know–I was just thinking that everyone is being WAY nicer than I would be. That woman would get the rough side of my tongue if she pulled that crap on me and I’d take whatever my manager would dish out by way of discipline to speak my mind. And then I’d start looking for a new job.

  2. Delyssia

    OP, could you try to take the wind out of her sails a bit by sending out a link to your mother’s obituary yourself? Your coworker might still dig to see what else she can find, but it removes the possible kind explanation for what she’s doing, and it could even stop her in her tracks.

    1. UKAnon

      This was my first thought. Or, once the time seems to be coming, a quick email to all your coworkers explaining what’s happening and that you would appreciate it if they would respect your privacy during a difficult time. Both options mean that she has to look like the office gossip to continue with what she usually does, and at that point most people won’t listen anyway.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        I like this option. It really takes away the option for her to do anything at all and it lets you share the news on your terms so you can say as little as you want.

      2. Helka

        It also means that if she does keep up with her routine, when you go to your manager you can specifically state that you requested privacy on this issue and she is not honoring that request. It gives you more ammunition to get it shut down, without having to get in a one-on-one confrontation with her.

    2. Judy

      Is the co-worker writing up some form of obituary (and family history), with more detail than the one the family puts in the newspaper and then sharing it with co-workers? It seems like a strange hobby to me.

      My dad is really in to genealogy, but only our own genealogy.

      1. Green

        It sounds like she’s sending the obituary out to everyone and maybe information about where services are being held or where cards/donations may be directed to and that this level of information (which is pretty common at many workplaces) makes OP uncomfortable because of her family circumstances and/or personal privacy level. It doesn’t sound like the women is adding in the deceased’s driving history, prior convictions for check fraud or the amount of decedent’s mortgage.

        1. Beezus

          Well, no, the OP clearly said that her parent was dying, and that her sister had a troubled history that her coworker would be gleeful to find and pass on, and that level of information is what she’s uncomfortable with. The woman is digging into the deceased’s family’s criminal history.

          1. Green

            I think that involves a bit of an assumption on your part and the OP’s. There is zero indication in the letter that the woman has previously passed along negative information, just obits, addresses and bios.

            1. Melissa

              Yes, there is. The OP said that her coworker “likes to peruse the Internet, look up links, addresses, and family bios, and share them with others” and says that her coworker would love to see the information about OP’s sibling being convicted for meth addiction – “I know she would love to be the one to “find out” this dirt and only too happy to pass it on.

              Besides, as OP says, she’s been working with this woman for 15 years and has seen her operate this way with other people’s families; I think we can trust her assumptions about this particular coworker.

              Furthermore, even if the woman was only passing along obituaries, addresses, and biographies – that’s still creepy. I really like all of my coworkers but I wouldn’t pass around my mother’s obituary at work, nor would I want anyone else to. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to pass around addresses. And I work in a very small center – I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I worked in a medium-sized company where I potentially didn’t know anyone.

            2. Sprinkled with Snark

              I think the OP knows quite a bit about this woman if she has worked with her for so many years.

      2. "Reader" a.k.a. "OP"

        Judy,

        AnonaMoose is correct. She’s a snoop, and not the least bit embarrassed by it either. She’s the first one (upon hearing of a recent death of an employee’s family member) to find the link to the obit. in a newspaper or online and then gets it out in an e-mail to almost 200 employees. It does not matter if it’s outside our department…out it goes. If she overhears of someone whose family member is at death’s door (for example, while she’s having lunch in the lunch room), she’s thinking about it. Scours the newspapers (or whatever else she does) until she finds what she’s looking for. People inevitably chat with her later in the day as they pass her desk. Do you see what I mean? She likes to have that little bit of extra info. to “share” when they come by. I guess that’s why she searches for more personal info. if she can get it. It does p**** me off a bit! The idea that she gets satisfaction out of it annoys me. She’s close to retirement age, but…it won’t be too soon for me when she retires!

        1. LD

          I’m really sorry that her manager hasn’t stepped in to suggest that this is not something the snooper should be doing. Something to consider might be responding to her emails in a manner that is polite and lets her know that you are not interested in learning anything that the grieving individual hasn’t shared personally. For example, “Did Grieving Individual ask you to share this?…(insert assumed negative response) “Then why are you sharing it without their approval?” Or something that lets that individual know you don’t want to participate: “Snooper, I’m really uncomfortable receiving information about Grieving Individual. It feels really uncomfortable and like I am participating in gossip. I don’t want those messages anymore; please don’t send them to me.” Repeat as necessary. It would worry me, too, if I thought anyone was sending out information about me without my express permission. And I’m sorry that you may lose your mother anytime soon. That brings a particular urgency to your worries and I wish you peace.

    3. MegEB

      I like this option as well. I’m also guessing that the OP isn’t the only person who finds this coworker’s behavior tasteless, so if you add some bland language like “I would appreciate privacy for my family at this time”, everyone will know who it’s really directed at. A bit passive-aggressive, but still effective.

    4. Green

      Yes. A lot of times these obituaries are circulated because people may want to know where to direct cards, flowers and/or donations. Typically at my work, it’s done by the person’s administrative assistant or manager, but I can see where someone with a morbid fascination might designate themselves the “Sympathy Organizer.”

      So I’d actually make this lady a partner in this. Draft your own e-mail to send when the time comes that express your wishes with regard to flowers/donations. Insert a link to the obituary, and then send it to this lady and ask her to circulate. She still gets to be “in the know” and “The Sympathy Organizer” and is less likely to want to research or add anything else.

      1. Ellie H

        It’s a creative idea but I don’t see the need to pander and cater to an ambulance-chasing busybody. I think it would just reinforce and titillate her.

        1. Green

          That’s not a very charitable way to think of this woman and supposes a lot about her motives. Look, it sounds like this office has a culture that involves sending out some additional information to colleagues about how to express sympathy (which is done at my work, and many people appreciate it). But that makes OP uncomfortable, particularly because OP has family members she considers embarrassing. That’s fine, so OP can control the information that goes out. No reason to assume this woman is an ambulance-chasing busybody who is titillated by the information; she seems to think it’s her job (officially or unofficially) to help share this information (in the same way that someone is often the Card Organizer or the Birthday Celebrator). Declaring war on her when you’ve just had a death in your family doesn’t seem like the best way to spend your emotional energy at that time, particularly when you could just handle the situation politely, but to each his own.

          1. AW

            Even assuming the best motives this is still likely to encourage the co-worker which is the opposite of what the OP wants.

            1. Green

              But assuming the best motives and that this is aligned with company culture, then OP shouldn’t try to encourage or discourage the co-worker but instead make her own wishes known.

              1. fposte

                There’s no indication that this is company culture, though, just something that one person does and nobody’s put a stop to.

                1. OhNo

                  Exactly. Nowehere does the OP mention that other people in the company like or even appreciate this person’s contributions. They just say that she does this “research” on her own. My guess would be that she likes to do it because it makes her feel special or she likes the attention it brings, but it’s hard to say without more information.

                  The best way to handle this would be to cut the gossiper out of the loop. Write an draft email beforehand, so it’s not super emotional, and then save it until the appropriate time to send WITHOUT giving any special notice or privilege to the gossip. Take the attention away from her and focus it on where it should be: the bereaved family and their loss.

          2. Rose

            “Just a gossip monger and malcontent.”
            “My coworker would love to see this information.”

            The OP makes it very clear in her letter that she does not think this woman has nice motives, and that she is a gossip. The agreed upon convention here is to answer people’s letters taken at face value, and assume they’re representing their situation accurately. Ellie isn’t being uncharitable. If anything you need to read more carefully.

          3. Amanda

            I see no reason why anyone on here should be charitable about this woman’s motives. The fact that OP is worried that this woman is going to dig up and circulate her sister’s criminal history and past issues indicates that this is not a simple “let’s sign a sympathy card” kind of thing.

            I’ve NEVER heard of finding details about funeral services and somehow *stumbling* upon extended family criminal history. I think you are going out of your way to assume the best about this woman. I take OP at their word.

          4. Sprinkled with Snark

            Green, you seem to be quite sympathetic to this woman, which is fine, and kind, but it feels as if you’re being quite dismissive of the OP and what she/he is telling us. Obviously, the OP is really bothered by this, and rightfully so. This behavior is absolutely ABHORRENT! If this was really the “culture” of the company, or if this woman was just trying to post info about where to send flowers or cards (which is even a little borderline inappropriate to me as well–sharing addresses, etc), then why would the OP be upset about this?

            I don’t think you truly understand that this woman’s inappropriate behavior is a serious invasion of privacy. The OP knows here and her past history, and has seen what she has done previously. You know the saying, the best indication of future behavior is past behavior. Maybe you should look at this from the perspective of the OP, who KNOWS this woman quite well, I’m sure, after working with her for so many years.

            Besides, have you ever considered that the information may be WRONG? For example, I have a VERY common last name, that I married in to. Do you have any idea how many people make assumptions to me all the time every time there is my last name mentioned in the news? I am ALWAYS saying, No, I am NOT related to the man who was just arrested for multiple homicide, OR the hockey player, OR the politician, OR the pedophile teacher, OR the Olympic track star (who has my father-in-laws name by the way), OR the university president. I would be MORTIFIED if my co-workers started whispering behind my back about how some criminal is probably an uncle or a cousin or something. Once that feather is put there in the wind, you can’t get that back. ANYONE who SPREADS that info, gleefully so, and takes pleasure in that, is a horrible, horrible person.

            In other notes, I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was a young professional woman. My co-workers were absolutely AMAZING to me in ways I never expected or imagined. Sometimes they would just do something like saying, I baked cookies for everyone in the office today, would you like to try one now? Sometimes their kindness would bring tears to my eyes, especially from one lady who was like the office mom, and she would say, Here, have a cookie, and give me a hug and I’d say thanks, and we’d go on with work. Sometimes they would just ask how I was feeling that day and I’d say I’m okay and they would pat my hand. It was incredibly helpful to “grieve” with them in those small ways, and I couldn’t imagine keeping that from them after we all shared so many things about our lives over the years. I knew them, their husbands, their children, their hobbies, their favorite foods. Why wouldn’t I share with them something that literally changed my life? The fact that this horrible woman at the office would delight in telling a co-worker that their grieving friend has a cousin who is in jail or a sister who got arrested for a DUI, when they are already at their most vulnerable, trying to get through a day without breaking down in the bathroom, is INEXCUSABLE! We should stop making excuses for her and stop trying to “justify” her behavior.

      2. Engineer Girl

        No. Do not give it to the gossip. She’ll only put her own spin on it. Gossips do NOT deserve any consideration at all.
        Managing your own PR while excluding the gossip is the best way to handle it. Send out the email stating what has happed with information on how to handle flowers/donations. I would NOT link to the obituary as it would then show the sisters name. The Gossip would then look up the sister.
        Specifically ask for privacy in your email. That way you have documented evidence if your request is ignored.

      3. Rose

        Personally, I wouldn’t want to solicit flowers or donations from coworkers. It seems weird and tacky.

        Also… why on EARTH is this woman sending COMPANY WIDE EMAILS about this. That would never, ever be tolerated at any of my former jobs. Maybe because I’ve worked for very large companies? But I can’t imagine a workplace where any employee is welcome to just write their thoughts and news of the day on a company wide email.

        1. Green

          People direct donations (in lieu of flowers) in obituaries all the time. It’s not viewed as “weird and tacky” by most people. I’ve never felt compelled to send a donation or flowers; I’ve only done it or not based on how close I felt to the person who had experienced a loss (or who had passed). Whether or not you’re comfortable doing that is up to you, but it seems “weird and tacky” to judge other people for doing something pretty standard.

