update: employee keeps asking coworkers for food and money

Remember the letter-writer whose employee kept asking for food and money from her coworkers? Here’s the update.

I wish I could say it has gotten better, but every few months I get complaints. What sucks about this for her is that she is a great performer otherwise.

It is not a food scarcity issue because she also brings her own food every day. This all seems to be part of a deeper issue. She has asked for food from someone’s plate and crashed other department’s closed celebrations. She borrows money from her coworkers and does not pay it back. Usually it is change but sometimes it is more. She doesn’t contribute when we take up a collection for something, which is her choice, but she will ask coworkers for money if it is something that requires payment for participation.

Favors are usually small such as grabbing something off the printer for her or getting a drink, but on at least two occasions she has asked someone to run a personal errand for her.

I tell the people complaining to firmly tell her no and that they can ask her to stop asking them. I’ve had multiple one-on-one conversations with her, and we even had a group meeting a few months ago about office etiquette that touched some of these scenarios.

Each time I have sat down with her, I have first approached from a place of concern for her and then talked how this behavior could impact the team and her career. Each time she has pretty much denied that there is an issue. She becomes deeply offended and then will make several petty retailiative complaints about her coworkers in the days following the discussion. We are talking extremely petty … this person smells like Lysol … that person clipped their fingernails at work … the person who complained about me asking for food asked someone for ketchup. We have discussed this pattern as well. I met with my manager and HR to let them know of the situation.

The employee and I had another sit down a few weeks ago after I received a complaint from someone outside of our workgroup. I told her that we’ve discussed it multiple times and any additional complaints would result in disciplinary action and a mandatory EAP referral. We documented the conversation. I have little faith that this behavior will stop, and I realize now that I should have done this much sooner but I was hesitant to come down so heavy on someone who may be in need.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. KimberlyR*

    This seems really sad to me. Without armchair diagnosing, I do wonder if there is an underlying problem. But if the employee denies any problem to management, they really have to act on what they do know, which is that she is a bothersome mooch. I think she will end up being fired for occurrence upon occurrence of this same problem. I hope that she does get help someday, if she needs that help.

    1. Jeanne*

      The mention of an EAP referral sounds helpful. I hope she will open up to the EAP psychologist because it sounds like something other than food insecurity.

      1. Leatherwings*

        I think it’s much more likely to cause resentment with the therapist, and maybe therapy in general. People manage to acknowledge that forcing treatment for eating disorders and drug abuse isn’t effective, I doubt that it’s going to be effective for the office “gimme” either.

        1. Crazy Canuck*

          I 100% agree. As the joke goes, how many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?

          Only one, but it has to want to change.

        2. Observer*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the eap referral didn’t help directly. But it seems to be part of a process at this workplace. Also, it might provide something of a wake up call – hopefully before the “wake up call” of getting fired, which sounds like a real possibility.

          1. Annonymouse*

            At the very least the referral can be for
            “You are disobeying direct instructions, lying about documented complaints about you and retaliating. This is unacceptable behaviour that you need to address.”

        3. Jessesgirl72*

          Even so, part of the termination process for someone with an addiction often includes giving them a chance (or 3 at my old Union job!) of going to rehab as a requirement of continued employment. You can’t be forced to go, but if you refuse, you are terminated.

          Someone with an addiction or an untreated mental disorder is a liability to the company, as well as having a negative impact on the work. No one has to get treatment, but the company doesn’t have to continue to employ anyone who turns it down. It’s supposed to be a chance for the employee to turn his or her life around.

        4. paul*

          Yep. OTOH, at least it shows a good faith effort from the company: “Here’s resources to help with whatever problem you’re having, but the behavior needs to stop”

      2. Abby*

        Employers cannot diagnose someone. It is not the employer’s job. It is her responsibility to tell you if there is a problem. It seems like there could be but we have no way of knowing. She could just be a jerk or entirely lacking in self awareness.

        1. Abby*

          Additionally, I have huge concerns about an EAP being used this way. Are you going to require her to tell you what is said? I think she should be told the behavior is unacceptable and if she doesn’t change, she could be terminated. It is not your job to diagnose her. If she has a problem that would require an accomodation, she needs to tell you. You can’t imagine that you know what is going on.

          1. Anna*

            They aren’t diagnosing her; they’re recommending she speak to someone IN CASE there is something psychological going on. The EAP can also help with things like working through bad habits that are maybe interfering with work. Which this is doing. IF she did talk to a psychologist with the EAP, they could diagnose her if there were something to diagnose. In addition, she wouldn’t have to tell anyone what was said, but she would have to demonstrate she was working on changing her behavior, which would be an indication she was following her manager’s recommendations.

          2. Danielle*

            It’s not a requirement or diagnosis though. The employer is saying “this behavior needs to stop. Here is this resource IF you need it.”

          3. Serafina*

            I agree with Anna’s assessment – at least I hope that’s accurate for how the OP’s organization uses EAP. EAP referrals should simply give an employee the *option* of pursuing help for any treatable reason for the actions that led to the discipline. This could also lead to an accommodation if warranted, without disclosing what the employee tells the employer.

          4. EAP Employee Here*

            As an EAP employee who explains to our clients how our program works, it’s not the manager nor is it an EAP counselor who does diagnosis (other EAPs may work differently; in my experience, psychologists do testing, M.D.s, such as psychiatrists, do diagnosis). EAP counselors have enough experience to give an opinion, but legally, unless you have the appropriate degree and license, you can’t diagnose.
            A manager/employer can make it a part of their performance improvement process to encourage an employee to seek EAP services. This is part of the manager’s effort to get support for an employee when the best efforts of the employer have not worked to get the employee to meet expectations for their performance or behavior. Our service recommends that an employer use frequent reminders that the service is available (some do this, some don’t). We also encourage managers to remind or recommend using an EAP when, in the manager’s assessment, the performance and behavior problems don’t seem to be related to anything going on at work. (For example, the employee has been a productive and respectful employee and there is a negative change in that behavior.) They are not to pry, but to say something like, “And if there’s anything else going on that is bothering you, I want to remind you that you have access to EAP services.” We do a two hour training session for managers on how to use the EAP and incorporate it into their discussions with employees. In our practice, it’s pretty common to discover that someone’s issues at work are due to the stress of dealing with personal issues that distract them from their work. I am glad that there are organizations who understand that people have personal lives that don’t always go smoothly and offer EAP services to their employees when those troubles impact their work life.

            1. Jeanne*

              Thank you for the explanation. I have used EAP. They were quite helpful and at the end gave me a referral to an excellent therapist. They didn’t diagnose me so much as encourage me to work on my issues. I think it’s ok to tell employees that EAP could be helful to them.

        2. JessaB*

          EAP =/= psych all the time. EAP can also be referrals to food help, to places that help with expenses, etc. Some places have legal help or budgeting help also. I don’t think it’s reasonable to presume that the only thing an EAP referral can help with is psych issues or therapy. I know the one at Mr B’s office has many many types of referrals almost like calling the United Way number and they tell you what charities/organisations around you have x services. If you call they ask a bunch of questions to determine what you need.

    2. Fiennes*

      agreed. I don’t want to play internet psychiatrist, but to me this sounds like someone who, at minimum, has an unhealthily high need for reassurance/support/security from the people around her. Which, ironically enough, is what’s making her position insecure…

    3. Anion*

      I don’t think there’s an underlying problem, personally. There was a letter not too long ago from an employee whose manager kept taking part of her food and insisting that the employee bring her food and snacks, remember? And the general consensus was that it was a power thing: the manager was playing “alpha” by making the employee feed her, basically, and using food to exert power over her. (That wasn’t the whole issue, because there was some stuff about weight and a particular diet in there, but most felt that power was at least part of it.)

      I think the same thing is happening here. Moocher feels a little thrill of delight every time she manages to take something from a co-worker without having to give anything. It makes her feel powerful and special and strong, and like she’s important. The fact that she keeps getting away with it only feeds that feeling, and convinces her that she’s *extra* special: look at how she has them all wrapped around her little finger! And it’s their fault if they don’t like it, the suckers, because they’re not strong enough to stand up to her and say no. She never had to do anything for them, but they jump when she snaps her fingers!

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she isn’t manipulative in other ways, too, that the OP doesn’t see.

      Make sure you remove her access to confidential information (and company-related social media) before you fire her, OP, and change all the system passwords. This person is malevolent.

  2. Marisol*

    It sounds to me like the OP has done an amazing job of handling this situation, irrespective of whether or not the employee changes her behavior. You can’t make someone act appropriately, all you can do it respond with compassion while making expectations clear, which the OP has done.

    1. Adam V*

      Honestly, I think while the compassion was appropriate the first time, it’s probably time to stop that and be more blunt from now on: “I’m tired of telling you to stop, and I’m tired of hearing ‘retaliatory complaints’ about your coworkers. I need you to understand that you *will* be fired the next time I have to talk to you about this.”

      1. Sadsack*

        Yes, the retaliatory complaints should just be cut off mid sentence. She needs to be made to understand that her behavior is the issue at hand and it must end.

        1. Working Mom*

          Yep – as soon as those comments start the response should be, “We’re not talking about Fergus. We’re talking about you.”

      2. INTP*

        Yeah. There needs to be some compassion for her other subordinates as well, who have to deal with this person. When it didn’t stop after the first conversation, it became not a matter of compassion or no compassion but whether the priority should be the problematic employee’s well-being or all of her coworkers’. It’s easy to think about the person drawing attention to herself, but she may be bullying/manipulating money and food out of people who can’t afford to give it, as well as causing a lot of stress for everyone else.

        It sounds like the OP does now understand that the woman will need to be fired soon so I don’t want to pile on. But this kind of behavior is really something that should have been dealt with effectively when the first conversation didn’t end it, even if that felt harsh. (I also think the next complaint calls for firing, not an EAP referral. OP has tried to fix the problem by offering help many times already.)

        1. Observer*

          Sure, but I also think it’s pretty obvious that this woman has some underlying issue. I have no idea what it is, and I’m not going to try to guess. But, an EAP referral makes some sense. If that doesn’t work, though, that’s that.

          1. INTP*

            Since the OP mentioned a mandatory EAP referral, I assumed she’d been aware of the EAP and knew it was an option. If she wasn’t aware of the EAP, I agree that a referral makes sense. I just don’t think making it mandatory will be productive – someone that has no interest in changing or even acknowledging that there is a problem at all until forced probably isn’t going to take mandatory therapy seriously.

      3. AD*

        I agree. The OP is her manager. She needs to set boundaries/limits, and enforce them. I actually don’t think she’s done such a great job of enforcing anything at this point.
        I know this is an update and Alison doesn’t usually respond or add to her original advice, but I’d be curious to hear what she would say here. This is clearly impacting other staff members, and is now a long-running problem (the original letter was published 14 months ago, in September 2015).

      4. Artemesia*

        This. Time for a PIP if they do it in your workplace or time for a tough talk that future incidents of this behavior will result in termination. Of course you have to have the ducks lined up and management above you agreeing that they will support this.

        I don’t know about mandatory EAP for something this elusive but we once had a long term employee who was an alcoholic whose alcoholism was interfering with his work; he was told that he needed to undertake rehab and change the behavior and that the organization would pay for the rehab. He did it and years later told me it had saved his life and his marriage — he and his wife had a second child once he was through with it and it was just a big plus all around for a difficult situation at home and at work. But personality disorders or neuroses or whatever IF this is the issue are extremely hard to deal with. I think the law needs to be laid down here on BEHAVIOR and termination to ensue if she doesn’t change. Offering EAP as helpful advice on the PIP is fine; I don’t think I would require it as it just sets her up to manipulate the system further.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t know. It frankly seems like nothing has changed — in the employee’s behavior or in the manager’s actions — since the first letter. The manager needs to be much more clear with this person: “Sheila, you cannot ask your colleagues for food or money. We’ve discussed this several times before, and now I need to be clear with you that if you continue to ask other employees for food or money that your job will be in jeopardy. Are you able to stop asking your colleagues for food and money?”

      1. Christine*

        I’m wondering if OP has had Sheila, turn around and say what she understands is being asked of her. Wondering how the message was received. If it was understood. Alison and others will have to answer this question. I have a thought, but it might be treating Sheila as a child, not sure if it’s acceptable.

        Can Sheila be asked to write up her own self improvement plan? That she can be asked to write out how she perceives the complaints and concerns, how she, herself can best address it, and set herself, a weekly, monthly goal, etc.?

