I don’t want to be friends with my coworker, surprise phone interviews, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker isn’t picking up on my cues that I don’t want to be friends

When I started at my company a couple years ago, a coworker, “Sally,” invited me to do social things outside of work. We went out for drinks a few times and even did an all-day girls day where I ended up crashing on her couch. After about six months of reasonable normalcy, she became increasingly demanding and almost possessive. In retrospect, her behavior strongly resembled what an abusive ex-boyfriend did to me, except not nearly as subtle. She would ask me to do insanely inconvenient personal errands for her (which I never did), and she attempted to demand that we do more full-day/overnight “girls days,” despite me telling her that they were exhausting for me. If I disagreed with her on anything, I get a lecture about why I was wrong, even on things she clearly had no expertise in, like my health. I went on a doctor-approved diet that involved no alcohol, and she pushed hard to get me to drink with her. She continually treated me like a therapist and complained about everything and constantly asked for my verbal validation, but she never expressed any interest in my life. She would buy me slightly-too-extravagant gifts when we clearly did not have that level of friendship, at least from my perspective.

Six months ago, after she pulled a scheduling bait-and-switch to trick me into helping her deep clean her apartment and then directed me around like I was her maid, I decided I was done with being pushed around by Sally. I distanced myself considerably and have made excuses to socialize with her only in coworker groups right after work. However, the more I pull back, the more she acts like we are friends. Now she’s saying she wants to “respect my boundaries,” so let’s just go get lunch since I can’t do all-day outings. I’ve heard that line before from the aforementioned abusive-ex, and I’m not falling for it again.

Sally and I are the only two young women in a medium-sized office where she is considered “intense” by others but is a very productive seller of our product. I am middle-management administrative support for the company. She is more profitable for the company than I am just by nature of our jobs, so I need to be especially carefully of not being seen to start drama. I am certain Sally is going to assume that she is invited to my upcoming wedding—when I’d been dating my now-fiancé for two months, Sally said “If you two get married, I’m invited to the wedding, right?” I was too surprised by the question to answer, and she just kept right on talking as if I’d answered yes. I don’t want this insane person who reminds me of my abusive ex at my wedding. I don’t want to pay for her to be there, and I don’t want to make her think she ranks as a “close friend” in my life. How do I navigate this professionally?

Don’t invite her to your wedding. If she asks about it, you can say, “Oh, we’re not having anyone from work” or “We have a small guest list” or “Small venue, big families” or any of the other traditional ways of explaining a wedding non-invitation.

I actually think that part will be easily handled, if a little awkward for a minute, but that it’s the rest of her behavior is more problematic, particularly that the more you pull back, the more she presses in. It might make sense to have a frank conversation with her (sort of like the one described here). But given her behavior, you might be better off just continuing to be consistently polite but distant, not accepting any of her invitations, and hoping that she’ll eventually back off.

2. Calling candidates without warning for surprise phone interviews

Our department has been growing rapidly this past year, and we’ve been scrambling to hire a number of new specialized analysts. As part of the interview process, the hiring manager cold calls applicants who have sent in cover letters and resumes. (It does not say in the job posting that the phone interviews will be unscheduled.) Most people who are called don’t answer, and the manager leaves a voicemail message, so some get in contact later on to schedule an interview. If they do answer, however, the hiring manager explains who he is, asks the applicant to provide a brief introduction, then proceeds into a series of in-depth technical questions, and wraps up by letting the applicant know he’ll be in touch if they passed. This is the only phone interview applicants receive.

If a company I applied to cold called me for my phone interview, I would see it as a red flag, but am I totally off-base? Is this normal?

It’s not unheard of, but it’s a terrible practice. It’s a bad use of the hiring manager’s time (he’s going to be calling lots of people he can’t reach), and it’s rude and inconsiderate to candidates (who may be in the grocery store or or walking into a meeting or taking care of a child or so forth).

3. How many times can you turn down offers before a company will stop interviewing you?

I’ve had a phone interview and have been asked to interview in person at a new company. I’m not sure it is what I want to do with my career, and I’m not sure the technical fit is the best. (I didn’t apply directly for this position, my resume was passed around internally and the hiring manager contacted me, if that matters.)

The problem is, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t take the job. Not 100% — they could wow me and convince me it would be a great opportunity. My concern is that if I interviewed for this job and turned it down, they would refuse to interview me again.

On the other hand, I’ve been in my current position for seven years, and I want to start testing the waters and seeing what else is out there. I’m ready for a change of some kind.

Part of my reason for asking is that several years ago I was offered a job and declined it, then later applied at the same company and was told by HR that they don’t reconsider you once you have declined an offer. Do most companies have that policy? Am I making a mistake by interviewing when I’m not sure I want this particular job? How many times can you turn down an offer before a company stops pursuing you?

It depends on the details. There are some companies that have that as an across-the-board policy, but that’s weird and misguided. Most employers will not refuse to consider you again if you turned down an offer. After all, you were good enough for them to want to hire last time, so there’s a good chance that you will be again. That said, hiring managers will usually want to understand your reasons for turning down the last offer before they move very far with you the second time, so that they can figure out if the same obstacle is likely to appear again.

