my coworker responds to all problems with “at least you don’t have cancer or an eating disorder”

A reader writes:

My coworker, Amy, has had cancer and an eating disorder in the past. Whenever anyone brings up a problem or/and complains, Amy will tell them things like “at least you don’t have cancer or an eating disorder” or “that’s not as bad as an eating disorder or cancer.”

No one else is trying to have a contest with Amy, but she turns it into one every single time. Our coworker from another department had a flood in his basement. He was talking about it in the lunchroom and Amy went over and yelled at him about how he is lucky that is his biggest problem and at least he isn’t dealing with an eating disorder or cancer. She wasn’t even a part of the conversation. He told me afterwards that he listened to her lecture because even though he works in a different department, Any is technically senior to him and he didn’t want to upset her further. I have been lectured and yelled at for mentioning another driver dinged my parked car or that the photocopier was broken. I have brought my concerns to my boss because I don’t like being yelled at and lectured and also because I believe Amy is harming our department.

My boss always says she will talk to Amy, but Amy never changes her behavior. Everyone else who works here goes out of their way not to talk to Amy and if she is in the vicinity they just stop talking and will leave if they can. They only come to me with work stuff and not Amy.

I can’t not talk to her because we work together and I feel like I’m walking on eggshells because if I say anything she thinks is negative, she will start with a lecture. It has been seven years since she finished her treatment for cancer and even longer for the eating disorder. If you tell her to stop it, she just says you are being rude to her for having health problems she can’t help.

How do I get Amy to stop with the lectures if she won’t listen to anyone, including our boss?

Well, you may not be able to, because Amy sounds like she’s beyond reason on this subject. But I bet there’s room to shut it down more than is currently happening, because it sounds like Amy has intimidated everyone into giving her too much leeway.

Whenever someone is doing something rude and out of line, the extent to which you’ll be able to shut it down depends on the extent to which you’re willing to be assertive and risk the other person being upset with you. Sometimes people in your shoes aren’t willing to do that — they want the annoying behavior to stop, but they’re not willing to risk making the other person upset. That’s a legitimate position to take, but too often people don’t make that decision deliberately; they just let a vague uneasiness with speaking up make the decision for them. So get really clear in your own mind on which you value more: never upsetting Amy or being able to assert reasonable boundaries with Amy.

If you and your coworkers are willing to stand up to Amy and risk upsetting her, you should be able to squelch at least some of this, and possibly all of it. These are the phrases that you and your coworkers should use:

* “Amy, I wasn’t speaking to you. Please don’t interrupt my conversation.”
* “I’m not willing to never discuss problems or frustrations simply because they’re not an eating disorder or cancer. Please stop those remarks.”
* “I’m not comparing my problems to anyone else’s. Please stop telling me what I can and can’t talk about.”
* “You’re being rude. Please don’t interrupt my conversation.”
* “It’s not okay for you to yell at me, and I’m ending this conversation now.” (Followed by walking away if needed.)
* “Amy! We’ve heard this from you many times before. We’re talking about something else now.”

If she tells you that you’re being rude to her, that’s fine. Let her say that. You’re not being rude, and it’s okay if she doesn’t like you. But again, that part is key — you have to be okay with her being upset with your response. I’d argue you should be, because she’s being extraordinarily rude, but it’s really up to you.

You should also talk to your boss again. Say this: “You’ve said in the past that you’d talk to Amy about how she shuts down other people’s conversations by invoking cancer and eating disorders, but it’s continuing. At this point, people are refusing to bring work issues to her because of how unpleasant she is, and instead they’re bringing everything to me, meaning that I’m taking on additional work because people are going around Amy to me. It’s at the point where something else needs to be done.” (If you don’t have the type of relationship with where you can tell your boss “something else needs to be done,” then you can switch that last sentence to, “I’m not sure what else I can do on my end to solve this.”)

If your boss isn’t willing to intervene in a way that’s actually effective, then you’re left sticking with the responses to Amy above. If you and others use them consistently, there’s a good chance that she’ll back down a bit. But if she doesn’t, then … well, you work with someone who sounds deeply troubled and incapable of seeing how her behavior impacts others. There isn’t always a solution to that if you have ineffective management above you. But you at least can keep saying no to the lectures and the yelling when she tries to inflict them on you.

{ 734 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    Someday, Amy is going to say that to someone who does have cancer or an eating-disorder!

    It also occurs to me that for work-related issues, you could say “No, we have a broken photocopier, which is a work-related issue and therefore something that we need to address here and now at work.”

    1. Anon41*

      Great response!

      I totally agree about not knowing who you’re talking to. Many eating disorders won’t be obvious or visable to an outsider. You could be average weight, have a high weight, or have a low but technically healthy weight that’s not healthy for you.

      I’ve been hospitalized for an ED and lost someone I love very much to cancer. The former was far from the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I would be extreeeeeeemely annoyed if anyone took this approach with me.

      1. NorthernSoutherner*

        I don’t think one-upping on health problems is the issue here. So only someone who’s had a tragedy is able to talk about their flat tire?

        The point is that Amy is negating everyone else’s troubles – major or minor – because she’s had cancer and an eating disorder. Telling someone they shouldn’t be upset because “it could be worse” completely invalidates the other person. In the big suffering contest of life, Amy wins and everyone else is a distant second.

        I’ve been in conversations with this type before. If you climbed a hill, they climbed a mountain. Etc.

    2. Louise*

      Yeah, I’m tempted to suggest saying something along the lines of “We don’t actually know what everyone in the office is going through—I’m sure you’d never want to offend someone who has experienced those things by assuming they haven’t,” but this coworker seems so unreasonable I don’t know if that would actually get through.

      1. designbot*

        I like this and would maybe even expand it to, “I’m sure you’d never want to offend someone who has experienced those things or other very serious issues by assuming they haven’t.” Because yeah, those are awful, awful things, but how would she respond if someone actually did decide to compare? What about coworkers who have had illnesses that have a high mortality rate, or have been in serious accidents, been molested, or something else truly terrible, and are going about their day without throwing that in everyone else’s faces all the time?

        1. Anon41*

          Seriously. I had a coworker whos brother took his own life. She became one of my dearest friends. If someone had tried this on her (because she was very private about things) I might have gotten fired for whatever came next.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Amy is bonkers.

          My mother had a heart attack last month. She survived but, hey, so did Amy, and Mom isn’t throwing it in everyone’s face when they complain about something.

          1. Rachel01*

            This is where you want to say “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you relapsed? You poor darling.” in a southern drawl. I’m sorry but this would get so blooming old it’s not fully.

            I recall years ago I had a grad student justifying how bad one of the professors at work treated me. They had such a hard life, they can’t help it. I looked at them and said I had a hard life and you do not feel the need to use it to justify bad behaviors. You never make the assumption that you someone hasn’t gone through something. She was a smart young woman, she thought about it a minute than agreed with me.

            I would so tempted to yell back … I’ve had a hard life and I’m not taking it out on you so shut the @#$% up.

            1. AMPG*

              When I was in college I had an argument with a fellow student where I was taking a more optimistic view of something than she was. She told me, “Well, it must be nice to have had such an easy life that you can see things that way.” My father had dropped dead of a heart attack literally in front of me earlier that year. And she knew it.

      2. Penny Lane*

        I like this a lot – though I might suggest keeping in your back pocket the even more direct “Amy, you don’t know what I’ve gone through in my life” accompanied by a stern stare. Perhaps a “how dare you” gets added in. I mean, really. Who the heck knows all the troubles others have seen?

        1. Orchestra Alum*

          Agreed just because people don’t inform the whole office of life events doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing them. For some people work is a place to not focus on these things so they keep life troubles separate. Some one needs to explain boundaries and why hasn’t hr stepped in?

        2. HRM*

          Exactly! Some behaviors are so rude, so out there, that it’s not necessary or effective to try to facilitate the offender to a better set of behaviors. Just shut her down, directly, curtly and unequivocally.

    3. Jen in Oregon*

      Yes, but will she say it to someone that has cancer AND an eating disorder??

      I kid. Sorta.

      When she’s around, and maybe even when she’s not, I’d be tempted to preface everything with “I know it’s not cancer and/or an eating disorder, but…..(insert complaint/problem here.) Again, I kid. Sorta.

      1. Annabelle*

        My MIL is bulimic and currently going through chemo and I can’t imagine how upset she’d be if someone said this to her. Amy’s comments are both rude and just like, kind of uniquely tone deaf.

      2. Snark*

        Oh totally. Pick a table near her, and start talking about your friend who’s bulimic and has pancreatic cancer. And has shingles. And is getting divorced.

        1. Haiku*

          This reminds me of one of the characters from SNL who can’t stop one upping everyone. It’s Kristen Wiig’s Penelope who drives everyone bananas.

          http://www . nbc . com/saturday-night-live/video/penelope-thanksgiving/n12943?snl=1

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Well, my real life cousin has fought bulimia her entire life, had a stroke in her 40s, and lost her house to a fire. She is divorced (remarried to a nice guy). Her daughter is a recovering addict and single mom, living with her. The person who has it worse does exist! What is funny, though, is that this cousin is a very positive person.

          1. Misquoted*

            The response of “Well, at least [whatever]” is just the least empathetic response ever. Everyone has their own pain, and it isn’t lessened by someone else having more or worse pain.

            I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer four months ago. The year I met him, he’d been recently divorced, had changed jobs, had moved out of his dream home, was dealing with an at-risk daughter who wasn’t handling the divorce well, was working with a young son on an IEP, had torn his Achilles’ tendon, AND had been diagnosed with cancer and treated with surgery and chemo.

            Three weeks after he passed, I was dragged out to dinner with girlfriends (much needed!). A friend of a friend was chatting with me about hormone-replacement therapy and asked me, incredulously, “Don’t you worry about cancer?” I couldn’t believe that nobody had told her what I’d just been through — the last several months had been nothing BUT worrying about (my husband’s) cancer.

            I also have a friend who lost her mother a few years ago. Anytime I complain about my mother, I get “at least she’s still around.” Seriously? If she complains about a guy she’s dating, should I say “at least he doesn’t have cancer”?

            Excellent advice, AAM — and readers.

        3. Susan*

          My dad currently has two of the three (pancreatic cancer, and shingles brought on by the radiation treatment). He seems secure in his marriage to my stepmother, but he also has two hernias in a…sensitive place that he’s waiting to get operated on, so that might make up for it.

      3. Safetykats*

        I’m not sure it’s reasonable to try to get Amy to empathize with any else’s problems, real or imagined. I think I would be tempted to say “I know, first world problems, am I right?” And then just go back to talking about the fender bender, or the copier, or the lack of Diet Coke in the vending machine (I mean really, how can we be expected to work under these conditions?) Letting Amy’s behavior shut down the conversation just encourages her to continue. If you don’t give her what she’s looking for, she will eventually either stop or totally melt down in a way that will be impossible for management (and HR) to continue to ignore.

        Being me, I would also probably be tempted to complain even more about every hangnail, paper cut, and what have you (OMG my lips are so chapped right now, how am I going to ski this weekend?) Because, you know, first world problems are still problems.

        1. A grad student*

          Seriously, the Diet Coke in the vending machines is ALWAYS sold out. I’m not sure how they expect the university to continue to run!

      4. Executive Assistant Barbie*

        If the boss doesn’t step up to squash it, the preface of “I know it’s not…” might actually be helpful in reducing some of the tension this probably causes. I’m thinking more of using it when Amy isn’t around; it could become one of those little inside jokes shared by people who suffer the same wrath of Amy, and bond them together.

        Not an approach for every office, YMMV, but I’ve seen that fly in mine.

    4. Annabelle*

      This was my first thought! I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for a long time, but none of my coworkers know that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already said it to someone who isn’t open about their ED. People are usually kind of private about their mental health.

      1. WillyNilly*

        Exactly! I work really hard every day to manage my ED… but I don’t discuss it. Its been part of my life for decades, but its not something I have ever shared with co-workers.

        And while I don’t have cancer, I do have one of the cancer causing strains of HPV, and its not clearing up on its own. So every 6 months I need to be checked for cancer… and again its not something I tell my co-workers.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Oh sweetheart, I’m sorry about the HPV. I had a college friend who is dealing with the same thing. It’s a hassle is it not? But better safe than sorry. Happy health to you!

          ps. I used to loooooove that handle for my own years ago. It’s weird seeing it used by someone else. We have great taste! ;)

      1. fposte*

        Yup. Though at some point somebody bereaved is going to snap back to her “Those aren’t as bad as being dead,” and it’ll be on.

        1. bonkerballs*

          That is exactly what I was thinking. If this happened enough times I can totally see myself snapping back at Amy to knock it off and lecturing her in the same way that she does that she shouldn’t be complaining about her cancer or eating disorder because lots of people die from those things.

          Then of course I would feel bad, because that’s not a nice thing to say, but it would feel good for a moment to shut her up and come out on top.

        2. Lili*

          Yeah, I’ve thankfully never had cancer or an eating disorder but I have lost a parent. My response to her would not be kind or work-appropriate.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m not trying to downplay either one, but she is going to say that to someone who has something comparably bad happen them or arguably something worse.

    6. SB*

      Not only that, what if I was “just” diabetic? Or I just happen to have broken an arm or a leg? I still have the right to fume about it (in proportion, not acting like I am dying or so). Not just cancer or an eating disorder. And you can’t always compare one health problem versus another, every problem sucks and venting is a healthy way to deal with it (unless, like Amy, it ends up in every conversation). People are allowed to vent about small thing.

      Besides, some people are indeed very quiet about their own problems. Amy doesn’t know that, so shouldn’t judge that her past problems – which were/are indeed very serious problems – are worse on a scale. She is allowed to vent as well, but do it in moderation and don’t use it as a pass towards other people.

      Sincerely, a person with an invisible (but still very irritation) physical handicap.

      1. PlainJane*

        And really, people have a right to talk about minor annoyances too–broken photocopiers, door dings, traffic, stuffy noses, whatever. No matter what problem you have, someone somewhere has had something worse. You’re still entitled to your feelings. In fact, that could work as a response to her: “That’s true, but other people have a right to talk about their own issues, big or small, regardless of what’s happened to you.” Then turn back to the conversation.

        1. Eh? Non Y. Mouse*

          my take is generally along the same lines as this.

          Saying I can’t be frustrated with something because someone has it worse is like saying that I can’t be happy because of something innocuous because someone out there is marrying the love of their life, or won the lottery or met their hero and is far far happier. It’s ridiculous.

          1. Athena*

            The first time I heard it phrased like that was a revelation. Thanks for reminding me of it! It’s an important thing to keep in mind.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I got a papercut this weekend that was painful out of all proportion to its severity. The fact that there are starving children in war-torn countries does not somehow negate my right to be like, “You know, this is a tiny papercut but it really hurts an absurd amount.”

          1. Anion*

            Yes. This is one of the things that irritates me so much when people respond to the problems of others with a dismissive/snide, “First world problems.” Like, yeah, I live in the first world, so? Am I not allowed to ever have feelings or thoughts that don’t relate to how others are suffering in ways I’m not? It’s so insulting and dismissive; it simultaneously implies that the original complainer is shallow, selfish, and thoughtless; that they don’t deserve the good things they have; AND that the “dismisser” is far superior to them for recognizing the plight of others. I always want to ask them why they’re in the room/on the internet faffing about with social media when they should be off working with orphans in a war-torn nation while donating their home rent-free to a refugee family, because how can they focus on their jobs or relationships when so many are suffering?

            I once complained on one of my social media accounts about an issue with a Playstation game, which I even acknowledged was not a huge deal but just a minor irritation, intended to amuse. Someone replied to me with, “First world problems.” I blocked them immediately.

            1. Cactus*

              Also, I know quite a few refugees and asylees who are now resettled in the US. They’ve been through incredibly difficult situations, but…they still have ordinary, run-of-the-mill sick days. They still have bad days at work. They still have frustrating computer issues, traffic complaints, car troubles, favorite sports teams performing disappointingly, and everything else that would fall under the “first world problems” umbrella. These things don’t stop happening just because worse things also happen. It’s honestly kind of dehumanizing of “dismissers” to use “first world problems” as a catch-all dismissal. The only person it serves is the dismisser.

    7. Sarah M*

      That’s a great way to handle that, NNN!

      Seriously, OP. Just deadpan and respond (in the calmest, most undramatic voice possible) exactly like that Each.And.Every.Time. Then turn back to the person you were speaking with and continue as though Amy isn’t there.

    8. Recently Diagnosed*

      “Hi Amy, offering perspective can be really helpful, but when it gets to the point that you’re invalidating people, it becomes an abusive behavior.”

    9. DouDou Paille*

      I’ve found it helpful in the past to calmly say “it’s not a competition, Amy.” And repeat as many times as necessary.

      1. Dove*

        The saying I’m used to is “no one’s playing misery poker with you”. But I spent a lot of time in an IRC community that used roleplaying to help process and cope with real trauma, so being blunter about it was necessary to cut that sort of behaviour off at the pass before it could get started.

        1. Julia*

          I’ve been calling it misfortune bingo.

          While I haven’t had cancer, I’ve had severe depression, still struggle with it, I’ve been bullied as a kid, I have endometriosis and a thyroid problem, and never met my grandfather because of the Holocaust. Most people don’t know this about me, because I don’t often talk about them, so I sometimes get comments about how nice my life must be. And it is, compared to others. And sometimes I feel immense guilt for having a good life right now. But does that comment really help anyone??

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ooo, I call it “not vying for gold at the woe-is-me Olympics.” But I like misery poker.

    10. Cyberwulf*

      Or she’ll barge in on the tail end of a conversation and be greeted with “My mother is in the hospital dying, you little betch!”

    11. MommyMD*

      Amy is obnoxious. Everyone’s problems are important to them. It’s not a contest. I’d be tempted to fire back: “you don’t know what I’ve had because I don’t broadcast it” seniority or not.

    12. Totally Minnie*

      This is a really good point. When I had cancer, I didn’t tell everyone in my office. My manager knew, as did the three people I worked with most closely, but no one else. If someone had told me “at least you don’t have cancer” when I did, in fact, have cancer, I can’t vouch for how I would have reacted.

      (In remission for nearly 3 years now!)

  2. Anon41*

    I had a serious eating disorder when I was young, and my mother had cancer (and survived!) at the same time (I lost a close friend to cancer during that period as well). Part of my healing was therapy etc, but a big part was also continuously reminding myself that I was, in fact, very blessed. I could have lost my mother AND my friend. I could be homeless or starving.

    It’s not a competition. It shouldn’t be a competition. But part of me really thinks this woman could use a taste of her own medicine from someone whose spouse was lost to cancer, or who’s daughter died from her anorexia, or from any number of people who have experienced something “worse.” What gives HER the right to complain, when her experiences aren’t the end all be all of sadness either?

    1. Kj*

      Agreed! I had an eating disorder over 10 years ago and while it was bad, I don’t use it as an excuse not to have empathy for others. Amy sounds like a horribly unpleasant person.

      1. Anon41*

        Yea if anything it gave me MORE empathy, because I knew what I was hiding, and it made me kind of think “jeez, I bet all of these people have their own private sorrows and I just have no idea and we are all just ships passing in the night.”

        1. the gold digger*

          I worked with someone for quite a while before learning she had had a kidney transplant and had to take all those awful medications. When I asked why she hadn’t mentioned it sooner, she said she didn’t like to talk about it because she didn’t want other people to think their issues weren’t valid.

          “Everyone’s pain is real to them,” she said.

          1. Hera Syndulla*

            ” “Everyone’s pain is real to them,” she said. ”

            So true. That is one very empatic person. I hope she’s doing well, because taking all those medications must be draining.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            My friend lost her (adult) son several years ago. I used to feel bad talking about how much I missed my grandmother when she could hear, because I knew the grief was incomparable — mine was an in-order and expected, if painful loss; hers was unexpected and a huge tragedy. Once when I called mine “first world problems” she stopped me and said, “Grief is not an end-sum game.” She was right and it made me feel better; everyone’s grief is very real and very personal to them and they have the right to it.

    2. CC*

      Yeah she definitely could benefit from therapy–specifically intensive outpatient therapy (IOP). It’s such a great experience and unfortunate that it’s so hard to get insurance wise in the U.S. I went to one that mixed together people with depression/anxiety, eating disorders, and addiction problems. That being said, I don’t think any of the people I met there would ever act like Amy.

      1. Swimmergurl*

        I also thought she likely needed therapy to process/incorporate/accept these past traumas.

        Maybe your boss could refer her to your company’s employee assistance program, if you have one. Like “Amy, I’ve noticed that you talk about having cancer and an eating disorder a lot, and I think you could benefit from finding some help. Here’s a card with information about our employee assistance program.”

    3. Elf*

      My initial response was “How can you complain about an eating disorder when there are children starving in Africa!”
      Not precisely professional, but I think that a taste of her own medicine with a healthy dose of sarcasm would do her a world of good (or at least hopefully shut her up).

      Also, if someone tells her to stop and she says they are rude, respond “I’m not being rude. I’m telling you to stop being rude to everyone else.”

  3. HumbleOnion*

    I’d be very tempted to ask her how she knows that person hasn’t had cancer or an eating disorder (or something comparable), because that’s a big assumption she’s making. But I suppose bringing that up only invites discussion, which is the opposite of what you want.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      I think I’d probably go a more direct route: “GET SOME FRIGGIN THERAPY, AMY!”