          And I work at a very large company, but we typically have an admin send out a notice of a death in the family and a link to the obituary to the entire department. At my law firm, we did the same thing for the entire office location we were in.

          1. fposte

            People do it for their own bereavements or when authorized to do so for others. Since this has been going on for a while, I think the OP would know if this had been authorized and would have asked a different question.

            Having a co-worker randomly choose to inform the entire company about somebody else’s bereavement without permission is not customary, and it’s inappropriate.

            1. Green

              I don’t know if anyone is authorized to do it at my place of employment (or my prior one), but it was done, and it was customary and not considered inappropriate. I’m sure that if someone had wanted to opt out, they could have easily done so.

              1. OhNo

                That’s the point: this person doesn’t seem to be giving people the opportunity to opt out. She’s doing “research” on her own and sharing it with the entire company (!) without seeming to even ask permission.

                If the OP can pre-empt the gossip’s usual tricks with a request for privacy, then they will essentially be opting out of the usual obituary/email spiel by telling the gossip (and their department/coworkers/company/whoever) that they don’t approve of having this information shared publicly, and asking for others to respect that.

                1. Green

                  At my previous employers there was usually one admin who, upon hearing that someone was taking bereavement leave, would send out an e-mail saying “Unfortunately, X’s father passed away unexpectedly last night. Here is some information about his life (link to obit). Services are (time and place); in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to XYZ. Our thoughts are with X at this time.” They did not ask the bereaved person; you just knew that they did it, and if you for some reason did not want that, you would need to e-mail to let them know.

                  This was actually important to do in the law firm context because everyone (particularly junior attorneys) had any number of potential managers or people they were working with on matters (so they needed to know to handle the bereaved’s work without bothering them), and because both the firm and individuals often made substantial contributions/purchased flower arrangements/etc. and tried to attend whenever a funeral was local. Many people are offended when nobody from their place of employment acknowledges a serious loss, particularly somewhere with many long-term employees who have been working with each other for decades.

                  “Opt out” usually means that you have to take some affirmative action to be excluded. What you’re calling “pre-empt” is the opt out. (Your asking upfront idea is actually an “opt in.”)

          2. Rose

            Maybe you should reread what you wrote and what I wrote before you try to criticize.

            I am perfectly aware that people do that in obituaries. The friends and family close enough to want to be at the funeral (aka the people who will actually look at the obituary) will usually want to send something.

            What I said was tacky was SOLICITING COWORKERS in an email that is not just a link to an obituary. I’m not close to all of my coworkers, and I would feel really uncomfortable writing what is basically a “my mom died do you want to donate?” email.

            Similarly, circulating the obituary is fine, but not for some random person who takes it upon herself to email the entire company. If that’s done in an office, there is usually an admin or manager who is in charge of keeping track of that kind of thing, and can make sure information is only shared when the employee wants it to be and with the appropriate people (i.e. a specific department).

            If I was sent an obituary I can choose to read it and then choose to send flowers or a donation if I want. It’s very different from sending an email that says “My mom passed away here is my address if you’d like to send flowers.” That puts your coworkers in a really awkward place if you’re not close or can’t afford a nice floral arrangement or whatever.

        2. Brandy

          I agree Rose. Any company Ive worked for has an office manager that would send flowers. None of your co-workers need to see an obituary and the headhonchos would shut this down after it happened several times. Here we pass a card around and maybe mentioned the relationship of the person who passed (such as Lisas mom died) and that’s about as far as it goes. Its very unprofessional. And also while Ill accept sympathy, I also want my privacy. Basically, unless I tell you, its none of your business and that’s what this woman is doing, putting your business out there. Im sure the others in the office don’t like this but no ones standing up to her. This needs to be nipped in the bud by management. I don’t care about respect or how long shes been there. She has no right to infringe on others and shes not showing them respect.

          1. Green

            Again, if you’ve run an obituary in a newspaper (that’s a voluntary submission), it is reasonable to believe that the family wantw people to see it.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule

              I agree with this point. If you place an obituary in a newspaper or the funeral home website, then you’ve made the death public information. It’s the culturally accepted way of announcing someone’s passing.

              1. Brandy

                And that’s fine for the obit, I think though co-workers can look this up themselves, its not the companies job to send it around. buuuut all my families dirt doesn’t need to be passed around the office. That’s just being mean. Ok family members dead, but now youre dragging a crazy sister into this too.

                1. Green

                  But there’s no indication that she’s passed around anyone’s dirt! Just published obits or bios in the paper.

                  OP just doesn’t want her to Google her family members because her sister has some problems.

                2. zora

                  There IS an indication that she has passed around ‘dirt’ The OP says:

                  She likes to peruse the Internet, look up links, addresses, and family bios, and share them with others. Sometimes she does this verbally, but more often she send out the obituary to employees company-wide.

                  So most of the time she is sending the obituary, but there are also instances where she has discussed other information not limited to the obit with other coworkers.

                  Also, I think we can assume that the fact that the OP is worried about her sister coming up is that at least once in the past Busybody Lady has brought up some information about a relative other than the one who died. Otherwise, I doubt this would have even occurred to the OP as a possibility.

                3. Rose

                  Exactly! If the company wants to organize this so people don’t get left out if they want to share and can opt out of sharing if they don’t, that’s great. It’s not ok for one person to decide for everyone.

                4. Sprinkled with Snark

                  THAT is the problem! THAT is the heart of the problem and the reason OP is writing. The OP does not want this horrible gossip RESEARCHING and SHARING whatever dirt she digs up with her co-workers. There is a HUGE difference between an obit that says, “Mary is survived by her son Fergus and her daughter Jane,” and “Mary is survived by her son Fergus, who is a drunk and was fired from his job coaching at Central High, and her daughter Jane, who is a drug addict and was arrested for prostitution.” THAT is the problem. NOBODY should be “researching” anybody’s family based on a couple of names and some facebook links and then SHARING it on emails for the company! That is so wrong! SO WRONG!

              2. Rose

                You’ve made it public, but it’s unlikelyboth at most of your coworkers are going to happen upon it. Just because it’s been made public, doesn’t mean you should go hunting for it and share it with a large group without asking first. It’s the simple difference between things you are ABLE to do and things you SHOULD do.

                There are usually several people (siblings, children, husbands or wives) who have a say in obituaries and funeral arrangements. Just because one member of the family likes to share or wants old friends to hear about the death, doesn’t mean every family member wants the news curculated to all of their coworkers. That kind of assumption is rude and inconsiderate. Being helpful/kind without considering what the person you are “helping” wants is neither helpful nor kind.

                If you found a coworker’s online dating profile, would you send it to everyone in the office? They made it public, after all! That doesn’t mean that sharing it is ok. It just means it’s possible to do.

            2. Rose

              its is not at all reasonable to pass personal information about a coworker to your entire company without asking them if that’s what they want first.

              Just because one member of the deceased’s family wants to publish an obituary (maybe so community members and old friends would see and attend if they wanted) does not mean every member of that family wants the news passed around the office.

              It’s not ok to pass that kind of news around without checking first. Saying that you’re doing it to be nice doesn’t change the fact that it’s a selfish and unprofessional way to make yourself someone in the know.

              OP states repeatedly that this person is gossip monger and makes it clear that she digs up dirt as well as the obituaries. This isn’t someone she needs to cater too, and it isn’t polite.

    5. Rose

      In a way that’s genius, but I feel like it also kind of implies that this behavior is ok or even welcomed.

    6. Rebecca

      That’s what I did when my father-in-law passed away, I sent the link to the obituary to my manager (and a coworker who is a close friend outside of work) and told them it was ok to share.

      Ugh, I hate that OP even has to think about this kind of thing. When there is a death in the family, you should only have to be concerned with yourself and your family members. I don’t have anyone like this in my office, but people do seem to get kind of gossip-y when there is a death. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like everyone needs to be talking about how hard it must be for the person. We lost my FIL to suicide, so I knew there would be some talk back at the office when people found out (it wasn’t a secret). But really, you just can’t control that.

    7. SallyForth

      Sending out the link is a brilliant way to handle it. If she goes beyond that and spreads anything about the sister, I would go to her directly and say that with the death in the family, I would handle it head on and just go to her and tell her it was an unkind thing to do.

  3. Wacky Teapots

    #3 answer is perfect. You don’t have to tell everyone your secrets just handle them with grace IF they come up. You’d be surprised what your co-workers family lives are like on the inside. If these people judge you for your family actions, they are extremely short-sided and karma always has a way of catching up. No one gets thru life unscathed.

    1. Jeanne

      Almost everyone has something in their lives that they don’t brag about. Your coworkers are more likely going to have sympathy for you if they find out. And they’ll probably not greet this gossip with the glee the coworker thinks they will. It truly is bizarre.

  4. Jennifer

    I fear that 3 is your only option, because there’s no way to make her stop snooping and tattling, really. Maaaaybe your manager could get her to stop sending all of the information via e-mail, but you can’t stop her from looking you up at home.

  5. HumbleOnion

    Next time she does this, you could reply & ask her not to send you these sorts of things anymore. You can incorporate some of Alison’s phrasing:

    “Jane, I know you’re coming from a kind place when you look up and circulate this information, but out of respect for people’s privacy, I’m going to ask you to not send me this information any more. I know that I personally wouldn’t want information like this circulated if someone in my family died — so at a minimum, I’m asking you not to do it for me, but also I think it’s worth considering whether to at least check with others before sharing their info.”

    This is a good time to deploy the ‘reply all’, because I’m sure other people will chime in & back you up.

    1. Blue_eyes

      Good idea! And then you’ll have a paper trail of asking her not to do this that all of your coworkers have seen. If she still does this to you in the future, she’ll look almost cruel, instead of just nosy. It takes guts to straight up ignore a very clear request from another person to respect their privacy.

    2. Bend & Snap

      I like this. Checking with people before circulating info of a loss is a great boundary to draw.

    3. TCO

      I wouldn’t use “reply all” for this–publicly embarrassing Jane is unlikely to have the desired effect. Instead, could OP quietly find some like-minded coworkers and ask each of them to respond to Jane (and only Jane) with a statement similar to that above? It shows a strong objection to Jane’s behavior without being quite as public.

      1. Andrea

        I’m usually against reply all, too. But maybe there’s a case to be made for it here—it’s possible that others will chime in too, once someone else has spoken up. I can’t believe that most people in the office are okay with what sounds like a really gross and inappropriate hobby. But maybe I’d be surprised.

        1. Jeanne

          There is a case to be made for it here. Maybe just keep it to the statement “Please remove me from the email list when you send obituary information.” Then you’re not reprimanding her but others could still chime in.

    1. A Cita

      I feel like if you give it to her to share, she’ll add her own tidbits from sleuthing and send it out as if you personally wrote all of it. Write it and send it yourself, prior to her. With a request to respect privacy.

    2. Jillociraptor

      I worry that this sanctions and enables the behavior though. Doesn’t it kind of authorize Jane as the designated informer-on-personal-details?

      1. Green

        I think it’s up to other people to draw their own lines (a lot of people actually would rather somebody send this out), so I would worry less about enabling the behavior. Also, I doubt she’s going to add anything to your bio; it doesn’t sound like she’s sending negative information out company wide, but things more along the lines of “Here’s the obit, here’s the service, here’s where to send flowers/donations” and that OP doesn’t like that. If you draft your own note, then send it to her, you’re controlling the information that goes out.

        1. Zillah

          But why not just send it out yourself, eliminating the possibility?

          I’d also argue that sending out links to obits, addresses, and family bios is negative information, even if she’s not editorializing, because it’s horrifically inappropriate and intrusive.

          1. Rose

            Because this is just weird and probably not something OP wants to do on her own. I don’t send out obituaries when a family member dies, and I would find it odd if someone else did. Telling me what happened, asking for a few days of lenience when they’re distracted and a few days off? Sure!

