a coworker at my new job is pressuring me to start before I’m ready to

A reader writes:

I recently accepted an offer for a position at a very small company. Most of the group has worked together for decades and they are extremely tight-knit. There have been three attempts to hire someone for my position, and no one made it to the one-year mark. But these red flags were counterbalanced by the fact that they have a brand new boss who wants to make changes, and he and I hit it off immediately.

I came down with a serious illness a few days after accepting the job. It’s nothing fatal, but I may end up having a lengthy recovery period. There’s no way I will be able to start when they need me to, and my capacity to work might be limited for weeks.

I have been in contact with my boss and the person I’m replacing. I offered to withdraw my acceptance so they could hire someone who could start sooner (and work at full steam from the get-go). They both assured me that they prefer to wait for me to recover rather than hire one of the other candidates.

This morning, one of the other employees sent me an out-of-the-blue email. She told me that she had been diagnosed with the same illness before and didn’t need very long to recover. She also stated I’d get better more quickly if I did a little work. This prospective coworker is the person I would be working with the most closely. I don’t blame her for being annoyed and frustrated, but I feel the tone of her email was passive-aggressive and accusatory.

Maybe it’s my fever and lack of sleep talking, but at this point I’m inclined to rescind my acceptance of the position. I’ve gotten off to a bad start, and the emailing coworker has gotten off on the wrong foot with me. In such a small company, interactions really matter. I’d rather bow out now rather than be the fourth person in this position to leave or be let go. What are your thoughts?

I wouldn’t rescind your acceptance because of this one (admittedly completely weird and inappropriate) email from a coworker.

Honestly, the bigger red flag I see here is that the three people in the position before you didn’t last a year. If you’ve thoroughly explored the reasons for that, and you have good reason to be convinced that it’s going to be different under the new boss, then this might be a perfectly fine job to take. But if you haven’t thoroughly explored that, and you’re having second thoughts now, I’d listen to those instincts.

But assuming that you’re confident on that front, let’s talk about this email from the coworker. I think it raises two questions: how to handle the immediate situation of the email itself, and whether it says something broader about what working there is going to be like.

As for how to handle the email itself, I’d reply to it and say, “Thanks for your concern, Jane. I’m glad your recovery went well. Fergus and I have agreed that in this situation, it makes sense to wait for me to recover before I start. I’m looking forward to joining all of you once that happens.” And cc your new boss — you want him aware that Jane is sending ridiculous, inappropriate emails to a new hire.

Now, does this email from Jane say something about what you can expect once you start working there? I don’t know … but I suspect you’ve been exposed to enough data during this whole process to have something of an idea, so go back through what you know about this office and the people who work there. Was Jane part of the reason previous people didn’t last? Did you get other indications of weird boundaries in this office? What have you seen about how personal interactions work there? What’s the culture generally? Have you seen real indicators from the new boss that his words will have teeth to them, or might he just talk a good game?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but those are the things I’d be looking at as you try to figure out if this is a situation you want to take on or not.

And if your gut is telling you no (once your fever subsides, that is), even if you can’t back it up with data, it’s reasonable to listen to it, especially if it has a generally good track record.

{ 271 comments… read them below }

  1. jmkenrick

    Wow. Just – who writes an e-mail like that?

    You’d think with the difficulty they’re having hiring for this position, that they would be more patient with someone who could be the right fit.

  2. Katie the Fed

    Holy sh*t – that is jaw-droppingly bad.

    I agree with Alison’s general approach, but I think I’d limit the amount of explanation since she’s not entitled to it and it’ll potentially feed the beast. Like something infuriating vague like “Oh, thanks so much for getting in touch, but Fergus and I already discussed it. Thanks.” And CC him.

    It’s very possible she’s on her way out too (even if she doesn’t know it yet) because I would absolutely not put up with this from an employee at all.

      1. catsAreCool

        One of the things I like about your site is that you readily agree when someone else has an even better idea.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      This would be a detractor for me to take the job, and I would absolutely let the manager know.

      I loathe these types of assumptions. I had surgery a few years ago and the recovery was painful – 3 procedures in 2 weeks. My primary nurse, who had undergone the simpler of the one procedure (and was not discovered to be allergic to anesthesia), told me many time how she was out of bed in a few days and back in aerobics after 4 weeks. She also withheld my pain meds because she was sure she knew how I really felt and wanted to make sure I “didn’t get addicted unnecessarily or take meds who don’t really need”. Thanks to this horrid woman, I my recovery was set back because my pain wasn’t under control and prevented me from getting back on my feet quickly.

      Ever since, this is a hot button for me. I despise when people give unsolicited medical advice – it’s literally none of their damned business.

      1. Adam V

        > She also withheld my pain meds

        What the hell?! Please tell me you reported her to the hospital for that.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          Oh, yes. I complained to the charge nurse while on the floor, to the patient advocate in the hospital, and later to administration. Other nurses came in and gave the meds that she refused, and she was reassigned on the third day of my first hospitalization. She was assigned to another wing when I went back for the third procedure – which had been delayed thank to her “assistance”.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            I experienced a nurse like that who withheld my migraine meds when I was in the hospital once. “They won’t do any good…”

            1. Anonsie

              I spent a chunk of the last week digging through research on this, and without bringing in a whole new subject to the comments section: holy crap does this happen a lot. A lot.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot

                *shudder*

                There’s a certain type of personality that takes sadistic delight in tormenting patients in a hospital who can’t fight back. I’d never heard of med-withholding, but I did have a doctor publicly humiliate me in front of all his colleagues with a huge smug smile.

                1. Wren

                  A book I read, “My Leaky Body” by Julie Devaney is about the author’s journey with a chronic illness, and she had a doctor jab her suture site to contradict her when she complained of pain post surgery.

                2. Michelle

                  I’ve never had a doctor withhold pain meds — the opposite in fact — but I had a doctor send a nurse to chew me out and inform me that he was withholding my meds (for mental health issues) because I had gotten pregnant on my meds. While using two forms of birth control, and stopped taking my meds as soon as I suspected pregnancy. And had just informed him that I had lost the baby.

              2. AnonyMoose

                As a person who takes daily pain meds (YES, I am very active and work FT – in fact, most would be shocked that I even have my condition), it BLOWS MY MIND how often people think that serious pain isn’t serious……because they would ‘know’ serious. It’s like a dude saying he can empathize with giving birth. Uh, what? No.

                Chronic pain is a seriously debilitating disease that unfortunately leads to a host of other serious physical and mental issues, often because their pain isn’t accurately managed. Eff the DEA, that’s all I’m saying. And Florida: screw you too. (not the patients, of course, the pill mill docs that make it difficult every month for me to get my meds here in CA – that don’t even remotely get me high by the way – so that I can be a productive member of society and not claim disability at 35. YOU’RE WELCOME tax payers.

                /soap box

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever

                  I won’t go into details, but I also have chronic pain issues that require daily pain medication. I once had a doctor kick me out of his practice because he didn’t believe my pain level could possibly be as high as I reported, therefore I was seeking drugs. I was so, so fortunate to find an integrated practice that focuses on whole-body health. I now have a daily regimen that works for me, but it took years before I could get there thanks to those who cheated the system and the resulting scrutiny applied to pain issues in general.

                2. MsChanandlerBong

                  A million times yes. I recently started taking pain medication at night (I have lupus and several other chronic conditions). Before I started taking it, I could barely sleep. When I fell asleep, I’d be woken up by pain. Now I can rest, and I am much more productive during the day. But my mother–my own MOTHER, who raised me and knows very well about all my surgery and health problems–is very judgmental about any kind of medication. She just had a hysterectomy, and she keeps saying, “I can’t believe all the people saying they had excruciating pain after the procedure. My incisions don’t hurt at all!” When she gets a tooth pulled, it’s “I don’t even fill the Rx for the pain medication.” She may have a high pain tolerance, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to suffer!

                3. Cactus

                  My husband is dealing with the same kind of stuff–he is on disability, and his current health provider will not prescribe narcotics. Our state’s Medicaid also does not cover the best medication he’s found for symptom management. It’s rough. I’ve been really angry at the abusive pill mill types for YEARS (for OH so many reasons), but after all that started, it got personal. Everything’s connected, and there’s got to be a better way to treat people with chronic pain issues.