      But then, I’ve had cancer and am very irreverent about it; I choose to find the humour in my entire cancer situation (because otherwise, I’d have gone insane). For example, my gynecological oncologist’s name is Dr. Bevers. (Pronounced “beavers.”) I mean….

      Essentially, everyone has their hardships in life. Comparing mine to yours to his to hers does nothing. She’ll think hers are more important because they’re hers. Mine are bigger to me because they’re mine. She’s just a bigger @$$hole about it.

      1. KT in OR*

        Haha. Beavers. I knew some Urologists with the names Sac, Lockjaw and Johnson. All around great profession choices!

            1. Nonnon*

              That’s called an “aptronym” which is a name particularly fitting to its owner. For example: Thomas Crapper, plumber and sanitation engineer, Antony Weiner, politician notorious for sending pictures of his anatomy, and former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Igor Judge.

              I have also seen the example of a Dr Chad Dokter.

              1. blackcat*

                In California, there is a fire marshal named Marshall. And so the news labeled him “Marshal Marshall.”

              2. MsChanandlerBong*

                It’s not quite the same, but I have never been so jealous of someone as I am of Karen Sherlock, the real-estate agent who owns Sherlock Homes. What a name!

              3. Anon because this is so specific*

                Neat word!

                I have a friend whom I met as a med student. Her last name is Butcher. She became a surgeon. She said, “it would be a waste not to….”

                1. Hornswoggler*

                  In the UK there was a Judge called Judge. He started off as Judge Judge but then ascended to becoming lord Justice Judge.

                  I also have a friend called Mr Fudge who was a magistrate, and while he wasn’t actually entitled to be called ‘Judge’, we all called him Judge Fudge.

                1. Nonnon*

                  That’s more the theory that people have names suited to their profession/personality/deeds because they (possibly subconciously) chose to go into that profession/have that trait because of their name. Which may be the case sometimes, but I don’t think Antony Weiner sent dick pics because his surname is Weiner.

              4. Elfie*

                I went out with a lawyer once called Chambers… I believe it’s also called nominative determinism – where your name influences your life choices.

                But Thomas Crapper was the guy who invented the toilet, so actually, it’s named for him and not the other way around.

            2. Loose Seal*

              My doctor at my pain clinic is Dr. Paine. When he was hired and the PA told me who was coming to work there during one of my appointments, we both dissolved into giggles for a long time.

            3. Miles*

              I went had a dentist named Dr. Payne for a while! I chose him out of the phonebook because of his name, actually. I had to get a root canal from him at one point, and it was a surprisingly low-pain experience.

        1. So very anon*

          After two traumatic births, I had to have full pelvic floor reconstruction surgery that included a vaginoplasty. The anesthesiologist’s name was Dr. Fister. I about died when he introduced himself, but he did a great job.

        2. Fishes*

          My grandmother worked with a urologist named Hisscock! His partner was Dr. Sternberg. She once introduced them by saying “this is Dr. Sternberg and Hisscock…” I don’t think she ever quite lived that one down.

        3. Anonicat*

          I read up recently on kissing naevi of the penis (I swear it’s real dermatological thing!) Two of the authors were called Wang and Harden.

        4. Betsy*

          The hospital I always used to walk past had an Aikenhead Wing and a Healy Wing. I always wondered whether the money for those wings was donated by rich people with a sense of humour. I pictured them going ‘Hmmm, should I donate to the ballet? No I just can’t miss this opportunity to have a hospital wing named after my family, the Aikenheads’.

      2. Curious Cat*

        A family friend of mine was graduating from medical school to become a pediatrician, and his last name was Tinkle. Rather than becoming “Dr. Tinkle,” he took his wife’s last name when they got married.

      3. many bells down*

        I’ve had cancer too. Lost my whole thyroid. And I have a congenital heart defect, so if my cancer scar isn’t impressive enough, I can always point to the foot-long “zipper” from OHS.

      4. mrs__peel*

        I love those kinds of names. There’s also a hand surgeon at our local hospital named “Dr. Mitten”.

    2. Someone else*

      I don’t think it’d work, because she doesn’t seem to be saying “you don’t have either”. She’s saying “whatever you’re currently complaining about is not as important as either”. I wouldn’t be surprised if a person responded that “actually, I have both” then she might just say “well then why are you complaining about (whatever they were complaining about earlier)?” There’s no reasoning with this jerk.

  4. M*

    I would be so tempted to find worse tragedies and be like “cancer?! At least people know what cancer IS! There are people with disease xyz and no one even knows. AMY THATS SO MUCH WORSE THAN CANCER!”

    But there’s a reason why I don’t give advice.

    Good luck OP, this sounds really frustrating – especially since it’s putting more work on your plate.

    Cancer is terrible but other things can suck too. There’s not a binary scale of great or cancer.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “There’s not a binary scale of great or cancer.”

      Maybe the OP should just say this to Amy.

      You can never tell what someone is going through. Maybe their seemingly trivial problem is the very last straw. And also people are allowed to have problems that seem trivial to others.

      1. ContentWrangler*

        Ugh, I hate people like Amy who treat empathy as a finite resource. Like if someone else receives support or comfort, there’s less for them in the world.

      2. Sled dog mama*

        +1 on the problems that seem trivial to others.
        I suffer from migraines and I have occasionally used the “code” my husband and I have when I need to leave an event. I tell him I have a headache, now to most people that sounds trivial but my husband understands that the statement means I have mild pain, maybe some nausea and probably an aura and I need to get to the drugs NOW before I start puking and you have to take me to the ER for IV drugs because I can’t keep the oral ones down. seems trivial to an outsider because I really don’t enjoy trying to explain to those who don’t understand.

    2. Antilles*

      Cancer is terrible but other things can suck too. There’s not a binary scale of great or cancer.
      Especially since even if we wanted to do a binary scale, “cancer you recovered from” isn’t the worst thing in the world – at least you survived to complain about it, which sucks a lot less than the alternative.

    3. Leslie NOPE*

      Love “there’s not a binary scale of great or cancer”. There’s definitely shades between for misfortunes or annoyances. I haven’t had an ED or cancer, but I was still upset with having to scrub cat puke out of my carpet last night.

      1. many bells down*

        I have had cancer, and I can still be upset at the lady who rear-ended me in traffic and then drove off. It’s been six years! The cancer’s gone but I still have a dent in my bumper!

        1. Wendy Darling*

          My only sibling was murdered, but I still get upset when I smack my knee, or someone hits my car with a shopping cart, or my dog barfs on the rug when I’m late for work. Big problems do not negate smaller problems. Not even if they’re YOUR smaller problems.

          I got a rock chip in my windshield yesterday. It’s right in the middle of my field of view when I drive. That thing is gonna be driving me nuts for ages. My sibling is still dead but there is not a reminder of that fact in the middle of my damn windshield.

          Ugh I wonder if I can get that thing filled.

          1. JessaB*

            I’m with you on rock chip. I do not care how broke I am, I do not care how cheap my “exactly to the dot what the state requires me to have,” car insurance is, I will pay the x bucks extra for glass coverage because I just cannot with the ding in the windscreen. Ever. My OCD is pattern based. Which means breaks in patterns and stuff really mess me up. A friend once came to get me in a restaurant rest room because I’d been there like half an hour, because my brain was stuck unable to pick out the pattern in their screwed up 1 inch tiles. Glass coverage. Once you get that ding fixed, it’s usually only a buck or two extra.

            But OMG no she doesn’t get to play my trauma is worse than your life and you don’t get to complain or talk about anything but me. I would not be nice about it. I’ve had cancer deaths, eating disorders, suicides, murders in my family. I would have lit her a new head over this.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I don’t even have an excuse to be bothered by it, I’m just a bit precious about my car. It’s a particularly nice-looking, well-cared-for car so it bothers me when it gets scuffed up. And it’s not like I could have dodged the rock! Like if I open the door into something and get a ding that’s my bad, but rock chips just HAPPEN. I wasn’t even near a big truck or anything, some car just happened to kick up a rock.

          2. spinetingler*

            Some states have it written into the car insurance law that your ins company must replace a cracked/chipped window (for free) if it impeded the direct field of view.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              It’s super tiny so it’s not impeding my view… just annoying me because it’s tiny but visible so the entire time I’m driving I’m like, THERE IT IS. THE ROCK CHIP.

          3. spinetingler*

            Some states have it written into the car insurance law that your ins company must replace a cracked/chipped window (for free) if it impedes the direct field of view.

          4. Lindsay J*

            Off topic, but check Groupon. I found good deals for windshield chip filling on there in my area.

          5. Anion*

            It’s worth checking with windshield places, because a lot of them will come squirt that clear goo that “becomes glass” or whatever into the hole for really cheap, and you can’t see that the chip was there once it’s dry. I remember a couple of years ago there was a minor price war in my area over this service, and you could get it done for like $25. So definitely have a look.

      2. Nonnon*

        There’s also the slightly weird thing that I’ve found that if you do have like, long-term illnesses or disabilities, you just start to get on with it? Like, it’s a pain but it happens.

        But then something happens like the cat produces an unreasonable amount of vomit for such a small animal, or the photocopier decides to break, and it is the Most Annoying Thing ever. Probably because it’s a new problem that you haven’t anticipated. It’s not objectively worse than your mental illness or chronic pain issues, but in that moment it’s just “aaaaaaaaaarghghghgh!”

        1. whingedrinking*

          I’ve noticed that I can deal with just about anything if I know it’s going to happen, but surprises kill me. Even positive things can be like that – I once had a time when someone out of nowhere very generously offered to do a thing with me that I love, can’t do alone and had a lot of trouble finding a companion for, but since he offered half an hour in advance after I’d had a long day, I had to turn him down.

        2. Marie*

          As someone with a chronic pain issue and long term disability I completely agree. I make plans in advance to deal with my health issues because I know they exist. I don’t make plans for the car breaking down or the cat throwing up everywhere.

          1. JessaB*

            I can budget my spoons but not if you change up stuff at the last minute. I cannot do change and the older I get the worse it is. My ability to cope has gone down significantly in the last couple of years. Especially with mobility issues. I can plan a thing, know that it’s accessible, but if you change it up. NOPE. In addition to using spoon theory, I call it my getting out of the car limit. I can usually do a trip or a thing that I have to go to maximum 3 places. That’s three times getting in and out of my car. Drive through doesn’t count, but if you take me beyond 3 times, I can’t DO that. I’m exhausted.

            My sister on the other hand hates driving and doing stuff and no matter how many times I tell her I don’t care about driving around doing errands for her, she performs annoyance at asking me to do them. I’m like heck I don’t care about driving an hour or going to six places to pick things up as long as I do not have to get out of the car.

            But yes, if I’m sitting here dizzy and ill and the stupid copier borks or the cat sicks up it’s like I’ll lose my mind and just scream. It’s the stupid little things like that paper cut someone mentioned above that just blow up your day. And her derailing that is just not on.

          1. JessaB*

            And if her job requires her to interact with you regarding fixing that copier then her being all “wharglebargle cancer, ED,” is totally messing up your ability to do your job.

        3. Gadget Hackwrench*

          SO MUCH THIS. You’re “getting on with” your chronic issues, as mentioned above, but as a result when something small and stupid happens it can hit way harder, and you and everyone else are attributing it to the issue being discussed and not the real problem. It’s not a big deal that I spilled the glass of soda, it’s just ONE THING TOO MANY to deal with at this moment. (Disclaimer: I do not have ED or Cancer. :p)

    4. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      A friend of mine who lost her dad to cancer – and struggles with an ED! – likes to say “If you put all the problems in the world into a pile and were forced to pull out one at random, you’d likely discover that your problem isn’t as bad as you thought it was.” She told me that her dad was the one who told her this growing up and it’s always helped her to remember to focus on others, even when things are at the worst for her. It made an impact on me and I probably think this sentence to myself at least once a week. Cancer and ED’s are awful, but there really are so many worse things out there.

      1. Rae*

        After an extremely fun “the animal that bit you is showing signs of rabies but it’s a holiday weekend so we can’t actually be sure until you would be past the point of no return because the only lab in the state that can test is closed” incident that involved beginning a series of rabies shots on Christmas Eve 1500 miles away from home, I started saying to myself when anything frustrating happened that well at least I didn’t have rabies. Key phrase being “myself”. I would never say that to anyone else.

        1. Seespotbitejane*

          My mother does a low key version of Amy’s thing whenever my brother or I express frustration with anything. “At least you’re not homeless/starving/whatever horrible thing.” So my brother and I have taken it to the extreme and decided on the very worst case scenario. We say, “Well at least you’re not naked, starving, and currently on fire.”

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          A friend once told me that her current go-to was “Well, at least I’m not on the sidewalk in my bathrobe watching my house burn down in the middle of the night.” And then she told me the story of coming home very very late one night and seeing that very scene. And then I told HER that one of those people she saw was ME.

          So, yeah. Bad stuff has happened to me, but *that* has only happened once. Touch wood.

          1. JessaB*

            My understanding is they’ve gotten much much better. They’re not fun but years ago they were a horrible ordeal and now, a lesser one. But still not fun. I only knew one person who ever had to have them and that was 40 years ago during the OMG Oww stage of the drugs. My anecdata is A: out of date and B: the newer came from Judge Judy where she basically said, it used to be really bad, but now it’s only some bad but here’s pain and suffering money for the plaintiff anyway. So take that with however many grains of salt are in your salt cellar.

          2. Rae*

            No, but they make you feel crummy. They put as much as possible at the site of the bite, which in my cause was the pad under my thumb. The rest is divided between a shot at each shoulder and a shot at each hip. So five shots in all. But none in the stomach which is what everyone asks. Could have been worse.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              A colleague was bit on the head by a bat and of course they couldn’t find the bat so he had to get shots…. so apparently he had to get shots on his head, ow.

    5. BritCred*

      Indeed. I have an illness that keeps me house and bed bound that won’t kill me but severely cuts down my life. The phrase “at least its not cancer” is one in our patient community that is hated. If it was cancer we’d have a lot more information but as it is we know virtually nothing and have no indications of what to do or when to expect science to catch up. We have a ton of snake oil salesmen that convinced people its “easy” to treat which makes it worse too.

      I legitimately would tell her to shut up and stop it and take it to HR if I was still capable of working and she kept saying that.

      1. sap*

        I have a similar illness and I’ve taken to just telling these people to go away and never come back.

      2. Observer*

        Yeah, if we’re going the “at least” route – “at least” no one is telling you that you are making it up, it’s in your head, or it’s all about your body reacting to some unknown trauma. (Real things that are commonly said by doctors to people with at least one condition that sounds like what you describe.)

      3. Anony*

        Yes! Some people find it helpful to say to themselves “XYZ sucks but at least it isn’t ABC” but coming from someone else all it does is trivialize a non-trivial problem.

      4. JessaB*

        Oh yes. “at least with cancer you know what you have,” is a big thing. It’s really hard when they’re just throwing medication at symptoms trying to see what sticks. I’d rather be told “you have x,” than go through endless testing trying to find out what the thing is, because insurance wants labels and codes in order to pay for stuff and treatment is also much easier when you’re not playing “nobody knows what’s wrong, are you really sure something IS wrong?” There comes a point where lack of label makes people stop believing you’re ill.

        1. BF*

          Even with cancer, sometimes it’s “Let’s throw a bunch of stuff at it and see what sticks”. Just because they know what I have, doesn’t mean they can cure it.

          But the reality is my day to day life is alot better then people I know with depression, arthritis, or a variety of other diseases. I’ll probably just die first. (Yes, I have a very dark sense of humor)

    6. Sled Dog Mama*

      I would be so tempted to do exactly this. My child DIED and some of the best doctors in the world couldn’t come up with any reason at least if it had been cancer I’d know why. Seriously some people.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Thanks I’m really not fishing for sympathy but this letter just kind of hit me where it hurts

    7. WonderingHowIGotHere*

      Oh, the return of the “Elevenerife” worker (only negatively feeling this time!)

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Reading down through these stories, it’s true we all carry something. Maybe that is something you can say to her, “Coworker, we all carry something. All of us.” And say it really softly, so she has to stop in order to hear you.

      Conversely, I might be tempted to say, “And none of that is my fault, I fail to see why you are yelling at me because you got sick.”

    9. MommyMD*

      Cancer is horrible. I’m sorry she had it. She doesn’t get to discount people. I’d like to ask her how she would deal with terrorism come to her doorstep.

  5. Snark*

    I’d be reaaaaaal tempted to be like, “You’re right. These are worse.” And then just ride the wave of whargarbl.

    This has been your monthly reminder that there’s a reason Alison has the column and we have the comments!

    1. Snark*

      Or! “Yes, we all know you won gold at the suffering Olympics. Guess I’ll have to be satisfied with bronze.” *resume conversation*

          1. Snark*

            Are you OP? If so, I make no guarantees that my scripts won’t get you fired. Like I said, Ask Snark ain’t a thing for a reason.

              1. Snark*

                It has, on occasion and only with the indulgent permission of our host, appeared in a couple Friday open threads.

                1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

                  Oh my god, I wish Alison would answer a few letters like the Bad Advisor just for fun. That was an awesome response to the Leap Year birthday letter.

                2. JessaB*

                  I love when AAM is mentioned in despatches and when Bad Advisor does it it’s usually really, really funny and totally on point about what Alison said being the right thing to say.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              No, I’m not the OP, I just have a very competitive friend when it comes to life’s travails and I need new material. And I would read anything you care to publish.

    2. Allison*

      Or say “Yeah, and I don’t have a flesh eating disease or a brain eating amoeba either, I am very blessed indeed. Now, when do we expect the copier to be fixed?”

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        LOL with giggles and chocolate sprinkles. Gets even funnier if you mix up the troubles. Flesh-eating brain, anybody?

    3. myswtghst*

      LOL agreed on all counts. And now, all I can think of is Natasha on America’s Next Top Model telling Brittany “Some people have war in their countries!” (which would probably be my response to a coworker repeatedly intruding on other peoples’ conversations the way Amy has been).

      1. Gen*

        “Omg you’re so rude for calling me out!”
        “Well it’s not cancer so we’ve already established that you can’t be upset about it.”

        I get the feeling that the rules don’t apply to her though

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “So they fixed your eating disorder and they fixed your cancer. When will you be getting the “people skills” implants?”

  6. Augusta Sugarbean*

    “You’re not being rude, and it’s okay if she doesn’t like you.” should be embroidered on a pillow. (Which you can then throw at ridiculous coworkers.)

    1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      I think if I am throwing a pillow at an annoying co-worker I want it to be embroidered with “Hey! Asshat! It’s not always about you!”

        1. Librarygal30*

          I think a “dammit doll” might be a good idea. It’s a doll that you grab by the legs, smack it against a hard surface while yelling/whispering/articulating somehow “dammit dammit dammit”!

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I love modern takes on samplers! Current pattern that I bought but am procrastinating on starting: “Laundry today or naked tomorrow.”

          1. e271828*

            That would be great embroidered on one of those old-style satin lingerie cases. The last ones always go in there, in the drawer!

  7. finderskeepers*

    She’s going to get b**** slapped one day when she says it to someone who lost a spouse due to an eating disorder brought on by the loss of their child due to cancer.

    1. ElleKat*

      I’m amazed she hasn’t been already. What a jaw-droppingly rude thing for her to say! She sounds miserable.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        No because most people that have these problems don’t have the energy to deal. And really they shouldn’t have to deal with a narcissistic one-upper drama llama.

        1. Grant Us Eyes*

          Oh I dunno about that. My PseudoGrandBoss once made an inappropriate comment about a serious illness during a department meeting. I looked her in the eye and said “Yes, it’s not pleasant. I was born with that illness.”

          She froze for a moment, then stuttered something like “oh yes uh but you uh mamage very well?”

          I replied something like “oh yes, it’s not even close to the most serious medical problem I’ve had. Do you want to discuss it?”

          The room went silent for an uncomfortably long time and my ActualGrandBoss cheerily brought the meeting to an end.

          Worth it!

          1. No Green No Haze*

            I really think allowing a room to go silent for an uncomfortably long time is a skill more of us should master.

            It seems like a really effective technique for halting a lot of workplace wingnuttery.

          2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

            *HIGH FIVE* Daaaamn. I am impressed. Thank you so much for that, because some of us can’t.

    2. Ama*

      It’s a very good thing Amy didn’t run into me last year while there was a possibility I *might* have cancer and had lost an alarming amount of weight (I thankfully had a different health issue that was easier to fix, but I had a two week wait between scary test results and the surgery that allowed them to clear me for sure) .

      1. Jake*

        Yeah, hearing that after my wife was diagnosed with cancer would’ve resulted in a yelling match that could only end with one of us being unemployed.

    3. Stormy*

      I worked with someone who got punched in the face for making a “your mom” joke to someone whose mother had died the previous week.

      1. whingedrinking*

        I once had someone say to me, “Smile! It can’t be that bad!”, which is obnoxious all the time anyway, but especially sucked for me that morning. I’d had a dream where I’d run into a close friend and hugged him, because it turned out there’d been a huge mistake and he hadn’t died in a house fire six weeks before. And then I woke up and he was still dead, and I had ten minutes to cry before I had to go to work.
        Still – not as bad as cancer, right?

        1. teclatrans*

          Yeah, I had a guy on the street tell me to smile the day I learned that a good friend had died. Upside is, after my crying/yelling scold, he might think twice before laying that B.S. on another woman.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Right? Someone said that to me as I was going through a chemical pregnancy/very early miscarriage at a time when my spouse and I were beginning to worry about our fertility. It wasn’t pretty, and hopefully that guy will *never* say that again.