            I think there needs to be a better way to handle this then letting this woman decide that when your mother passes away, everyone is going to get details whether you want them too or not. Sometimes, the amount of information you want to share is none.

            1. Green

              If the amount you want to share is none, then there shouldn’t be an obituary. Don’t voluntarily put things in the newspaper if you don’t want people to read it.

              1. LBK

                Usually control over the obit is left up to one person, though, typically the spouse if there is one – I certainly had nothing to do with my father’s being printed.

              2. AW

                There’s a difference between putting something in a newspaper and putting something in an email blast at work. Court documents, marriage licenses, salaries at government jobs…all of this is public information. That doesn’t mean that it’s OK to email everyone at the office that Jane had a property dispute with her neighbor and that Jack made $15K less at his previous job.

                1. Green

                  There’s a difference between things that are legally required to be in the paper (divorces), news stories (government salaries) and things the family voluntarily submits (and sometimes pays to submit!). An obituary is authored by a family member and voluntarily submitted; it’s not “public information” by virtue of some statute but by virtue of someone putting it out there for others to read. If you don’t want your name in it, you should express that wish to the person writing the obituary, and if you want to opt out of the default (that people want the obituary to be shared), then you can opt out of that too.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  There are two different types of obituaries: ones the family places and ones the newspaper writes. Many newspapers will write their own — not just about notable people, but about people they felt made an impact on the community in some way.

                  For an example of that second kind, here’s one that was written about my dad, a journalist:
                  http://www.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=185565551&page_url=//www.copleydc.com/lewis_5-9-01.htm&page_last_updated=2002-05-11T16:00:37&firstName=Stephen&lastName=Green

                3. Green

                  Yes; it would be less appropriate to send out a newspaper-authored obit for X person that included mention of some major scandal or negative information.

                4. Anna

                  Obituaries are often not submitted by the family. My mother had an obituary in my hometown paper because she was once the treasurer of the local school board. I was neither asked for my permission, nor consulted on the content. Another relative of mine had an obituary published in which the family information was true, but misleading, and she had specifically not wanted it printed that way. If asked, I would have asked the paper not to print it. But I wasn’t asked. So no, it is not reasonable to assume that families are consulted.

                  (You may be thinking of paid death announcements, which are written and paid for by the family. They’re a form of advertising. Obituaries are news and are published if the editor finds them newsworthy, regardless of the family’s wishes.)

              3. Rose

                Are you honestly arguing that one family member publishing an obituary makes it ok for OPs coworker to share information she doesn’t want talked about in the office?

              4. Elizabeth West

                Plenty of people post obituaries without many details in them. Apparently, The Ghoul goes looking for the details and shares them with the obituaries. And holy fuck, did you read the letter? OP said she shares ADDRESSES. That is just creepy. I’m sitting here totally creeped out.

                I can’t understand why you’re defending her–that is freaky. FREAKY.

          2. Green

            All of my prior workplaces handled deaths in the family like that and it wasn’t considered “horrifically inappropriate and intrusive.” The default was the assumption that some colleagues may want to send an expression of sympathy (or attend the services) and that the colleague suffering from loss may appreciate the support of some of their long-time or close colleagues. There’s nothing wrong with that; if you want to opt out of the default, that should be fine too, but it’s on the person to make their wishes known.

            1. AE

              Where I currently work, there’s no mention of deaths at all. It’s creepy. People will disappear for a week and when you ask if they were on vacation you hear they had to go out of town for a funeral. Even people you think you know well won’t tell you where they are.

              1. LBK

                At first I thought your comment was going to say that people don’t mention when an employee dies – they just disappear and if you ask a week later where Jane is, management will tell you “Oh, she died.”

                1. Green

                  My old company did that whenever someone committed suicide… (Name off the website, wondering what happened to the person until someone tells you).

                2. Katie the Fed

                  If we’re weird about death, we’re SUPER weird about suicide. You have to really read between the lines to figure out someone’s cause of death was suicide, which is frankly a shame because I think it’s something that should be talked about.

                  NPR had a story a few weekends ago about a program offering group therapy for children of suicide victims. It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time – the kids could talk about it WAY more matter-of-factly than many adults (“my daddy shot himself in the head because he had an illness in his brain”)

                3. Green

                  In this case, work was a contributing factor to this person’s suicide and it’s a high anxiety/depression/substance abuse field (law). No mention of person’s death at the time; person was down from the website before anyone had even heard that the person was dead, and about a month later (just long enough to arguably not be connected to that individual’s death), the firm sent out a reminder about the EAP. It was really distasteful, particularly because people who die of “natural” causes at the firm are typically recognized with a firm-wide announcement, firm-authored obit on the website, major donations to scholarships/non-profits in honor of the person and their interests, firm goes to the funeral, etc.

              2. Green

                As a society, we are weird about death (“weird” going both ways, people who think it’s very private and people who think it’s a communal experience), so it’s not really that surprising that the weirdness would carry over to workplace.

                (I find some of my family’s rituals pretty odd — like the “viewing” of an open casket — but I just try to go with the preferences of the deceased or the people most impacted by the death.)

                1. Anna

                  We are weird. I recently read a great book by a woman who worked in a crematorium and became a mortician called Smoke Gets In My Eyes. It was really good. I wouldn’t call it obsessed, but I’m definitely trying to confront it a bit more. My grandmother died this last weekend and knowing what happened when she died, what the process of cremation was, the whole thing, was actually a huge relief. I’m trying to become more matter-of-fact about death without being flip about it.

                2. Green

                  I’ll have to check out “Smoke Gets in My Eyes.” “Stiff” by Mary Roach is a great book about our fixation with what happens to bodies after death and what’s considered respectful and disrespectful by different cultures/contexts.

                  FYI, I do try to alternate non-morbid books about not-death with the books about bodies and cremation. :)

                3. Cath in Canada

                  Stiff is such a great book! And very, very funny – I laughed more than seemed decent. (Except at the chapter about plane crashes, which I read while on a 10 hour flight. Don’t do that).

              3. Shan

                The only time I ever heard about a death in my job is when I was asked to order flowers. Other than that, I wouldn’t want to hear about it in an e-mail.

              4. Elizabeth West

                Ours posts it on the main intranet page if someone in the company dies (seriously, our company is enormous, so there are bound to be a few people who pass away now and then) but there isn’t any mention of employees’ family members. Mostly that’s handled within departments. “Hey everybody, Joyce, Buffy’s mum, died; she’ll be out for a few days,” or whatever. When a coworker’s dad died, we heard about it through word of mouth. It certainly wasn’t distributed for everybody and sundry to know.

            2. LBK

              I think we’d need more clarification about how the coworker is doing this and in what spirit. To me, it doesn’t sound like she’s just sending out the obituary as a means of informing people on behalf of the coworker whose family member died. It almost sounds like she’s hunting around to find out everyone’s family info so she can keep tabs on when someone dies and/or sharing info she finds out about everyone’s families with her coworkers. I get that impression due to the OP’s concern that her coworker will find out about the cousin with the meth problem – that generally wouldn’t come up if you were just looking in local obits for your coworker’s recently deceased mother.

              Just sending out an obit for a family member of coworker that the coworker has already stated publicly has died sounds fine. That’s how I’m accustomed to it happening in my office as well. But based on the OP’s description it sounds like there’s a lot more happening, much of it intrusive and without each person’s consent.

              1. AGirlCalledFriday

                This is exactly how I read it too. The OP specifically said she was looking up info and sending information to everyone – not that this is her specific role.

                I would NOT want everyone at work knowing about a death in my family. It’s hard enough to deal with it on my own – why would I want a reminder at WORK, a place I’m supposed to attempt to be professional at? If I want to share my situation with someone it’s my own business. I can’t imagine why I would want various people awkwardly coming up to me and expressing sympathy while I’m trying to not think about it. I suppose if I’ve worked at a place long enough and feel comfortable enough with my coworkers I might be alright with everyone generally knowing, or if it was a long illness that a lot of people knew about, but otherwise I’m not understanding why this would be a Thing.

              2. fposte

                That’s my concern. It doesn’t sound like this is part of her job or the bereaved people have asked her to do this. Everybody I work with would be really displeased at having this done to them without their consent.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  ADDRESSES. It said she was sending addresses. I mean, how is this okay? I would not want all my coworkers to know my address. There are a few who weird me out, so NO!

              3. Rana

                Yes. It also sounds like she’s using this information to leverage attention and social points for herself as a source of little tidbits no one else (except the bereaved) has access to. Which is pretty gross, in my opinion.

            3. LD

              Exactly, the grieving person gets to make the choice. The email is not sent by some snoopy coworker who takes it upon herself to share about employees’ family deaths. And even in most companies, it is not an announcement to ALL employees, just the few on that person’s team and their management. I’ve never worked anywhere that there would be a company-wide announcement like this, just an announcement from the grieving person’s manager to their teammates and within their own hierarchy. The smaller the employer, the more likely that people would be told, but not the whole organization.

            4. Sprinkled with Snark

              I don’t think so. I don’t think you are grasping what the problem is. It IS quite common for someone designated from the company to announce that there has been a death in the family of He or She, and enclose ta link to the public newspaper obituary. Remember, the newspaper only publishes an announcement of death. A full obituary is written by a family member, usually the next of kin, like a son or daughter, and today, more and more newspapers are charging a fee to publish long obituaries, and others will only publish obits on certain days, like in a separate section. Many times, even an obit does not list the “cause ” of death either, like a suicide or drug overdose or a child’s illness or a teen’s drunk driving death. People want to announce that a death has occurred, but they don’t always share details of how that death happened, not even in an obit.

              So, even in an obit, the info that is shared is completely up to the family. What this woman is doing is RESEARCHING terrible family secrets and SHARING them, with co-workers, as OP stated, sometimes verbal, sometimes in an email with ADDRESSES! My biological grandfather was a terrible person. I may have wanted my co-workers to know that I was out for that day because of his funeral, but I certainly don’t want them knowing my FATHER’S address, for example, of where my co-workers will send some cards or something. NO WAY! Especially if she picked up this PRIVATE info from some facebook links or some white pages. That is really an invasion of privacy here, and she is making some really tremendous assumptions that people would WANT any of that. Families are complicated things, and she has no right at all to be nosing into people’s lives. She may do that on her own time, which is pretty sick if you ask me, but she better be careful what she shares or she just might have somebody really give her a “what-for” if she pushes the wrong buttons when somebody is grieving.

      2. LBK

        Agreed, I wouldn’t do anything that might be viewed as encouraging her behavior. The real solution is for her to just stop doing it, not to adjust how she’s doing it.

      3. Brandy

        She doesn’t work for the funeral home or newspaper so she shouldn’t be sending out obits.

  6. I'm Not Phyllis

    I agree this is bizarre – but I’m also in the don’t-overshare-at-work camp. When my mom died several years ago now, I felt like it was a very private matter and I really didn’t want to talk about it at work. I realize that everyone handles grief differently – but that’s the point. I like Alison’s suggestion of at least checking with the person involved before releasing any of this information. I’m sure she’s not doing it maliciously, but not everybody wants this kind of attention even if it is meant well. And maybe she’s just never thought about it that way.

    As for your personal situation – I’m sorry you’re going through that. It must be very tough. If she’s going to use that as office gossip though, it would make her look bad – not you. I know that’s of little comfort when it’s not something you want shared around the office, though. Hopefully if you (or her manager) speak to her about it, it won’t ever happen.

    1. Judy

      It’s been my experience in most of my workplaces that an admin would send out an email saying that Wakeen’s father died yesterday, there’s a card to sign located here, and a link to the online obituary from the newspaper. Sometimes copying the visitation and service information into the email.

      No editorializing.