Of course, the way you turned down the offer last time comes into play. If you misled them in some way (like accepting and then backing out at the last minute), or appeared to be using their offer just to get a counteroffer from your current employer, or handled salary negotiations weirdly (like insisting on a crazy figure that was wildly over even the high end of the market rate for the work), they’re unlikely to want to consider you again.

I will say, though, that if a candidate turned down an offer twice, I’d be skeptical that it would go any differently if we got a third application from them. (Although even then, that’s not insurmountable; I can imagine a situation where it would still make sense to talk more.)

4. I’m getting the silent treatment after resigning

I gave my notice last week and since then I’ve been getting the silent treatment by my bosses. Prior to my notice, and job hunting, I didn’t have much work as a full-time employee and what I did have was slowly being taken from me. Now I’m getting treated like I don’t exist, I have barely enough work to get me through a full day, and where I could help, my bosses refuse to ask me for the help they need to make the transition. It has been a toxic environment and it got worse since my notice. What can I do?

Rejoice that you are leaving! If they don’t want your help in the remaining time you’ll be there, that’s their call — and they’ll be the ones who deal with any aftermath of that decision, not you. That said, you should document your job as best you can in your remaining time, whether they’ve asked you to or not, simply because it’s the responsible thing to do and it may be useful to someone after you’re gone.

That said, if they’re being openly hostile to you, there’s advice here on how to handle that.

5. My boss wants to pay me under the table

I am going from working full-time to part-time (about 20-25 hours per week) at the same small company. My boss wants to pay me “under the table” and write me a check every two weeks. My gut is telling me this isn’t a great idea—I guess I’m a stickler for the rules—but I’m not really sure. My biggest concern is the possible tax issues. I don’t expect this to be a long-term arrangement, but I don’t want to run into any financial issues. What are the pros and cons of getting paid this way? Or is just bad all-around?

Well, it’s illegal! And since your employer won’t be withholding income tax and Social Security taxes from your check, you’ll have to pay all those taxes yourself when you file your tax return next year. That’s assuming that you choose to report the income, but it would be illegal not to. And if your employer isn’t paying into your Social Security or withholding taxes on your end for it, you’re not getting credit for working during that time — which can reduce the amount of Social Security payments you’re entitled to after you retire (although that won’t be true if you report the income and pay self-employment taxes). Plus, since your employer will be treating you as an independent contractor, you won’t be eligible to receive worker’s comp if you’re injured on the job or unemployment benefits if you lose your job, and you won’t be protected by a lot of labor laws.

Basically, this move would save your employer a ton of money while putting you at a number of disadvantages.

{ 437 comments… read them below }

  1. Snow or sun? Or sleet?*

    OP 1 I agree with Alison do not invite her to your wedding! Hopefully she gets the hint and backs off..

    1. Casuan*

      I agree, although I doubt she’ll get the hint… although it’s worth the effort to try to get her to take the hint.
      OP1, how does Sally contact you? You could ignore her calls & messages or block her on your personal mobile; if yo block her then you can honestly tell her that you didn’t receive the text/message/call. Keep reasons at the ready for when she calls on your work line & do the same if she comes in person [eg: “Don’t have time to talk, I need to get this project done]. As for the wedding, don’t talk about the wedding in the office.
      If Sally can harm you professionally, the best thing is what Alison suggested: be polite but distant.
      If she can’t, that’s still a good strategy, For me, I’d rather do the frank conversation than to always be on my guard.
      Congratulations on your engagement, OP1!!

      questions on worst-case scenarios:
      If Sally presses about attending the wedding, is it too blunt for OP1 to tell Sally that OP1 needs Sally to confirm that she understands she is not to attend?
      Might this be a situation that OP1 should discuss with her boss, the intent being heads-up in case Sally does try to retaliate OP1 via her work?
      Would would others do if Sally did in fact attend the wedding?

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure how much getting her to confirm would be effective – she seems like someone who would either refuse to do so, or do it and then show up anyway. The first line of defense IMO would be to not share any information about location or time with her, if you’re in a big enough community that it would be hard for her to find out on her own.

        A technique I see recommended a lot for expected crashers is assigning “bouncer” duty to a willing friend/relative that will escort her out if she does show up. If that does happen I would anticipate some fallout at work, but that still doesn’t mean you should invite her. She seems unreasonable enough that I don’t know that “preventing fallout” is actually an achievable goal no matter how you twist yourself into knots.

        1. designbot*

          Even if there’s fallout, “Another member of the staff showed up at my wedding uninvited and needed to be removed by a bouncer” seems like a pretty straightforward story where everyone knows who the crazy party is.

          1. Natalie*

            Absolutely, it’s just something the OP would want to expect since she is uncomfortable with confrontation.

        2. lawyer*

          Just as a PSA, if you think you’re going to have a wedding crasher that won’t simply leave when asked to, far, far better to hire a security guard or actual bouncer rather than asking a friend to do so. Not sure the OP’s colleague is the type to cause an actual physical altercation, but there’s liability risk involved in asking an amateur to do this.

          1. Natalie*

            Just to be clear, I wouldn’t expect a friend to *physically* escort anyone out, just be the person to say “no, Sally, you can’t come in” and then get the venue staff/security involved. Is there some particular reason to think liability would be greatly increased over the already standard liability of having a wedding, especially if your serving alcohol?

