update: my coworker copies everything I do

Remember the letter-writer who shared a desk with someone who was copying everything she did, even down to the food they each ate? She also stared at her constantly, and the letter-writer mentioned in the comments section that she thought her coworker was secretly photographing her as well.

Here’s the update.

I’m happy to say that I no longer sit with the copycat/starer. There were a few things that led up to this change.

First off, I decided to just ignore the copying. As irritating as it was, you were right when you mentioned that sometimes co-workers just have weird and annoying quirks. I did make a few changes, like taking my lunch break outside of the office more so that she couldn’t copy my every meal, and briefly stepping away from my desk at the end of the day if I was planning on working late so she wouldn’t rely on me to “dismiss” her. As for her early arrival time, that dwindled on it’s own within a couple of weeks. I don’t think she could keep up with that one, hah.

As for the staring, I tried meeting her eyes or saying something like, “Hey, what’s up?” whenever I’d catch it. The staring did decrease a lot, however it didn’t stop completely (I’d say it went from about 15 times per day to maybe 4 or 5). Instead, she’d just try to be more sneaky about it — like pretending to reach for a pen or scratch her neck. I realized that at this point the only solution was probably to talk with my boss and get my seat moved. Conveniently, a few more situations arose that made this an easy win for me. I don’t know if I had mentioned this, but I shared a long desk with her in a small alcove about the size of a large closet. We were in close quarters all day long (can you see why I was so irritated by her?). During late summer she ended up getting pretty sick and continued showing up for work (My company is very lenient about letting us work from home). I had to sit in that tiny room with her (very loud) coughing, and she never would cover her mouth. I was kind of surprised that she wouldn’t at least try to control the volume, or step out of the room for a bit if she was in the midst of a coughing fit. I ended up grabbing my laptop and working from a conference room quite a few times. This cough she had lasted about a month, and my boss could hear how loud and consistent it was from her desk around the corner. I spoke with her and she agreed that it was time to get me a new desk. Unfortunately, that can take some time to confirm.

Fast forward about a week after this decision was made. I did mention in the comments how there were times when I caught her with her phone facing me as if she was taking a picture. I always feared calling her out on this because I couldn’t confirm that that’s what she was actually doing. Except for this time. I was hard at work and started noticing the staring picking up at the corner of my eye. I’d turn and meet her eyes and she’d quickly jolt back forward, only to try again within minutes. This happened about four times in a row, so I definitely had my guard up. A few minutes later I noticed that now instead of staring, she had picked up her phone and the camera was angled directly toward me. I was fuming at this point, so I jumped up from my chair to move out of her phone’s view. As I did, she was clearly startled and almost dropped her phone out of her hands as she quickly tried to close out whatever was up on her phone. I glanced down at her phone, saw that it WAS a camera she had up, then stormed out and went directly to my boss. She immediately went to HR as I stepped outside and calmed down from the situation. The very next day, I had a brand new desk. Success! I now sit with a new coworker, and we get along just great.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

  1. Ms. Minn*

    Whoa, ‘Single White Female’ much? I’m glad your boss took immediate action, although I hope she also reprimanded your stalking co-worker too! Thank you for sharing an update!

        1. Jesca*

          Well I can surmise haha. 1) Not everyone sees creepy behavior for what it is – creepy (sadly not uncommon in my experience). 2) Maybe she has a diagnosed mental health issue that she was losing control over and then brought up – a friend in high school who went all SWF with me was eventually diagnosed with a personality disorder. or 3) Management is giving her a second chance because they haven’t come across this before and are not handling it appropriately. I believe the LW said they have different managers, so who knows what the hell is going on.

          1. Candi*

            2: You mean like that LW who wrote in who had severe anxiety, was freaked out a coworker didn’t say goodbye to her, opened her pay stub to find her address, WENT to coworker’s house, and wound up in big trouble at work? And by the update, had lost her job due to being unable to let-it-go?

            If that’s the case, I hope the company has an EAP. Or this LW’s coworker can get help otherwise.

            1. NorthernSoutherner*

              The staring alone would do it for me. The lunch? Eh, my boss drinks tea and now so do I (uh oh).

        2. Anony*

          My guess is that it was easier to simply move the OP than fire the creepy coworker and HR is hoping the problem just goes away. Or since they don’t have a policy against picture taking they felt they had to give her a warning first.

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            If that’s the reasoning, I’m annoyed. You don’t need to have a policy for every version of “don’t be invasive of your co-worker’s privacy / boundaries without their consent” under the sun. “Don’t be invasive” should be enough of a policy to point to.

          2. OverboilingTeapot*

            It’s also a really easy thing to deny. I opened the camera app accidentally, I was using the front-camera to check my hair, etc etc.

    1. paul*

      I’m even more creeped out with this update than the original. This isn’t normal/healthy at all.

      I remember some commentators trying portray it is as not that odd in the original and it really, really is. I can’t say at all how I’d react but I would be really weirded out.

      1. SallytooShort*

        In the original it was definitely odd but at the same time I could sort of empathize with her being a socially awkward person (not that the LW should have to deal with that.)

        But this update is a whole other level.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, standard advice to anyone, including the awkward, is to figure out things like flexibility of start/stop, what’s normal attire, and so on by observing their co-workers. That doesn’t go anywhere near “And if they notice you watching, set up a camera system so you aren’t looking directly at them.”

    2. Queen of the File*

      I agree! How is stealthily taking pictures of your coworker without their consent ever something you deal with only by moving the target further away (although that is also good)? I really hope there was some follow-up with the creeper by the boss and/or HR about this.