              3. snuck

                Yes. I had a nurse with hold the standard post operative medications for a c-section. I only wanted to take half doses (and even that was sending me loopy) and instead of talking to the doctor about it for me she just with held it… Tremadol causes a significant reaction in a large number of people, not just me, I wasn’t that big an anomaly… this nurse was just sadistic (she also told me off for leaving a wheel chair in my room the morning after my crash c-section which was needed to take me five floors away to see my son in NICU, and refused to take me to see him so I had to wait for my husband to visit to get a first look at my son – no sh*t. Apparently I was supposed to walk there 12hrs after a crash c-section and six hours after getting out of ICU myself!).

              4. Michelle

                This amazes me. Not because I don’t believe you, but because I DO believe you and I just don’t understand it.

                I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and a high tolerance for pain medication, which means I would have to take more pain medication than most people for the same effect, and most of the time the pain wasn’t bothering me that much anyway. (And I have had some decently painful medical situations, including three surgery recoveries and six labors; I just tolerate pain well. Unless it’s a tattoo. Then I cry like a baby.) But every time I have been in the hospital, I have had nurses try to FORCE me to take pain medication that I didn’t want or feel like I needed. Once I had an orderly demand I take some regular aspirin before I’d even been seen by the doctor! (Not like aspirin is a horrible thing to take, but I was pregnant, and not really in pain. And no, it wasn’t for some other reason, it was “for the pain.”) Another time I was told by the doctor that it was my choice whether to take pain meds, and then told by a nurse that I had no choice because it was “doctor’s orders.”

                I don’t understand what’s so difficult about pain medication for people who are in pain?

          2. Tina

            I’m really glad the administration handled this so well! When I worked in the ICU, the night nurse withheld pain meds from one of my patients for 12 hours. It was a nightmare and definitely delayed her recovery, but I was the only one who complained!
            Sorry you had to deal with that, but I’m so glad you complained as much as possible!

      2. JessaB

        First it is exceedingly rare for someone in actual pain to get addicted to pain meds Thank you so much (not) Dr. Gregory House for telling millions that lie.

        Second how did she manage to withhold meds? Did she throw them out? Meds are counted very carefully. If those meds stayed in the cart, questions should have been asked.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          She would conveniently “forget” to get them when I asked for them. She never logged me in as taking them, and I did wonder if she was keeping them. She gave me about a third of the meds I was prescribed. The night nurses could not figure out why I needed more meds at night than day; my primary night nurse helped me report all of it after the 2nd day.

    2. AnonInSC

      I like this better, too. And you win the internet today with Alison’s endorsement!

      It would be interesting to know how Fergus responds. If I were him, I’d be contacting you to assure you of our agreement etc. And then having a heart to heart with Jane separetly. I agree that if he’s there and changing thing…I bet she’s already on the list. Someone doesn’t send that type of email and not have other issues.

    3. Biff

      Katie — I like this advice, but I’m curious — how do you handle it when it happens in person? I’ve gotten really pretty good about dealing with weird emails, but it’s the in person thing where I fall apart, and probably where most people do, really, because you’re on the spot.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m bad at that too. Sometimes I just give a vague “I’ll get back to you” or “let me talk to so-and-so” and then I go off, get REALLY indignant and outraged, calm down, and write a terse email.

        I’m much better at controlling myself via written communications :)

        1. Biff

          See, I used to have a boss that would throw what I’ve come to realize are ‘adult temper tantrums’ and part of me wished that I’d simply said “I’ll come back and discuss this when you’ve composed yourself” or “I’m sorry, this isn’t appropriate.” This letter made me realize that I still don’t have a good idea of how to handle this.

          1. Catherine

            The best I have heard is “I can see that you are upset. We can talk about this later when you’ve calmed down.”

          2. kac

            I had a boss do that too, and I would calmly if a little indignantly repeat, “I’m not comfortable with your tone of voice right now. I’m not okay having this conversation like this.”

      2. Anonsie

        Not Katie, but I take a similar tac. Don’t engage the subject. The more you talk about it with these people, the worse they get. You gotta wave it off in whatever way is situationally appropriate.

        It’s actually even better if it’s slightly off of situationally appropriate so they feel the change in tone when they go there. This is the second time I’ve given someone this advice this week, but “make it weird.”

    4. Anonsie

      As someone with a lot of experience dealing with the everyone’s-a-hypochondriac variety of aholes, absolutely. No apologies, no details. Just “No, you’re wrong, ciao.”

    5. Artemesia

      And make sure the CCed message has the original message attached. If I were ‘newboss’ this would be very important data to me and I would plan to get rid of this undermining employee. I’ll bet she has a track record with previous short term hires.

      1. AW

        This was my initial thought but replying give the OP the chance to make sure their boss sees that this happened.

        1. J

          Just hold off until you start and then bring it up with your boss if this person tries to do anything else weird. Or just email your new boss to “check” to see if you need to start early as a way of informing just your boss.

    6. snuck

      I actually would be torn between ignoring it entirely (because it’s so crazy!) and waiting to see what they did next…

      and sending it to the new manager saying “Please can we keep my medical information from being shared with other staff unless it’s necessary”… unless you told the lady/gave the go ahead for your medical information to be shared?

      or sending it to the new manager with “Fergus, I thought we were in agreement with this, I don’t feel comfortable responding to Mrs Nosyparker can you please handle this?” and leaving it there.

      Boundaries. Time to man the battlements and the boundaries with this woman!

  3. Liz

    Is it possible that the weird coworker is the one driving people away from this position? If this is how she behaves before you even start (for legitimate reasons that the boss is okay with, sheesh), I can’t imagine how she’d handle disagreements and conflicts down the road. Alison is right that the boss should know about this.

  4. Adonday Veeah

    “Dear soon-to-be co-worker:”

    Thank you for your expert input on my medical condition. When I passed your feedback on to my doctor, he was immediately interested in arranging a consult with you about my situation. I hope you don’t mind, I gave him your contact information and he will likely reach out to you immediately for your medical opinion. My doctor and I are both positive that with your help I will be back on my feet in no time.”

    OK, maybe I have a fever too…

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      Better than my reaction:
      Dear Prospective Coworker,

      Kindly STFU.

      Thanks, Dr. Fever.

      PS: Booger.

    2. Carmen

      Ha. Love this.

      Many of us engage in obtuse armchair diagnostics from time to time. It’s easy/natural (but not right) to project one’s own medical experience onto another’s experience. The coworker’s email was inappropriate, but that doesn’t automatically mean she’s a bad person. And she’s not the boss, so it doesn’t matter what she thinks about whether the OP could start work sooner.

      1. neverjaunty

        I don’t understand the argument “but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad person”. Yes, and? It’s not relevant whether deep in her heart of hearts she loves puppies vs. would blow up Alderaan again. Her behavior was completely out of line.

        It also matters what she thinks and how OP reacts, because OP will be working closely with her.

        1. fposte

          I think that’s a challenging lesson in general–that “Can you ask this behavior to change?” is a very different question from “Is this person a bad person?” I think in general “Is this person a bad person?” is a lot less useful a question than it may feel like, and I really don’t think it gets you anywhere in the workplace. All you can address is the behavior anyway, so might as well think in terms of that.

          A great example of this was the post ages ago of the staffer who forcibly hugged everybody visiting the office. That’s not something that makes her a bad person, but it’s still behavior that has to stop dead in its tracks.

          1. Shell

            So much this.

            I think the discourse of “is X a bad person vs is X a good person who made a bad choice” to be pretty useless, frankly. Whether or not this person has a good heart/soul/whatever, most of us don’t have a front-row view into their heart of hearts unless they are very close family or friends (and even then, there are betrayals of trust, which turns the calculus of bad person/good person who made mistakes even harder).

            A coworker does not make it onto the shortlist of people I might have an inkling of what their heart of hearts is like. Most of the people we meet don’t make it onto that shortlist either. Most of us have to judge people by their behaviours and actions. In this case, the coworker is acting outrageously and the goodness of her soul absolutely doesn’t matter.