            1. lawyer*

              Not if you’re just asking someone to tell Sally she has to leave and then hand the situation over to professionals if it escalates. But the “hand the situation over to professionals” is key – I so often see people advise asking a big strong friend to serve as an impromptu bouncer if wedding crashers are expected (seriously, hang out on wedding planning forums and you see that advice alllllll the time). If you do that and then your “bouncer” injures the wedding crasher, yes, I think there’s pretty significant liability risk.

              1. Breda*

                I think “big strong friend” is often recommended as someone whose physical presence will intimidate the crasher so much they won’t try to start something. Someone who can loom, not necessarily someone who can fight. But better than that is the kind of determined, pragmatic person who is always on top of the situation and never ever gives in.

                1. SusanIvanova*

                  I used to be a greeter at my university church that’s also a tourist attraction, and “looming” is the key. Tourists would lie all the time to us college kids (“of course we’re here for the services!”), but when the priest showed up – 6’6″, full robes, and radiating an air of friendly authority, suddenly they were “just looking, leaving now!”

      2. Guava*

        Oooh, this letter made my shoulders go up around my ears because I have a Sally in a school volunteer group in which I’m active. I tried the direct conversation to “break up” with her, and my “Sally” escalated into stalking and trying to sabotage me over a period of years.
        I’m getting a vibe that OP’s Sally doesn’t hear the word “no”. In OP’s shoes, I would dial WAY back on sharing personal information in the office. Sally seems likely to try to leverage the perceived friendship with OP to mine others for details. Block Sally on personal devices and social media accounts and if she complains, tell her that you use those for non-work correspondence only. If there’s anyone else in the office with whom OP is close (ideally a manager or boss?) I would tell them in confidence that you and Sally are not friends, she seems to be targeting you in inappropriate ways, you don’t want to make waves at the office, but that you don’t wish for any personal information to be shared with Sally. And FOR SURE tell Sally that your wedding plans have changed and, unfortunately, you are not able to include anyone from the office. Good luck.

    2. MommyMD*

      She’s shown no evidence of backing down, whether she gets the hint or not. I would be professionally polite and socially cool, and speak only of business. I would not confront her as she sounds aggressive and unstable and won’t take it lightly. I would not discuss the wedding at work at all.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I think this is a good approach with anyone that you have any instinct might be violent, but I do think in cases where you have just changed your mind about a relationship, it’s a kindness to let that person know more directly rather than just blocking them – because otherwise I think they’re going to assume the status quo is still in effect, and not interpret your failure to answer their reaching out correctly.

        1. Observer*

          Normally I would agree with you. But, Sally CLEARLY knows what’s going on here – Notice that she has suddenly started talking about “respecting your boundaries” All the while she’s pushing them.

          The OP didn’t “just change her mind” about the relationship. She pulled back because the other person was actively pushing her to behavior that was harmful; the other person was being abusive. The OP really needs to protect herself and that over-rides the possible kindness of a conversation that’s unlikely to go very well.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            OP, if the boundaries thing is something she has said to you then you can quietly whisper, “Boundaries, Sally, boundaries” when she starts talking about the wedding or what have you.

            1. Casuan*

              okay, NSNR… probably you were more joking than not… although I love this.
              Then again, one of my [several] fatal flaws is also something in which I take secret pride: I love it when I can use someone’s own arguments against them.
              Not very nice of me, yet I make up for it in other niceties. At least, I hope I do.
              Yeesh… do I?

      2. Specialk9*

        The co-worker has absolutely gotten the hint, which is *why* she keeps pushing. She understands but doesn’t want to let the OP make that decision because she wants something else. The fact that she talked about respecting boundaries while actually violating those boundaries indicates that she isn’t doing this accidentally. I think OP could be right to connect the behavior of her abusive ex to this coworker and be wary. (Though from personal experience, when we get out of that kind of situation we can sometimes be over-sensitized – something to watch for.)

        No matter what, this is a great chance to practice those hard boundary setting and defending skills that are so important for an abuse survivor.

        1. Specialk9*

          Check out Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?”

          It is the one book that painted out the full logical structure of abuse, and made me really, devastatingly, understand in a way that helped me so much. It is worth reading if you have been in an abusive situation.

          The one serious fault of this book – and the fact that I’m still such a strong proponent of this book speaks to the quality of the rest of it – is that the author thinks (wrongly) that abuse is a male thing. This, I think, reflects the fact that the author worked with court ordered abuseR therapy programs, and the courts have struggled to recognize female abusers. Even so, a guy friend read it and saw his ex-girlfriend in it, and was able to apply the structure elements as universals.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My wise friend used to say the longer we put up with other people’s poor behavior the longer it takes to set the new norm.

          OP, if you can frame it as setting the new norm this might be a foundation piece for you. So you have drawn your lines and it will be a bit before she realizes that no means no. In order to get to that realization, you will just have to keep saying no. But with each no you are that much closer to her having that awakening.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Yep, keep all wedding talk out of the office, and when asked, just say, “We’re keeping things really small.” As Miss Manners has said, a small wedding is simply any wedding so small the person to whom you are speaking is not invited.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The only caveat I would make to this is that OP #1 not invite anyone else from the office, but it doesn’t sound like she is close to other coworkers.

        1. Anna*

          Hard disagree. The OP should invite whomever she wants, even if it doesn’t include Sally. Not inviting other coworkers if she intended to originally is giving Sally a lot more control over the OP, which is exactly what she’s trying to avoid.