      1. Anony*

        Hopefully that isn’t the only thing happening, but if the coworker is being disciplined the OP would not necessarily know about it.

    3. Hey Nonnie*

      OP will probably never know, but I’m dying to hear what creepy co-worker’s excuses were for the staring and photographing. What was going on inside that head?!

        1. Anonz*

          No idea what was going on here, but I will say it reminded me of my current coworker who has taken pictures of me the one time I dozed off at work, and another time when I was NOT sleeping but just had my head down she tried taking a picture. I guess she thought I was asleep? I looked up and caught her. Weird. Not sure if she was planning n trying to use it to get me in trouble or blackmail me, or is just creepy. But they’re out there.

  2. PB*

    Wow. I’m glad you got a new desk, but is your old office-mate still there? I really hope she received some sort of reprimand. Photographing people without their permission is so creepy.

    1. a1*

      Yes. I’m glad the LW was able to move to a new location, but I also hope something was said to the picture taking coworker.

      1. Triplestep*

        Me, too. I can’t believe the immediate desk move would be the only outcome of this episode.

        My suspicion is the photographs and/or videos were so she could study the OP’s behaviour later at home. The better to mimic her, I’m guessing. *shudder*

        1. SebbyGrrl*

          But that is almost a best case scenario.

          Based on some other previous posts (whose links I cannot pull) SWF could have a blog about her amazing co worker or one about her awful co worker or any number of horrific internet things you can do with other peoples’ images.

          Shudder AND Paranoia, you’re welcome ;)

    2. Observer*

      I was thinking the same thing. I also hope she is not sitting with ANYONE – which means that if that space needs to be shared, she gets moved to a smaller space.

      That’s just so boundary crossing and bizarre.

      1. JulieBulie*

        I am curious whether she will continue to eyeball OP from afar, or turn her attention to her new neighbor.

        That woman needs help (not necessarily medical help, but at least help understanding why she can’t do this kind of stuff).

        If she’s getting help already, bad news, it’s not helping.

      1. FCJ*

        Workplaces don’t necessarily have to worry about the legal definitions of things. Something doesn’t have to be at the level of police involvement to get someone fired. “Photographing coworkers without their consent” seems like a really, really good reason to fire someone, or at least put them on major notice, even if it doesn’t meet the legal definition of anything.

        1. Liane*

          IMO, even if it doesn’t fit the company’s definition of Creepy Enough To Fire (which the photography should), it ought to meet the definition of Not Working Enough To Keep.

      2. Observer*

        What difference does that make? As the others have pointed out, there is no legal requirement for there to be a legal issue for the company to act on it.

        And, to be honest even if this were in AZ (which is the only state that is not “at will”), I suspect that this could be considered “cause”. Because legitimate cause does not have to be a legal problem, necessarily.

    1. Rainy*

      I need to know why she was photographing her! Does she run a secret LW-obsessed blog where she uploads LW’s OOD pics and LW’s meal pics etc?

      1. Cassandra*

        This was the conclusion I leapt to as well. From experience, unfortunately, though at least completely secondhand experience. (I did private-message the perpetrator to say “hey, not cool.”)

      2. Triplestep*

        I wondered this, too, but that would not explain the copycat behavior. Unless she was also intentionally trying to get to the OP by imitating her more and more, and the posting about that as well.

      3. Lil Fidget*

        I believe there are apps and things where people can add cat ears or pig noses or whatever to people’s photographs. If the coworker is making fun of you externally, this might be one reason they’re taking pictures of you. Having said that, it doesn’t seem to quite fit in this circumstance. I can’t say *what* is going on here.

      4. Lissa*

        True, but that doesn’t seem to fit at all with the rest of behavior! Taken all together, this is super odd. OP I am really glad you got your desk moved but secretly disappointed there was never any explanation! I am so nosy!

      5. Say what, now?*

        I don’t think it was to make fun of her. I think it was so she could duplicate her hair and makeup at home. Since she was copying everything else the OP was doing down to her start and end times for a while… eek! …I think it’s the far more likely scenario.

        In my most far out thoughts I went to Face Off and she was going to seek out a plastic surgeon.

    2. fposte*

      I’m wondering if there’s a therapist’s office somewhere with a woman weeping about the obsession that’s going to lose her a job but she can’t make herself stop.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Wouldn’t it be wild if it was for a social experiment? Like “let’s see how much we can creep out a co-worker” or “How does the average person react to boundary pushing office mates” or some crazy thing.

          1. fposte*

            It can’t be an actual psychology experiment, so it would fall under the category of “social experiment” that really means “the lie we offer in retrospect when something goes wrong.”

      1. JulieBulie*

        That would make a fine AAM letter, wouldn’t it?

        Dear AAM,

        I really admire my coworker and am trying to turn myself into her. Unfortunately, every time I try to get a good picture of her, she moves. How can I get her to stay still?

        I truly am curious as to what is motivating her. I realize it isn’t relevant to OP’s problem… I’d just really like to understand why people do some of the things they do.

      2. Drew*

        “Dear AAM, I used to work with my best friend but a couple of weeks ago they moved her to a whole different area of the company and I miss her SO MUCH. Would it be weird if I asked if I could move my desk next to hers? My job is grey and joyless without her next to me all the time and I’m really tired of eating alone.”

        OK, now I’m shuddering.