      1. Green

        It doesn’t sound like this woman is editorializing in her company-wide emails. But I agree, this is also the culture at my work. It doesn’t go company-wide (I’m at a multinational), but it does go to the entire department and is typically from an admin or manager so people know where to send expressions of sympathy.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          This is typically how it’s done at my workplace, but because we’re small-ish, it goes office-wide.

        2. Melissa

          It does sound like the woman is editorializing. The OP says that in addition to sending out obits she sounds out family bios and addresses. Family bios don’t usually go into obituaries.

      2. Jeanne

        We had a bulletin board where they hung the obituary. This sounds like more than a simple email. The word sleuthing is disturbing.

  7. LizNYC

    I’m wondering if the new manager doesn’t realize this 25-year employee (who clearly needs more work to do!) is rogue and that many people probably don’t appreciate her doing this. (The manager thinks it’s been tolerated and doesn’t want to rock the boat in this situation.) I’m not 100% sure how you approach this new manager about it, but that could be a reason the new manager hasn’t shut this down. (Though, if I ever become a manager and see this, I’d hope I’d but like “Um, no. Just stop.”)

    1. Katie the Fed

      I recently stopped a colleague mid-sentence in a management meeting. We were sharing updates on our staff, and one of his was out for a medical procedure. Fine, but he started going into a LOT of detail, and he was clearly getting really excited about all the gross details, and I just interrupted him and said “Hey, Barry, I don’t think Myranda would appreciate you sharing this with so many people. Why don’t we move on?”

        1. Katie the Fed

          I was actually completely out of line – he’s a colleague and I have no authority over him but it was so inappropriate. All I could think was what if my manager was sitting here talking about my medical procedures? ACK.

          1. Ted Mosby

            No. You. Were. Not.

            I have a lot of medical issues and I find that kind of thing SO embarrassing and I would be SO SO unhappy if someone talked about them at a meeting and so grateful if someone else intervened. Thank you on behalf of everyone everywhere, especially people who are private and/or have medical issues.

            I think you can always call out terrible breaches of manners/human decency as long as you do it how you did: respectfully, without calling a lot of attention to how idiotic that person was being, and giving everyone an excuse to change subjects ASAP.

            1. Amanda

              Agreed.

              I was out for a medical procedure a few weeks ago and my manager didn’t share the information about my situation with anyone. I shared it only with people that I felt comfortable around.

              Likewise, one of my direct reports mouthed off about my being out of work when I was gone, and a colleague shut him down right away and made it clear that speculating or guessing about people’s medical situations is NEVER appropriate. I was grateful to learn that someone had intervened on my behalf.

          2. Sam P

            I disagree. If I were stepping over the line and over-sharing about a colleague, I would hope that someone would step in and quickly and politely shut it down, just like you did. I might be a little embarrassed in the moment, but I’d be much more embarrassed if I had let it go on and then later reflected in horror on what I had been saying.

      1. INTP

        If it weren’t the wrong industry and gender, I would wonder if you were talking about my old manager. She always asked how our doctors appointments went, and many people would bristle and get defensive and then she’d micromanage them harder, I guess to feel more in control. I would always freely share details and I got a lot more freedom – she just didn’t know I was making up a lot of the details. My colposcopy was a dental filling. (Once, though, she really stumped me with a question I didn’t even know an answer to – I said “I’m going to be out for one week because I am having surgery to add drainage holes to my maxillary sinuses.” She wanted to know what they were using to drill the holes and where they would be located in my sinuses.)

        1. AnonaMoose

          Ha. So is it weird that I totally want to know if this was the actual surgery? And did she do it to see if you were lying? Like, did people fake their sick time a lot there or something??

          1. INTP

            It was the real surgery. My sinus issues were well known around the office by that time, haha.

            And o my knowledge people were not faking their sick time, at least not beyond what was required for privacy due to her weirdness. She just thought they were. When other people tried to call in sick with colds or stomach flus, she pressured them to come in anyways so people were sick at work all the time. She always left me alone though, because I answered her questions.

        2. Anonsie

          I wonder if she knew that’s not normally (ever?) how that type of procedure is done and wanted to see if she could catch you fibbin’

          1. INTP

            Maybe, but that’s how my ENT described it to me – I wasn’t even lying that time. If I misrepresented the surgery it’s because my ENT (an adorable 77 year old man) dumbed it down for my understanding, LOL.

            1. Anonsie

              Haha I was sitting here trying to figure out if that one was made up or if this is a totally different thing that I’d never heard of. I had a similar procedure but in my case they just widened the existing channels to drain them… Now I want to find out if there’s a totally different way that I’ve never seen.

              1. INTP

                The (obviously not-native-English-speaking) nurse that prepped me called it a “roto-rooter job,” if that helps LOL. It certainly didn’t help me as I was losing my faculties to anesthesia picturing roto-rooters up my nose.

        3. Ted Mosby

          my bosses and coworkers at Old Job always wanted so many details and would push when I was vague about them. I have stomach issues and was spending a lot of time at what was basically a Poop Specialist. talking about my poop.

          at one point I really just wanted to shout “I’m getting a camera up my @$$ tomorrow! Thanks for asking!” and walk away.

          1. INTP

            You should have said that and asked for a copy of the video to show them, lol. That would teach them to stop asking for details.

        4. TheLazyB

          Possible answers:
          Why on earth do you ask?
          I trust my doctor (with a shrug)
          I have no idea! (With a cheerful smile)
          I really don’t want to know.

          Just in case anyone else ever faces this (highly unlikely) scenario.

        5. Marcela

          Oh, god. For one side I’m relieved I’m not the only one that “embellish” stories when pressed (usually my maternal family and my MIL). But I truly hate that habit, because I’ve caught myself lying to people when I don’t need to, for example to an unknown lady in a store.

      2. AnonaMoose

        *Standing Ovation*

        The fact that he was gleeful is really gross. I hope his leader was there in the room to note his bad judgement.

    2. MaryMary

      I also wonder how new the manager is. If she’s only seen the Sympathy Coordinator in action once or twice, she might have chalked it up to an office culture quirk instead of something inappropriate. Especially if the examples the manager has seen aren’t particularly egregious (something like a link to the obit and a “Remember, Grieving Coworker’s son moved to California, here’s his address if you’d like to send him a card as well.”). It’s probably worth pointing out that this is something Sympathy Coordinator has taken upon herself, not something the office appreciates her doing.

    3. zora

      Yeah, I like this suggestion. I want to hope that it’s an example of “no one said anything so I figured it was fine” on the manager’s part. Maybe if you point out this specific issue (as opposed to her just generally being an annoying gossip), the manager will be willing to step in about this specific thing.

  8. HeyNonnyNonny

    #4: Dig through her family secrets and forward all the embarrassing and personal details to the office. Wait for her to get upset.

    Do not do this. But you can always dream…

    1. Jeanne

      I agree with the fantasy. In reality, I bet you would find that she has practically no family and is very alone.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler

      +1000

      This coworker is obnoxious and absolutely deserves it, but I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to be the person to do it to her. Depending on how bad things got, I might be the person that pulls her aside and lets her know that I know she has family secrets she’d probably prefer to keep that way and maybe she should let other people keep their’s that way as well… But it would have to be REALLY bad for it to get to that point.

  9. JMegan

    Oh, that’s awful and intrusive and gross. You have my sympathies, OP.

    Sort of along the lines of #3, what is your coworker likely to do with the information about your sister? I mean, she’ll probably share it with the office as you described, but then what will happen? As you say, this information is already available online, so there’s no additional harm that could come to your sister from that. And it might be embarrassing or uncomfortable for you, but is there anything beyond that? I’m not suggesting that it’s okay for you to be embarrassed or uncomfortable in your own office – because it isn’t – but is that the worst of it? Are there likely to be any repercussions to your job, your relationships with coworkers, etc, if this information gets out?

    How do your coworkers normally react to other stories like this, when they happen? My guess is that most people will be sympathetic, in a “How awful for the OP!” kind of way, and then forget about it. That doesn’t make it okay to have her broadcast your family history all over the office, of course, but I do think it will reflect worse on her than on you. Start with #1 as Alison suggests, by shutting her down when she talks about other people, then do #3 when it happens to you, and ignore her. “Take the sail out of her wind,” as my mother would say.

    Good luck, and best wishes to you and your family.

    1. "OP"

      You are right, of course. I would only be embarrassed. I am an adult after all and should know how to deal with it. I guess I chalk it up to free-floating anxiety on my part. The reality is, this is reflective of our company culture because no one has complained (to my knowledge) about her issuing these e-mails, although she took this up only within the past couple of years. I tend to worry about “what if” scenarios out my anxiety habit. I have more important things to be worried about, but thank you for letting me vent here. And I did wonder, if I don’t like this kind of thing, surely I am not alone? People are different; some more private than others. I am a very private person.

  10. Katie the Fed

    What?!!! Who does this! I mean, my extended family always reads the obituaries (the Irish sports page!), but this is so gross and invasive.

    I would go with talking to a manager – this is horribly invasive and inappropriate. I would tell your manager it’s causing you undue stress during an already difficult time, and ask her to rein Jane in before she decides to get involved in sharing your mother’s or family’s information.

    You can also tell her directly “I don’t want you sharing any information about my family. It’s not your information to share and I would appreciate you respecting that.”

    1. V.V.

      Thank you Katie the Fed. This is not bizarre, it is egregious.

      “I don’t want you sharing any information about my family. It’s not your information to share and I would appreciate you respecting that.”

      This is the best advice I have heard so far. I am not sure why everybody else is being so tolerant, I don’t see this as an innocent hobby by someone who means well at all. If they meant well they would have cut this out the first time they were asked to stop. I know the OP didn’t say whether this person is doing this at work or at home in their own spare time, if it is at work then… sorry but why aren’t they working?

      With all kindness to those who have suggested it, I don’t see at all why the impetus is on the OP at all to handle this with grace.

      1. Delyssia

        I don’t see where you’re getting that she was asked to stop and has continued anyway.

        1. V.V.

          Okay you are right. I guess it is because I am not sure why this person would not have already been asked to stop by someone. If it hasn’t already happened, it needs to.

          1. Delyssia

            I agree that someone should ask her to stop. I just think that if I were in OP’s shoes, I wouldn’t particularly want to be the one to do so. And if I did work myself up to it, I’d feel better having a “nicer” script to start with.

    2. Minister of Snark

      Seriously. This times 100x.

      The only way you can deflect these people is with directness. I worked for a local nonprofit organization for a few years and we had a member (who was not on staff) who would slink into the office on the day we were printing/sending out the newsletter, swipe a copy, go hide somewhere in the office where he could find an unoccupied phone and call everybody he knew who received the newsletter and read it to them! These people would literally be receiving the same information within 1-2 days, but it was THAT important to him to know first and be the first to report it to others.

      There’s a twisted sort of self-importance that comes with relaying information like this and he was addicted to it, as I suspect your coworker is a addicted to being the Funeral Detective. Someone else is going through a crisis, but SHE has all of the attention on her by virtue of her “concern” and her keen intellectual/investigative skills.

      With our Newsletter Thief, we tried to make a game of it. Locking the newsletters in a desk, changing the production schedule, closing the printing room off when he came into the office. And then he escalated to trying to listen in on our phone calls and other shenanigans. Ultimately, we had to finally ask him, “Mr. Newsletter Thief, why are you taking the newsletter before its ready and calling people, using our phones, to read it to them? Why not just let them receive it in the mail? Sometimes we catch errors while we’re printing. For all you know, the newsletter could have incorrect information in it and you’re giving people the wrong information.” and it was said in a really polite tone, but had a “you poor misguided goofball” undercurrent.

      I’m not sure if it was the idea that he could look foolish by giving out the wrong information or that we called him on his behavior so blatantly, but he did stop it.

