I have a crush on a manager at work, my coworker keeps encroaching on my desk, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I have a crush on a manager at work

I’m a happily married woman, but I have a crush on a male supervisor at work. The nature of my work requires that I advise management staff on various issues, so I often meet with several managers multiple times during the week. There’s a younger (close to my age) but established high-level male supervisor who I find myself attracted to. I wasn’t sure what my feelings meant at first, but I find myself getting nervous around him, I tend to care more about my appearance when I know we’re going to meet, and I think he’s attractive.

I get a vibe from him too. I may be making assumptions and his behavior can be explained otherwise, but he’s called me personally to ask questions, emailed me personally to congratulate me on a job well done, left his water bottle in my work area and his manager teased him for “accidentally” leaving it there, his manager teased him for seeming giddy and laughing more than usual during one of our meetings together.

I have no intentions of having an affair and even if I were single, dating someone at work comes with too many risks. Do you have any advice on how to quell this crush? How to conduct myself professionally around him? I feel like my feelings are obvious. I saw him at lunch the other day and walked away just to avoid him. I had a crush on a high-level supervisor at my last job too, but left the workplace for unrelated reasons so it never became an issue.

Noooo! It’s normal to occasionally find yourself attracted to people who are Not Your Spouse, but don’t let yourself start speculating on whether there’s a vibe there or not. The behaviors you described from him — calling you to ask questions, congratulating you on a job well done, leaving a water bottle behind, and being more laughy on some days than others — are normal work behaviors. He is just being a normal person, doing his job.

As for how to conduct yourself professionally around him — pretend he’s your uncle? Pretend he’s Ramsay Bolton? Imagine your husband dropping by to surprise you and walking in on a libidinous scene? Or, turn it around and imagine the genders were reversed — if you were a married dude crushing on a female colleague and reading things into her perfectly normal, non-flirtatious behavior that weren’t actually there, that would feel pretty skeevy, right? (I don’t mean to imply you’re skeevy — just to hopefully help you reframe it in your head.)

2. My boss is dragging his feet on hiring a temp for my maternity leave

I disclosed I was pregnant in December and noted my due date of July 12 at that time. It is now the end of May and my boss still has not posted the position for a temp fill-in. We are an office of three people, and so having a temp is crucial. My boss has even said on multiple occasions that he will not post the position and will only fill it by direct referral. What do I do? He expects me to train this person, yet refuses to take any steps to hire anyone that isnt referred to him personally. What can I do to protect myself from being expected to come in during maternity leave and/or train someone while I’m supposed to be on leave?

You can let him know right now that you won’t be able to do that. Say this to him: “I want to make sure you know that I could go out on leave as early as (date) and that I’m going to be 100% unavailable once I do — I won’t be able to come in to train someone or help out once that happens. So if you want me to train the temp, that person should start no later than (date).”

He’s now warned, and then you just stick to that. Remind him again right before your leave that you’re not going to be available, and if you do get contacted, either ignore it or take a week to respond and then say “nope, that won’t be possible.” (And know that if you’re taking FMLA, there’s something called “FMLA interference” that makes it illegal for them to keep contacting you or to try to get you to come in.)

Beyond that, this isn’t your problem — don’t make it yours.

3. My coworker keeps encroaching on my desk

My employer recently replaced our desks and lockers with smaller versions in order to make room for new colleagues in our open plan office. The desks are in banks of four, adjoining each other. There is a small partition with the desk facing me but no partition with the desk beside me. The lack of space is challenging but we have adapted.

I sit next to a more junior colleague. She is great at her job and we have always had a good relationship. Unfortunately, since the new desks arrived, she has been encroaching on my space. She likes to use big hard-backed files and she uses some of my desk space to accommodate them while she’s working with them. I tried moving my in-tray and other items over to the side of my desk, where it adjoins her desk, in an attempt to create a physical barrier. It doesn’t work. She uses them to prop up her own papers and folders. If that side of my desk is clear (as we are required to lock our in trays away at night) she will just use the space. As I start work after her, I either have to slide her stuff back to her own desk or ask her to move it. I find this a stressful way to start the day.

Today I decided to address the pattern of behavior as a whole. I explained that it might seem weird but I am someone who likes to have their space clearly defined. She seemed to acknowledge that and immediately moved her things. However, 10 minutes later she reverted to form. I had to lift the cover of her folder away from my area and balance it on my arm to fish in my own in tray for what I needed. Ridiculous. I then moved her folder, making sure she noticed – she was on a conference call so I couldn’t address her directly. 10 minutes later the same happened again, and this time I got completely exasperated and made a bigger show of closing her folder and shoving it back to her desk. I gave her an imploring look – she was still on the phone.

I am sure she is not deliberately trying to wind me up. She just genuinely doesn’t care much that I am bothered by this, and has no interest in changing her behavior. I love where I sit. Window seats are much coveted and generally given to people with long service, which is why I have one. I don’t want to give up this perk by moving to another desk. How should I handle this?

Repetition. Every time it happens, slide her stuff back over or tell her too. And be direct: “Jane, your stuff is in my space again. Please move it.” … “We have tiny desks here, and you’re making mine one-third smaller.” … “Your files are back.” … etc. If she’s anything approaching a reasonable person, a few days of doing this will get her to permanently stop.

Also, she’s being rude. You might feel rude by continuing reminding her about this, but you’re not the one being rude — don’t let let that get shifted to you along with the folders.

4. Weight loss surgery and work

I am currently in the process of getting insurance approval for weight loss surgery. This process takes months, but once the insurance approval is given — the surgery date can come pretty quickly thereafter (2-3 weeks). I don’t really want to alert my coworkers or my boss to the fact that I’m contemplating such a surgery in case I decide not to go through with it or insurance doesn’t cover it for some reason. I work in a small office where someone’s absence is very noticeable, and we do a lot of shuffling to cover tasks when someone is out. Is 2-3 weeks enough notice that I will be out of the office for 10-15 days for surgery? Do you think a reasonable employer would be upset if they found out that I had been planning this procedure for months without alerting him to the fact earlier?

Also, I’m not keen on letting my coworkers know why I will be getting surgery (they’re typically pretty nosy) – could you give me some guidance on how to explain my absence and my subsequent weight loss?

You have justifiable reasons for not wanting to announce the surgery before it’s a definite thing, and two to three weeks isn’t unreasonable when it’s for a medical reason. Plus, it’s not like you know the date and just aren’t telling them yet; there’s no date to share yet. I think your plan is fine. Also, when you tell your boss, you don’t need to specify what the surgery is or that you’ve been contemplating it for months. It’s fine to just say “I’ll be out for surgery on (dates). It’s nothing life-threatening, but it’s something I need to get taken care.”

You can use that same answer with nosy coworkers. If you don’t want to discuss it and anyone pries for more details, say, “I’d rather not get into it” or “nothing I want to discuss at the office” and then change the subject. As for the subsequent weight loss, that’s your call too. Share if you want to, but if you don’t, you can say, “Oh, I’m trying to avoid weight loss talk — it’s so easy to obsess” or any of the suggestions here.

5. If I’m told to leave after I resigned, was I fired?

If you go to your supervisor to turn in your letter of resignation and he/she tells you to just leave, is that considered being fired?

Nope. You resigned. They gave you a different last day than you were intended, but that doesn’t make your resignation a firing.

Some employers do have people leave immediately when they resign (in fact, there are whole industries that do it as a matter of course). Sometimes that’s a legitimate approach, but more often than not it’s punitive and silly.

{ 347 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M

    Sometimes when I have a huge crush on someone that I can’t/shouldn’t pursue, I focus on the things that bug me about the person. Even things I’d forgive if we were dating. I think, “Oh, she’s always late, and that would drive me batty!” So I train myself to un-crush on them.

    The other thing I do is sometimes (as I’m doing right now with someone), is remind myself that I am not, NOT what they need in their life right now. My girlcrush is going through medical drama, and the last thing she needs is for me to add friction in her marriage (even though everyone’s poly, now is clearly Not the Time.)

    For your coworker, who probably likes his job–you are not, NOT what he needs in his life right now. What he needs is a reliable, solid coworker. Be that for him.

    1. Artemesia

      It helps to recognize that this is normal; most people have a crush or two or three during their work years. No problem. The problem is when you allow yourself to dwell on it, to pretend there is a vibe or worse yet respond to actual inappropriate moves by the crushee, or otherwise act on it.

      Grownups know to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the crush i.e. no tete a tetes (lunches, lots of private conferences etc) Don’t go out of the way to be in his presence or contact him. Relentless frame him as a brother or uncle or whatever and act accordingly.

      For me accepting that this was just part of being a normal heterosexual human — of course I will be attracted to men other than my husband (and of course a normal homosexual person will be attracted to same sex co-workers). Feelings are not a problem; action is. The most dangerous situations are when these attractions correspondents with down times in the marriage; knowing that helps one maintain those internal boundaries.

      1. Artemesia

        accepting that this was normal complete the sentence e.g. made it easier to frame it as something requiring no action.

        1. Kelly L.

          This is the biggest thing, I think. A crush can just be, it doesn’t require any action.

          1. Koko

            I have an inappropriate crush on someone for who I’m a client. I just enjoy having it–it makes the couple of hours that I spend with him each week more fun and exciting–but that’s where it ends. I believe he has a girlfriend, and I know he can’t date a client anyway, so I maybe low-level flirt a little sometimes and enjoy the ego boost and that’s that. It’s actually pretty fun to have a crush without any of the stress of worrying about trying to win him over and then have a successful relationship with him. Dating and relationships are hard! Crushes are easy, they exist entirely in the mind. Just enjoy leaving it firmly in the realm of fantasy.

          2. Abby

            This is so key. Crushes are 100% normal (and can even be fun), just don’t let them get in the way of professionalism.

            1. starsaphire

              This, very much.

              I always have a work crush; I don’t go out looking for them, but they always seem to happen. I don’t hide them from my husband, either; he has crushes too, and we are comfortable sharing them.

              My crushes inspire me to care a little bit more about how well I do my job. I’m more inspired to deal with grooming in the morning (I have a lot of chronic pain issues, and sometimes it’s really hard to make the effort to style my hair instead of just tying it back, etc.). I look forward to seeing them each day, and that’s a big help in getting me to put my feet on the ground and get moving.

              In the 30 years I’ve worked professionally, I have never acted on one of those crushes while working together. (I did end up dating one of them *well after* I had been laid off, but that’s another story entirely. We’re still friends.)

              Sometimes a crush is just a crush, and as long as you stay professional and never let it show, it’s okay to enjoy the little boost of energy and excitement you get from knowing s/he was in the conference room when you rocked that presentation!

        2. Desdemona

          I think once you accept that, crushes can be a lot of fun. You get to enjoy the giddy feelings for what they are, without trying to turn the them into something they don’t need to be.

      2. Sans

        Exactly what I was going to say. I had a crush on a boss a long time ago. I was (and still am) happily married, he was happily married, it was never within the realm of possibility that anything would happen. So instead of taking it as a sign that something was wrong with my marriage or that I should pursue the feelings – I just accepted that this was normal stuff. I even let myself fantasize about him, just to get it out of my system — all the time knowing that it would always only be fantasy. Because I accepted the feelings as normal, I didn’t get weird or self-conscious around him. After a month or two, I did get it out of my system. I still liked him, but the “crush” feelings calmed down.

        1. AthenaC

          I had a crush on my boss at my last job. I have reason to believe the feeling was at least somewhat mutual, but at the same time we could have worked together indefinitely without anything happening.

          It was a bit disorienting at first because it was the first time I had actually had sustained contact with someone I liked, so it gave the feelings the opportunity to broil and fester in a really unhealthy way.

          Anyway – for a while it helped to occupy my mind with other things, which was easy enough because we were at work. But we worked together a lot, and we kinda gravitated toward each other when it wasn’t so busy, and everyone noticed. After I left and I was able to see clearly just how unhealthy the situation had become, other people started reaching out to me and saying, “Yeah we all saw how bad it was getting with you two.”

          So, while I’m not saying “Quit your job if you have a crush on your boss,” and obviously don’t do anything to jeopardize your career, you may find that you are glad to have removed yourself from that environment whenever it becomes time to move on.

          1. AR

            I have had a crush on a few of the managers I have worked with and on a boss. Unfortunately only one of those was married like myself. Yes these things do happen, but if you resist any temptation and treat them like a friend and think of them as a friend, the crush passes in time and you can work with them closely without other feelings getting involved.
            I would, also suggest avoiding some actions such as: going out to lunch with the person alone, getting involved with their personal lives, and going out of your way to make contact with them.

      3. Cafe au Lait

        For me, I use crushes as a barometer of my own relationship with my husband. For example: if I love the spontaneity when I see my crush, I try to create more spontaneous moments with my husband. Or when I had a crush that dressed up in his day-to-day life, I tried to create “fancy occasions” with my husband (normally a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy) so I could have the experience of a dressed-up partner.

        1. Laura

          GREAT ADVICE. In these situations, you need to re-train your brain a bit. This is an awesome way to do it.

      4. The Crusher

        Op here. This makes me feel a little better. I was starting to feel guilty and off to have these feelings.

        1. jm

          Along the lines of what Cafe au Lait said, try to have more fun and pay more attention to your spouse to distract yourself. Schedule a special date or weekend away if possible. For me, when my husband and I are more distant with each other (because of busyness, difficulty, whatever), that’s when I am more open to crushing on others. Maybe think about being intentional about connecting with your husband, and this will distract yourself from thoughts of the crush.

