4 updates from recent letter-writers

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. Coworker is using our guest office as her personal phone booth (#2 at the link)

Thank you so much for taking my question, I appreciate your advice and all the input from your readers. The day of the post, I asked our office manager about putting a “real” phone along with a poly-com in the small conference room. Apparently it was already in the works for when our phones get updated later this month so I was pretty pumped that we’d eventually have two private areas for work calls. Imagine my surprise when later on that week I was told the guest office was now going to be my office! A member of our team who had an office on the other side of the floor had resigned and the plan was to make her office into the guest office going forward. I am writing this email from my own private office, with a door and everything!

Funny enough, about two days after I moved in they hadn’t yet moved my name tag over and when I came back from lunch to see said new employee talking on her cellphone, flipping through my work notebooks! When I opened the door, she said “excuse me, I’m on a call.” The things I wanted to reply with didn’t come out, I just sputtered “this is my office now…” She didn’t seem embarrassed when she walked out, just perturbed that I interrupted. It was clear that office was no longer empty as my computer and desk supplies along with work were littered across the desk. I assume she was looking for juicy hr type gossip. Jokes on her- she just got to look at my hand lettering practice.

Apparently, my opinion of her as lovely was sorely mistaken- she’s a jerk. But she’s a jerk without an office :) Thanks again for your help!

2. How do I avoid saying something in my resignation letter that I don’t mean? (#2 at the link)

I ended up taking your advice and simply wrote “I wish the organization success.” The next day, I gave my notice and they didn’t even ask for a resignation letter. I thought it was weird and submitted one anyways, to be sure they knew I was leaving. (I left it on my manager’s desk after we had spoken.) My boss didn’t even talk to me after I gave notice. No exit interview; no asking for updates on my projects; NOTHING! It was uncomfortable to say the least.

But I am glad to be out of that company and in my new position now, where I am so much happier! Thanks again for your advice!

3. I turned down a job offer and now the recruiter is invoicing me

I ignored the invoice (after sending my original email questioning it to the accounts team) and ignored the subsequent email from the recruiter……and nothing came of it.

And I made sure I blocked him on LinkedIn and that I told my employer about it (small industry, so both to protect my reputation and to share how unprofessional the recruiter was).

The situation was quite stressful because I was a new migrant, these were my first job offers in my new country and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was being taken advantage of.

4. Do I need to wear heels to a job interview?

I’m the writer that was asking about flats vs heels. I ended up going with heels because I had trouble finding flats that worked with my suit. I didn’t wobble, and I found out today that I got the job!

More broadly, I wanted to thank you (and the AAM community) so much for all of the spot-on advice. From polishing up my resume that wasn’t getting results, to changing the tone of my cover letter to let my voice come through, to prepping for all of my interviews, and finally to negotiating salary, I constantly relied on your advice, and it’s led me to what I really think will be an amazing position.

The salary negotiation was scariest, because it’s a nonprofit and they actually came in above their posted salary range so I felt kind of guilty about asking for more. However, I found out that they don’t contribute to a 401k until one has been on the job for a year, so I asked for a 3% salary increase to cover that. They countered with a 1.5% increase. It’s minor, but I’m so glad I asked and didn’t leave money on the table.

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Phone booth coworker is a boor. What gall. But glad she got evicted.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Heh heh, yeah. And OP should be prepared to push back if she tries it again.

      “But you weren’t here!”
      “That may be, but you will have to find someplace else to make your calls.”

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I’d go to her manager – not about using the office, but going through clearly private notes. That’s utterly unacceptable and her manager needs to know it. It doesn’t matter about the content – that was other people’s property!
      “Hey manger, I thought I’d let you know about something that’s been bothering me. When I returned to my new office I found new employee talking on her cell phone. She stated “excuse me, I’m on a call”. What really crossed the line was that she was flipping though my notebooks! That’s totally unacceptable. I’d like to make sure this type of incident never happens again.”

      1. paul*

        That would literally be a firing offense here. Seriously, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. HIPPA is a bear.

        1. jordanjay29*

          I was going to comment as well that there may be privacy regulations in place, either internal to the company or in compliance with a law, that she hasn’t trained on and thus isn’t authorized to view the contents of any of LW’s work.

