the person who used to do my job won’t go away

A reader writes:

A year ago, I replaced “Marnie,” who, after two years onmanager uncomfortable the job, left for one she perceived to have better opportunities. Marnie was given the opportunity to change her mind after she announced her resignation, but ended up leaving anyway. She landed at a toxic workplace and, unbeknownst to me, departed after a couple of months.

Since then, Marnie has been making overt and downright creepy attempts to reinsert herself into the good graces of my small company. She meets with my coworkers for lunch, shows up unannounced at the office, and once dumped a huge quantity of leftover food and half-consumed bottles of wine in the office kitchen .(“I hosted Book Club last night!”) Ewww. She also sent each employee the same Christmas card with a post-it note stating, “I miss working with you!”

I have told my manager I’m uncomfortable with Marnie’s visits. He has told me I am doing a great job, and my annual performance review was mostly complimentary. He confirmed that Marnie had the chance to stay, and it was unfortunate she ended up at a bad job. He reinforced his satisfaction with my performance and stated that I have displayed more skill, productivity, and efficiency than Marnie ever did. But really, really, really, what does it take to make Marnie go away? She is seriously creeping me out.

I don’t think you can make Marnie go away.

It’s possible she’s trying to get hired back, but it’s also possible she’s just leaning on your office for connection, especially if she’s not working right now.

What you’re describing is an unusual amount of contact from a former employee — and the thing with the leftover food and half-drunk bottles of wine is definitely weird — but keep in mind that this is about Marnie, not about you. It probably feels particularly strange to you because you’re in the job she used to have, and so you’re wondering if she’s trying to displace you or if she resents you as an interloper and sees you as the person standing in the way of her getting her old job back. But it doesn’t sound likely that your boss is going to push you aside to hire Marnie back, so I’d try to see Marnie just as “former employee who’s having trouble letting go” rather than “my predecessor who’s gunning for my job.” Pretend she had some other job there — not yours — and try to see her through that lens instead.

I also wouldn’t raise this with your manager again. If he’s okay with former employees visiting the office (and many workplaces are totally fine with that), it’s going to come across as too insecure if you tell him you’re uncomfortable with it or ask him to put a stop to it. The exception that would be if Marnie were to say something about wanting her old job back. If that happened, you could maybe say something to your boss like, “Hey, I wanted to mention that Marnie told me she wants her old job back. It puts me in a weird position when she says things like that to me, and I just wanted to check with you that we’re both on the same page about keeping me in my position.” But if he’s telling you that you’re better at the job than she was, you probably don’t even need to do that.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

    1. fposte*

      This makes me think of the epic AAM letter about the former co-worker who was throwing a party for only the cool kids at her old job and wanted the old job to pay for it. Which doesn’t really summarize how out of control that one was. Yes, I will link in followup. (Can you believe that was over five years ago?)

            1. Antilles*

              I’m glad you said this because I often skip checking the comments on years-old posts, but wow, definitely worth skimming through.

            2. OlympiasEpiriot*

              You know what was better to me? The Update to the post linked at the bottom of that one: “I’m filling in for someone on leave who left me tons of rules for what I can and can’t do while she’s away” That post has a link to the update.

              The party is batshit, but for a disfunctional workplace, I like that one.

          1. Snark*

            I’m going to save the image of the flyer for the next time I want to make my graphic designer friend go catatonic.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            Also there’s a reference in the update to a team of dietitians being removed by security. HOW DID I MISS THAT

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              OMG, the pushy dieticians is one of my favorite letters. In part because of all the cloak-and-dagger desperation in the update.

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              I usually don’t bother clicking on comment threads here till they’re up to at least 100. Which doesn’t take long, lol.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I totally forgot that the graphic was entitled “wtf.png.” It’s really the icing on the whole crazy cake.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Me too! Not Mad but occasionally Irritable Scientist was great too. Hope they are all doing well.

        1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

          I’ve been reading and loving (errrr, mostly) this blog only since last summer.

          I did not know about this letter until just now.

          I…………………………….DAMN, woman. DAMN.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stir up some middle school drama and then not search my own soul. Thank you.

          1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

            Crap I am so sorry, I meant to write that in reply to the letter from the woman getting her former CEO to pay for a work party with only the cool coworkers invited. Ugh, sorry about that.

          2. Fact & Fiction*

            When I first started reading AAM lo these many years ago, I spent months going back to read all the old posts. Yes, I had too much time on my hands then and it killed me that I couldn’t comment because they were so old and it wouldn’t make sense even if they were still open, but it was worth it!