        That you have an idea of how she perceives the issue, if she realizes how serious it is, and what steps that she needs to make as an individual to address it.

        It can also show the OP & HR, if she has any self reflection, and understanding how her actions affect the people working with her.

        Would that be out of line?

          1. Christine*

            I’m surprised one of her coworkers hasn’t snapped at her when she’s asked for food or money? I will do the polite response of “no” and if it was pushed, I would be the type to accuse them of being a mooch. I would be rude in this situation.

            1. fposte*

              Somebody probably has. With a behavior this deeply ingrained, it won’t stop it. Honestly, I’m not sure people never giving her anything would be enough to stop it at this point–she may just ask more frantically.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      This has been dragging on for over three years now! That is not amazing and should have been nipped in the bud a long time ago.

  3. Katie the Fed*

    What a disappointing update. :/

    How many talks/conversations does she need before progressive disciplinary action comes into play? Right now it’s toothless. It sounds like OP is now getting to that point but it’s taken an awfully long time – moochy employee probably isn’t taking it seriously.

    I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of EAP referrals being used as a disciplinary tool. They should be an assistive tool, not for punishment. Is that something that can be used before disciplinary action?

    One other thought as you pursue disciplinary action – you can tell the other employees that they need to refer ANY requests from her to you. You owe it to them to not make them deal with this anymore.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I don’t like the idea of EAP referrals being used that way either. It’s also unlikely to be effective – when people don’t opt-in to getting help, the “help” isn’t going to be effective. It could also look really bad to other employees: “Jane made Fergus go to therapy because he’s misbehaving at work” is hot office gossip if it gets around, and won’t end well for the employer.

    2. Marisol*

      I thought progressive disciplinary action was in play? I took the conversation to mean, “you’re out of chances. One more slip-up, and there will be consequences” which implies that the employee could be fired?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah but it’s more like “after multiple, multiple conversations, here’s another conversation to tell you that you’ll get a formal warning if it continues.”

        1. PollyQ*

          Yeah, I was on a parenting board that referred to this sort of discipline as the “Stop, or I’ll tell you to stop again” method. (Spoiler: did not work on children any better than it did on employees.)

    3. Abby*

      Same about the EAP referral. I actually had to google it to confirm that it was the same EAP I was thinking of. Using it as part of a threat makes it seem like seeking EAP on your own is somehow shameful.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        That’s interesting, I didn’t read it that way. I read it as “we don’t want to fire you, but something is clearly going on here, and multiple conversations have not led to it stopping, so get help from this program we offer or be disciplined when it happens again”

        I can see the reading of it you and others mentioned though, and I also think someone who doesn’t ask for help like that won’t take it, so I agree it shouldn’t be part of it – at least not mandatory. Just a reminder that is there for assistance while on a PIP or something.

        1. Murphy*

          That’s basically how I read it too. “Something is going on here, and you’re not taking care of it yourself, so you need to get some help.”

          1. A Day at the Zoo*

            Benefits person here — this is a very common use of the EAP and most EAPs handle it well. I have seen a lot of success with having employees understand the impact this is having on their careers and their fellow employees. It doesn’t always work as some employees do not want to or can’t face whatever the issue is. In that case, the result is generally termination, but at least the company tried to help the individual before going to the nuclear option.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Right, but wouldn’t you use the EAP referral BEFORE starting disciplinary action? In case it’s something they can correct with some assistance?

              1. Anna*

                I’m willing to bet that if you’re at the point where you’re telling an employee to get with EAP as part of a disciplinary process, you’ve already done everything else possible to correct behavior. I knew a woman who was told to do EAP-like work as part of a corrective action plan. By the time they had got to that point, her manager had many conversations with her, had worked on informal plans and check ins, and this was the last straw. She could either do this thing that was written on her CAP or she could find another job.

    4. Karanda Baywood*

      Yes, the original letter was posted in September 2015. The OP has had over a year to deal with this, and the coworkers have had this moocher on their case for that same length of time…

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I’d say OP is at least a little lucky that Hungry’s coworkers haven’t left for greener pastures. Everything else would have to be going spectacularly for me to stick around or still have any respect for my manager with that going on.

        1. Aurion*

          Yeah, the compassionate approach might’ve worked if it was a period of three months. Three years? That’s far too long and the OP should’ve done a hard shutdown long before the one-year mark.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think OP is focused on the wrong aspects of problem-employee’s behavior.

          For example, the update starts with “. . . every few months I get complaints. What sucks about this for her is that she is a great performer otherwise.” I think OP is letting the “great performer” aspect overshadow the significant impact this problem employee’s behavior is having on other staff. You can’t be a great performer if your coworkers dread interacting with you, even if you’re working by yourself. It might be helpful for OP to read The No A**Hole Rule. It talks about the real financial consequences of letting “jerks” stay on in organizations when their behavior negatively impacts their coworkers. The employee in this scenario hasn’t risen to the level of the a-word, but I think the same general principles apply because she’s aggressively and constantly harassing her coworkers. The longer this goes on, the greater the loss to the company.

          1. JS*

            Firing jerks is not a good solution in all cases. I worked at a company who employed a mega-jerk. He had a trash can near him and if someone threw something away in it he would go berserk. He also became irritated and would loudly condescend and berate people who wouldn’t close the door to the department behind them. The VP at the time had a great strategy for dealing with him. He put his name on the wastebasket near him and installed automatic closers for the doors. Unpeturbed, he found something else to go on about. The VP used this new tirade to counsel the employee about their absurd and abusive behavior. He found that one-on-one counseling made the problem go away for about three weeks. So he would give the employee homework (e.g., reading about role models) and come back in three weeks to discuss. This kept the behavior under control. Sadly, the owner wanted to fire him and was upset that his behavior improved. He believed he was just a bad apple. He fired the VP and in three weeks his bad behavior returned and they let him go at first notice. The problem was he was impeccable at performance. He was like a savant. His replacements (string of bad hiring choices) created problems, warranties and recalls costing thousands of dollars. Keeping him cost one hour every three weeks.

            The sophistication of the manager is in their ability to reform and retain good employees not replace. If all you do is take what your given and make excuses for the rest then you aren’t managing.

          2. JS*

            Another thought to consider: the a**hole relativity scale.

            If you just fire every jerk then everyone wonders if they are next or what constitutes a violation. If you can keep the biggest jerk in line and employed then people know where the line is. They also know that they are not in constant jeopardy of losing their job over the wrong comment. It improves performance not to have a dark cloud hanging over the corporation. Of course, this only works if the company is committed to results and performance. Too many companies thrive on drama and miss the mark. If the company is off purpose then correcting bad behavior is like trying to grasp the wind.

    5. Observer*

      It didn’t sound like the EAP was punishment, as much as “I’ve tried to help you deal with this on your own. If you can’t then you are going to need to accept professional intervention.”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Agreed, but that should be before disciplinary action. Give the person a chance to work with EAP and then pursue discipline. But this has been going on so long, at this point I’m not sure it makes that much difference…

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I disagree. Oftentimes disciplinary processes start before an employer realizes there could be an EAP problem. Here, for example, it could have been that Ms. Freerider was in a situation where she lacked food security. But assuming that wasn’t the case, OP moved to the disciplinary process. If partway through that process it seems like Freerider may be dealing with other issues beyond the scope of the traditional work discipline system (e.g., has a mental health issue), then it totally makes sense to refer someone to EAP before taking the final step to terminate.

  4. AMG*

    I would not feel bad. She has some kind of issue that needs to be addressed, and this may be the impetus that she needs to resolve it. Not your monkeys, not your circus (I mean, it is kind of your circus but you aren’t responsible for causing her behavior or getting the coworkers to stop either.)

  5. MissGirl*

    “I told her that we’ve discussed it multiple times and any additional complaints would result in disciplinary action and a mandatory EAP referral.”

    Sounds like it time to skip the warning as she’s had plenty and start disciplinary action. It doesn’t matter that she’s a high performer in other areas. This makes it so she’s not an overall good employee. This reminds me of the boss who would steal food and the coworkers finally had to use lockboxes to keep him out. Sounds like there’s a compulsions of some sorts that you can’t fix for her.

    It’s a tough situation. You have my sympathies.

    1. INTP*

      I agree. OP has given her many opportunities to acknowledge that she needs help, and she hasn’t taken them, so she’s unlikely to go into her EAP conversations open and ready to change. It could be that the mandatory EAP referral is just what is done at OP’s company, but in this case I think it’ll be ineffective and just stall the inevitable.

      1. AD*

        The original letter was published in September 2015, and from the sounds of that letter this had been an ongoing issue for months and months before that.
        The OP needs to step up and hear and take some decisive action, and set measurable goals and time limits for improvements to this employee’s behavior. I’m “sympathetic” and then I’m not – this has taken way too long for OP to address with results.

    2. Bwmn*

      I think dismissing the ‘high performer’ aspect is going to be incredibly dependent on what type of job she has and what high performance looks like.

      To go back to a letter a few days ago, if it’s something like speech writing or another position where “talent” is considered key and not as straight forward to replace then there can be a lot more reluctance in letting those employees go. Similarly, if high performance is tied to something incredibly tangible like sales or fundraising – then not only is that kind of high performance very visible but it can make a manager or organization more reluctant to lose those achievements.

      Additionally, while the employee is clearly behaving poorly – it’s also very incumbent on these other team members to say ‘no’ to her and report push back. Because what initially seemed to be the problem and what continues to be the problem is that people don’t say no and it only gets back to the OP when complaints pile up. I completely get being more junior and feeling that saying no to loaning someone 50 cents here or giving someone a bite of their lunch feels petty, but they can and should say no.

      So while the behavior is clearly a problem – I’m just placing this in my place of employment around certain “high performers”. And if they were engaging in such behavior, management would not only be loath to let them go but also a little frustrated with junior staff for not saying no and reporting repeat behavior more promptly.

      1. Karanda Baywood*

        But now there’s a pattern of retaliation on the part of the moocher, so the non-offending employees have THAT to deal with on top of it.

      2. animaniactoo*

        Even from a “high performer” there’s a line of how much of your ridiculousness they’ll put up with and they shouldn’t. Other high performers either exist or are waiting for a shot to show what they can do that they’re not currently getting while Mr/Ms Shenanigans is holding sway.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Also, I know if I had been working with this person and this had been going on for years with management apparently unwilling to resolve it? I would already be out of there, having sought and found another job. I doubt I’m the only one.

          It makes sense to try to retain a high performer up to a certain point, but then that person’s value to the team or organization is going to start to decrease as some of the other soft costs kick in from things like turnover from other team members who are unwilling to put up with this anymore.

          1. MissGirl*

            I totally agree. The book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” talks about this. How one so-called high-performing team member can derail an entire team. In that case the manager was fired for not taking the needed action to fix the problem.

            It’s important the manager be transparent to other members that this is actively being fixed and an end is hopefully in sight. Otherwise, she risks losing the team. I see the fact they’re making fun of this woman, while not good, is a symptom of frustration.

      3. Rachel*

        ” it’s also very incumbent on these other team members to say ‘no’ to her and report push back”
        I don’t think we should put any blame on the co-workers at this point. They are in a terribly awkward situation, especially if they need to be on friendly working terms with this moocher. They have said no in the past, and reported the situation to their boss and suffered retaliation from the moocher (for sure retaliating complaints – the Lysol comments, etc. Maybe other retaliation the OP doesn’t know about…). Asking the co-workers to manage the situation is making their jobs incredibly uncomfortable and difficult. Its so awkward saying no to someone asking for food.
        At this point (after YEARS of complaints to the OP) it is 100% on the OP to switch from warnings to action. The moocher will continue until the OP gives their warnings teeth.

      4. Meg Murry*

        Depending on what her job function is, I wonder if she is *truly* a high performer, or if she also manages to beg/badger/bug/cajole/”assign” her work to her co-workers. After all, if someone is willing to constantly ask for chips and money and small favors and even to run personal errands for her, how far of a leap would it be to her ask her co-workers to do parts of her assignments? Or even to tell them “Boss told me to have you do the first draft on the TPS report this month and then send it to me” or “Boss wants you to help me with X”. If the co-workers can’t say no when it’s food or money or a favor, I’m willing to bet they *really* don’t say no when it’s work related, and doubly so if they think it would seem like they weren’t being a team player or if they think Boss told her to get assistance.