        2. Lissa*

          Nobody at all? I think if OP is really close to a coworker she should still get to invite that person, and Sally shouldn’t ruin that.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        And really, seriously – no wedding talk in the office! Even if a different coworker asks how it’s going, or someone who’s also planning a wedding wants to compare details, avoid the topic entirely. You never know who else is around to overhear, and the easiest way to make sure she doesn’t show up uninvited is to make sure she doesn’t know the event details. I’d also make sure to block her on social media, and lock down your wedding website – people have been known to search for a couple’s name on the knot (or whatever) just to get details for an event to which they were not invited.

      3. Former Employee*

        “…a small wedding is simply any wedding so small the person to whom you are speaking is not invited.”

        I love this, especially as small is in the eye of the beholder.

    4. HannahS*

      And honestly, if she doesn’t take it well, what’s likely to happen is that you’ll have a very uncomfortable conversation for about three minutes until you escape–that is MUCH better than having her at the wedding! Maybe she’ll go around your office wailing “OP1 didn’t invite me to her wedddddiiiiiinnnnngggg. WOE IS ME! I’ve done so much for her etc.!” But people know she’s, uh, intense, and will probably understand your decision and think that her overreacting is unprofessional. So use those neutral excuses, brace yourself for a few minutes of suffering, and remind yourself that it’s worth it to not have her at the wedding.

  2. sacados*

    OP3: I think you have a lot of wiggle room here, especially if as you said they contacted you about this specific position.
    You could say something like, “I’m a bit unsure if this position is the best technical fit for me/ is in line with where I see my career heading, but I am very interested in your company and would love to hear more about it.”
    On the other hand, if you’re worried that might cause them to back out of an interview at all, you could go through with it and then use a similar script afterwards, should you choose to decline the offer.
    I think as long as you make it clear that you are interested in the company and other possible opportunities but after getting more information this specific position just isn’t right for you– then there shouldn’t be any bad blood caused by declining.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I think the key issue here is fit. You can be great for a company but a bad fit for a particular job. Fit issues don’t reject the company or the manager. It’s simply a mismatch. It allows you to consider other jobs at the company if the right one shows up.
      The HR person that blacklists people that turn down job offers is a jerk doing a power play. Circumstances change across time and the reasons you turned down a job 3 years ago could have disappeared later.

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        Just sticking up for HR: Typically an HR recruiter does not institute hiring policies. It comes from higher in the organization. There are rogue HR staff, but they are the exception, not the rule.

      2. Ama*

        Many years ago my dad was approached by another firm in his industry and he told them that the position they were recruiting him for was just not the kind of job he was interested in, but if they ever had a position with X,Y, and Z he’d be happy to interview for that. About three years later they came back and said “hey, we’ve created a position with X, Y, and Z — would you like to come interview?” He’s been at that firm for almost two decades now. (I’ll also note that not all of the things my dad asked for were job responsibilities related — he also wasn’t interested in a partner track position because of the hours involved, and when the firm came back they had created a brand new level of senior management, non-partner track positions because they realized they were losing out on good candidates like him.)

        I think the more specific you can be about why the job itself is not what you’re looking for, the better chance you have of leaving them receptive to talking to you again when they have something that might be a better fit.

    1. Casuan*

      Besides his rationale, I’m curious on a few things.
      OP2, do you know if the hiring manager asks if the candidate has a moment to answer some questions?
      Do any candidates tell him the timing is bad & ask to reschedule?
      I suspect the reply to both queries is “no,” because if true they’re not unannounced phone interviews.

      This is really bad form. There’s the power dynamic- the manager is assuming the candidate can & will drop everything to answer questions. And what if the candidate is at work? Does he penalise those who don’t answer by putting them in the reject pile?
      Unless such an interview made sense for the industry, I would question the judgment of this manager & perhaps of the company itself.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        It’s also one way to really limit your pool of candidates if you’re only willing to interview the people who can or will put up with this sort of behavior.

        1. Observer*

          Which may be the idea. If you want people who are desperate for a job, or who will put up with ridiculous demands, this is a good way to screen for that. People with options will generally pass.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        When I’ve seen people do this, it’s just cluelessness/thoughtlessness (with a side of power dynamics, yes). But a not-tiny number of places really do conduct phone interviews that way, and it’s enough to make some hiring managers think it’s an acceptable way to do it.

        1. Sarah*

          My boss does this with the justification that it lets her see how people are socially without having time to prepare. Which everyone else thinks is basically insane, but we have not been able to convince her otherwise…

          1. Casuan*

            An unplanned call is not the best way to assess this. Evaluations like this could be made during a planned in-person, video, or telephone interview… not unlike a skills test.
            However, such a test shouldn’t be designed to embarrass the candidate or to mimic an emergency situation [unless that’s the job & presumably the candidate understands the need to test their responses].
            I guess these thoughts are because I’m thinking of those “what would you do” shows. It’s interesting to see how others handle various situations, although I don’t like that witness’ emotions are being played with. For entertainment. I’m not a fan.

            1. Specialk9*

              I got a call from my doctor after work hours on a Friday to cancel my Saturday morning appt. I was holding a crying toddler on one hip and walking my dog with the hand holding the phone. She refused to speak louder over the (clearly audible) crying, and acted like I was the jerk for asking her to speak up. Oh, and I had had that appt for months and she had no clue about reschedule availability.