      1. Rosamond*

        Someone I work with is leaving soon, and she’d totally try to pull this. I don’t think t-shirts and email graphics are her style, but I bet the rest will happen in some form.

      2. Typhon Worker Bee*

        Heh, this happened a few weeks after I started reading AAM. I remember feeling so very happy that a blog I’d found while looking for sensible career advice I could use in my new job could also be so very entertaining

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I remember feeling happy at one point early on that a blog where I’d thought I’d just write sensible career advice could also be so entertaining to me as well :)

  1. Snark*

    I mean…call this my cynical side, but yeah, Marnie is probably trying to ingratiate herself back into the company and possibly your position. Even assuming that: you’ve been pretty specifically reassured that your position is safe and you’re a higher performer. She may be boundary-blind and kind of creepy, but I’d argue the best mental place for you is compassion – she left a good job, even over an opportunity to rescind her resignation, and ended up in a toxic hellhole and is now presumably unemployed. That’s got to be a crappy place to be.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I agree completely. I would move forward with this mindset unless Marnie makes it clear that she is, in fact, angling for your job. Aside from lifting that worry off your shoulders, it will help you carry yourself with confidence – and that will be a noticeable contrast to how she is acting.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, wise advice. It seems clear that Marnie’d like to come back, but also that OP’s boss isn’t going to hire her back any time soon. So OP, fear not; she likely won’t come back unless you leave your job (and even then may not be rehired).

      Compassion—and if you’re feeling petty, soft pity—does seem like a much better place for OP to ground themselves.

  2. Observer*

    I totally see how this would weird you out. But Alison is right. This is not about you, and I am quite sure that your boss is not going to push you out for her, unless you are the one to amp up the drama. If you just ignore her other than basic politeness, you should be fine.

    FTR, we’ve had people leave for other jobs and then come back. But my boss has NEVER pushed someone out to bring the person back. If your boss and workplace in general are reasonable people, they wouldn’t do that. And, if Marnie actually tried suggesting it, it might actually burn some bridges for her. As a boss, this is NOT a good look.

    What is more likely is that she’s keeping the contact up in the hope that something comes up.

    1. Hmmmmmm*

      Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. She’s 100% trying to get hired back to the company, but I wouldn’t be concerned she is hellbent on getting the same job, let alone displacing someone who currently occupies it.

    2. Tuna Melts*

      My boss has, a few times, created a new position so that a former co-worker could come back. But no one has ever been pushed out to make room for someone else. Ever. Perhaps Marnie is sucking up to the boss and staff so that the next time a position, any position, is open she’ll be their first choice? Or she just has no boundaries.

  3. Amber Rose*

    You don’t have to like her, LW, but since there’s no push to get rid of her, you’ll just have to accept that she may be around sometimes. It probably feels weird to have someone so blatantly gunning for your job, but you haven’t been given any reason to think that her actions are working, so I’d just roll my eyes and shrug it off as best as you can.

    Don’t let anyone rope you into cleaning up her gross leftovers though. Ugh.

    1. Snark*

      Yeah, the gross leftovers are what made me go, oh, honey. Marnie is overplaying a hand that wasn’t all that strong to begin with.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Her gross *alcoholic* leftovers, at that. We’ve seen enough disasters with people drinking on the clock.

        1. Snark*

          “It’s been a slow afternoon at work, so I think I’ll take a swig off my ex-coworker’s half-empty bottle of book club Yellowtail,” said NOT ONE BLESSED SOUL EVER.

          1. periwinkle*

            No, not if it’s Yellowtail.

            If this were leftover bottles of hefeweisen, well, that’s different.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; I’m really not sure why she thought people would be excited about getting communal, half-eaten leftovers with a side of skunky wine from a group of book club strangers.

        1. the gold digger*

          I put out a great spread for book club. I am kind of competitive about it. If I brought my book club leftovers to work, they would be eaten.

          (And is it weird that I would probably eat someone else’s leftovers? I am not squeamish about food. About using someone else’s shower, yes. But not about food.)

          1. Typhon Worker Bee*

            We just moved our book club to a bar because people were getting so competitive about the food that it was becoming difficult to find hosts! Everyone was worried that they’d have to take the whole day off work to lay out an amazing spread, and it became way too big a commitment for most of us to take on.

            1. Catarina*

              Invite me, I can de-class your get togethers in under a week. I’ll bring y’all back to stale Saltines and juice boxes in NO TIME.