    4. Close Bracket*

      > b**** slapped

      Could we agree not to use that term, even with asterisks? “Slapped” or “punched” does the trick without the unnecessary domestic violence connotations.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue is that it’s a sexist term, and this particular configuration includes a lovely domestic violence twist. It’s reasonable to point out that it’s problematic…

  8. Marillenbaum*

    YIKES! Amy sure sounds like a piece of work. Best of luck, OP, because I’m honestly not sure what recourse you really have in the face of your boss’s persistent failure to actually institute consequences with Amy. But on the bright side, if she refuses to talk to Amy, she’ll probably refuse to go after you for standing up for yourself.

  9. Take my Amy, please!*

    I am so happy to see this question! I have my own Amy that I’ve been dealing with for YEARS. He’s big into social justice, and no matter what problem I might have or how I present them, it’s somehow an indication that I’m “young and inexperienced of life” or “I don’t really understand/care about [social justice issues].” As thought I somehow came down with an illness, say, just to stick it to veterans with PTSD. Any money I spend is money that *could* have been given to starving African orphans, even the vet bills to save my pet’s life (a difficult-to-rehome rescue animal, no less!). The power dynamic of older senior man vs. younger junior woman makes it especially gross. Yuck. If anyone’s got any scripts in addition to Alison’s, I’d love to hear them!

    1. Nobody Here by That Name*

      Hard to say without more specifics, but I think any of AAM’s usual scripts along the lines of “Uh-huh, so anyway about those teapot reports…” to get the conversation back onto work topics might be helpful.

      1. Victorian Cowgirl*

        “My spending habits are off-limits for discussion” or simply ignoring anything was said at all and continuing on with your conversation.

    2. animaniactoo*

      Cheerfully. “Yes, I am likely going to hell in my own way. As are you.”

      “Please get your hand off my wallet.” (okay, not really).

      “That may be, but I am choosing to prioritize this right now because it matters to me.”

      “Yes, I asked to be stricken with the flu and feel miserable all week. I worked really hard to do it. Thank you for noticing.”

      “I care about that issue, but I think this issue is also worthy of attention. I’m glad that people can pay attention to and work on both of them.”

      1. Spelliste*

        In the vein of your last suggestion, I like a warm, “thank goodness we don’t have to choose!”

      2. JessaB*

        I would so be tempted to sit him down and explain:

        I am so glad that you have the kind of privilege that allows you to concentrate on this stuff without having your own real life intervene. Self care is part of Social Justice and your privilege is seriously showing. I don’t think (fill in group or cause or whatever he’s touting that minute) would really like their personal circumstances used to put people down. And it’s arguably classist and depending on circumstances racist and ableist to tell me that other people are more important than my ability to live a reasonable life.

        1. Take my Amy, please!*

          I really like your “I think [group] would be really insulted that you were exploiting their suffering to put down other people” line. Best delivered in front of bystanders, of course.

    3. jack*

      ugh, people like this are terrible. We are complex beings who can feel bad about the polar bears in the arctic circle AND spraining our ankle

    4. Reba*

      Really limit your personal conversations with this person as far as possible. When he lectures, maybe “thanks for telling me about that, now back to Work Topic…” or “You’re probably right! About those teapot handles…”


      1. JessaB*

        Yeh but he’s not woke af. Anyone who knows anything about caring for people understands you have to take care of you first or you either suffer or burn out or have problems. It’s why the airlines are on about “put oxygen on you first, THEN others.” If you can’t pay your rent because you’re helping someone else, you’re not doing it right. If you drain yourself to the point where you then need help from the cause you used to support, that isn’t how it should be done. And if having a coffee or a whatever thing is what keeps you getting up and going through your day, it’s NOT something you should be coerced into giving up.

            1. Junior Dev*

              Socially aware; conscious. Often used ironically to mean someone is performing virtue without really understanding or caring about the issues at hand.

    5. Marcy Marketer*

      I’m a big fan of, “I’m not soliciting opinions on this right now, but I’ll let you know if that changes. Anyway, [topic change].”

      Used it for my wedding and comments made about my appearance from my mom to great success.

      1. Rainy*

        In a not-work environment I have been known to look around, shading eyes, etc until the person says “whatare you looking for?” to which the response is “Oh, I’m looking for who the fuck asked you.”

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          “But no one asked you though.”

          “No, really, I don’t see anyone who asked you.”

          Yes. YES, for shutting this down.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      Can you hit back on the ‘inherent power imbalance of an older man’ issue to shut him down? A little bit of his own medicine wouldn’t hurt.

      1. Snark*

        I love it. “Do you realize how problematic it is for you to be invalidating my lived experience like this, particularly with the age and gender dynamics at play in our relationship?”

        1. Take my Amy, please!*

          This one actually made me guffaw out loud. I am totally using this next time it’s me, him, and Other Senior Man He’s Trying To Impress.

            1. Take my Amy, please!*

              Gladly. Won’t be for a while, though, because I can avoid him completely for the next few months (happy dance).

        2. Lissa*

          I have been seriously tempted to do this to a guy of my acquaintance who is very super woke and so quick to jump on you if you say something that he interprets as a problem. Like the time he interrupted my conversation with a female friend because I asked her a question about her allergies, which she’d been discussing, and male friend decided that to launch into lecturing me about how allergies were real, and should be taken seriously, as though he wanted to have the tumblr moment where he shut down someone saying “your allergies are fake!” Which I obviously had not. I really really wanted to accuse him of mansplaining and talking over women. Maybe next time I will. I like him but he’s so freakin’ eager to have someone say something he can correct or educate them about.

          1. Oliver*

            Oh I feel this. It’s especially obnoxious when it’s an issue you wholeheartedly agree with and/or you’re part of the group he’s supposedly defending. Like I’ve had straight people go on rants to me about the importance gay rights and I’ve over here being gay like, truly shut up. I know my rights are important, and I don’t need a run down of the current political situation.

            I also had a sort-of-similar situation where I had actually introduced this guy to a specific issue. This was in an activist context so I said something like “we’re working on X because of Y problem.” He didn’t know about Y problem, I explained it, and he was so outraged this was happening that he didn’t shut up about it to the point where we couldn’t get any work done the rest of the day.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Oh my god, the people who want to lecture me about gay rights! Like friend I’m glad you’re an ally but I am actually gay, so shush your shush!

            2. Oranges*

              Yesssss. Like I’m happy you want to help so… help? You currently are not helping because you want to “help” in the same way a child wants to help their parent. Only difference is a child doesn’t know better and you should.

      2. Annabelle*

        Yeah, if he considers himself to be progressive then this might actually drive the point home.

    7. Future Homesteader*

      Not sure that this translates into any practical advice for the workplace, but my dad is like that, to the point where he’ll completely ignore something important in my life to talk about someone he barely knows and how we should help them. For my own sake, I try to always remind myself that self-care is important and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help anyone else. *Maybe* you could try saying something along those lines? I’d be careful, though, because it’s obviously a different dynamic and maybe at work you’re better off just finding ways to shut things down.

      1. Inspector Spacetime*

        I’ve noticed this with somebody in my life. It’s interesting to note that they never suggest putting somebody before their OWN problems. When it’s them having the problems it’s a Very Big Deal.

    8. Annabelle*

      I don’t really have scripts, just lots of sympathy. People like this are the worst. It’s like they don’t understand possible to care about multiple things at once.

      1. Take my Amy, please!*

        I’m sure he understands, actually– this is just a bullying tactic. He uses it frequently on his subordinates and people he doesn’t think will stand up to him, but somehow magically refrains around peers and people he wants to impress (as well as people who have publicly yelled back at him about it).

        1. Grant Us Eyes*

          If he’s doing it knowingly, I wouldn’t attempt to argue. I’d say something appropriately patronising like “awwww, that’s so sweet and naive of you” and smile as if to ask earnest child.

        2. Annabelle*

          Ugh, yikes that sounds awful. I would definitely call him out on how problematic/sexist he’s being the next time he does it.

        3. Jesca*

          Yeah, ya know what? Go for it. Call him out. I even did this to a boss one time. Even now just thinking of him gives me the willies and angry faces. Finally, on an international trip, I just let it all slide out in front of employees from a different company who we were contracting out. They had no direct contact with anyone other than myself and my boss. We were their points of contact in the company. It was hilarious, and awkward, and beautiful – and shut him the eff up. I was calm and just spat facts back that contradicted everything he said.

    9. MLB*

      My go to is “it’s not a competition” and if needed walk away. It’s not rude, it’s the truth. It would be one thing if ALL you (or anyone) did was whine about insignificant things, but not letting anyone say anything remotely negative or complain about something legitimate creates a hostile work environment and it’s not doing anyone any favors.

      If you keep it short and to the point, and walk away or change the subject to something work related, it should lead him away from doing this each and every time (unless he’s unreasonable, then I would escalate the issue).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “No one here is competing with you.”
        “Why do you think everyone else is saying theirs is worse than yours? What is up with that?”

    10. designbot*

      A guideline we’ve set in my workplace is to approach problematic interactions with curiosity, which I think might help here. Try asking him what he’s hoping to achieve with his comments, or why he assumes that applying his priorities to your life is something you’d be interested in. My bet is he’ll struggle to answer.

    11. Agnodike*

      Have you tried just saying “You’re right”?

      “Aaaaaagh my two-year-old dropped my phone in the toilet!”
      “Well, it least your two-year-old isn’t starving like an African orphan!”
      “You’re right. I’m very lucky my family has enough to eat. Anyway, it’s the second phone this year; I can’t believe she figured out how to unlock the toilet locks. I think she’s using black magic. Should I be worried if a toddler knows black magic?”

    12. J.B.*

      UGH someone middle aged and male went all SJW on me for an innocous comment. It was entirely an “I am better than you” moment, with nothing more substantial behind it. I would just go with a death glare personally, or if he’s superior to you “I make decisions about my money, not my employer”.

    13. Marie*

      See if you can catch him out.

      Someone who worked at my student union (not a boss so that changes the dynamic) would always lecture us about what we bought, cheap clothes promote child labour, meat promotes animal cruelty etc. Sometimes she had a point sometimes she didn’t. But it was always so passive aggressive e.g “are you happy eating a chicken sandwich given that chickens were tortured and killed to make it blah blah blah”. She lived to jump on people who were not behaving completely ethically.Yet she always had the latest apple products, and a sports car and went on expensive holidays. I called her out on this and asked her if she was happy promoting slave labour in factories in China (as apple has been known to do). Or when she was bragging about an expensive cruise her boyfriend was taking her on I asked her if she was happy that the cruise ship workers get paid so little and are often taken from poorer countries and exploited. She was speechless every time I did this and left me alone after two of three of these.

      Assuming your male Amy is a coworker and not your boss have you tried catching him out? Does he; Have a car? (who cares that he’d have to get up at 5am and take two different buses to get to work when there are homeless veterans who could do with the money he saves by not owning a car). Does he buy coffee at Starbucks? (When he could get a cheaper coffee and give the change to a starving African orphan). Does he have children? (Why didn’t he adopt one of these African orphans instead?) If he has children do they go to private school/to university/have piano lessons? (How dare he spend that money when other children are starving and could use it to eat). Almost none of these people live as perfectly as they would like you to believe. Even if he doesn’t do these things he is bound to get sick at some point everyone does, how dare he get sick when there are people suffering.

      1. Marie*

        Note do not do this if he is your boss. Or if simple misdirecting works. But if he doesn’t shut up when you try subtle ways this might work.

      2. Take my Amy, please!*

        Oh yeah, he is a total hypocrite on these points. He complains about my privilege/wealth (he has a more expensive house by far) and my hoity toity private school upbringing (he sent his son to more expensive schools and for longer). And that’s just for starters….

        1. Take my Amy, please!*

          I have this fantasy where he complains about my “wealth,” I ask for his street address, and look up the record on Zillow while saying, “I see…” in a very knowing fashion.

        2. Marie*

          I noticed in response to another comment on this that you said he doesn’t do it to people who have publicly called him out on it. So if that works go ahead and do this. Young women are often conditioned to be polite and not make a fuss (even if someone is being rude themselves) we are expected to smile and not react. Next time he says something turn it on him e.g ask him when he’ll be giving up his expensive house or why he sends his son to a private school if he hates them so much.

          There is a difference between being rude and assertive that people don’t always recognise. Sticking up for yourself is not rude (though I know people who take this too far and claim they are being assertive when they are actually being rude).

          1. Take my Amy, please!*

            Yeah, that’s good advice. I’ve tried implementing it recently–like the “why didn’t you instead give the money from the vet bill to the starving African orphans” comment got the response, “And if they were under my care, I’d do the same for them.” That got him to do quite a bit of backpedaling.

            For e-mails (yes, he’ll berate me over e-mail!) I don’t respond. Sometimes he gets so perterbed at my non-response that he’ll write me again a few days later to berate me about the exact same thing.

            Such a charmer!

            1. Marie*

              You can tell when emails were sent. If he is sending these on work time you might want to bring it up with your boss (depending on the dynamics of the office if your male amy is friends with the boss this might not work). But bring it up as if you are concerned “male amy is spending significant amounts of work time talking (or mansplaining) to me about non-work related topics”. If there are emails you have actual proof.

              1. Take my Amy, please!*

                That would be awesome if I could do that, but he is unfortunately one of those workaholic gods who’s only going out horizontally or if he does something to create serious legal trouble for them.

    14. a-no*

      “thank you for your opinion.” or my personal go to (for everything, seriously) “it’s probably fine.” most people have no idea how to counteract the probably fine and just stare long enough for me to walk away.

      I’d also maybe try to ask him about it. Next time he comments on starving African orphans or something I’d say something along the lines of “That could be good. How do you contribute?” in a genuinely interested way. If he goes for a generalized statement DO NOT LET HIM. Ask follow ups like “oh, how do you do that?” just keep pressing making sure it comes off like you are actually interested in pursuing his suggestion. He’ll either prove he’s actually just devout to the cause (and explain in detail how you can actually contribute) or back him into an uncomfortable corner that he will Not Like. I’ve done that to a couple people I know with and not one of them has ever brought it up again.

      1. Take my Amy, please!*

        Oh yeah, I like this. “Exactly what charity do you give money to, now?” “Which bill in particular should I call my congresspeople about?” Followed by “So you care enough to rag on me about it, but not enough to actually take that action yourself?”

        1. a-no*

          Pretty much. Bonus points if it’s front of people. I find a lot of soap-box people do Not Like feeling caught out in a public way. I kinda think it’s a perception thing and they get really embarrassed when they get caught not practicing what they preach. When they can’t answer, I always say things “Wait, so you’re saying this is very important and I should be contributing but it’s not important enough to contribute yourself?” and then watch as they back-peddle and minor brain implosion.

          But as I’ve said before on this site, I am an incredibly petty person and I enjoy making people just as uncomfortable as they’ve made me.

    15. Nonnon*

      I dunno about your situation, but as someone with low income who mostly does admin and filing work, I’d be so tempted to ask him if he’s gone and bugged someone with power and money, who can actually do something to help the poor, starving African orphans on a more permanent basis, rather than expecting me to give up my meagre income in order to provide a temporary balm?

    16. Close Bracket*

      I like “Thank you for your concern!” delivered in any tone of voice that you like in the moment.

    17. Elsie*

      This reminds me of the ‘oppression Olympics’ thing that was happening on Tumblr a few years ago (might still happen in some corners I’m not aware of), where someone would talk about how oppressed they are because of *certain trait* (e.g. they are gay) and then someone has to ‘top’ that with ‘well /I’m/ *combination of other traits* (gay, ethnic minority etc.), then someone else comes along to ‘top’ that with *combination of other traits, childhood trauma, etc etc.* and this escalates to some really messed up proportions. I never knew what the point of those kinds of one-upmanship was, it didn’t seem like it was meant to be therapeutic in any way, nor were they sharing experiences, but literally a shouting match about how YOUR PAIN IS NO MATCH FOR MY PAIN.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        It reminds me of the scene in “Deadpool.”

        -I watched my own birthday party through the keyhole of a locked closet, which also happens to be my-

        -Your bedroom. Lucky, I slept in a dishwasher box.

        -You had a dishwasher?

    18. Mints*

      When people think they’re doing good natured teasing but they’re annoying me, I like “You can do that!” Big smile.
      Like when people were joking that we should wear our group Halloween costume to the holiday party, “You could do that!”

      “You’re so rich but there are starving Africans, so you should donate half your salary to charity”
      “You could do that!” cheerfully

    19. Too old for his sht*

      “Yeah, I’d love to concentrate on [Issue X], but right now, I’m spending all my time on the campaign against sexism in the workplace. The way certain older men exert power over women through constant criticism and enjoy bullying and harassing their female colleagues, all in some pathetic effort to feel better about their own manifest failures, is a real problem, I’m sure you agree.” *eyebrow, pointed stare*

      Alternately, “Wow, you’re so right! So, which of the [Issue X] charities you volunteer at would you recommend?” and/or “I’m not sure where to start… How many dollars a month/hours a week are *you* personally contributing to that cause right now?” *chinhands*

      1. Take my Amy, please!*

        Oh man, I so love this! Totally going to use that first one. And the second one. Brilliant.

    20. Orchestra Alum*

      I agree this dynamic is exhausting, had my own for years and I eventually stopped talking to them altogether…

  10. Jam Today*

    I would absolutely, without reservation, and without remorse throw back in her face catastrophic events in my family which people did *not* survive to yell about in the lunchroom. Then I would say “I win”. Then I would probably get fired, but I would probably be content with that hill that I chose.

    1. JeanB in NC*

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can top “cancer and an eating disorder” if she wants to have a real competition.

    2. AMT27*

      Yep. I’d have a difficult time NOT responding with (the very unhelpful and unprofessional and petty response of) ‘Well, gosh NO I don’t have cancer but I did nurse my dad through it twice and it actually killed him which is awful. And I am fully aware that my minor traffic accident isn’t as terrible as my dead father, but it is a problem that does need to be addressed’

      Followed by massive eyerolling….

    3. Nonnon*

      Or finish of the list of misfortunes with “and on top of that, the blasted printer sprayed toner all over the place!” (or whatever you were originally talking about.)

  11. AKchic*

    Oh my. After all this time, and nobody has shut her down yet…

    Amy can no longer play the sympathy card and derive attention from her medical conditions, no matter how hard she (continually) tries. I highly recommend following Alison’s advice. Yes, it’s going to be rocky because Amy is going to get very upset that people aren’t allowing her to continue getting away with her tirades and steamrolling over people anymore. She’s been allowed to be the *only* Negative Nelly in the office, and now she needs to reign it in. She shouldn’t be allowed to browbeat people into submission or guilt trip people by using her previous illnesses. Upper management needs to grow a spine and shut her down, but staff members also need to take back their own autonomy and not allow themselves to be waylaid.

    1. Lison*

      My immediate reaction on reading this was to reply “true, isn’t it great that you don’t have either now? So *other person* lets see if we can come up with some ways to address your problem since it hasn’t been resolved yet” and when Amy goes to trying to make it all about her again say “Like I said you had a very hard time but that’s resolved now, could we have some empathy for the person who is in a difficult not resolved position right now?” But that is probably bad advice from me, it’s just what my initial reaction would be.

    2. Artemesia*

      Any office of any size will have more than one person in it who has had cancer; I’ll bet Amy has hurt a whole lot of people. At this point people need to be saying ‘Amy we never want to hear any of that bullcrap again; can you just give it a rest.’ Consistently and every time she pulls this nonsense.

  12. animaniactoo*

    “The fact those are worse doesn’t mean this isn’t ALSO a problem.”

    “Yes, it’s temporary, but it’s a hassle in my life and I get to talk about that.”

    “Excuse me, it isn’t a competition. I feel awful for what you’ve been through, but that doesn’t mean I’m never again going to be frustrated over stuff that happens in my life just because it wasn’t as bad as that.”

    To large extent here, I’m betting that Amy needs her acknowledgment that what she has been through is bad and awful and horrible, and if you can give her that while simultaneously defending your right to have other aggravations that are worth griping about even if they don’t rise to that level, you’ll get some traction on her backing down.

    1. Snark*

      “To large extent here, I’m betting that Amy needs her acknowledgment that what she has been through is bad and awful and horrible”

      It’s been years. At this point, I do not actually agree that she needs, has a right to expect, or can continue to demand any validation or acknowledgement of the kind.

      1. animaniactoo*

        When I say “needs”, I don’t mean “deserves”. Yes, it’s been years and she is not handling it well. My thing is all about keeping your own side of the street clean so that while Amy is off her rocker, you can feel that you have done your best to be civil about it while defending your own turf.

        I mean, what I really want someone to say to her is “You know what? I fucking HAVE cancer and this is still annoying to me, so I’m going to bitch about it and I really don’t care that you don’t like it.” However, that would take someone who has cancer or something else with a lot of weight to it to be able to say it. In the meantime…

      2. AKchic*

        I think she’s overmilked the cancer and eating disorder cows and it may even be time to snark about it. When she inevitably brings it up to compete, turn it around on her.
        “You know someone who had cancer *and* an eating disorder? No way! I mean, they surely died, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be still bringing it up in conversation after so many years.” I mean, really feign ignorance that it was her. Be as sarcastic as sarcastic can be. Be the textbook definition of sarcasm.

          1. AKchic*

            Maybe an overeating disorder cow, but I would think that one that doesn’t eat wouldn’t have the calories/nutrition in order to produce.