              I’m still pissed about it.

              Amazing doctor, terrible administrative staff.

      3. Etg*

        Even if he does ask, “is this a good time?” it’s still intrusive. People, especially job seekers, will feel pressured to say yes. I wouldn’t want to lose an opportunity by putting off an employer, but I’d consider it a mark against the company.

        Besides, how many people pick up calls from strange numbers these days? Mine are 95% bots.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Further, if a hiring manager asks “is this a good time” at the start of an unexpected phone call, I’ll say sure thinking they only want 5 minutes to schedule a real phone interview. There’s a big difference between taking a couple of minutes to schedule something, and taking 20+ minutes to answer detailed questions about your career and interest in that job.

          1. Hera Syndulla*

            Sure I got time for an unexpected call for about 5 minutes (max 10) but 20? And trying to come up with decent answers for a career / job change? Nope

          2. K.*

            I had someone from HR at a company to which I’d applied call me on a Saturday. I didn’t answer because I was running errands and it was a number I didn’t recognize (including area code). She left a voicemail that didn’t say much, just “This is [HR Lady from Company,] please give me a call when you have a moment.” I called back thinking the same thing, that she was calling to schedule an interview. I thought it odd and possibly troubling that she was calling on a Saturday (shades of bad work/life balance), but assumed it would only be a few minutes to set up an interview for later in the week. It was a full-on 45-minute interview. And the next step was for the hiring manager to call me and interview me, and I pressed “You mean to schedule the interview?” and she said no, that the interview would take place during that phone call. I asked when the hiring manager would be calling, and she said she didn’t know. I said that it would be helpful to schedule something so that I could prepare and be sure I was available, and she said ” … Well, I guess you could just say you can’t talk if you’re not available.” I was like ” … Okay?” I did not move forward in the process.

            1. Casuan*

              Are these employers so jaded that they assume that if the candidate really wants &or needs the job they’ll do whatever it takes?
              Or are they just that clueless to assume that their hiring strategy is okay?
              What they don’t seem to understand is that these methods don’t reflect well on the company.

              K, I’m both sorry & relieved that you didn’t move forward. Mostly relieved. :-)

              There’s a lesson for job-searchers in all of this in how to deal with calls like the unannounced 45 minute telephone interview.

              If the candidate can ask questions [presumably towards the end of the interview], would it be acceptable to ask the interviewer’s intent for the unannounced interview? Or is that out of line?

              :::flashback to the odd-time interview at a hospital for a non-medical job; at the end the interview, the interviewer asked the candidate if she was curious as to why the hospital location & he told her a relative was there:::

              1. K.*

                The odd thing was, HR Lady apologized profusely for calling on a Saturday. She kept saying she was “getting caught up.” I got her voicemail when I called her back the first time so I assume she was just going down the line of first round candidates, and I bet $10 she didn’t play a lot of phone tag – had I missed her when she called back the second time, I’m sure that would have been it. But she acted like I was nuts for asking if the hiring manager interview would be scheduled. I was like “I’m working, so I could be in a meeting when she calls,” and HR Lady was very huffy about it, as though it was unreasonable that I didn’t have my entire life cleared for this interview that was going to happen at some point in the future. I wasn’t sorry that I didn’t advance.

          3. GriefBacon*

            When I worked in HR, part of my job was to conduct conviction interviews. We were hiring everyone sight unseen, had way too many applicants to do background checks before hiring, and housed all of our employees on site, so conviction (including misdemeanor) interviews were pretty necessary.

            It took me 18 months in the position to convince my boss that calling people out of the blue and asking them about their convictions, including giving me the full narrative of what happened leading up to the arrest, was incredibly intrusive. She was convinced it was the best way to get the truth, and didn’t understand that catching people off guard — especially when they thought I was calling for a normal interview — was a good way to get inaccurate answers and pissed off applicants.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Holy shit that is…a special kind of awful. Bad enough to grab someone out of the blue no matter where they are and expect them to have their interview game ready to go right then and there, but to call someone out of the blue and demand they tell you about what’s pretty much guaranteed to be a Bad Spot in their personal history without regard for where they are, who’s around, what they’re doing, etc…that is horrible. I’m glad you convinced your boss eventually, but holy crap that’s so bad.

            2. Observer*

              Wait, you couldn’t do background checks on people AFTER an interview, but before hiring, but you COULD chase them down to ask about their convictions AFTER you hired them was feasible? How did you know they had convictions? How much time were you spending on this task? And what on earth made your boss think you were going to get anything close to the truth?

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I pick up calls from strange numbers these days because I have children–1 in college–and elderly parents in poor health. And sometimes they have borrowed a phone to call me, sometimes for urgent reasons, and that phone could show up from anywhere.

          Which means I might be paused at a traffic light, or otherwise not in a position for more than “Hi honey, what happened?” As an employment screener this is a terrible idea–it assumes that no one ever answers a phone unless they can give the call their undivided attention for the next half hour.

          1. boo*

            You know, my first thought when I read the question was, “That’s why I don’t pick up strange numbers,” but of course, so many people are in exactly your position and can’t just ignore the call.