      1. Jillociraptor

        Newsletter Thief! What!

        I will completely own up to loving the feeling of having the inside info but I literally can’t imagine what’s going through someone’s mind to do something this outside of normal bounds…

        1. Cath in Canada

          I know! Especially because I’ve never worked anywhere that puts anything even remotely juicy in the newsletter. I mean unless the kitchen cleaning schedule and list of people with birthdays that month counts as juicy.

          1. JayemGriffin

            I write the newsletter for our department, and it never, ever gets any more interesting than “Payroll has changed their deadline for August; please stop putting the wrong ID numbers in the HR system; happy birthday to Mike, Eric, and Emily; for those of you who missed the large cake in the break room, Clint formally retired last Friday.”

    3. Finn

      My coworker for years has taken a strange interest in people — when they die. He might never have talked to a coworker, but when that coworker dies, he’s the first to send out a blast email with the subject line RIP John Doe. He posts the person’s photo on Facebook and says how sad. It’s clearly A Thing with him, and it’s doubly strange that death is virtually the only time he takes interest in coworkers. It makes me terribly uncomfortable — but that’s as far as he goes.

  11. littlemoose

    My father is terminally ill and very near the end of his life. I would be incensed if a colleague did this, even though his past is squeaky clean. It’s such a gross violation of privacy. Whether she does this to you or someone else, if talking to her doesn’t get you anywhere, take it up with management. People need to be able to keep their family lives out of the office, and this busybody has no place even snooping online for her own interest, much less blasting information to the entire office.

    And, OP, I’m very sorry to hear about your mother.

    1. V.V.

      “People need to be able to keep their family lives out of the office…”

      Yes, yes, and yes. + 1,001 Thank You’s.

      I am sorry to hear about your father. Best wishes to you and your family during this difficult time.

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      When I came back to work from my father’s funeral years ago, I would have freely kicked the ass of anyone who had done this while I was gone. I doubt that anyone would have blamed me. This is not the time to know what properties I own, what taxes I pay, which brother went to jail, or even the cause of death. That’s mine to know.

      As much as I LOVE the internet (and make my living from it) stories like these remind me of the cautionary tales about privacy and coverage of your information. It’s a shame we can’t control our information as much as we used to, but that still doesn’t give leeway to Ms. Six Feet Under to publicly enjoy her death fetish with her coworkers.

      1. Sprinkled with Snark

        YES! YES! A thousand time YES! That woman is extremely lucky she hasn’t had someone punch her right in the nose for doing this! THAT is what grief feels like. I’m not saying a punch in the nose is appropriate, but losing a parent or a sibling you are close to, especially if you feel that they have been “taken” from you too early (cancer, fatal accident, murder), can make you rage with grief (one of the normal stages). If she had done this to me after my mother’s funeral, to return back to work and find out people were gossiping about her because of this woman, or speculating about why she died so young even, I would have probably screamed in her face, with many tears and snot bubbles, my version of a serious grief-stricken ass-kicking, and NO ONE would have sided with her or justified her behavior. When people lose loved ones, in general, normal, sane people try to offer comfort, not embarrassment.

  12. some1

    I’m guessing your coworker has already googled you, your sister and everyone else at your org. Someone who overshares this much to that many people doesn’t wait for a tragedy to go digging for dirt – they just use it as the impetus for the overshare.

    1. INTP

      This is true, but I’d still try to avoid giving her that impetus. In my case I’d probably just not tell anyone about my mother’s death and make up some other reason I had to disappear for a few days. This sounds like a wimpy manager who won’t keep a secret from this woman.

      1. some1

        Oh, absolutely. The LW, unfortunately, needs to stop worrying about what might come out if/when her mom passes away and try to put a stop to it before it happens.

  13. the gold digger

    recently arrested for meth possession and has been in and out of the court system

    Anyone among us who does not have a cousin whose 20 year old daughter spent a year in jail for living in a meth house with her boyfriend, who was also the father of their toddler (he is in prison for seven years) may cast the first stone. (The cousin says, “My friends tell me about their kids going to college. My kid is in jail and I am taking care of my grandson so he doesn’t go into the foster care system.”)

    My sympathies, LW.

      1. Dot Warner

        [raises hand] Yep, I’ve got a few of those too. OP, you’re not alone, and if the office busybody thinks that your family’s behavior is her entertainment, then she must have a very sad and empty life.

    1. AnotherAlison

      My FOO and in-laws are both something else. My family used to be “normal” on the outside, but give it time, all the skeletons will be revealed! Personally, I don’t hesitate to air our dirty laundry, if it naturally comes up in conversation. (I don’t overshare without prompting.) I figure rather than reflect badly on me, it makes me look all that much more impressive for being as normal as I am.

    2. Sara M

      I don’t mean to be a snot. But while I respect the point that “we all have these relatives”… I don’t. Small family, squeaky clean, civic leaders and so on.

      It’s possible that Ms Six Feet Under (I love that name!) doesn’t either.

      Just pointing out that she might be coming from some weird place of pride about her own family. Still inexcusable behavior and all.

      OP, you’re not alone! Many people have things like this in their families. And your sister’s behavior doesn’t reflect on you.

      1. AnotherAlison

        I am sure your family is very nice (no sarcasm intended), but I will say that 20 years ago, you would have thought my family was very nice, too. My grandfather was a school principal in a small town. I think size of family does matter. . .my mom is one of five and so is my dad. That’s a lot of kids, spouses and grandkids – someone is bound to be a screw-up. I guess my own experience makes me cynical, but I feel like if your family is too perfect, just wait. Family/individual secrets are often very well hidden.

        1. Melissa

          Same. My mom is one of 7 and my dad is one of 5. My generation has already started spawning. There were BOUND to be screw-ups, and there are. And a lot of the information was buried until I was older. A LOT.

      2. some1

        A lot of people have skeletons, some pretty ugly, in the family closet that haven’t come to light yet. (In my own family there was some pretty horrible things I didn’t find out about certain family members until I was in my 30s.) I’m not saying that you do – I’m just saying that you might want to take a step back from insisting that it’s impossible that anyone in your family is an addict or has done something else that you would find objectionable.

        1. AnotherAlison

          Same! Some things I found out about my dad <5 years ago were events from the 1980s. And other relatives, too. Some of the BS cover stories were so unbelievable that now that I know the truth, I cannot believe we all went along with the story. One was a story about a relative in a near-fatal car crash due to "choking on food" when it was really drugged driving, and another was about my dad and having a heart attack due to stress over missing an important childhood event due to work when it was really due to his girlfriend-on-the-side. I don't care if my kids are 6 or 16, I think they deserve to make their own judgments about their relatives (and I have kids, so I have lived through telling them the truth about my dad and a brother-in-law and stand by my statement).

        2. Marcela

          But that doesn’t mean they have been creating records to be found via Google. My family is composed of monsters. They can’t be more evil if they wanted. But they haven’t been in jail or processed or charged or even arrested. They don’t have DUI’s. If you search their names, you will find them in Facebook, being petty, ignorant (which is not really a defect, unless you bragg about what you don’t know, as they do), racists, classists, misogynist. I think it’s very probable some of them are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but nobody can prove it just googling them.

          1. some1

            I’m not saying there’s always google records of our relatives misdeeds, I was countering Sara M’s assertion that she doesn’t have relatives like this – don’t be so sure.

            1. Sara M

              OK, I should have said “to my knowledge.” I’m just saying, I don’t think anyone can issue a blanket statement that ALL families have someone like this.

              1. Sprinkled with Snark

                But then how could we all cope?

                We ALL have family “secrets” some big, some small, some you don’t know about yet, some were big deals 40 or 50 years ago and are less of a big deal today, like divorce, for example. Divorce used to be a BIG stinking deal! Some things will never be okay, like child abuse, or pedophilia, or incest (which results from abuse), and the odds are for women, one in THREE have been the victim of sexual abuse or assault in some way. For every victim there is an abuser. That means there are A LOT of people who have been affected by this issue. If it’s NOT you, or a sibling or a parent, then it could easily be a cousin or an aunt, or your husband’s uncle, or another FAMILY member you haven’t been told about. So many issues, like drugs, alcohol, hoarding, rape, domestic violence, infidelity, all result from sexual abuse, heartbreaking to say. The whole family knows that Aunt Joanne drinks too much, but only Aunt Joanne knows why. That’s why I never judge people by their family, or believe that ANY family is beyond reproach. We just have to support each other the best we can.

                The last thing you want to do is brag about how your family doesn’t have any secrets. This will only make the rest of us laugh or shake our heads, or say, oh you poor dear.

    3. Pennalynn Lott

      Yup, ask me about my brother who has multiple DUIs; who rotated in and out of jail quite frequently during a 15-year period of his life; who has been in ICU for drunk-driving related injuries several times; and who has had (and still has) the police called out to his house because the fights he’s having with his latest girlfriend have gotten so out of control that one of the neighbors finally called it in (again).

      Or my cousin who is on the “revolving door” plan at local drug-addiction rehab centers. Or her embezzling mother. Or the cousin who has drug-induced schizophrenia. Or the cousin who had his children taken away from him by CPS (I’m not close to that branch of the family, so I don’t know why. I suspect drugs, alcohol and neglect).

      Any and all of which you (the general you) are free to circulate among whomever you want because their choices aren’t mine, their lives have no bearing on mine, and therefore your opinion of them means nothing to me. If tut-tutting about the poor choices people make is how you get your jollies, I’m sure I can dig up even more family skeletons for you to cluck over.

  14. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)

    #3 is the best tack, but I’d have also given a “WTF, weirdo?” to her face or in reply-all to the email long, long, before this.

  15. AMG

    Maybe I’m just combative, but I’d have a hard time telling Jane, ‘I know you’re coming from a kind place’ when that really doesn’t appear to be the case. I would be more inclined to tell her that it’s inappropriate and unprofessional, and to stop embarassing and upsetting people. Why would anyone go out of their way to assume the best about this boorish behavior but it’s ok to be direct with others who are being jerks? I sinserely don’t understand the thought process on this one.

    1. Helka

      Basically, the thought process is this:

      1) You lose nothing by assuming the best of people in a case like this: no matter what, her behavior is inappropriate, but if you start with the presumption that she has good intentions and proceed from there, you can potentially avoid unnecessary escalation. If you tell Jane “I know you’re coming from a kind place but you need to stop,” you leave yourself room to escalate to “Jane, this is awful behavior, knock it off!” But if you start from “Knock it off!” you can’t de-escalate, and you look like someone who goes into situations already swinging.

      2) You maintain the moral high ground, which can be a huge asset if it does have to go up the food chain. Right or wrong, when both people in a dispute are being harsh with each other, it’s more likely upper management will miss the actual problem (ie Jane’s behavior) and just tell both parties to simmer down.

      1. AMG

        thank you; makes sense. I do tend to come out swinging and it’s something I’m in the process of changing. :)

        1. Elizabeth West

          Me too—but I’d still probably only dial it back to “Jane–I’m sure you have your reasons for this,” and try mightily not to say it with sarcasm.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Yep. Tense situations are easier to resolve if you give the other person a chance to save face. But sometimes it’s really hard.

    2. Clever Name

      I think it’s an effort to take the high road. Kind of like when the New York Times was criticized for referring to Osama bin Ladin as “Mr. bin Ladin” shortly after 9/11, and their response was along the lines of “Our referring to Mr. bin Ladin as such does not reflect on his gentility; it is a reflection of ours”.

  16. TCO

    My sister-in-law (we share an uncommon last name) has had some legal and mental-health troubles. The first results for a Google search name are some detailed articles about her misdeeds as well as a very unflattering mug shot. I don’t really try to hide this information as her troubles are no reflection on my own life. Everyone who knows me even a little bit would know that I’m nothing like this relative. While I’d find it mean-spirited for a coworker to dig this info up and share it, I can assure you that no one in my office would judge me one bit for having her as a family member. If your officemates would, you have a bigger culture issue than this just Jane.