    3. Smithy*

      The only reason I can think of that isn’t incredibly uncomfortable is that she was taking photos of clothing to be able to try and track down the items to purchase later. But regardless, it’s one thing to say “I love your style, is there a place you typically shop” or “that is a wonderful sweater, where’d you get it”. But if you’re at the point where you’re trying to buy almost everything someone is wearing to the point where you’re photographing their clothing……

      1. Tiger Snake*

        No, I think that option is still really creepy and uncomfortable; it puts images into my head of this coworker spending hours of her free time scouring the Internet and local shops to get The Exact Outfit.

    4. Specialk9*

      I don’t really understand all the people asking why.

      I mean, she was showing all the hallmarks of obsession. I’d say that’s why. This sounds like very much not a rational thing.

      OP, I would want her gone, not just in a different part of the building with keycard access to you.

    5. Mephyle*

      Surely it’s very likely that she was photographing (or videoing?) LW as part and parcel of her close study and surveillance of LW.
      What I am itching to know is what she said to HR when she went running to them. To complain that LW was bothered by her surreptitious photography?

  3. EddieSherbert*

    I’m extremely curious as to what reason she possible could have used for WHY she was taking a photo of you. Seriously!

    Thank goodness you were able to get moved so promptly (and I love that your boss was totally supportive of the move even before her creepy-picture-taking was exposed)!

    1. Jesca*

      This stuff always skeeves me out. I had a friend in high school go all SWF on me. I have been thinking about this OP since her letter, and I am so glad her boss took her seriously!

        1. Ainomiaka*

          I don’t know if any of this was ever ThisIsFineville but it was for sure “office annoyance that you minimize as much as you can and cope with the rest”. But I agree, ended up in Nopetown for sure.

      1. many bells down*

        My daughter did too. A friend started copying her clothing, then dyed her hair *exactly* the same (two different colors in an identical pattern) … then went after her boyfriend.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        On TV, it would be for a stalker shrine that the cops will discover three days after everyone has gone missing.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I was thinking along these lines. The stalker thought the OP was the reincarnation of an ancient princess and is building a shrine.

    2. Kindling*

      To be overly charitable, the only kind of okay-ish reason I can think of is that she maybe might have wanted to get pictures of her outfit/make-up or whatever to recreate. I’ll admit I’ve taken a quick photo of someone on the street when I really liked their jacket or something and wanted to find a similar one for myself (but without their face in the photo, and obviously I didn’t distribute the photo in any way). But paired with everything else, even that would be creepy in this situation.

      1. eee*

        the first thing my mind leapt to was that she wanted to copy her haircut and wanted to take a picture to show her hairstylist.

        1. Kindling*

          Yeah, that seems like it could be it. Which like… fine, maybe, but if you actually know the person, just ask them before you take the photo. And paired with everything else, veeery sketchy.

          1. many bells down*

            I’ve actually done that to someone I’d only just met. Because it’s hard to find a good cut with curly hair and a very round face.
            Uh, by “done that” I mean that I asked them if I could take a picture of their hair. They obliged.

        2. Temperance*

          If she hadn’t been doing it as a habit, maybe, but not for a prolonged period of time over multiple occasions. Creepy. Creepy. Creepy.

        3. Managing to get by*

          Whenever I’ve seen a haircut I like that I want to show my stylist, I say “hey, I love your hair, can I get a picture?”. Never had someone say no, but if they did I’d respect it. It’s that simple.

      2. LKW*

        My first thought as well, plus I’m reminded of those eBay commercials where they take a picture of what they want and then find it on eBay (or maybe they just use their phone to find it on eBay – it’s a commercial, I’m not giving it much brain power).

        Still – super super creepy.

        1. nonegiven*

          There is a letgo.com commercial where they say just letgo and take a picture of something and someone drops out of nowhere who wanted the exact thing.

        2. Drew*

          I have friends who own small specialty shops and this is the bane of their existence: people walk in to browse the shelves, snap pictures, and then order from eBay or Amazon or wherever still standing right there in the store. One of my friends has a “one strike and you’re banned” policy when he catches people doing that. Slightly less obnoxious are the people who will pull up an online price and ask if the store will match it. (Narrator: No, they will not.)

      3. SignalLost*

        No, that’s just creepy. What this woman was doing was VERY creepy, and doesn’t need smoothing over, but so is taking a picture of someone else without their knowledge because you can get your phone and camera out and ready but you can’t memorize the cut or style of their clothing long enough to jot it down?

    1. Happy Lurker*

      Really, what makes this person tick they way they do? That would drive me bonkers, if I was OP.
      OP – congrats on the new office mate.

  4. MCM*

    OP, sorry you got stuck with such a wierdo but happy that your boss moved you into a new location. Did you ever do any search on-line to see if your photos were popping up elsewhere? like her Facebook, etc.

    Did you or her go to HR after she dropped the phone? Her reason for going to HR, if it was her? If it had landed on the floor within my reach, I would have been tempted to step on it. Oops, sorry.

    Hope her new office mate isn’t suffering the same thing.

      1. MCM*

        Thought I had misunderstood it. I can see someone “hey those are cool boots, where did you get them? do you mind if I take a photo.”

        Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when HR / Boss talked to the camera welding co-worker?

        Legal Question here — can an employer ask to see your cell phone if they think an employee is taking inappropriate pictures at work? Like in this situation.