            1. Myrin

              The whole topic is further complicated by the fact that there’s not one definition of an objectively good or bad person. I can’t think of one single person I know personally who I’d actually call “a bad person” even if I know them primarily through truly bad stuff. And, I mean, probably everyone has “a good side”, like, IDK, a mass murderer who loves animals or his family? Does that automatically not make him a bad person? The thoughts and question, in my opinion, go to show how this whole thinking is indeed often misguided at best.

              (I also keep finding myself confronted with a similar thing: “But she’s so nice!”. As in, someone will say to me “I really don’t get along with Jane, I don’t know why, she’s so nice!”. I’ve started to reply to that with “Well, most people are nice. But what else is going on with her?” and it makes people pause at least.)

              1. I'm a Little Teapot

                I actually find the “good person who made bad choice vs. Bad Person” distinction (and the whole question of what a good/bad person is, and whether a bad person can be sympathetic or a good one unsympathetic, etc.) to be really fascinating and productive as a writer/reader/media fan, but when your sole interaction with someone has been one outrageous email, it isn’t really something that makes a difference.

                1. Shell

                  Oh, I agree entirely. I am an unashamed fan of anti-heroes/complex villains and the like in fiction and media. But in fiction and media, we the readers/viewers get a much more in-depth look into the characters’ backgrounds, motivations, and whatnot because caring about the characters makes the readers/viewers more engaged in the story.

                  Unfortunately, that is one point where media and real life differ; that sort of engagement doesn’t translate to real life. So much attention to another real person’s life in brick-space is nothing short of creepy, at best.

                2. snuck

                  I actually would look even less favourably on the email writer and put them firmly in bad person land… simply because of how far outside the social norms boundaries she’s stepped. This wasn’t a small misstep, this was a thought out, planned, calculated act – the sign of someone who isn’t going to stop and play nice later usually.

          2. Hiring Mgr

            I think whether or not a person is a “bad person” (whatever that means, but I’ll go with that phrase) might affect the likelihood of getting the behavior to stop and ultimately how the person is dealt with. So I agree with your overall point, yet i think there is still a distinction to be made,

            1. fposte

              I’m with Myrin on this, in that I don’t know that it’s ultimately something you can determine (hey, all of philosophy and morality in this one work blog question, sure, we can polish that off :-)). I think sometimes motivation and intent can matter when you’re interpreting an action, but that’s not the same thing as overall good/bad person judgment, and I also think we are never going to be as clear on anybody’s motivation, including our own, as we think we are.

          3. Turtle Candle

            I think that in some cases “is this a bad person?” (or, when looking at the behavior of two people who are at odds in some way, “which one of them is the bad person?”) is a question that is emotionally similar to the AAM perennial favorite, “is this legal?”

            In both cases, I think the question stems from a desire to have an ironclad answer. If something is illegal, then of course you can ask that it be changed (and expect, hopefully, to be listened to). And if someone is a bad person, of course you can tell them to stop what they’re doing/change their behavior. It simplifies things. It makes it easy to establish a high ground, and it’s often easier to act if you feel like you have the high ground. And I think especially if you’re not used to being treated with respect in the workplace (or otherwise) you may feel like you need that kind of ironclad answer to expect any kind of change at all. (I think a lot of people who work in, e.g., call centers pretty much expect that behavior would have to be heinously abusive or outright illegal for any request for it to stop to get any traction–and often not even then. I felt that way in some, but not all, of my customer service jobs.)

            But in a reasonably healthy work environment, nobody has to be the “bad person” for you to ask for something to stop. The person wearing perfume doesn’t have to be doing it as a malicious poisoning attempt for the asthmatic person for you to be able to ask them to please not, there’s no need to determine whether the creepy staring guy is terrible or just awkward or madly in love for you to be able to ask them not to do that, the nosy coworker doesn’t have to be a scourge of the earth for you to shut down her nosiness, you don’t have to tie yourself in knots trying to figure out whether the guy who keeps taking your pencils is a jerk or has a neurological condition that causes him to compulsively collect pencils or is just absentminded or what, etc. It’s usually not necessary to figure out whether they’re a terrible person or not a terrible person or [extenuating circumstances] to solve the problem.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              Yeah, most people aren’t going to object to you politely asking them not to do something – and a non-dysfunctional office will deal with those who do. (Of course, if you have asthma and rather than asking you throw a screaming fit at the oblivious perfume-wearer about OMG you disgusting monster you’re trying to KILL me, you’re the jerk.)

          4. Koko

            Yes…even “bad people” can be trained to behave with the right incentives and penalties. But people who don’t respond to feedback could remain a horrible coworker even if they’re a perfectly lovely, likable person.

      2. Honeybee

        Of course it matters; she’s going to be working closely with the OP. Her being in a snit or having an attitude or acting overly imperious can seriously impact the OP’s quality of life and working relationship.

        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Sure, but the OP can’t do anything to change that. Plus, what if she’s not a bad person? She could still be horrible to work with. I have a coworker who is lovely outside of the office and very kind to me in the office, but occasionally jaw-droppingly awful to the people who work for her. She’s not a bad person. Not at all. But if anyone I knew asked if they should work for her, I’d say no way. Whether, at heart, she’s a terrible person and hides it around me, or whether she’s a good person who acts badly to people who work for her, I can’t say. And for office purposes, it doesn’t really matter.

        2. Observer

          Not really. The bottom line is that she apparently feels that it’s ok for her to tell someone she doesn’t know and doesn’t manage how to manage her recovery and when to start work. That’s incredibly out of line, regardless of where it’s coming from.

          her willingness to overstep some pretty big boundaries IS going to have an impact on the OP quality of life and working relationship. And, it’s going to be quite bad unless the behavior is nipped in the bud. It doesn’t make a difference what the cause is.

      3. MK

        Frankly I think you are giving her too much of the benefit of a doubt. It’s true that going into your own experience is a common impulse when we hear about someone else’s, but going to the extend of contacting someone you barely know out of the blue to offer advice is not the same thing at all.

        1. Artemesia

          Not to ‘offer advice’ but to chide them for not getting their dead ass into the office, now and ‘stop goofing off.’

      4. Artemesia

        This is not a well meaning comment by co-worker, this is a not even faintly veiled criticism of the new hire whom she has barely met. She is marking her territory and pushing her around and she hasn’t even started work there yet. There isn’t the slightest excuse for this and she probably is a ‘bad person.’ And even if she isn’t, she is certainly a ‘bad employee.’

      5. Observer

        She’s not the boss, so it matters that she THINKS she has standing to tell someone how to manage her recovery.

    3. BRR

      Dear possible coworker,

      Upon hearing about your quick recovery I am now all better and will come to the office within the hour.

      Thanks,
      LW

      PS I’m now sad that I lost the recovery from illness competition we had.

    4. Narise

      How about- My doctor is very concerned that someone is giving out medical advice without a license. He asked and I provided your information. He said he would follow up with the state so you should hear from one of their investigators soon.

    5. Mephyle

      I like the original version best, but I would be inclined to add another paragraph.
      “I was touched by your concern for my well-being. Starting out our relationship with your compassionate note before we have even started to work together makes me confident that we will have a close and productive relationship when we begin to work side by side every day. I look forward to it!”

      1. Windchime

        This is like the little speech that Maria gave to the Von Trapp children at her first evening meal with the family (after the kids had put a frog in her pocket and a pine cone on her chair).

        1. CM

          And then they cried! Great scene. I can just imagine nosy co-worker dressed up in curtains, crying over this email.

  5. Biff

    One gets the impression that maybe management isn’t the problem — maybe the coworker is. OP, I’d clarify with your boss that you work WITH this coworker, and she’s not a defacto lead, boss, or someone who will have a lot of input/impact to your reviews. She sounds like one of those people that is either delusional about how much work they get done while sick (which is a trial) or who has some very woo-woo thoughts about how health actually works. (Just because she had an easy time with birth doesn’t mean someone else isn’t high risk… you know?)

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      I’ve been thinking on this, and I disagree slightly. Management could be part of the problem depending on how the coworker found out about OP’s illness. If Fergus isn’t keeping Hagatha in check, allowing this behavior, that’s also a management issue.