          2. Lissa*

            I’d use someone’s shower or eat their leftovers, wine included. But only drink the wine in the shower.

          3. Red 5*

            I work at a place with a decent number of college interns.

            Most leftovers don’t last ten minutes. Free alcohol? That would cause a stampede.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think I was imagining a cheese/dip plate! Leftover single-serve foods (or foods served with utensils with limited risk of people’s hands or already-claimed food being in them) that don’t get cross-contaminated sound like they could be an awesome contribution. :)

          5. Mookie*

            I spent a significant portion of my childhood and young adulthood living off other families’s leftovers, so this is fine with me, as well. I didn’t pay for it, I didn’t cook it, and the blame’ll be on somebody else if I get sick. :)

        2. Shiara*

          Various coworkers at my company will occasionally bring in leftover baked goods from whatever outside event and leave them in the kitchen for whoever wants them. My husband’s company does it too (in fact, most of our leftovers go to his company because gender politics) and one of his coworkers is particularly famed for his baking so any half-eaten leftovers he brings in are devoured in short order. So that doesn’t seem all that weird to me, until you add in the former coworker part plus the alcohol.

        3. Bea*

          I don’t view it as gross leftovers unless it’s something you eat directly out of. Cookies are made in batches and most people use a napkin or tongs to grab one. I’m not imaging this lady bringing in a container of food that she was passing around with a communal spoon to take a bite out of. Just extra food from the gathering the night before.

          Opened bottles though, no thanks. Even my younger self isn’t a fan of that and I’m still assuming everyone used glasses like quasi adults at least!

          1. Red 5*

            Yeah, I don’t really see why the book club leftovers are gross without more detail. Like, was it a cheese tray where now the cheeses looked a little shiny and off because they sat out too long? That’s gross. If it’s a plate of cookies or a stack of crackers, I don’t see the harm. There’s plenty of food that would be fine, even if the situation itself is a little weird (I wouldn’t take my leftovers to an old job).

            Half empty bottles of wine, I might bring to give to a specific coworker but I wouldn’t just bring to throw in the break room for anybody. That is odd.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    The manager clearly sees Marnie as an “ex” and has let the OP know that.
    OP, please relax knowing this information! If you get uptight then it will show. If it shows then it makes you look insecure. You don’t want that!
    Your manager has clearly stated that you are doing several aspects of your job better than Marnie. Why would he want hamburger when he has steak?
    Marie’s unprofessional attempts to get back in make her look pathetic.

  5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I’m going to come down on the side of “No, you are not paranoid. She wants back in and she wants to take your place to do it.”
    But unless her book club is reading The Ax, by Donald Westlake, I don’t think she’s going to be more than a pleasant distraction for her old coworkers that will turn into an annoyance after awhile.
    You’ve been reassured by your boss. Trust those words. That’s all you can do, really. That and your job. Focus on your job, and this too shall pass.

    1. k.k*

      that will turn into an annoyance after awhile

      My thoughts exactly. I doubt that anyone thinks her behavior is normal, and are looking are her with a mix of pity and annoyance more as time goes on. If anything, her over the top behavior is lessening her chances of ever getting her old job back.

      1. whingedrinking*

        Yeah. I’ve had coworkers who’ve come back for short visits and it’s been nice, especially if they were recent enough to be fondly remembered by students who were still present – a little change of pace, a little lift of the spirits. If they were turning up every day, and still expecting attention, I’d eventually say, “Look, it’s great that you’re here, but I have a curriculum to get through, so…”

    2. myswtghst*

      Yes to all of this. There is very little you can do about Marnie that will not reflect badly onto you, OP, but a little empathy and a lot of ignoring will go a long way. Let Marnie dig her own hole by awkwardly hanging around and attempting to bribe people with leftover food (and wine at work, WTF), while you continue to be a high-performing employee who is above petty drama, and you’ll come out on top.

    3. Can't Be Arsed*

      Totally agree. Marnie is gunning for OP’s position. Fortunately, Marnie is also a huge dolt.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        And I totally agree with you assessment. And your third sentence is reassuring and a sigh of relief.

  6. CBH*

    OP your boss has assured you of your job’s safety. That is quite an accomplishment as a newish member of the team.

    As for Marnie… to me it just sounds like she thought her (now confidently yours) position would always be there for her to come back to; a backup if you will. I don’t think Marnie realizes that despite keeping in touch with coworker friends, the company moved on. Her old position is no longer available. She had a chance to stay. She chose not to.

    Hang in there OP. You are doing a great job.