        1. MoinMoin*

          I was also wondering this. Or if OP had grabbed the phone, pulled up photos, saw photos of herself, and took that to HR to show them? Could they legally confiscate the phone and look at what’s on there if it’s unlocked? Would OP be in trouble for taking a dropped, unlocked phone?
          I still want to know more about this, particularly to understand why this person is still working there.

          1. Kimberly*

            I doubt they could legally look at or take the phone in this situation. It would be called theft. The only exception might be a phone found in a classified area.

            I’m a retired teacher and our ability to do this with the students’ phones was pretty limited – so adults should have even more protection.

            1. Tiger Snake*

              At that point, you go to HR only to give them warning that either t call the police right then or I do. And the police can seize the phone for their investigation if necessary.

              (Where I live, it is illegal to photograph someone without their permission. On its own it might not be a serious crime, but is still one nonetheless. So I almost expected a stronger response from HR once the LW had justification to suspect this woman was photographing her.)

        2. Turtle Candle*

          I believe that the question of whether your boss can require you to hand over your phone as a condition of continued employment (aka, “gimme the phone or you’re fired”) depends on state law, in the US.

          1. TootsNYC*

            and of course, they can -ask-, probably. Though, maybe the employment issue would be that any request was essentially command, no matter how it was worded.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, I would guess they could ask, but honestly I have no idea. My casual Internet search implies that the answer is “it really depends on a bunch of things (including state and local laws, whether there’s a policy in place re: devices at the workplace, all kinds of stuff) so definitely talk to a lawyer first.”

            2. Tex*

              At my office, it is in the fine print of the terms and conditions when logging into corporate wifi that by using the wifi you are consenting to searches of any devices (including personal ones) using the wifi AND that they could remotely wipe your device at any time without warning. Of course, they were more interested in stopping potential corporate espionage and I never heard of anyone this happened to – but it’s certainly possible.

        3. fposte*

          Sure. An employer can ask for just about anything. I suspect they could usually even require it, but that would be a greyer area that would probably depend on the state.

        4. SusanIvanova*

          Yeah, I mentioned down below – mine can ask to see it if they think I’m taking any pictures. I work at the sort of tech place that has professionals stalking it for trade secrets; taking a photo in an office is right up at the top of the “don’t” list.

          1. Thlayli*

            LW I am genuinely concerned for your safety. Some things you might want to consider:
            1 Change all your passwords on everything. She might have videoed you entering a password or picked up your phone some time if you went to the bathroom
            2 I’m sure you’ve done this already but block her on social media and change all your settings to private/friends only
            3 find out if she has been fired or not. If she hasn’t remain vigilant in work e.g. Never leave your bag at your desk. Also ask HR / your boss what they have put in place to protect you from her. If she has been fired take extra care when you arrive and leave work
            4 if she knows your address then there’s a whole other level of work to do to try to stay safe
            5 if she doesn’t know your address google yourself and see if you can find it out online – coz I bet she has already done that.

            Good luck and stay safe

        5. Specialk9*

          INAL but I don’t think companies could do that, unless it is a work phone. But they can lay out consequences that could make one volunteer to unlock the phone and hand it over.

          Note: guys, don’t unlock your phone and hand it over.

  5. BethRA*

    Yay! for you getting a new desk, but I wish TPTB had asked to look at her phone and camera roll. That is a level of creepy that I wouldn’t want in my office.

  6. Mirve*

    I wonder if she was not actually taking pictures, but just using the camera so she could watch without looking directly at her? Still super creepy, but there wouldn’t be evidence on the phone.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I don’t know why (because they are both sooo horribly invasive) but that would also freak me out more than taking photos! Haha…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Staring can be brushed off as “I was thinking about integrating alpacas into the teapot, and coworker happened to be in my line of sight, but I was just seeing fluffy, fluffy tea cozies.” Once you have set up an electronic aid to your staring, that excuse doesn’t fly anymore and you are right in Office Freak territory. Unless tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers sometimes scroll over OP’s skin, there is no reason for this extreme weirdness.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      That’s what I was thinking. She kept getting caught looking so she starting looking at her phone… With the phone pointed at her.

      BUT WHY

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I guess I would gauge her reason/reaction before going all the way to firing. Mind you, no matter what, I’m super wary of this chick, she’s getting SEVERELY admonished, and told to stay the heck away from OP. But maybe not firing if she’s otherwise a good employee and can interact with people.

      While there’s NO good reason AT ALL to do that, there is a difference between “I’m a strange awkward person who liked her hair today and wanted to copy it” and “My friend and I are making fun of her via text.”

      And there’s also difference between “mortified remorse and profuse apologizing” and “deny and anger at getting caught.”

      1. Decima Dewey*

        “But maybe not firing if she’s otherwise a good employee and can interact with people.”

        WTF? She’s using her phone to spy on her coworker. She’d have to be doing a spectacular job to clear that hurdle to “otherwise a good employee.”

      2. Anna*

        Nope. Even if she were a good employee, there are some things that are Just Too Much and this would be one of them.

      3. Candi*

        This is on the same level as “found a way to sneak into Savahn’s email and sent awful messages out to trash Savahn’s reputation while Savahn was in a meeting.” They’d have to be one of six people in the world doing what they do to come back from that.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I’m certainly not trying to! I would have reacted the same as OP and I’d be very wary of this woman.

          I could just see this being a situation where now she is on thin ice or a PIP (and hopefully not allowed near the OP) and firing is the next consequence if she acts up.