        I think enough is enough and OP shouldn’t wait for the next complaint. My suggestion is:
        -Require her to start working with the EAP now.
        -Put her on a PIP and a *very* short leash. Tell her that she is not to ask her co-workers for *anything* – not food, not money, not even to change the paper in the printer for her – and if she *does* need something work related from the co-workers she can either email them (and cc the manager every single time) or she can ask at regular recurring meetings (if you have them) and she can route all requests to other departments to you. She is not to even passive-aggressively *hint* at wanting something someone else has (because I can absolutely see her switching up to saying things like “wow, those chips smell really good. Gosh, it must be so nice to have those chips. I wish I had some chips.” and then “You know what I could go for right now? Some chips.” etc etc until the coworkers say “here, take the chips and leave me alone already!” – and she technically didn’t ask.

        Does this sound like treating her like a child? Yes, because she needs it. Remember, fair treatment doesn’t always mean equal treatment, and you can tell her: these rules apply to you, because you have a history of badgering your co-workers and barging in to other department events, etc. Do not worry about if your other co-workers are asking to use some ketchup, etc. You worry about you, and right now what you need to do is *not ask your co-workers for anything without going through me first*.

        And if OP doesn’t have time to babysit her, that’s a valid firing reason too. OP could certainly take the “I tried, but I need someone in this position who I can trust to interact with her colleagues without me having to intervene in every interaction. Therefore, I need to fire her.”

        Talk to HR and your boss. Find out exactly what it takes to fire her (does it take a PIP? If so, do it now – you have plenty of reason). But don’t leave with them telling you that you “just have to deal with it”. Tell them you have been trying and it’s not working and now you need to start taking the steps to get her out.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed 100%. She can’t be a high performer if she’s dragging everyone else down by making the workplace miserable.

      5. Merida May*

        I really disagree with the line of thinking that suggests a single person should be granted carte blanche on bad behavior because they are good at the task oriented aspects of their job. What does that say about the state of the company? One would hope that the OP’s organization is not in such dire straits that they are resting on the shoulders of a woman who tries to shake loose change out of her co-workers at every opportunity.

      6. AcademiaNut*

        I do think that if this is the calculation – Problem Employee is a high enough performer that they’re going to indulge their bad behaviour – the employer needs to own that decision. So when other employees complain about legitimate issues, tell them straight out that Problem Employee is the top salesperson, or has hard to replace skills, or is tenured, so that while they are free to say no to requests for money/favours, they’re on their own, as the employee is too valuable to be called to account for their behaviour.

        If the employee is that valuable, the business can handle the loss of morale and respect, and resulting disaffection and employee turnover, that the policy produces.

        1. Bwmn*

          I really just wrote my post from the standpoint that if I think of my early experience in the medical research space – doctors who could manage bringing in high dollar grants, high profile publishing with frequency, and be granted/nominated for awards – their management stills, bedside manner, and all other soft employment skills were really allowed to be incredibly low.

          In a different way, in the fundraising world – I’ve seen high performers rely on other staff for tasks that they really should be be doing. And if those junior staff members don’t help them out there’s all sorts of passive aggressive/petty retaliation, etc. But again, that’s just Special Teapot Employee.

          In both cases, the larger reputation of the research facility or organization was such that whatever loss of morale or turnover was never seen as an issue – because they were always able to replace around those positions.

          Don’t know what industry the OP is in. Don’t know what kind of position this employee has or what high performance means for the team or organization. But, this notion that this kind of bad behavior is somehow intolerable when other results are high performing – there are just lots of industries or positions where this stuff is allowed to slide.

        2. happy cat*

          LOVE your reply, AcademiaNut. So much truth here.

          Working with someone like that must be horrible.. and chalking her behaviours up to ‘food security’ or even mental health issues is problematic for those of us who deal with these issues without resorting to poor behaviours like hers. IMHO I have seen this attitude more in people with a fair amount to a great deal more money than myself. It is called entitled.

  6. Zona the Great*

    This needs to be a disciplinary issue. I am, self-admittedly, too poor to eat more than two meals per day. I am also very easy to walk on. I have problems with confrontation so I would probably just keep giving her things. Now I understand this is my problem but if my boss didn’t do something drastic to stop it, it would put me in a very tough position. I tend to want to help others more than I want to help myself.

    1. LabHeather*

      Yeah, I can see this becoming a huge issue in my workplace as well. The office I am currently temping in did not get cleaned out after my predecessor and it is disgusting. The only place I even consider placing my lunch is the desk space which I scrupulously cleaned. No way I am “hiding” it in one of these icky drawers, and the fridge is even worse. Not just that, but I bring the amount of food I need to keep my wits about me at work. This sort of leech would get on my nerves real fast.

  7. Jessie*

    I’m not exactly clear on why the coworkers do not just say no. (Especially as they know they have their manager’s support in wanting it to stop.) If someone asks for money, even if it is just, say a dollar, you can say “No, sorry!” She’s not *stealing* money, she’s asking, and people keep saying yes and handing over money.

    (I completely get why the employee’s behavior is weird and annoying, I just can’t wrap my mind around the idea that apparently no one says no to this person. That is really odd.)

    1. Jenbug*

      I agree. That’s the oddest part of all. Just say no. She will stop asking. It’s not helping anyone for her coworkers to keep enabling her poor behavior.

      1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

        Of course if most people are saying no, and she just doesn’t stop asking, then that’s a problem itself.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think that’s where things are. The need is too great to stop immediately even if the reward does.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That was my take, also. I have a feeling many people are saying “no,” and she’s still asking. It gets REALLY wearing to have to keep saying “no” to someone who isn’t respecting personal boundaries re: food/money (even if it’s small amounts of either/both).

    2. memyselfandi*

      I had the same reaction. I wonder if they are saying no, but she keeps asking and that’s what they are complaining about. May that is what drove her to crash another department’s event – everyone in her’s was saying no. In any case it sounds like she is a troubled person.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        This is what I was envisioning. Or, they actually are telling her no whenever she asks them for something, but it’s not deterring her from asking for something else in the future. It really sounds like there might be something going on where she is not able to stop herself from asking rather than straight up refusal to change her behavior.

    3. ALICE*

      Yea, I think collectively everyone needs to start saying NO to her, for everything that is not directly related to work or a project. Even if it’s “can you grab that off the printer for me” I think that should be met with “sorry, I can’t” because she seems to be capable of walking around herself. Well it could be simple if you’re already up, for someone like her, it’s a weird dynamic that needs to be shut down.

    4. 2 Cents*

      I bet Asking Employee pulls out every guilt trip possible, and if they’ve been working together for awhile, knows some of the buttons to push to get a “yes” or “ok” from the other employees. I could see how it’s really awkward, and would take a lot of resolve for some people to say no repeatedly when the problem is so frequent and so persistent.

      OP, glad you’re moving on to disciplinary measures, but I think your sympathy for how Asking Employee is treating her coworkers can end. And I bet AE isn’t as “high performing” according to her coworkers as you think, if she always has her eyes / ears open for mooching opportunities.

      1. jaxon*

        I have to wonder what kind of guilt trip she could pull on someone that wouldn’t eventually lead to further conversations about what sort of scarcity issues she is facing or what the challenges are that are driving her to this behavior.

    5. Adonday Veeah*

      I’m kinda wondering the same thing. She can’t mooch without their permission – it’s not like she’s going into their purses or lunch bags and taking things behind people’s backs. I would be tempted to just tell people to step up and take responsibility for their own boundaries. I know some people find this uncomfortable, but that’s not really the manager’s job.

      1. Artemesia*

        She can however report them for petty infractions, be nasty to them and make their lives miserable — and since she has been allowed to do it for 3 years It would appear that management isn’t going to do anything about it.

    6. Jeanne*

      I would be saying no. But I am used to being thought of as harsh. So many want to be thought of as nice or they think that getting along with coworkers means not saying no. However, I suspect some are saying no to her but they complain when she doesn’t take no for an answer and becomes a true pest.

      1. AMG*

        Yep. You know there are several other people she never goes to because they have shut her down with no ambiguity.

      2. NJ Anon*

        I would say no as well and don’t think of it as being harsh. “Sorry, I don’t carry cash on me.” “Sorry I gave my last $5 to my son this morning.” And of course, my personal favorite (especially if this is ongoing) “No.”

        1. Dust Bunny*


          As far as everyone at my job knows, I never carry cash and need to go home to do (any of a list of obligations).

      3. sstabeler*

        I’d say yes the first time she asked me for money, but would refuse thereafter. Why? simple. I have borrowed money from a co-worker exactly once before. ( I had lost my wallet on the train to work that morning, and needed money to get lunch. I only borrowed as much as I actually needed that day, and on the trip into work the next day, checked Lost Property at the train station. My wallet had, in fact, been handed in- with none of the cash inside missing, which I admit slightly surprised me- so I got it back. As soon as I got into work, I repaid the co-worker who had lent me lunch money.) As such, I a inclined to help out, but when ti became clear they are just a mooch? they get cut off.

    7. Leatherwings*

      This isn’t a thing I would escalate to the point of complaining to a manager unless it was really really really egregious and saying no isn’t working. So to me this indicates exactly how egregious it is that there are *so many* complaints.

      It doesn’t matter how high performing she is in other areas, at the point that so many of her coworkers have complained about something that wouldn’t normally be a complaint-level annoyance, she needs to be put on a final warning and probably let go.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        This is a great point. LWs often don’t put in excessive detail to avoid being too lengthy, so it is probably not off base to think that the problem is much more excessive than “she asks to borrow money and take food a lot”

      2. MsCHX*

        I would expect a direct report to come to me if they feel (key word) that they cannot manage an issue they are having with a coworker on their own. And, some people will be assertive enough to say “No” and nip the behavior in the bud. If the behavior continues, I would want to hear about it. This IS part of the manager’s job IMO.

      3. TootsNYC*

        “So to me this indicates exactly how egregious it is that there are *so many* complaints.”

        And you notice that a complaint came from OUTSIDE her department.

    8. Kyrielle*

      Given her retaliatory complaints when management calls her on this, I wonder what she might be saying or doing to the people who say No to her. Do they depend on her input or assistance for their jobs? Is she senior to them, and they’re intimidated? Is she abrasive or aggressive? (Is she complaining about them for unrelated reasons if they say No? Hopefully OP would be alert to that and shut it down, tho.) Does she make awkward, embarrassing scenes?

    9. Myrin*

      I very much agree personally but I know tons of people who are so afraid of conflict that you could steal their bags from right under their noses and they would just silently watch you because of their fear of confrontation. It’s hard to believe that there is an entire department made up of solely such people, though.

      1. eplawyer*

        The department is only 4 people. So it could easily be go along to get along folks, or something along those lines. Or she could be using guilt. Remember how she burst in to tears when confronted? When someone is saying “Oh man, if I have to pay for this mandatory training, I won’t be able to pay my electric bill. But if I don’t go to the training I’ll be fired what do I do?” It is real easy to give in to a co-worker.

        The smaller department also makes it more likely they go along to get along because they have no way to avoid the person. It’s not like there are 20 people so you can just not ask Fergus to ask with the TPS report because Fergus is mad you didn’t give him a bite of your snickers. You gotta have fergus’ input so you put up with “minor” inconveniences to focus on getting the job done.

        Which I also think is the manager’s focus. It’s not affecting productivity YET. So compassion and trying to deal with it on an as needed basis seems the solution. But it has now reached the point where morale is affected which can hurt productivity so its time to take a firmer approach. The nice “Can I ask you not to do that” is not working. Time for “This must stop or A, B, C, Termination happens”

    10. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I agree. Though, from the update it isn’t clear if they are saying no and she is still asking anyway, which is annoying and still needs to be dealt with, or if they are still saying yes and she is still asking.

      If it is the latter, I wonder if she makes the working environment excessively awful when someone says no so they feel it is just easier to say yes and then complain? If she has ridiculously petty outbursts to her manager when confronted, it is not unreasonable to suspect she does the same to her coworkers when they say no.

      The OP doesn’t mention that happens though, so, if they are still saying yes, this just feels like spinelessness. I get that it is uncomfortable dealing with someone you have to work with in this way, but when your manager says “say no or I can’t back you up” then you need to be saying no.

      If they are saying no, and the manager is telling he to stop asking, and neither is deterring her, she needs to have disciplinary action ASAP because this just does not contribute to team dynamics.

      1. Jessie*

        Yes – if it’s an office-wide thing where everyone says yes I just find it so strange. I understand some people have trouble saying no, but, like, everyone in the office? That’s how it read to me from the original letter way back when – that she asks, people give, then get annoyed afterwards and complain.