      I think there’s room for some shared responsibility here.

      1. Biff

        I agree. I had assumed that the OP had made it general knowledge, but if she hadn’t…. that’s a big red flag.

      2. Anonsie

        Yeah, my initial reaction was “WAY TO SPREAD SENSITIVE INFO, BOSSGUY” before “new coworker is a turd.”

  6. Maria

    How inappropriate. I’d also be having second thoughts by this point. Maybe share your concerns with your boss, who likes you and with whom you get along, and ask him to explain more about your new colleague… maybe there’s something wrong about her and you need to know before you start with them, for your own sanity.

  7. AndersonDarling

    Playing Devil’s Advocate- is it possible that the co-worker reached out to sympathize and give advice based on her own personal experiences with the illness? We don’t know what the ailment is, but getting up and moving may truly be good advice.

    1. Biff

      If she did, she’s still crossing a boundary there. It might be okay to say to a friend “well, when I had appendicitis, I was okay after a few days and really felt better once I got up and started moving. You should go to work and do what you can.” It’s another thing entirely to say the same to a coworker who hasn’t even started, with whom you have no rapport.

      1. Adam V

        I don’t even think I’d say that to a friend – in that case, I’d be like “I’m so sorry it’s not going well for you! For me my recovery only took a couple of days, and I felt a lot better once I was able to get up and out of bed and start moving again, but I’m really sad to hear that it’s going to take you longer.”

        1. AndersonDarling

          That’s actually the kind of email I imagined the co-worker sent. I think I read the letter giving the co-worker the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to judge without seeing the actual correspondence.

          1. Observer

            I think we normally assume that the OP hasn’t totally misread an email. And, that’s really the only way to get from something like “said that when she was sick, her doctor encouraged her to do a bit of work” to “stated I’d get better more quickly if I did a little work”

    2. fposte

      This is kind of like today’s staffer-with-a-crush post, though–the behavior is completely inappropriate whatever the motivation. However she meant it, what she actually said was significantly out of line in a way that’s worth paying attention to. You can always take her off private mental notice later if it turns out to have been a fluke, but I wouldn’t brush off something this weird.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yes, exactly. This coworker doesn’t know the OP’s situation at all. There’s no reason for her to be trying to give her advise on how to recover. She doesn’t need to give input on something that’s absolutely none of her business.

      2. BRR

        I feel like this has been reoccurring lately. There might be something that is leading to inappropriate behavior but at the end of the day it’s still unacceptable. Trying to find cause feels sort of like excusing it.

        1. Turtle Candle

          Yes. And it can be kind of condescending, too. I mean, I have social anxiety, but if I was doing something super awkward that was making someone uncomfortable, I’d much rather a straightforward “please don’t” than a lot of private speculation on whether I was doing it because I couldn’t help myself. In most cases, I think the reason why someone might be doing [undesirable behavior] is actually totally irrelevant.

    3. OriginalYup

      If I tilt my head and squint really hard, I see a place in which an email like the one OP describes is intended to be sympathetic and encouraging. “I know the diagnosis is really scary, but you might be back on your feet before you know it!” type of thing. But I doubt it.

    4. Mimmy

      I was actually thinking the same thing. It’s still inappropriate, however, since everyone’s recovery experience is different with a given illness or procedure, and I’m assuming the OP is expecting an extended recovery based on conversations with her doctor. Plus, it’s not up to the coworker – OP and the boss has already discussed it.

      I hope the OP comes back with an update.

    5. Anonymous Educator

      Even if it comes from a place of good intentions, the email is poorly executed. The way the OP describes it, it sounds as if the future co-worker cares nothing about the OP’s health and really just wants the OP to start (Maybe too heavy a workload? Wants to redistribute it?). A more normal email would be something along the lines of “Hi. I’m your future co-worker! I heard you’re sick with ________. That stinks. I had that too. Even though I got better from going back to work, you do whatever you need to do to take care of you. When you’re better, I really look forward to meeting you and working with you.” Even that, though much better, is still weird. No email would be best course of action for the future co-worker to send… i.e., leave the OP alone.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          I may be reading too much into it, but I don’t believe the future co-worker is coming from a place of good intentions and actually trying to dispense medical advice. It really sounds more like “Get to work now!”

          1. Koko

            I agree. The fact that she specifically encouraged her to start work and not to go for walks or something belies her true motive.

    6. Katie the Fed

      Unsolicited medical advice is the worst. I had a lot of people tell me the best way I could recover after my accident is to get out there and start walking again. Well, turns out if you start walking a lot when you’re walking off-kilter, you can cause a lot of back, hip and knee problems so I now I get to deal with those.

    7. NK

      While that may be true, we see a lot of letters here from well-meaning coworkers whose intrusiveness makes their coworkers’ lives miserable (the woman who asked the OP about her bathroom habits after a medical issue comes to mind). If I were the OP I would take this as a pretty big red flag about the coworker’s boundaries, especially in conjunction with the turnover issue.

    8. neverjaunty

      It’s POSSIBLE, also, that the co-worker’s email was hacked and this was a false flag email planted by a competing company that wants to swoop in and poach the OP from her new employer. Just, you know, not very likely, any more than it’s very likely that this co-worker’s email was anything other than exactly what it appears to be: intrusive, boundary-overstepping, and offering ignorant and unsolicited medical advice.

      P.S.: the devil doesn’t need any more advocates.

      1. Heather

        the devil doesn’t need any more advocates

        Oh universe, please, PLEASE let me remember to use this phrase the next time I meet a devil’s advocate!

        1. neverjaunty

          I didn’t post the link because it drops you into moderation, but google “devil’s advocate rejected” for a The Toast link that needs to be autopasted every time somebody says ‘just playing devil’s advocate…’

          Also, as long as I’m tangenting, properly speaking a devil’s advocate is the person who’s really on your team, but is taking a completely adversarial position in order to make sure the team’s argument/position/plan is bulletproof. Now it’s become a sort of default flag for “I’m about to make an argument for funsies” or “I’m bored that everybody’s mostly agreeing” or “I want to be able to disavow this argument if it goes badly”.

          1. Texas HR Pro

            “…properly speaking a devil’s advocate is the person who’s really on your team, but is taking a completely adversarial position in order to make sure the team’s argument/position/plan is bulletproof. Now it’s become a sort of default flag for “I’m about to make an argument for funsies” or “I’m bored that everybody’s mostly agreeing” or “I want to be able to disavow this argument if it goes badly”.”

            Gah! Thank you for so clearly articulating why people using that phrase to defend their unpopular opinion drives me up the wall! Especially the last instance.

          2. JessaB

            Yep the originals were the people in the Catholic Church who would stand up during a discussion to cannonise someone and bring up all the reasons why so and so should never ever become a Saint. Hence the Devil’s part (if you were going against a Saint you must work for the Devil.)

            1. Chinook

              “Yep the originals were the people in the Catholic Church who would stand up during a discussion to cannonise someone and bring up all the reasons why so and so should never ever become a Saint.”

              The position still exists but has a much more palatable (but super hero type) name now – “Promoter of Justice.”

    9. hbc

      You can’t give good advice to someone based on just the illness they have. It’s impossible. It may happen to be right, but that’s just luck.

      Honestly, I’d rather have the coworker who was trying to manipulate me into the office for her own needs rather than the well-meaning person who thinks she knows Ehhhhhhverything about a subject once she has a brush with it. The former will at least only bug you when it serves her interest, but the latter will be all over you about the best way to sort your email and which foods you should eat and how you need to move from an apartment to a house before you turn 30. You know, because all experiences are universal and she only wants to help.

    10. NJ Anon

      But, but, she hasn’t even started working there yet! How well could this person even know her? And how in the hell did she get OP’s email address? I’d definitely have a talk with the boss and after that, depending on how it goes, really rethink taking this job.

    11. Blurgle

      Or maybe she is accusing the LW of being a lazy malingerer.

      Does that make me the Angels’ advocate?

      1. Blurgle

        ARGH I hate how my iPhone dictionary capitalizes any word that is also a sports team name.