        2. MashaKasha*

          Same here, same reason.

          With that said, does OP1 have desk drawers that lock? say, for when she needs to step out for an hour-long meeting or something?

            1. MashaKasha*

              I would assume OP keeps her personal belongings and other things that she doesn’t want a random coworker pawing through, in her office as well. Either way, she mentioned it below does have a lock!

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Same here! I can’t even imagine my boss’s reaction to someone doing that. It’s so far out of line that the line’s in another county!

      2. AnotherAlison*

        It’s not uncommon for my coworkers to make a client call from someone’s office who is out-of-the-office that day. But, it’s always coworkers from the same department who know each other, and the people with offices have said to the people who don’t have offices, “Hey, you can use my office if you need to make a call.” (Our conference rooms book up, and you can forget scheduling on day-of from 10-2.) And I’ve had people tell me, “Hey I used your office yesterday.”

        I can’t imagine walking in and finding some random employee in my office chatting away and rifling through my stuff, and not being the least bit apologetic or self-aware.

        I’m happy for the OP getting her own office, too!

        1. lowercase holly*

          i’ve used other people’s offices, but i always ask the person or the person’s boss first.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          But that would be very unusual here, especially for personal calls, as the OP mentioned in the original letter. People tend to use empty conference rooms, stairwells, or hallways for that. I wouldn’t begrudge it if it was someone I knew very well, or if anyone needed my workspace to WORK, but using someone’s office for personal use just isn’t done where I work, and even for work calls it would be pretty weird.

          1. MMDD*

            Same here. Maybe it’s a government office thing, but using someone else’s office when they’re not there, especially for a personal call is just Not A Thing around my work. The people here that have personal office spaces have them for a reason and that privacy is taken very seriously.

        3. Kore*

          Yeah, the culture at my office is that using an empty office for a call is A-OK, if it’s clear the person isn’t in for the day / you know they’re travelling for work. That said, you certainly don’t rifle through their things, you just use it for a call or meeting.

        4. Anon this time*

          I lost my office in a recent renovation; we went to an open plan and now I’m expected to do creative work with a conference table at my backside and chatty coworkers strolling past all the @$%^#$^ time – I may not be over this yet.

          I mentioned to our CEO in a meeting that I was thinking about getting a membership at a nearby coworking site so when I really needed uninterrupted time, I could get it but still be close enough to come over if needed. The president of the company was also in the meeting and said, “Hell, I’m out half the time. Use my office if you need it. See Facilities for a master key and tell them I authorized it.”

          He’s actually out MORE than half the time, and he has a big monitor I can plug my laptop into, so this is close to a flawless victory. Hooray for Using My Words!

          1. Salamander*

            That’s really awesome! Glad that the president gets it and and offered an easy solution. I love hearing stories that work out well!

          2. Bryce*

            It’s context sensitive (can sound jerk-ish for the wrong things) but one of the responses I enjoy for “I have a problem” is “I have a solution, let’s see if they match.” This case is a perfect example of that.

        5. Mrs. Fenris*

          I used to have a coworker who used my desk sometimes when I wasn’t there. No problem. Except that he, like a lot of people, tended to run his hand through his scalp when he was nervous. And he had a big psoriasis lesion at his hairline. I would come in and find bloody skin flakes on my desk. Bleah.

      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Good point. Doesn’t matter if it was trivial material, flipping through someone else’s work materials is Not a Thing That Is Done.

        1. Bex*

          Especially then the “someone else” works in HR and is constantly working with confidential information!

      4. Aurion*

        Yeah, flipping through my work notebooks like that would’ve gotten at least a “what the hell?!” from me, and quite likely something stronger.

      5. LBK*

        Yeah, whoa. That is insane, and to think she just strolled out like it was no big deal. Quite the gall.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely agreed. My reaction was a cross between “the nerve” and “I cannot believe she has the temerity to use your office w/o permission, shade you, and snoop.” I Next time she does it, use your best dead-eye stare, OP, and say something. Then tell your manager and her manager. She sounds like a bullying jerk (or if not aa jerk, certainly someone behaving in a jerkish manner).