          2. AnitaJ*

            Can we not joke about or comment on the specifics of eating disorders, especially as it relates to the bodily functions of those with ED?

            1. Snark*

              Of course I’m happy not to, but in this situation as in others, giving each other the benefit of generous doubt around perceived ill intentions is a good practice.

              1. Anon4this*

                There are already a lot of comments of people saying they suffer from or are recovering from eating disorders. Sorry, but there’s literally no instance where joking about eating disorders is funny to people who’ve experienced them, and can actually trigger people into relapse. I think the onus should be on the people who are “joking” not to offend, not on the people who are trying to recover to “give the benefit of the doubt” when so many people are actually relentlessly cruel about eating disorders.

                And also, women who have children and are breastfeeding have eating disorders can suffer so many problems, so like to you it’s a harmless joke about cows but to others it could be a cruel jab at new mothers with eating disorders.

                1. Snark*

                  Well, you’re certainly making a lot of assumptions about where I’m coming from! But like I said, I’m completely willing to refrain from such comments moving forward as I was requested to, so as Alison has requested, let’s move on.

                2. Sylvan*

                  I agree. Thank you. “You probably can’t breastfeed lol” isn’t great, and it doesn’t take bad-faith reading to be put off by that. Snark’s normally pretty cool, so I don’t know what’s up here.

              2. Snark*

                You requested that I stop. I said that I was happy to. Now you’re leading a pile-on. What is your endgame here?

              3. AnitaJ*

                Snark, Allison has requested we move on, so I am moving on and no longer commenting, not leading a pile-on. Be well.

      3. MM*

        If she does need it, she needs to pay a therapist for it. She has no right to expect it from random people in her daily life.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Word. Amy can look into whether the company has an EAP if she needs validation so much, but she can’t just divert the emotional energy of everyone around her whenever she sees fit. Accusing people who push back of attacking a cancer patient for being sick is a convenient and disingenuous means of deflecting, but sanctimony isn’t an uncontrollable health issue.

    2. Louise*

      “Suffering isn’t a zero-sum game. People are allowed express their frustration or sadness, and that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of yours.”

      1. Nobody Here by That Name*

        I read something once along the lines of how somebody can drown in a few inches of water just as much as they can in several feet. Emotional pain and hardship works the same way. The amount isn’t the issue if the impact to the person is the same.

    3. paul*

      Those are too soft and validating. I’m all for shutting it down fairly firmly as per Alison’s responses. I’d bet dollars it’ll piss her off but frankly that’s OK. Sometimes it’s OK to make people mad.

      1. MLB*

        I think even Allison’s responses are a bit padded. Sure it’s a work relationship, so you don’t want to do anything crazy or rude, but a simple “it’s not a competition” would probably work best with this person. And if not, LW needs to escalate it because Amy is creating a hostile work environment if people are avoiding her so they’re not verbally attacked.

      2. Grant Us Eyes*

        Agreed. In my opinion any response should avoid validating her or allowing it to become a debate.

    4. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I had to do the reverse when I came back from bereavement leave. People apologized TO me when they’d complain about something that wasn’t the death of a loved one. Which, you know, covers a WIDE RANGE. I’d always tell them, “It’s fine. It’s a problem you have and want to talk about it. What I’m going through doesn’t trump your life.”

      1. Asperger Hare*

        I had to do a similar thing when my coworkers learned of my fibromyalgia. “Ow, I stubbed my toe- OH but I mean, I know you’re in pain all the time, this is nothing-” Yeah, I quickly had to shut that down. People have to be comfortable expressing pain and being themselves, because it’s not a competition.

    5. Former Hoosier*

      I agree with all of these comments. These are too soft and there are definitely limits. It is a sad day if we can longer 1. express frustration when something frustrating happens or 2. do not deserve any empathy just because someone else always has it worse. That is always going to be true forever and ever. I think that at this point, if I was Amy’s manager, I would address it as formally as a PIP if it doesn’t get better. People should not feel as if they are walking on eggshells just because they are frustated because the copier doesn’t work or even that your bus to work was late.

    6. Merida Ann*

      I really like these scripts – no one (other than possibly Amy) could perceive them as rude, even if they didn’t know the whole back story with her. They may or may not be effective for Amy (because I’m not sure anything will be), but I think they’re a good option.

    7. Catalin*

      I’d go straight to the soap opera place.
      Me: *talks about my toilet hissing*
      Amy: (bursting from nowhere) It isn’t Cancer and an Eating Disorder!
      Me: Oh, Amy, you’re so right! I feel awful for what you’ve been through! Cancer and an Eating Disorder?! And going through all that completely alone because your twin committed suicide and your mother, who was also your aunt, ran off with her butler after her third marriage (to your PE teacher, no less!), I mean, how did you keep chugging along? I would have totally collapsed after my fiancé’s coma but somehow you had the strength and courage to go on and here you are today. Inspiring!

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    I’d also add to this: OP, as much as it sucks for your coworkers, you should also not let them avoid dealing with Amy by dumping her work onto you. “I’m on deadline right now, so you’ll have to ask Amy.” (If you get pushback of “but Amy’s a pain in the ass!” repeat “But I can’t help you with this now” and “yeah, have you talked to Boss about that?” as needed.)

    Basically, don’t let Amy’s rudeness turn into YOU taking on more than you should — and if you’re not the only one bringing the issue to your boss, that might be more of a spur for her to act.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      This. It is unfair of coworkers to dump work on you because Amy sucks. They need to deal with Amy just like you do and complain to your boss just like you do if her behavior doesn’t improve.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I think it would be fine to get together with coworkers and, using some of these scripts, agree to make it clear consistently and en masse that her behavior isn’t ok. If the boss isn’t doing it, the colleagues can.

    3. boop the first*

      “but amy’s a pain in the ass!”
      “Well at least she’s not an eating disorder and cancer!”

      Since it works, use it!

  14. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    The moment that I realized not only do I not have to like everyone I work with but they don’t have to particularly like me? That was a freeing moment. Take the same attitude with Amy. It will make your life much, much easier.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      What my first boss said, “We are compensated for our willingness to get along with other cohorts.” Amy has proven herself unwilling to get along with others. Since getting along with others is a part of any job, then she probably cannot do this job or any other job.

  15. Normally A Lurker*

    ug. As someone who is recovering from an ED, this is gross. And also one of the many reasons I don’t talk about it at work.

    It’s a thing. A real thing. And a thing I deal with every day and will likely deal with for the rest of my life.

    And also, copy machines still suck. Dents in cars are awful. Daily life annoyances are gross and frustrating and sometimes you just have to grump about them. Bc that’s what life is.

    Oh, and it’s NOT a competition. There is no “badness Olympics” where someone wins a gold for “worst thing that ever happened” .


    1. Temperance*

      My thoughts are that Attention-Seeking Amy doesn’t know whether anyone else in her office has an ED, and she doesn’t care. (Or that she doesn’t have one and she just wants attention.) Most people I know who have struggled with these issues don’t make it public in this manner, and I’ve never, ever seen someone with an ED history shut another human being down like this.

      1. Normally A Lurker*

        I don’t disagree with you there. there is a lot of shame around EDs, at least for me and all the other survivors I know. It’s part of the process of healing.

        But it’s still there. (Thus, anonymous message board – sure let’s talk! But my office mates? NOPE!)

        It’s a pretty private and personal thing for me, and the others I know. I can’t imagine any of us doing this.

        But I also admit I am not the end all be all of ED knowledge. My scope is pretty limited to myself and those I have met in recovery. And the readings I’ve done in recovery.

        1. incognito*

          [I’m about to mention some disordered behavior in detail, so anybody who has or has had an ED may find it triggering.]

          I’ve seen some ostentatious ED behavior, pretty much always motivated by the sufferer wanting to somehow prove that she was really more disciplined than whoever she was doing it to. (E.g., baking brownies, bringing them in for everyone, then doing crunches while we ate them.) I’m not sure I’d say that any of it was motivated by a need for attention, but it’s not impossible. (When I was struggling with ED/NOS I remember deliberately telling my dad that I hadn’t eaten all day and then thrown up the soup I had for dinner because I was trying to get him to see that there was something wrong with me. It didn’t work.)

          If Amy was somehow ostentatious when she was actively disordered (and I bet she was), she may have gotten a lot of psychological reassurance out of demonstrating to herself and others that she was more [X] than others. It could have been more disciplined, more martyred, tougher (“I haven’t eaten in three whole days, and look at me go!”), or any number of things. Whatever it is for her, I suspect she associates her past experience of it with control and the kind of high a person can get from caloric deprivation. This is extremely controlling behavior that seems to bring her some kind of security and pleasure. Basically I think somehow this is doing some of the same coping for her that her ED used to do.

          None of this would justify what she’s doing. It would mean she needs to go back into therapy, pronto. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if her eating/self-care wasn’t really all that healthy either, because it seems to me like the underlying causes are not resolved. She may have replaced whatever her disorder was with some other pathology in addition to being unbearable.

          1. Annabelle*

            I didn’t initially think about it this way, but this makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen some bizarrely competitive behavior from other people with EDs, and to an extent have probably been guilty of it myself. It definitely sounds like Amy has some more work to do in terms of recovery.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            She’s carrying it around like it’s an award or a prize. I have known several people who say they have this or that and you would think they won a million dollars. It’s so weird.

          3. Gadget Hackwrench*

            This was my thought too. Some people are very private about their ED, but others are very very open about it and exhibit behavior similar to Amy’s, like updating everyone all day every day on how little they have eaten. Amy is like a dry drunk. She’s not in actual recovery. She refrains from the addiction (food restriction) by force of will, but she hasn’t changed her mental state at all. She still NEEDS the mental satisfaction or comfort that she got when she was in her ED, she’s just found a different way to get it. She’s still under the sway of some serious unresolved issues, and needs intensive help. She’s a relapse waiting to happen.

    2. Annabelle*

      I feel you. I’ve been in recovery (off and on) for a while, and it’s not something I tell my coworkers about. And life’s little inconveniences still suck. My ED is a bigger issue than say, a traffic jam, but I still vent about traffic jams.

  16. Malibu Stacey*

    Am I an ass for wondering if Amy is one of those people people you hear about that make up having cancer for attention or to get their partner to stay with them? It seems like something one wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing with coworkers, let alone as ace up your sleeve to win an argument that you started.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’ve never met anyone with an eating problem who feels comfortable broadcasting it, so there’s that.

      1. Samata*

        My roommate in college had an ED that she loved to brag about. She was very very proud of her ability to go days without eating and vomit on demand. It was a very sad situation but it was her coping mechanism at the time. She’s since gone through a lot to overcome it and has come out on the other side stronger, but she still has a lot of turmoil internally.

        I guess what I am saying is that everyone deals with it differently but not always appropriately.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          +1 I have also known someone with ED who was very open about it. Mine didn’t brag about it. She was more of a “woe is me” kind of open. “I have electrolyte labs again on Friday. Please pray for me,” kind of stuff, as if it were something like cancer that people certainly don’t want to have, but also that they don’t consider private and could use community support for.

          Everyone deals differently.

    2. Ange*

      Depends on your workplace. My colleagues know about my cancer, because I found it easier for them to know than to wonder why I was bursting into tears in the staffroom or not doing my normal duties. But I know not everyone would want that.

    3. AKchic*

      I wouldn’t say you’re an ass. I’d say that you’re naturally skeptical and leery of anyone who continually broadcasts and milks their medical conditions (whether it’s a current or previous is moot at this point) in order to be the center of attention, however briefly, and to shut down other conversations.

      We don’t have any indication that Amy has faked these diagnoses. We just know that she continues to use them to shut others down many years after the ailments have gone into remission or have otherwise been treated and are under control.

    4. Annabelle*

      I think it’s relatively common for coworkers to know about major physical illnesses like cancer, just because it can affect your ability to work so drastically. But broadcasting her eating disorder is really unusual to me, so who knows

    5. Anon for discussion of medical issues*

      Here’s my perspective as a cancer patient: sometimes, if you’re lucky like me, you get all the resources you need to make it through your treatment. You have lots of support from family and friends, you have a thoughtful care team, you have a therapist, you have an understanding workplace. That means that while your cancer is being treated, you’re also getting the attention you need for all the other bits and pieces that go along with cancer treatment: being afraid, hating your own body, being exhausted, despair, depression, and so on. If you’re not lucky, you don’t get those resources, and some people can’t stop looking for them, and look for them in inappropriate places. I had someone in a support group with me who was like that. No matter what was going on with anyone else, her situation was always the very very very worst, because it really, truly felt that way to her. Cancer is awful, and cancer without support can be unbearable. Eventually, sometimes you’re suffering so much that you legitimately do lose perspective on the fact that other people have their own lives and problems, because what you’re going through becomes so large that it’s all you can see.

      Obviously, this is Amy’s problem to deal with, not the OP’s or their coworker’s. Amy needs more help than she’s getting, and it’s her own responsibility to find it in an appropriate place. But it’s worth considering, as you move through a world that has sick people in it, that there are more kinds of people than perfect patients and attention-hungry monsters. We can name Amy’s behaviour as inappropriate and disruptive and still be sympathetic to the fact that it may be generated by some pretty awful experiences.

      1. fposte*

        This is a really wonderful post, Anon; thank you. I especially agree with the notion that there’s a risk of a false binary in the people who suck and deserve meanness on one side and us on the other. But fun to think about snappy responses and whatnot, all of us have done things that would inspire such responses, and I think those of us who’d most love to quip something to Amy would be the most crushed if somebody did it to us.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing with this. A person who privately feels unsupported will do some strange things to find that support.

      3. Hrovitnir*

        This is a great post. People like Amy drive me up the wall, but I think it’s really important to remember “that there are more kinds of people than perfect patients and attention-hungry monsters” in lots of contexts.

    6. Beep*

      In college, not many years ago, there was a girl in one of the other sorority house who let her sisters know he had brain cancer. Once the other Greek house heard of her struggles, we all banded together to raise money for her. After about six months, she was kicked out of her sorority and school, because, you guessed it, SHE DIDN’T REALLY HAVE CANCER.
      After this, people started to look into her past and learned that 1. she didn’t have a life threatening peanut allergy and 2. her parents were still alive and did not die when she was 16

      After dealing with all this crazy, I have become very skeptical of people who over share and especially overshare sensitive (sensationalized, crazy?) information

      1. BadPlanning*

        There’s a person in my hobby group that I’ve been around long enough to know that she definitely has her own version of events. I basically divide everything she says by 50%.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          I knew a girl like this for awhile. She had All The Horrible Things happen to her (eviction, job loss, out of food and money, huge falling-out with a friend, that kind of thing). My then-bf and I felt bad for her at first, and tried to help her out where we could, but when All The Horrible Things continued to happen to her (wait, she got evicted *again*? She got fired from her new job too?), we became suspicious. (She actually told me at one point Bf had said some nasty, snappish things to her in a conversation over the phone that she didn’t realize I was nearby for – no, he didn’t say those things, and it would have been super uncharacteristic for him to say those things in that context).

          Eventually, it transpired she has schizophrenia. She legit believes her version of events. And, surprise surprise, was often part of the reason All The Horrible Things kept happening to her. I’m not in touch with her these days, but she’s still on my FB. Her and her GF still seem to crash from one catastrophe to another. I can’t tell you how many times one of them or the other has made desperate posts about being evicted Yet Again We Need a New Place In Two Weeks Or We Will Be Homeless, or how they desperately need money right away for a huge emergency, or Fuck You Brittany, or God knows what else.

  17. Temperance*

    Because I have no patience for people, I might come back at her with “well, neither do you”. That might shut her up.

    1. WellRed*

      That’s much nicer than my “If I did, maybe it would kill me and I wouldn’t have to listen to you anymore!”

    2. Elfie*

      How about “Well, those aren’t the worst things in the world, so you shouldn’t be complaining either!” (Or maybe not – but I’d be tempted).

  18. Gabriela*

    Obnoxious and…odd. Beating cancer and an eating disorder are actually really courageous things, so why you would want to beat people over the head for not having experienced them is just bizarre.

    1. Observer*

      I can’t speak to ED, but since when is beating cancer a matter of courage?!

      Also courage and being a decent person in other respects are not the same thing.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Well, of course it’s not “just” a matter of courage but it’s important. Keeping a positive attitude, being willing to deal with all the terrible and terrifying aspects of treatment, and having the ability to not just give up are all important parts of the puzzle.

        1. Mike C.*

          Look, I’m going to save you he whole lecture and cut to the chase here – when you frame cancer as a “fight”, you inadvertently frame a whole bunch of dead people as “losers” or “people who just gave up”.

      2. aNon*

        Courage is definitely part of it. Obviously you need other things to beat cancer but chemo, radiation, surgery, these are all very scary and you do need courage to keep getting up every day and continuing to fight despite your body working against you.

        1. Observer*

          I’m well aware of how scary cancer treatment can be, thank you very much. I’m also aware that going through those treatments is NOT about “fighting” or even courage for a lot of people.

  19. Blue Anne*

    Oh geez. Amy sounds really unpleasant, but I have a lot of sympathy for her.

    My dad died of cancer when I was 16. It turned me into a raging bitch for a while. Any problem that anyone else had was stupid and they had no perspective. My straight A best friend failed a test? I don’t care about your stupid test. Your boyfriend broke up with you? Oh, woe is me, you stupid little girl. Your family is having money problems? At least they’re alive. (Actually, very few people at school knew my dad had passed, so they all just thought I was a psycho.) Even my mom – I don’t want to hear about how hard it is to lose your husband, I’m a kid and I just lost my dad.

    I got over it eventually, but I don’t think that happened until another girl in my school lost her dad in a car crash. For some reason that made my situation much more real to me. Apparently, according to my therapist, I still haven’t really worked through my grief at all.

    I’m sure the same kind of thing is happening to Amy. Of course it’s obnoxious and rude and annoying and terrible and Alison’s suggestions are spot on, but geez, I do feel bad for the lady. That wasn’t a fun place to be.

    1. paul*

      You were sixteen. Amy’s an adult. And while we can’t tell for sure it sounds like there’s been some time passed from when Amy had cancer and now.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Paul, I’m not saying Amy’s behaviour is acceptable, just that I understand it. It doesn’t matter that I was a teenager and she’s an adult. Every person is different, especially in how they react to traumatic events.

        1. Former Hoosier*

          I understand the sentiment too. When my dad died, I would see someone much older than me who still had one or both parents living and actually feel resentment towards them. That feeling surprised me but I felt it and even now I can get a twinge. However, that doesn’t excuse Amy’s behavior. It is now officially a work problem because it is interfering and the place for compassion and tolerance is long gone regardless of when this happened.

          1. Blue Anne*

            I didn’t say that it excuses her behaviour. I said the opposite. I just have sympathy for it.

          1. Lissa*

            I understand it for a short time after the event, but these things happened years ago. I realize people grieve on their own timelines, but this length of time makes it seem that Amy will be doing this quite literally forever, and surely sometime in those years she has encountered people who have also dealt with hardship, loss and tragedy.

            I also lost a parent in high school and was temporarily super irrational about other people’s dumb crap, but the thing is – I was in high school, and soon I started having my own dumb crap to deal with again too! Stressing over the school dance was kind of a nice return to normalcy for me after awhile.

        2. Genny*

          But it does matter. Fair or not, there’s an expectations that adults will be able to handle their emotions in a professional way and that if they can’t, then they find a way to make that happen (therapy, time off, etc.). While everyone processes grief in different ways and on different time frames, there’s a statue of limitations on how long people are willing to deal with the more emotionally intense parts of grieving (especially coworkers who aren’t obligated to love you/put up with you). My mom might be willing to hear me vent and lash out years after something tragic happened; my coworkers not so much. Amy is clearly well passed the stage where her coworkers should be understanding of her emotional outbursts and give her plenty of leeway.

        3. Just Employed Here*

          It matters in the sense that society tends to expect a lot more of adults than of teenagers, and for a good reason.

          Also, teenagers are in school for their own education, whereas adults are at work to get work done. Its sounds like Amy is kind of a hindrance to the “getting work done” bit. As Alison has written many times, part of being an employee is getting along with people at work.

        4. Malibu Stacey*

          It actually is different. We give teenagers leeway because they aren’t 100% mentally and emotionally developed yet. That doesn’t mean grief hurts less as an adult – but it DOES mean if you are an adult with trauma, you are expected to figure out a way to deal with it besides verbally attacking your coworkers.

          1. Millennial Lawyer*

            I don’t think Blue Anne is disputing that Amy’s behavior is inappropriate, she is just sharing another perspective.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Thank you. I’ve said that Amy’s behaviour is not acceptable, obnoxious, unpleasant, and rude, but because I have sympathy for her people seem to think I’m excusing it.

              It is possible to have sympathy for inappropriate behaviour.

              1. Anon today*

                And in some cases I find that trying to have sympathy for someone helps me tolerate their unpleasant behavior a little better. It works best on people who are low-level irritating, like the socially awkward and socially needy person at church who is clearly very lonely, or the coworker who complains too much who is just unhappy in his job but hasn’t had any luck in job searching.

                It can maybe take some of the edge off to recognize that as unpleasant as it is to be around Amy, it must be really unpleasant to *be* Amy. Imagine having your years-ago illnesses so present in your mind that you feel the need to make them part of your everyday interactions with coworkers! When someone talking about a car ding or basement flood makes you angry and hurt because you’re so unable to cope with your own pain that others’ minor frustrations make you feel that your own feelings are being ignored and invalidated!