          I guess I’m just thinking…. we’ve read letters about or from people who have bitten coworkers, pushed a coworker in front of a car, and lots of other weird, crazy, dangerous stuff and the people weren’t necessarily fired.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Probably worth mentioning that if OP told us this woman had been fired over this, I certainly wouldn’t be upset or advocate for her in any way!

          2. SignalLost*

            Are you saying you think the coworker has had any consequences? Because there aren’t any mentioned in the letter. And the two specific examples you mentioned were not functional workplaces … by the admission of the writer, in the case of the biting. So I’m not sure what relevance those examples have, other than “often, dysfunctional workplaces do not levy appropriate consequences for outrageous actions.”

      4. Temperance*

        Yeah, there’s literally no reasonable explanation for recording a colleague multiple times.

        1. Kate 2*

          Yeah I think that is something people are missing. She was either staring at or photographing OP !!!!!!!!!!! 15 !!!!!!!!!!!!!! times a DAY!

      5. The OG Anonsie*

        Yeah same. Not because I think there’s any circumstance that suddenly makes any of this ok, but because I would want to be able to get a full context for what the hell was going on before firing even if the why didn’t change the fact that they were getting fired.

      6. Specialk9*

        Your two reasons for the behavior are so much kinder to the co-worker than what I think is likely, “I have fixated on you as my personal obsession”. The evidence is there – She is turning herself into the OP in every possible way. Totally Single White Female. (At the end of which, IIRC, she murders the boyfriend and then tries to kill the object of her obsession.)

  7. Amber Rose*

    Sounds like the beginning to a horror movie. :O
    Sorry LW, my brain is stuck in WTF so I have nothing more constructive to say. Just. WTF.

  8. kas*

    Wow, I didn’t see the original post. I have so many questions but I really want to know why she was taking pictures. Super creepy.

  9. designbot*

    wait, SHE immediately went to HR? What on earth could she have said? “I’m obsessed with my officemate and need help”? Or was this a typo and you were the one to go to HR?

    1. Myrin*

      I’m pretty sure that’s referring to the boss: “[I] stormed out and went directly to my boss. She immediately went to HR…”.

    2. beanie beans*

      I was confused too! But this makes sense now. So many weird things going on in this that I think my brain was in a knot.

  10. miyeritari*

    okay, the “copying” thing is weird and quirky, but the pictures thing is FREAKY and borderline stalkerish. I’m so glad you no longer sit with this person.

  11. Murphy*

    WTF??? How deeply weird. Is this the only thing that was done? That is some seriously bizarre behavior.

    Before this letter got weird, I was going to say that I love everything you did in the second paragraph, changing your own behavior slightly. Those were great strategies.

    1. Drew*


      Excellent low-key ways to test the waters of “is my coworker REALLY copying me or are we just reading all the same style blogs?”

  12. Minnie*

    I relate with the LW because I also had a Single White Female situation in the workplace. Women like this are truly scary in my opinion, because they will often stop at nothing immulate the object of their obsession. Thankfully I own my own company now, and have blocked the Weirdo from my life.

      1. Minnie*

        I had not experienced this before encountering my “Fan”.
        To make matters worse in the situation was that she was my superior.
        The emulations started out subtly, and I dismissed that inner voice that was screaming at me to keep her at arm’s length. I shrugged off the blaring realization that she was copying my clothing style, my laugh and even my hair. This woman was the type of person who wore t-shirts with juvenile pictures pasted on them. (Think of a 46-year-old “professional” woman sporting Sponge Bob shirts and flip flops to work).
        My coworkers would laugh as she would attempt to strut in the building with heeled boots that she constantly tripped in….because this is what I typically wore. My closest coworker made comments about how she was trying to be my “twin”, and it became exhausting to enter the building every morning to have her come running out of her office and up to my desk to loudly admire everything that I wore – from my head to my shoes. She would interrogate me about where I purchased my wardrobe, and the next day, she would come into the building with the same purse or shoes. I became so fed up with the daily harassment and identity theft that I began to tell her I bought the items at a particular store that I never shopped at.
        I am typically thick skinned; however, everything took a turn for the worse when my coworker and I learned that she was making up lies to sabotage us both to the owner and the office manager. She was the one and only “HR” and was falsifying the records about my PTO and tardiness. She convinced the management that I had exceeded my allotted time off, and she even went as far to dock my salaried pay when the owners were out of the country. I overheard her making up lies about other coworkers who I was close to, and we caught on that she was messing with my work to get me into trouble. Another issue with her was we all noticed her extended lunch breaks when the owners were gone. She also was reprimanded for shopping online while on the clock, but she was the biggest tattle teller about everyone’s simple mistakes and one-minute tardiness.
        The straw that broke the camel’s back was her creepy comments about my 21-year-old son. They were sexually based, and it took all that I had to keep my arms at my sides and walk away. (These remarks came from a married woman who had a 20-year-old son, and should have known better to keep her nasty thoughts to herself.) When the management returned, I had a meeting with them and told them everything. They confronted her, and she lied. They advised me that she was never a member of management and that I was to report directly to them. Sadly, these men treated her like she was a misunderstood little child and allowed many of the malicious behaviors to exist. I turned in notice, trained 3 people to replace me, and protected these women from her evilness until I was gone. (She tried to sabotage and intimidate them too.)
        I have her blocked on every form of social media and I am extremely happy that me and my coworker escaped that toxic environment. It still makes my skin crawl when I think of her, but the empathetic part of me feels sadness because she may never know how to love herself. Instead, she tries to climb to the top by stepping on the backs of others, and I have no doubt she has found another human object to emulate and obsess over.