        But congrats on your new office (yay)!!

        1. Lablizard*

          She sounds entitled, presumptuous, and like she was raised by a group of ill mannered crows

          1. BookishMiss*

            Crows are exceptionally well mannered. My uncle is friends with the murder that roosts in his yard.

            Geese, on the other hand…

      7. Artemesia*

        In my profession there is the story of the well known (politically and professionally) person who was lent the use of a colleagues hotel room during a conference, so he had a place to change clothes and prepare notes during the day; he snooped through the private materials of the person who lent it to him and then gossiped about what he found to others at the conference. It is legendary as an example of what a complete douche behaves like. I knew the guy and wasn’t that surprised. There are people who would ‘flip through’ your materials and then gossip like crazy.

      8. Jessesgirl72*

        Yep. She’s looking through the note of an HR person, especially? I’d have reported her behind so fast she wouldn’t have known what hit her.

    3. PollyQ*

      “Gall” is exactly the word that came to mind, along with “unmitigated.”

      And I agree that the notebook snooping is worthy of being escalated.


    #1: If you work in HR and she was going through your things, that is a serious breach that I feel should be reported to her supervisor. That is all kinds of not cool.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This. Again, my biases always come in favor of more data security, but this would be considered a Very Bad Thing everywhere I’ve worked, and would absolutely get escalated.

    2. Corporate Recruiter- Personal Phone Booth*

      I’m a Corporate Recruiter- so I can only guess she was looking for information regarding salaries and potential new hire bonuses/comp plans. Since I was previously in a cube I’m in a habit of locking that stuff away whenever I leave my space. We are going through a period of a lot of turnover currently and coworker’s boss is now the new Managing Director of our office. I brought it up in a meeting kind of off the cuff like “this was weird, what should i do” he’s had my back in putting a lock on my door so i have more privacy and I’m pretty sure she was spoken to as well.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I would not have approached it off the cuff, because that’s pretty serious, but glad she got a talking to.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Should’ve read to your comment before I asked about a lock in the thread above! Awesome!

    3. Dizzy Steinway*

      Yeah, this is really not on. Even if it’s not confidential, it’s rude to do that!

  3. HungryBeforeLunch*

    The woman on #1 who felt that her private call in someone else’s office was more important than someone who wanted to use their office, perhaps someone should talk to her and point out what she did was not cool. And going through papers on someone else’s desk? So not cool. This should be made clear to her sooner than later.

    I have used other people’s offices for personal calls…because they were away for a week and I knew I would not be interrupting or interrupted and his desk was clear, nothing for me to flip through.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, we had a sales exec who was almost never in his office. He gave permission for us to use it if we needed it (as I did for my evaluations with AwesomeOldBoss), and some of the other salespeople would also sit in there if they were onsite. But we had permission, and none of his materials were there because he had his laptop with him (and Exjob was pretty much paperless). Later, when it became someone else’s office, I just used an empty WebEx room.

      If I had a personal call, I went to the stairwell. Not exactly private, but usually not busy. When I did stair climbs, if someone was on the phone out there, I just ignored them. They all got used to me doing it and I climbed at roughly the same times every day, so they knew I’d be out there.

      1. HungryBeforeLunch*

        It would also depend on the nature of the personal call. To my husband? At my desk. To the company where I was interviewing? In private.

      2. sam*

        At our office, we basically have a policy that if you’re out of office for the day, visitors can use your office if there are no visitors offices left. But we also have a “clean desk” policy, where sensitive materials should always be kept locked in file cabinets/drawers – so that generally would solve the problem of other people even being able to poke through your stuff if they’re using your office.

        Of course, this is a different situation than someone thinking they can use your office as their personal phone booth WHILE YOUR IN THE OFFICE.

        Also, the people assigning “empty” offices in my company would never put a completely random person in my office – I’m in the legal department which is behind its own set of security doors that only certain people at the Company have access to – the only people who would end up using my office in a pinch are other of my lawyer colleagues who are visiting from other offices.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          At my office, using another person’s office for any reason isn’t done, unless the office “owner” specifically gives permission. Even if a faculty member or a graduate assistant needs to get something out of another faculty member’s office, one of us admins will unlock the office and watch them until they get the item and leave. Even when an admin needs to retrieve something from a faculty member’s office, we will witness each other’s entry into and exit from the office (as in, “Hey, Fergus, I need to get a file from Dr. Warbleworth’s office; can you come watch?”). The only faculty member’s office I enter without a witness is my direct supervisor’s, who is the department head.