        I recently had Kings and Cardinals entering a cathedral to pray to the Angels that the enemy would soon meet Lions, join the Devils, and perish in Flames.

    12. HRish Dude

      Why do we need to play devil’s advocate? Who cares what the intentions are – person thinks it’s weird.

  8. Gem

    Yeah…I have a coworker that would do this exact thing. He didn’t like the fact that a guy at work took a week off after he broke his ankle badly enough to require surgery (during his work week in the job). Everyone else disagreed and the guy came back into work on his own terms and has been (from what I can tell – I don’t work directly with him) a good addition to the team.

    This guy also doesn’t like the changes that we’re bringing in to the company to improve the processes (that would take some responsibility from him, as he’s terrible at it). Shocking that.

    It may be the same thing, is what I’m saying. Do what Katie the Fed says, and loop the boss in, see what happens. In my company we’d all roll our eyes, tell you to ignore them and tell them not to do stuff like that. We work despite him, not because of him (and we can’t get rid of him – he’s the owners BFF! As in, was best man at his wedding).

    This became partly a vent, sorry!

    1. Snarkus Aurelius

      I know of a guy who lied to a nurse about being family so he could ask the IT person, who was recovering from childbirth, to fix his laptop.

      1. Biff

        O.o

        o.O

        Did the guy get fired? Because I think I’d have fired someone who pulled that for gross misconduct, poor boundaries and dismal lack of character.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius

          I read that anecdote in an article from ten years ago about how work life is creeping into personal life.  The IT specialist said she remembered being in and out of consciousness.  At one point, she woke up and her coworker was standing there with his laptop, and he asked her to fix it.  Not only did she not fix it, but I think she had security escort him out.

          I’ve talked a lot about my ex boss who used to sabotage projects because she liked having people jump to attention and work for her.  During that internship, she frequently had us call employees who were on vacation.  This was in the days before cell phones so she had interns call the hotels of places where she knew employees were staying.  She would also fax work related, time sensitive stuff to do to the hotel.  On a related note, I never gave out locations of where I was going to be to her.

          1. videogame Princess

            I would be really, REALLY mad not only because of that but because the coworker would have seen me in less than suitable garb. Not Okay.

            1. College Career Counselor

              I would have strongly considered saying, “okay, hand over the laptop and let me take a look.” I would have then dashed it to the floor and pled post-partum pain/meds-induced amnesia.

              1. Anna the Accounting Student

                …and pled post-partum pain/meds-induced amnesia.

                Reminds me of a moment from NCIS. A minor character’s wife had just given birth to their child, and somebody wondered what had happened to his hand. Turned out said wife was one of the very few women for whom epidurals don’t do squat.

          2. Faith

            I can just imagine all sorts of hell that I would have raised if anyone other than my husband, much less a pushy coworker, showed up at the hospital right after I delivered my baby.

            On a side note, I remember when I was on my short term disability after having a baby, HR told my boss that he was absolutely not allowed to contact me while I was receiving short term disability benefits. That would be a violation of terms of the short term disability policy since it requires the leave to be uninterrupted.

            1. videogame Princess

              Is there a way to make a “guest list” for who gets to be at your birthing process? I can not even wanting relatives there when I am giving birth. I like to meet people when I am clothed.

              1. Artemesia

                The patient is totally in charge of who is admitted to labor and delivery (even the husband can’t claim the right if the patient denies it) and who is admitted to the maternity floor after the birth. This is a big security issue as the babies are now usually in the room with the mother. Going in and out of the maternity wing is high security. I doubt anyone today could do it by claiming to be ‘family.’

                1. Blurgle

                  You’d think so…but there are legions of awful relatives who have sweet-talked their way into a birthing room.

              2. Adam V

                When my wife gave birth this year, the hospital allowed us to choose to have our names in the directory – or not. If we said no, they wouldn’t give out any information to visitors, even whether or not we were still there.

                I checked that box immediately. The important people got the room number directly from me, everyone else’s calls went straight to voicemail.

        2. So Very Anonymous

          My dad’s boss somehow got into the hospital to see my dad shortly after my dad had a massive heart attack from which he’d been resuscitated. He was in the ICU, and it was super touch and go at that point — an “if he makes it through the next 24 hours, he’s got a good chance” thing (he survived and is doing great now). My dad, who is an extremely tactful person, didn’t *like* this boss and was on the verge of retiring. My mother was livid, but I don’t think she said anything, out of politeness. I’m pretty sure that the boss wasn’t allowed into the ICU, but my mom didn’t want him there AT ALL because my dad really didn’t need to even know or sense that someone he was uncomfortable with was there. After that, one of my dad’s closest colleagues ran interference with work people and told them NOT to come until the family OKed it. I mean, jeez…

          Not too surprisingly, Dad retired after he recovered.

            1. So Very Anonymous

              I definitely wish that I’d been there in time for that (I was frantically in transit at the time) to tell that guy to leave — I’d never met him, I didn’t care. Mom was beside herself and did NOT need to be dealing with this guy.

              Dad turned 78 yesterday (when I was typing that story! :) ) and beat the odds not just by surviving that heart attack, but his heart has actually *recovered* a bit from the damage — at first he was told he needed a defibrillator put into him (he declined), and since then he’s improved enough that a defibrillator is no longer indicated. Happy ending, but that boss did himself no favors by barging in like that before we even knew if Dad would make it.

        1. So Very Anonymous

          Or if she had the presence of mine, said “Sure!” and oh, oopsie, wiped his hard drive. Sorry!

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever

        Wow. That’s just….wow.

        Tossup – manager banging dents in your trailer, or coworker looking for IT support while you’re passing your placenta? Which is worse?

        1. NJ Anon

          My then 9-month old son took a tumble and was in the hospital for a week. Needless to say I stayed with him the entire time. My dumb ass boss called the hospital (pre cell phone) and asked to be connected to the room. Fortunately my MIL took the call and told him to get lost. She was nice, I’d a been a lost worse. Needless to say I quit that job my first day back.

    2. Career Counselorette

      Yeah, this reminds me of a letter Jamie Bufalino got in Time Out New York years ago, where someone was like, “This attractive young woman just started at our office, and she’s requested two weeks off right away. We think it’s because she’s having an abortion. Is this how long abortions take? And how soon would she be able to start work again?” Jamie Bufalino’s answer was basically, “I am not even going to dignify your slut-shaming, malicious, invasive water cooler bullshit other than to tell you that you and your co-workers are disgusting people for even speculating about this young woman’s sexuality only in so far as how much it might inconvenience you.”

  9. LawBee

    Oh, I hate when people compare their medical experiences with mine. I had surgery on my eyes, and SO many people assumed it was lasik, complete with its super quick less-than-a-week recovery time. Nope, it was related but NOT that, and it took around four months for my eyes to recover enough that I didn’t need sunglasses inside, and could drive at night again.

    Go with your gut on whether you want the job (if you were excited about it before getting ill, I think that’s a really good sign), and if you do work there, shut this nosy coworker down FAST.

    1. GigglyPuff

      Totally agree. And even Lasik is different for everyone, peole thought I was crazy for saying I probably wouldn’t do it again. When I had it, I literally could barely open my eyes for two days it hurt so much. And I’m prone to headaches with rare migraines and got an awful one right after the surgery, that was honestly so bad I probably wouldn’t go through with it again. Took me more than the day or two expected to recover. Everyone is different, everyone’s body reacts differently to illness/stress/medications.

      New coworker, totally out of line.

      1. Simonthegrey

        Sounds like my experience when I had my wisdom teeth removed. My best friend had hers out as a senior in school and was back in class the next day with little swelling. I was out for a week vomiting blood and having an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. Everyone heals – and suffers- differently.

        1. Blurgle

          Mono is notoriously like that. One person takes two days off, the next has to go on short-term disability.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Yeah, I had coworkers a few years ago who were saying “If you’d ever had mono, you’d know it,” and I had to tell them that many people who have mono never know it. They’d never heard that. They thought that everyone who had mono had it like the one coworker of ours who had a really bad case of it.

            1. blackcat

              Yeah, I’m sure I had it because my bff got it in high school. She and I constantly shared food/drinks/etc. Some people don’t get sick at all from mono.