            That said, I have trained several people out of calling me late at night just to chat by answering the phone with “Are you okay? What happened?” (Hey, I said don’t call past 11 unless it’s an emergency, which does actually make me worry when you call me past 11. This was not a planned training.)

            All the above makes me wonder if this interviewer could be trained out of the Surprise!Interview by a long succession of people answering the phone with “Hi honey, what happened?”

            1. AKchic*

              My standard greeting after 11pm is “if you’re not dead, dying or needing a sober ride – you need to hang up now.”
              Unless I know you’re going to call me after 11, there had better be a good reason for it. I have kids, an elderly grandmother (who loves to mistake panic attacks for heart attacks), a mom with heart problems, an obese stepdad, an addict son, and so many people to worry about. I am not about to deal with bs after 11.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Ditto, although mine are on the other end of the clock, probably because I’m on the west coast. So I tend to answer those calls with “Hello, it’s 7am.” (I usually get an apology for that.)

                Actually, since we switched phone providers, we have caller ID, so we mostly don’t answer any calls, ever. But that *was* my go-to back in the day. (And my mobile phone almost never gets answered and is never at my bedside.)

        3. Casuan*

          I agree that “Is this a good time” is still intrusive. Although it would show a modicum of decency given that the manager is rudely interrupting his victims the candidate’s time.
          As many of us have said, we ignore calls from unrecognised numbers. So if anything, this hiring manager should be censored for wasting so much time on these calls [this last phrase is mostly tongue-in-cheek yet a small part of me is serious].

      4. OP #2*

        If the candidate indicates they would like to ask questions he will answer them, but otherwise he does not prompt them for questions.

        There have been candidates who have said it’s a bad time, but it’s rare — often instead of asking to reschedule, they ask us to hold on a minute while they go somewhere better for taking a call.

        1. Snark*

          Well, of course they haven’t said it’s a bad time, you put them on the spot. This is a crappy practice and you need to stop. Schedule it like any other meeting and stop abusing people’s time.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Snark’s 100% right. It’s just a very poor understanding of social norms around communication — especially these days when we have email in order to communicate on our own time and/or to set up time for longer discussions.

          2. RB*

            I firmly believe in always having an excuse ready for certain situations. For example, if I get a call like that, I hope I would have the presence of mind to say, “sorry, I’m just heading into my exercise class.” Or any number of variations depending on time of day. Or, “sorry, I have guests”, if it’s too late at night to plead a class.

        2. Genny*

          In my industry (government contracting), it’s not uncommon for the recruiter to to just go through a list of candidates. If you miss the call or have to reschedule, there’s a very good chance they’ve moved on to other candidates. If I get a cold call from one of them and if I were actually looking for a job, there’s no way I would tell them I’m too busy to talk because then I likely would be passed over. All that to say, someone telling you they do have time to talk now doesn’t actually mean that this is the best time for them.

      5. Ama*

        For my current job, I got hit with an impromptu phone interview by the hiring manager, although it turned out that part of the reason for that was they had been trying to fill the position for months and were approaching crunch time to bring someone onboard prior to a big event for the department, and part of the reason was they kind of couldn’t believe that someone with my level of experience was really okay with the salary range they had listed (they had apparently seen other experienced candidates who would come in and then ask for a lot more than the stated range). She did give me a chance up front to say whether I had time to answer a few questions or if I wanted to schedule a time to chat, though.

        However, that is definitely not the normal hiring process here, so I’m pretty sure it was just that they were short on time and wanted to avoid us wasting each other’s time if we couldn’t agree on salary.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        He may have verbalised that he likes to catch people off guard, for example. I think the rationale is quite important. He’s either thoughtless or a bit of a bully. Either is bad.

        1. anon scientist*

          I agree. If it’s thoughtlessness, maybe the OP has a chance to change this, though. If it’s because he’s being a bully, it sucks and he probably won’t change his tactics.

      2. Anononon*

        My old boss used to do it, and it was a mix of power dynamics (I’m available NOW, so this IS when you’ll talk to me) and cluelessness on hiring (giving them a chance to prepare somehow games the system?)

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Seriously. Unless you’re interviewing someone for a job in which they’re constantly barraged with hostile questions, putting an interviewee at ease gives you a much better sense of what they’ll be like on the job.

          1. Casuan*

            CoveredInBees, it’s kind of difficult for me to reconcile your insightful comment with your user name. :-)

            that joked…

        2. Jadelyn*

          The problem with this tack is that the power play part of it only works with desperate applicants or in a bad job market. Like, he could probably get away with that during the worst of the recession without stronger candidates pulling out, because there were a lot of strong candidates out of work and desperate for something new before the unemployment ran out. But in a good job market, this kind of power play just turns off the best applicants who have other options, and you end up filtering for only those who are desperate, who may or may not be your strongest candidates.

          (Also, if preparation lets someone “game the system”, then your interviewing system is bad and you need to interview better.)

      3. OP #2*

        The current analysts are asked to sit in on these phone interviews, and we’ve asked in a general way why that is the process.

        1. A Person.*

          Not only a waste of everyone’s time except the boss’s, but if the goal of the call is to quiz candidates on technical questions and offer them an interview if they “pass” – as stated in the letter – that’s hugely insulting to the candidate.

          I got one of these calls once and it totally turned me off the organization. You have my resume, you can see my accomplishments, why do you need me to pass an instant pop quiz with a panel of judges to determine whether to offer me a real interview?