                In this case I think the behavior is sufficiently annoying and prolonged and disruptive that empathy is not likely to help OP find additional reserves of patience, and it’s clear that Amy needs to learn to keep it out of the workplace. But I appreciate Blue Anne sharing her story with us and offering her own sympathy for Amy.

              2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                “It is possible to have sympathy for inappropriate behaviour.”

                Word. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

              3. Sylvan*

                That’s what I got out of your comment, and I appreciated it. Sometimes understanding where people are coming from helps us figure out what to do about their behavior. “Know thy enemy?” It might help the OP.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                When my husband passed, I had a little voice in my head that wanted to say stupid things like.”Oh wrecked your car? Well at least you’re still ALIVE.”
                As an adult I knew not to say that, I also knew that it was a momentary thought. Not every thought we have needs to come out our mouths. Given 2 more seconds of thinking, my next thought was, “Gee, I am thankful that you are not dead also.”

                Stupid crap runs through our brains from time to time. Most of us realize it’s stupid crap and we quickly move on.

                Grief sounds like what this woman’s problem is. She is grieving because her body failed her in an epic manner. BUT somehow she got stuck in that angry stage and she let her grief isolate and disconnect her from other people. So now she is stuck.
                Probably saying something like, “But you are doing better now” would stop her dead in her tracks. She has not thought about how she is doing better now.

                What I like about this one is what is she going to do- tell the boss “I was talking about my illness and OP said ‘but you are better now'”? The boss is going to say, “What do you want me to do here?”
                Maybe you can gain some ground by dragging her to present time.

            2. Malibu Stacey*

              Ok? I was mentioning that I don’t agree that teenagers and adults should be expected to react the same way.

              1. Blue Anne*

                I actually wasn’t saying that they react the same way – I was saying that every individual reacts differently, sometimes in ways extremely outside what would be considered the norm, and being a teenager vs. being an adult doesn’t necessarily say much about how emotionally resilient you are. In an ideal world, maybe it would!

                I can see that I was kind of vague with my phrasing, though. In my head, what I was saying was really clear, but maybe only in my head. :)

                1. Snark*

                  I was telling a colleague something and he got this look on his face like I’d just addressed him politely in Urdu. I mentally reviewed what I’d said and it was total word salad, just totally incoherent, and I was like, “Sorry, that was a great sentence before it escaped my frontal lobe.”

                2. Oranges*

                  Around me we call it “Understanding Orang-isms/Orang-ish” because I think my meaning is clear when… yeah. My brain works a bit diagonally which means I’m great at somethings but being a clear explainer isn’t one of them.

      2. Not a Blossom*

        It’s been 7 years since her cancer treatment ended and longer than that for her ED. She needs to knock it off, pronto.

        1. Reba*

          Totally. She’s inexcusable.

          But Blue Anne’s post is a very good reminder that some compassion may be in order, too. (Compassion — not coddling.) Amy is clearly not in an emotionally healthy place.

          1. LCL*

            Yes. My nice persona has taken over for a moment. She would tell Amy in the moment that ‘I’m sorry this is still bothering you, did you know there are support groups to work on these things? Would you like me to help you look up resources?’

            1. Marie B.*

              It shouldn’t be on Amy’s coworker’s to help Amy look up resources/seek help for her issues. That’s an unfair burden for them and crosses major boundaries. They can be nice to Amy without involving themselves in her problems.

          2. Amy S*

            I agree, I think some compassion is in order here. I get that Amy’s behavior is annoying but the comments on this thread seem to be almost gleeful at the idea of being mean.

            1. Laura*

              The thing is, though, Amy is currently being mean. She’s deliberately inserting herself into unrelated conversations in order to be rude, dismissive, and condescending to people who’ve done nothing to her. When you’re consistently mean, other people start to feel the urge to be mean in response.

            2. Oranges*

              We are internalizing it because someone has done this to us and we wish we could have shut them down with a quick reply. We are dealing with a fantasy world where the reposte will make everything better. It will make Amy realize she’s harming us and feel sorry. It will make the other people who are watching be in awe of our awesomeness. It’s a fantasy and 99% of the commentators know it but need to vent about it because it still hurts.

              Ignoring people/treating them as not-people is possibly the most painful thing because long complicated psychobabble that makes sense in my head. What Amy is doing is on that continuum so we want to re-write our own experiences with that and are trying to do it vicariously on the board.

              At least that’s my reading of the situation.

          3. PlainJane*

            And calling out the behavior–not too horribly rudely–can be the compassionate thing to do. I’m not generally fond of the, “It was for her own good,” line, but in this case, that could be true. She may not realize how rude she’s being, but her rudeness is causing others to avoid her. Helping her realize her comments aren’t appropriate *might* help her change her behavior and have more positive interactions with others.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I think you said this really well, Blue Anne. Thanks for the perspective. Starting with the kinder scripts is probably the way to go :)

      I saw red right away with Amy because my brother had cancer, and an eating disorder, and then got cancer again and then died. I was in college (so I was an adult, not a teenager), but I definitely didn’t have sympathy for anyone else for awhile… However, I’m also fairly private so at least I wasn’t throwing it in everyone else’s faces?

      1. fposte*

        The funny thing is that it’s easy for Amy to turn us into Amy :-). Rather than walking away from the competition, we’re tempted to take her on so we can declare victory, either by having worse suffering or a zingier response. But there’s no need to accept her premise, and if we think it shouldn’t be a competition presumably we don’t mean “except when we can win.” Find something else to model for her.

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I’ve been Amy. I don’t think I’ve been Amy for *seven years* though.

        There is a cut off point for tolerance, and I think that alone may be the reason for other comments touching on the mean side in retaliation.

        I’ve cut off a response before it was said (talking to my workplace Amy, not being Amy this time), and went with compassion. Until I realised, I’d been compassionate for four years, and my compassion well had run dry. I cannot keep deferring to your feelings, Penny! Please move on and allow us to move on with our workplace issues as well.

    3. Gabriela*

      I think it’s really kind of you to see the humanity in what is no doubt very unpleasant behavior. I’m a firm believer that seeking to understand someone’s behavior is not the same as excusing it- so thank you for sharing your perspective.

    4. oranges & lemons*

      Yeah, I feel for Amy too. I’ve definitely been that person who’s going through something hard, and then gets really resentful at other people for complaining about seemingly petty things, because here they are asking for my compassion for something minor when I’m going through something MUCH WORSE and I haven’t even told them about it!! Obviously this is not rational.

      For someone like Amy, I would probably just respond in a really bland way to deprive her of whatever satisfaction she is getting out of her weird behaviour. Obviously she’s still got to work some things out, but this isn’t the way to do it.

  20. C.*

    Has anyone tried having a conversation with her about the pattern before? It doesn’t really sound like it, which to me feels like a next step if at all feasible. If there is a person in the office – and I don’t think it has to be the manager, esp. since they seem loath to get involved – who is a no-nonsense nurturer and can highlight for her the pattern of behavior and how it’s affecting her relationships with others, that might be a way to do it without going straight to the very direct responses in public (which I have to imagine could be v. embarrassing for her and trigger a whole different set of issues).

  21. Lynca*

    If your boss won’t address it- it’s worth addressing this emotional one-upmanship directly with Amy in the moment. We’ve had employees go in both extremes: “you can’t be sad/happy because of X thing that happened to me!” What she went through is terrible, but it doesn’t give her the right to tell others how they can feel about events in their own life.

    “Stop policing people’s emotions. It’s disrespectful.”- my typical go-to phrase.

    1. Drew*

      I love that last line. It’s direct and names the behavior without shaming what’s behind it.

      My impulse was to say, “You’re right; I don’t have cancer or an eating disorder. I’m also not a toxic asshole, so I guess you hit the trifecta!” I like your approach better.

    2. Penny Lane*

      “Stop policing …” is the kind of jargon (along with being woke and checking one’s privilege) that created the backlash that got Trump elected. (I say this as a proud liberal.)

      Instead of the jargon, why not just say – “Just because you had bad things happen to you doesn’t mean that Jane can’t be upset over her basement flood (or fender bender, or whatever). One has nothing to do with the other.”

      1. Hrovitnir*

        “Stop policing X” is hardly esoteric jargon, and was around long before people were crying about the “PC police”. Either script is fine; whatever comes more naturally – though Lynca’s is more succinct.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          Yeah… like “stop policing other people’s food.” We’ve been saying that foreeeeeeever.

  22. Lisa B*

    As soon as she pipes in, give her half a look over your shoulder (since she wasn’t part of the conversation let’s assume you weren’t even looking at her to begin with) and say “yes, I’m aware.” (turning back to actual conversation-participant) “So yes, my poor kid has the flu and I feel so terrible for him.” Or make it “Yes, I’m aware, but this situation is not about you.”

    1. EddieSherbert*

      “Yes, I’m aware, but this situation is not about you.”

      I love this line. And this is probably the most polite thing I’d say to her (my brother legitimately had an eating disorder, and cancer, and then died. I’d probably flip out at Amy…).

  23. Lady Phoenix*

    Ahhh yes, the “appeal to emotion”.

    I would continue the conversatioan anyway.
    Amy: “Eating disorder!”
    Why yes, eating disorder do suck and can happen to everyone based on our silly ideas of body perfection. But we’re not talking about that.
    Why yes, cancer is terrible and I made sure to donate to charity. But we’re not talking about that now.
    Look, if you have nothing to contribute, then maybe you should sit this one out.

    1. Snark*

      I feel the response needs to be snappier, but I love “Ok, but if you have nothing to contribute to this situation, maybe you should sit this one out.”

        1. Snark*

          I feel like a lot of questions at AAM are essentially “I really want to say f**k you to my coworker but I can’t, so how do I polish that up to something that won’t get me fired?”

          1. Aurion*

            There are definitely situations where Alison’s input is on what to do, but the vast majority of her answers are in the realm of how to do it (and the majority of the “how” seems to be in wordcrafting professional responses for unprofessional impulses). :D

  24. Owl of Athens*

    I’m so glad to see this posted. I’ve considered writing in about my co-worker who has a similar “bad time” contest with his Crohn’s disease. I can’t really bring up anything in my life without it coming back to the same things: “At least your intestines don’t look like swiss cheese”, “At least you can eat without hurting”, “At least you didn’t have part of your intestines taken out when you were 12” etc. etc.

    I haven’t said anything because the guy is under a lot of stress and really I’m his only friend in the office who will listen to him. But there are days where I want to scream. Thankfully I don’t get reprimanded when I talk about things that aren’t as bad as his Crohn’s, but if it does I’ll make sure to use the above language.

    1. fposte*

      Keep in mind you don’t have to stay friends with him if you don’t want to; you’re not required by the universe to provide his minimum RDA of colleague contact.

      I think, as alluded to upthread, people do this out of some really primal emotions–they’re scared and angry and vulnerable, and this is the way they broadcast their distress. But that doesn’t confer any obligation on you, and it’s also a really suboptimal way of getting what you need (as witness the fact that Amy’s need continues to be unstoppable). I think with your colleague as with Amy it might be useful to address that underlying emotion head-on: “You bring this up a lot in a way that makes me think you’re struggling to deal with it. Have you talked to a counselor about it? We’ve got a good EAP here.”

      It at least opens up a possibility for them that there might be a more functional way of dealing with this distress, and it also alerts them that this behavior, rather than their illness, is concerning other people.

    2. Luna*

      The really frustrating thing with these types of people is that I think some of them actually see themselves as optimists- “hey, look on the bright side, at least you don’t have cancer!”- when in reality, they want everyone BUT themselves to be optimistic so they can hoard all the pity and negativity all alone.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      I hate when people do this. It’s one thing if someone is trying to make sound like their issue is the worst thing in the world that ever happened (which I rarely see).

      He’s your coworker, but part of me would be tempted to tell him “I know. You’ve reminded me of this every single time.” There are probably reasons why you’re the only one who’ll listen. People get tired of constantly being one-upped when they are having issues.

  25. Meghan*

    Just get that “But did you die?” clip from The Hangover and play the audio whenever she brings it up.

    1. Kathenus*

      Reminds me of a similar quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I believe there are some other fans in the commentariat who might remember it.

        1. AKchic*

          Oooh. I wonder if one could pull a Vampire Willow on Amy… “bored now… anyway, Coworker, you were saying about not having artificial sweetener available for your tea this morning?”

      1. Julia*

        I thought of Pretty Little Liars. “Sure I stalked and tortured you for years, and almost killed you – but did you die?”

  26. Nobody Here by That Name*

    I’m reminded of That Mitchell & Webb Look bit where there’s a neurosurgeon at a party constantly bringing up how nothing’s as hard as brain surgery until he comes face to face with the rocket scientist. Clearly LW needs to find someone at the company who has dealt with cancer, an eating disorder, and losing their home to a hurricane in order to beat Amy at tragedy poker.

    More seriously though, I might make an attempt to modify the script with something to indicate empathy with Amy since she is so thirsty for it. Like yes, she SHOULD have dealt with it or have healthier coping mechanisms for it by now, but the reality is she hasn’t. So adding a kind-sounding “Yeah, what you went through was really rough.” before seguing back to “Man, so the water was ALL OVER your basement, huh, Fergus?” might be the catch more flies with honey option. Esp for folks like that coworker who feel like they can’t speak up due to Amy being more senior to them.

    And if Amy keeps trying to pour herself a tankard of Ale About Me, just keep reframing the conversation. “Yeah, I remember you telling us all about the chemotherapy. It sounded horrible. Anyway, Fergus, the plumber said your kid flushed WHAT down your toilet to cause this?”

    Heck, might even help to one-up the sympathy game. “Amy, cancer and eating disorders are such serious matters that it really upsets me to talk about them. I appreciate what you went through but would you mind if Fergus and I just talk about lighter matters, like his basement flood? That’s a conversation I can handle in the office breakroom. Thanks!”

  27. Julia*

    Wow. She needs to get over herself. I had a dreadful set of events occur in my teens years (and childhood), including a brutal form of cancer. Treatment ended in the 80s, but I have significant side effects that impact me to this day. It was 18 months of 4 different chemo drugs.

    I had someone once tell me that she felt bad complaining about things because of everything I had gone through. (This was when I was in my 20s.) I told her that when I stub my toe, I cry. We all suffer, we all have inconveniences, tragedies, etc. Just because I had bad things happen in the past, doesn’t invalidate the feelings of other people, nor even of new feelings of my own. This person sounds very self-centered.

  28. Liz T*

    This would drive me round the bend. I’d want to say, “Hearing other people complain about things that aren’t as bad as cancer is, itself, not as bad as cancer, so stfu.” But then when she didn’t disappear in a puff of logic it would break my damn heart.

    1. Liz T*

      Also I think if I got caught in a tirade I would calmly take out my phone and send her an email that just said, “Please do not yell at me.”

  29. Al*

    Oh man… my mom has cancer, I’ve battled an eating disorder as well as other mental health problems and chronic illness, AND my dad died of ALS when I was 13. I just want to follow Amy around from now until the end of time and respond to any and every complaint of hers with “Well at least your dad didn’t die from ALS.”

    Also, imagine if Amy said this to someone who HAS had cancer and an ED. It’s actually not that uncommon for someone to have one of them (up to 38% of Americans are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and and estimated 8 million Americans are currently battling an ED); I’d imagine the chances aren’t too slim that at some point she’ll say it to the wrong person and possibly cause them a fair amount of pain as a result.

    My point is: Amy sucks.

    1. Al*

      *and an (not “and and”)

      The point of my comment (besides ranting) was to say that OP would be doing a public service by shutting this down ASAP, because nobody likes an Amy. Terrible things happen to most people because life is hard and often unfair; it’s not a competition.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Saying it to someone who is currently fighting one of those battles might be the wake up call she needs!

      1. Al*

        I already dedicate my life to pettiness; it is my dream (and my duty?) to receive compensation for my labors.

    3. nonegiven*

      “At least you don’t have cancer and an eating disorder”

      Everybody should start saying “how do you know?”

  30. Kara_Lynn*

    “Hey Amy, I never thought someone could make me lose sympathy for people with eating disorders or cancer, but you’ve managed to do that. No one is having a conversation with you, much less a contest. Stop repeating the same information.”

  31. Tiny Tiger*

    Honestly my first reaction her whole “You’re being rude because of my health conditions” would be “Well, I’m sorry, but your past health conditions are not the ultimate barometer on which other’s issues are measured.” But I’m also cynical and sarcastic and don’t react well to being told my issues aren’t important or trivial. Dealt with that way too much courtesy of an ex’s mother…

  32. Gaz112*

    Are you sure Amy isn’t auditioning for a role in a bad sitcom? (She’d fit – I’ve seen a few).

    1. Jillociraptor*

      *looks around furtively*
      “Am I on Crank Yankers?” (a la Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

  33. Bea*

    I actually do have an eating disorder so I wish I ran into this stupid idiot in every day life so I could tell her where to go.

    My dad also beat cancer too. We would tag team on this one.

    Talk about an epic pissing match about how only cancer and ED is to ever be griped about. What about all the other horrific medical ailments, Amy? Geez. I guess you dont have dementia though, so sit down.

  34. dr_silverware*

    I think it bears repeating at this point that these scripts may sound rude when you say them in your head (or read them in a mean tone from the blog post)–especially when you’re attempting to say them to someone who’s (a) a jerk and (b) talking about some really sensitive subjects.

    This stuff isn’t necessarily…not rude, but but very much contextually appropriate, and it’s so much easier to say if you know your voice will come out calm, not angry, and direct in tone. Honestly, I would very much advise practicing with a friend or partner, who will be able to reliably tell you, “OK, your frustration was really showing through,” or something like that.

    You don’t have to be a paragon of emotional control, and nothing will stop an Amy from feeling taken aback, but using that calm tone automatically puts you in a place of power that will help you speak up and will help others recognize that you are having a direct conversation rather than a fight; and practicing will help you actually say the thing.

  35. voyager1*

    I know this has been really said numerous times, but this really needs to be stopped with Amy. One of these days she is going to say that to the wrong person and the lazy manager is going to wish she had dealt with this.

  36. Master Bean Counter*

    I would use a much simpler approach.
    Amy, “At least you don’t have ….)
    Me, “No I don’t, now about this idiot that hit my car…”
    Amy, “At least it isn’t….”
    Me, “No it’s not, now are you going to call the copier guy or use voodoo on the machine?”

    The key is to deliver the “no…” in a very flat matter of fact tone. It should suck the wind right out of her sails. My guess is she’s looking for attention of some sort. Don’t reward her.

  37. HannahS*

    “Actually, Amy, I’m talking with Lindy about her life right now, and I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t interrupt.”
    “You’re right, a flooded basement is not as bad as cancer and an eating disorder, but right now it’s what John and I are discussing.”
    “Amy, could we focus on the broken photocopier please?”
    “Amy, this isn’t the right time to be discussing personal issues; I’d like us to focus on work.”
    “Amy, I feel like what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t offer sympathy to Sarah. I don’t think that’s fair.”
    “Amy, it’s not fair to expect other people never to talk about their problems in front of you. If you’re suffering, and you feel like you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be sympathetic to other people, that’s fine, but it’s not fair to ask ME to stop being sympathetic to other people.”
    “Amy, no one is asking you to never talk about your medical issues ever again, but you shouldn’t be using them as a way of telling other people that their problems don’t matter.”

    1. Samata*

      This sums up what my brain couldn’t put into words: “Amy, no one is asking you to never talk about your medical issues ever again, but you shouldn’t be using them as a way of telling other people that their problems don’t matter.”

      1. Pollygrammer*

        See, I think it would be fine to suggest/imply she should never talk about her medical issues ever again, since she’s proved to have such abysmal judgment about it.

  38. BoundariesBoundariesVague*

    Amy needs some therapy, stat. Just because one person has had their foot amputated doesn’t mean it’s not a problem to have no shoes.

  39. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Oh God, I’ve had an Amy of my own once, and while I can’t claim to know this Amy’s thought process, hers was something like this:
    Person: *has a gripe about something*
    She eventually lessened this behaviour, although I’m not sure if it was actual change or just because she’d gotten in real trouble for some other unacceptable behaviour.
    Either way, Allison’s script sounds on point. Yes, she won’t like you, yes she’ll be rude and think YOU’RE the rude one, but do you really care anymore at this point? As long as you’re not overly aggressive, I’d say follow Allison’s advice and move on.
    That said though, also cover your ass in case she tries to complain, which if my Amy is any indication she might try.

    1. Mints*

      I had a classmate like this, and for her it was also 100% attention seeking. She would say things about being sad about her absent dad or “It’s hard being the oldest with only a single mom to take care of us” and the rest of us were like “Girrrrrl look around. Only two people have dads who live at home” It was so bizarre to see her blame her unhappiness on things that were actually really common

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah, mine was a classmate too. I suppose I could blame it on being a teenager, but last I heard she hadn’t changed a bit.

  40. Samata*

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, so forgive a repeat…..but I am concerned if boss hasn’t talked to Amy that Alison’s script might backfire.

    I guess my question is this: Is there a chance OP goes to boss and says “People aren’t going to Amy…” & boss ends up making it about the people not using resources effectively instead of addressing the actual problem of Amy’s attitude?

    1. Undine*

      It doesn’t matter, people need to go to Amy no matter her attitude. OP shouldn’t be picking up the slack.

      1. Samata*

        I agree, but Amy needs to be dealt with at some point. I feel like the employees can’t bear the entire burden of the dynamic that has come into play.

  41. Grant Us Eyes*

    I’d be tempted to respond with “says who?” and if she asked about my medical problems refuse to confirm or deny anything.