        But I agree that if it’s as you say in your 2nd paragraph, that she retaliates or has outbursts or keeps pushing after hearing no, then if I were one of the coworkers I would be furious that the OP has not dealt with this already, because that is ridiculous. One way or another this should have ended a year ago. If she is awful to work with because she retaliates/ignores boundaries/etc, then she is *not* a strong employee and should have faced disciplinary action months and months ago, and if she kept going with that awfulness, she should have been let go. It’s destructive to the team if she behaves that way.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I completely agree. At some point, this is on the manager and not the moocher. Especially since it is spilling into other departments. OP needs to act firmly and swiftly or she will be viewed by her peers and subordinates as a weak manager who won’t or can’t take necessary action.

          1. Karanda Baywood*

            And as someone pointed out, the first letter was written over a year ago, and at that point, the behavior was going on a couple years. This is WAY past the point of tiptoeing around it.

          2. irritable vowel*

            Yeah. She’s basically panhandling in the office, but without any need (ie. food scarcity) to be doing so. This is activity that is not tolerated by law enforcement in public places or by property owners in private places. So why has it been tolerated for so long within this business?

            1. fposte*

              It would be kind of interesting to figure out the value of what she’s siphoned off of her co-workers over three years. I could easily see four digits at this point.

    11. sunny-dee*

      It sounded to me like the employee was branching out into other departments, who probably haven’t encountered her behavior before or were unaware of it occurring.

    12. INTP*

      Between the emotional outbursts, confrontations after complaints, and retaliatory complaints, I feel like this is a person who punishes people for saying “no.” When it’s just vending machine change or a few chips, maybe it’s easier for them to just give in than say “no” and deal with whatever she is going to dish out at them. The blame still goes to the bully rather than the people that react to bullying in a normal self-preserving way. (And they’ve complained to no avail, so tbh I don’t blame them for having no faith that OP will resolve the situation and feeling like they’re stuck with her.)

      Plus, we don’t know that no one says “no” to her. They could say “no” repeatedly and she keeps asking or guilt trips them. Maybe most people are saying no, but a couple of people are still giving in. Maybe everyone is saying no and that’s why she’s harassing other departments now.

      In any case I just don’t feel like it’s the responsibility of the coworkers to solve this problem. There’s a reason why families hire professionals to help them stop enabling their troubled members, it’s emotionally hard! It’s not their duty to reform her. I mean, if she were asking nicely and graciously accepting “no” for an answer and everyone was this stressed out about it, I’d say the coworkers need to get a grip, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

      1. Crazy Canuck*

        That moment when someone says what you are trying to say, but better and three minutes faster. Well played INTP, well played.

      2. caryatis*

        She’s continuing this behavior because it’s being intermittently reinforced. Ask three people, two say no but the third says yes = teaching her she can get what she wants if she asks enough people. If she got a consistent no for long enough, she would stop. Or start stealing. …But yeah, she should get fired yesterday.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—at a minimum she has significant boundary issues (not trying to armchair diagnose; just saying that if people tell you know and you keep harassing them, you’re not respecting the lines they’ve drawn).

      4. the_scientist*

        Seriously. This is clearly someone who has NO problems being a petty asshole when they don’t get what they want. What if her coworkers depend on her work to fulfill their job duties? Someone this petty would absolutely without work, miss deadlines, ignore requests/emails etc. because her coworker didn’t share their lunch. Plus, it is a small department, so her coworkers have to interact with her pretty frequently.

        This has been going on for so long that I am willing to bet that other employees have figured out the path of least resistance in dealing with this woman, so they can make their work environment as tolerable as possible and get their own work done. OP, you need to act on this ASAP. Frankly I’m shocked that you haven’t had 100% turnover among other employees since your first letter.

    13. Crazy Canuck*

      I can totally understand why they don’t just say no. We know from this letter that for days after any attempt to deal with the issue she will make petty retributive complaints .. to her boss. How much worse do you think she is to her peers? Do you know how tiring it is to deal with that petty bullshit 24/7? Especially given it has gone on for over a year without management doing anything substantial about it. After so long, it might be legitimately easier to just give her a couple of bucks or a bag of chips than having to deal with her bullshit.

      1. Sadsack*

        I don’t understand how OP hasn’t just said enough already. I mean, complaining that someone asked for ketchup so OP should go reprimand them, too, just shows me that she is deliberately defying OP and is acting very immature and unprofessional. A year of this continuous crap? I realize that the coworkers who keep giving in aren’t helping matters, but OP needs to just take control of this now and give everyone relief. How does it look to other departments who are now getting the woman’s begging when they find out how long this has been going on and nothing has been done about it? I get that you are trying to be compassionate, but that time has long passed.

      2. NW Mossy*

        This was exactly my thought. At least some of the people she’s interacting with are thinking “Ugh, I just want this to go away as quickly as possible and don’t want to get into a Big Thing about it, here, take these coins.” As faithful readers of AAM we know that this will not actually bring the behavior to an end, but many of us understand that “I don’t care enough about this to fight, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still drive me up a tree every time it happens.”

    14. Faith*

      Not only would I have said no, but my responses would have gotten progressively more unkind with each request.

    15. k*

      Some people are really good at manipulating others into doing what they want. Based on how long this has been going on, I’m guessing she’s mastered these skills. For example, if you say no, she would act so genuinely surprised that you would decline her itty-bitty simple favor, and look so dejected, that you second guess yourself and think you where being too harsh. Suddenly you’re apologizing to her as you hand over the cash.

    16. Mena*

      I agree with Jessie, completely. She asks and gets her way; why wouldn’t she continue asking? The co-workers agree and then complain to management to make it stop. HUH???

    17. One Handed Typist*

      My understanding is that they do say no, but she pushes back, and she pushes back HARD. As was seen in the original letter, when people pushed back with a hard “no” and reported it to OP (the manager), Snackina verbally berated the coworker. Snackina is now retaliating. These coworkers are now fearful of Snackina’s behavior when they say no.

      Also, when a person appears in need, it is hard to say no, especially when it appears to be such a small issue as sharing a snack.

      1. For the love of Coffee*

        Op stated that Snackina isn’t exactly in need and keeps denying that there is a problem, (which is easier for her to tell herself that because co-workers don’t stick to saying no).

        So if Snackina goes to the manager as retaliation when co-workers push back – there’s a window for OP to jump in and say “well you shouldn’t be asking them for snacks in the first instance; this is exactly the problem we discussed last week.”

        There are more of them and only one of her. If all of them stood firm ground and said a clear, resounding “no” in addition to the Manager saying “this is an issue. it has to go to stop.” it’s a tad harder for her to deny.

        But I’m wondering, is OP in the room when she does it? or nearby? Would it be easier to address it as soon OP actually sees her doing it? rather than just acting when she gets the complaints? “Snackina, what are you doing? Fergus has already said no. Please leave him alone and get back to work please.” That would also be harder for her to deny a problem because it would’ve literally just happened 5 minutes prior.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I give her one try at verbally berating me. I can berate right back, Snackina (hahah), and you won’t like it one little bit.

        And if I got in trouble for that, then I would quit that job in a hot minute. I wonder if people are afraid to push back because they’re scared they will get in trouble.

    18. drmaggiemoreau*

      Food mooch had an emotional outburst after initially being confronted, and it scared one of her coworkers into recanting. She makes retaliatory complaints about coworkers she believes “snitched” when her boss gives her warnings. She is insubordinate and ignores direct orders from her boss on this issue multiple times, even though her boss is being very gentle. My read is that Foodmoocherella is a bully, and is intimidating people into compliance. It’s beyond weird and annoying. After three years and multiple warnings to stop, it’s harassment. Even if someone does stand up to her, it doesn’t stop her from continuing to ask.

  8. ALICE*

    Yeesh… this one sounds like a lot. I don’t want to use my PHD from the school of hard knocks and internet everything, but it definitely does sounds like there is something underlying that perhaps she is unaware of even herself. I don’t know what I would do here, but as someone up-thread mentions, it does sound like you have been firm yet compassionate. Her retaliatory behavior in the complaints departments seems so very juvenile and immature, it’s baffling. I hope this resolves well for everyone involved, and if in fact this employee has some issues that need addressing, that she gets the help she needs.

    Is mandatory EAP referrals actually a thing in workplaces? Just curious. What could it mean if employee says that are not interested in the assistance? Would there be any kind of fallout if an employee is let go because they weren’t interested in counseling or evaluation or speaking about their private life issues under the EAP? Could they sue or anything of that matter? How are businesses protected?

    I would hope the next update is a bit better than this one! Cheers

    1. Jeanne*

      I think you can make the employee go to the session. You can’t make them talk about their problems. However, what you say is supposed to be confidential.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      If a business can require rehab as a requirement of continued employment- and many do- they should be able to require an EAP. It’s not illegal. In fact, court systems do it all the time when they require people to go through anger management counseling or the like.

    3. sunny-dee*

      I don’t think it’s common, but I think the motivation here is that the employee must have some kind of underlying issue (financial or psychological) which is why she keeps persisting in this behavior. So, rather than just cutting her off, they’re trying to get her to seek help, first.

      1. INTP*

        Is it ever effective when it’s mandatory though? It’s pretty common knowledge that people change when they’re ready to change. I understand offering the help, of course, but I don’t quite understand spending company resources to help someone that doesn’t want it and is obviously just going through the motions to hang onto their job a little longer.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          For some folks the impetus to change is a hard deadline or consequence, though, so requiring the EAP can actually be what gets them to act. For example, the threat of divorce and loss of custody was apparently what finally got my dad to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

        2. Anna*

          It’s also a paper trail. The OP can say they offered the employee everything available to change her behavior and still it persisted or she didn’t take advantage and now they have to terminate her.

        3. sunny-dee*

          Oh, I don’t think it will be effective, and I’m not even certain it’s a valid approach. I think many of us have a tendency to try to blame external factors rather than just address the person’s behavior as it stands. “Jane is really a nice person, she just ____ sometimes because of ____.”

          Early on, the offer of some kind of assistance is compassionate, but that ship sailed way before the first letter to AAM. Once she was told to stop the first time, she should have stopped. After that, all of the “compassion” including the offer of the EAP is effectively allowing her to keep doing it without repercussion.

          I get the goodwill behind it, but it’s still destructive to the team.

        4. bloo*

          My ex-friend, J, lost her husband because she refused to deal with her “underlying issues”. For years he’d begged her to go to a doctor because, her paranoia and extreme anxiety along with her temper were making him and the kids miserable. After 27 years she continued to refuse to acknowledge that she had a problem. So he left. She wouldn’t listen to family, friends or their marriage counselor.
          When she moved out of state and got a great job, she took her problems with her and her boss, also a friend, pulled her aside and told her, “get to a doctor and get on drugs or I’m firing you,” and guess what? She went to a doctor, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, got medicated and she’s like a different person.
          She wouldn’t listen to her husband, children or friends.
          But the threat of losing her great job? That worked.

          1. Temperance*

            Wow. What a selfish, horrible person. She was fine destroying the lives of her husband and children, but once she had a consequence, then she decided to seek treatment?

            1. bloo*

              You’d think losing a good man and the respect of her kids would be a sufficient consequence. It wasn’t. But a job was. A job she no longer has because she moved again and re-married and her current husband is benefiting from her diagnosis and continued therapy. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns because apparently she’ll go through phases where she decides to not take her meds and she has to be talked into it by her current husband. But as long as she’s on them, she’s great, from what I understand.

              1. LCL*

                But maybe she did learn. Losing her whole family was a big loss, then when her boss talked to her she could understand because she had already been through it once.

                1. Gandalf the Nude*

                  Yeah, and please be careful about judging folks for how they handle their mental illnesses. I know this is a particular struggle for folks with bipolar disorder and many others where mania is a feature.

                2. bloo*

                  Except that she accepts no responsibility for how her behaviors affected her family. She still blames her ex for leaving her and conveniently ignoring the reasons why.
                  But it was typical for her. She caused so much chaos even to her friends, pre-treatment. I was only friends with her because our husbands were best friends. There is a part of her I miss, but I cannot handle the drama that continued friendship with her would bring. Which she ended because I wouldn’t immediately take her side and demonize her husband.
                  Both of them are happily married to other people now (more so her ex-husband, than her-her current husband had called the ex on more than one occasion asking for insight in dealing with her). I wish things didn’t end the way they did, because when she wasn’t being paranoid and hyper-anxious, the two of them had so much in common and got along. But they appear to be content.