              Relatedly, someone I work with recently had a surgery that my mom had had a year prior. He was nervous about recovery, and I said, without thinking, “Oh, my mom had the same thing done and was really worried, too. But her recovery was amazing–she was good as new in three weeks!” Then he went around telling everyone he’d be all better in three weeks! Cue thoughts of “Ack! No! That’s not the way it works! I shouldn’t have said that!”

              Turns out, he *also* recovered in 3 weeks (I think the range given is 3-6 weeks). I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t!

              1. JB (not in Houston)

                Lol, and now he’ll probably feel pretty confident in telling anyone he knows who’s having it (or anyone he knows who knows someone who is having it) that it for real absolutely only takes 3 weeks.

        2. justcourt

          Yes! I had a horrible experience with my wisdom teeth (e.g. waking up during the surgery, vomiting for days because of the anesthesia, horrible infection, etc.), and my boss at the time was like, “I don’t understand why you have to take so much time off, when I had it done I was fine after a couple of hours.”

          1. blackcat

            My wisdom teeth surgeon listened to my mom explain that everyone in my family responds poorly to anesthesia. So I got none. Instead, I got laughing gas and rohypnol. I bet it hurt, but I a) probably didn’t give a shit (from the laughing gas) and b) have no memory from about 20 minutes before the surgery to ~12 hours after the surgery (from the rohypnol, also known as roofies).

            After that, though, I was 100% fine. No swelling and no pain. Bodies and medicines are weird and weirdly unique in their interactions.

        3. Tau

          Oh man wisdom teeth. I had… complications, which had complications, which had complications, which resulted in three months of follow-up visits several times a week. And because I was resistant to the local anesthetic I had to have each tooth out on separate occasions, and the next time the exact same thing happened again. (Would have on tooth #3 as well except this time they caught it in time, and on tooth #4 they *finally* agreed to give me the good antibiotics straight off.) For years afterwards, every single person working in that office knew me because I’d been in there so much.

          Which is to say that although I didn’t vomit blood (!!!) I, uh, hear you very strongly on the “wisdom tooth removal does not have a quick recovery time for everyone.”

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            My friends teenage sister had a stroke after having her wisdom teeth pulled thanks to a blood clot. Sure, wisdom teeth aren’t a big deal for most people, but they sure can be. I’m just glad that I have a big mouth (words that only sound admiring from a dentist), so I never had to have mine out.

        4. I'm a Little Teapot

          *shudder* I flatly refused to have my wisdom teeth out, because I’ve known several people who had awful complications, including permanent nerve damage. I’d rather keep my crooked overcrowded teeth the way they are than risk that.

          1. Mary DV

            I am one of those who had permanent nerve damage. I had my wisdom teeth out almost 30 years ago and from one corner of my mouth down to my chin is still somewhat numb.

  10. Master Bean Counter

    I think that it’s good to know a coworkers flaws before you get there. I would reply back to her with what Katie the Fed said. I would also forward the email straight to the boss and ask, “Is this normal behavior for this coworker?”
    The boss’s reply to this will tell you if this is normal, if the coworker is just stressed, or possibly if there are issues with the coworker that the boss is addressing. All good information you need to make a decision.

  11. GS

    The other thing that concerns me about this is how this coworker even knew what the illness was? Did the boss tell her, or did the outgoing coworker? Either way, it shows an office where private medical information is shared with people without the employee’s choice.

      1. Karowen

        I had the same reaction, but I’m hoping the co-worker found out about it from the woman OP is replacing. It’s not ideal, but I’d be less upset if a co-worker (who is leaving) told another co-worker about my ailments than if the boss was the one who was telling everyone about my stuff.

    1. LSCO

      This first struck me too. Also, assuming the coworker-to-be emailed the OP’s private email address – where did she get that info from?

      This whole situation raises a lot of red flags for me.

      1. Sadsack

        Very good points raised here. Is the outgoing person providing all this info to the coworker? Not cool, even if she is leaving

      2. Ad Astra

        The email address actually surprises me more than anything. If the OP is sick with, say, mono or some other commonly known illness that isn’t particularly icky, stigmatized, or related to private parts, it might not be a big deal to say “Oh, OP has mono.” I would still say it’s generally best to err on the side of not sharing that information, but it doesn’t surprise me that the OP didn’t seem to take issue with it.

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever

      I didn’t even think about that! That’s an excellent point.

      OP, if you only told Fergus and the person you are replacing about your illness, how did Hagatha find out? This is a big red flag concerning privacy in your prospective workplace.

    3. NK

      I wondered that too, but since the OP didn’t bring that up as a point of concern, I assumed that the OP was OK with the office knowing about the illness (especially since it sounds like OP told the person they are replacing). But yes, definitely concerning if the OP didn’t give permission to share.

  12. F.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think there is a boundaries problem in this workplace when the boss-to-be and the person who is being replaced are discussing the new employee’s health problem with any other member of the team in any more than very general terms as in, “Fidelma will not be joining our team as soon as we had expected due to a temporary health situation.” It’s really none of her new coworker’s business what the OP has and how long it takes to recover.

    1. Menacia

      Yes, this! I was thinking the same! Why does the potential co-worker even know the specifics of the illness of this new hire?! I always stay as vague as possible (though I’ve really never been seriously ill, thankfully) when I’m out sick. It’s NONE of anyone’s business, and especially if it causes unsolicited advice from someone I don’t even know. Flaming red flag here!

  13. Teapot liason

    One question that occurred to me-how does this new coworker even know that you have a health issue/the specific details of that issue? It may be that OP already gave consent, but if not I would be concerned if I thought my new boss was sharing my health information freely with the team.

  14. Winter is Coming

    If this happened to me, I would be tempted to not respond at all. E-mail wasn’t from the boss, so it’s kind of like sending any response is affirming her self-proclaimed importance in this equation.

    1. Sadsack

      Yeah, maybe forwarding the email to the boss asking what’s going on would be a good idea, but that also may seem adversarial from the start.

  15. neverjaunty

    I also have to respectfully disagree slightly with AAM’s advice – OP, while individually some of these things are just kind of red flags, you’ve got a whole bunch of them together. The company has had THREE employees leave this position before the one-year mark; they have just hired a brand new boss (meaning yet a fourth employee left, right?), a co-worker who works closely with you both knows your private medical details and feels comfortable lecturing you about how they are affecting your start date, and it’s a small company where you can’t just not deal with her much… you should probably think very hard about whether you really want to go forward in this position.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      This is a really good summary. Taken in isolation each item may not seem so bad, but taken together they a present a pretty decent picture of the potential office dynamics.

      Are you willing to work with an overbearing coworker in a high-turnover position with an indiscreet boss new to the domain? How much is this position worth for your sanity and health? What kind of stress, working conditions, and hours will you endure?

      Only you can decide if the salary and other factors are worth it, but consider that you are already seeing the company’s communication model in action.

  16. CC the Boss? Never Thought of It...

    I’ve previously received still emails of this sort from a co-worker. I was so taken aback I literally ignored it. Probably not the best move. It never occurred to me to CC the boss or to draft that brilliant response. Definitely making note of this for next time.

  17. Guera

    I am a little dismayed the boss shared any details at all about your illness with the employee in the first place. “So and So’s start date has been delayed due to circumstances out of her control but I will keep you posted as I know more” should have been sufficient. I also would not respond to her email at all.

    1. RVA Cat

      No kidding! Plus how does she have your personal email address?

      I would not reply to Jane at all, just forward to your new boss for him to set her straight. If he doesn’t, THEN I’d say you don’t want to work there.

      1. Lisa...

        Having the personal email address didn’t strike me as odd – it’s on all of our candidates’ resumes, after all. Digging it out just to send this kind of email is something else entirely.

  18. Rana

    There is absolutely no excuse for that email, but I wonder if the unprofessional coworker has been struggling to carry a workload meant for two people, and is feeling frustrated and disappointed that her hoped-for relief has been delayed yet again.