        1. narratif*


          In this case, I would look her dead in the eye and say “Well, you weren’t just killed for the fiftieth time by a gigantic unholy cleric beast that vomited fire at you so I guess I have it worse.”

  42. Andrea*

    Amy could be my aunt, whose MO is to say a catty thing about anyone else (not present) who is being discussed. Some gems:

    “You know she got her money from a terrorism settlement” (this is about her a family member whose sibling was killed in a terrorism incident).
    “I wouldn’t know about child custody hearings” (about my sibling who is fighting for custody).
    “He tried to kill me once” (about her father who did, in fact, not try to kill her–gas leak in the apartment).
    “You know she had a child out of wedlock” (about her sister in law).

    These and others are on CONSTANT repeat. Talk about the most banal things (like getting groceries) and she brings up terrorism settlements, attempted child murder, etc. It’s her reflexive thing to make herself feel better and to invoke the narcissist’s one/two punch of trying to control the story (don’t think she’s a good person because she has money from a tainted source) and create chaos.

    This is a woman married to a(n enabling) saint of a man, who had a career, who is not shunned by her community. It’s amazing that she can go about her life having an adult temper tantrum every moment and that no one has ever set a boundary with her. At least when Trump came on the scene, I felt like I had experience.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      How is having a sibling being killed by terrorists any fault of one’s own?! By your aunt’s logic. Or is it the receiving and accepting money in relation to this event that is the problem? I don’t get it. You’d think people would feel sympathy towards someone who has lost a sibling in a violent manner…

      1. NaoNao*

        It’s the “just world” hypothesis. That if you’re a “really good” person, nothing like custody battles, unplanned out of wedlock kids, or terrorist settlements will “happen” to you. It’s not that she doesn’t think those things aren’t sad, tragic, or serious. She’s just reassuring herself that’s *she’s* a good person and therefore immune to any possible tragedy.
        Just wait. She’ll get hers.

        1. Andrea*

          She’s already “getting hers” by living in this type of mindset. It’s really more of the narcissist pity me, so I can control you. She’s exhaustively on watch to calibrate her status against ANYONE else–revile them/see me as better; pity me/so I can control you. She wants to control everyone, except herself.

      2. Andrea*

        It’s the most stupid logic. Basically, anything she can trump up on you is a reason for other people not to like that person and to esteem her more. She says this about the (lovely) mother of her grandchild, who has a well-paid job and who doesn’t spend her part of the settlement ostentatiously. I’ve never had the heart to inquire about whether the person knows that their mother in law throws them under the bus casually, given half the chance.

        1. AKchic*

          You can bet she does, and she ignores it with tact and grace publicly, while privately she seethes. My current MIL is a narcissist who belittles every woman that comes into the family. Nephews get a girlfriend? Trash-talk the girlfriends. Hasn’t even met them, but she “knows their type”. She did the same to me and my SIL. Then she whines that she doesn’t get to see her grandchildren often and that her DILs don’t like her. Well, when you call us golddiggers who got pregnant on purpose to steal the family money (there is none) and the family property (again, there is none) – of course we’re not going to allow you near our kids.

          1. Andrea*

            It does flummox me to think that narcissists don’t see how transparent they are. My aunt is living the consequences–no one wants to be around her, when all she wants in life is to have the same smothering relationship her mother had with her.

            1. Jaybeetee*

              Narcs tend to become transparent over time, but they don’t tend to start that way, and they can be *very* charismatic – that’s how they keep people around. The smart narcs know if they’re assholes all the time, people will leave and stop paying attention to them. If they’re the most awesomest best people EVER, then randomly not, then randomly go back to being awesome…people will stay and stay and stay. Us humans have a flawed response to intermittent reinforcement. We keep trying to get the awesome person back.

              My ex’s mom is textbook NPD…but if you know her casually, or if you’re fairly new in her circle, she can just seem like the sweetest lady. Until you piss her off. So my ex mostly avoids her (and has narc traits of his own…hence “ex”), his sister emulates her, his father left a few times when he was younger but ultimately came back and stayed for the kids, and has since become more or less defeated and seems unlikely to leave now. The people closest to her have normalized her behaviour and don’t see it as a big deal anymore.

              1. Andrea*

                It is sad how narcissistic behavior runs in families. It’s a predisposition by bad example. She gets away with it, so this is now an option that is normalized and can be used by others. In my family, you have pairs of girls across generations–one who embraces getting your way by narcissism and the other who gets as far away from that as possible. So sad–it’s like a cancer you catch from your family.

  43. Anonymous Poster*

    Yeah these people are annoying to me. I’ve got a few in my life from time to time. My strategy has been to blankly stare at them while they babble on, and then continue the conversation as though nothing happened. I mean, because let’s be honest, in the real scheme of things nothing really happened. Nothing of any consequence was said.

  44. hbc*

    I would take a two-pronged approach. Next time Amy does her thing in your presence, go to her afterwards and say some version of, “I know you’ve been through a lot of pain and hardship, I’m sure I can’t even imagine. I’m truly sorry. But when people complain about [whatever latest thing is], they aren’t comparing it to what you went through or saying they have it worse. Can we give people the benefit of the doubt that they don’t really mean that a dented fender is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person?”

    And then I would buy a giant box of sympathy cards and wordlessly give one to her each time she brought it up going forward.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I did tell my son that it was pretty clear that the goal he was shooting for in life was “Professional Whiner” or “Professional Complainer” and then as soon as he started on another round, I would toss a dime at him and tell him he’d been paid. It would usually make him laugh and shortcut the whole thing, but I suspect that’s not an appropriate response here…

  45. Bets*

    She sounds young and inexperienced. People who have been in the workplace awhile know that we don’t all always share every detail of our misery as humans. In fact, going to work can be a bright spot when you’re going through health stuff because it takes your mind off your situation. Not talking about being sick at work can be the thing that helps you find the resolve and resilience to get better. Also, I’m over this sense of the misery Olympics. We all go through things. It’s narcissistic to think you are the only one with problems in life. Problems are the human condition.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      she also sounds VERY self-centered to me. I mean, I am sorry she wen through those things and glad she is better – but hijacking EVERY conversation to “out-do” everyone else’s life experiences? Self centered.

    2. anonagain*

      I didn’t see anything in the letter to suggest that she is either young or inexperienced. She might be, but I don’t think there’s enough information in the letter to make that conclusion.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I can vouch for the fact that age has NO corner on this market. I can introduce some 60 and 70 year olds who could offer Amy some heavy competition.

    3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I didn’t get a sense for Amy’s age from the letter, but I don’t know that incessant self-righteous complaining falls along age lines. Some people are just complainers and I’ve met my fair share of older ones in the workplace.

    4. Observer*

      7 years after a cancer diagnosis and longer from the ED? She can’t be THAT young. And even if she’s inexperienced in the work world, this is the kind of behavior that’s not appropriate ANYWHERE. It’s not just that she’s sharing so much about her misery. It’s the misery Olympics, self-centeredness and rudeness that’s the fundamental issue here.

    5. bonkerballs*

      I don’t really think this has anything to do with over sharing. I have a boss who goes way WAY too much into detail about her health issues. I know more about her health issues than my own mother’s. However, she’s also the FIRST person to be empathetic and compassionate to any number of comparably smaller issues that are going on with me. Her oversharing is in no way hinders her allowing for the pain of others.

      My boss is also an over sharer well into her 60s, so I don’t think age has any bearing on Amy’s issues either.

  46. E*

    “Those are indeed horrible, but we’re discussing work issues here.”
    Perhaps kindly suggest that Amy contact your EAP to talk to someone about her constantly bringing up such terrible and potentially traumatic conversation topics.

    1. KR*

      Yes to the EAP! “Amy, that’s the third time this month you’ve brought up your medical history. It seems to be a sore point for you. The company has an EAP that might help. Now Jan, what were you saying about the report deadline? “

    2. Kay*

      I used to work for an EAP, this is exactly what the program is for. If she’s having a personal issue that’s interfering with her work performance, she should call the EAP.

      Alternatively, if she’s unwilling to go on her own there should be a process by which HR or the manager can mandate that she attend EAP sessions, but she probably wouldn’t get as much out of it/might become resentful if the manager mandates the referral.

  47. ClownBaby*

    I don’t know why some people get pleasure out of one-upping others’ pain/frustration/whatever. I guess they feel like their venting of such pain and frustration is more important, or that, because they don’t vent about it people with apparently “lesser” burdens don’t deserve to vent about theirs?

    Also, Amy walks a dangerous line. A lot of people with cancer and a lot of people struggling with eating disorders don’t go around advertising it.

    When my friend committed suicide last year, my coworker could not understand why I didn’t want to go to a company picnic at the park where she did it, just weeks after she did it. She said something along the lines of “I lived in the house my mother died in for 24 years. She probably didn’t even kill herself by the barbecue pit/park shelter.”

    1. NaoNao*

      WOW. I hope you are giving that person the Frosty Professionalism 2018 mood board daily. That’s just awful.

      1. K.*

        I’m on public transportation so didn’t speak out loud, but I did literally recoil in horror at my phone when I read it. My God.

    2. Tiny Tiger*

      My jaw just about hit the floor…
      I am so sorry you’re having to deal with that. I seriously have no words for what your coworker said that are suitable to be put on this site…

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m so sorry for your loss – and what an unspeakably cruel and horrible thing for your co-worker to say.

    4. Lora*

      “A lot of people with cancer and [other horrible things] don’t go around advertising it.”

      YES, THIS.

      Have had cancer multiple times. At this point I’m relatively cheerful about it: the treatments have gotten MUCH better since the 1980s and aren’t nearly as debilitating as they used to be: anti-nausea drugs are a friggin’ miracle. You still get the tiredness and sunburns from radiation, and surgical sequelae are still no fun, but pain is well controlled and with many cancers you can get Neulasta to keep your immune system in okay condition. And no barfing!

      People act all weird when you tell them you have cancer, so the last time I only told a few close friends. Nobody at work knew that I had anything other than An Ongoing Medical Thing that required me to leave by 4:30 every day.

      I feel like there’s an Amy – Hitler meme in there somewhere.

  48. ChunkyMonkey*

    “Whenever someone is doing something rude and out of line, the extent to which you’ll be able to shut it down depends on the extent to which you’re willing to be assertive and risk the other person being upset with you.”

    SO true! I myself need to get more comfortable with being assertive and upsetting people.

  49. AnnaleighUK*

    We had someone like this in a former workplace of mine and our default response was a vague ‘whatever, Jamie’, and carry on talking while he was whinging about how his problem was worse than yours. Maybe totally ignoring Amy might work? Or is she the type who stands up loudly and demands attention until she’s done speaking? I don’t know, I only am amazed nobody has lost their temper with her before now.

  50. Lissa*

    UGH, I worked with an Amy. It was wretched. One thing that I am curious about – does Amy herself ever complain about minor day to day things? So she’s allowed to be mad about her flooded basement or a broken photocopier because she had cancer and an eating disorder? I highly doubt she never ever gets annoyed by minor things.

    This is also why I really am not a fan of “first world problems” as a way to dismiss concerns, because it makes it sound like people who aren’t living in an affluent society never ever complain about life’s minor annoyances, which is super not true.

    I understand the impulse for everyone to give their own sad life stories to Amy, because I bet at least a good portion of people in the office have also suffered misfortunes or sad things – most people have! I know a couple people who have such weird blind spots about this, including my own Amy and also an exboyfriend of mine…it’s like they truly seem to think that what happened to them is far and away the worst, and even hearing about other people experiencing similar or even worse things won’t shake them out of this.

    It’s a very strange kind of self-centeredness where their suffering becomes part of their identity, and they get almost annoyed when someone else reminds them ever so briefly that they’re actually not unique. Nearly everyone has had at least one thing happen to them that would be classified as a tragedy or horrible thing. But these people want to always be the centre ring as described in that Ring Theory article that made the rounds a few years ago.

    Still I would be super tempted to say “Well, I’ve experienced X and Y in my life, so does that give me permission to be annoyed that the bus was 20 minutes late?”

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think it’s just not logical and that their feelings are sort of running away from them like a stampeding horse.

      I have my sob stories. Big, jagged ones (I’ve been homeless twice, I’ve tried to take my own life, my mother once left me sitting abandoned in a doorway and pissed off to another country, I am a survivor of all the main kinds of abuse, and so on). But when someone I know who is also a human being is angry or upset that doesn’t somehow leave less space in the world for me.

      Plus you can cut off your toe or my leg but nobody can possibly know which hurts more.

      1. Lison*

        I’m so sorry al pl that happened to you and I’m sure that you gaining empathy for others is a much more healing road than other potential routes. You are a good person.

        1. Kathenus*

          Great point Lison. When you deal with terrible challenges like this you can use the experiences to gain empathy to those around you, or you can wear them like a martyr cloak. Ramona, you’ve obviously funneled these into strength and caring, I have the utmost respect for you in doing that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Sometimes the best we can do is vow to live our lives in direct opposition to what we have or had around us. That is the ultimate rebellion or pushback.
            Many times it starts with the unshakable belief that we are headed toward something better. RF figured this out at some point, she decided life is going to get better. And she is pulling out every stop there is to make that happen.

            Amy on the other hand. Not so much. The Amys of the world we cannot do that much for. They wear their victimhood like a badge. She should be wearing her survivorhood like a badge. But that does not occur to her.
            Let me call my Amy by the name of Friend. I told Friend that she could do anything she wanted, if she tried she would succeed. (I can’t be more specific here, so there’s just a general idea of what I said.) Friend got angry with me. I had to think about that. Then I realized her only sense of identity came from being a victim. And, unwittingly, I had tried to take that away from her. Without her victimhood Friend had NO sense of identity. After that, all we did was argue. I gave up.

  51. Tuxedo Cat*

    I kind of want you tell her “I know” and just continue on with whatever you are talking about, and do that every time. I kind of wonder if this is attention-seeking behavior.

    OP, I wouldn’t worry too hard about seeming rude. She is being incredibly rude. I’ve noticed that rude people tend to get on the defensive when someone suggests that perhaps they are being rude.

    1. Kristine*

      I had a mid-level manager whose “Make this about me” technique was “But you don’t have children/You don’t have babies at home/You’re not a mother.” I learned to keep right on talking and ignore the comment, since it was a given by then that the other person (who in many cases was a man, unable of course to ever be a mother) was also pretty tired of her behavior.

  52. beanie beans*

    What a depressing way of living life. Where the only competition you’re interested in is depressing regardless of whether you win or lose.

  53. Beep*

    Why not ask her why she feels the need to continuously bring it up? Her answer could give you some insight into how to respond to the comments going forward.
    Maybe she hasn’t let go of those painful things in her past. Maybe she truly believes that those are the worst things a person can experience.
    OR she has a nonsense response – in which case, you know that no matter what you say won’t change her mind.

    Then I would just get in a Misery Olympics with her. But only using scenarios from famous Movies!
    My house got blown away, and i woke up in a completely different place. Some guy kept me trapped in a hole and kept making me use lotion. My sister has ice powers and froze my heart.

      1. Beep*

        “I had cancer. Some mysterious guy said he could cure me with crazy methods. He was named after soap. I now look like a ball sack.

    1. Strawmeatloaf*

      Are people supposed to be her un-paid psychiatrist/psychologist now? Sorry, but that’s something you work out with a therapist, not your coworkers.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I was thinking that, too. I have worked in places where there were a wide range of professionals in and out of our workday. It made me very aware of how I lack the quals for this or that.
        After a bit, I developed a go-to, “Gee, that sounds serious. I really lack the quals to discuss that with you. Have you thought about contacting a qualified person?”

  54. Regina Phalange*

    Ugh, I can’t stand people who dismiss others’ problems just because they’re not the absolute worst possible things that can happen to them.

    It reminds me of this YouTuber I follow on Twitter who was talking about the death threats he got because people didn’t like his opinions about Justice League, but then another YouTuber responded saying that while that’s terrible, he should be “relieved” that he “only” receives threats of violence because she and others have had worse things said to them. Unless I’m missing something entirely, what? It’s not a contest. While I’m sure most trolls like that wouldn’t act on those threats, that’s still absolutely awful with NO caveats and people are allowed to vent. Plus I sure as hell wouldn’t be “relieved” to have my safety threatened in any way just because something worse could happen, though I can’t imagine what that would really be.

    With that said, I unfortunately am incredibly spineless and don’t know if I’d have the nerve to talk up to Amy myself, even though she really should cut it the hell out. It’s unreasonable to never allow anyone to discuss something negative that isn’t entirely cataclysmic.

  55. Elizabeth West*

    I didn’t read all the comments yet, but it seems like the ineffective manager is a bigger problem than Amy. Clearly she is not being direct enough. She may feel uneasy about confronting Amy herself, but that’s her damn job, and since it’s interfering with work, she NEEDS to step up. Naow.

  56. Goya de la Mancha*

    *blank stare* “I’m not really sure how that is pertinent to this conversation?”

    Others have some real zingers out there, but I think this is the only thing I’d be able to manage without ending up with my arse in the bosses office :-D

  57. stitchinthyme*

    It’s neither helpful nor useful to minimize someone’s problems just because others may have what you perceive to be bigger ones. I mean, even if you DO have cancer and an eating disorder, there are still people in the world who have worse problems (rape, child abuse, enslavement, sex trafficking, poverty, lack of access to medical care, etc). The fact that someone else may have worse problems does not make yours any easier to deal with, unless you like schadenfreude. If I worked with Amy, I’d point this out to her.

  58. Maude*

    Amy is the same person that posts “Third World Problems” on social media every time some vents about anything that doesn’t have to do with world hunger or social justice. I know I am fortunate to have my life, but sometimes traffic sucks or my lunch order is all wrong. Commenting on it doesn’t make me forget that some people have it tough. In life, Amy needs to do the equivalent of keep scrolling.

  59. Airy*

    Amy: That’s not as bad as CANCER!
    Reasonable person: Did you hear anyone say it was?
    Amy: No, but-
    Reasonable person: Then run along. (Everyone turns their back on Amy in unison and blows a long sustained eerie note on the kazoos they have concealed in their sleeves for this very purpose until she gets really weirded out and leaves)
    I can dream. In a surrealist sort of way.

  60. hippanonymous*

    I’ve never had a coworker like that, but a friend and it was… exhausting.

    Above someone made the comment of “how do you know they haven’t had that experience” and honestly I’ve been there – it was a lower stakes situation… but effectively.

    Friend: OMG, can you imagine xyz happening to you?
    Me: Ummm… It is terrible….
    Friend: But I mean really, can you imagine…
    Me: Um, actually…. [story time]

    If the person had been yelling at me for complaining about the work coffee and told me that at least it wasn’t xyz…. I am not positive how I would react, in all honestly. Though I imagine it wouldn’t be too nice.

  61. Macedon*

    I think the important thing in these sorts of situations is less the message than the delivery. I’d recommend long, pointed pauses, looking her in the eye, and saying, “No one said the two were alike, Amy. What gave you that idea?”

    Or, “Who said they were comparable, Amy?”

    And just patiently wait for her response and repeat it. Do not engage with anything else she says until she answers. If she goes on and on, just bring her back to it. “Okay, but who said anything about this particular situation being as bad as cancer or an eating disorder? Can you point them out?”

    Reason and argument don’t work particularly efficiently in this sort of situation, I find.

    1. Lumen*

      I like this. It’s similar to a response I like when someone tells a bigoted ‘joke’. Instead of confronting them or wincing in discomfort, you just stare at them blankly while they chortle at their own cleverness. Then:

      “I don’t get it.”

      And just stay there, playing dumb, like you don’t get the punchline, when what you’re really doing is rejecting their premise. In this case, you reject the premise that anyone was suggesting that a broken photocopier is equivalent to, worse than, or even in the same ballpark as cancer or an eating disorder. Because that’s a pretty far-out premise for Amy to be working from, and she needs to see that she’s alone in that particular perspective.

  62. Lumen*


    “No one said it was, Amy. We’re still allowed to be frustrated/upset/sad/annoyed/tired/etc. If that bothers you, why did you come over here to join the conversation?”

  63. Another Amy*

    I too work with an Amy. She’s constantly on about how hard it is to have 7 kids (blended family she got sole custody of her 4 and husband’s first wife died so there’s no one for him to share custody with), one with severe asthma and mild autism, how much meds cost, etc.
    There are days when I just want to turn around and say at least there’s a treatment for what your kid had! At least you have a diagnosis!

    A few weeks ago we had a snow storm and all the schools were out. Someone asked another coworker if they were going sledding after work (two people not at all involving her) and she launched into how her kids aren’t allowed to go sledding and she doesn’t sled because kids get hit by cars sledding. I came very close to losing it that time because it was almost to the day the 30 year anniversary of my cousin being hit by a car and killed while sledding. My aunt has been incredibly supportive since my daughter died and I had just been talking to her the previous evening to see how she was coping so this was all pretty close to the surface at the time.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very sorry for your tragic losses.
      Just an aside, some folks who have BTDT are such a gift in our lives. My eyes got a little damp reading about your aunt helping you. I am sure you are a gift in her life also.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      So good that im alone in the office right now. Totally snorted at that, and I treat cancer.

  64. Guitar Hero*

    There is a term for what Amy is doing–the “Suffering Olympics.” As they say, nobody wins the gold in the Suffering Olympics. Everybody loses.

    It’s a great topic to google if you want to go down a fascinating rabbit hole. There are lots of perspectives on why trauma sufferers try to one-up others with their pain (Amy), or refuse to acknowledge their own hardships because it’s not as bad as they perceive other people’s pain to be.