  4. J.B.*

    #4 I’m so glad that everything worked out and that you got good advice from the commentariat!

  5. BadPlanning*

    I suppose an oblivious person could walk into OP #1s office and not notice the changes. Then, while chatting on the phone, idling flip though a notebook sitting around.

    But…I would keep an eye on her at least for the immediate future.

    And congrats on a new office!!

    1. Antilles*

      Not noticing the changes is possibly innocuous, particularly if she made the call on her way in. Some people really do get That Into their phone calls that they become completely oblivious (see various videos of someone walking into a wall or falling into a pool or whatever).
      But opening the notebooks isn’t. Even if you just thought that someone had accidentally left it in the room, you don’t flip through and read it. You check the outside for a name and maybe glance at a page or two to see if you recognize the handwriting. This is the kind of thing that I’d definitely mention to her manager.

      1. VroomVroom*

        Or those people who suddenly are driving really slowly on the highway (but passed you previously), and then when you finally can get around them/pass them you realize they’re yapping away on the phone.

    2. Corporate Recruiter- Personal Phone Booth*

      Thanks! I enjoy it, although I must say it is kind of odd to be one of three people who don’t sit in a cube as I fall on the younger side of people in the office.

  6. Rebecca*

    OP#1 – are you able to lock your office? When we had an in house HR person, she locked her office door every time she left it, even if she went to the restroom. That would definitely solve the problem!

    1. t*

      +1. Or at least if you have anything sensitive on paper, lock it in a drawer and never leave anything out. It sounds like your new coworker would have no problem rifling through your stuff.

    2. Anna*

      I agree that would solve the problem, but it doesn’t really get to the core of issue. OP should still escalate and now she knows she can’t trust the new employee to stay out.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      Definitely important. I would lock the office every time I left it, even just for a bathroom break. You can’t trust this crazy person.

  7. gingerblue*

    What a nice group of updates!

    #1, though, wow. That takes gall. OP1, does your door lock? If not, in addition to talking to this person’s manager about her wildly inappropriate snooping into your papers, I’d ask about getting a lock added, and use it even when out of the office for a few minutes in order to nip this behavior in the bud.

    Seriously, though, escalate the snooping. She may not have seen sensitive HR information, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, and that really needs to be addressed. And congrats on the new office!

  8. Jadelyn*

    Some people just legitimately have no respect for other people’s space. I had a coworker once when I was the office admin for a general contractor, and if I had to go on bid runs the other admin would cover my desk to keep an eye on email and calls for last-second subcontractor bids. The first time she did that, I’d been reading a…not really personal thing, exactly, but like a self-improvement ebook on something I was working on in my personal/spiritual life at lunch that day, and I had left the PDF open behind several screens of email and other work-related PDFs after my lunch break was over. When I got back from the bid run and reclaimed my desk, she started talking to me about how interesting that ebook was! Meaning she’d decided to snoop through all my open documents and read everything, even though she was only supposed to be monitoring email and phone. Thankfully I hadn’t been working on anything for Legal that day – I sometimes helped our attorney with document formatting and proofreading, on contracts and things that weren’t common knowledge yet – but I hadn’t expected her to do anything more than just, y’know, keep up on email and take phone calls?

    The next bid run, when she came up to take over my desk, she even said “Hope you left me some good reading material again!” I just stared at her and then left. Like, lady, bring your own damn book if you’re that bored, come on.

      1. Chinook*

        Nah, that can backfire. I am the one who had someone covering my desk who then read an email I sent to my manager about this person snooping through my emails and other type of stuff. The snooper then complained to her manager about my complaining to my boss and not talking to her directly.