  19. RVA Cat

    Also, if you do start this job – don’t worry if Jane gets mad and she starts to cry, if she takes a swing SHE CAN’T HIT! She don’t mean no harm, she just don’t know…what else to do about it. ;)

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      That’s when Jane enjoys stealing. Well it’s just a simple fact when she wants something she don’t want to pay for it.

      1. Career Counselorette

        Guys, everybody has their own opinion, everybody has their own opinion, holding it back hurts so bad.

  20. Person

    Alison’s (and Katie the Fed’s) advice is spot-on.
    1: it calls her out on the behavior
    2: it loops in the boss
    3: gives you the opportunity to see how it plays out, because what happens when someone is called out on boundary-crossing and a boss is challenged to manage tells you so much.
    I work with a boundary-crosser, and after 4 years of ignoring it and fuming (which made me look unreasonable), I finally used an Alison script to call her out on it, and magically, I am the sane one and she looks unreasonable. Do this now and bypass the many years of misery.

    1. Serin

      gives you the opportunity to see how it plays out, because what happens when someone is called out on boundary-crossing and a boss is challenged to manage tells you so much.

      Ooh, good point! It’s like magically arranging to ask a culture question and get an honest answer instead of canned mission statement.

  21. Minion

    I really, really hate when people downplay another person’s experience like that, especially with something like an illness.
    “You’re ill? Oh it’s not that bad. I was diagnosed with (insert illness here) and given 3 days to live, but I ate special herbs and drank special concoctions and ran 800 miles a day ever since that and I lived for 50 more years and just climbed Mt. Everest last week.”
    When you’re dealing with illness, it really is individual. There are some people who’ve recovered from stage 4 cancer and others, like my brother, died just a few months after diagnosis. And, I’ll just be honest – if I were the OP and I received that email from the coworker, I would question whether she’s saying those things to the boss and downplaying OP’s illness to him and HR.
    “Oh, OP has Illness? I had that last year and it was no big deal. I don’t know why she couldn’t come in. My recovery was only three hours. I don’t know why she’d need three weeks. Plus working here 12 hours per day really sped my recovery right along.”
    OP, I trust that you really have a handle on this, but I hope you’ll consider what working with someone like that may be like. But, maybe your new manager will have your back on things like that and will shut down your coworker.

  22. S.I. Newhouse

    It looks like I’m the first person to have this opinion, but I’m not sure CCing the boss is a good idea here. We have NO idea of what the dynamic is like at this company, and more specifically, what the dynamic is between the employee who sent the rude email and the new boss. I might be missing something here, but my worry is — if CCing the boss gets the rude employee in trouble, (1) you’re setting up an adversarial relationship with this coworker from the very start, or worse, (2) if the rude employee already has OP’s personal email address, the OP is setting him/herself up for some sort of retaliation.

    Reading between the lines, OP’s instincts seem to be telling him/her to run from this workplace. Instincts tend to be right more often than not. Given what’s been presented here, I’d ignore the email, rescind the acceptance, take the time to recover, and find another opportunity.

    1. Person

      nooooo, boundary-crossers thrive on people not willing to ‘be confrontational’ aka standing up for yourself.

      1. neverjaunty

        I don’t think S.I. Newhouse was saying ‘do not set boundaries’, just observing that in this situation, that’s going to create an adversarial relationship with the new co-workers. So it’s lose-lose.

        1. Person

          Speaking from my experience, if I had done such a reasonable thing from the beginning, it would have been a lot less adversarial than letting my boundary-crosser get bolder and bolder, driving me mad for 4 years.

          1. Anonsie

            I wholeheartedly agree with this. In my experience at least, pushing back and risking conflict up front (even if that conflict does arise) is a lot safer in the long run.

          2. Kyrielle

            Yep. S.I. was advocating rescinding the acceptance, though – rather than pushing back and possibly having conflict, walk away and find another job without a boundary-crosser. If OP has the luxury to do that and wants to, it’s viable, though pushing back and seeing how it falls out is an option. If the new boss has some authority and nips this in the bud, it might be okay. On the other hand, this might be the up-front warning of just how ugly it can get, if the boundary-crosser is well established at the company and the new boss can’t do anything about her, for example.

            1. Sick OP

              OP here.

              There’s an update further down the thread. But when I was considering if/how to push back, one big factor was that Hagatha has tons of institutional knowledge. Once Tabitha (the person who is leaving) is gone, Hagatha will be the keeper of the metaphorical flame. I don’t think NewBoss can get rid of her in the near future.

        2. So Very Anonymous

          But the lose-lose situation is being created by the co-worker, not the OP, and I think it’s reasonable for the OP to loop in her boss– using very neutral language — *because* OP doesn’t know what’s going on, and there’s important information to be gleaned from how the boss responds. Trying to avoid an adversarial relationship at this point seems like a tall order for the OP, who isn’t the person who’s way out of line here.

    2. justcourt

      There are red flags with this job, certainly, but as some above pointed out, CCing the boss gives OP a great opportunity to see how conflict is resolved at that company and how the co-worker responds to boundaries.

    3. Observer

      I wouldn’t worry about #1 – The situation is already adversarial. So, you really, really need to be sure that the boss has a clue.

      On the other hand, I can’t disagree with your second paragraph. This job sounds scary.

      1. Bio-Pharma

        But you’re giving him/her a specific reason to be adversarial, instead of him/her finding something less… obvious… to be adversarial about.

        1. Observer

          So what? It’s not like there is the faintest chance that “don’t give her an excuse” is going to help. She’s already made it abundantly clear how she views the situation, and being afraid to “tattle” is not going to make it any better.

    4. Bio-Pharma

      Finally a comment sharing my concern about CCing the boss! The last thing I’d want is to get the stink-eye from that co-worker on my first day!

      1. So Very Anonymous

        Why are the co-worker’s feelings more important than the OP’s? The co-worker is the one who’s out of line. It’s a position with a high amount of turnover. The co-worker might be the reason why. Using very neutral language and ccing the boss (or maybe just forwarding the email to the boss directly — again, VERY neutral language) could help suss out that information.

      2. Observer

        But, the OP is going to get the stink eye anyway. At least, assuming the boss handles this appropriately, she’ll know there are limits to what she can do to retaliate for the OP being “lazy”.

      3. Owl

        You’re going to get one anyway, she’s already judged you for taking too long in recovery! The co-worker made this relationship adversarial, not the OP.

        1. S.I. Newhouse

          The OP’s response made my concerns moot, but just for the record, my comment was more intended to be in the spirit of “I wouldn’t touch this job with a 39.5 foot pole” than “I wouldn’t cross this coworker the wrong way.” I couldn’t have cared less about the coworker’s feelings.

          OP, I think you dodged a massive bullet here and I hope you have a speedy recovery.

  23. AFT123

    Ummm.. OP, if you’re by chance in a Midwest state and dealing with a waste-water consulting firm, and you’re taking my old job… RUN. This is eerily similar.

      1. Sick OP

        OP here…nope, not the same company. I wonder how common this scenario is. It takes cojones to lecture a relative stranger about their health!

  24. DataMonkey

    Before you rescind your acceptance, I would forward the email to your boss and ask to have a conversation about it. I would want to know as a poster mentioned up thread whether this is normal behavior for Jane. If this is par for the course, I would have a hard time following through with accepting the job given how small the company is and how you’ll need to work closely with Jane.

    For Jane, I would just ignore her email. Unsolicited health advice emails (IMO) deserve no response.

  25. Dasha

    Ohhh, this makes me mad. People react differently to different illnesses, medications, alignments, pain, etc. You know, I can eat all the peanuts I want but there are some people who touch a peanut and have to go to the ER.

    All I have to say is that email is incredibly thoughtless and rude.

  26. Wrench Turner

    I’m the 5th? person in less than 2 years at this branch (since it opened), and even customers say “Oh, you’re still here!” when they come in after a few weeks. After almost 4 months, I can see why the turnover was/is so high.

    Trust, but verify, your gut. Give it a little while longer in your recovery but any MORE flags and it’s time to jump.

  27. Sick OP

    OP here.

    Thanks so much to Alison and everyone for the thoughtful advice and comments–in particular, the humor was particularly appreciated. A little more background: Hagatha had my email address because I sent her (and the others in the company) a thank you email after my group interview. Hagatha had been somewhat negative during said interview, but she was open about the fact that she doesn’t want “Tabitha,” the person I would be replacing, to leave, so I didn’t take it personally at first.