  7. Malibu Stacey*

    My predecessor was similar to Marnie. Luckily she burned her bridges with us pretty badly and we are a regulated industry so our director told her she had to stop it.

  8. Your Weird Uncle*

    Switch ‘workplace’ with ‘family’, ‘colleagues’ to ‘in-laws’, and ‘Marnie’ for ‘ex-wife’, and this is basically my life with my husband’s ex-wife. :) I’d also love there to be a magical spell to make her go away.

    Hang in there, OP. I can definitely feel your pain but it sounds like you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work and keep all of your eyerolls to yourself (as much as you can).

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        Haha! I wish! Replace ‘kitchen’ with ‘in-law’s house’ and ‘half-filled bottles of wine’ with ‘Christmas presents’ and you might be on to something, though.

        1. True Story*

          Oh my goodness! Are there kids involved? Unless she’s at the in-laws to celebrate the season with her children (so they don’t have to trade off every holiday), this is a really weird dynamic.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            There are kids involved, but we have it split up between the different families the same way it was before the divorce (Christmas Eve/morning at hers, Christmas day with us) so it really has no bearing on why she continues forcing herself into our lives. She also posts on social media and calls my husband’s family her current in-laws. It’s very, very weird, I agree! But like OP – as much as I want to blow up inside – I just have to shrug it off and roll my eyes internally or else I’m going to look like the one with issues.

          2. Plague of frogs*

            This just doesn’t seem weird to me. I have an aunt who comes to all our family gatherings. She and my uncle (my mom’s brother) got divorced amicably 40 years ago. She’s part of our family and always will be. My uncle and his current wife don’t have any objection as far as I know. I suppose, like OP, my uncle’s wife has no reason to feel insecure about her position and can thus afford to be gracious.

            (Not saying that this is the same as your situation, Your Weird Uncle. I take your word for it that your husband’s ex-wife needs to butt out).

            1. Mookie*

              Same (I would also hate to lose both one-on-one and group time with a close family member related through marriage, union, or a long-term relationship), but I understand that whether this seems normal, inevitable, and, indeed, obligatory varies according to individual families. I know many people who automatically, but without a lot of malice, treat divorced members of their extended family like pariahs from the moment the relationship is over. That knee-jerk You’re Dead to Us is so weird to me. I didn’t divorce them; they’re mine for keeps, and I’m their’s, so long as the feeling is mutual.

  9. EA*

    I actually feel sorry for Marnie.

    Unless her behavior is way more egregious than was mentioned, she is probably just an odd person who craves connection with colleagues. She probably misses the job and wants it back, but the idea that this is her way to get it back and she is trying to get it back is where the disconnect for me is. I wouldn’t think she thinks she can get her job back, unless she has actually said something to that affect, or your boss is saying that she did.

    Maybe this is her way to network in case another job opens up at the company? I think you are taking this very personally despite reassurance, and also being kind of mean to her (like the Christmas card thing is not nefarious). I guess I would try and practice empathy until you have more information she is trying to screw you out of a job.

        1. EA*

          Also, in many places I worked people brought in leftovers, so I don’t think that automatically elicits an “ewww”

        2. JM in England*

          Remember the old saying “Never attribute malice to anything that can be explained by stupidity”…

        3. The Supreme Troll*

          Yeah…but, it might not be so innocent. I’m believing the OP in that what she feels in her gut, just doesn’t seem right. The OP can do her best to try to ignore the obvious (if that helps…which it wouldn’t), but the reality is that Marnie wishes she had her old job back, and the OP is the roadblock standing in her way.

          I agree with what Alison is saying, in that the OP shouldn’t present herself as insecure, or lacking in confidence to her boss, as this would reflect negatively on the OP. But that doesn’t mean that the OP should let her guard down around Marnie, and it would probably be a good idea if the OP could think of creative ways that could limit Marnie’s interactions in the workplace with her former colleagues and the OP’s boss (in a tacit, inconspicuous way).

    1. tigerlily*

      Yeah, I agree. None of the behaviors OP mentioned have anything to do with working – sending Christmas cards, stopping by for lunch, even bringing in the leftover food and wine are all very SOCIAL behaviors. I don’t think she’s necessarily gunning for your job, but if she’s unemployed due to leaving the new toxic job, she may just have a lot of free time and is using it to it spend time socially with people she doesn’t see very much anymore. I know I’m in a similar situation (minus the toxic new job part). I left my previous position for a new one, but I’ve stopped by several times (mostly at my old boss’s request) to help out while they were working to replace me, to do some training for that replacement, and just to get lunch with old coworkers I love who I don’t get to see every day anymore.