      5. TootsNYC

        When I had such a crush, I got worried. But then I realized that I never, ever thought of him when I was at home. And when I was engaged in something else at work, I didn’t think about him. I only got those giddy crush feelings when he came up normally–I had to go discuss something with him, I saw him in a meeting, etc.

        I decided it was a crush, not being truly in love. And that crushes are OK, fun even, as long as I didn’t make it any bigger.

        So I never sought him out, I didn’t sit by him at a meeting. But I didn’t avoid him, and I just enjoyed the feeling when it happened.

        Then he got a haircut that totally changed the way his face looked (his eyes bugged out), and boom! the crush was over.

        All the things that made me crush on him–his intelligence, his work ethic, his ability to quickly grasp a problem, his ability to invent sleek solutions, his charming, his outlook, his friendliness, etc.–those were all still there, and I still admired him a lot. He was still one of my favorite people. But the intensity, the “I want him to notice me!”, went away.

    2. Jen RO

      I’ve had a couple of crushes on coworkers, but luckily they went away pretty fast. In one case, what helped was meeting his SO and realizing they are meant for each other – after that, I started seeing things that would piss me off immensely if we were a couple, so the crush fizzled out instantly. In the other case, I realized that I was attracted to some qualities my SO didn’t have, but they came with a whole bunch of unpleasant behaviors that I wouldn’t want to deal with. Went home, remembered how lucky I am, crush gone.

      1. Anon for this

        This reminds me of what I do — meet my crush’s SO, talk about her/him to my spouse, introduce them, etc. Yes, I do text/IM my biggest work crush, but mostly about work. And I often tell my spouse what they said, and that helps it feel more like a work friendship than a crush. Talking to my spouse about these coworkers helps me not only keep it in-bounds, but helps reframe our relationship as a friendship.

        1. neverjaunty

          Although if it’s “mostly” about work, for some people that can become a way to justify feeding the crush by chatting with that person a lot, and rationalizing it as “okay yes but we were talking about work stuff too….”

          1. The Crusher

            OP here. Thanks for bringing this up, I didn’t realize that I may be showing my crush, and I don’t want that to be apparent. I received a couple of meeting requests to attend meetings with the person I’m trying to avoid, which makes things difficult because the meetings are work-related and I cannot refuse to attend.

            1. neverjaunty

              You shouldn’t refuse to attend mandatory work things when this guy is present, but you can stop yourself from spiffing up for those meetings (maybe choose that day to wear your least flattering work clothes!), and you can stop yourself from non-mandatory work interactions.

            2. TootsNYC

              neverjaunty is right.

              You do all the work things. You just don’t do the NONwork things (like sit with him, fuss over your appearance, linger to chat, etc.)

              You don’t avoid him everywhere. You avoid him in all non-work situations.

              In a way, the “not avoiding him for work stuff” will be one of the tools to get past this. It’s sort of like when people cry because they’re angry; I believe that most of the time, the tears come when we try to suppress our anger.
              When we allow ourselves to feel the anger, and focus on channeling it instead of denying it (by working to control our volume but not trying to eliminate all traces of anger from our voice), we don’t cry.

    3. Maya Elena

      Yeah, thinking critical thoughts is a good approach. “Imagining the audience naked” can help, unless this man is Adonis personified – in which case, try to recall every known instance on his part of rudeness, incorrect political opinions, or (worst of worst) love of World of Warcraft.

      1. Chameleon

        Heh. When I had a crush on my boss, what snapped me out of it was remembering that he was *not* into WoW. Or rather, D&D. On fact, he wasn’t at all a nerd and would think of my hobbies and friends as juvenile. That pretty much killed it for me.

    4. Felicia

      I do something similar with unwanted crushes but then I remind myself “Oh , she’s probably straight” (I’m gay, and statistically most women I have crushes on tend to be straight). But it would also work if the person you had a crush on was in a relationship, so you could remind yourself oh they’re taken.

    5. neverjaunty

      Great advice. I always think of a novel by a lesbian writer where her character, a long-married woman, compares crushes to getting a stomach bug: sudden, unexpected and something you just have to ride out.

      OP, while AAM is right that you should not persuade yourself that he has a “vibe”, you personally may be letting your crush show and that – not his feelings – are what’s prompting the teasing. Your instincts to keep things professional and politely finding ways to avoid socializing with him are correct.

    6. Bob

      My concern with ongoing crushes at work is slipping into the whole work wife/husband thing. Even if you know for a fact things would never progress past that point, you often have already become the target of gossip. OP said his manager was already teasing him about her so it has already extended past just the two of them.

      1. Rae

        This yes! If I noticed others in the office commenting on how an employee is doing little things to signify trying to spend time with me etc, it is embarrassing and a big wake up call. If you are noticing these things, you can bet others are and they are making all kinds of assumptions behind your back. The manager commenting on the water bottle may have been an attempt at casually admonishing the behavior. Any way you can bet this connection is on other manager’s radars and that is not a good thing even if they make light of it.

        I can’t honestly say I’ve ever had a crush on a manager. I have had coworkers flirt with me, and I usually nip it in the bud and make a point of redirecting to work conversation when this happens. I have also had situations where someone seemed to get bit too personal or spending too much time in my area for no good reason, and I pull back from that part of the relationship completely. When they show up, I make excuses like “Oh I was just running to the restroom, or I’ve got a meeting in 15 minutes so how can I help you?” This gives them a timeline to say what they need to or go away and sends a message that spending personal time with them is not a priority or appropriate

    7. CM

      I actually enjoy my rare work crushes — it’s hard to replicate that giddy feeling in my everyday life. I let myself completely indulge in them on my own, but would never drop a hint to the object of my crush or anybody else. (I guess it helps that even when I was single, I was always really terrible at flirting, so no matter how hard I’m crushing I am incapable of doing anything that somebody would interpret as flirting.) You know you’re not going to act on it, so just have fun with it. Really, you don’t WANT your interest to be reciprocated — that turns it from a fun distraction into a weird interpersonal thing.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        That’s what I do with my crushes, too: I just enjoy the feeling of it without ever doing anything to act on it. I just consider it a normal part of life, as Artemesia says above, and not anything that needs to be acted upon. I just let it fuel some fantasies for awhile and enjoy it as a bit of harmless inward fun.

    8. Elsajeni

      The last time I had a crush on a manager, he (accidentally) did me a solid by growing a hideous beard — that put an end to that. But yes, up until the beard made its appearance, I found the “focus on the things that would drive you nuts about him” strategy useful.

    9. Turanga Leela

      I have posted my rules for work crushes before, and this seems like a good time to re-post them. My goal is always to enjoy having a crush (which is fun! it’s like middle school!) while defusing the situation and preventing it from developing into an affair.

      1) Do not talk to work crush about your work crush.
      2) Continue to see your work crush at work and in normal groups, but don’t spend time alone with him.
      3) If others in office mention that your work crush is attractive, don’t feel like you have to deny it. Acknowledging, “I know, Zoidberg is really attractive!” can relieve some of the crush-related tension.
      4) Enjoy the crush if you can. I used mine as motivation for doing my makeup in the morning.
      5) (optional) Meet the crush’s partner and/or introduce the crush to your partner, so that you reinforce that this is a normal friendship and that there are real people who would be hurt if anything actually happened.

      1. TootsNYC

        Re: rule #3: I’ve even said, “Oh, I have such a crush on him!” to other people. Because if I’m willing to talk about it, then it’s not actually serious. That’s how they seem to react, and it’s really how I react as well.

        And my crush is always about how good the guy is at his job, actually; I admire his brain or the way he problem-solves, or something. So that’s easy to say, “I have such a crush on him–he such a great problem solver.”

        1. sayevet

          Agree! I’ve announced many “professional crushes” and it’s never been turned into anything else or brought up again by someone else.

    10. crushing anonymously

      Can I piggyback on this?

      I have a massive crush on a coworker. I try to concentrate on the things I hate about them but the good things take over. If I genuinely like someone I’m blind to flaws.

      I could handle this except–I’m married, and my spouse said they suspected I’ll have an affair w said coworker (all this was said before I ever had any inkling of feelings for this person). I had online flings in the past that spouse found out and forgave me for and our marriage is stronger now. But I feel horrible. And I hate that I enjoy this persons company so much.

      We don’t hang out alone and we hardly talk outside of work, much less socialize. I don’t want to lose my husband or job.

      1. Turanga Leela

        You can’t control that you like the coworker, but you can control how you act. Don’t see or talk with the person outside of work, unless it’s with a group of coworkers. Make sure you’re not spending more time with this person than other work friends. Keep spending time with your spouse. Your crush will fade eventually.

        And don’t feel horrible! It doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything wrong, and it’s kind of bizarre that your spouse said that he thinks you’ll have an affair. Everyone in a long-term relationship is sometimes attracted to other people. Decide that you’re not going to act on it, don’t give yourself any opportunity to act on it, and then… don’t act on it.

        It doesn’t sound like there’s any reason to lose your husband or your job.

      2. Panda Bandit

        There’s something really off about the way your husband singled out your coworker. While you have had online affairs before, and we don’t have any more details than you’ve given here, his comment doesn’t paint a picture of a great home environment.

    11. Random Citizen

      I’ve found that acknowledging it helps immensely, “Yup, I have a crush on him. That’s nice,” and choosing not to make any decisions based on that. I’m not going to reroute my walking to go past his desk, or past the front door to see if his car is in the parking lot yet, or need things from his department more frequently. It just exists and doesn’t really affect anything, hopefully.

  2. PeachTea

    #4: If you plan to use FMLA, know that 2-3 weeks is NOT enough notice and could see your leave denied. FMLA requires 30 days notice when the need for leave is known in advance.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not an FMLA expert so take my analysis here with some caution, but I think that wouldn’t apply unless she knows the surgery date 30 days ahead of time and just chose not to tell them, which doesn’t sound like the case here. The EEOC’s FMLA factsheet says: “If 30 days advance notice is not possible because the situation has changed or the employee does not know exactly when leave will be required, the employee must provide notice of the need for leave as soon as possible and practical.” (emphasis mine)

      However, it also says this: “For planned medical treatment, the employee must consult with the employer and try to schedule the appointment at a time that minimizes the disruption to the employer. The employee should consult with the employer prior to scheduling the treatment in order to arrange a schedule that best suits the needs of both the employee and employer. Of course, any schedule of treatment is subject to the approval of the treating health care provider.” (This probably qualifies as “planned medical treatment.”)

      All that said, it’s entirely possible she’s not planning to use FMLA for this so it may be moot!

      1. Judy

        I’ve certainly worked with several people who may have had concerns before, but the timeline I heard was “Saw my doctor on Monday, had a specialist appointment on Wednesday, tests on Thursday and surgery the following Monday.” Basically, they left for the tests on Thursday, and returned to the office on Friday to sign paperwork and transfer work and then we didn’t see them for several months.

        1. Paquita

          I had an appointment with my primary care doctor on a Monday, gyn on Thursday, referred to gyn oncologist the next Tuesday, surgery scheduled the following Tuesday. I was out for six weeks. Came back and was told FMLA was automatically approved for any followup appointments required.

      2. nonprofitNY

        Alison is right. I had surgery 3 weeks after a diagnosis and it was fine. I told my employer as soon as I knew that I needed surgery, and then I got them the exact date as soon as it was scheduled, but it was less than 30 days and that was no problem in terms of FMLA. If you need surgery, you need surgery.

        1. Newby

          Part of it is having a reasonable employer. Many employers are not going to be only as flexible as legally required.

      3. Analyst

        FMLA applies to emergency medical care too, right? If I’m in a car wreck and need to be out for two months starting today then it still counts.

        1. Kneefam

          I tore my ACL over Thanksgiving several years ago, and my husband was able to take FMLA to take care of me even though we didn’t have a lot of notice when my surgery actually came around. (Maybe one week?) We had a lot more frustrations working with short-term disability when he shattered his kneecap playing tennis a few years later!

    2. Mando Diao

      OP says she works in a small office. Depending on the size of the whole company, FMLA may not apply.

      1. Ann

        This is exactly what my thoughts were…too small of an organization maybe for FLMA to kick in.

      2. Former Computer Professional

        That was my thought, too. FMLA requires that a company be at least 50 people. Those 50 people must be employed within a 75 mile radius (so that it covers companies with near-ish multiple offices).

  3. Sherm

    #5 OP, consider the reverse situation: If they said “You’re fired, but you can stay for a while” and you say “Nope, I’m gonna leave now,” that doesn’t mean that you can get away with saying you weren’t fired, right? In your case, their saying “Nope, you’re gonna leave now” doesn’t mean that you can’t say that you were the one who chose to end the job.

    1. Ayla K

      This is a really clever way of thinking about many situations – does it still make sense if the tables were turned? It’s the same reason I often wear my favourite sweater more than once during the week. (Do I remember what anyone else wore on Monday? No. Unless it’s especially unique, no one is gonna care.)

  4. Vicki

    #4 – You may not want t tell them what the surgery was for, but as you start to lose the weight, people are going to wonder. And they are going to wonder if you are deathly ill.

    An acquaintance of mine had weight-loss surgery (our favorite waitress at a local diner) and I was very concerned for her. Her face got thinner and she looked sick. Please don’t let your colleagues start whispering that you have cancer.

    1. WIncredulous

      Wat. The fact that people will gossip doesn’t mean OP has to tel them her medical issues/history!

      1. INFJ

        Why does it have to be gossip? Why can’t it be genuine concern? I like to try to give people the benefit of the doubt…

    2. Kate the Little Teapot

      She could say “I gained some weight due to a medical condition recently – the condition has now been treated by surgery and so I’m losing the weight. No one needs to worry about me.”

      Actually true!