    I’m sorry about your mother and your sister–these things can be very sad to work through.

  17. Lily in NYC

    I don’t think she is coming from a kind place at all, even though she probably thinks she is. This is so typical of someone in my family who just LOVES to be the bearer of bad/morbid news. We call her the Prophet of Doom.

    My dad died a few months ago his final days were pretty brutal. A coworker emailed me for my mom’s address (I was there with my family) and I emailed back explicitly asking that they not send flowers or a card or make a big deal out of this at work (my dad didn’t want a funeral and was a very, very private man). I even wrote: I am not “just saying” this. I really mean it – please respect my and my father’s wishes and do not send anything to the house or pass a card around at work”. Of course, she didn’t listen and asked everyone to chip in for flowers and made everyone sign a card. There is nothing more awkward than a group sympathy card – no one knows what to write. But I felt like I couldn’t say anything to her because they were trying to be nice and it would sound so ridiculous.

    People have personal reasons for not wanting attention after a death or even if it’s just a work birthday they don’t want celebrated. It’s such a pet peeve of mine when other people assume that these are just suggestions and that it’s fine to completely ignore their wishes.

    1. Bend & Snap

      How awful. I don’t think it’s well intentioned at all to explicitly disregard someone’s wishes in order to do something “nice.”

      My coworker hates baby showers and being the center of attention. Everyone here gets a baby shower. She asked me if there was anything in the works and if so, to please squash it.

      Guess what I did NOT do: go ahead and plan a shower for her.

      Unbelievable. I’m sorry that happened.

    2. Verde

      Agreed!! At our work, we will send something on behalf of the company, but it’s kept between HR and maybe the manager. We don’t announce to staff or pass a card around, and if someone requests no gesture, we respect that. Of course, when I was out and didn’t want anything sent, it got sent anyways, but that’s what happens when I’m not around.

      I find a manager not stepping in and telling this person to knock it off immediately very disturbing. This is not information that should be shared by anyone but the employee themself or their manager or HR at the employee’s request. I hate being cornered by people at work to talk about this kind of stuff – if it’s an emotional situation, I don’t need to be losing it every five minutes at work because people want to commiserate. I’m glad they care, I just don’t want to talk about it.

      1. Minister of Snark

        Agreed. This borders on harassment. “LOOOK what I dug up about our coworker! None of you are safe! You better hope no one in your family dies!”

    3. Katie the Fed

      I agree, and I’m sorry for what happened in your situation.

      There are people who are just drawn to tragedy and somehow make it all about them. A family friend went through a tragedy a few years ago (her parents were killed in a plane crash) and there were not-close friends who just got really overbearing and overdramatic in their own reactions to it. Like, dude – they were her parents, not yours. Back off.

    4. LizB

      Wow. I would have found it hard not to just drop the card into the trash unopened. Blatantly ignoring someone’s clearly-stated wishes isn’t nice, it’s rude, particularly at such a difficult time.

  18. Malissa

    My problem with this is this kind of information is just not hers to share. It involves peoples lives and touchy subject matter. By sharing it this way it becomes the topic of the day at work and the coworker may not appreciate this.

    When my father-in-law passed away I had to own the story before the people at work started talking about it and spreading rumors. I had no choice in the matter because of the nature of his death and the fact that I worked for the county, my coworkers were involved. Those that were on the scene of where my Father-in-law accidentally drowned were very nice and discreet coworkers, as it was the nature of their job. I truly loved and appreciated those that came to help.

    The people back in my office, well they were a bunch of busy bodies and the only way to shut down the conversations was for me to own them. Which meant telling the story of what happened in a time when I’d rather not do it. (way too soon)And by also shutting down inappropriate conversations on the subject matter as soon as I heard them. It was a rough time made worse by having to manage the conversations because people didn’t respect boundaries.

    And I realize it sounds like I’m being harsh on my old coworkers, who did most of what they did out of concern. I really tried to remember that, and it’s easier to put it into perspective now, But at the time it was hard. And I really wish that no one else has to go through anything like that.

  19. Today's Anon

    I understand the idea behind suggestion 3, but as someone else with family issues and skeletons (like many I’m sure), that’s easier said than done.

    It depends on how close you are with your sister, how long you’ve tried to help/given up/ what have you. I know that when others have found out about my mom and my family issues I still cringe. I’m still embarrassed. It doesn’t get easier. I’m not saying it’s an all consuming part of my personality, but just that I get why you might be unable to do suggestion 3.

    Also your co-w0rker sounds like a capital B. I’m amazed no one brought this up to her before as being socially weird and extremely invasive during a time of mourning and respect.

  20. Macedon

    Going to disagree with Alison – I’d try vinegar over honey on this one:

    “Hi, Jane. I’m not comfortable with this level of oversharing and with what I feel amounts to intruding in other people’s privacy. I believe that personal information should only be distributed by the people it concerns, or at the very least only after securing their consent. I would rather not be privy to this in the future, and I would appreciate being excluded from further such e-mails from now on. I am unlikely to change my position, but I am open to elaborating on my point of view, should you need clarification. Thanks.”

    In my experience, nothing short of contempt, red signs and tiny helicopters can signal to this kind of personal that This Isn’t Okay.

    But first, try talking to your manager.

  21. INTP

    OP, would just keeping your mother’s death secret from work be an option? If you think your manager would be supportive, you could tell her why you are out on bereavement leave and say “I really fear that I will break down in tears every time this is brought up at work, so I would appreciate it if you please do not tell anyone.” If your manager wouldn’t be so discreet, you could simply say you have a family emergency. Or even make up a detailed but uninteresting personal emergency, like pipes bursting in your home and then waiting for the plumber and blah blah blah, if you have the sort of workplace where no one accepts vague reasons like “Family emergency” and everyone wants details. (This sounds extreme, and I wouldn’t advise it unless you really feel you need to – like if your boss will tell everyone you had a family emergency and this woman also plays private detective whenever people have family emergencies. I’d think it was an insane suggestion myself if I hadn’t worked with one of these people who must know EVERYTHING and will punish you for not complying – in my case it was a manager who would just micromanage you more if you didn’t set her at ease by telling her every detail of your doctor appointments.)

    If you do speak to the coworker, maybe focus on how upsetting it is for the person who has lost a family member to hear things about their loved one and the survivors, especially unflattering things, at such an incredibly sensitive time. This person is probably an unreasonable loon who won’t care but if there’s a chance that she is just an extremely curious and oblivious person, that should make her think twice about the next time.

  22. Lizabeth

    There were no reactions from the people whom she “shared” the obit of their family member????

    I would have pitched a major fit in a hot NY minute if it had happened to me. And emailed her with a reply to all (including HR if they weren’t in the loop to begin with) to the effect of “this was not your information to share and you owe me a full 10-minute grovel in the mud apology”.

      1. Partly Cloudy

        This and this.

        Is it possible that the co-workers in question didn’t actually mind/care that their details were shared? I can’t imagine, but it’s shocking to me that no one has reacted so far.

        1. TootsNYC

          I wouldn’t care, particularly.

          Especially if she was sending links to the obit on the funeral-home website, and the local paper. Or a bio written about my dad in the newspaper at the time he retired. Someone’s reminiscences about my mom’s participation in their organization, written about the time of her death.

          It wouldn’t bother me in the least. Or, the only reason it would bother me is that she was being such a buttinski, and that would be annoying simply because all know-it-alls are annoying. And she’s making it all about her.
          But then it’s really all about me, and my own reaction to -her-, not my reaction to the info being emailed.

          If she didn’t do it, but my close colleague did, it wouldn’t bother me. I would think of it as “my colleague sharing some of the context of my parent’s death, so I don’t have to.” and I’d figure that the vast majority of my colleagues wouldn’t click on the links or read the cut-and-pasted obit anyway.

          *Is* she emailing links to the news stories about the arrest of a colleague’s uncle? Or just to profiles of the deceased, and obits?

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            I’m with TootsNYC, I just can’t bring myself to get upset. Which is not to say that others aren’t entitled to feel differently.

    1. Katie the Fed

      I was thinking of how I would handle it and I kept coming back to a reply-all with a “why would you send this to everyone?”

      Not saying it’s the best thing to do. Just possibly what I would do.

  23. Joey

    If people don’t like it why do they share it in the first place?. Or at minimum why don’t they get after whomever is telling her?

    1. Katie the Fed

      It’s normal to share with your colleagues that a member of your family has passed away, especially because you might be out of the office.
      It’s NOT normal for someone to then dig up a bunch of personal information about it and forward that out. Highly inappropriate.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Yes, this. My dad had something similar to ALS and my mom really needed help as he got worse and worse. I had to tell my coworkers because I took a few long breaks to go help out at home and needed them to understand I wouldn’t be able to work remotely when I was out so they would leave me alone. And after being here for 10 years, I’ve made some very close friends here and I should be able to get support from these friends without worrying about the kind of stuff OP wrote about.

      2. Joey

        That’s true. But why would you continue to share info with someone that uses it inappropriately?

        Or why wouldn’t you ask the folks you do share it with not to share it with the office?

        1. Katie the Fed

          The onus really isn’t on people not to share what’s pretty normal to share. The onus is on the jerk coworker to stop being a jerk.

          1. Joey

            It seems a whole lot easier to me to control the dissemination of info than to control what people do with it.

            1. LBK

              Even if it’s the simplest solution, it seems ethically wrong to me to have to adjust normal behavior (sharing that someone died, so you’ll be out) to accommodate jerk behavior (digging up dirt on coworkers). The jerk basically wins that way.

              1. Joey

                That doesn’t make sense to me. You wouldn’t keep inviting a known jerk to lunch and keep trying to get him to be nice would you?

                1. Lily in NYC

                  Because people talk and you can’t always control what is said about you. Even if it’s not malicious, people tend to mention this stuff, like: Oh, did you hear Jane’s dad is dying, isn’t that sad? Or if someone asks where Jane is one day and someone innocently mentions that her dad died. This is common behavior.

                2. Amanda

                  Your analogy doesn’t hold up. The OP works with this person. They are not choosing to be around them. It’s very possible that HR or a manager is sharing with the staff that someone’s relative died, as a heads up. This has happened at places I’ve worked before.

                  I fail to understand why it doesn’t make sense to you that the only person responsible for this jerk’s behavior is the jerk. She’s the missing stair of the office, the step that’s broken that everyone just gets used to stepping over. This will never stop until someone says something.

                  People dealing with the deaths of loved ones shouldn’t also have to deal with maneuvering ridiculous office politics and worrying about crafting stories to accommodate this woman’s terrible behavior. Think about how insensitive what you’re saying is.

                3. anonforthis

                  False equivalence. Sometimes information, such as a death in the family or medical leave, has to be made transparent so that the workplace can adjust accordingly to an employee’s extended absence. And this site has proven that even when an employee going on a leave of absence asks for the reason to be keep private, information can still get out. It is not the same thing as trying to act cordial towards a jerky coworker and inviting them too lunch.

                4. zora

                  there’s a difference between not walking up and telling her to her face “Hey, my dad just died” and having to create elaborate deceptions to make sure that no one in the office knows why you are out and that no one is telling her, or ever talking about it where she might overhear, etc. You are focusing on the wrong thing here, it’s impossible to guarantee that Funeral Oversharer will absolutely not find out any tidbit of your personal family information just because you are not telling her yourself. That is completely different than actively inviting a jerk to lunch with you.

                5. Pennalynn Lott

                  Joey – How are you not getting that people are engaging in perfectly normal, accepted, and *expected* behavior (informing your office you will be out because of bereavement), which is completely separate from Jane the Jerk then using that data point as a catalyst to dig up dirt on coworkers… and then *share* that dirt with everyone in the office?