  10. Marnie Hater*

    I had a Marnie at my old company. The difference is I had been an existing employee rather than a new hire, and I didn’t have her more senior job title yet (along with the pay raise). Our ex-boss had just told me that he was going to make it official when she told him she wanted to come back, and I’m convinced that played a huge part in my non-promotion during the rest of my stay, despite the fact that I had to do her job on top of my original one. Although I probably wouldn’t have looked for another job and ended up in a much better one if I’d gotten my promotion, something about this unfairness still rubs me the wrong way.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      I’m really sorry that you had to go through that BS. I totally understand why you would be a “Marnie Hater”, and I have a hard time finding sympathy for her in this letter; I believe that the OP has every right to be concerned (although my opinion here might not be very popular).

      1. Marnie Hater*

        She ultimately never did return the company because she accepted a job at a company that she perceived to be better, and months later she again started complaining to ex-coworkers about how “toxic” her new company is. I know there’s nothing wrong with wanting “better opportunities,” but to me this is just a case of a person who always thinks the grass is greener on that other side, and who just wanted a placeholder until something better came along, who may have used self-inflicted sacrifices (e.g., bringing food for everybody) as leverage when push comes to shove.

        It’s one thing if you’re just a sad lonely person, another to be a mainpulative sad lonely person.

        1. ECHM*

          LOL … when I left the hardest mental/emotional job I’d ever had for what turned out to be the hardest physical job I’d ever had, the doctor doing my pre-employment test said “sometimes the grass is greener because it’s over the septic tank. (And it was … I left that job with nothing lined up after three months.)

  11. NW Mossy*

    Absent behavior from Marnie that seems to be directed at you specifically in a negative way or signs that the current staff of your workplace is Team Marnie, I think you can safely ignore her.

    Marnie’s wrong to think she can achieve some kind of embrace from your employer (either a job or social connection) through socially awkward behavior. She’s probably also wrong about the extent to which your employer misses her (i.e., not as much as she misses them).

    And it’s OK to just…. let her be wrong. Allow her to marinate in her wrongness. Is it frustrating to watch someone be so obviously wrong and powerless to change their mind? Sure. But this is one of those situations where the satisfaction can be found in letting it go with minimal observation on your part, as if it’s a distant train whistle or a soft breeze. Let Marnie be Marnie, and you be you. She hasn’t earned the right to your attention.

  12. hbc*

    We’ve got kind of a similar situation, except our ex-employee is employed elsewhere and kinda sorta became a customer. We’re manufacturing, not retail, so when he strolls in through the employee entrance and goes around to say “hi” to everyone, newer employees wonder what the heck is going on. I know it’s not as “threatening” because he’s not gunning for a job, but no one (not even his former work buddies) think this reflects well on him.

    I know she annoys you, but seriously, the more she sticks around, the better you look by comparison.

    1. Bea*

      That would annoy the hell out of me, new people probably think he’s a solicitor, I know I would.

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

      I left a job over a decade ago and now occasionally use them as a vendor at my current job (I follow all guidelines about obtaining competitive bids, they just happen to be very competitive on some things). Not often, but a few times I’ve needed to go there to pick up an order rather than wait for delivery. I always am mindful that I’m no longer an employee and don’t just walk right in to employee areas, but my old coworkers are usually the ones to just wave me on through to the back offices rather than have me wait in the lobby like a usual customer. They know that they can be a bit more relaxed with me as a customer too — I don’t expect my old boss and coworkers to “woo” me as a customer and they are probably more honest with me than with other customers. Only one time have I had to go all “customer” on them and insist that they fix an ongoing internal communication problem on their end that was causing issues for me.

      Your ex-employee should wait for an invitation to go into employee-only areas but if he left on good terms, isn’t threatening, and isn’t preventing anyone from doing their job, I actually don’t see why this would reflect badly on him unless he expects super special customer treatment because he once worked there.

      1. hbc*

        Well, pretty much everything you’re doing is different than what he’s doing, so that’s why it reflects badly on him and why what you’re doing is fine. Walking in like he’s still an employee, wandering into the warehouse, basically “shopping” and expecting someone to put together a sales order while he waits is miles different than waiting for an invitation. And we don’t think he’ll go postal or anything–he’s just regularly making the case that he doesn’t respect normal boundaries and certainly not setting himself up for a job in the future.