      1. Calliope~

        I wish I’d thought of that when I had my WLS 8 years ago! That’s actually perfect!

      2. CM

        I was thinking along the same lines, that she could say had surgery to correct a medical issue and her doctors said the weight loss was expected and normal.

    3. So Very Anonymous

      Isn’t this kind of nosiness exactly why the OP wrote in? She doesn’t have to disclose this kind of information.

      1. Big al LPN

        Look when someone you see everyday drops 50lbs in a few months it’s a normal human reaction to be concerned. Gastric bypass or Banding patients often have other very noticeable issues after surgery the most obvious being the inability to eat a normal portion of food, and the need for a high protein diet. Other issues can be vomiting and dumping syndrome while the person figures out what they can and cannot eat. If my coworker dropped weight, puked three times a week, ran to the bathroom like they were on fire, and had no appetite I would really be worried they had colon cancer or something.

        1. Ultraviolet

          Yeah, I agree that there’s more to it than simple nosiness. It’s very likely that some people will genuinely worry. But that doesn’t obligate OP4 to reveal personal medical information in order to reassure them, which I think is the more important point here.

          1. Myrin

            I think that is key in this situation. I can 100% understand being worried about someone exhibiting the described symptoms, especially someone you like, but my desire to be assured that they do not in fact have Deadly Illness doesn’t trump the other person’s desire to actually keep her medical record private.

            (And let’s be real, as nothing more than a friendly coworker, what would you even be able to do even if it turned out the person does indeed have Deadly Illness? Other than maybe being extra nice or something which you can do whether or not you know what’s up with coworker. Even if people are genuinely worried, wanting to know more still boils down to nosiness because in the end, it’s all about “I do not want to need to worry anymore”.)

            1. Xanadu

              In our organization, I could actually donate vacation and sick time to the coworker to use to stay home if they’re not feeling well. So there is kind of a culture of concern here because we try to top up people who are going through medical issues.

              1. JB (not in Houston)

                Yes, but even if your work, can’t you all just wait for the person to ask for the time before you start asking them if they have cancer/are dying and need the time? Seems like with something that serious, the coworker should get to decide when they are ready to tell people and in what context and manner.

        2. Mando Diao

          The difference here is that OP’s coworkers will likely put it together that she’s taking time off for surgery and then will be visibly dropping a lot of weight. Once OP starts feeling better and is confident in the success of her surgery, she might even decide she’s okay with talking about it openly.

      2. Raine

        Yes. That poor waitress — people already are weirdly intrusive when it comes to customer service workers, I don’t even want to think about how many customers said inappropriate things to her.

        1. Petronella

          Yes, it’s interesting how if one’s job requires interaction with the public, many people seem to think that means one is permanently on display to the public for review and commentary.

    4. hbc

      Please don’t be a colleague who starts whispering that someone has cancer.

      It’s okay to be concerned, it’s okay to ask if everything’s all right (once.) But blaming gossip on the person who had something going on and chose to keep it private? Gross.

    5. AthenaC

      There’s a recurring theme here, with this and other letters – What obligations to we collectively have to each other? Or, Am I my brother’s keeper?

      I will pretty much always err on the side of reaching out to a person. If they have a support system or are simply private or if nothing is wrong or they simply don’t like me – fine. But the number of times I have had someone respond positively, whether it’s “I needed help and didn’t know who to talk to” or “Thanks for noticing the weight loss! Let me tell you why I decided to take care of myself this way!” or “It feels so good to have someone listen and understand!” – that tells me that on the whole it’s worth the risk to at least ask.

      1. AthenaC

        P.S. With the caveat that you ask ONE QUESTION and that is it. If they want to talk they will, if they don’t, they won’t. DON’T PUSH. (See Ultraviolet’s comment below)

        1. Jillociraptor

          Yeah, I think it’s a totally fine approach to reach out to someone once to check in on them (if you’re capable of doing it without a gossipy tone), and if you hear that they aren’t interested in discussing it with you, you drop it.

          It’s the people who hear, “Thanks, but I don’t really want to talk about it at work” and just dig deeper that create the problem.

      2. neverjaunty

        “Worth the risk” to whom?

        Don’t get me wrong, I think reaching out to people in a polite and vague way can often be the right thing to do. It can also, depending on who is doing it and how it’s done, be simple nosiness pretending to be altruism.

        1. AthenaC

          Well, when you reach out to someone you risk offending them, no matter how polite or how genuine or how non-pushy you are. Heck, you risk offending them just by saying, “Hello.” So the risk is twofold: 1) discomfort on the part of the other person; and 2) discomfort on your part when the other person bites your head off.

          1. LBK

            Your discomfort for getting a bad reaction to trying to pry into someone’s personal life is your own fault; I don’t think you can list those two things as if they’re equivalent or as if the consequences of that prying can be just as bad for you as they can for the person whose privacy is being pressured.

            1. AthenaC

              It was simply a list in answer to a question. I made no representations regarding equivalency or relative severity. Everyone’s patchwork quilt of preferences and hair-triggers are different, so you can’t even reliably assert that #2 is necessarily more severe than #1 for any particular individual or individuals.

        2. LBK

          I agree, and I think people generally have a very bad self-awareness gauge on whether they genuinely care or if they’re just being nosy, especially in the office where people don’t tend to have strong personal relationships where it would really be appropriate to try to act as that kind of emotional support.

          1. Anon For This

            I don’t think “they might think I’m just being nosy” is a good reason to not reach out to someone if you are genuinely concerned. There are assholes everywhere, but those assholes shouldn’t dictate whether or not we show concern.

            1. neverjaunty

              Sure, and there’s nothing wrong with a very vague “how are you doing?” in lots of cases. But LBK is right that a lot of people justify being intensely curious (i.e. nosy) to themselves by saying they’re just concerned. And sometimes they ARE concerned, too.

    6. Katie F

      I understand what you’re saying, Vicki – I would worry, too, if a colleague in a small office who I interacted with ALL THE TIME took some medical leave and returned looking like the main character in Thinner. But I think it’s as simple as this:

      Coworker: “OP, how’s your health these days? I haven’t seen you eating and I’m just a little worried.”
      OP: “I appreciate your concern, but trust me, it’s a medical issue that is currently being taken care of and I’d prefer to keep it private for now, thanks.”

      I think very few people would push after that. There might be some gossip, but when ISN’T there gossip in a small workplace? Shrug off the gossip, keep up the “it’s a medical issue, it’s taken care of, keeping it private, thanks for your concern about my health” and move on.

      OP may eventually find it easier to just explain, but at least at first that should be all they need to say.

      1. Katie F

        In my own experience – it wasn’t weight-loss surgery, but I had to undergo surgery in order to make it so I would be able to carry a pregnancy to term. I worked in an office of five people, with quite literally the worst human being I’ve ever met as my boss.

        When I took leave, HR knew what it was for, and ONE of my coworkers knew what it was for because she and I were very close and she had gone through similar issues in her own early adulthood (she was in her 60’s when I had surgery, and at the time they weren’t able to treat her like they were me, so she was really interested in what had changed in the intervening 40 years). My two male coworkers and Psycho Boss? All they knew was that I went out on leave for a medical issue. The two male coworkers, who I got along well with, knew some kind of surgery was involved. Boss only knew “medical treatment”.

        He tried several times to get HR to tell him what the medical leave was for and even asked HR for my doctor’s contact information so he could try and get the info out of HER, but HR didn’t budge – your boss and coworkers don’t need to know anything but “Out, leave is approved, back on such-and-such date.”

          1. Katie F

            He was pretty universally hated – one of those situations where someone odious made it into a position in local government and kissed enough very important buttocks to always be able to wriggle out of stuff that would get anyone else fired.

            Although he was, eventually, fired – thank God.

          1. Katie F

            Our HR was a single woman who had her hands tied on so many things that she dearly wanted to do something about when it came to him – I think she was just thrilled to be able to finally have the power to say “no” to him and actually help one of us.

            It was a local government situation, and when I ran into anyone from other departments people would repeatedly tell me how sorry they were that I was forced to work for Psycho Boss and hoped I’d find a new department to transfer into soon.

          1. Katie F

            This would be the same boss who was eventually reprimanded and formally written up by HR for constantly referring to my (unpaid, FMLA, approved) maternity leave as “vacation” and “slacking off from work” and “playing hooky”. He was just a peach.

        1. Observer

          He asked HR for your doctor’s contact information so he could ask your doctor to do something illegal? Yeah, a real peach!

    7. The Other Dawn

      As a WLS patient myself, it’s not my job to make nosy people feel better about their wonderings. If they want to think I have cancer, that’s on them.

      I was totally open about my WLS, but that’s because I have normal coworkers and a boss who were supportive. And I really didn’t give a shit what people thought. (WLS is a tool for lasting weight loss. Nothing more. What people do with that tool is what matters; it’s not a magic pill.) Nobody ever asked me if I was sick or told me I look sick, even the people who didn’t know.

      1. AJS

        I had the same experience. I told everyone, both at work and in my personal life, and I seldom got anything but support. Other people’s circumstances may be different, but I expected the best from people and got it.

        It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it takes a lot of courage. It’s a big step.

      2. MnGreeneyes

        As a fellow WLS patient, I concur. Before surgery, I chose to tell a select few of my colleagues because we have a cliquey, high school-like group. They didn’t get told. I am sure by the time I returned that more people had heard, but there are a bunch I didn’t tell. My attitude was that it wasn’t their business. My plan was to say that I was having abdominal surgery. Once I came back to work I also started exercising more extensively so although my weight loss was quick, it wasn’t entirely unexplainable. I have also now lost some significant amount of hair on my crown. I was expecting that and was ready to get a wig if it got too bad, but it hasn’t.

        Nobody ever asked me if I was sick, even the ones who didn’t know about the surgery or are from outside my department. Because I started making changes to my lifestyle before surgery, I could attribute my weight loss to that.

        OP#4 – Best wishes to you. I can honestly say this was the best decision I ever made. If it is right for you, you will be happy you did it, eventhough right now it is a bit scary.

        pam

    8. TootsNYC

      My deputy used Alison’s wording almost exactly. I did appreciate being told it wasn’t serious; I care about her, and I would have worried.

      I will say this: I had a suspicion this is what it was because of what she didn’t say (we share some stuff, so it meant something that she didn’t say “It’s a gall bladder thing).

      And Vicki is right about people guessing after the fact–When she came back, she was slimmer, and she’s only getting slimmer. So I have a feeling my suspicion is correct. I’m glad for her.

      But I totally understand why she wasn’t specific, and I’m not saying anything about my suspicion, because so many people have judge-y attitudes about that surgery.

      Vicki’s also right about people thinking you’re sick–My mom went on the Atkins diet and lost a lot of weight, relatively rapidly. By the time many of us saw her again, it was really marked. She was very skinny, when she had normally been plump or plump-ish. She was smart to mention it to us either before we saw her or shortly after. If she’d been coy about the cause of the weight loss, we’d have been pretty panicked.

      1. TootsNYC

        wanted to say–of course, we were family.

        For a colleague, if someone expressed any worries (“Are you OK? You’ve lost a lot of weight suddenly”), I’d suggest, “I’ve just found a diet that works really well for me–I’m healthy, I promise.” and maybe “thanks for worrying.”

        If they ask about your magic trick, you say, “I’m finally able to keep my portion sizes really small, and I’m focusing on healthier choices. More protein, for one.”

        Hey–that’s all factual!

    9. Janice in Accounting

      Actually, it’s possible people might not even notice, at least not for a while. One of my coworkers just had WLS and he came back to work after a week; he looked completely normal and has been losing weight steadily, but since I see him every day it’s not particularly noticeable. I certainly wouldn’t think he is deathly ill; if I didn’t know about the surgery I’d just assume he was working out and eating better.

    1. LiveAndLetDie

      I think that would make my reaction to someone swing way too far in the other direction! Then there’d be a letter a from the manager later. “I think one of my coworkers hates me and I can’t figure out why…”

      1. Kelly L.

        The actor certainly is. It adds to the unsettlingness of the character, I think. Fantasy sometimes has the problem of having evil characters being really ugly, so you know at a glance who to boo and hiss at, but in real life, as with Ramsay, evil can lurk behind any exterior.

        1. AthenaC

          Which is why I was super excited to see Hans in Frozen be the bad guy – he was the bad guy despite being sweet and attentive and saying and doing all the right things – just like the bad guys in real life! Great thing for kids to start wrapping their heads around so they hopefully don’t get sucker-punched later.

          1. Artemesia

            I watched this with my Granddaughter who was enraptured by the whole Frozen Thing and I remember getting angrier and angrier as the story unfolded and Anna was willing to marry this guy she hardly knew because ‘Prince’ — and then Hans shows his cards and actually says something about how foolish she was to be willing to accept him without knowing him for 5 minutes — GREAT lesson. Still the King and Queen were certainly up for worst parents ever awards.

          2. Emmy

            I watched Beauty and the Beast with a four year old niece when it came out and she whispered the first time she saw Gaston, “He’s the good guy.” Since I knew the story I whispered back, “Let’s watch and see.” She was so surprised and it was such a good thing. (Of course, the beast did turn handsome after all, but he was still the hero as the beast.)

        2. the gold digger

          My Shakespeare professor in college (Dr Dennis Huston, who just retired) would have us cast the plays with movie actors. For Othello, we were putting unattractive men in the role of Iago.

          “No,” Dr Huston said. “It needs to be Robert Redford.” (This was when Redford was still quite attractive and his skin had not been ruined by the sun – wear sunblock and a hat, people!)