    1. Candi*

      I thought of it as the “Life Troubles Olympics”, but the point’s the same.

      BTW, LW, you are not being rude when following Alison’s advice. The (here highly and often recommended) Captain Awkward puts is as returning awkward to sender. Amy’s being (beyond) awkward; you’re just dumping it back in her lap.

      1. AKchic*

        Well, someone needs to know how they’ve suffered so silently, otherwise nobody would know to award them a medal!

        1. Lissa*

          Luckily there are many many Facebook memes available to tell everyone how they are the constant unfailing support for all their friends, but nobody sees them crying inside.

  65. Strawmeatloaf*

    It’s people like this that always make me wonder. They’re the type of people who think that we can’t both focus on starving children in our own country and child soldiers in others. It has to be one OR the other.

    If she did it enough times I might oops and go “congratulations?”

    1. Candi*

      That’s an interesting way to express it. (good interesting) :P

      I think of people like this as thinking empathy is finite, and you only have so many slices to give to issues. They are ignorant or refuse to comprehend that empathy, sympathy, and all their emotional cousins can expand infinitely, that it is possible to understand we are all one human race and feel compassion for all who are in trouble.

      On a side note, I’ve observed that people who think in “limited slices” also can’t or don’t seem to understand that you can have pity for a person’s awful upbringing, and still insist they be (appropriately) disciplined when they break the law. (Which discipline should include education on new, constructive ways to deal with their issues -although that’s also predicated on them wanting to learn.)

      1. WonderingHowIGotHere*

        I think I’d have a small caveat here – the empathy well *can* run dry. Bucket fulls are taken every time I deal with my Amy. I have other infinite empathy wells to cope with poverty, child brides, my neighbour’s dog dying, the vending machine running out of chocolate, take your pick. Because it’s not everything all at once all the time. It’s the *constant, never-ending* demands from a *single* source that doesnt give the well time to refill.

        I think it’s called Compassion fatigue – studies have shown if a charity bombards you with emotional blackmail, and panhandlers on every corner, they get less money donated.

  66. Allison*

    When someone goes through bad times, they often come out with a new perspective on life. They no longer sweat the small stuff, they feel thankful for what they have, it can be a great outlook on life really! But then people like Amy take things too far and aggressively attempt to shove that outlook down people’s throats. BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE, IT COULD BE SO MUCH WORSE! They use guilt to make people stop “whining” over little things.

    Maybe they really do just want to remind everyone what they went through because they miss the sympathy, who knows?

    Either way, Amy’s behavior is definitely an issue. You’re allowed to talk about problems, even small problems, that need fixing. It’s not like you’re constantly whining about being cold, hungry, tired, uncomfortable, gassy, bored, etc.

  67. The Ginger Ginger*

    I would deploy AAM’s advice as a 2-pronged approach.
    Prong 1 – Go back to your Manager to have the she’s-still-doing-this and now coworkers-are-bypassing-Amy conversation. I’d probably add into the convo that you plan on calmly having a conversation with Amy the next time she does this. That way your manager has a heads up and can be reasonably prepared for any wailing/handwringing/affronted raging that Amy sprays out. (It also means you need to be committed to professionalism and calm as you talk to Amy, because you’ve looped your boss in.)

    Prong 2 – start calling Amy on it. I really like brief, firm responses said in a calm tone, and you probably want more than one in your arsenal, because this will take more than once. AAM and some other commenters have provided good ones. The key is, don’t sound frustrated or angry, and don’t raise your voice. I’ve found (thanks to a FIERY redheaded temper in my hormonal teen years) that you tend to win any argument in which you don’t emotionally engage. And he who yells loudest loses fastest.

    I would also add, as people see you standing up to Amy, they may take that as an invitation to come to you to bash or vent about Amy. As satisfying as this would be, DO NOT ENGAGE. If this is already happening, try to curb that as much as you can. You want her to stop her behavior; you don’t want to start an office crusade to make Amy (more) miserable. A simple “It’s sad that Amy seems very unhappy, but I don’t want to talk about coworkers behind their backs. How about that ABC file?” That kind of thing gets toxic really quickly.

    And though at this point, her reasons aren’t necessarily relevant – I can’t help wondering if Amy got used to a certain amount of solicitude and attention while going through those very difficult times, and now that she’s recovered, she’s trying to get some of that social addiction fix by competing in her own private Agony Olympics. Or she’s lost the ability to maintain relationships now that they no longer need to center on such central and urgent issues in her life. It doesn’t excuse her rude and ridiculous ways – particularly after so long, but it does make her kind of….pitiable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is great stuff here, OP. I have done this. If I know a manager won’t move forward with a plan, I would get my own plan. “Boss, X is still going on. I thought I would try doing Y to see if that changes things.” At this point the boss either springs to life and says, “noooo, I will take care of this when I get back tomorrow afternoon”. (Notice the use of a definite time frame.) Or the boss remains spineless and lets me go ahead with my plan. This is okay by me also, because by then I actually have a good, solid plan that will probably ease the situation. Either way, I come out of that conversation with a definite action plan.

    2. Argh!*

      Yes, when the boss won’t act, you either need to solve things yourself (boss’s true wish), or go to grandboss to complain about both Amy and boss.

  68. MuseumChick*

    I’m so late to this party and very sad I was busy today and didn’t get to this post sooner.

    There are already a ton of great (and hilarious) responses up in the comments but I would also like to suggest the dead-pan silence respond.

    Person 1: “I had X happen, it was horrible”
    Amy: “Cancer and Eating Disorder!!!!!”
    Letter Writter: *makes direct eye contact with Amy. Slowing looks back at person one, then back at Amy* (This should take several seconds, without you saying anything) Wait another beat or to “Wow. Ok, sorry Person 1, what were you saying just now?”

  69. xkd*

    I think the time for sympathy and understanding has passed. My only response would be “So?” and move on. Repeated as necessary.

  70. Best wishes to OP*

    Amy needs therapy.

    She’s acting like a jerk, no doubt about it. I actually had an eating disorder and cancer, plus I have a special needs kid, blablabla… point being I could totally one up her at her game. I wouldn’t though, because I’m not a complete jerk. My past (or even present) issues are not relevant to problems other people have currently.

    That said, she keeps talking about these things because they are always at the forefront of her mind. She’s got some kind of PTSD or something else going on that is making her unable to let that shit go or at least stop talking about it all the time. It would be a kindness if her manager or someone in ER suggested to her that she talk to an EAP if there is one, or a doctor about her chronic stress over past events.

  71. Merida Ann*

    I’m reminded of a teacher I had in high school who wouldn’t let anyone in the class say any negative words. Her deal was claiming that anything negative was a “substitute” for a curse word, and therefore just as bad as actually using the curse. Not just words similar to actual curse words, like “dang” or “shoot”, but even “Oh, man!” or something like that was unacceptable to her and we would be called out and punished* in class for saying anything negative. It’s not quite the same situation, but like in this case, the effective result was that we were essentially forbidden to express any form of an upset reaction, which was incredibly frustrating and gave everyone a very poor impression of the teacher.

    *Her favored form of punishment was making students stand up and sing a silly song to embarrass them in front of the class, which just added to the awfulness and frustration.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      That sounds absolutely awful. Out of curiosity, what subject did she teach? If it was English/Literature, she was so, so, so in the wrong job. (If it was any other subject, she was also in the wrong job.)

      1. Merida Ann*

        She taught one of the foreign language classes. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe no one started using negative words in that language to claim that they were just practicing and see how she’d react, but I guess none of us were clever enough and/or willing to test that boundary. :P

  72. Tiger Snake*

    OP, might I suggest also employing the phrase “What an interesting assumption”, and then immediately shutting down the conversation without talking further on the subject.

    Yes, it may make her think you’re implying you have cancer and/or an eating disorder. That is also an interesting assumption on her part. Just like she’s assuming that life problems are comparable or are meant to be comparable.

    Presented in a completely flat tone and done constantly over time, especially if by multiple people, can sometimes cause a person to stop and realise that, yes, they are making assumptions about someone else’s life that they’re in no position to judge. Sometimes.

    You shouldn’t retaliate, but I will I admit to daydreaming about snapping “Well you don’t have cancer and an eating disorder anymore, so you have no reason to complain ” whenever Amy says anything the least bit negative, and “Neither do you anymore, what’s your point?” when she tries to criticise. Or upping the ante – “No, but at least your mother was alive to help and support you during that time.”
    I admit to having an issue with people who think they get to have a monopoly on suffering-and-sympathy.

  73. Apocalypse How*

    Telling people “at least you don’t have ____” never works. I heard about an incident when I was a baby. I was born with both of my hips dislocated, which required several surgeries and months of braces, harnesses, full-body casts, and physical therapy to correct. My parents had to pay for everything except the surgeries out of pocket. They had no idea whether I would be left with a permanent disability. At one point, my mom was venting to my aunt (her sister) about all of the hardship they were dealing with when it came to my condition. My aunt responded, “Look on the bright side. At least Apocalypse How doesn’t have leukemia!” My mom stopped speaking to my aunt for several months after that.

  74. Come On Eileen*

    I’ve heard this referred to as “comparative suffering” (through Brene Brown’s books, though I’m not sure she coined the phrase). It’s something I’ve struggled with on the flip side of the coin — I’m an alcoholic, 4 years sober in recovery now, and for the longest time felt like my story didn’t stack up to other alcoholics. Like, how can my story of my bottom compare to others who have lost so much more than I have? I talked it over with my sister, who is wise beyond her years, and she told me “it’s not like suffering is a zero sum game. If someone else suffers a lot, you don’t have to even things out by suffering only a little. Your story is your story. Own what has happened to you. At the same time, try not to compare yourself to others. Instead, look for the similarities. We’ve all suffered in some way, and we can find similarities that bring us together.” She hit the nail on the head, and it’s helped me to look at the comparisons we draw in a whole new light.

  75. reporterbabe*

    A receptionist at the senior center in one of the communities I covered was hired about a year after her teenaged son and his passenger was killed in a drunk driving crash. Everyone had a great deal of sympathy for her BUT…
    She was constantly bringing the conversation around to her son and her other issues, to the point where when a senor citizen who recently lost her husband came in feeling blue, she snapped at her “at least you got to spend 50 years with him, MY SON was only 17 and he died a horrible death.”
    She wanted me to write about her unfair firing but you know… you just don’t try to one-up recent widows.

  76. Oliver*

    There are so many reasons this is horrible/annoying/offensive. I’m particularly peeved by the assumption that you can’t express frustration while having a sense of proportion. Like, of course I know that the train being late isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Why would you assume that? Or even that I can’t be mad about a late train while simultaneously experiencing something much worse. I know when I was experiencing a bad bout of depression I wasn’t *less* annoyed by everyday inconveniences.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I firmly believe that one must always be able to complain, for exactly this reason. Not to excess without doing something about it, because that’s annoying. But the whole idea of being super positive no matter what and never having anything negative to say and being all sunshine and roses all the time… many of us find that exhausting. Sometimes stuff sucks. Sometimes it’s minor. Sometimes it’s major. Sometimes it’s medium-ish and we need to vent. If I ever told my friends, “Well, you should feel lucky that your husband never takes the dog out for a walk, because at least it’s not cancer!”, then I would be a really crappy and unsympathetic friend.

  77. artgirl*

    This lady should become an actuary, or start working in an office full of actuaries. There would likely be a quantitative answer to her speculative comparisons!

  78. Cordoba*

    I know it’s probably wrong, but there is a 95% chance that I would respond to her with “yes I have” even though this is not technically true.

  79. kajastet*

    My brother was born with numerous life threatening issues and for years we thought he may die suddenly (he’s still alive and well). Years ago my father suffered a massive stroke and died. It was quite unexpected as he’d had no health issues or symptoms.

    Today, I’m dealing with the annoyance of home improvements that have gone on for far too long. This is my frustration right now and the fact that way more serious things occurred previously doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be be bothered by something far less consequential.

    1. Argh!*

      Same here. My childhood was a total nightmare, and I have overcome it. When you’ve experienced horrible things, it does add a perspective to your life, but it doesn’t grant you the right to invalidate other people’s experiences.

  80. Bagpuss*

    “If you tell her to stop it, she just says you are being rude to her for having health problems she can’t help.”
    ‘Amy, no-one but you has mentioned your health issues. We’re talking about the flood in Jim’s basement’
    ‘Amy, no one is being rude to you. This conversation isn’t about you, or your health issues’

    I think to the constant “at least you don’t have cancer” comments then having a single response and using the identical script every time might work. “No Amy, I don’t have cancer”. [return to original conversation]. You’re agreeing with her, which makes it harder for her to claim you’re rude, but you’re basically ignoring her irrelevant comment and moving on with the conversation.

    I like the variation of the ‘I don’t get it’ approach, too. – “Amy, I why would you bring up cancer? We’re talking about potholes in the road / exploding toasters / swarms of killer bees”

  81. oranges & lemons*

    I’ve noticed a tendency for this commentariat to come down really hard on anyone who is behaving badly, and this letter is a really clear illustration of that. Amy is clearly dealing with some shit, obviously in a very unproductive and rude way, but it is possible to have empathy for her without condoning her actions. I think in real life, a snarky approach would be unkind, and unlikely to get through to her.

      1. fposte*

        The thing is, “snark” is what we call being mean when it’s also funny to us and maybe to an audience. I don’t think you can consciously decide you’re going to start being mean to somebody and still keep the good-guy tag. I definitely think there’d be a considerable optics fail at being deliberately mean to the lady who had cancer because she talks about it in a way that bugs people.

        1. Argh!*

          If someone in the office could shut her up, they’d get the good-guy tag from everyone else but Amy. And she’s not “talking” but yelling. So maybe she deserves a take-down from her perch.

          Lots of people have been through horrible, horrible things and they don’t bring them to work to compete with their coworkers about whose life is worse. Should a woman who’s been raped chime in “Well, at least nobody’s raped you!” And then someone could join in: “At least you never had to watch your best friend die in a car crash!” etc.

          If anyone should step up the empathy, it’s Amy, who doesn’t have empathy for the problems of her coworkers.

          1. fposte*

            Nobody here is saying Amy shouldn’t can it. Nobody’s saying Amy deserves sympathy and nobody else does. Nobody’s saying the OP or anybody else has to hold her tongue and genuflect to Amy.

            But a deliberate campaign of cruelty against somebody, whether she’s obnoxious or not, is inappropriate at work, and I’d seriously consider firing any staff member who embarked on it, whether they called it snark or bullying or teaching Amy a lesson. This makes me think of the tickled employee who was now bullying people who didn’t fall into line with her shunning of the tickler. Yes, the tickler did something bad, but the ticklee became a perpetrator of her own malfeasance that was a lot more mean and deliberate.

        2. galatea*

          “The thing is, “snark” is what we call being mean when it’s also funny to us and maybe to an audience.”


          Plus — some of these ~snarky comments being thrown around are really verging on using mental illness and eating disorders as a punchline, which have a serious possibility of splash damage.

      2. Argh!*

        I agree. And if she gets away with yelling, someone else’s rude behavior won’t be considered a crime.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Is your suggestion to switch gears any time someone is sharing something unpleasant in order to express sympathy for the nth time to Amy? She isn’t just trying to express her pain–she’s actively trying to shame people.

      I can have sympathy for her experiences and still have not a shred of sympathy for her behavior.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        I think it’s possible to try to fix Amy’s behaviour and have some empathy at the same time. I don’t think having empathy means you just throw your hands up and excuse the person for everything, but it might inform your response.

        My broader point is just that I think in real life, most people would approach an issue like this with some delicacy, but on an internet forum, it’s easier to see it in a more black-and-white way and reduce Amy to just the sum of her bad actions. I just don’t think that approach is particularly helpful for letter writers.

          1. oranges & lemons*

            It’s not really any substantive suggestions to the letter writer that I disagree with, just the general tone of many responses when this kind of thing comes up. I just think there’s limited helpfulness to the letter writer, or to anyone with a similar issue, to have hundreds of replies castigating the Amys of the world and reiterating how bad their behaviour is. I’m not disagreeing that her behaviour is bad, and I don’t think anyone is–but I think it’s more constructive to keep in mind that the real situation is more nuanced than the details of the letter can convey.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              OTH, sometimes letting off some steam with others, allows us to drill down to what we will actually do.

              I had a situation recently where someone made a foolish comment in a group discussion. The comment could be read as a put down. In talking with others I made a few one liners to defend myself. Having put that out in the open, I realized the remark was NOT about me and I was responding as if it was. I found that a much better come back was to say, “That is nothing we should say publicly.” I got initial knee-jerk answer out of my system and found something to say that actually will work.

              This is a pretty long read here. I am sure OP is carefully considering each comment. OP herself said,”Hey I have to work with this person.” I think OP will sift well.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I think what bothers people the most is that Amy expects empathy from her coworkers but does not seem able to feel any empathy for them. For me, it’s people who can’t put themselves in another person’s place that I find the most challenging and annoying. It feels like the rest of the world doesn’t exist for them.

          I believe that most people commenting wouldn’t say most of these things to Amy, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t think them. Amy sounds like she would make even a polite conversation where you address her behavior impossible, because she would bring it back to how she has dealt with these (admittedly very difficult and scary) health issues. And many people have known someone like Amy – she’s just the outlier in terms of behavior.

          On the other hand, I work somewhere that administers programs for children with serious disabilities. Amy wouldn’t last a week with this behavior.

          1. Argh!*

            In an atmosphere where her behavior goes unaddressed, the “rules” must be really loose, and nobody could be blamed for sinking to her level eventually. I don’t think I could tolerate that crap for years on end.

    2. Kathleen_A*

      She is dealing with some bad stuff…but she’s been doing it for a long, long time now. It’s just so rude and thoughtless and clueless – and cold, don’t forget that. Her assumption that she’s the only one who’s truly suffered is truly troubling.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        And if she doesn’t cut it out, she’s going to say it someday to someone who’s dealing with stuff that’s as bad as cancer or an eating disorder, as other commenters have noted. In fact, it’s quite likely that she already has, if she’s been pulling this for years. She *has* to stop it, and I think it will take consistent training to get her to do so.

      2. Argh!*

        I think the “bad stuff” she’s dealing with has nothing to do with cancer or an eating disorder.

        Perhaps the best response would be “But at least you don’t need long-term psychotherapy…. oh wait…”

    3. Cordoba*

      It’s also possible to be sympathetic to somebody while also telling them to STFU.

      I’m sympathetic to the fact that a co-worker’s dog ran away before Christmas and this makes them sad and concerned. I’m also about 3 weeks past being sick of hearing about it, so I’ll happily tell them to stop talking about the dog unless they have new information to share or a request for me to take some specific action to assist them.

    4. fposte*

      I agree; we do get sucked a little too easily into that binary of “they’re bad and we’re good, and we can say what we want to them but it’s terrible if people are snappy to us.” I do think the snark is mostly entertaining ourselves in the post rather than a serious suggestion, but I think cumulatively it can end up pointing the commentary away from better directions.

      Amy is a PITA, but so are we all sometimes; it wouldn’t hurt to Golden Rule this stuff a little.

    5. Temperance*

      I’ll be honest, empathy is something that I personally struggle with, especially when someone is acting so horribly. I don’t have a lot of patience, and I would end up snapping at her. I regularly work with people who have been through things that Amy couldn’t even dream of, and it would be really hard not to throw that in her face.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Sure, I appreciate that. I would probably feel the same way–it sounds really aggravating. But since we’re just impartial observers on the internet, presumably writing in an attempt to be helpful to the letter writer and others, I feel like we’re in a position where it’s much easier to acknowledge both the ideal, measured, kind response, and the one that feels most realistic and feasible, and try to thread the needle there. If we all just double down sniping at Amy, I don’t see how that really serves the letter writer or anyone else.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          None of this is going to get back to Amy, though. No one is actually suggesting LW say something cruel.
          None of the tongue-in-cheek snark is sending bad karma out into the world, or collectively making us less empathetic.

          Especially because many of us struggle with asserting ourselves, sometimes chuckling at an outrageous but funny suggested response helps us have the courage to reach for the milder one. Sometimes learning that others would feel the same frustration that we do helps us to feel validated.

          1. oranges & lemons*

            My broader point isn’t really about the harshness of people’s responses, although I’ll admit the one-liners aren’t really my thing. I was just trying to comment on a trend that I’ve noticed where a majority of commenters build up such a head of steam condemning someone’s actions that there doesn’t seem to be much room for other points of view.

    6. galatea*

      Same here. Alison’s reply is to the point and at least semi-likely to get things done while not being actively unkind; following up someone talking about a traumatic life experience — even if it’s annoying as hell and she can’t learn to take a hint and she’s acting like nobody else’s problems matter! — with “lol too bad you didn’t die” is not a great look. (AND it’s doubtful it’ll have the desired outcome — you’ll just look like the person mocking a cancer patient, and ime she’s likely to double down on her behavior, so it’s a lose for you all the way around)

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Yes, I think that’s what is particularly striking to me about this letter. Amy is clearly someone who feels like her struggles aren’t being taken seriously enough. While I don’t think that entitles her to be coddled by her coworkers, I really don’t think mocking her is either very kind or likely to have any positive outcome.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think that anyone is seriously suggesting that mockery is the way to go here.