          1. Minnie*

            Yes, it was enough to cause me to have anxiety attacks before going to work. I no longer trust people like I used to!

          1. Minnie*

            It is definitely a weird situation, and I’m thankful to be away from the disturbed woman.

            Sadly, the management will probably never let her go, even though she is a walking lawsuit because I doubt she has changed her evil ways.

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I hope you meant emulate, not immolate! Emulate is scary enough, immolate is way worse!

      1. Specialk9*

        I am actually thinking OP has reason to worry about immolation. (Not literally, precisely – I’d worry about finding her in my bed, in my undies, with a knife.) Urk. So creepy!

      2. Minnie*

        Haha! I think my (Un)Smart phone needs an exorcism…again!

        I definitely meant to say “emulate” ;-)

      1. Minnie*

        I have honestly never heard any stories about men behaving this way, but I’ve encountered a couple of women who fit the Single White Female criteria to a “t”.

    2. Starlite99*

      OMG… I just had to chime in on this. I have also had the Single White Female thing done to me too. I cringe just thinking about it. This was also done to me by a coworker, one who was about 15 years older than me (she was in her 50’s). I had just been hired in, and she was assigned to be one of my trainers. It all started with her copying little things, within days of us knowing each other. I didn’t think much of it at first. Then, she got super-clingy within a week of us knowing each other, and stared at me constantly. She was also very subservient to me, and I started to get that “icky” vibe around her. The last straw for me was when she showed up to work (after only two weeks of my knowing her), with her hair EXACTLY like mine (color, and everything)! I REALLY knew then that I was dealing with someone unstable, and that I needed to get away from her. I did all I could to put some distance between us (my training was pretty much over at this point). I didn’t talk to her, unless I ABSOLUTELY needed to. Even then, her copycatting gradually grew even more frequent: she started copying my clothing, shoes, make up, demeanor, my catchphrases, etc. She even went out and bought glasses like mine! She would also have these LONG (~45mins-1 hour) whispered phone conversations to other people in the office, talking trash about me (I have overheard her). She even tried to “befriend” all of the people I dealt with in the office. She would also try to give me bad advice: advice that surely would have gotten me canned if I was dumb enough to take it.

      This even got to the point where she started stalking me around the office. She would orchestrate situations where we’d bump into each other around the office. She would follow me to the restroom, on breaks, and on lunch. The weird thing was that when we’d run into each other, she would act like I wasn’t there! It got to the point where I had to start documenting everything she did, and take it to my boss. I had to go to management TWICE about this, and they spoke with her twice before she gradually started backing off. She eventually quit, and I no longer have to see her ugly face.

      So yes, this is a very real thing, and very unsettling to anyone on the receiving end of it. It was an extremely infuriating and frightening experience for me, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  13. Temperance*

    Wow. She should have been shitcanned for secretly recording you. That’s just straight up creepy and wrong. Did HR at least take some action against Ms. Bunny Boiler?

  14. Lady Phoenix*

    Good on you for changing throwing her off amd eventually getting her away from you.

    I only hope this means she is on thin ice now with her being fired as the next consequence.

    Please report any changes.

    Also, being stuck in a room with a sick person. Ugh. Either wear a cough guard or cover your mouth. And also, clean your hands and your station (inclduing what you touch). So rude!

  15. SusanIvanova*

    Silicon Valley secret protection may go overboard a bit, but in this case it would’ve come in handy – where I work, taking unauthorized pictures of anything is a potential firing offense. Especially in an office – put that up on Facebook, someone will find it with a location metadata search and go full CSI over the background looking for trade secrets.

      1. Candi*

        And both crushing on Charlie Brown to boot.

        I think that was the first (kid) love triangle I ever saw. :P

        1. JulieBulie*

          I don’t recall that Charlie Brown was interested in either of them, but he did like the red-haired girl, so if you can call this any kind of love polygon, it would have to be a love rectangle.

          Also: Patty certainly had a thing for Charlie, but I don’t think Marcy did.

          Marcy seemed to have a thing for Patty, and Patty sort of took advantage of her (not sexually, obviously, but I remember her running Marcy ragged in the Easter special having her do all those eggs). So they had kind of a codependent thing going on there.

          1. Candi*

            There’s more than one type of love triangle. TV Tropes has a pretty good breakdown of the different angles.

            There are definitely some Schultz-created Peanuts comics out there with Marcy with little hearts over her head while looking at Charlie. They tend to be later-ish ones.

  16. AKchic*

    Ugh. Please please please tell me that twerp got fired. I don’t care what her justifications were/are. Well, okay… my curiosity must be sated – I DO want to know what she thought she was doing, and whether or not she was actually taking photos or video or just peeping through a lens, and if so – what for; and ultimately, what did she hope to gain from all of that voyeuristic nonsense.

    We need further updates. A VH-1 styled “Where Are They Now”, AAM Edition. Why? Because this ish is totally bananas. No, even weirder. Totally pineapple-starfruit-avocado juice. It makes your mouth pucker with delighted weirdness, and a bit of horror.

      1. AKchic*

        Pineapple-starfruit juice is awesome. I love it. I just threw in avocado as an extra flavor because I wasn’t sure if avocado even made a decent “juice”, but more of a pulp/smoothie type blend.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          We have a no dairy (not even almond or coconut milk) issue in our house. We make a watermelon, strawberry, avacado juice/smoothie every morning. Sometimes we throw in a peach or a pear. It is pretty good. I want to try the starfruit! The next time I see one, I will get it to try. Thanks!