          As we all gasped in shock, he continued. “If evil announced itself, it would be easy to resist. Evil is beautiful and seductive and that’s why people succumb to it.”

          1. SophieChotek

            That’s a good point; my art teacher and social historian would make the same point; beauty is often considered an indicator of someone’s “goodness” and “lack of looks” (ugliness, looks not coinciding with cultural norms) often leads to assumptions of “evil, not trustworthy” — often quite false. (I think several studies have shown this is still true today; many make subconscious judgments about people based on looks, which have nothing to do with character.) Good point for Iago–though can’t even see a younger Robert Redford as Iago.

          2. Artemesia

            Robert Redford played ‘death’ in one of the old old Twilight Zones early in his career and Brad Pitt, the same, in a movie later. Huston is exactly right; evil needs to be handsome and charming as it so often is.

              1. TeaCozy

                Yes, the whole point of the episode was that Death wasn’t “really so bad” and that dying would be gentle and come as a relief, not the horror show the old woman was expecting.

          3. Amadeo

            Your Prof was right. So goes the saying “The Devil doesn’t come to you with horns, a pitchfork and a cape, he comes to you as everything you’ve ever wished for.” Evil can appear very beautiful indeed.

        3. Chinook

          ” Fantasy sometimes has the problem of having evil characters being really ugly, so you know at a glance who to boo and hiss at, but in real life, as with Ramsay, evil can lurk behind any exterior.”

          This is why I like the Frank / Black Jack dichotomy of Outlander. One is a loving, concerned husband and the other a sadistic monster and both are played by the same actor. It makes you truly remember that looks are just a mask.

      2. Boo

        Ever see the actor who plays him in Misfits? He had this incredible storyline where he went from socially awkward and slightly creepy to superpowered romantic lead. It was ace.

        1. YaH

          I’m actually rewatching Misfits right now because of the Simon/Alisha storyline. I was in the mood for super-romantic-ness.

        2. Liana

          I LOVED the Misfits. I stopped keeping up with it after season 3, unfortunately, but that’s the first place I saw Iwan Rheon (the actor). I’ve also seen him do a couple interviews and he seems to be a genuinely nice, sweet person who gets a bit of a kick out of playing someone as evil as Ramsay Bolton.

          1. cataloger

            Agreed. It’s so good through season 3! I didn’t make it very far after that; it got terrible pretty fast.

      3. Karo

        I agree that Iwan Rheon is really cute…I can’t type that about Ramsay, though. :p

      4. Lucky

        He reminds me of Skippy, the dorky neighbor in 80s sitcom Family Ties. It’s very confusing.

      5. Bowserkitty

        Just watch Misfits if you haven’t yet. I absolutely fell in love with Iwan Rheon’s character, Simon. It’s quite weird for me to hear about people hating this Ramsay fellow because I have yet to watch GoT ;(

      6. Cath in Canada

        I’ve thought the same thing occasionally, and then needed brain bleach!

        He’s so enormously entertaining to watch that I’m kiiiiiiinda hoping he sticks around for a little while longer… as long as he doesn’t kill any other good characters first…

    2. Laura

      LOVED that one. I’m still catching up on GoT but Ramsay was evil right from the get-go!

  5. Engineer Girl

    #3 Is there any space at all between the desks? If there is I would go to a plastics store and buy a piece of plastic to slide between the desks. Make sure it sticks up around 6 inches above the desk. Something out of clear plastic or dark clear plastic would look professional. Just have the piece cut to the depth of your desk by the height + 6 inches.

    1. Artemesia

      And if there isn’t you could still get a plastic barrier and glue it to the desk — but you so should not have to do so. Hope that always pushing her stuff back will eventually work. What a tool.

      1. snuck

        If I was feeling smarmy I might put a sticky tape line down like kids do … but that’s not professional… the thought makes me giggle.

        I don’t know that there’s an easy solution – if she really doesn’t care then this could be a long fought battle. There are some items that are less likely to be touched/moved… could you put your handbag or a big heavy book or similar at that point (if it doesn’t interfere with your use of the desk) and see if that helps her understand the boundary? People are less like to touch another person’s personal item.

        If you aren’t using the space is it just a turf war? If you are needing it (even if it’s just that you have a normal sized bubble and this desk is making it hard to maintain even that) then spread out over it… put your intray across that part, rearrange your desk maybe to allow for your things to be there.

        Alternatively a small cork board or white board you can keep some lists on could go there? Even if it’s a picture frame with cork in it and a list of frequently used numbers… making a little wall between you and her? But this will be seen as a wall… there’s no way around it… it’s a pretty solid statement – but it sounds like you are ok with that – you’ve spoken to her a few times and if you want to rachet it up a little and make a stand maybe that’s how?

        1. Minion

          A tiny roll of barbed wire, perhaps? Place those little green crawling army men in a line as sentries? Put up a “Police Line Do Not Cross” ribbon? Get a nerf gun and shoot nerf darts every time she encroaches?

          There are WAY too many inappropriate ways to deal with this that make me giggle. It also makes me super grateful for my private office and really huge desk. I have room to spread out.

          Sorry you’re having to deal with this, OP, but if you choose to use any of the suggestions I’ve posted here, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, get reactions on video and post an update. ;)

          1. the gold digger

            Getting exasperated enough after asking your office mates a million times not to put their stuff on your desk when they have their own desks three feet away that you sweep everything to the floor with your arm is probably not a good idea.

            But it felt great.

            And it worked.

            1. Master Bean Counter

              Slightly better than what I did. Many, many times I told my coworker who would spread out across an aisle to use my nice clean work space to get her stuff off my desk many times. Debbie you can spread out on the table in the copy room. Debbie take your stuff to the conference room. Debbie get your stuff off my desk! etc…
              One day I got up to go grab a stack of new laptops in boxes in the other room to bring back for processing to my desk. I was gone for like two minutes. In two minutes she had spread the newspaper out on my desk. I saw it on my way back and told her to move her stuff. She didn’t. I ended up putting down the stack of computers quickly as they were getting heavier right on her finger that she stuck in the middle of the way to point something out in the newspaper to somebody else.
              Apparently it hurt. My only response, “Sorry, but there was a reason I asked you to move.” She never used my desk again.

        2. Artemesia

          She has tried putting her inbox and such there and the queen of sibling rivalry (Mommmmm she is on my side of the car) just opens her notebooks across them. I think subtle is officially out. The OP needs to be terse and clear about it. A life of having to shove her stuff back will make every day stressful and tedious. Time for tact is over time for ‘What do I need to do to get you to stop taking over my desk?’

          1. Connie-Lynne

            This! It’s a straightforward question and puts the onus on coworker to acknowledge the situation!

          2. Sami

            It’s not the OP’s responsibility to “need to get you to stop taking over my desk?”
            I’d say: “What needs to happen so that your work stays on your desk?”
            Small difference, but powerful.

        3. Koko

          I just wanted to address the idea that if she’s not “using the space” it’s just a “turf war.”

          This might sound silly to some, but for me, I am using empty space. Visual clutter makes a small but noticeable impact on my stress level and ability to focus. It’s actually very important to me psychologically to have a clear desk with very few items on it. I can see how someone might think I’m just being petty about how it’s my space and no one else should use it “even though I’m not using it,” but honestly, to my mind, I *am* using it. I’m using it to immerse myself in an uncluttered bubble around me that enhances my concentration, calm mood, and productivity.

          1. snuck

            And actually … that’s a very valid point.

            I too work like that. For the same reason.

    2. Band geek

      I have a similar set up and both desks are manned 7 days a week, so there are various people sitting at each all the time. Also, there are always people dropping stuff off at each of our desks. What has worked well for me is to tell all players (the person working there and the dropper offers) the crack between the desks is a Wall That Shall Not be Breached and Every Time any little thing crosses, I push it back and tell them please keep it on their side. The ‘regulars’ are all trained, but we seem to get a steady stream of fill ins, so it is an ongoing battle. But I’ve found if you firmly tell them you need this boundary and remind them every time, they start respecting it. I’ve heard one of the people that sits at my desk regularly breaches the wall, and they’ve started training him the same way, and it’s working. And he’s been here 18 years, so there is hope.
      I like the plastic divider idea mentioned above, too.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer

        I like it as well but I think it should be taller. The co-worker is already propping her items against whatever OP places at the boundary; a piece of plexiglass would seem very handy and then the boundary is breached. I’d go 8-10 inches so the wall can only serve as a book-end for her files.

        1. Artemesia

          This. But only after a firm discussion that makes clear that propping her stuff on my desk is not acceptable.

        2. TootsNYC

          And I wouldn’t want it to be clear; stuff leaning on it will feel as though it’s entering the OP’s mental concentration bubble.

    3. OP 3

      The desks are bolted together with no space between them. I like the idea of some kind of divider though and will think about getting something like this and securing it to the desk somehow, if the problem persists. Thank you!

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger

    OP #3, I agree with Alison about being direct – it sounds like your coworker isn’t getting your nonverbal hints, and that your behavior might be starting to turn passive-aggressive. If so, that won’t be good for your relationship with her or your own emotional well-being. Keep being specific about what bugs you. She may think “oh, OP doesn’t want me to leave things right in front of her workspace, but leaning my folder on her inbox is ok” – when it’s not.

    1. Colette

      I’m inclined to think the OP is out of line if the inbox is at the edge of her desk and she’s bothered by her coworker leaning stuff on it, which is how I read the letter. In that scenario, the coworker’s stuff is entirely on her desk. The fact that it’s touching the OP’s stuff shouldn’t matter.

      Certainly, it’s reasonable to expect the coworker to keep her stuff on her desk, but not to expect stuff to never touch in cramped quarters.

      1. Talvi

        I didn’t read it so much as her co-worker’s stuff merely touching her inbox or even leaning against the side of the inbox (in which case, sure, let it go) so much as leaning over the top of it – I’m visualizing something like one cover of an open folder or binder draped over top of the OP’s inbox. She shouldn’t have to always be lifting her co-worker’s things in order to access her own.

      2. Duncan

        Touching, yes, but my reading of the post was that the binder was over/on top of the inbox and the OP had to move it to get to items in the inbox. Not cool.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Yes, the OP specified that the binder was blocking her access to the inbox. That means it was at least partially if not totally covering it. I would probably take the binder and hand it to them at that point.

      3. Minion

        My thought was that maybe when coworkers things are leaned against OP’s tray, the weight of it pushes it slowly back across the desk. That could be my imagination as OP doesn’t state that clearly, but that’s the only reason I can think of that it would cause irritation for OP.

        1. OP 3

          It’s a mixture. The binders block my access to my tray as the binder covers are heavy (so they kind of fall across the top of the tray). The other think she does is use my tray like one would a cook book stand, i.e. she props up a bundle of loose papers against the side. Sometimes they don’t then fall over my tray but sometimes they do. It’s got to the point where even having her papers propped against my tray (with no ‘overhang’) really bugs me. I think my nerves are so jangled that I’m letting even slight impinging of my space bother me when before it wouldn’t have. I see the distinction you’re making here and that’s useful for me to understand that. I’m more inclined to let that go now and keep my verbal prompts for the times when she really is taking my space. Thanks!

          1. TootsNYC

            I’d vote for the opposite. I’d vote for pushing back for everything, to regain as much ground as you can.

            I’d even say to her, “Look, this is really starting to bug me. I’m actually angry about it now, because I’ve said something nicely and you blew me off. By now, I’m so annoyed that I don’t want your stuff to even touch my stuff. Pretend we’re 7 and 8, and there’s a line of tape down the middle the seat in the back of the car. I don’t really care how juvenile it sounds now, because I already asked you like an adult.”

            1. OP 3

              Really? This is what I’d like to do actually – push back on everything. Part of the stress comes from trying to weigh up whether what she does each time is bad enough to address or whether to hold on until she inevitably does something worse. By pushing back on every incident, I would avoid that stress.

              Thanks for your comments above and below this one too. I’m glad I checked back today. I like your completely asssertive approach.

  7. Elizabeth the Ginger

    OP #2, you say you are an office of three people – depending on your relationship with the third person, you might get them to mention to the boss how it’ll impact them if there’s not a leave replacement in place.

    Also, your boss may not be aware that due dates are rough predictions, nothing more – and that babies sometimes come early! My coworker just delivered at 33 weeks (7 weeks early). She’s fine, the baby’s fine, and we found a leave replacement for her quickly – but it was a definite surprise for everyone! I very much hope you don’t have this situation, but it might help to mention to your boss that this does sometimes happen. It might light a bit more of a fire under his seat.

    1. Rebecca

      And other complications can arise. There are several pregnant ladies in one of our offices, and we started looking at how to cover for them. Two are due in later this summer, but we just heard that one may be developing preeclamsia, and could be ordered to bed rest, making the possible coverage time much longer than just the standard maternity leave. OP’s boss could find himself suddenly without the employee to do the training, plus having to cover for a much longer time.

      1. Always Anon

        I had a co-worker several years ago, who went in for a routine 28 week check-up and had to go onto bedrest for the last ten weeks of her pregnancy. We were scrambling, because while we knew she would be out, we didn’t anticipate she would be out that soon. Things happen. My co-worker thought she’d be working until she was 40 weeks, not that she’d be laying in bed for 10 weeks at the busy time of the year for us (in our case everyone pitched in and we were fine, we just had to readjust what could and couldn’t get completed during that time).

      2. Murphy

        Yup! I was written off work at 31.5 weeks because my pelvis decided to split apart farther than normal and I couldn’t walk without using the walls as a brace and crying. That was much earlier than we were expecting (and I’d planned to be off early at 37 weeks). This boss is being really shortsighted, but that doesn’t make it the OPs problem.