                3. Kate*

                  After she lost her family she still didn’t get meds or therapy. It was only after the boss threatened to fire her that she took action. Sadly, it sounds like it was the job that she really cared about losing, not the family.

                4. Temperance*

                  I grew up with a mentally unstable parent. She didn’t try to get any appropriate help until my father threatened to leave her. It destroyed my childhood and adolescence, and I still have no use for the woman. So yeah, I’m judging bloo’s ex-friend for being self-centered.

          2. EAP Employee Here*

            Unfortunately, it is actually common for people to ignore the consequences of their behavior until it affects their job.

    4. not really a lurker anymore*

      Yes, mandatory EAP is a thing in my workplace. It’s not always phrased as EAP though. In my current dept, it’s generally part of an ongoing disciplinary issue and is phrased “completion of a mandatory program” which translates into an anger/drug/alcohol/PTSD issue of some kind that we’d like to see stop if you’re going to continue working for us. By the time we get to this point – it’s either been aired very publicly because you came to work drunk/high or punched someone or it’s been ongoing for several years.

      1. a govt employee*

        This makes a lot of sense. It’s not getting the employer involved in whatever therapy she might agree too, as some seem to fear, it’s just saying “You may not agree, but we consider your behavior a problem and we want you to use this tool to help you stop it. Or else.”

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Mandatory EAP is a thing, and it’s also totally legal to require it of an employee (and to let that employee go if they don’t participate). It would be difficult to sue an employer for requiring EAP, or firing you for not availing yourself of those resources, unless you can show that the EAP referral was a pretext and the employer really intended to retaliate for legally protected conduct or on the basis of the employee’s membership in a protected class.

      EAP is often the employer’s way of trying to mitigate the risk that a disorder that could be ADA-protected is driving the problem employee’s conduct. It’s not supposed to “out” you if you do have a mental health issue, but it also gives both sides one last “good faith” chance to resolve what they can before proceeding to termination.

    1. WorkerBee 23*

      Agreed – I didn’t think this was a petty complaint but YMMV. I had a team member at my last job who would clip her nails while we were on a conference call Every. Single. Week. She’d put her phone on mute but since I sat right over the cubie wall from her, I could hear each & every CLIP. I’m sorry I’m not sorry but you need to save that for your bathroom at home. Just… no.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I have clipped my nails at work maybe twice. In the bathroom. And only because it was badly broken and snagging things.

        All grooming should be done at home. Just … all the grooming.

        1. Shazbot*

          I invested in a glass emery board so I could fix snags at my desk *silently.* They don’t make anywhere near the noise of a cardboard one. My office has a serious roach infestation so we try to avoid going to the restrooms unless it’s absolutely necessary; you never know when those things are going to jump out at you or fall on you. WAY more disgusting than nail filing.

        2. Julia*

          Tell that to my co-worker who does her nails (including painting them) in our Office and refuses to let you open a window because she’s cold. Should have thought of that before you stunk up the place with toxic fumes.

      2. Bonky*

        Oh, I’m wincing just reading that.

        I keep a glass nail file in my desk drawer for nail emergencies, but I’m ultra-cautious about using it if I think anyone can see. And it’s silent. I’ll fix my lipstick at my desk, but that’s as much grooming as I’ll do at work outside the bathroom.

    2. Crazy Canuck*

      Really? I had no idea people had such strong feelings on the subject. I mean, I’ve totally been called a monster before, but not over nail clipping. The more you know ….

      1. Lily in NYC*

        It drives me up a wall. The biggest subway fight I ever witnessed was over some rude jerkwad clipping his nails.

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        This is a real personal tolerance issue on a huge spectrum. Myself, I have no problem as long as the clippings are cleaned up. Other people act like it’s a capital offense.

        Being aware of the “capital offense” end of the spectrum, I keep my nail clippings at home. :)

        1. Is it Friday Yet?*

          I wouldn’t care if someone OCCASIONALLY did it at their desk, but on a conference call or in a meeting… that’s rude. And no one should ever paint their nails at work. The smell is way too offensive, and it lingers.

      3. Aurion*

        Yeah, I’m with you. Every time I see these sentiments I’m baffled. I think everyone needs to not leave their DNA lying around in public spaces so clippings and whatnot. And yes, grooming at the office is inappropriate so ideally this shouldn’t happen (outside of the occasional hangnail or broken nail, and yes, please clean up after yourself thoroughly). But I wouldn’t call it monstrous either way.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Hyperbole is a perfectly acceptable writing style. Not everything needs to be taken literally.

          1. Aurion*

            I know it’s hyperbole for emphatic dislike (I’m sure no one literally means it’s a capital offense). But I’m honestly a little puzzled at how emphatic the dislike is.

            1. Amadeo*

              I can sort of understand. I don’t mind folks clipping their nails so long as they clean up after themselves. BUT! I expect that the people here who are complaining about it are having the same level of reaction that I have when some folks will chew their food/gum with their mouth wide open and smack loudly – it makes me almost irrationally angry and not shouting at these people is a monumental effort of will.

            2. Lily in NYC*

              Lots of people have mild mysphonia (myself included). It magnifies the annoyance from things like people clipping nails or eating loudly. Ha, spellcheck tried to change mysphonia to nymphomania!

            3. Emma*

              The noise of nail clippers is like nails on a chalkboard to me. And that’s not actually an exaggeration – they’re both equally painful to me. (Them and, of all things, ticking clocks.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          Clipping your nails does not have to equal “leaving your DNA lying around.”

          It’s an annoying noise, bcs it’s so sharp.

          But the times I’ve clipped my nails “not at home” have been because I’ve snagged my thin, thin nails, and it’s getting in the way. I could walk all the way to the bathroom on the other side of the floor, or I could make 4 snips to that nail and have it all squared away.

    3. MsCHX*

      I have an office and will clip *A* nail if it breaks.

      I used to work with a woman who would clip her toenails in her cubicle. It was awful.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I have an office and will clip *A* nail if it breaks.

        Same here. I doubt anyone can hear me with the door closed. (Though honestly, I would love to field that complaint from one person in particular, just so I could respond with a string of my own noise complaints.)

        1. Seal*

          Me too. I’ll even file a rough nail in my office so it doesn’t snag on anything or break. But neither activity lasts more than a minute at the most and then I’m on my way.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        At OldExJob, we had a regular vendor who would come in and stand in the lobby area and clip his nails while waiting for the purchasing manager to come up and talk to him. Just clip clip clip, and let them fall on the carpet. It was so f*cking gross. One day I politely asked him to please not do that any more, and he got all pissy. Completely lost all respect for him at that point.

        I have done a discreet clip at my desk, in my cube, when a hangnail or break happened. Under the desk, over the bin, and as quickly as possible. And only when the file couldn’t handle it.

      1. VolunteercoordinatorinNOVA*

        Filing seems almost worse to me as the sound is so awful and goes on for longer than clipping. I love getting a manicure but have to do lots of deep breathing as the sounds in a nail salon give me serious anxiety.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, definitely. The only exception to clipping a nail or filing it is if you’ve broken a nail, and it’s snagging or causing you pain/discomfort. Generally speaking, folks should not be grooming at work, but definitely not at their desks.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I guess I’m Grendel then.
      But I only clip if it’s an emergency such as a broken nail or hangnail, because it hurts if I don’t trim it. Definitely no toes.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think folks have articulated an exception for broken nails or other pain-causing nail/nail-bed problems that did not exist when you left for work.

        The idea that someone clipped their toenails at work boggles my mind.

  9. ELF*

    Really stupid question, but could the OP not fire the mooch employee for insubordination? If the OP has repeatedly asked the employee to stop this behavior, couldn’t they get rid of her that way?

    Note: I’m not a manager, and I’ve never played on TV, so I don’t even know if this is a remote possibility.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. You don’t actually need a reason to fire someone (not that employers typically fire people willy-nilly, but it’s not legally required). Legal stuff aside, it would be totally reasonable to fire her for this if it continues after this point.

      My read is that the OP is hesitant to do that, both because she feels sorry for the employee and also because she’s thinking she shouldn’t fire an otherwise good worker. (I’d argue that this is enough of a problem to trump the parts of her work that are good, given the fact that she’s still doing it after so many conversations, and that it’s impacting other people.)

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Allison, the opinions here seem to range from “this isn’t the manager’s problem, the coworkers need to handle it” to “this isn’t on the coworkers at all and the manager should have been more firm a while ago” – where do you fall on issues like this that aren’t specifically work related, but impact the team dynamic? You responded to the first letter about how she should speak to each employee, because she asked and obviously it had gotten to a bad point by then. But in the early stages of this, for example just one or two employees mentioning how aggravating this constant mooching is (or some other interpersonal issue), what would your recommendation be? Advise the manager to give the coworkers tools to put a stop to it, or immediately step in for the sake of team dynamics?

        1. Anna*

          I think saying it’s not the manager’s problem and it falls fully on the coworkers to deal with ignores a major reason a manager exists. It is a manager’s job to manage employees. This employee needs to be managed for bad behavior. The manager is responsible for it.

          1. paul*

            Exactly. I mean, I’m all for being frigging adults and trying to handle low level stuff yourselves, but at this point? This is part of *why* managers are a thing.

            1. LCL*

              And if you leave it up to the workgroup to police behavior, soon you will be receiving complaints about harassment and bullying and identity group intimidation and retaliation and hostile workplace and HR will do an investigation and work life will suck for everyone. Group policing is very powerful, it is OK to use for some technical things (‘We do it THIS way’) but management has to keep a close eye on it. You can be surprised, and not in a good way, when you ask coworkers to handle personnel conflicts.

              Of course there’s nothing stopping all 4 coworkers from going to manager and saying they are feeling bullied by Snackina’s behavior.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          To answer your question about how soon to step in, I usually start with telling the affected people something like “do you want to take a stab at responding to her now, or would you like me to step in?” Usually they’ll want the first chance to fix things. If that doesn’t work, then I step in.

      2. animaniactoo*

        Yes, I would argue that this is significantly affecting the office and that no matter how good she may be at her job, the cost to the other employees is an unreasonable ask to ask them to keep putting up with it. And I don’t mean actual cost, I mean emotional and mental toll. So the net effect is detrimental to the business, even if she is beneficial to her assigned tasks.

      3. TootsNYC*

        In some states (in NYState, for example), if a company has a policy, they can be legally required to follow that policy. Even if the policy isn’t written down but has been consistently followed.

        However, most companies then have it their handbooks, “We sometimes give you warnings, but we always have the right to just fire you without using that process.”

    2. The IT Manager*

      The moocher (any employee really) can be fired for almost anything. But, yes, it seems long past time to have fired this employee because she has repeatedly been unable to stop her mooching.

    3. At will*

      If it’s an at-will employment situation, you could fire the employee for literally any reason (insubordination, looking at you funny, sneezing too loud) as long as its not protected.

    4. Crazy Canuck*

      Even in Canada, without at-will employment, multiple cases (3 is the magic number I always hear, but can’t find in any law) of insubordination would qualify as just cause for termination. You can fire in Canada without just cause, but then you are required to pay out severance pay, which is usually two weeks wages.

  10. Murphy*

    Is she just cheap? I have a friend who is really cheap, and she mooches off of other people all the time. Will eat some of the appetizer at the table, but when we ask that the cost be divided evenly on everyone’s checks will bow out of paying her share. Will get get food/drinks from the kitchen without asking, etc. Though that doesn’t seem to cover all of this. Very weird behavior…

      1. BPT*

        My reading of Murphy’s comment was that maybe it’s not a mental illness thing – there are other explanations that boil down to someone just being a cheap jerk. If it is a mental illness thing, then yes it needs to be handled a little more delicately, even if and when the final step is to fire someone. But if they’re just being a cheap jerk, I’m much more likely to fire them quickly without feeling bad about it.

    1. caryatis*

      Eh. I’m cheap. But it only affects me. There’s a difference between being cheap and being a thief.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, I have some seriously cheap friends, but they don’t do this. They’ll suggest less expensive options for eating out (or opt to hang out at home with drinks) but they don’t just waltz into people’s kitchens and take stuff or try to get other people to pay for their food in restaurants.

        That kitchen thing would drive me up the wall…

  11. Crazy Canuck*

    “I realize now that I should have done this much sooner but I was hesitant to come down so heavy on someone who may be in need.”