    I wrote to AAM about this last week, and between the time of my email and this post there has been an update.

    1. I showed the email to several friends who came by to check up on me. They had conflicting advice, but they all agreed that Hagatha was throwing shade at my illness. This is mostly because the first sentence of the email was, “Well, it’s certainly unusual for {name of illness} to knock someone out for so long.”

    2. It had not even occurred to me that it was inappropriate for Hagatha to have my medical information–which it certainly was! This just goes to show how easy it is to get used to blurred boundaries–at LastJob, the (male) boss would lecture women about the importance of getting regular mammograms and would ask if they had scheduled their yearly appointments.

    3. Two additional co-workers, who didn’t seem to know about my illness, emailed me to assign me some “pre-work work.” (This is what they called it.) So they wanted me to start working before I was on the payroll. I didn’t respond to them.

    4. I ended up sending Hagatha a neutral reply, something along the lines of, “Thank you for your good wishes. I hope all is well with you.” I thought about looping in NewBoss, but then…

    4. My illness took a turn for the worse and I ended up being admitted to the hospital. (I was released yesterday morning and feel somewhat better.) Right before I went in, I emailed NewBoss and Tabitha about the situation, and rescinded my acceptance based on the fact that they needed someone who could hit the ground running immediately (or before immediately, if possible, and that my recovery would take weeks.

    So I’m out of work and sick, with weeks of recovery ahead of me. Luckily, I have savings and am in a field where contract work is abundant. And even though I burned a bridge and did something I thought I would never do by rescinding, I felt like a 10-ton weight was off my shoulders when I let this opportunity go. There were just too many red flags, too fast.

    1. HRish Dude

      It sucks that you’re sick (and I wish you an extremely speedy recovery), but it sounds like you dodged a hell of a bullet.

    2. fposte

      Yup, it sounds like a workplace it would have needed robust good health to deal with. Hopefully, OP, you will soon be back in such good health and will be taking it to a workplace that deserves it.

    3. Mike C.

      First off, best wishes for a speedy recovery.

      A few points.

      1. F*** Hagatha. Who in the hell does she think she is to comment on how long it “usually takes” to recover from an illness? Is she a trained medical professional, epidemiologist or public health professional? No? Then she needs to STFU.

      2. Holy crap, not only is that breaking a huge number of boundaries but it’s also bad advice depending on age, family history and numerous other factors that may or may not apply to an individual.

      3. If you’re non-exempt, this is illegal.

      4. Everyone needs someone who can “hit the ground running” from “day one”. Yet they still need time to acclimate to a new workplace, training and so on. You’re a person, not a transmission – employers can’t just swap employees like auto parts.

      Best of luck to you in the future, and thanks for the update.

      1. Sick OP

        On point #3, I mentioned the “pre-work work” to NewBoss when I rescinded. He had no idea and he was horrified. I think he doesn’t yet have a handle on his people.

        1. Anonsie

          Doesn’t yet and, I would bet money, won’t in the future either.

          I’m sorry you’re still sick but I am glad you ditched these loons and have the mental burden removed.

    4. Biff

      “at LastJob, the (male) boss would lecture women about the importance of getting regular mammograms and would ask if they had scheduled their yearly appointments.” I’m sorry…. what? WHAT? i hope this isn’t NORMAL in your line of work.

      I don’t know that you burned a bridge. I think this really falls under the rare category of “life had significantly different plans.” I wouldn’t hold it against someone if they fell ill with a very serious illness just before a start date. Really I wouldn’t.

      1. Kyrielle

        Agreed. I’m not at all sure a bridge was burned here. Of course, given the corporate culture that was revealed, I’m not sure I’d care until/unless the potential NewBoss was working at another organization, but maybe if they get their employees turned around and/or managed out…maybe…it would matter at the current org.

        1. So Very Anonymous

          And even if you come across NewBoss again in your career, you have the knowledge that he was horrified by the pre-work work, and may not hold you not going with this particular job (heck, who knows he long HE’S going to stay there!)

    5. Andrea

      I’m so sorry to hear that your illness took a turn for the worse! I hope that you make a full and speedy recovery — for your sake, not so you can get back to work :P

    6. So Very Anonymous

      Many good thoughts to you, and hope the 10-ton-weight being off helps with your recovery! (That first email line…. wowww.)

    7. Observer

      I’m sorry to hear that things aren’t going so great with your health. I hope your recovery goes as well, or better, than expected.

      I’m with the others who think you didn’t necessarily burn a bridge, especially if you handled telling the boss about the ” pre-work work” in a neutral way.

      I think that the boss really needs to know about Hagatha’s email, but I can understand why you might not want to go there. But if he’s got his head on right, he’s gotten some good information about the reason for the turnover.

    8. neverjaunty

      Yeah, if you burned a bridge, it was a bridge leading to a very bad job with horrible people. I think you dodged a bullet that NewBoss did not.

      Best wishes on your recovery, also.

    9. Dr. Johnny Fever

      That 10-ton relief you feel might be a sign that your intuition is right, and this is not the right place for you. Based on NewBoss’s reaction to the pre-work work, it sounds like management is sorely lacking, the department is organized, the team dynamic is stressful, and this job might impede a full recovery for you.

      Sometimes, our intuition picks up on subtle clues and makes a reflexive decision before our rational brains have a chance to analyze the risks and benefits; the evidence seems to bear out your intuition here.

      May you recover smoothly and swiftly, may you find calm within the chaos, and may you land safely on your feet with your health and your career in short order.

      1. Charityb

        The fact that they wanted her to do work for them before she started (even if she hadn’t been sick) seemed bizarre to me. It’s one thing to forward some paperwork or background info so that she had them available before her start date, but actually expecting her to take action is a little over-the-top; I don’t know what field this is but in general if they need her to start on a certain date they should make that the start date; not throw out a date but then ask her to do work before that date.

    10. Ruffingit

      That bridge needed to be cremated so good for you! I hope you feel better soon. I’d be interested to know why Tabitha was leaving the job, although it’s not that hard to figure out based on the information you provided.

    11. Mimmy

      Agreed with the others….huge bullet dodged. The first line of Hagatha’s email is way, way out of line.

      Best wishes to you for a good and quick recovery.

    12. CM

      I’m sorry to hear that you were back in the hospital… best wishes for a continued and speedy recovery.

      (And even though I don’t know what illness you have, I’m sure that it will only take a day or two to recover like when I had a cold last week, and I think what would help you recover is if you came over and mowed my lawn because being outdoors will keep your spirits up.)

      Sounds like you did the right thing. Maybe this is even a silver lining of your illness — it helped you dodge a bullet.

  28. Elder Dog

    CC: Your Soon-To-Be-New-Boss
    Dear Soon-To-Be Coworker,

    Did you realize you hit send on this message accusing me of some kind of malingering?

    Sincerely,
    Sick-But-Not-Bully-Bait

  29. The Bimmer Guy

    Excellent advice, as always. But, you know, it seems like Jane is your go-to name for bitchy people. Do you have a *thing* about people named Jane? I have a thing about people named Andy (never have met a nice one), so I totally understand.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Jane is one of my go-to names here, period — not just for unappealing people! I actually really like the name and would consider naming a kid that if I were going to have one, which I am not. So instead Jane shows up here. (I also enjoy the contrast of Jane with Persephone and Apollo and the other names I regularly use here.)

      1. Windchime

        Jane here is kind of like Janice in Accounting on “Last Week Tonight”, (who does not give a f*ck, according to John Oliver).

  30. Kat

    How does the coworker even know what the OP’S diagnosis is? Even if OP shared it with the Mgr the Mgr shouldn’t have shared it with other staff. All they need to know is when the new person is starting and it’s delayed due to illness. My staff often share medical details with me of their own volition but I NEVER share that with their colleagues. I’d be concerned with the fact that Mgr told my new coworker and not knowing what was said that lead to this inappropriate email. And that’s a huge flag. Why do you want to work with someone who crosses boundaries like that when you haven’t even met?

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