                  Which is more reasonable: Everyone in the office lies about the reason they’re out of work for a few days just so the one jerk won’t act jerky… OR… the manager shuts Jane the Jerk down on her jerky behavior?

                6. Joey

                  All I’m saying is if you don’t want to share the info with everyone then don’t. I don’t understand why thats so contentious.

                7. LBK

                  Because the business typically necessitates it? And also in 99% of cases this wouldn’t be an issue. I don’t get why it’s so contentious to say “Don’t cater your behavior towards assholes.”

                8. Amanda

                  This is in response to Joey, but nesting won’t show that ti is in response to the most recent comment.

                  All you’re saying is, then, totally irrelevant to the conversation. It does not answer the OP’s question, is itself pretty combative, and is not contributing anything.

                9. Joey

                  Amanda,
                  You obviously come from a different mindset that I do.

                  I don’t make it my business to teach co workers lessons or try to initiate some behavioral in other folks without considering if there’s anything I can do differently first. Obviously you’re free to disagree with that

                10. Elsajeni

                  But Joey, it’s not as clear-cut as “If you don’t want to share the information then don’t” — people are sharing the amount of information they want to, and then the Rogue Emailer is seeking out more information and spreading that information around. If I tell you that my grandfather died, it’s fair to assume that I don’t mind people knowing that; it’s not reasonable to assume that I want everyone to know how and when he died, various details about his life story, a full list of surviving family members, when and where the funeral will be held, and what my grandmother would like in terms of flowers and memorial donations. Not that all of that is necessarily private information — especially if it ran in a newspaper obituary — but some of it might be, and regardless, it’s not the Rogue Emailer’s business to share it on my behalf.

                11. anonforthis

                  Joey, you are receiving contentious responses because your mindset and your answers seem to lack a level of empathy needed for a letter like this. On top of that, your interest in playing devil’s advocate–which sometimes can be useful–is not helpful in this instance. As previously mentioned, while an employee can try to request that the specifics of his or her leave of absence remain a secret, it doesn’t always work that way; people, especially busybodys, can and will try to find out. On top of that, employees have to receive some sort of notification that their coworker is going to be out for an extended period of time and that the workload had to be adjusted accordingly. This isn’t an issue of oversharing or being too cordial with the office gossip/drama instigator.

                12. some1

                  Besides what everyone else wrote, some workplaces put requirements on how close the relative is to get bereavement time, like you can get bereavement time if your grandparent dies, but not your uncle.

                13. Joey

                  Anonforthis,

                  This is true, if you haven’t noticed Im not one to let emotion play a big part in most decisions.

                14. LBK

                  I don’t make it my business to teach co workers lessons or try to initiate some behavioral in other folks without considering if there’s anything I can do differently first. Obviously you’re free to disagree with that

                  It’s not about teaching someone a lesson or trying to change another person’s behavior. It’s not some moral fight or some righteous stand you’re taking against a great evil. It’s simply thinking you should be able to conduct your life in a normal manner rather than warping your behavior every time someone steamrolls you.

                  I’d think if this were a more purely work-related question than one where emotions are heavily involved, you’d agree that you don’t fit your management style or your work behaviors to accommodate the lowest performer. It doesn’t take that much empathy to understand why many would feel that their ability to grieve and/or handle personal matters in the manner of their choosing should take precedence over someone else being an asshat and that you shouldn’t conduct your life in a manner made to accommodate the lowest common denominator.

                  Realistically, it might be easier in the short term to just roll your eyes and do whatever a jerk says, but eventually it would probably get pretty depressing to feel like you’re always being pushed around. And especially when it comes to grief, not properly processing it can have a detrimental, long-term effect on your mental state. I think you’re probably right for smaller frustrations like a coworker that hums or steals all the creamer, it’s probably best for your quality of life to just learn to ignore it. But there reaches a point where ignoring something is worse for you than dealing with it, and in those instances I can’t agree that you should just ignore your emotions in deference to someone else’s behavior.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          As I wrote above, the OP shouldn’t have to hide a major event in her life because of this awful coworker! She needs to be able to be free to tell her managers and coworkers what’s going on to explain why she’ll need time off, maybe some flexibility, and possibly a general understanding that she might seems pretty sad right now.

          1. Joey

            youre right she shouldn’t have to but it’s definitely more likely to eliminate the problem . If this lady has done this for however long how likely is she to stop whenthe op or a new manager explains that one co worker doesn’t like it?

            1. S

              I don’t see that as eliminating the problem, though, just replacing it with a different one (being unable to talk about anything personal in the office because of a busybody). That’s not necessarily preferable to the situation as it is now.

            2. Sprinkled with Snark

              I doubt it. In fact, I would have to say NO WAY would that be likely to eliminate anything! One of the things that should be troubling to ALL of us is that the Office Angel of Death notifications is taking whatever info she can gather up herself from the obits or whatever is known about the co-worker and RESEARCHING further information that she can share with others, sometimes verbally, sometimes in an email, and also includes addresses and information. So this goes waaaay beyond a simple obit link.

              Now even if the outcome might be nice and supposedly helpful, like “The grieving person’s son lives in CA and here is his address so you can send him some flowers,” it still is an incredible invasion of privacy. But the OP states that this woman gleefully shares NEGATIVE info, like the grieving woman’s sister has been in and out of jail for selling drugs and she lives one town over, and here is her address, it is a HUUUUGE invasion of privacy. No one in an office should be given that info for ANY reason. It is not about an “emotional” issue or about what the grieving person should share or not share with her co-workers. Obviously, no one will share information about their own families that is truly damaging and may reflect upon them in some way. Sure, we all SAY that we would never hold anything against someone for what their family member has done, like a drug problem, but what if that family member did something REALLY horrendous, like molested a bunch of students he coached or something? We all know for a fact that people’s capacity for tolerance and compassion is not always where it should be.

              But what is also quite troubling here is that Susie Gossip is not GIVEN this info by anyone. She RESEARCHES it herself, probably even at work too! So simply saying, don’t tell Susie anything and that will work out fine is not a great solution. What’s troubling is that Susie Gossip gets her info from the obit, then researches names, addresses, etc from the internet, social media, court records, facebook pages. Has it ever occurred to you that she might get something WRONG? What if grieving does NOT have a brother in jail, or a son in California, or a sister who is in the Army? How can she retract what she puts out there based on what she digs up from people’s social media pages? This is so wrong on so many levels, and no manager or co-worker should be okay with this. It doesn’t matter what people say is “okay” to share if Susie Gossip takes it upon herself to do so anyway?

        3. Elizabeth West

          According to the OP, she’s going out and digging up stuff that isn’t relevant to the death and sharing that. And I just can’t get past the address thing. Gah, I’m still freaking out.

    2. INTP

      It’s kind of hard to get bereavement leave without disclosing that someone has died, and this type of person will only get more determined the more details you withhold.

  24. Erin

    I’m voting for option 2. It appears that your newish manager is deferring to an employee who has been there considerably longer than her. I think there’s a good chance she legitimately has no idea that this could be bothering people, and she’s still adjusting to the workplace norms. This shouldn’t be a norm.

    1. Gandalf the Nude

      I thought the same thing, that because the employee’s been around so long the manager, perhaps, has assumed this is the Done Thing in the office and didn’t want to get on the bad side of a company institution. I know when my new boss came in last year, he specifically asked me if there were any long-time who might cost him some political capital if he crossed accidentally (and there are a lot, actually! Lots of lifers here!). If you and some other employees raise the issue, it could signal to the boss that there’s more good will in ending the practice than in preserving it.

    2. AW

      Five bucks says the manager doesn’t even realize the co-worker is not getting permission from the person who’s had a death in the family before doing this.

  25. MegEB

    I really like #1 and #2. Talking to your manager is perfectly acceptable in a situation like this, considering the personal nature of the coworker’s snooping. #3 is also fine, although I don’t know that I’d be able to decide that I don’t care – I’m super touchy about people poking into my personal life, and that extends to my family. If you do talk to the coworker directly, I’d suggest sending a quick reply-all email asking her to take you off these types of email blasts; you don’t have to explain why. Then, if you want to follow up on it, you can use Alison’s language above, which I think is perfectly eloquent.

  26. TotesMaGoats

    I’ll start with option #4-Do a little internet digging of your own about this coworker and see how she likes a little turn in the tables.

    Ok, no I wouldn’t actually do that. I’d just fantasize about it. A lot.

    We all know that I’m not a big fan of boundaries for myself and that my office is ground zero for sharing extremely personal details. The key to this working is that it’s each person’s choice to do that. Non-sharers don’t share and don’t get shamed for it.

    You should get to choose how publicly you grieve and how any information is shared about yourself/personal life. What this woman is doing is beyond the pale and so incredibly wrong.

    So, actually you need to talk to your manager and then talk to this person, directly, with no hedging. And when your mother does pass, I would do everything in my power to get whatever information I wanted my coworkers to have out to them before she does. Take all the wind of out of her sails.

  27. Rebecca

    I’d like to add this little tidbit: in my area, there are 8 of us who share the same name as me who go to the same hospital group for medical care. So, the coworker who loves to dig up online dirt may just find herself in a jackpot if she picks the wrong “Jane Smith” when she’s digging around online.

    And I agree with everyone else. This person needs to stop. Now.

  28. RubyJackson

    This is one of the saddest posts I’ve read here on AAM. The OP states that her elderly mother is not long for the world, and the thing foremost on her mind is her coworker’s behavior? This is a huge problem. OP should be focused on her mom and her mom’s issues, not how to head-off a nosy and insensitive coworker. The coworker’s behavior, imo, borders on abusive. I think the OP should go to the manager and in no uncertain terms make it known that she wants the manager to make sure coworker doesn’t distribute one of her obituary blasts about her mother, and if she does, she doesn’t want to get wind of it. At all. And if OP hears about it or sees it, I would recommend she go to HR and file a complaint about the coworker and the manager, who is failing to manage the coworker.

    1. brightstar

      I think you are being entirely too harsh on the OP. Everyone deals with stress and grief in their own way and if it’s differently than how you would handle it does not make it wrong. It’s just different from how you would handle it.

      The OP mentioned the manager is new and may not realize the severity of the problem. It needs to be brought up to the manager, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily an HR matter.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I think you might have misread RubyJackson’s post – I read it the way you did at first and did a double take.

        I don’t think she’s criticizing OP for being focused on Nosy Coworker’s behavior. I think she’s criticizing Nosy Coworker for being such a terrible coworker that her behavior is distracting to someone who obviously has enough going on.

        1. brightstar

          Re-reading, I think you’re right. It seems RubyJackson was trying to say that the OP shouldn’t have this distraction at this time, which is true.

          1. RubyJackson

            That’s exactly what I was *trying* to say, that it is a shame the OP has the coworker to deal with during this time. Also, I want to express my sympathy to the OP. Losing one’s mother is one of the hardest losses.

    2. Pennalynn Lott

      It’s quite possible this isn’t the thing that’s foremost on her mind. It’s probably one of hundreds of things related to her mother’s condition, but it’s the only one that happens to be appropriate for a work-related advice blog (hence the reason she asked this one particular question in this one particular space on the internet).

  29. TootsNYC

    I think that people like this coworker should be met with people’s expression of discomfort when they do this sort of thing. I’m reminded of the letter from the woman whose coworker was sharing all sorts of personal stuff that another colleague had shared in apparent confidence.

    Alison’s suggestion (one of them) was to say, every time, “I’m not comfortable with you sharing her personal business with me.” Make it about your own reaction, not as a universal judgment about her gossipy-ness. But say it. Every time.