        When confronted about it by my boss, I pointed out that it was the perfect example of my issues because it was in an email in a folder labeled “personal” but I couldn’t secure it beyond that because I was the only one in the company without their own login (I was receptionist and those covering during breaks needed to be able to access it). When they said they couldn’t fix it (a lie because I knew the tech was available), I quit on the spot (on over-emotional reaction, I admit).

        My manager then did some quick negotiations with head office, tech support and the snooper’s manager and then brought me a compromise that included the woman never covering my desk and getting my own login. I stayed but knew that I had colleagues out to get me now (and a manager who had my back).

    1. Ange*

      Reminds me of the time my boss’s deputy tidied his office when he was on leave. I was his PA and he had asked me to do some filing while he was away, which I did, and then she decided it was open season on his office- he was a “file things in piles” kind of guy. I suggested that this was a bad idea but as she was senior, she decided to ignore me. He was not happy when he got back.
      I still don’t understand what kind of person tidies someone else’s desk.

      1. sam*

        I know bosses with assistants where that is an explicit part of their arrangement but the key is obviously…it’s explicit.

        On the flip side, my very first boss was a hoarder. Among the myriad other issues with him (he was also a massive bully and i lasted six months working for him), his office was…something else. When our firm moved across town a few years later (I didn’t leave the firm, just switched departments to get away from him), they had to hire one of those special teams to clean out his office. I remember one of my colleagues joking that interviews with him were really a test – if you could get through the entire meeting without (a) commenting on it or (b) tripping, you got the job.

      2. Hermione*

        That reminds me of a story. I was a student assistant at a law firm when in uni, and had been there maybe 3 years when my department replaced our admin assistant. New Admin had been there maybe 3 weeks and had already pissed off AP, the mailroom, the receptionist, and our paralegal, which in hindsight is both impressive and horrifying. She disapproved of the way we did everything, and didn’t care to listen to why we did things the way we did.

        So three weeks or so in, on a Friday when all of the attorneys and paralegal were out of the office (and the day before her pre-arranged vacation), she decided to rearrange the pleading books cabinet, which was housed separately from the rest of the case files. Director came in on Monday, couldn’t find a darned thing, and I spent an entire day alternately fixing the mess and doing all the work she ignored in favor of this redecorating spree.

        I wish I could say that being spoken to about it fixed the problem, but honestly this was just the first in a long string of terribleness that made me so glad to leave her behind.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is a great way to get fired. I had an intern do this (I was the immediate boss, and they “tidied up” grandboss’s desk). Both my boss and I are “file in piles” people, and if you move our stuff, it will take hours to fix. The intern was allowed to finish up the next pay cycle, then relegated to scut work on loan to another division in the building.

      4. City Planner*

        I’m a file in piles kind of person, and my previous boss was a clean desk kind of person. We generally did fine with each other in a live and let live kind of way – and then I went on maternity leave. Beforehand, I’d spent a LOT of time getting my files together, leaving him lists of things that were still pending and where all the documents were, trying to make things clear and easy while I was gone (and ignoring longer term projects that were going to sit while I was out). I came back after 12 weeks and discovered that he’d decided to rearrange all of my files, even those with no activity, and reorganize my entire desk. I didn’t say a thing, because hey, he’s the boss, but I was just livid and it took me weeks to find everything. He never did explain the motivation behind his organizational spree.

        1. Jadelyn*

          My grandboss has done this to me once or twice – he’s a clean desk type and I file in piles, and it drives him nuts sometimes. He doesn’t do it often, though, both because I try to at least shove the piles in a drawer at the end of the day so they don’t tempt him, and because he’s learned that rearranging my piles makes me slower to find and do things, not faster!

      5. AMPG*

        I had a temp do this when I went on vacation one time. She was a former intern who we had brought on temporarily to cover a staffing gap, which coincided with my previously-planned vacation. I guess I didn’t leave her enough to do, and so she took it upon herself to clean my workspace. She was really a great worker and I appreciated the thought behind it (and she was actually quite organized in how she arranged most things, even if it did mess up my “file in piles” system), but I still had a talk with her after I got back. I just tried to make it a “learning experience” conversation rather than a reprimand.

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        It sounds like Jadelyn’s coworker was supposed to be monitoring Jadelyn’s email inbox but Jadelyn expected her not look through anything else.