      3. Ineloquent

        I’m in a situation very similar to the one OP describes – I’ve been waiting 7 months for my management team to appropriately staff my group. The only difference is that my two immediate coworkers quit. I’m at 35 weeks now, and my doctor told me last week that I need to stay at home with my feet up as much as possible. I’m not on bedrest, but I’m close. So, for coverage, we have one guy, who I was able to train for exactly a week before leaving the office (this job generally takes months to really learn), and three other people from other parts of the business who are all trying to take on pieces of my huge workload on top of their normal jobs. The result? Resentment towards my management, burnout, stress, frustration and chaos. Stuff’s being dropped, there’s expensive business impact, and it’s just going to get worse when I really start my leave of absence Thursday.

        So what can you do, OP? Well, the only thing that has kept the stress off of me is to create desktop work instructions detailed enough that a temp could use them to preform key tasks (good to have in any case!) and to recognize that this is neither your fault or your problem. This is a management failure. I’d advise that you look into pregnancy discrimination laws for your state too, in the event your boss tries anything nasty (not that he will, but education is empowering).

        If you’re on FMLA, you are not legally allowed to help the out while on leave. If you can’t take FMLA, you are entitled to whatever leave you are taking and can be just as unavailable as you need to be – full stop. You will have just undergone a very serious and potentially life threatening medical intervention, and you need time to recover. Spend your time taking care of yourself and getting to know your baby – don’t waste it trying to help a bad manager cover his butt.

      4. Rob Lowe can't read

        Yup! One of our moms-to-be just recently got put on bed rest, though she is not due for a few weeks. (Luckily TPTB were smart enough to hire on one of our great interns to cover the leave! I’m really hoping they’ll keep Intern on for the full maternity leave, but I don’t know if they’d already planned to hire someone else.)

  8. Ultraviolet

    OP4 -One way to deflect nosy questions related to your weight or health would be to just tell people you’re fine. Pretend that they were asking out of genuine concern for you and would be satisfied to hear all’s well.

    Examples:
    Nosy Coworker: What’s your surgery for?
    You: Nothing to worry about!

    Nosy Coworker: I hear you had surgery recently.
    You: Yep, it went well and everything’s fine.

    Nosy Coworker: You’ve lost a lot of weight!
    You: Yeah, nothing to worry about though.

    Nosy Coworker: Is that all you’re eating for lunch?
    You: Don’t worry, it’s good!

    If they double down (“No, I really want to know!”), try “Seriously, don’t worry about it” or possibly, “I appreciate your concern, but that’s all I’ve got to say about that.” Truly caring about their concern is of course optional.

    Actually in general I really like deflecting nosy questions with a variation on “Don’t worry about it!” (Funny I’m talking about it today after the Thursday post about the coworker who was kind of trying to deflect work-related questions with it.) You can warm up the tone to the point where you sound genuinely reassuring, or make it more cool and brusque to convey “We’re not discussing this.”

    (I should probably be really clear that if “all’s well” is more information than you prefer to reveal, that’s totally okay. This is just the technique I have that I wanted to share.)

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Well, if “don’t worry about it!” is sort of code for “that’s not really your business,” then it’s super appropriate as a response to nosy personal questions and super inappropriate as a response to work-related ones!

      1. Ultraviolet

        >ASK COWORKER ABOUT SURGERY
        You don’t need to worry about your coworker’s surgery.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Yesssss all workplace problems should be simulated in old-school text adventures!

          >SUE BOSS FOR BEING A JERK
          Your lawyer shrugs and says, “Sorry, that’s legal!”

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            >CO-WORKER QUACKS AT YOU IN THE HALLWAY
            You can’t wait to meet him in the darkened copy room in ten minutes; that guy is HAWT!

          2. CM

            > PUSH COWORKER’S FILES BACK ON TO HER DESK
            The coworker smiles at you apologetically, and a moment later places her files back on your desk.
            > PUSH COWORKER’S FILES BACK ON TO HER DESK
            The coworker smiles at you apologetically, and a moment later places her files back on your desk.
            > SMACK COWORKER
            There’s no need for violence!
            > PUSH COWORKER’S FILES BACK ON TO HER DESK
            The coworker smiles at you apologetically, and a moment later places her files back on your desk.

  9. Myrin

    It’s too early here for me to think of any comment of substance but I do have to mention how much I cracked up at “a libidinous scene”.

  10. agirlhasnoname

    OP1: I’ve had this problem once or twice too. As someone else said above it’s totally normal and the best course of action is to just not act upon it. I found if I didn’t interact with the crush for a week or two that the feelings ended up going away on their own. Keep a professional barrier up and hopefully this will pass on its own.

  11. Blurgle

    OP 2: If you are in Canada be very very careful if your boss asks you to train your temp after you’ve gone on mat leave. In fact, I’d call Service Canada if he asks.

    1. NJ Anon

      #2 In my state, you cannot work while collecting disability. It is considered fraud.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Wait, isn’t that a very different situation? Working while collecting disability is fraud because you are illegally being paid twice, so to speak. But working at your own job while on FMLA seems like a completely different animal (not that it’s right, but I’m not sure it would be considered fraud). I know I’m misunderstanding something here.

        1. NJ Anon

          FMLA and disability are 2 different things. You cannot collect disability and work even unpaid. If you can work, you shouldn’t be on disability. That’s why it’s considered fraud.

        2. R Adkins

          I think NJ Anon may have been trying to point out that many people out on FMLA for maternity leave receive short term disability, so working while receiving it could disqualify them.

          1. The Rat-Catcher

            +1

            If a company has paid maternity leave, that’s usually how it’s covered. If you’re using your own leave (like I have to), it’s a different story.

          2. TootsNYC

            Both my maternity leaves started as short-term disability (6 weeks), turned into vacation (3 or 4 weeks), and ended with unpaid weeks.

      1. Tris Prior

        Hmm, good to know. I have a pregnant friend whose boss is very upset about her pregnancy and is telling her she must work during leave because he cannot afford to/does not want to hire a replacement even temporarily. Tiny company, though, so she is probably screwed. I am not certain whether she is using disability or just hoarding her pto, though.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          I can understand that, what with this ability of women to bear children being such a new thing and all.

          Boss is still reeling from the shock and unable to gather himself enough to deal with making plan.

        2. Ineloquent

          Your friend should look into state pregnancy discrimination laws too. That dude sucks.

          1. TootsNYC

            yeah, never overlook state laws (Alison makes this point often enough that it has really registered with me). Some state laws are actually more restrictive on employers than federal.

  12. been there

    For question 1, I was in a similar situation. What helped me is to separate what I can control (my behavior) from the things I can’t control (my attraction), and then to stop spending thought on what I can’t control. The attraction isn’t a bad thing by itself, it’s not something I have to feel bad about, it’s not something I have to try to suppress or eliminate. It just is.

    On the other hand, I’m obviously responsible for my behavior. I’m also responsible for my thoughts; asking whether there’s a vibe is a path that does no one any good, and so I would redirect my train of thought if it started going that way.

    The result was that my internal dialog was a lot of “Yes, he’s good looking, but it’s not your business to notice. Back to work.”

  13. Cody's Dad

    OP1: First good for you for realing (and admitting) you are married and you would play with fire if you acted on your feelings with someone in the workplace. Watch “He’s Just not into You”. Listen carefully to the words of wisodm from the bartender….the time to your crush left his waterbottle behind, um ya he left his water bottle behind, nothing more.

    1. Applesauced

      I am a sucker for this movie… I’ve seen it before, but if I’m flipping channels and it’s on, well, there goes my afternoon!

  14. Jen RO

    #3 – In the name of people everywhere with untidy desks… I am sorry. And I am lucky that the guy who sits next to me offered half his desk in case my crap doesn’t fit on mine anymore…

    Anyway, I don’t do it on purpose. I’m just messy by nature and stuff tends to pile up. I do move it to my side of the desk when I realize, but sometimes I just don’t. Keep addressing it with your coworker, but don’t assume she is doing it out of malice or to spite you.

    1. Karo

      +1. I’m not messy, per say, but I spread out a lot. I’m really lucky that I have a large desk and that there is a neutral zone between me and my nearest co-worker. If I ever encroach I promise I’m not doing it on purpose!

    2. neverjaunty

      “I have tendencies to be messy” is way different from choosing not to notice on an ongoing basis, which is what the LW’s co-worker is doing.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer

        Is she choosing not to notice or is she focusing on a phone call? The first few times described could be habit. Retraining is going to take time. The second set described the coworker was on a call. I know I have to focus just on the call and can’t process anything else going on. That could read as not caring when I’m really just trying to focus. As the OP I would do my best not to interpret this behavior as anything more than an annoying habit. It’s just going to take time and persistence.

        1. fposte

          Yeah, I’ve worked with people who would genuinely not notice. They’re share-and-share-alike people. To them learning not to touch somebody else’s desk is like learning to deal with Les Nessman’s imaginary walls.

          1. AthenaC

            I had a roommate like that – always using my stuff, always eating my food. He even drank my wine and didn’t replace it until I got mad. Then he didn’t understand why I was mad when he replaced my $20 bottle with a $6 bottle (wine is wine, right?).

            So, to get back at him I decided to eat his leftovers one day. And he didn’t care. Not one bit. That was when I realized that his concept of personal space / personal property was just very different from mine. He wasn’t trying to be a jerk or anything, but it still meant that we weren’t compatible as roommates.

            1. fposte

              That’s the sign! They genuinely don’t care if you put your stuff on their desk and eat their food. It’s like they have no possessive pronouns.

              1. neverjaunty

                But there’s a difference between ‘they don’t notice on their own’ and ‘they continue not to notice when you’ve pointed it out’. A roommate who doesn’t mind if you eat his leftovers, or a co-worker who doesn’t mind if you put stuff on her desk, is one thing. But when you’ve said “hey, please don’t do that” and they keep doing it, it’s not that they “don’t notice”. It’s that they don’t care enough to try and modify their behavior.

                1. fposte

                  I don’t think it’s that black and white, though. It’s that it’s never mattered and they’ve thought about it at all, and now they’re having to learn to think about it. Changing a habit is always a slow thing, whether it’s our own or somebody else’s.

                  (And sure, sometimes your seatmate is a jackass. But I think when you’re asking somebody to change a habit, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to ask a few times.)

                2. NolongerMsCleo

                  I think this is along the same lines of people who don’t care about time and if they are late places. If timing isn’t a big deal to them, it’s really hard to make them see your side and urgency. They aren’t meaning to be rude, even if you explain to them why it is, it is just a foreign concept to them.
                  I’m compulsively early and even when I try to be late, like if I’m hanging out with someone who is always late, I end up being about 5 minutes early (while panicking that I’m going to be late). It’s one of those things that is really hard to compromise on because points of view are so different.

                3. neverjaunty

                  I don’t think it’s black and white, but I do think that there’s a difference between the person who tries and makes mistakes as they re-learn habits, and the person who at best makes a half-hearted attempt to improve while having to be constantly reminded, while making excuses about how they “just don’t notice” those things. Especially when the effect of their “not noticing” means “getting to carry on as they are while inconveniencing others”.

            2. Buffay the Vampire Layer

              Confession: I am one of these people. I hope that I’d try harder than OP’s coworker to change, but it just genuinely wouldn’t occur to me the initial encroachment on desk space could be perceived as a problem.

          2. SusanIvanova

            I was thinking about Les’ walls too! The LW is going to have to be just as persistent as he was – any boundary violation was called out *immediately*.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        At my last job in a design studio, I accidentally encroached on a coworker’s desk because I didn’t realize that the part I was using was his desk territory and not mine. We had an open floor plan and a series of L-shaped desks that adjoined each other like this: LLLLLL. The short part of the Ls were against the wall with our computer monitors on them, and the long part to each person’s right was their desk. I was using the long parts to my right (which was mine) and to my left, which was my coworker’s desk. He never said anything to me, and it took me only a few days to look around me and figure it out. I think it finally occurred to me that I shouldn’t actually have a U-shaped desk, so I looked down my desk row and figured out that everyone else was using the right side of the desk.

    3. OP 3

      Interesting, thanks. I’m so fed up with it that I’ve started to think of it as a lack of respect thing and this series of comments let’s me see that this might not fundamentally be at the root of her actions. Thank you.

      1. TootsNYC

        But I think you can say, “By now, it’s starting to feel like a lack-of-respect thing. it’s very important to me that you stop, that you consciously prevent it instead of just apologizing afterward.”

        Tell them the meanings that the actions are starting to acquire. Drag it out into the open, both on your side and hers.

    4. TootsNYC

      I don’t buy this.

      I’m messy too. Very. But I never, ever let my stuff spread across that invisible line between my space and hers.

  15. nofelix

    #3 – My sympathies! I’ve often worked with people who think that my clear desk is an indication I don’t need the space as much as they do! I think the best thing to do is to keep an open mind and not get too grumpy or passive aggressive about it. Try to play the long game and set ‘normal’ as respecting desk boundaries.

    Have you tried explaining to your co-worker that a clearly defined desk space is important for you to think clearly? Of course you shouldn’t have to give a reason, but it might make it easier for her to remember.

    Ask her if she would like help organizing. If so, try sharing some of the ways you keep your work to a small footprint. If you’re tidy and well organised maybe you have some useful ways of working that aren’t obvious to other people. She may be using her desk space (and yours) as an organising tool, which could possibly be replaced with a paper or digital system. Like if she keeps all her live projects nearby in big folders so she knows their status, then maybe a printed Gantt chart or checklist for each one would be more space efficient. (Don’t suggest any of this if she doesn’t want help).