          But, your response actually conceptually cuts Amy too much slack. You may be right that she thinks her struggles are not being taken seriously enough – but that in itself is a problem. Not because it’s ok to dismiss people’s struggles. But because her basis for this feeling is utter unreasonable and unrealistic. And she doesn’t recognize this and DEMANDS that people cater to total self centeredness. That’s not really something that people need to take on board. Sure, you still shouldn’t make fun of the real problems that she has faced, but as I said that’s not really what is happening her. It’s more like people using humor to point out how ridiculous her behavior is.

    7. Stellaaaaa*

      Because Amy’s behavior is essentially pressuring other people into codependency, and that is an objectively unhealthy environment for everyone else who has to spend 40 hours a week in this office. She’s forcing everyone else to compromise and work around her to a degree that can be damaging in its own right.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        If Amy was constantly angling for sympathy I would feel a little more kindly disposed. But she is actively, angrily, trying to negate sympathy for everyone but herself. She isn’t doing it in a misguided attempt to tell people to feel better and have perspective. She simply doesn’t think they deserve pity. That’s pretty toxic.

  82. Free Meerkats*

    And if you really want to go nuclear, the reply is, “Too bad one of them didn’t kill you so we wouldn’t have to listen to the same shit every damned time. Now STFU, nobody cares anymore, really.”

    1. galatea*

      Yikes, this is deeply uncool to say to anyone tbh, and I sincerely doubt it’ll have the effect of making her stop.

      1. Argh!*

        Yelling at my workplace food Nazi put a stop to her lectures about my food choices. I hated myself for it for about a day until I realized she had muzzled herself. She even apologized, and agreed with me that only my doctor has a right to talk to me about my diet.

        1. galatea*

          Oh, come on. There’s a big difference between asserting a boundary, even strenuously, and telling your coworker that it’s too bad she didn’t literally die from one of two terrible diseases, the physical and emotional aspects of which probably are still affecting her. “nobody could be blamed for sinking to her level eventually” maybe so, Amy is behaving atrociously, but that doesn’t make sinking to her level right, kind, or acceptable, either.

          And I STILL highly doubt being as cruel as possible to someone who thrives on making sure you know life dealt her a bum hand is going to make her stop — I think it’s much more likely it’ll become “and I’m ALSO being treated SO BADLY at work”, and also make you look like the sort of jackass who mocks serious illness.

          1. nobody really*

            THANK YOU.
            i have a friend who used to be a one-upper, but she’d been through some genuinely heinous shit in her life and had not dealt with any of it.
            was it annoying? heck yes. would saying something so incredibly awful and heartless have helped even a little? absolutely not. what did help was pulling her aside and repeatedly encouraging her to find some way to face what she’d been through and that it was over, and pointing out gently that she had her trauma and other people had theirs.
            once she actually talked to a professional and began learning how to handle stuff, and once people started settling boundaries, she got much better.
            i shudder to think what might have happened if someone had said something like that to her. no matter how annoying op’s coworker is, she’s a human being and most likely has people who care about her. before you say cruel things to people, imagine how you’d feel is someone said them to a friend or someone else you cared about. jesus.

            1. Argh!*

              My bully didn’t respond to what you’re describing. I’m dubious that this Amy will respond to kid-gloves boundary-setting. She gets too much out of bullying her coworkers.

              1. Observer*

                There is a difference between taking off the kid gloves and being gratuitously cruel. It’s pretty clear that most of the people making snarky suggestions are not really serious. You, on the other hand, seem to be seriously advocating for the gratuitously cruel rejoinder.

                It pays to realize that at best this kind of comment is no better than what she is doing AND that it is not going to help.

          2. Sylvan*

            Exactly. I recovered from disordered eating a long time ago, I have two relatives with eating disorders now (one recovering, one in “deny everything” mode), and joking about someone dying that way is over the top. I’m not saying you have to be nice or delicate with Amy, either, just don’t go that far.

          3. Argh!*

            I didn’t say coworkers should be as cruel as possible, just cruel as necessary. I hope we get an update, because I’m doubtful that a respectful conversation will work with this drama queen.

    2. Argh!*

      Seriously, if it continues and it seems that yelling is acceptable behavior in the office, someone will do such a thing and get away with it.

    3. Sylvan*

      So I’m fully on board with STFU, but eating disorders have very high death rates and their health effects are miserable. Please don’t even joke about it.

  83. Marie*

    I’m curious as to how Amy’s mind works. What if something actually serious happens to a coworker (I’m not talking about broken photocopiers or flooded basements here). What if someone’s parent/spouse/child dies? (It doesn’t matter what of) or a coworker gets a different serious medical issue e.g Alzheimer’s, heart disease etc. Will she still say “at least you don’t have cancer”. And is Amy allowed to get annoyed about minor annoyances like a broken photocopier? I doubt she’s so superhuman she doesn’t get annoyed by the minor things we all get annoyed by (maybe you could try telling her at least its not cancer or an eating disorder when she next gets annoyed). Sooner or later though she will say it to the wrong person who is going through an illness or bereavement and end up either getting punched or really traumatising a person.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      For whatever reason, her mind is in a place where she is not consolable.

      My Amy said to me, “So what that this other person lost 3x, I lost 1 x. My problem is BIGGER.”

      Let’s see this other person had that same loss three times and your one loss is bigger? Now how do you measure this stuff to know, do you use a scale or a tape measure? Or do you pour it into a calibrated pitcher?

      It’s not a contest. The one with the most suffering is NOT a winner.

      1. CMFDF*

        My mom was venting about a work situation where one of her employees was annoyed at another employee for taking the day off on what was the anniversary of her child’s death. She had a question for the absent employee, who didn’t answer the phone or email back quickly enough. Someone pointed out that the absent employee was probably very upset today, and the first employee said, “Well, she should just get over it, this is ridiculous.” One of the other present employees said, “well, what if it were you? put yourself in her shoes.” First employee LOST HER MIND, started screaming about how this employee was threatening the life of her child, she has no idea how awful that would feel, how dare she threaten to kill her son, she is sick, etc etc etc, can this woman possibly imagine how awful that made her feel to have that thought even cross her mind?!

        My mom said the irony is that the employee who suggested thinking about it from someone else’s perspective had actually had a child die. So yes, she could pretty accurately imagine how awful mourning a child feels, which was literally why she suggested considering the feelings of the woman who was home grieving.

        1. Strawmeatloaf*

          Since you said it was one of your mom’s employees, I hope that means she was able to talk to 1st employee about that.

          I mean she kind of just… jumped to a very weird conclusion about the other employee.

          1. CMFDF*

            Right? Like, that’s a stretch. Funnily enough, the angry yelling and inconsiderate one stormed into my mom’s office to complain about how the other employee threatened her son. My mom’s face when she was telling me the story… oh my goodness.

            I am not sure about the specifics of how it all was solved, but basically the first employee apologized in a very “sorry if you were offended” kind of way (“I’m sorry I thought you were threatening to hurt my child when you tried to help me demonstrate compassion” I guess?) that my mom didn’t love, but the other employee is a better person than me, and accepted it. The first employee, last I heard, was still professional though no longer friendly towards the woman who she had to apologize to. (this all happened in the last couple of months.) The other employee apparently doesn’t seem to notice, and continues to be equally kind to all of her coworkers. (like I said, better person than me.)

    2. nobody really*

      my guess is that she hasn’t truly dealt with the trauma of cancer and an eating disorder, even if her treatment has been effective, so they both loom incredibly large in her mind – so large that she is jealous of other people for having what she perceives as minor problems and “rubbing it in her face” (even though those of us on the outside can see that’s not what’s happening at all)
      it may be depression or some sort of obsession. she may fear them coming back so much that she hasn’t moved on. depression and anxiety/fear can take up so much of your mental energy that you can’t see past them to how your behavior is affecting others
      she needs to see a counselor or therapist, but until she realizes she has a problem, that won’t happen. and everyone treating her with kid gloves won’t help her do that.

  84. clow*

    I really dislike people who dismiss other people’s feelings and worries because they don’t think its a big deal. I also dont get why you cant feel like more than one this is bad at a time. Amy sounds like someone who lacks any form of empathy and the manager sounds incredibly ineffective. I wonder if the manager is lying about talking to Amy just to get OP of their back. I have had a manager who lied about talking to people because they didn’t have the backbone to actually manage.

    1. Argh!*

      If Amy really is actually yelling, that manager needs to put a stop to it right away. Saying you’ll do something and then not doing it adds to every problem in the office, not just the one being lied about!

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I think documenting all of the incidents that are work related (i.e., not just personal conversation) where she interrupts/berates/distracts and presenting it to the boss might help. A boss is, sadly, less likely to care about “I can’t talk about my flooded basement” than “we’re trying to discuss ways things at [job] could be improved, and Amy has rude, unproductive interruptions to those conversations (cite some examples) and there are [x] consequences.”

  85. Bostonian*

    Oooh I like the option: “I’m not comparing my problems to anyone else’s. Please stop telling me what I can and can’t talk about.” That last part especially really pin points why Amy’s behavior is so rude.

    Amy’s the one who’s making the conversation about her, so she really can’t claim that people are being rude to her because of a prior medical condition- it’s not even on anyone else’s radar until she brings it up!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I also like the idea of saying, “Please stop telling me what I can and cannot talk about”. That cuts to the heart of the problem. Amy is trying to control what people say and that needs to stop.

  86. Lady Russell's Turban*

    So, is Amy always upbeat about everything and never complains about anything ever? If so, kudos to her.

    Any complaint she has, you could respond with “Yes, but at least you no longer have cancer or an eating disorder.”

    My best friend died a pretty horrible death from cancer a few years ago. Even before cancer she was a champion and hysterically funny kvetcher, although, weirdly, a very upbeat, kind, loving, and generous person. And up until the end she remained upbeat, kind, loving, and generous and a champion and hilarious kvetcher, although rarely about her intense suffering. She also would have been able to put Amy in her place in an instant.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sounds like a friend of mine who I can say similar things about.
      Very sorry for your loss. Your friend was heroic.

  87. Carpe Librarium*

    Fanciful reversal scenario:
    OP: Hi, Amy. How was your weekend?
    Amy: Really good!
    OP: Oh, please. You can’t really have had a good weekend. There are people out there who got engaged or married on the weekend, or found out they were pregnant after years of trying. People returned from active military service and got to hug their families again. How can you say you had a good weekend?

  88. phil*

    Wow, that must be annoying. Especially if, like me, you’ve had cancer and/or an eating disorder. It’s not like we have the information tattooed on our foreheads.

  89. LouiseM*

    I guess this is an unpopular opinion, but I’m a little surprised at the lack of compassion here for Amy. Yes, she’s behaving really inappropriately and there’s no excuse for it, but this is a site where people at least try to be sympathetic to people’s unaddressed traumas, even when they manifest inappropriately (anyone remember the bird letter?) Clearly, there’s something very wrong with Amy mentally that she keeps doing this, kind of like last month’s OP’s employee who was afraid to drive in the snow who a lot of commenters thought might have anxiety. I would be so uncomfortable saying any of the clever but very mean things people are suggesting here to someone who is clearly suffering so much.

    1. Argh!*

      It’s possible to have sympathy for her condition but no tolerance for her behavior.

      An alcoholic who drives drunk and kills someone has a disease, but he/she still goes to prison.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      It sounds like some of her speechifying is getting in the way of legitimate work issues (broken equipment, etc). She is also making it impossible for other people with hard lives to express themselves to their colleagues. Amy is probably not the only person in her office who deserves compassion. What about everyone else who isn’t getting it because of her?

      1. HannahS*

        Louise is referring to people clearly fantasizing and patting each other on the back about saying clever but nasty things to Amy, in what would ultimately be both unproductive and needlessly cruel. And unhelpful to the OP, and not a good primer for workplace behaviour.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Amy has probably killed any empathy that people had for her when she has bulldozed their concerns into oblivion.

      They are coworkers not therapists. And even if this was a mental health professional’s office they are still not HER therapists.

      Additional wrinkle, just because someone is suffering does not give them the right to cause other people misery.
      If someone is assaulting another person with words, it is difficult not to match their attack. Amy rains down on any one for any reason. In all likelihood there will be varied responses to that, everything from something not printable here to someone softly suggesting she get help. I have come to believe we need all types of people having all types of responses.

      I had a situation where I worked. My friend was doing X. I said, “Friend you need to tuck your shirt in when you lean over.” She didn’t. A manager in another department caught Friend leaning over. This manager screamed across the department, “YOU LOOK LIKE A BEACHED WHALE”.
      My friend was crying. (Understandably)
      She said to me, “You told me quietly and nicely, ‘hey tuck the shirt’. I should have listened and I didn’t.”
      We had a little chat about how sometimes we can put ourselves in a place where people feel they have to drop a brick wall on us to make us listen. It happens to most of us at some point.
      Amy here may actually need someone to drop a brick wall before she will listen. No way to know. Start out softly and build until she hears the message.

      1. Cat Lady*

        Still, what a horrible manager! Your friend still didn’t deserve to be shamed. I am glad you tried to tell her in a tactful way though.

  90. Granny K*

    I’m sorry this woman has suffered in her life but turning someone else’s discussion (what sounds like every single time) into being all about her pain is A) narcissistic and/or B) manipulative.

    Politely setting some boundaries with this person will not harm anyone.

      1. Lumen*

        Bingo. And if her coworkers setting a boundary sets her off in a sobbing spiral about how much she’s still suffering and Her Pain, Her Emotions, Onoz, then the response is very easy: it is not the responsibility of her coworkers to manage her emotions for her. It is hers, and if she is struggling with that, that’s why therapists exist. We are adults. Handle your $#!%.

  91. Argh!*

    A coworker who yells probably can’t be taken down by soft talk. Has anyone yelled back at her? “I don’t care about your problems! I’m talking about *my* problem!”

    This woman clearly has no shame. Someone needs to shame her.

  92. Argh!*

    “I feel like I’m walking on eggshells because if I say anything she thinks is negative, she will start with a lecture.”

    She’s the boss of you. She has control over you & everyone else. Why should she stop her behavior? If you all can decide to shun her whenever she pulls this stunt, that could work. If she’s doing it for the attention, getting shunned will be the equivalent of not getting “paid.” Just turn your backs. Speak Spanish to each other. Start talking about a sports team that doesn’t exist. It’s unkind to separate her from your workgroup, but she’s attempting to do that already.

  93. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    I simply could not put up with this.

    “Amy, this isn’t a competition. Just because you have it hard doesn’t mean other people aren’t struggling either. If you can’t mind follow the golden rule and treat others with respect, don’t join the conversation.”

    And honestly, because I have a potty mouth, I’d be hard pressed not to be dropping f bombs all over that shiz.

  94. V*

    I have a very dear friend who was sexually abused throughout her childhood and attempted suicide twice as a young adult. Those things are arguably just as bad, if not moreso than what Amy has gone through. And one of the reasons she is a very dear friend is because I can gripe to her about small, everyday annoyances (I broke a nail and I *just* got a manicure yesterday! I bought a latte at Starbucks and spilled all of it after two sips!) as well as big, major events like health scares or deaths in the family and she never tries to tell me I haven’t suffered enough to earn the right to complain.

    Amy sounds intolerable and as if she can’t bear anyone to take the suffering spotlight off of her.

  95. Specs*

    I’d be tempted to ask her in the moment, as she wraps up her rant, what she’s hoping to get from these comments. Is her goal that people never express a negative thought? Does she want people to always be happy and positive in the world? Does she need her pain validated by others? What did she hope to gain here? How does she expect people to respond to her when she sad these things?

    Just ask what her intention is here and then wait. Maybe she’ll just rant some more or stomp off. But it’s possible that calmly and politely asking her to explain her intent could move her to a place where she’s at least uncomfortably cognizant that it’s not working.

  96. I am good at dealing with people*

    I have cancer. My Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma relapsed last spring after four years of remission. I am currently on what we blood cancer patients call “watch and wait” to see if or when I may need further treatment. I also have a mental illness. Do I discuss any of this (and believe me, there’s more I could discuss but won’t) at my current job? Not on your life. I’m scared that if my supervisor or coworkers knew about my health it would be used against me. So I’m the opposite of Amy. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone, much less a coworker, “at least YOU don’t have cancer.” Because I have empathy for others, I don’t want to be a self-centered jerk, I want to have a normal life, and I’m just glad to be at work with all of its normal annoyances.

    Amy needs counseling. I’d also suggest she find a cancer patients/survivors support group.

    1. DJ*

      Sorry to hear of your relapse. Yes I agree counselling and a support group. I do understand your concern re talking about your cancer at work.
      I’ve has one good experience and one bad. At the time of diagnosis and treatment my work place was very good and staff even had opinions on what wig I should get and asked how it was going.

  97. Birdie*

    Maybe someone needs to say:
    ” at least you got proper medical care, not like some poor people in third world countries”
    see, always someone who has it worse. As others have said, it’s not a competition, and Amy isn’t even winning this one. There are millions of people who could beat her in ” at least….”

    1. DJ*

      If Amy live in the US she’s probably in debt up to her eye balls with out of pockets expenses. The US has little to be proud of in relation to access to health care

  98. Edina Monsoon*

    I worked with someone similar to this years ago, and during a meeting she interrupted to talk about herself (again!) and I just blurted out “oh, we’re back to you are we?” And she looked pretty embarrassed and apologised, I also apologised for what I said but the upshot was that she said she hadn’t realised quite how much she’d been talking about herself.

  99. Sonya*

    Amy’s behaviour shits me to bloody tears and I’m not even there! Remarkable achievement for good old Ames.

    I’d be tempted to cock my head to the side like Amy’s a confused, lost person, then turn back to whoever was talking or whoever I’m talking to, and carrying on as though Amy did not speak. That’s the response that doesn’t get me in trouble. Well, not as much as telling her to get stood on and put a sock in it. Imagine cracking the sads like that!

  100. LSP*

    It sounds like Amy is stuck in a loop, as people who have been through trauma sometimes are. That does not make her behavior okay, and, in fact, I’d argue that this kind of constant self-absorption is even worse for the person at the center, because they missing out on so much of life by constantly viewing it through the lens of their own brand of pain and suffering.

    I wonder how Amy feels when she hears stories on the news of war and famine? How does she feel about the situation in Syria or Puerto Rico? Do those people have it bad enough by her standards? I would be very tempted to ask Amy about that. This woman needs a dose of perspective, and an understanding that different levels of suffering can exist, without diminishing hers.

  101. MonicaLane*

    “Amy, something that sucks, still sucks. Even if there are other things that suck more. Just like there are far worse things in the world than you surviving cancer and an eating disorder. That doesn’t mean it didn’t still suck for you right? So please, stop treating other people’s problems like they have to be worse than yours to be real.”

  102. MamaSarah*

    I actually think the OP, Amy’s supervisor, and her colleagues are all doing Amy a great injustice by not calling her out on *very* inappropriate behavior. Clearly, Amy carries a lot of guilt, shame, negativity, self-loathing (call it what you will)…and that is some heavy lifting. It’s just a matter of time before she offends the wrong person and finds herself subject to disciplinary action. We focus so much on being polite and equitable in the workplace that we are often afraid to have these hard conversations. Sit the sister down, tell her those things happened and it sucks, but it is time to reign it in the workplace. Hopefully you have a generous employee assistance program.

  103. Catabodua*

    This reminds me (not in a good way) of a TV show.

    Matthew Perry had a very short lived sitcom, the name of which escapes me. But the premise was his wife had died and he was in a support group.

    The leader of the support group was late to the meeting one time and they had a “pity-off” where they all complained about everything in their lives in a round-robin type situation until they were down to just two of them complaining about their problems and the group voted on who had it worst.

    There were some heavy topics covered, but overall it was hysterical.

  104. DJ*

    Having had cancer myself, been bullied at work by a past manager who decided I had “chemo brain” subjected to constantly being yelled at and having any work request (eg suggesting my manager sit down with my colleague and I who by the way hasn’t wanted my position filled to come up with who was going to do what on our joint project and to include me in on planning talks) poo pooed as being abnormal and was difficult about my oncology appts and told me I had to expect to have arthritis at my age when I explained some had been to change Cancer meds as the first med had caused muscle and joint pain which made the 75-90 min commite each way harder and thankfully the change in meds did work. The issue with my colleague not wanting my position filled was very anxiety provoking for me as I’d discovered that superannuation remains inaccessible to terminally ill people so I did to want to lose my job as I was frantically saving in case that happened to me.
    Even though this manager is now gone I have 5-6 senior officers sit around me who barely speak to me but can spend 90mins whinging about childcare and one who was commuting 40mins 3 days despite being able to work remotely 10 mins from home 2 days pie and the others work from home 1-2 days pw (I was refused this). I’m
    Also going through a separation and am currently renting and worry if I can’t buy how will I live if no longer working.
    I don’t say anything when these staff start up and certainly would have no issues empathising with a colleague who showed general interest and inclusion of me about their situation ir flooded house. But I would like to be seated away from these staff. However my current manager who has refused
    To address the damage caused by past chemo brain allegations would not do anything to make things easier for me
    But this is an example of what Amy could be dealing with (as well as still paying off medical bills and loans from that time).
    Yes move away if Amy starts. But be mindful are you guys ranting for hours. Also instead of management disciplining Amy perhaps a more sensitive chat with her, what happened and what was her Cancer etc expeiejnce like, how is it impacting now, what can be done to make things easier and suggest EAP to help deal with impact. Encourage Amy to move away if she finds it difficult to hear others discuss their problems. Staff to move elsewhere and not disrupt the floor for lengthy personal convos.
    Also is anyone interested in
    Amy and her struggles

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