      2. King Friday XIII*

        Depending on the setup, if the other person was monitoring her emails she might have to be looking at her Outlook.

        1. Chinook*

          “Depending on the setup, if the other person was monitoring her emails she might have to be looking at her Outlook.”

          Yup. You have to have the right type of setup to share your inbox or even create an inbox for the position that multiple people can monitor (think receptionist at big company dot com) and not every company is willing to do it. But, things like what happened to both the OP and to me are the perfect example of why it is important. I made the convincing argument that I had no way of knowing if snooper had read anything from HR or payroll meant only for me or even if she deleted something that would then be traced back to me.

      3. Jadelyn*

        I had to leave it open so she could keep an eye on my outlook inbox, since subcontractors would often send their bids directly to me. She was supposed to be just sitting at my desk in order to catch any last-second subcontractor bids via email or my phone, so that if they were good enough to make our overall bid better the estimator in charge could call my cell and have me hand-write final changes to the bid before I delivered it.

        That first time in particular, it had been kind of a last-second arrangement, since I wasn’t scheduled to be doing the bid run that day anyway, so I didn’t have time for much beyond “quick, grab your purse and here’s the bid folder, here’s the address you’re taking it to, go!” That second time I made sure that only my email was left open.

        1. Katherine*

          Did you then check your history to see what she snooped into while you were away, Jadelyn?

  9. AthenaC*

    OP#3 – Oh my goodness – so sorry you had to deal with that, particularly as someone learning the culture here. So glad you wrote to Alison instead of just paying him. Hope you’re doing well!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. Now knowing OP is a migrant, the less charitable part of me thinks this was the recruiter trying to take advantage of OP by behaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum. I’m glad everything worked out for OP.

  10. Larasmithee*

    Regarding #1: I agree with the other posters about the importance of locking the door when you’re not in your office. I’d even ask that the locks be re-keyed. Additionally, if you have a Window computer, you can hit the Windows icon key + L and that will lock your computer.

    1. SarahKay*

      Seconding Larasmithee’s advice to lock your computer every time you step out of your office. The more so if you work on confidential data.

    2. Bartimaeus*

      On a Mac, you can open Keychain Access and turn on, “Show keychain status in menu bar” in the Preferences. This will bring up a lock icon in the menu bar with a “Lock Screen” item in it, and you can use this to lock your computer immediately.

      It’s one of the Mac’s better-kept secrets.

  11. Naomi*

    #3: The recruiter comes off even worse here than in the original letter–he may well have been trying to take advantage of OP as an immigrant by pretending it’s the norm in the new country for the candidate to pay for the background check. Good on you for not paying him!

    1. Regular Commentor - Anon for This*

      There are very few fields where paying for your own background check is the norm. It is the norm in my field (K through 12 education) in some states for specific positions. Excuse the anon post. Don’t want to out my commenting name. But, big kudos to OP!

    2. Amber T*

      I hadn’t read #3 when it came out… my reaction to reading the original letter was “what the whaaaat??” Ridiculous. I think ignoring it was definitely the right call, but man would I be so tempted to write back all sorts of things, mostly of “what on earth is wrong with you that you could possibly think this is appropriate?”

      I also loved the comment about declining the job so close to the start date…
      “We’d love to have you! Can you start tomorrow?”
      “Thank you, but actually I’ll need to turn this offer down.”
      “What? But you’re supposed to start tomorrow! How could you wait until so close to the start date??”

      All sorts of levels of crazy there. Sorry, OP, that you had to deal with that wackadoo. Hopefully your new position is working out for you!

    3. OP3*

      I suspect it was less about me being new to the country (I have worked all over the world, so it would be silly to try to take advantage of me) and more about him personally being pissed off that I declined. So he was a jerk but NOT that big of a jerk :)

      My new-ness just made me less certain of my position than I would usually be. And it’s often difficult to establish what is normal when you move to a new country, usually you observe and learn as you go, but this was my very first job interview since relocating and my first interaction with a North American recruiter.

      Next time I will be a lot more vocal about it!