      2. Specialk9*

        “It makes your mouth pucker with delighted weirdness, and a bit of horror.”

        Snerk. Perfect.

  17. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Twisted follow up question, but I’m perversely curious to know if SWCoworker has turned her attention to the next closest person.

  18. Falling Diphthong*

    What is up with people photographing their coworkers??!!!

    Unless they are presenting the third quarter sales projections as an interpretive dance and you volunteered to film it, there is no “photographing of coworker” that is going to reflect well on you. More “At last I’m at work, where people can’t flee from my ever-present recording of them bwa ha ha.”

    1. Anon non non*

      Frankly I think filming or photographing someone without permission in any situation is not okay. Yes, there are a few exceptions (the Walter Scott case for ex) where this is totally warranted…but when people whip out their phones to record a person doing something silly or embarrassing for the sole purpose of posting it online in the hopes that it will go viral it’s wrong.

      1. LCL*

        The biggest fight I have gotten into with a manager here involved me sticking up for a worker in our unit who was photographed while in some minor misbehavior, for which there were extenuating circumstances. He was photographed doing the one time misbehavior. I demanded photographer be disciplined somehow, manager said what photographer did was permitted.

  19. whyo*

    re: the whole thing but especially the picture-taking: WHAT THE ACTUAL FORK? That is super creepy/cray.

  20. Wendy Darling*

    I’m flashing back to the argument in the update about the excessively-grooming employee about precisely how inappropriate it was that the LW yelled “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?”

    I think we’ve found the situation where that is 100% absolutely appropriate.

  21. Imaginary Number*

    This is slightly off-topic because your coworker is 100% batshit crazy.

    But I do want to bring up the “coughing for a month” thing because I’m one of those people. I get sick every year in the fall and I end up with a horrible cough that lasts over a month. It’s really bad and involves very deep, awful-sounding coughs the entire time. If I try to hold them in until I can step out, I end up causing coughing fits that go on for minutes where I’m gasping for breath and coughing so hard that there’s literally tears coming down my face. Six weeks of working from home, even in an office that is okay with occasional telecommuting, is really not an option.

    I always get dirty looks, like I have a choice to have this terrible cough (I work either in cubicles or in an open floor plan.) And it always sucks. People always make comments like “Why don’t you go to the doctor?” (I have) or “Why don’t you go home?” (I can’t go home for six weeks out of the year) or “How are you still coughing after a month?” (Gee, no, I had no idea that was unusual. I actually chose to cough for this long.)

    1. Anna*

      Yeah, I wasn’t that skeeved out about that. People with asthma and other conditions will have a cough for a long time after they are no longer sick just because bodies are dumb.

      But still cover your mouth.

    2. beanie beans*

      But if you shared a closet-sized room with another coworker, a month of coughing would drive me crazy too. Would be very distracting, even if I knew it wasn’t contagious or controllable.

    3. Meghan*

      Me too, though mine is diagnosed cold-induced coughing asthma. I’ve had it since I was 10, but it wasn’t diagnosed as such until I was 25, because I don’t wheeze. I just have coughing fits. An inhaler helps, not only with the cough, but with the comments. If I have a coughing fit and then bring out an inhaler, you can see the lightbulb go off with people around me.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        Oh my gosh, yes. For years that wasn’t an option because I was in the military and couldn’t risk getting diagnosed with asthma. But this year (now that I’m all civilianized) I got an inhaler from my doctor when the cough wouldn’t go away and it made all the difference! I haven’t been formally diagnosed with asthma, but the comments completely cut off once I started visibly using the inhaler.

    4. Turtlewings*

      I tend to have lingering coughs too, so I very much sympathize! I think LW is justified in wanting to sit further away from it, though — not only is it gross and distracting to hear all day, but apparently this woman was not even covering her mouth to keep the germs to herself.

      You’ve already been to a doctor so I can’t imagine this hasn’t come up, but — if your cough happens at the same time of year and lasts for a consistent length of time, any chance it’s allergies?

      1. Imaginary Number*

        Not allergies. It’s more that fall is when the crud tends to go around and I think the cold weather makes it worse. The latest doctor said it’s most-likely asthma, but I haven’t been officially diagnosed.

    5. Candi*

      This is gonna sound realllly weird…

      But these things help me.

      Irritation-only coughing, where nothing’s coming up and you don’t need to clear the airways, I figured out a way to flex the muscles in my throat. I don’t know WHY, but it allieviates the itch and soreness a bit, and lessens or prevents the cough.

      Also, anything thick and gunky to coat the throat. Honey’s traditional, but anything that “clings” works.

      Ibuprofen or other irritation/inflammation suppressing drugs. Talk with your doctor.

      Again, irritation ONLY. Mucus production is a whole ‘nother mess to deal with. Pun not intended.

    6. Kate 2*

      Seconding this. I have a few permanent conditions that mean I have to blow my nose 15 times a day. Luckily it is usually silent, but I have to remind my coworkers over and over again that it isn’t contagious, I can’t fix it, and I always put hand sanitizer on afterwards.

      TL;DR Sometimes we can’t help our annoying habits. Please ask about it before assuming you know why.

    7. anonagain*

      If I’m coughing or sneezing because of my asthma/allergies, I just tell people. I don’t wait for them to ask me why I’m coughing, since lots of people would find that rude. I also don’t rely on my inhaler to communicate that I am not contagious. I’ve told coworkers, friends, strangers on the bus…it seems like it would be awkward but people are almost always really appreciative. I know I’ve really appreciated it when other people let me know that they weren’t contagious.