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

          You didn’t mention any of the shopping for a sales order in your first comment — just that he walked in and went around saying “hi” to his old coworkers. I get that waiting for the waive through is different, but until your response, it sounded pretty much what I do. Get waived in and then pop into a few offices just to say “hi” when I’m there to pick up an order.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      You’re manufacturing? You can totally enforce a safety rule about non-employees not being allowed on the floor. Also liability – your insurance contract might already say something about non-employees on the premises.

      Seriously. Tell him he’s a member of the public now, and he has to use the customer entrance, and you know this is a change from how it’s been but it does need to change.

  13. Autumnheart*

    LW, I would reiterate what the boss said. She had her chance, they asked her if she was double plus sure that she wanted to leave even after she submitted her resignation, she did leave, and they replaced her with you. There’s every indication that the company is all “No takebacks” as far as your position is concerned. Now, if your company created an additional position, she’d likely apply for it and all, but from what I can discern, your concern is that they would consider giving her YOUR job as opposed to hiring her for an open position. Doesn’t sound to me like they’re interested in that in the slightest.

  14. Plague of frogs*

    I dunno, I visit my former job all the time. I have several close friends there and I like to see them. I have a new job that I like, and no one took over my former position, so I am definitely not threatening anyone. (Unless OldJob management thinks I’m poaching employees). But even if that weren’t true, I would still want to see my friends. Maybe Marnie is up to something nefarious, maybe she’s not. Either way, OP can ignore it.

  15. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    FWIW, I’ve worked for companies where none of this would be very weird at all (including bringing in leftovers; it’s not at all uncommon for someone at my current office to say “had a book club last night and made waaay too many brownies; they’re on the kitchen counter!” The alc is sliiiightly more weird, but that totally depends on the nature of your office (I’ve seen it, and stranger). I object to the inclusion of “ewwww” to something that OP personally might find distasteful but by no means has a consensus among all reasonable adults as “gross.”

    I agree with various commenters who have said to approach the situation with compassion and the security of knowing that your employer seems to have no interest in firing you to hire her back. It could just be that this is how she was when she worked there, and she hasn’t found another job yet! Give it time.

    1. Shiara*

      Seconding your first paragraph. It’s the “former” part of it makes the bringing in the leftovers weird, but not the leftovers themselves. I don’t see anything particularly gross about bringing in the extra brownies or 3/4s left of pie or leftover cheese plate. Although maybe it was something that doesn’t preserve well. I don’t trust leftover meatballs or pinwheels, but I don’t find it all that weird when coworkers try to fob off the extras. The alcohol would have been deeply outside the cultural norm here though, so maybe that’s also colouring the rest of it.

      Also seconding your second paragraph, for that matter.

    2. OxfordComma*

      Half my colleagues brought in extra cookies after the holidays. One woman brought in most of a cake. It was left in the mail room and no one thought anything of it.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        It’s so funny. I didn’t realize that I’d been picturing half-eaten casseroles or lasagnas until people started mentioning things like cookies. (Which, honestly, I don’t even consider leftovers because they’re whole things, not something that’s been cut-into.)

        But I also think that it feels odd because it’s leftover *food*. Leftover dessert or sweets is different. (And taking this stuff to your ex-workplace? NOPE.)

  16. SandwichGenLady*

    OP, your boss has reassured you, and if I were you, I would not worry about it. Do not continue allow her to rent space in your brain for free! I’ve seen situations like this from both sides — as the person currently sitting in a role that the former employee may want back, and as an employee/manager watching these types of shenanigans take place.

    The person who held my role before me, has reached out to a couple of people, including my boss, telling them that her new role isn’t what she’s expected, that the changes she’d hoped we’d make in our company are starting to occur and that excites her, and probing as to whether I’m doing well and enjoying my job. When I got wind of it, I laughingly told my boss and one other manager, “You can tell her that I like my job and she can’t have it back.” And that was it. I know I’m doing a good job, I know that many of the changes she’s excited about are at least partially because of my efforts, and I feel as secure in my position as one can realistically be. It sounds like your boss thinks you’re doing a great job, so don’t worry about it!

    As a manager/employee, I’ve seen employees who have trouble letting go whether it be because they new role isn’t what they hoped for, or because they are having trouble adjusting to the new social reality of their situation. In either case, it ends up coming off as somewhat desperate — I’ve never had a situation where a manager wanted to terminate the new person just so that they could bring the old person back.

  17. Robin Gottlieb*

    Marine’s unannounced visits and bringing in leftovers are distractions to work getting done. The manager should tell her this and if Marnie is coming to have lunch with someone, they will meet her in the lobby.