  12. Lunch Meat*

    #1: This is just an answer that would be satisfying from a passive aggressive perspective, and probably not useful unless you can’t get her manager to manage her and you can’t get a lock on the office. By so blatantly acting like she has a right to the space, she’s trying to make it awkward for you to call her out. So I’m fantasizing about entering the room noisily, completely ignoring her, sighing or talking to yourself, putting on music, and just giving her a puzzled look in response to any attempts to communicate. If she brought any personal items in, move them aside so you can put your stuff down. Etc. Again, probably not helpful, but fun to imagine if you get frustrated.

    1. Artemesia*

      You don’t tolerate her continuing for a second. You say ‘this is my office, it is not available for use when I am not here because I deal with confidential information; you need to leave and not do this again.’ If she had not been reading her stuff then she might have said ‘I’m sorry you may not realize . . .
      before the rest of the sentence.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Now I’m just picturing doing all that and then just…sitting on her lap as if she weren’t there between you and the chair. Just to see how she reacts to your pretending she’s not in there. Then “Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there. Since this is my office now, I expected it to be available for my use at all times.”

  13. Turtle Candle*

    Whaaaaaaaaaat, LW1. I am not particularly territorial about my workspace and even so I would be both baffled and angry I caught someone flipping through my notebooks. There isn’t even anything confidential in there, just meeting notes and lots of doodles, but even so I would blow a gasket–it’s just a You Don’t Do That thing, barring serious exigency. And if, after that, they said “excuse me, I’m on a call,” I would blow TWO gaskets.

    That said, this made me crack up: “she’s a jerk. But she’s a jerk without an office :) ” I love your attitude!

  14. LBK*

    #1 Oh wow. I was pretty defensive of the coworker in the comments on that post, but with this added info she sounds like a real piece of work. I can’t imagine 1) going into someone else’s office at all, unless maybe that person was out/working remotely that day 2) going through their stuff while in that office (!!!!!) and then 3) acting like *they* were the wrong when they kicked me out.

    OP, I know it can be tough to come up with the right words on the spot when something so bizarre like that happens, but if you can work up the courage to say something to her separately I’d do it. Something like “I was so surprised to see you in my office the other day that I didn’t bring this up on the spot, but I wanted to make it clear that that room is my personal office now and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t use it as conference room space anymore like you have in the past, especially since I keep sensitive documents in there.”

      1. LBK*

        In the original letter, the main complaint was that she was taking personal calls in an empty office that people sometimes needed for work calls, which didn’t seem egregious to me aside from her dragging her feet to get out when people did need it for work-related purposes. These new details add a lot of clarity to just how entitled she’s acting.

  15. Papyrus*

    #4 – I’m glad things worked out for you! I’ve been personally paranoid about shoe ware on interviews myself because back in college, when we’d do mock interviews and such, the person doing the interviews explicitly stated that the first thing she looked at was the candidate’s shoes and would judge them pretty hard if they weren’t appropriate or scuffed. Since reading AAM, I’ve learned that you have to present yourself as a whole professionally, and one piece of clothing probably wouldn’t make or break the interview, but it’s still something that’s always in the back of my mind.

    1. OP #4*

      Thanks! I was asking initially because I had only ever seen women wear heels in job interviews, so I wasn’t sure how big of a “no no” it would be. It turned out that my suit was not tailored for flats (and I had a hard time finding good ones on short notice), so I wore a pair of pumps, and practiced walking in them beforehand.

      I would hate to work somewhere where one would be judged by footwear scuffs!

  16. SarahKay*

    OP 2 I’m so glad your new job is working out – and well done for getting out of your old company; they sound seriously odd!

  17. Dienna Howard*

    #1 – Dealing with problematic co-workers can be scary. I have been in situations when I knew that something needed to be said or done, but I’d bite my tongue because I was afraid of upsetting someone else over my own feelings. Yes, they may throw fits when they don’t get their way, but boundaries need to be set. I’m glad to hear that you got the office now, but don’t “hint” around if this woman causes any further problems. Be direct. She’s not allowed to use your now official office as her own private office. Set those boundaries.

  18. AnonEMoose*

    #1 – I’m glad this is being dealt with, and that you were able to get a lock for your office door. I remember thinking “I remember that this is like” when I read your letter. Mumble-mumble years ago, I was a temp at a company, and got moved into a cube that had a) been empty for awhile, and b) was right at the end of a row.