    Lastly, could you request additional furniture? I really like those wheeled drawer units that are just below desk height, so they can be hidden away or pulled out for extra surface space as necessary. Or ask for shelves above your colleague’s desk so she has more space.

    1. Colette

      I’d be leery about organizing or suggesting furniture for the coworker. That’s not the OP’s concern. she can set the boundary (I.e. Please keep your stuff off my desk). It’s up to the coworker to figure out how to do that.

    2. the gold digger

      people who think that my clear desk is an indication I don’t need the space as much as they do

      This is the office equivalent to that guy on the bus or the plane who thinks that I have pulled my legs in to give him more room to spread his.

      No.

      This is MY space and I do not want your legs touching mine.

      One of the nice things about getting older is that you become a lot more comfortable addressing this sort of thing. A polite, “Excuse me, would you mind moving your leg so it’s not touching mine?” is remarkably effective. (With most men, who are not even aware they are doing it. Not with jerks. Judge accordingly.)

      1. Grapey

        I’ve taken the opposite “not-caring” approach. I touch legs! My morning bus is always packed and I get on at the point where I have to choose to sit next to/between someone (standing that long is painful for me). I usually look for egregious seat hog offenders like obvious leg spreaders or people that put their tiny lunch bag on the seat next to them when they’re a regular and KNOW how full the bus gets.

        Anyway, being assertive about my leg space that is allocated in front of my seat has a 100% track record of making spreaders uncomfortable. Not recommending it for everyone of course.

        1. Sarah

          I do this. Especially on the subway here, where (on some older cars) there are benches segmented into seats, I always choose the 1/2 space between the two men with their legs flung wide open and just… make the space. Usually I find they *can* sit in a normal amount of space, they just chose not to for some reason! Interesting!

          By far, the worst offender was on the packed shuttle train between two major transportation hubs, a guy got on and immediately took up 4 spaces by spreading his legs out and putting his bag next to him. I would have been impressed if I wasn’t busy glaring into his soul.

        2. Rana

          Yup. This was one of the best things about being pregnant: getting the leg spreaders to close up. Not only did I have the “sympathy for the pregnant lady” thing working for me, but a pregnant belly is not something that can be squished. My legs were apart because I had no choice.

      2. Ife

        My clear desk means that when someone brings in treats, half the time they put them on my desk. I am ok with this arrangement, I like being close to the food. If it were their binders or paperwork… not so much.

  16. Erin

    #2 – You notified him in December, and you’re due in July? That’s like, a lot of time. Some women wait until they’re four or five months along before telling work. You really did him a favor by giving so much notice.

    Maybe you could say something like, “I know you only want to hire someone by referral, but honestly I’m getting a little nervous that we’re getting closer to my leave now. I really want to ensure you’re not left in the lurch while I’m gone. Maybe that perfect temp by referral isn’t a possibility and we should post a job ad. I’ve been looking at X site which has a good reputation and isn’t expensive to advertise on, and there’s also this temp agency we could go through…”

    But yeah, after you remind him and make it clear you’re willing to help, there’s not a lot you can do.

  17. Jen

    #5- your situation happens all the time where I work. We have a somewhat unspoken policy (as in, it happens 90-95% of the time, but not 100%) that we ask people to leave the day they give notice–specifically those in roles likes sales, and almost always those [regardless of role] that don’t disclose where they are going. If they tell us they are going to a non-competitor, then we’ll ask then to wrap up their projects.

    We always pay these people full 2 weeks, but our head of sales is pretty adamant that the day you resign is your last and sometimes, we have computer access turned off almost immediately. We’ve had many sales reps take company materials. Obviously they could do this before giving notice, but surprisingly not all that many do.

    1. rock'n'roll circus

      Wow that must be crazy different by field. Sales rep here! When I put in my two weeks at my last job, I was begged to stay for at least a month — I called new job, and let them know I would need three weeks, which was okay with them so I ended up staying three weeks.

      Same industry, different commodity, different customer. I can’t imagine what I would even want form my last job, as there’s just … nothing that could have been useful. But, my industry wouldn’t probably get you hired as a direct competitor as they all avoid each others employees cause they don’t want to set the precedent. (Although we occasionally have problems with designers / engineers )

    2. (Another) B

      My old boss told me to GTFO as soon as I gave notice (was willing to stay a month to help with the transition!) and logged me out of my comp. Nice way to treat me after years there. He wanted to one-up me. Glad I escaped.

      1. Cyberspace Dreamer

        Likewise
        Worked in IT and was shown the door the day my two weeks were submitted. But this company was very inconsistent with honoring notices. My backup had resigned 6 months before I did and he was able to transfer his tasks and even had a bye bye party.
        By the time my turn came around, new management was in place things were different.

        I always viewed it as being fired since the reason I left was because my manager tried to get me fired. I was like “why wait?” See ya!! #mikedrop

        All working out now and NewJob just have a nice raise. Over 10%!! Ill take it!!!

  18. Boo

    #1 – Captain Awkward has some great advice for how to deal with this sort of thing. You might want to start by thinking what about this person attracts you to them – perhaps this is just a reflection of feeling you are in a rut of some kind with your husband, and it’s really that which you need to focus on and address?

    1. Lily in NYC

      So does Carolyn Hax! I can’t remember her exact advice but it’s something about realizing that you don’t see the complete “real person” when it’s a coworker.

    2. blink

      Yeah, the other thing I really like (I mean, also just read CA because she is awesome–she and Alison share some je ne sais quoi) is not only think about what attracts you to this person, but what attracts you to YOU in the fantasy of “you + this person”? Does your (work) relationship with this guy make you feel brilliant, appreciated, like your best self in some way that you want to feel more of? How can you bring out that brilliance in other ways?

      1. TootsNYC

        ooh, this is sort of true with that one work crush of mine. I felt that he liked me, thought I was smart in the same way I thought he was, etc.

    3. crushing anonymously

      for me it’s their positivity. They just seem to have such a positive attitude towards everything, aren’t rude or mean…..its unlike how I know most people to be (including myself)

      1. Boo

        Oh I can totally understand that. I think in that case maybe you could try to work on being more positive yourself and looking for the positive in your husband and ways to bring that quality out in each other. It’s really easy to think the grass is greener especially when it’s someone you see at work where we all project a particular version of ourselves, but don’t lose sight of what you do have. All the best x

  19. Oryx

    For #3, I’d actually suggest the OP stop moving the co-worker’s stuff. You’re making it too easy for her. Be direct, each and every time, and tell her to move it herself.

    That said, if she’s propping her stuff on your mailbox tray, I’m assuming that’s on her side of the tray, yes? As in her side of the desk. I’m imagining she has, say, an open book or folder and is just leaning it against the tray to keep it standing. If so, I’d let that one go. It’s on her side of the desk and as long as it’s not hindering your ability to access the tray contents I don’t see the big deal.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I would also add that I know it’s exasperating, but you NEED to remain polite about it. I got caught in that trap at an old job once, with a coworker who insisted on playing music using speakers and not headphones. It was extremely distracting and I asked her several times to stop, but she did not. I got a bit less polite about it and she whined to management that I was harassing her, and I got in trouble.

      In hindsight, I probably could have gone to my boss before it got to that point, but management at this place was all kinds of messed up, and I don’t know if she could have done anything about it.

      1. LBK

        It sounds like you were much more polite than what I would’ve done, which would be to smash the music-producing device with a hammer. I can tolerate a lot of annoying noises but that drives me up the wall – fortunately no one in my office does it but people do it all the time on the subway. It’s just so irritating and the logic is baffling. Do you really think you’re doing everyone a favor by sharing the gift of your (usually horrible) music choices with us? Can you not afford $5 for headphones?

      2. Oryx

        Oh, yes, for sure. I had that happen with a co-worker, too. I admittedly would get very frustrated and speak in very short tones with her which only created more drama.

      3. OP 3

        Yes, you’re right. It did occur to me that if she were to tell our joint boss about me shutting her folder somewhat forcefully and shoving it back to her side, that one incident might not have reflected well on me in isolation! I would like to remain calm and assertive. That’s sometimes a work in progress for me (the calm bit at least).

        1. TootsNYC

          What’s your joint boss like? I think one of my people could tell me, “I’m having trouble with the space; Susie spreads out and puts her stuff on my desk. It actually makes it hard for me to concentrate, to have that visually calm area of my own workspace cluttered up with other people’s stuff. I’ve asked her to stop, but she still does it. And I’m going to keep working on getting her to stop. I just wanted you to know.”

          I might say, “Do you want me to say anything?” And the answer could be, “No, I just wanted you to know, in case it comes up.”

          Then when Susie complains, I will know to say, “Aren’t you supposed to be keeping your stuff off her desk?” And even if Susie complains about how you did it, your tone, etc., I’d know that you weren’t blowing up at the first provocation.

    2. LBK

      I agree – you hit the nail on the head about what was bugging me about the suggested solution. Don’t enable her, make her do it so that the annoyance of fixing it rests on her, otherwise you’re still dealing with the annoyance of cleaning up her mess while also having to be a broken record. If you just tell her to take her stuff off your desk every time, at least then you only have to do the verbal piece of it, and I think it will also better emphasize to her how annoying this is because she’ll get sick of constantly having to rearrange her stuff.

        1. TootsNYC

          Oh–and the way to do this (straight from “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen (And Listen So Kids Will Talk)”)

          Don’t tell her to move her binder. Don’t issue directions, don’t talk about actions she should take.

          Make an observation about the state of things. “Jane, your binder is on my In Box.” “Jane, your papers are on my desk.”

          And stop. Wait. Look at her, and wait. If she doesn’t act, repeat it, word for word. And if you have to say, “I’ve told you before that I need my space to be clear, and that I don’t want to loan you my space for your stuff. Your binder is on my In Box.” And wait.

          Make HER be the one to mentally come up with the solution (‘oh, I should move it’). It’ll be more powerful.

      1. TootsNYC

        I like this as well.

        As the mother of a teenager, I try to use this.

        But more important, I’ve seen it work on me. When I’m the one who has to make the bed before I can fold clothes on it, I have incentive to start making the bed earlier.

        When i get fed up with something inefficient and annoying at work, I find myself doing something about it.

  20. Cube Farmer

    #5. For the purpose of a reference, no, that would not be considered a firing; but most employment lawyers I have read (IANAL) say, yes, as far as unemployment compensation is concerned (if the employee were not paid for the resignation period). The employee is giving *notice* of resignation. So I think the context of the question would matter.

    1. Gov'ment Drone in Waiting

      At least in my state (MN), unemployment benefits are determined based on whether the employee lost their job through no fault of their own. A quit almost always renders the employee ineligible (except in very specific cases) so they wouldn’t be eligible regardless of whether she served out her notice period or not.

      That said, if I were, say, filling out a job application and it asked if I had been fired, I would say no – I totally agree with Allison’s interpretation here. It’s not uncommon in my field to be escorted out upon giving notice, either (legal).

  21. BioPharma

    #1: I’m surprised that AAM didn’t leave her response as more of the “I’ll let readers who’ve been in that situation respond.” When saying “oh, those behaviors that you think are special are not” while possibly true, isn’t usually helpful because to the OP she DOES sense a vibe. That response makes her feelings seem… invalidated in a way… So far I love hearing the readers speak up about their own experiences and mentioning how normal it is!

    1. Not So NewReader

      It’s possible for many people to be spending more waking hours with their coworkers than with their spouses. It’s very easy to drift toward the relationship that gets reinforcement or even just gets participation. OP can be more deliberate about her relationship with her spouse. Plan an extra activity that you guys can do together or make a date to sit home and chill out together. It does not have to be elaborate, but it does have to happen. Invest in and recharge what is going on at home

      1. Frustrated Optimist

        I also see OP’s point about the feelings possibly being mutual. What concerns me even more, however, is that apparently her crush’s manager has noticed and is making little jokes about it. That alone ought to be a big incentive to rein it in, which is of course what OP is trying to do.

        1. neverjaunty

          Yup. People can’t read minds, but they can see behavior. When it’s to the point that people are joking about it, the crush – one sided or not – is WAY in need of reining in.

      2. TootsNYC

        I agree with this–plan some sort of ongoing project with your spouse; something that has several days’ worth of tasks, and some back-and-forthness.

    2. Naomi

      But it doesn’t actually matter whether there is a “vibe” or not. OP already knows that she can’t pursue anything with this coworker, so regardless of how he actually feels, it’s best for all concerned if she can mentally frame him as uninterested by reminding herself that his behaviors could be perfectly normal. Trying to read Deeper Meaning into his actions (even if it’s actually there) will only make her more mentally invested in the crush when she should be disengaging as much as possible.

      1. BioPharma

        Agreed. My point was just that saying “whether there’s no vibe or not doesn’t matter” is different from saying “there’s no vibe” because the latter may make the OP immediately think “she doesn’t get it.”

        1. neverjaunty

          If the OP is not thinking clearly because of a crush, not sure what else AAM can do?

          But the point was that the OP is describing perfectly normal workplace behavior by her co-worker, and wondering if those thugs meant a “vibe”.

          1. BioPharma

            We’re kind of getting into semantics here, but the OP was not asking AAM whether behaviors X, Y, Z meant anything. Her feeling a vibe is part of the facts she’s presenting as background. I completely understand that AAM is trying to “clarify” the facts first, but sometimes someone’s reality is their reality, and needs to be advised BASED on that (or at least not discounting it, as in the case of “whether there’s a vibe or not does not matter”)

            1. fposte

              I don’t think “doesn’t matter” is discounting it; I think it’s a valuable point. It *doesn’t* matter if it’s mutual, because the OP isn’t interested in cheating on her husband with the guy at work even if he has a crush on her too. It only matters in a situation where it makes a difference to what she’d do about the crush, and that’s not where she is.