  18. Michaela T*

    Does this behavior bother anyone else at your company? Or just you? I’m not clear from the letter.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yeah, that was what I was wondering, how do the other coworkers feel when she keeps turning up?

  19. GriefBacon*

    I don’t see how any part of what you mentioned is overtly trying to “reinsert” herself into the good graces of the company, or how any of it’s creepy. Your letter didn’t give any reason to believe that Marnie was ever not in the company’s good graces, so there doesn’t seem to be a need to “reinsert” herself.

    If she had very friendly relationships with coworkers while she was still working there (which I have to imagine is true, since they’re meeting Marnie for lunch), it only makes sense that those relationships would continue, and perhaps even grow friendlier, after she left — especially since there’s no indication that she left on bad terms. My hunch is that Marnie probably brought in leftovers from social events before she left — and simply continued, since new workplace is/was toxic. Many of the single/unpartnered people I know do this regularly, since they’re typically unable to eat all the leftovers themselves before it goes bad. In fact, most offices I’ve worked in have had a food table — for treats when someone comes back from vacation, for food specifically made to share, for people to share leftovers, etc. (I have worked in numerous office environments where it’s not out of the norm for people to bring in extra/leftover alcohol — it usually just sits around until the next onsite happy hour or celebration. That’s obviously not the norm in all situations, but if no one else seems bothered by alcohol being in the office kitchen, I’d say it’s probably not problematic).

    Nothing about Marnie being friendly with her former coworkers says that she wants to come back to work there. Not even saying “I miss working with you.” It’s entirely possible for her to miss her friendly work relationships, especially if she landed in a toxic environment, without wanting or trying to come back to work there. If anything, it says excellent things about your company, that people are able to leave on good terms for new opportunities (without the company begrudging/holding it against them) and not lose all the relationships they’ve built.

  20. Whippers*

    Oh god, for a second I thought this question was actually about me, until I saw the part about the leftovers and the Christmas cards. This happened to me about a year and a half ago; I left a decent but not great for another job that was more in line with what I wanted to do. The new job was horrendous and I had to quit after 2 months, at which point someone else had been hired for my old job.

    Because I was so friendly with my coworkers prior to leaving and because I had lost the security of a job so unexpectedly I did keep in contact with my old coworkers a lot and visited the old workplace fairly frequently (it was pretty laid back place where old employees did drop in from time to time, so this wasn’t an issue). However, I really wasn’t angling for my old job back; I liked the person who had taken over the job and accepted that it was just really bad luck for me. I just needed that sense of connection, as Alison says. Maybe it was weird in retrospect but it helped me through a really tough time.

  21. Master Bean Counter*

    Marnie could be worse. She could still be doing work on a contract basis and trying to undermine your authority. Until you cut all the ties that you can with her and take her out of your daily stuff and refuse to let her back in. Only then can you actually make improvements and do you job properly.
    Compared to that Marnie sounds little annoying, but kinda adorable.

  22. Jane!Jane!*

    I wonder if the manager will end up hiring Marnie for a different position? That would be a whole ‘nother hell. . .

    1. Leenie*

      I think there’s a more than zero chance that she’ll wind up rehired in some other capacity. It’s probably not helpful for the LW to think of that as potential hell. Marnie doesn’t sound like a bad person.

      I’ve actually been thinking LW should try to reframe the way that she’s viewing Marnie. Because as it stands, it really would be awkward if she came back to work there. But it doesn’t need to be.

  23. Globe Trotter*

    I got laid off so the person that voluntarily left my position over two years prior could have their job back. It does happen. This wasn’t told to me explicitly, of course, but I did a quadruple take when they never officially advertised for the position and his name just magically appeared on the website under my old title shortly after I was let go.

    1. Alienor*

      Isn’t that illegal? I remember being told when I was a manager that if we laid someone off (as opposed to firing them) we couldn’t re-fill their position for six months or a year or some similar time frame. Either way, it totally sucks and I’m sorry it happened to you. :(

      1. Ruffingit*

        Not illegal at all, at least in most US states where at-will employment rules. Sad though and sh*tty thing to do to someone.

      2. Observer*

        That’s usually done because someone is worried that there might be a discrimination case. What they are concerned about is if you lay off Mr. Over 40, saying that the position was eliminated and then fill the position with Mr. Under40, Mr. Over40 is likely to bring an age discrimination case against you. Same for any protected category.