    Two thoughts. First, it is not your responsibility as an employer to determine if someone is in need. If she has a serious food issue or food related medical issue (and it seems a lot like she does) then it is HER responsibility to bring that up and see if an accommodation can be made for her disability. It is not yours.

    Second, what about your other employees? They are in need as well. They have come to you with this problem. They need you to manage it. Why does their need count for less? I can guarantee that some of them are probably looking elsewhere for jobs right now, because dealing with this situation as a co-worker sucks. I know, I’ve been there.

    1. Anna*

      It is the job of a decent human being to have compassion. The OP was trying to look at it from the perspective of a decent human being. The employee has since proved that isn’t what she needs and now manager can move forward, but it’s a little…weird to not realize people in tight financial spots are usually unlikely to step forward because they’re embarrassed and to expect them to do all that heavy lifting of informing everybody about their particular needs is also an unkindness.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Well, as others have been pointing out, this had been going on for two years before the OP even wrote to AAM. The time for a compassionate discussion was after a few months, max. Once that behavior kept persisting, then whether she has a financial problem or not is irrelevant.

        1. Anna*

          Yes, exactly what I meant when I said that the employee has proven that isn’t the case the OP should move forward with it being a disciplinary/behavior/performance issue.

      2. animaniactoo*

        There gets to be a point where pride is a luxury you can’t afford. And one of those points is when you are regularly asking for things from other people and they have indicated it is a problem.

        1. Anna*

          Well, not exactly because I don’t think the OP is dealing with someone who is in dire fiscal straits and needs that kind of help. What’s going on with the employee is something else. So it’s kind of an irrelevant question anyway.

      3. caryatis*

        The LW said she has food of her own. So she’s not struggling financially, at least not to the point where she’s going hungry. And stuff like asking others to do her errands has nothing to do with money.

        1. Anna*

          You’re relating two completely unrelated things: that she has food means she is not struggling. I wouldn’t make that assumption. But either way, whatever it is that’s going on with the employee, the OP originally decided to come at it from a compassionate perspective. It no longer seems like the problem is what the OP originally thought and in that case, like I said originally, the OP can move on and treat it as a behavior/performance issue.

          And no matter what, forcing people to reveal something like a financial struggle is the kind of thing people with have done to people without for ages and it has been used as a form of punishment. “Asking for charity” is a loaded shameful concept for a reason.

      4. Emma*

        Yes, but – there’s also having compassion for all the other people in this scenario. This is what honestly bugs me about the “have compassion” argument – it excuses bad behavior and recasts the person behaving poorly as the real victim.

        I can have compassion for someone who’s struggling financially and still not only think their mooching is wrong, but insist that they knock it off.

  12. Lemon*

    I just want to point out that the fact she brings lunch everyday is not conclusive evidence that it is not a food security issue. Maybe she can only afford food for one meal a day, which she brings to work. It’s entirely possible that she is asking for food/money to supplement the meals she misses when she is not at work.

    1. WorkerBee 23*

      True… but that doesn’t excuse her behavior. It also doesn’t explain her asking favors from everyone. That’s a whole ‘nother issue in & of itself.

    2. Observer*

      At this point, it makes no difference. If she needs the help that badly, she should have taken up the OP up on all of her offers of help. She didn’t. So, “food scarcity” is not the problem, even if she really does have financial problems.

      1. ALICE*

        & even if she does have issues, A.) it’s not the burden of her co-workers to solve, especially not in this way. If they are being “harassed” endlessly with requests by this person, or subject to her retaliation for saying no.
        B.) I don’t think this is her issue, especially because she finds it necessary for days on end after discipline to bring complaints that are so juvenile and immature that it really blows my mind. Something is off with her, and she doesn’t understand how boundaries work.

      2. OhNo*

        Exactly. The OP has offered as much support and help as they are able – if she won’t take them up on it, or even admit that she needs help, it’s not the OP’s or her coworkers’ responsibility to keep putting up with this behavior on the off chance that food scarcity is the root cause.

        I think of it like disability accommodation. It’s on the employee to ask for what they need. A good manager (which the OP is clearly trying to be) may offer possible ideas, or prompt an employee to see if they need accommodation, or encourage them to pursue accommodation. But if the employee refuses do or admit they need anything, management isn’t required to anticipate their every possible need.

    3. Jane*

      Yeahhh… this update doesn’t mention any of the constructive responses and resources that Alison suggested in her original answer. Did the OP follow the advice to offer support and simultaneously lay down a clear red line against depending on or pressuring coworkers for that support? I think this is absolutely a disciplinary issue as others have mentioned above, but it needs to come accompanied by a clear route for the employee to learn acceptable, non-coercive means of accessing support. This may also allow the OP to interrupt some of the weird guilt tripping that is happening by reminding coworkers that they are not the only source of resources for this employee.

    4. BPT*

      But if you’re going down that train of thought, you don’t know that other employees aren’t dealing with hunger and food insecurity and she’s taking from people in need. We can speculate about the reasons behind it, but in the end it doesn’t matter. She’s been offered help, and won’t take it. If the behavior doesn’t change, then firing is the only option, no matter the motivations behind her actions.

      1. Michele*

        I agree. It’s possible that her co-workers have their own money issues and keep it out of the office. Also, does this woman help them out? She doesn’t seem to be returning the favor to them at all – or even offering assistance.

    5. Lauren*

      And it’s no one else’s responsibility to feed her or take care of her in any way. No one’s!

  13. animaniactoo*

    OP, I know you’ve said the complaints are petty, however I’d like to see you investigate them further with her – just so that she understands the process that goes on in your head (and most other people’s).

    “This person smells like Lysol” “Please explain why that’s a problem.”

    “The person who complained about me asked for ketchup” “How often do they ask for ketchup?” “It was just the one time? Okay, I don’t consider a one-time ask a serious issue. If it was an ongoing issue, I would address it with them.”

    Fwiw, I feel you – I’m currently part of a process (today, it feels awful) of pushing harder at someone who has gotten a lot of leeway but is long overdue for change in the something’s gotta give category. The hardest part is knowing that the outcome may not be what you want them to choose, but you can’t choose for them, you have to – even with an underlying condition (mine’s a technophobe who’s running scared from learning to use stuff they need in order to be able to communicate and organize with other people that they want to do) – allow them to be the one who chooses how to deal with that when it results in problems for them. But you can’t own that. You can’t make it your responsibility, even when it feels sucky to be part of it. You can’t care or work harder at it then they do. Because then it’s saying it’s your responsibility, not theirs, and that’s taking it away from them and that’s not fair to either of you. Your responsibility has to be about giving them appropriate feedback on the seriousness of the issue, so that they are informed and can make whatever choices they are going to.

    1. BPT*

      I’m not sure delving into her complaints is the best route to take – it’s like giving them legitimacy. I’d rather just see OP shut her down and say, “we’re here to talk about your food issues, what other people smell like isn’t relevant to this conversation.”

    2. CAinUK*

      I disagree. I don’t think the manager owes this employee a response. The manager can decide whether to investigate those complaints, but discussing them with the moocher is derailing the focus. And it makes the moocher feel they have power, and thus these petty complaints are an effective tactic. (“Every time someone complains about me I can make the manager justify it by making a counter-complaint.”)

      I wouldn’t go on a PIP. It sounds like OP already said this needs to stop. The very next time someone complains, or the moocher complains, fire her. OP mentions the moocher is both defensive and antagonistic, so I don’t think she is owed a good-faith effort for a 4th/5th/99th chance. She had them, she didn’t listen, she needs to go.

      1. HR Caligula*

        I’m with BPT and CAinUK on this.

        When confronting behaviors we’re often met with at least one of the “three D’s”. Deny, Dilute, and Divert. This is diversion and best practice is immediately put the focus back to the actual subject.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Good point, and usually when I do this with someone, I’ll bring it back around “unlike the issue of your regularly….” I should have spelled that out here.

          When it comes up in the same moment that I’m addressing something with them, I’ve used “Okay, and we can talk about that later/after, but right now we’re discussing this problem”.

          I tend to find that works because it leaves them less of a hold for the other “deny” perspective where they can justify and claim that they’re being singled out. (That’s peer-to-peer or adult-to-youngerset, not manager to employee, but I think the dynamic carries.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think the approach could work if OP was in the earlier stages of this being a problem. But I agree with others that you don’t want to legitimize ridiculous and petty complaints. Problem-employee is creating false equivalencies that just don’t pass the smell test. OP doesn’t need her to accept that what she’s doing is wrong; s/he just needs problem-employee to stop doing it.

  14. Moonsaults*

    I know that you are trying to come at this from a compassionate angle and all but I feel absolutely terrible for everyone who complains about this person for well over a year. Taking pity on one person while others are suffering seems backwards.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      True, and yet the others are not only enabling her behavior, but sabotaging the OP’s attempts to correct it, so it’s hard to let them completely off the hook.

      1. sunny-dee*

        The only one sabotaging attempts to correct it is the lady herself. Apparently, she is emotional and petty and is circulating her requests among people she doesn’t normally work with and is even barging into places where she was not invited (!). I cannot blame the entire office of some of them essentially bribe her to get her to leave them alone or because of retaliation.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          From the original letter: She was deeply offended and later had an emotional outburst where she confronted a coworker about it. They denied that there was a problem and later apologized to me in private.

          Yes, I understand it’s uncomfortable when someone has an emotional outburst. But you cannot convince me that denying there is a problem isn’t sabotage.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Or maybe the coworker said that so they wouldn’t have to deal with an angry outburst again.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Uh, yeah, this. If I had a coworker nag the crap out of me then blow up when I complained to the boss, and the boss’s seeming reaction was a shrug, I too would give a passive-aggressive “everything is fine” answer and try to go about my day.

              The coworkers are the victims here. They are not the ones “sabotaging” anything. The coworker is being rebellious and the manager is enabling that.

      2. Moonsaults*

        From the letters, it sounds like this lady is a train wreck when she’s corrected, so I can imagine her coworkers feel powerless in doing so. So they could say no, then what? What’s her function in the office? Does she have the ability to make their life hell just because they have the backbone to tell her that no you can’t have my bag of chips?

        The fact that she went to someone who had complained and that’s when they backed down and said they hadn’t is glaring here. I would have stepped in as a manager if someone was told to “stop” and that there were complaints, only to have them go and bully the person who had complained. You know what I’m saying?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          So they could say no, then what? What’s her function in the office? Does she have the ability to make their life hell just because they have the backbone to tell her that no you can’t have my bag of chips?

          If she’s making people’s lives hell, for whatever reason, she should be fired. Of course, I also think she should be fired when her manager tells her to stop asking her coworkers for food and money, and she continues to ask them for food and money. I absolutely agree with you on that. But the fact is that, even though they may have reasonable rationale for sabotaging the OP’s efforts, they are still sabotaging the OP’s efforts.

          1. Moonsaults*

            That’s fair enough, I think everyone here is at fault for the situation in some way. Either not standing up to her, backing down after complaining and not following the instructions given to them by management. I also think management is failing greatly by letting it drag on so long though. After someone shows you that they are not interested in changing their behavior when it’s addressed, you need to move swiftly to the next step of the disciplinary action instead of dragging it out.

            I work with giant man children at times and nobody has ever confronted another guy after they called him out to management. That’s what’s really keeping me angry about this whole situation right now.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The other thing is that if you stand up and your boss doesn’t have your back, why would you want to keep putting yourself in harm’s way?

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think they’re sabotaging OP’s efforts, because from what I can tell, OP is inconsistently applying little effort towards correcting problem-employee’s conduct. If you’re getting harangued for food and tell a person no, complain, then get harangued for complaining, it sets up a real “walking on eggshells” dynamic with the coworker who’s behaving like an adult.

        If OP were handling the situation appropriately, then we wouldn’t be here 3 years later with the same problem. There are times when people do undermine a plan for corrective action, but in this case it doesn’t sound like OP has a plan—just one-off, occasional reminders which OP doesn’t enforce. It’s not like OP is telling problem-employee’s coworkers “here’s my suggested approach: you are to say ‘no’ anytime PE asks for a food/favor/money, and I’ll follow up if her conduct continues.”

  15. Student*

    I strongly encourage the OP to go sit down and listen to some of the people complaining about the behavior again.

    Ask: how pervasive is this, how long has she been doing this, how does it impact people working with this employee, how does it impact other departments (work groups) working with your department through this employee, and who else might’ve had similar problems but didn’t complain to the OP? Do more listening than talking. Hear out their frustrations/vents.