              1. BioPharma

                Ack! No, I agree! I think “doesn’t matter” is great because it’s not invalidating. However, saying “no, there’s no vibe” is a bit discounting of the OP’s reality/perception.

                1. neverjaunty

                  I hear you. But I think the reason AAM said there’s no vibe is not to say “you’re just being a silly-head”; the OP seemed to be saying she thought there was a vibe because the coworker did X, Y and Z, and AAM was pointing out that those are perfectly normal things that don’t indicate a crush.

      2. One of the Sarahs

        Absolutely. There’s a difference between recognising you’re crushing on someone, and indulging the feelings/fanning the flames/what-if-ing.

    3. AthenaC

      Well, having been in that situation, sometimes it does help to invalidate that “vibe” you think you sense. You may be right, but that information is not helpful. If there’s not an actual danger or a threat, then oblivion can be a super helpful choice to make.

      At my old job, my boss was always. in. my. office. Anything that came across his desk he wanted my input on. And then once he sat down the conversation would wander to personal stories, history, politics, theology, gender relations, inter-generational gender relations – you name it, we talked about it. I have no doubt that he would often use non-urgent, unnecessary professional questions as an excuse to talk to me, but in my opinion, acknowledging that is not helpful. As long as there’s no risk of anything happening, it made more sense to reframe it in my head as “normal workplace interaction” and not worry about what it may or may not imply on his end.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      I see what you’re saying (although who’s saying I’ve never had a work crush?), but I’ve read way too many letters from men talking about how they have a vibe with a female colleague and citing as evidence totally normal un-crush-like work behaviors from the woman to not want to point that out when genders are reversed. It generally reads much worse when it’s a man doing it, but I think it’s reasonable to say that should go both ways.

  22. Moral panic

    #4: While scheduling the surgery can move quickly after getting the okay from insurance, it is rarely mandatory. It is easy to get excited and book the surgery for the first available day but you should be looking into the options, chances are you can book the surgery a month later instead. 2 week notice for 2+ weeks away from work for an elective procedure is in poor taste for me. It is one thing if it were a medically urgent surgery where time is of the essense but this seems more flexible.

    I would have a private conversation with my boss and explain that I am waiting for insurance clearance on a procedure and that I would like the fist available slot but it may come with only 2 week notice. That way I’d know if my boss is supportive or if I would need more notice.

    1. Mike C.

      To be perfectly honest, I think the employee’s health trumps any sort of concern over two weeks not “being enough time”, and the calls to “poor taste” are incredibly disgusting.

      Just because surgery isn’t medically necessary to save someone’s life right then and there does not mean that the surgery won’t significantly improve the health and quality of life of the patient. You shouldn’t need your boss’s “support” for this, why should the employee have to wait a month or longer until surgery and recovery are convenient for the boss? That’s simply ridiculous.

      1. Moral Panic

        But being realistic – she may have no legal right to take time off without cooperating with her employer… just because she “shouldn’t” need support doesn’t mean that is reality.

        A client of mine shared her experiences with me for her weight loss surgery and she had been fired for it. She had assumed she had every legal right to tell her boss she was taking X-X off for the surgery/recovery and there was nothing he could do about it. While the procedure was necessary for her future health, it was not legally deemed to be necessary. So when she took her time off anyways her boss fired her and she had no legal recourse. That all could’ve been avoided if she had just sat down with her boss and worked out a better time for her to take a few weeks off! I was of course outraged right along with her, but I do recognize she took an unauthorized leave of absence from work for almost a full month.

        I even had to wait an additional 3 weeks in pain from my impacted wisdom teeth because I had to work out a plan with my employer for when I could get the time off. If it is not medically necessary (many doctors are hesitant to claim these things are) then it is the same as wanting a month off to go to the Bahamas.

        I understand the emotions behind it but sometimes our emotions can get the better of us, it isn’t fair that someone would have to wait and be flexible to schedule a needed surgery but that is life.

        Even if she is entitled to the time off a bit of consideration can go a long way. As we’ve seen on other letters, managers can be vengeful when they get their toes stepped on once the worker comes back from their leave. Even if the boss is just aware that at some point in the next few months she’ll have to give a 2-3 week warning of the surgery, that could earn her major brownie points.

        1. Observer

          And that makes the EMPLOYEE’s behavior “in bad taste”!?

          Sure, on a practical level it may be a good idea to give your boss a heads up. But, there is really no reason to believe that a boss who will refuse to “authorize” taking off for weight loss surgery is going to be much more reasonable about it if the person had given their boss longer notice. More likely the boss would point to a policy of not allowing anyone to take more than x number of days off at one time. And that boss might even claim the moral high ground. It’s not FAIR to let someone take off time because you can’t make EXCEPTIONS, you know!

      2. Newby

        It isn’t that ridiculous. Elective surgery is often necessary, but there is some flexibility in scheduling. Waiting one or two additional weeks would not impact the employee’s health in the long run. Ideally, their boss will be ok with 2-3 weeks notice, but offering some flexibility could help reduce any bad feelings or resentment over the disruption the time off causes the office. When I had my gallbladder removed, I told my boss as soon as I had a date scheduled (2 weeks) but I told her that I could reschedule for later if needed.

        1. Observer

          You don’t know that. You also don’t know that if the person delays it will only be for a couple of weeks. It often doesn’t work that way.

    2. TootsNYC

      I remember getting in an argument w/ my then boss about when I should schedule an elective surgery; I picked a date about a month out that was right after our crunch time, so I’d be back for the next one (two-week gap between them). She was like, “Have this surgery when it’s best for you!!”

      I had to really argue that it was actually totally OK to wait.

  23. Pontoon Pirate

    Alison, for #2, would your information about FMLA even apply? OP says she’s in an office of just 3 people. Unless that’s a satellite office within the required mileage and personnel minimum, FMLA wouldn’t apply, right? Under those circumstances, does your advice change on how to manage boss’ expectation that OP can come in to help train during her leave?

    1. Bigglesworth

      I think FMLA applies if the company is a certain size – not just if the office is a certain size. There is a woman in my office that is looking at using FMLA leave for when she gets pregnant, and we only have 20 people in our office. However, our organization has enough employees that FMLA does apply in this situation.

      1. Kyrielle

        “Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. ”

        It very much matters, not only how large the company is, but how many offices are nearby (even home offices). If there aren’t 50 or more employees in that range, then providing FMLA is courtesy only. (My experience with a company that had some offices subject to FMLA and others not was that they just handled it as if it did apply to all offices, because that was both easier and less divisive, but that could conceivably vary from company to company.

          1. Pontoon Pirate

            Right, that’s where I was going–if it’s just medical leave, then can and will her boss expect her to come in to train since she has no interference protection? If so, what advice can we give to help her navigate that?

          2. Kyrielle

            Agreed, I was just clarifying that. I do worry that she may run into issues where her boss expects unreasonable things – and if she does lack FMLA protection, as seems possible, that could be a very real problem.

  24. INTP

    If OP5’s concern is unemployment eligibility, then they generally ARE eligible during the period that they offered notice but were asked to leave immediately. Decent companies will pay for that time, but if they don’t, they do have to pay UE like if they fired you. Just specifying in case that was the reason for the question.

    1. LQ

      I’m going to jump in to add more detail here. Your state may vary. (Always important, but I know this one varies broadly between states.)

      You may be eligible for the period between when you gave notice for and the day they told you to leave. (Only if they don’t pay you.) You will mostly likely have a week you aren’t able to get money, but usually the second week you’d be able to get paid for. I highly recommend signing up even if that is only a two week period, if something happens with the new job or later in the year it can be beneficial to go back and have already go through that first week where you can’t get paid.

      1. Artemesia

        AND there should be consequences for bosses who make this dick move of ushering people out who give notice.

        1. LQ

          I think it is fine if they pay for those two weeks, but otherwise yes, I agree, and yes Unemployment is a tiny little way to do that because in most states (depending on your state and how it calculates everything) they may have to pay directly, have a rate increase, or nothing happens because it is a flat rate state.

  25. baseballfan

    #1 – Am I the only person who noticed this crush’s boss has apparently got it in his/her head that there is a “vibe” there? I’ve never had a co-worker tease me about “accidentally” leaving some item in another person’s work area with the implication that there was something going on. Is there some flirtation going on that is obvious to other people?

    Your dilemma isn’t unusual. Lots of people develop crushes on people they see regularly at work. Think about it, these people are typically around the same age, presumably smart and successful, and you share common interests. The question is how to handle it.

    My advice would be minimize contact with this person. I understand some is inevitable due to job responsibilities, but make an effort to stay away as much as professionally possible until you get things rearranged in your head. I will also say that most people say they have no intention of having an affair – but things start slowly and escalate and before they know it they are in over their head. Nip this in the bud.

    1. neverjaunty

      My guess is that the jokes are coming from OP’s crush becoming noticeable to others.

      1. Kate M

        Right, my worry would be that other people have noticed OP’s crush, and have started teasing her coworker about it. So that when he (completely innocently) leaves his water bottle at her desk, other people start in with the “ooooooh, you left stuff behind, you must have feelings for her too.” Which could really suck for the coworker who just wants to do his job, and could possibly end up being really embarrassing for the OP.

        OP, not to try to make you feel bad, but realize that it’s possible that the teasing of your coworker comes from people picking up on YOUR crush, not from him having feelings for you. All the more reason to shut down any flirting/actions that might indicate your crush.

        1. oreo

          In some culture’s those jokes are meaningless and done to everyone, so OP may be taking an unrelated joke and thinking it means something.

          1. neverjaunty

            This is a workplace. It’s not really appropriate to joke about married people having crushes on others at work. I’m curious in what culture this is acceptable and appropriate?

      2. voyager1

        Which is a problem… to me this sounds like more then a crush, sounds like there is some flirting going on. If coworkers are noticing then it is a problem. If they are teasing it is a problem. Water bottles being left is a problem. Making yourself look good for him is a problem.

        I am going to be blunt. Ask yourself why you don’t want to have an affair with this man LW. Do you have kids? Do you love your husband? Do want to honor your vows? Don’t think he would leave his wife? Do you want to be a homewrecker?

        Ask yourself those questions. But this to me sounds like more then a crush…

        1. NASA

          I second you. The second I read there were vibes (real or imagined), I think OP moved out of the “crush” zone into something deeper.

          There is a lot of good advice in this thread, OP, so nip it in the bud. While totally normal (to a point), it’s still not cool. This makes me sad. If my husband was doing this sh-t, we would be having a serious talk.

        2. neverjaunty

          Wow, that’s really over the top. LW made it really clear that she doesn’t want to have this crush, recognizes her behavior is a problem, and wants to find ways to stop it given that she has to interact with this person at work.

    2. Gaara

      Yeah! This is a work problem. If your boss can notice the vibe, then there’s probably at least low-level flirting going on, and that will come back to impact your professional reputation. Shut it down!

  26. Grace

    #5: I thought if you resigned and gave notice but they asked you to leave immediately that you could receive unemployment for the notice period. No?

    1. Judy

      Many companies that ask you to leave immediately also pay you for your notice period. In that case, you can’t receive unemployment benefits.

    1. Theodoric of York

      Your comment (couldn’t watch the youtube video) brought to mind the scene in the movie “Brazil” where two men occupy two offices with a common wall with a desk-sized hole. There is a desk situated such that half the desk is in each office. They share the desk. One of the men keeps moving the desk to get more space on his side.

  27. Fabulous

    #3 – Here are some barrier ideas:
    – A TALL stack of trays instead of just a single paper tray, at least 4-5 would do it.
    – Use your coffee cup, lotion bottle, pen cup, stapler/tape, hand sanitizer, etc. as a barrier. Any time she encroaches on your space she’ll knock something over so she knows she’s gone too far.
    – Move your computer/monitor to that side of the desk. The closer you are to her, maybe she’ll realize when she’s going over too far.

    1. OP 3

      Oh I like the idea of having a series of smaller items set up that are easily knocked over. Thank you! It’s a bit like the little green soldier idea above but probably a bit less likely to result in people thinking I’ve completely lost the plot.

      1. auntie_cipation

        That’s what I was thinking, or maybe a potted plant. I also picture an L-shaped plastic divider that sits on the edge of your desk, weighted down by whatever you place there, that creates a vertical wall between the desks. Of course, coworker will probably think this is a great way to allow her to lean stuff against it, so only do it if that won’t create worse problems.

  28. MissDisplaced

    OP#1 First, you have to understand that yes, this is a: totally, normal, thing.
    As part of our working lives we will always run across those we find very attractive, and yes, there may even be a mutual attraction (or vibe if you will). Personally, I would not discount the “vibes” as I trust my own intuition on these things. Sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that yes, there very well might be a little attraction/flirtation going on. (Everyone likes to be liked, right?)

    But that being said, you simply cannot DWELL on it either!

    Basically, keep busy, keep involved with your spouse, minimize contact with the work crush, and when you do have to interact with this person, keep chitchat to a minimum and focus on the work stuff. Eventually it will pass.

  29. Hilary Faye

    Alison: Would you suggest OP1 address the teasing from the crush’s manager? What would be the approach for handling that?

  30. Lily Evans

    Am I the only one who thinks that OP 1’s crush’s manager is being pretty unprofessional? I mean, what are they, twelve?

    1. baseballfan

      I agree; as a manager I would never make those kinds of comments to married colleagues…or unmarried ones either for that matter – definitely unprofessional.