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

    OP’s first complaint about Marnie is that she has lunch with “[OP’s] coworkers” as though OP has some ownership or say in who they have lunch with. That’s a bit weirdly possessive on the OP’s part. I’m free to have lunch with whomever I want to without getting my coworkers permission, or even telling them at all. Presumably Marnie didn’t kidnap them on the way to their cars and force them to have lunch with her, so these coworkers are making plans to have lunch with Marnie and not including OP in the plan. And therefore, I wonder if Marnie is actually showing up “unannounced” at all, or maybe it’s just OP who didn’t get the announcement. This doesn’t sound like a creepy Marnie problem really — it sounds like OP doesn’t really feel accepted by her coworkers and is jealously blaming Marnie for that. “IF ONLY Marnie would go away, my coworkers would be having lunch with ME instead!”

  25. Quickbeam*

    I had a “Marnie” for ten years. She had retired from the job but kept showing up, sitting at my desk, chatting up co-workers, trying to influence what I did with the job. When I realized the manager was not going to deal with this, I just ignored her. She never went away. The job was eliminated after 10 years but I really enjoyed it. My “Marnie” is probably still showing up! I had to learn to just let it go. I did get her a chair so I could sit at the desk.

  26. sssssssssss*

    My sister office had a Marnie. Her favourite director was leaving to go back to his hometown, and and the continued shrinkage of the office left her as the only admin left…so she found another job and said goodbye.

    But new job wasn’t as good. So, she started visiting; bringing in the favourite treats of the director (who still hadn’t left) and even went as far one day to hang up all the Halloween decorations that her replacement didn’t make time to do (and the New Admin happened to be away that day). New Admin was freaking out to say the least, feeling that Marnie was gunning for old job back.

    Sadly, Marnie was told that there was no chance of her getting her old job back as she left them in a nasty lurch when she left (work volume, etc.) and they were still reeling from the effects. The bitter news stung like an SOB and she never came back.

    Let it go, so you can concentrate on your job and continue to shine at your work…but keep a quiet eye on her all the same. It just might fade and go away soon enough (as soon as she finds another job!).

  27. sssssssssss*

    And speaking of people returning, I worked at a place where FancyMiss was leaving to move to the UK. Big deal was made, three going away parties (I kid you not) and even though I applied for her job (I was a temp and would have loved to stay on), I was not offered it after the interview. I was devastated, I actually trained for a while her replacement and moved on.

    Something went awry with her move to the UK, as FancyMiss did move to the UK…and then moved back to where we were in less than two or three months! And she asked for a job at OldJob. Her replacement, who I liked and was briefly in touch with after I left, was duly freaking out. FancyMiss got a different (and very boring) job offered to her instead of her old job. An incredibly generous thing to do from that employer (which was not that generous on other things they did). They must have really liked her, is all I can say.

  28. OxfordComma*

    I’m still friendly with colleagues from other workplaces. We still exchange holiday cards. I do miss working with them and have said as much. I occasionally met with former colleagues for lunch or drinks. Showing up with extra food (I am assuming we’re talking leftover cookies and stuff?), would fly in my working environment. The leftover wine does seem odd, but maybe not? Maybe she’s just at loose ends and enjoys talking with her friends?

    In any case, OP, I think you need to ignore this. You brought it up with the manager. It’s not about you. If your colleagues or manager find her behavior weird or crossing a line, that’s on them to address.

  29. Ruffingit*

    I keep in touch with a lot of my former co-workers from various jobs, but no way would I show up at the workplace unannounced or randomly. That is such a boundary violation in my view because that is where they work, not where they socialize (barring lunch dates or whatever) so it would be patently wrong for me to just show up and chat at their workplace. Marnie seems really weird in the sense that she left for a toxic hellhole and now wants her old job back. Sometimes things don’t work out, but Marnie’s old job doesn’t exist for her anymore. It’s been filled. She really ought to spend her time looking for something new instead of trying to backtrack.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I think YMMV on this one. For instance, I work in an academic library. It’s a building that’s open to the public and every once in a while people show up to visit–might be former student workers, might be retirees, etc. I can see how this would be a different situation in say, a finance office or something.

  30. Nonsenical*

    I really feel like OP is reading too much negative overture into something that has been made clear that Marnie will not be getting her old job back. Plus it doesn’t sound to me that Marnie has done anything specifically to imply she is trying to angle for her old job.

    It might be helpful to the OP to reframe the situation as it wouldn’t look good if the OP appears insecure over her job when she has been told she is a solid performer.

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