          1. JHunz*

            Speaking as someone who’s participated in hiring, technical phone screens are an absolutely mandatory part of the process. It’s not insulting to candidates to expect them to be able to answer questions about things they say they’ve worked with. The number of people you screen out with even the most basic questions about the technologies you actually need them to be proficient with – no matter what their resume says – is between 70-80% of applicants. You just can’t waste that kind of time with in-person interviews.

            I’m not defending OP’s manager, though, because all such calls should be scheduled in advance with an established timeframe.

            1. A Person.*

              Can this not be done as part of a regular phone interview, though, as opposed to a pre-screen quiz? I’m not opposed to phone interviews where technical questions are part of the actual interview. Being quizzed like that before a phone interview is even offered seems unnecessary when the interview can just be ended early if someone is clearly lying about their skills and knowledge.

              Especially for something that puts people on the spot and isn’t scheduled in advance.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Well, it sounds like maybe you know at least a little in advance when you’ll all be getting together to do the calls, maybe? If there’s no hope of just changing the way these are done (which is obvs preferable) maybe there’s someone who can at least send an email with all the candidates BCCed that says “We’ll be calling you between 2 and 4 tomorrow about this position; hopefully we’ll be able to talk!” It’s not a dramatic improvement, but its SOMETHING

    2. OP #2*

      From sitting in on the phone calls, it seems he is primarily doing things this way because he wants to phone interview as many of the candidates who apply as possible, and scheduling that many phone interviews would end up making his schedule difficult to manage.

      1. Luna*

        Would it though? For most phone interviews I have done, the company usually sends several 15 or 30 minute options to choose from, all back to back. I’m assuming they are scheduling multiple candidates one after the other. So the manager still has a 2 hour block of time, or whatever it ends up being, where he just calls candidates, but the candidates know to expect the call so they actually answer!

        1. A Person.*

          Agree. A 15 minute phone call can easily be arranged over email (and delegates to an analyst to schedule if the boss can’t be bothered) and scheduling a series of them back to back in a 2 hour block, since all the analysts apparently have to be there too, seems like it would lead to much less frustration for everyone involved. If a candidate misses their window – which should be rare if they’re expecting the call – it gives the team time to discuss the candidates they’ve talked to so far or take a bio break.

        2. Kilty*

          I can see how this would be an appealing reason (though I don’t cold call candidates)

          If you’re hiring for multiple open entry level positions and are emailing candidates who don’t do well with email, it can be a real struggle! You email a bunch of people with a list of options and ask them to tell you all the times that work for them, some people follow the directions, some people only tell you one very specific time because that’s the only time they are free, some people only tell you one very specific time because they didn’t read the directions properly, some people think “between 3-5” means their interview can start at 5, one slot turns out to be the only one that works for multiple people so you have to go back to some and say that time is taken, some people respond days later with no explanation and you have to decide whether to squeeze them in…

          That said, I think this is all the hiring manager’s job and just part of the deal when you’re hiring, but I can see someone with poor time/email management skills giving up and just cold calling!

          1. Luna*

            Yes there is always that aspect when trying to schedule anything (I schedule lots of meetings, both for myself and others, so I feel the pain!) but I would actually consider that part of the interview process. If I send a very clear email about what they need to do, and they can’t read and follow simple directions? Already my opinion of how well they will work is going down a notch.

          2. Penny Lane*

            If you email a bunch of people with a list of options and they can’t follow the simple directions involved, then isn’t that the biggest red flag there is? And as for multiple people wanting the same time slot, you make it first come first served. This isn’t rocket science here.

            1. Kilty*

              For a white collar office job, yes. For a job that requires 0 email/reading skills, maybe not.

              Anyway, I’m just trying to demonstrate why I think some hiring managers just end up calling people. It’s not always a power trip (though it can be) I think it can be a combination of shortsightedness, panic at how much work hiring is, and landing on what is not a best practice.

              1. Observer*

                This has nothing to do with email. It does have to do with reading. But how many jobs out there really require NO ability to read?

                Even most “blue collar” jobs needs basic literacy.

          3. Observer*

            Well, unless you are ok with hiring people who can’t read and follow written directions, the problem with people who don’t follow directions really shouldn’t be seen as an issue. Anyone who couldn’t follow the directions should either be put on the reject pile, or marked down significantly.

        3. Jadelyn*

          That’s what I do. I reserve 30-minute blocks (to give myself about 10-15 mins after we get off the phone to finish typing up my notes, get a drink, and go to the bathroom if I need to before I have to call the next candidate) in a 2-4 hour chunk depending on my availability and the number of candidates I’m screening. I send an email to all the candidates, BCC’d, with my available times and ask them to choose their top 2 or 3 slots in order of preference. Then I start filling up the schedule as people respond, and once I’ve got the schedule finalized I individually send confirmation emails to each candidate with their time slot (nothing fancy, just “Hi [name], I have you scheduled for [date/time] for us to speak on the phone about [position]. If your availability has changed please let me know ASAP so we can reschedule, otherwise, I look forward to talking with you then!”). It’s…really not that hard. Even if you’ve got to bring other people in, you can then send the schedule around and ask people to join you if their schedule allows – you might not have everyone for every call, but you should at least be able to get one or two co-interviewers for each slot.