      I still cover my mouth and nose, throw away my tissues, wash my hands/use hand sanitizer, and when I was in an office, I would periodically wipe down the things I touch. Coughing and sneezing are gross no matter what. Still, it removes a lot of the stress that I experience if I know that I’m probably not going to catch anything from that person.

  22. Smithy*

    While this update is indeed uncomfortable, I also think this is a great example of teasing out “yes this is irritating, but I need to let it go” with “these are actionable items to bring to a manager”.

    1. Drew*

      Next up on LMN, “Copycat Coworker,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence. Special appearance by Glenn Close as Boss Kickass.

  23. Kristine*

    I’ll never understand why some workplaces skimp on providing appropriate work spaces in the first place! Even without a certifiably creepy coworker as here, throwing people together at a long desk in an alcove, or in one of the many other ridiculous work spaces mentioned at this blog, is a recipe for conflict. (And then it takes permission, a form submission, red tape, and time to change what should never had been.) Good grief, how about avoiding that aggravation?

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      I once shared what facilities called a “cloffice” (office in a closet) with three other people. Worse 9 months of my life.

      1. AnonAndOn*

        Uh-uh! Nope! And I can’t believe they tried to make it sound cute by calling it a “cloffice.” That sounds awful.

      2. Traveling Teacher*

        I know someone who worked in a trailer, appended on to the main company, stuffed with 6 full-size desks and coworkers and breaking several fire code regulations with the setup. They were friends with the fire dept, though, so they were always warned in advance about workplace safety inspections. :(

    2. JulieBulie*

      For a while in 1996 or so, we (banking software company, preparing for Y2K) had so many people working in our office that we had a row of computer carts lined up in the hallway for contractors to work at. They instituted mandatory (but temporary) work at home for any employee who could possibly do so to make room for more contractors/temps/consultants. They could have rented additional space, but it’s way cheaper to NOT rent additional space! (Maybe the locations were bad, or the minimum leases were too long?)

      When you cram that many people so close together all day, every day, it gets kind of gross. Trash, food odors, airborne germs, etc. What I don’t get is how having workstations in the regular-size hallways didn’t violate the fire code. Maybe they were allowed some kind of remediation.

      Luckily I was working from home so I didn’t see much of that, but I’ve observed that many employers are delighted to have the option to put people in closets and hallways and bingo-parlor style setups. I’m surprised bunk desks haven’t been invented yet. (If they have, please don’t ruin my blissful ignorance!)

  24. Close Bracket*

    FYI about the cough and coming into the office: a cough can linger way after the infectious period is over and the person is well again. You should still cover your mouth bc gross, spit is flying everywhere, but don’t assume someone with a long term cough is going to get everyone sick.

    1. Karen D*


      I have allergies that can flower into bronchitis if I’m not careful. It can get pretty bad, but my doctor has told me that I’m very likely NOT infectious, even when I am coughing like crazy.

      That said, crazy coworker was still crazy, cough or no cough.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      Yeah but the coworker wasn’t covering her mouth ever, that was the thing. Even if you’re well past the point of contagion from the original cough-inducing illness, open mouth coughing all over a shared workspace is rude as hell and super unsanitary.

    1. sap*

      Crush seems semiplausible, but would be more alarming to me–it seems like the risk of violence with romantic obsession is typically higher than with non-romantic obsession, and this is into super obsessive behavior.

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      That was definitely my first thought. Once I read the phone thing, though, I think it could even be erotomania (de Claramboult Syndrome). I mean, it’s one thing to have a crush or a girl-crush and want to emulate your desired person… it’s a whole other level to start filming them, in full view!

  25. MissDissplaced*

    SO weird. You just have to wonder WTF is up with someone like that.
    I mean, what goes on in their mind?

  26. Thlayli*

    LW I am genuinely concerned for your safety. Some things you might want to consider:
    1 Change all your passwords on everything. She might have videoed you entering a password or picked up your phone some time if you went to the bathroom
    2 I’m sure you’ve done this already but block her on social media and change all your settings to private/friends only
    3 find out if she has been fired or not. If she hasn’t remain vigilant in work e.g. Never leave your bag at your desk. Also ask HR / your boss what they have put in place to protect you from her. If she has been fired take extra care when you arrive and leave work
    4 if she knows your address then there’s a whole other level of work to do to try to stay safe
    5 if she doesn’t know your address google yourself and see if you can find it out online – coz I bet she has already done that.

    Good luck and stay safe

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      +1 for social media blocking and changing passwords. A nifty trick I use for passwords is that I’ve switched the “locked” keyboard to be that of a different language, so my password appears to be completely different from what it actually is if anyone watches me type it in. I just toggle the keyboard back to the matching keyboard once I’m logged in. I periodically switch the keyboard and the password, just to keep em guessing.

      For the rest, I agree with Thlayli and MadEye Moody, “Constant vigilance!” for the time being, but I’m really glad that you’re already feeling better since having moved away from this creep!

  27. Nathaniel*

    My gut feeling is that this is an incredibly dangerous situation for OP, and the gravity of that may not be fully represented here.

    Likely goes deeper than what can be seen at surface level.

    OP.. tighten up privacy. Set cams and alarm up at home. Escalate.

  28. Stephanie*

    I sincerely hope the letter writer will update us in a couple months on how this is going. I’m concerned that her former deskmate is not going to let it go.

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