    So, people had gotten used to just popping in there to answer pages, or make a call, and so on. So I’d routinely come back from the restroom or lunch or whatever to find people sitting there using the phone or whatever, who would just continue their call. I took to standing there, looking at them awkwardly, until they finished up and left. I couldn’t really say much, as I was a temp, and most of them were supervisors and so on. I also had pens and such disappear until I started locking them up every time I left my desk. Which was annoying – but at least I kept my pens!

    I even had one person come barging in wanting to use the phone when I was Sitting. Right. There. He was like “You don’t mind, right?” as he was PICKING UP THE RECEIVER. I said “As long as you don’t mind getting my cold…” He put the receiver down and left. It did taper off after a bit, and then I was moved to a different cube – I warned the coworker being moved into that cube before the move. She was at least a permanent employee and had been there awhile, so had more standing to object to the space invaders.

    I know people were just being oblivious and acting out of habit, but it was seriously annoying.

    1. Dienna Howard*

      I worked at one temp job where people had no respect for my personal space. The desk I used was the de facto supply area, so people would reach over me, not say “excuse me,” to get pens, paper clips, etc. I too felt uncomfortable about saying anything because I was a temp, but at the same time I had to set a boundary. I moved the supplies to the edge of the desk far away from me, so there was no more reaching over me. When someone almost reached over me and realized that the supplies were moved elsewhere, I stated that I moved them “because I have a thing about personal space.” The reaching over me stopped.

      It doesn’t matter if someone’s a temp or a CEO…people should be treated with respect regardless of their status.

  19. Christine*

    3. I turned down a job offer and now the recruiter is invoicing me

    OP you got a dozy of a recruiter. To be honest their management needs to be aware of this situation because this individual will be such a turn off to prospective employees and clients (companies doing the hiring).

    If you know the company that you were being hired for, say you interviewed with them, etc., I would be tempted to forward the invoice to them so that they are aware of this situation. I have dealt with recruiters, etc over their years and have dealt with some good ones, lazy ones, etc., But nothing in the category that you have in this situation.

    This is uncalled for, and reflects poorly for the recruiter and the company he/she works for.

    1. OP3*

      Yeah it was a large international recruiter and in hindsight I think he was very upset he had made promises to his client (the employer) and that he had this cost against his name.

      Now a couple years down the track, and having used recruiters to recruit for my own direct report, I think the whole thing was very strange – we credit and background check multiple candidates for roles, and that is the cost of doing business. If one of them proves not to be suitable, we don’t invoice the candidate. So why would we invoice one who decided not to accept a role?

      This guy definitely tapped into a weird sense of guilt I had over declining – my usual response would have been pretty direct and probably borderline rude, but being new to the country and feeling like I had committed some kind of North American faux pas left me uncertain of what was considered reasonable and normal.

      In hindsight, totally should have escalated the invoice, but I just wanted him to leave me alone so I picked the quiet route.

      Randomly about six months later the recruiting manager of the role I turned down ran into me at my new job (same industry) and was extremely pleasant and friendly.

      So hopefully this post at least lives on if anyone else has the same issue in the future – and that person does pursue it.

  20. Czhorat*

    FYI, it’s “Polycom”. One word (actually the name of the communications company who makes the familiar “starfish” conference phones as well as various video telecommunication endpoints and infrastructure products).

  21. specialist*

    I am so glad to hear that the office thing is now worked out. It is wonderful to hear that your manager is so responsive. I’ve got to compliment you on your restraint. I would likely have hauled her out of my chair by the shirt collar, bounced her off a few walls, and forcefully deposited her back into her chair. This is why I don’t have a manager.

  22. Fresh Faced*

    OP #1 I’d definitely report this coworker to a manager to cover your basis. Because your’re in HR she could have been looking at potentially sensitive information (though she wasn’t this time). If she does this again, finds something and then gossips about it you may get the blame as the person who originated the gossip. Since I would guess that people would 1st believe HR accidentally leaked that information over someone actively sneaking into an office to snoop.

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