    That sort of feedback is the only way someone like this will ever start to think differently about what they’re doing. And the universe needs us to speak up.

    “I’m not comfortable hearing all this extra info you are digging up. Please don’t share it with me anymore. I like the idea that our family business isn’t shared around the office by a third party. So please con’t include me in this anymore.”

    I also like, “Why would you send this to everyone?” as well. Anything non-judgmental that simply says, “I don’t agree with what you’re doing” or “you don’t have my approval or participation.”
    This “bystander reaction” is also a major effective tool against bullying (the only thing more effective is the classic “punch him in the nose” reaction by the target, but that’s not always a sage thing to do).

    Say it where other people can hear you, so they can nod in agreement. If the topic of her “informative” emails ever comes up with other people, tell them what you’ve said, and express your opinion that it’s uncomfortable to have her eagerly seeking out this information that really doesn’t pertain to her, and forwarding it on.

    I will say that if she confines herself to sending a link to the funeral home’s obituary, or the newspaper’s obit, it doesn’t strike me as that awful.
    Yes, she looks like a buttinski know-it-all, but -that- info is published specifically to be shared with the wider world. And work is the wider world.
    And she can answer the “why”: so that your colleagues can understand more about your loss and have some context if they want to speak to you about condolences, without having to go to that work for themselves. If they’re not interested, they don’t click the link or read the details.
    But if she’s casting her net more widely, then that’s awkward, and you should speak up.

    So I’d say also–look at what she’s forwarding. Is it just the basic stuff?

    1. zora

      the first sentence of the letter says “Investigative research.” And she shares it, but not always by email, she said verbally, too. So this woman is making people’s private lives a topic of gossip and discussion. This is way beyond just sharing the public obituary in an effort to be helpful.

  30. PartyPooper

    Have had this come up recently OTJ. I’m the new kid so older employee was quite surprised her gossiping ways came to a screaming halt at my desk. I just won’t tolerate it. Long term employees hadn’t dealt head on with it and management had other fish to fry. So it was less than tactfully explained to her to keep her personal life out of the office, nose into mine at her own risk, now move along are we CLEAR?

    So far it’s worked fabulously.
    She avoids me like the plague and my coworkers who do know me thru our shared projects do not share her assessment that I am off-putting. Plain-spoken isn’t a personality flaw JMO.

    1. Malissa

      I love using the line, “Why are you telling me this?” It’s less abrasive and makes people think.

  31. Amethyst

    It’s part of my job to send out death announcements and this horrifies me. We NEVER send out an announcement without running it by the family first. They may not want an announcement. They may not want their address included. They may want all extended family included, or NO extended family included. Someone once was estranged from their brother and did not want them included because then others might start to say things like “You never told us you had a brother!”

    The only time I have ever sent an announcement without running it by family was when a community member died with no family.

    This is just so incredibly rude and thoughtless of this person to do. I hope you are able to shut it down, or at least avoid it in your case. I am sorry that you have to think about this at all.

  32. ThursdaysGeek

    I wonder if this has this been going on for all 15 years that the OP has been working with her? It would have been nice if the OP had tried to shut it down sooner, before it was affecting her. Or perhaps she has, and nothing has worked, and now that it’s likely to be pointed her way, she’s getting more desperate for some method that might work.

    But yes, I think the new manager needs to be involved.

    1. fposte

      I wonder if people think others have authorized this and only realize it’s unauthorized when it comes to their own bereavement?

  33. Annalee

    OP, I’m sorry about your mom. Best wishes to you and your family during what must be a difficult time.

    It sounds like Option 3 is going to become necessary. I’d recommend borrowing a page from Miss Manners for dealing with the fallout of her snooping.

    For invasive questions, Miss Manners recommends “why do you ask?” asked in a tone that suggests genuine curiosity about the person’s intentions. Let her sputter for a better answer than “because I’m nosey.”

    The other Miss Manners recommendation for shutting this stuff down is an apologetic-sounding “I’d rather not discuss it. I’m sure you understand.” You can let her infer that you are so grief-stricken by the loss of your mother or by the difficulties with your sister that you fear for your composure, even if you only fear for your composure in so far as being afraid you will cuss her out if she doesn’t leave you alone.

    As others have said: if she emails the entire office about your sister’s situation, your coworkers are much more likely to think she’s out of line than to think less of you. It’d also be totally appropriate to take an email like that to your manager and express to her politely but firmly that this was seriously not okay and that you expect her to do something about your coworker’s behavior. Though ideally your manager will intervene before your business is all over the office.

  34. Ed

    “My manager treats her with undue respect simply because this person has been there for 25 years.”

    This is sort of off-topic but can we stop kissing people’s butts just because they have worked somewhere for a really long time? I work at a large organization with a ton of people that have been here over 20 years. I think every member of my team other than me has been here over 10 years. And you know what? I wouldn’t rehire half of them if they applied again because they stink. Yet they all puff their chest out and brag about how long they’ve been here like it means anything. And they treated me like dirt when I started because length of service is valued higher than talent and overall experience. We never fire anyone for any reason so 20 years of service doesn’t even mean you’re competent. There is certainly nothing wrong with staying in one place your whole career but it is not an inherently good thing either. It could just as easily be argued that really good employees quickly hit a ceiling and move on so the best people would never stay 20 years (unless they’re consistently getting promoted).

  35. Althea

    It would take a lot for me to do this, because I find her behavior incredibly invasive and awful, but for an upgrade in diplomacy:

    You could approach her and simply ask, “I’ve seen you send these things out/spend a lot of time on this. Why is it that you do this?” (very open-ended, neutral tone)

    I imagine she will talk about how nice it is to know what is going on with people in the office, it creates community, etc. because most people will not say, “I really like to snoop and gossip.”

    Then, after listening attentively and even asking a few innocuous follow-ups, you could say, “It sounds like you really prioritize how everyone’s feeling in the office. Can I give you my feelings on this? I actually find it very invasive – I like to share my news with people on my own terms, especially when it’s sad or upsetting. If something like this was sent out about my family, I would actually feel upset and alienated that someone took my sharing decisions away from me. I wanted to let you know right away how upsetting I would find it, because I’m not sure you realize that people will feel differently about it than the way you do. Now that you know, can you promise me you will not send this kind of information about me or my family?”

    I’m not sure if she can avoid promising without appearing ridiculous. So then I would go back to my desk, and reply to the last one she sent out “Thanks for understanding and for not sending out similar emails about me. Glad we could talk!”

    Finally, if she does it anyway, you have everything you need to either approach your manager or confront her about it.

  36. brightstar

    My perspective is someone who was stalked and that had a severe impact on my life, so I take things like this very seriously. I’m very protective of my privacy because I’ve had to be. Years later and I still feel the need to protect what details about me get out. And during the time I was stalked, because it happened at work, people fed on the gossip like sharks. It can make the work environment very difficult to have co-workers salivating over details of what is going on when you just want it to be private. To them it was entertainment while my life was falling apart and I was scared and it made me feel more alone.

    That said, I would definitely say something to management because it is causing distress. And it’s probably distressing more persons than just the OP.

  37. hildi

    This woman obviously has a lot of power over everyone, so you need to find a way to take away the power. I think you just DO NOT ENGAGE. Don’t pre-empt anything. Don’t be proactive. Don’t respond. Don’t even blink when she tries to drag up some shit on your sister. In a situation like this with a person like her, I’m a BIG fan of stony silence because she has utterly no recourse for that. The silent one is the one with power. Btw, I definitely do not recommend that for all situations you find yourself disagreeing with someone, but a gossip monger and malcontent? They don’t deserve the standard psychobabble response that works for people who are unpolished, but misguided. She knows precisely what she’s doing and is willfully doing it. The ONLY thing someone like her understands and respects is power and someone with more of it than she has. In a situation where she’s dying for your response, you have the ultimate trump card: no response at all.

    What about everyone else in the office? Do they all agree she’s just as awful? If you feel like you have to try and do something (which I totally understand), then maybe you’d have better luck talking to some trusted colleagues and ask them to just not engage with her. My reasoning for this is that by everyone else agreeing to not give the reaction or engage with her on this topic, it really takes away the very thing she’s looking for: a reaction. If no one gives it, she has now power and satisfaction.

    1. zora

      I know what you’re getting at, and often I do like the stoneface strategy. But I think the reason this is a problem is that everyone has been trying to be quiet and ignore it this WHOLE TIME. No, this is way beyond ignoring now, people need to speak up when something uncomfortable is happening in the work place. Not by freaking out to ‘give her a reaction’ but by calmly asking her to stop it. And then escalating to a manager if she doesn’t, because she has been asked to stop and she is ignoring that.

      If she was being gossipy about herself or her own life, that might be different, but if she is gossiping about *my* family without my permission, that is something I am going to actively stop.

      1. hildi

        There’s that, too. I do agree that it’s been going on for years and years so maybe it’s time for a come to jesus moment with her. I’ll vote for that option, too! :0

        1. zora

          I *want* to vote for just smacking her upside the head, but I’m trying to settle for a stern talking-to. ;o)

          1. hildi

            Don’t you wish we could have cameras when all of our OPs go with a really satisfying route? (even if it’s not always the most advisable). So we could all share in the satisfaction of seeing this woman get smacked into place.

  38. Formica Dinette

    Option 4: Let her dig up and share this “dirt,” then publicly shame the hell out of her for harassing you (because that’s what she’s doing) during such a sad, sensitive time in your life.

  39. Gene

    I would be tempted to write an email with all the dirt in it and when the time comes, send it out with the subject line something along the lines of: “Saving Mrs. Kravitz the trouble of digging it all up”.

    But sometimes I’m a butthead.

  40. Jill

    Option 4:
    Coworker (with a gleam in her eye): OMG! Did you know that OP’s sister is a meth head?
    Me (with a sarcastic tone, a pointed look, and a raised eyebrow): Well, that’s not nearly as bad as being a gossip that goes out of their way to dig up dirt on their co-workers. (Sharply turns back to my work).

    I’m a big fan of the shut-down and I think this type of behavior warrants it.

    1. hildi

      I think this would be fantastic. I could never pull this off, but wish I was the type that could. :)

  41. Nobody

    #1 is very well worded, but I couldn’t help but think, “Noooo! Don’t say that — it will just make this person even more eager to figure out what ‘dirt’ you don’t want her to find out!” (Which, of course, Alison realized as well.) It might be better to say something like this when she does it to someone else, without specifically saying that you want privacy so she won’t be prompted to look into your family.

    Perhaps it would help if the company/manager designates an official sympathy coordinator — a point of contact for making this type of announcement — and makes sure everyone (especially Nosy McBusybody) knows that any and all death announcements will only be made by the designated person. The designated person, of course, will be somebody reasonable and kind enough to make sure nothing is announced without the affected employee’s consent. My company does something like this, and I am confident that if I ever have a death in the family, I can simply tell my manager that I do not wish to have an announcement made and my wishes will be respected.

  42. Friends of Privacy

    It would take a lot of work and some time, but – another option would be push a lot of wrong / misleading information out onto the internet – 50 different accounts of the person who was arrested, 125 people who might be the mom, etc.

  43. Jaydee

    I think if this co-worker only sends around a link to the official obituary (newspaper, funeral home website, etc.), then it’s maybe weird and unnecessary, but by itself doesn’t seem to lead down the slippery slope to “she will discover my sister’s meth problem and other questionable activities and share them with the whole company while I’m grieving my mother’s death.”

    It sounds like there is a lot more to this co-worker’s actions that have led the OP to think this is a possible outcome.

  44. Narise

    Three words-hostile work environment. Option 4 find someone in her family listed on line and send it out. Even if you find someone with the same last name and send it out the message may be clear- she really has no way of knowing that the person is related. If she complains state that you will agree to stop sending the information if she will.

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