    Maybe hearing more about the impact this is having across your department will inspire you to do something about it, even when faced with the problem employee’s emotional manipulations to try to avoid consequences in person. This person is repeatedly emotionally manipulating you to try to get out of changing or facing consequences for her behavior, rather than actually taking your feedback to heart and making changes. Who’s really in charge here? Why does she feel so comfortable walking all over you and ignoring you?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually wouldn’t do that unless the OP is prepared to take swift and decisive action with the employee afterwards. Otherwise it’ll just be more conversations with the coworkers, followed by the problem continuing … which sounds like has already been the case for a long time, so it’s likely to really frustrate/annoy the coworkers.

      Frankly, I don’t think the OP needs the additional conversations at this point. She just needs to act.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. She is already essentially on a PIP in that she has been TOLD repeatedly and ignored it. The only thing the OP needs to do is get authorization to proceed with firing her ass. Get that underway then let her know and have her escorted out.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, the goal here is to douse the drama wildfire; interviewing everybody would just be spreading kerosene. (Plus this employee has sucked enough time out of the office already.)

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. Student, I think your suggestion may have made sense when OP first wrote in, but at this stage, unless OP is going to deal with the problem (which OP has not done), then making employees relive dealing with this woman kind of adds fuel to the fire.

  16. some1*

    “we even had a group meeting a few months ago about office etiquette that touched some of these scenarios.”

    I would be pretty annoyed if I had to sit through aNOTHER meeting to be trained on something I learned as a child because one coworker can’t stop being rude.

    1. CM*

      Agreed, I noticed this too. Not only is this behavior tolerated by management, but now everybody has to have a group meeting about office etiquette?? That’s like adding insult to injury. I’m assuming that nobody else really needed to be coached on office etiquette.

    2. NW Mossy*

      A group meeting to handle an issue caused by one or two people is a terrible way to manage. The people who are causing the problem likely won’t recognize themselves as the ones who need to change, and everyone else is forced to endure a correction for something they weren’t doing in the first place. Ugh.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. And honestly, the person who’s the problem usually doesn’t get that everyone has to do training because of the problem person’s bad conduct. Problem-person usually doesn’t notice or doesn’t think their conduct is wrong/bad, and they also don’t care how it affects others.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      YES! I’m still annoyed that our company forced us to do a huge spring cleaning event – we paid 20K for some ridiculous consultants to come in with balloons and act like cheerleaders while we cleaned up. The only reason it was done is because we have a few disgusting office hoarders and HR didn’t have the nerve to single them out. My dept. keeps our own area very neat and it was a completely unnecessary 3-days of paper-shredding hell.

      1. Sydney*

        Whoa what? Why didn’t they just pay for cleaners? I’d be pretty annoyed if I had to clean someone’s elses mess while cheerleaders were cheering me on. How bizarre.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh, we had to clean up our own mess and the common areas of our departments. I didn’t have to go clean the hoarders office! That would probably be a deal-breaker for me.

          1. Marie*

            In my former life as an admin, I was in fact directed by my boss to assist the hoarder in cleaning their office, because “duties as assigned.” There was rotten food and vermin in there. I said I would like to sit down and review OSHA guidelines, because I suspected I would need gloves, a mask, and possibly a suit to make sure we didn’t get in legal trouble for having me manage health hazards inappropriately. That stopped the boss’s request cold. Though the employee continued to pressure me weekly, which the boss said was my responsibility to manage. Just say no, weekly, for five years, to somebody technically your senior, and eventually they’ll stop! The only reason they have t is that one time you said “maybe”!

            This employee also had severe mental health issues, including active psychosis about four times a year. The psychosis would go on for a few days, getting worse and worse, until eventually it would reach the level of calling the police. The employee would go into the hospital for a week or so (during which time they would keep calling into the office trying to delegate tasks based on their psychosis, like, “Call client X. Tell them they are number one. The Lord told me their color, but that’s a personal conversation, so I need their home number”). My boss handled that the same way — if they are making you uncomfortable by asking you into their office, shutting the door, turning off the lights, and getting so close your noses touch while they tell you what the Lord has revealed about you, just speak up and tell them that’s inappropriate! And have some compassion! What are they supposed to do, make a policy where nobody can ask each other into offices? And for heavens sake they can’t be seen as policing employee religious beliefs!

            And yeah, HR was consulted. They made an EAP referral and told the staff to have some compassion, and that it was cruel and illegal to want an employee fired due to mental illness, so our complaints needed to stop because they were making a hostile work environment.

            I know that was an extreme example, but it was five years of a workplace pretending this was normal and tolerable (also with shaming for “gossip”). I wasn’t able to leave earlier, and that experience did incalculable damage to my faith in reasonable management policies like “don’t gossip” or “talk to each other first.” If staff are coming to you, either they are not currently able to utilize reasonable policies, or the reasonable policies don’t work! Either way, both those situations require a manager to manage, not direct the non-functioning part to not-function harder until it functions correctly!

    4. Marisol*

      Interesting. I would be thinking, “good. the issue is being addressed. I won’t be offended because I already know my etiquette, and now I can be assured that everyone shares the same frame of reference for when future issues arise.”

  17. Mena*

    She will continue as long as it benefits her (read: she gets what she wants). People need to say ‘No.’ Repeatedly. After being told ‘No’ repeatedly by ‘Sally,’ she’ll begin to realize that Sally isn’t giving her what she wants. Then Sally gets left alone.
    Sadly, she’ll then latch onto someone else.
    But really, people need to say No. She is wrong for asking and those giving in to her and then complaining about it are just as wrong. She’s one of those people that require firm boundaries.

  18. Christine*

    I would go straight to requiring the EAP at this time because it needs to be addressed. This way the company has crossed their “T’s” and it’s one item moving closer to termination. I think there is a power dynamic going here that we might not understand, and probably will never know the reasoning behind it. This woman apparently is pushing back by lack of listening, and by action. Either she misses the body language of your coworkers … even if they give in and do as she asks, their body language must show their resistance to comply. I’m perceiving this in many different ways …. she’s thumbing her nose at her supervisor — going do what she wants regardless, and a form of bullying … she get her coworkers to do for her, she can tell they resent it, knows complaints have been made, and she wants to continue proving she can do so.

    OP — you know what … if I was you in this situation I would turn around and tell her coworkers — I don’t want to hear it. I’m not wasting anymore time on this, when you cannot say “no” and mean it. You have to deal with the morale of the team. You can always view this as not playing well with others, an interpersonal skill she lacks. Either she gets with it, your way or out the door.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, don’t do that. It’s not the co-workers’ job to manage this person’s behavior; it’s the manager’s. If the person is told not to do this by her supervisor, she stops, period; even of her co-workers are teasing her with how good their food looks, that would be a jerk move but not something that would excuse the staffer doing what her manager expressly told her to stop doing. Blaming the co-workers would be admitting that you’ve abdicated management.

      2. Jenbug*

        IF the coworkers aren’t saying no and then turning around and complaining, that is exacerbating the issue and the OP needs to ensure that is not happening.

        1. Christine*

          We have a similar situation at work. It’s not food, it’s the boss asking people to run personal errands, etc. People will not say no, but will go up the chain and complain. They want someone else to say no for them, tell the boss to knock it off. I’ve told her “no”, and she’s pushed it and I went to HR. She’s a pain in the butt, but she’s doesn’t ask me any more.

          OP — are her co=workers rolling over and playing dead. Than run whining to you to fix it? or are they saying “no” and she does a pay back? or continuing pushing it?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would be livid if I had complained to my manager, that manager let things fester while I dealt with someone’s tantrums when I continually said “no,” and then I was blamed for that person’s failure to respect boundaries because I didn’t say no “like I meant it.” It’s totally blaming the victims.

      1. Julia*

        Welcome to my workplace. I was told I had a “communication problem.” And yes, I am livid. And out of here soon.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Julia, I’m so sorry. I worked in a workplace like this, and it was misery. I’m glad you’re trying to get out; life is too short for other people’s nonsense.

    2. Emma*

      Or, you know what? Fire the problem employee, or at least come down on her like a ton of bricks for mooching. The manager is the one enabling this behavior by not taking decisive action to stop it – none of the coworkers think the manager has their backs, and I don’t blame them.


    (My computer was just wigging out, so I apologize if this posted twice. It was a response to someone but I had to refresh the page after fixing my wifi)

    If we are to dismiss the idea that it’s some mental health / food scarcity ptsd related thing for a bit:

    I think she could be a combination of cheap, immature, and has no concept of boundaries and is therefore rude. She may also have some FOMO, thus inviting herself into other departments when they have food related gatherings.

    But this all centers around food and maybe control.

    I have a friend whose children are well-fed and always have been. They’ve never gone without, however, if you spent time with them (they are now teenagers) you would think they are always denied food. They are excited by and swayed by food as a reward. This has a bit to do with conditioning. Their mother being poor, but always having enough for food (either saving her money to make sure there was food, or having enough food stamps when needed) she used food as their reward, their bribes, their bonding time, etc.

    Her kids now tend to “hoard” food on a small scale. They always want to take leftovers from gatherings, even if they have ton of food at home, ate their fill, and are no longer hungry etc. They stash food away. They fight over food. They get mad if a sibling gets up for seconds before them, even if they are still working on their first helping. It’s a bit bizarre. But I can see the way they behave around food affecting them later in life. I think it’s too late to recondition them. They got summer jobs last year for the first time and spent all of their money on food and snacks, despite the house being full of food and mom cooking at least 4 nights a week (they are old enough to cook for themselves now)

    To hear all this you may think these children are overweight and lazy, but they are healthy, if not a bit small, and active children.

    The more I thought of them the more I related it it to this girl. I don’t know why her kids have food insecurity / hoarding behaviors. I know she’s never withheld food from them. I know she does use it to communicate with them (and me as well – she’ll invite me to visit with the promise of “I’m making that lasagne you like!” etc)

    Perhaps she has that same type of background.(I mean, these kids will seek out all the food at events and gatherings first before ANYTHING else.) and doesn’t know how to control herself and doesn’t realize it’s unacceptable behavior because of her conditioning.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I hear you and agree with most of what you’ve said, but hoarding food because you were conditioned to as a child IS a mental health issue. Food disorders aren’t limited to body dysmorphia or anorexia/bulimia. Having an unhealthy relationship with food—particularly to this extreme—merits counseling/EAP.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, at this point, it’s a performance issue and should be addressed accordingly. OP has tried to be compassionate and get the employee assistance if there really is an underlying issue. The employee has refused help and has not indicated that there actually is a problem, so from a management perspective, this is now just a behavior problem. OP can’t keep giving this employee the benefit of the doubt — this has been happening for years.

          If someone refuses help and also refuses to recognize/admit that there is an issue or change their behavior, there aren’t a lot of options left. Assuming this company actually wants to retain the other employees who work there, they need to get rid of this problem employee. Letting people stay on to harass their coworkers because they might have had experiences in the past that have created the behavior isn’t really a workable solution.

  20. specialist*

    What is that quote about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

    Expect that you will have to deal with this again. This time you need to follow through and actually do the mandatory EAP. And be more blunt.

    How about phrases like, “You do realize that your job is at risk because of your behavior?”
    “Your coworkers repay favors and loans, and they would never wander into another department’s closed meeting to steal food. Do you not see the difference between their behavior and your own?”
    “I don’t want to hear about Suzie getting ketchup from Bill. This is about your behavior, not theirs. If you had behaved appropriately over the last 4 years you’d be able to do what your coworkers do. But you didn’t and now you have to live with the consequences of your own actions.”
    “Yes, the rules are different for them than for you. They don’t welsh on loans and bum food constantly. The rule for you is don’t ask for food, don’t ask for favors, and don’t ever ask for money. At all, no excuses.”

  21. One Handed Typist*

    I think it is good that the OP has started to declare this a potential disciplinary action, but I think OP and HR need to recognize that Snackina is retaliating against her coworkers. I think an investigation into that retaliation is appropriate. Even a conversation with her on what retaliation is and how creating a hostile environment is damaging to her future.

  22. Important Moi*

    I wish I had seen this earlier. I have a co-worker who begs as well. If you have something she will ask you for some or for the entire thing out right. If you agree to give it to her, she’ll take it. If you respond with surprise or offense, she’ll insist she was joking and didn’t want what you had. I’ve said no enough times that she doesn’t ask anymore, but it was very awkward for me to do so.

    1. ArtK*

      After a couple of times the response should change to “Please stop asking. The answer is no now and will always be no.” Then repeat that every time she asks.