  31. Diluted_TortoiseShell

    #1: I’ve dealt with this a couple of times (Why, oh Why! Do I keep getting 6′ 6” ripped puerto rican supervisors. Why???).

    Ahem. There are a few things I have found that helped me.

    1. Usually, I was frustrated or a little bored with my husband. Once my husband had let himself go hygiene wise during his unemployment and it was dimming the fire a bit. I talked to him about it, and a spiffy up later my marriage was so hot nothing was getting in-between there.

    2. I would find ways to put some professional distance between us. More team meetings. Standing at my desk when he was showing me something so there was no leaning over each other. etc.

    3. Focus on minute things I disliked (that gray hair, mole, yellow teeth .. whatever it was I could obsess over).

    4. In one crush I tried all of the above and nothing worked. So I indulged myself in a bit of solo fantasy. Once it wasn’t so new anymore. Poof, crush gone. I know some people really feel weird about that but it helped me get over it.

    1. ann perkins

      LOL at this: (Why, oh Why! Do I keep getting 6′ 6” ripped puerto rican supervisors. Why???).

      I’m single but have had crushes on coworkers before and it’s just never a good idea in general but especially in my case when it wasn’t reciprocated. For me, some higher power did me a favor and we were in fewer and fewer meetings together due to being put on other projects and then when I DID work with him he was screwing things up so badly I was like yeah no, never mind.

    2. to crush or not to crush

      I’ve had work crushes in every job I’ve ever had. It is natural for people to be attracted to each other. What you do with it is where the problems arise.

      I like what you say in #4 – indulge in a bit of solo fantasy and it eventually goes away. So true. Just keep it locked up tight in fantasy land. LOL

      Another thing I’ve done in the past is introduced my husband to the crush. In this case it was easy to do – small town, they actually had a lot in common, we were looking for similar couples to hang out with. So I suggested we meet up for dinner as couples. Worked out great. I adored my crush’s wife, he and my husband became great friends and we are all friends to this day even though we no longer work together.

  32. JeJe

    #3 Many commenters have suggested the encroacher is untidy, but the OP didn’t actually say that. Are the new small desks legitimately too small for a computer and large open binder? I realize OP is dealing the same small space. Do others in those desks use the same large binders?

    I have a large clean desk and routinely have to explain to both my neighbors that it’s not appropriate to use my extra space to store things the don’t feel like putting back in the lab.

    1. Alton

      It is unclear, though the letter makes it sound like the encroacher is using a different type of binder.

      I wonder if left/right-handedness could be contributing, too. If the coworker is right-handed and the right-hand side of her desk borders the OP’s, that’s going to create some awkward ergonomics.

  33. Goldensummer

    #3 You say she’s more junior than you… you might want to consider if she has a genuine and unique need for more space and help her figure out a way to approach her manager about the need. Rather than being passive aggressive which is what you behavior can and will be read maybe try to help a junior colleague.

    1. fposte

      I agree that making a big show of moving stuff is passive aggressive, but I think the OP is entitled not to have the co-worker’s stuff on her desk, and that it’s okay for her to ask Jane to keep her stuff on her side. And while I think your idea is kindly meant, I don’t think it’s wise to encourage a junior employee who’s just been moved to a new desk to push for more space than her colleagues.

      1. Newby

        I would suggest moving the things normally (no exaggerated show) and talking to her later about it, reminding her that it really bothers the OP when her stuff is on their desk. That was it isn’t passive aggressive, it is directly addressing the problem.

  34. Former Retail Manager

    #4….I hope your weight loss surgery is approved and gets you on the path to the life you want. However, please don’t be Star Jones or any of the other celebrities who pretend that they lost ALL THAT WEIGHT with good old diet and exercise. I don’t see why people feel the need to be secretive about this surgery. If you had cancer would you be secretive about your hair loss due to chemo. “Oh…I just decided to shave my head and start wearing wigs.” It’s a health driven surgery that has obviously been determined to be medically necessary for you. I don’t see any shame in that or a need to be secretive about it. When you go from 250-300 pounds or more, down to 140 pounds, or something in that range, the jig is up. Everyone knows you don’t lose weight that quickly with diet and exercise. If anyone asked about it, perhaps saying “yes, I had weight loss surgery…it’s going great. Thanks for your concern, but I’d rather not discuss it further at work” would be sufficient and just repeat the last part. I think you may find that most people are very happy for you and you may even be the motivation that encourages another individual in need of weight loss surgery to take action.

    Best of luck!

    1. The Other Dawn

      “I don’t see why people feel the need to be secretive about this surgery.”

      I’m generally not secretive about my weight loss surgery at all, but I can see why some people are. Just browse the internet and you’ll see lots of posts criticizing WLS and the people who have had it: we’re lazy, unmotivated, want a quick fix, etc. And some people get the same from family members, friends, coworkers and even strangers.

      I’ve generally received lots of support; however, I know that at least one person has said (not to my face, but to many others) that I “took the easy way out.” Nothing is easy about this process. In fact, I think it’s much more of a struggle mentally, because it all happens so fast: you’re physically limited on food intake, but your mind isn’t quite there yet. Then there’s the people that like to tell me stories of how their friend/mom/dad/whoever lost X pounds “the old-fashioned way” or “did it all on their own.” I was given a tool, sure, but what I choose to do with it is all me, 100%. It’s totally possible to gain all the weight back and then some, so it’s crucial for us to make a total, permanent lifestyle change.

      1. Three Thousand

        I just got the surgery myself, and I’m definitely telling everyone who asks exactly what I did and strongly recommending it.

      2. Former Retail Manager

        Congrats on your surgery and success. And I do know what you mean about people saying those things. It unfortunate that people can’t just be happy or at least keep their trap shut when someone makes a life changing decision that they believe is in their best interest. I wouldn’t dream of expressing anything but support for a co-worker who’d had this surgery, but I suppose there are others who don’t think that way. Either way, if it were me personally, I’d still tell them and make it clear that you don’t want to discuss specifics. After all, they will speculate and gossip either way.

    2. fposte

      In addition to what Dawn said, “private” isn’t the same thing as “secretive.”

    3. CM

      I don’t know about the OP’s motivation to keep it secret, but personally I would want to keep it secret too. A lot of people can’t stop talking about weight, food intake, diet, etc. At least once a month, there’s a letter here from somebody complaining that their lunch is scrutinized, they have an eating disorder and can’t take the constant office obsession with food, their coworker lost weight and is now proselytizing about their fitness routine. I wouldn’t want to be the subject of that. And as The Other Dawn pointed out, some people have Opinions about the surgery itself, which I also wouldn’t want to deal with.

    4. Kelly L.

      (a) It’s still nobody’s business.

      (b) The surgery is not a magic spell. Even after you’ve had it done, the way it works is via diet; the surgery is a tool that “enforces” the diet (because it’ll be really unpleasant if you cheat), but the diet is real nonetheless.

  35. Bowserkitty

    #3 reminds me of The Office (surprise) because I think this happens with Jim and Dwight. I remember the pencil fence, and then I think there is an episode that involves one of them just shoving everything that’s encroaching on the other’s space onto the floor? But I could be wrong.

    and I do not recommend doing either, I guess.

    1. Grey

      Yes. I was reminded of that too. I posted a link to the YouTube video earlier this morning, but it hasn’t made it out of moderation.

  36. Anonathon

    OP #2 – This somewhat happened to me! (Well, they just didn’t want to hire someone to cover, period.) I schedule a meeting with my boss and talked through a master list of everything that needed to be covered while I was gone, just the bare minimum to keep things running. That got the message through, because my boss sure didn’t want to handle all that, and they hired someone in the next couple weeks.

    Good thing too because I totally went into labor a week early :D

  37. Anon for this

    OP # 1, I recently got over a crush on my own boss (which is why I’m anon for this comment!). I had asked my therapist for advice. The advice I got really helped me be more comfortable, which may be why I was able to let the crush drop.

    My therapist advised two things, and suggested I try either of them alone or do both:

    1) whenever I felt crush-y feelings, I had been trying to deal with it by rolling my eyes at myself, and doing negative self-talk. My therapist suggested that instead I look at what might be the deeper reason behind the feelings–for example, maybe I was feeling that it’s time to date someone new, but not necessarily the person I was having the crush on. I thought about it and decided it was probably a sign that I was looking for more fun in my life–things have been stressful lately, and dating a new person is generally fun. After that, whenever a crush feeling came up my self-talk was more like “hey, self, thank you for trying to bring more fun into my life, but that isn’t how I’d like to do it.” And shortly after I stopped trying to diss myself for it, the crush went away.

    2) the other thing my therapist suggested was to say to myself “now isn’t the time for that feeling, I will set it aside and feel it later,” and then follow through by really setting aside some time later the same day to come back to it–not to wallow in the crush feelings, but let them have a few minutes and then move on.

    Good luck!

  38. Friday Brain

    My stupid open office plan also has no partitions whatsoever and our desks are facing each other in groups of twos and fours. I’m not neat as a pin but also not messy, coworker across from me is neat but has a lot of piles of paper. We’re respectful of each other’s spaces but you know what helps the most – we have standup desks, which are big and bulky and require a special monitor mount that extends past the edge of the desks. So we have to pull our desks apart a good 12 inches for them to be functional. Even if one of us hung papers and binders off the edge of the desk, they’d fall to the floor before they spread out to the other desk.

  39. animaniactoo

    #1 – I’ve seen various ways of handling this, but the two that I’ve liked best when I’ve seen them mentioned are:

    a) picture your crush doing some really unappealing stuff. Stack of dirty dishes in the sink, living room a mess, the everyday gets on your nerves kind of stuff when you live with someone. Often part of the appeal is that this is someone you would ordinarily like if you were not in a relationship, but their appeal is amplified by the fact that they don’t have any of the negatives that come with your home life – even when you really well and truly love the person you’re with and consider most of your home life positive.

    b) One person I know took it to mean that she needed to focus on her home relationship more. So every time she caught herself thinking about the work crush person, she deliberately turned the focus to thinking about what she appreciated about her husband, and planned some special stuff for them – dressed up for the evening at home more once in awhile, in order to put the energy she was getting from work crush into her marriage instead. She said it worked really well to help defuse the work crush attraction.

  40. animaniactoo

    #3 – Do not in any way be imploring or seem like you’re asking for some sort of sympathy. Seriously. You need firm and boundary-drawing here.

    “Jane, you’re going to need to find another way to manage this. I need the space on my desk to be available to me whenever I need it, not have to remove your stuff which should not be on my desk at all so I can use it.”

    You can be a bit understanding – as long as you draw the line under that understanding “I know you’re working with less space than you’re used to, but so am I and I need my space even if there isn’t anything in/on it.”

    At some point in here, it might also help to say “I need you to treat this as a big deal. I don’t think you’re doing this on purpose, but it’s a problem and I need you to treat it as if it is one, not something minor.”

    1. OP 3

      This is so, so helpful – thank you! For some reason I struggle in the moment to find the actual words that will address the situation appropriately. All of these are spot on.

  41. Nervous Accountant

    I had a crush once on a coworker a few jobs ago. It was intense, but my personal life was a storm, so there was that too. I was VERY careful to not say or do anything but coworkers noticed and teased. Job ended and we went our separate ways.

    The only thing that helped me to not do something stupid? I KNEW he had absolutely ZERO feelings towards me and would have been horrified/disgusted were I to make a move. We’re still in touch, but rarely talk except to greet on holidays and sometimes I still feel embarrassed at how I felt.

  42. Bee Eye LL

    #5 – This can be common in IT for security reasons. I once left a job like that and was given two weeks severance, plus whatever vacation time I had left, on the day I gave notice.

    1. animaniactoo

      My sister describes her level of access as “escort her from the building and change all the passwords immediately”, so she’ll be prepared if she hands in her notice.

      1. Bee Eye LL

        Yep, we do that when somebody leaves, too. It’s not a trust issue, but just good security. For example, we had somebody transfer to another department and he said just about everyone he worked with started pressuring him to give up the admin password, including his BOSS! Luckily we changed it before he got over there.

  43. RJeeves

    I had weight loss surgery while working in an office. I didn’t tell anyone either, simply booked in my sick leave and left it at that. I also didn’t want people in my business in that respect. Prior to surgery, there were no issues at all. However, as the letter writer will see, it will be very obvious what the surgery was as soon as you come back. You drop a lot in the first tree-four weeks so it will be a dull person indeed who won’t notice. However, that doesn’t open the door for people to snoop. All the questions I ever got about it were simply enquiries about my health and recovery. I was lucky. I worked with people who respected my privacy. But I would hve shut them down right quick if they weren’t.

  44. OP 3

    Thank you Alison and the amazing AAM community for your advice, and for making so many practical suggestions.

  45. Retro

    #5 After I put in my notice at my old toxic job, I found out from coworkers that my boss had been asking them to be available for when I nc/ns on my shifts on the schedule. I dutifully showed up and was as happy as I could make myself be since I was getting out. When the next weeks schedule was made I wasn’t scheduled even though my notice was through Friday of that week. I have never found any indication that they considered me “fired”.

  46. Kneefam

    #1 I am extrememly extroverted and have occasionally been mistaken as sending signals or flirting when such things were never in my mind at all. I learned this the hard way at my very first professional job. I was twenty, a newlywed, and so happy to have an office job (rather than as a fast food manager where I had worked during college). A male coworker suddenly said to me, “I don’t know what YOU have in mind, but I’M happily married.” I could have died. Lesson learned – personality awareness can be painful. The OP might consider his potential embarrassment if she’s misperceiving what he considers to be friendliness as some kind of invitation or flirtation. Oh. It still makes me squirm!

Comments are closed.