    2. Mononymous*

      Ugh, my coworkers are horrible about this. Always whining and begging when I have food, hopeful faces whenever I walk in the direction of the fridge, won’t take no for an answer, will steal right off my plate if I turn my back for a moment… Except I work from home and the coworkers in question are my DOGS. Annoying but sorta cute when they beg; absolute nonsense from an adult human. A stern NO and a LOOK would be a valid response either way.

      (Sorry your coworker sucks.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Bwahahahaha, I thought “dogs” was going to be the punchline, and when it was, it still made me chuckle.

  23. Sydney*

    I also wonder about her getting offended and petty each time this issue is brought up. That is also not normal. Sure people get defensive when they are being criticized. But it sounds like she’s using the ‘getting offended’ to keep anyone from bringing this up with her (initially) and I wouldn’t be surprised if she does this when she asks to borrow money/food/whatever and someone says no.

  24. Anonz*

    Meh. Continously taking advantage of your coworkers is not a mental illness. I don’t really understand what exactly yall think she has? Doesn’t jive in my mind. But we shouldn’t try to diagnose over the Internet and even this is somehow tied to a psychological issue that’s no excuse for putting her coworkers in this uncomfortable position time and time again, even after being reprimanded. She doesnt sound like shes tried to stop or minimize her behavior at all. Speaking as someone who does have a mental illness.

  25. Observer*

    This update makes me sad, to be honest. The OP asked for advice, but apparently didn’t heed it – or any of the other advice that Alison so consistently gives on this site.

    OP, there is a saying in Hebrew that translates into “He who is kind to the cruel, is cruel to the kind.” While I don’t think that this woman is necessarily cruel, your misplaced kindness to her has almost certainly resulted in cruelty to your other staff. How is it fair to your staff to subject them to what is essentially a scolding about “office etiquette” because of her? It’s all good and fine for your to tell your other staff that it’s ok for them to say “no”. But she’s clearly being overly persistent, and vengeful when denied. So, you are leaving them in a very difficult situation that they shouldn’t have to face at work.

    I wonder how many staff you have lost over this, and how demoralized the rest of them are? And what effect this is having on how you are perceived in your organization?

    1. rubyrose*

      Yes to all of this, but especially the last paragraph. OP, how do you think your manager is judging you about this?

    2. boop the first*

      Yes! We had a similar anti-confrontational thing going on with management at my last job. Instead of speaking to the offending party, they just posted up big, aggressive and accusing posters for everyone to read, so all the good staff would come back in the morning and read a note about what incompetent criminals we all are.

      And of course the offending party would just assume it wasn’t directed at him/her and shrug off.

  26. Hrovitnir*

    A lot of comments on here are saying the manager hasn’t done anything or should do something… and I’m not saying it’s not way late here, but the letter specifically says that she’s finally made it clear this is a firing offence and plans to follow through.

    So yes, it hasn’t been dealt with well, and I bet people have at least contemplated leaving! But as it currently stands it sounds like the OP is doing everything right, so long as she’s determined to go through with firing this person (and it sounds like she knows it’s probably inevitable.)

    1. j-nonymous*

      I disagree, but that’s mainly because there was retaliatory behavior reported in the original and follow-up letters. At this point, the food and money behaviors are the least egregious things going on here.

    2. Marisol*

      That was my take too. When I read, “I have little faith that this behavior will stop” I thought the OP was implying that firing was imminent.

  27. Office Plant*

    This sounds like it could be one of two things:

    1) The person comes from a background where this was considered normal and therefore isn’t fully aware of it or is offended when it’s brought to her attention.

    2) It’s a bigger issue than you’re aware of. She could be taking advantage of people and retaliating in other ways too.

    If it seems more like the second one, I’d think twice about giving her access to sensitive data, letting her interact with customers, anything that gives her power that she could abuse.

    1. Julia*

      I don’t know. I cannot think of any background where repeatedly ignoring someone’s “NO” is normal… And even if there was one, that person works in a different culture now and needs to adhere to its norms.

      1. Office Plant*

        I meant the asking for food and small amounts of money part. And it could just be her family, not a cultural thing.

  28. Former Retail Manager*

    Not sure how I missed the original post. Funny thing….I work with someone almost exactly like this. Even funnier….he is very well paid in his current position and made the majority of his money long before he came here and lives in a wealthy area of town. He also comes from a wealthy background. Virtually all of the same food related behaviors, but not so much the money. Quite frankly, he’s a glutton. He has reached his hand into my bag of snacks while I’m eating them…I literally slapped his hand. :) He routinely clears out my candy jar on my desk and makes no contributions to buy new candy, despite my open public chiding, and always asks if he can have food regardless of who has it or if he’s even invited to the event. He is also not a thin man and I know that he has (and brings) plenty of his own food. I truly like this person and have a good rapport with him and I’ve just accepted that it’s who he is. I have surmised that he is both cheap and entitled. I’ve been bugging him about candy money (that is the arrangement in our office and several people routinely contribute) for literally years now….no change. I think that the employee in the letter sounds about like this guy. I don’t expect an EAP referral to change that…sorry. Best of luck to the OP!

  29. Lulu Llewellyn*

    I may be projecting, but this person reminds me of a housemate I once had. She started out seemingly charming and friendly, but quickly began making increasingly unreasonable requests. If we didn’t do what she wanted (fix her computer, make her cookies, give her things of ours she liked, reimburse her for things she decided to do “for the house” that none of us wanted, etc.) she would escalate from asking to cajoling, guilting, insisting, demanding, and bullying. I gave in the first few times she asked me for things, but I stopped wanting to after she showed that she had no respect for boundaries – and that she was unwilling to do anything similar for us in return. While demanding things from others, she was fiercely protective of anything she considered hers, to the point where she would have meltdown if we touched anything of hers.

    Like the woman in the OP’s letter, if criticized, she lashed out with accusations. In any dispute, her version of events would be twisted in a way to make her look like a victim, and she would stick to that, no matter how much factual evidence/witnesses/proof we had to the contrary. For example, if my version of the story was “I repeatedly asked her to move her sewing basket off the stairs so I didn’t trip, and she didn’t. So I moved it, and I told her where to find it.” Her version would be: “She stole my sewing basket for no reason! What did I ever do to her? She’s a hateful, spiteful person.” I think she really believed that, too.

    You can’t reason with an unreasonable person. If the OP’s employee is like my former housemate, any plan that involves making her see reason/logic or even accept facts is doomed to fail.

    I also agree with the posters who say that EAP is unlikely to work because “she has to want to change.” The nature of this condition (or whatever it is) prevents the sufferer from seeing themselves as the agent of their own suffering. They think it’s everyone else’s fault. The sad part is that their conviction that everyone is against them is a self-fulfilling prophecy as they trample over boundaries, ignore the social contract, and alienate everyone around them. With distance, I can feel compassion; in the moment, it was just intensely frustrating to deal with her, and I have a lot of sympathy for her coworkers who are stuck trying to figure out strategies to work around her issues.

    I don’t know what will work, because I never found it. Moving out was my solution.

  30. Laura the Librarian*

    Fire her! This has gone on way too long. Compassion is one thing, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if this is the result of food scarcity or mental illness or just general assholeishness. It is on the employee to manage their issues so it does not disrupt the workplace.
    As for the “high performer” aspect, no she’s not! Anyone who causes this much drama and problems for her co-workers is not a “high performer,” and by continuing to indulge her behavior, you will end up losing good employees. They will see that this will never stop, and they will leave.

  31. JoJo*

    I think the coworkers should unite in turning the tables on Snackina and ask her for money, favors and food continuously.

  32. boop the first*

    The denial and deflection of blame may be at the base of the issue here. If this turns out to be a narcissism thing, good luck changing that!

  33. Lady phoenix*

    Rephrasing what I said so it doesn’t break rules

    OP, use this as a learning experience of “this can’t happen again”. You allowed a problem go on for way too long (this moocher should hav been stopped in LESS than a year ago, and instead this continued 4-5 years). How many employees quit because of her? Is it worth having a “good” worker around at the cost of 4 actual good workers who might quit now?

    Let this trouble employee go already. She has stayed for long enough to sour the reputation or work as well as YOUR reputation as a manager. Even people outside of your department are filing complaints.

    The only problem I see with this employee is that she has an entitlement problem that has been allowed to feed for too long. Just fire her.

  34. j-nonymous*

    Sorry to pile on, OP – but in 16 months nothing you’ve described has gotten better and at this point it seems you are the culpable one here.

    The employee in question was retaliating against peers in your first letter and that’s still happening? That’s completely unacceptable and is utterly outside the realm of the food and money-related behaviors.

    You’re entirely in the wrong and are not taking appropriate actions to correct or eliminate this employee’s bad behavior. Honestly, if I were in your management chain, I’d have serious doubts about your leadership.

    The good news is you can change this. You don’t have to wait months for your employee to do this again. Sit them down and explain with absolute clarity that any issues related to food-taking (or asking), money-borrowing or retaliation against employees will result in immediate termination. And then do what you say you’ll do.

  35. emma2*

    This story actually reminds me of a former classmate of mine, except I am not aware if she behaved this way with other people besides me. Basically, this girl would bombard-text me with questions about homework 10 times a day, and every time she ran into me, she would ask me for some sort of favor – whether it was a phone charger, money for the vending machine, to look up something for her, etc. (She never went as far as asking for food, though.) She never bothered to befriend me otherwise or invite me to outings that she organized with other classmates, which kind of stung and also made her asking for favors even more inappropriate. I told my friend about her peculiar behavior, and she also suggested that the behavior is a symptom of insecurity. Still strange, though.

  36. AJ*

    I would like to stick up for the LW here. I went back and read the first post, as well as the update, and about 80% of the comments above. I agree that it is the manager’s responsibility to take care of the situation. However, I read A LOT of comments saying “you need to step in NOW”, “I would be losing my faith in you as a leader” etc. First of all, she stated in the update that she now knows she should have been very firm to begin with and that there IS a plan of action in place- documentation and EAP referral. Secondly, she states that now every few months she hears about the issue. Whether this is because it is happening less, or team members are just reporting it less, it’s unclear. But either way, it sounds like less of a problem then it was when she first wrote in. (Hopefully because it is, not because it has become the norm.) More importantly though – “Snackina’s” coworkers were enabling her. The manager states in the first letter that she told the team not to give into her requests anymore, but they kept giving her food anyway and then would make fun of her behind her back! Snackina’s behavior is totally inappropriate, but as a manager (and a human being) I would be infuriated by this. The team is only 4 people. Enabling her strange behavior and then actively making fun of her because of it is cruel, period. I agree that Snackina’s behavior signals deeper issues – perhaps a combination of needing assurance, needing control, food issues, extreme anxiety, and no one has mentioned this yet- OCD. However it’s important to remember, we don’t know. Whatever it is, and even though it is causing problems, she did not DECIDE to be this way. I think her behavior is a compulsion, not a choice. What is a major red flag to me though is her crashing other departments events where there is food – this seems extreme and in my opinion makes it doubtful that she (without admitting she has a problem/hard work/therapy) will be able to stop completely. I do agree that the manager needs to take firm action and lead, but since the team is so small, and Snackina’s problems so ingrained the other 3 must actively be part of the solution. (Yes, it could be argued that if coworkers have to work this hard to help solve an issue caused by another team member, that that team member should not be employed… I’m coming at this from a strictly problem-solving stance. Also I feel like they kind of owe it to her after enabling her/making fun of her). If I were her co-worker I would either completely ignore her behavior or completely challenge it. She asks for some of my pretzels, I say “Have you finished that report yet? I think we need to include x-y-z in it” or “Can you believe how much snow Chicago got yesterday?” or completely ignore her and don’t say anything. She asks for chips I say “No. You ask for food all the time and it makes me uncomfortable.” Or “No. Why do you ask us for food all the time?” She asks for change I say “No. I have given you change before and you never pay me back.” Or “Why don’t you ever have your own change?” She asks me to get her a drink I say “Why do you ask for so many favors?” Lastly, and I’m sorry but I’m gonna go here – what if Snackina was a man? Would her behavior have been tolerated for so long? (Not to blame the manager, I just think in today’s climate, the more we think about/challenge gender roles, the better). I wish the LW luck and I hope Snackina gets the help she needs.

  37. Marissa L*

    It doesn’t matter why she is sponging food and money. She is an adult. This behavior should have been clearly nipped in the bud at the onset. Wishy washy management does not help.

Comments are closed.