      2. Antilles*

        That’s a really bad rationale. If you don’t have time to interview all of your potential candidates, that’s usually a sign that your hiring process isn’t doing a good job of filtering candidates. Done properly, the hiring process is basically a series of winnowing steps – If you get 50 resumes for a position, maybe you call 15 of them for phone interviews. Of those 15 phone interviews, maybe 5 get in-person interviews. Of those 5 in-person interviews, you hire one employee.
        Your description makes it sound like his goal is to phone interview as many of that first 50 as possible, which is both logistically difficult and a huge waste of his time.

      3. mia*

        Does he realize that the interview process isn’t only about HIM? That it’s a partnership between the job seeker and the employer?

      4. GG Two shoes*

        If he can’t manage to schedule phone interviews ahead of time, then he needs to pass this on to someone else. I find this very rude and would consider this a huge red flag, personally. My time is valuable, too.

      5. Oryx*

        I don’t understand this logic. He has the time to make the calls which means he has time in his schedule.

        He just needs to identify, in advance, blocks of time that are set aside as phone interview time and then reach out to the applicants.

      6. NW Mossy*

        I think that speaks to the need for a more robust process to narrow down the number of candidates at the resume/cover letter stage, as well as using other people (HR recruiters or even team leads) to do the initial rule-outs. It’s just not realistic for the hiring manager to try to phone screen everyone and it likely doesn’t improve the quality of eventual hires all that much.

        I understand the impulse to at least contact anyone that didn’t send in a resume printed on used butcher paper, but it’s highly likely that those candidates that appear marginal based on their application materials turn out to be marginal candidates on the phone too. There’s very little value to be gained (from the hiring manager’s perspective) in interviewing people who aren’t likely to be the best fit for the role.

      7. Person of Interest*

        There are also online scheduling programs that can automate a lot of the scheduling without a lot of individual emails back and forth: where the hiring manager just puts in blocks of time that the candidates can select from, and as slots are filled these are no longer available to be selected by other candidates. Then the system sends confirmation emails with preset call instructions to both parties. I wonder if a system like this might feel more manageable for this OPs company?

      8. CoveredInBees*

        His goal should not be to interview as many people as possible. It is a huge waste of everyone’s time and energy. As noted below, it can be easy to schedule blocks of interviews but before that, skimming applications and prioritizing people can make things easier on everyone.

      9. Penny Lane*

        This makes no sense, OP#2. He could send an email to the potential candidates giving potential interview slots and that would make his calendar EASIER to manage, since he’d know he was talking to A at 9:00 am, B at 9:15 am, has a break, talking to C at 10 am, etc.

      10. Observer*

        This guy sounds like a nightmare to work for. “I’m going to do what I think makes my life easy with absolutely ZERO consideration for what it means for you. I’m not going to give you the full information you need to make good decisions if they might inconvenience me, and I’m not going to take any possible power imbalance into account, if it might inconvenience me. Anything else that might inconvenience me? Well, I’ll ignore that too.”

    3. Flinty*

      I think it could also seem like it would be more efficient – they’re already on the phone with me, might as well just go ahead an ask the questions!

      As Alison points out, it’s definitely not actually more efficient, but I’ve observed that if you’re the kind of person who likes to pick up the phone and call your coworkers even with non-urgent questions in order to get an immediate answer, you might also be the kind of person who cold calls candidates.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I remember when this was the only way things were done. Your on switch had to be on at all times because you never knew when you would get a call. You’d wait by the phone and keep the out going calls down because there was no voice mail, call waiting etc. Some employers would call once and if you missed it then oh well. It was nerve-wracking on a good day, bad days were hellacious.

      Because the employer had the upper hand it was up to the candidate to call and check. Many employers would not bother calling or sending a letter.
      I am glad those days are long gone.

  3. ENFP in Texas*

    OP##1 – Definitely do not invite Sally to your wedding. I wouldn’t even discuss your wedding with her, since she has demonstrated that she has boundary issues. If it were me, I’d try to take the relationship back to a “strictly work” level, meaning not socializing with her unless completely unavoidable. Polite but distant.

    If she assumes she’s invited and says something about it, then something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I can’t. We’re having to be limited with the guest list because of space and our budget” is a perfectly acceptable response. I wouldn’t try to soft-pedal it with “Oh, I wish I could, but…” because she will likely take that as an opening to argue with you on how you could make it work.

    1. Nic*

      Agreed, especially about the soft answer. Also, it might be prudent to keep the venue of any wedding related events under wraps, at least from work people.

      That sounds like an incredibly frustrating situation to deal with.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I would farther. OP, this person is severely boundary challenged and agressive. I strongly disagree with Alison’s advice to talk to them. The person in the linked story was needy. Your person is agressively manipulative. You are doing the right thing by going low contact.
      I like the script about having a smaller family only wedding.
      My spidey senses were tingling on this one.
      You might want to look at articles on how to go low/no contact with people.
      Your person will push harder and harder the more you pull back. Stay away from them. They’re just trying to suck you back in.

      1. Espeon*

        Agree, OP, you need to go Ice Queen here, nothing more than professionally polite, stick to work-communication with her only, brush aside any personal questions with the briefest and least personal answer possible and then get back to work.

        Remember, “No” is a complete sentence.

        She won’t like it, but we don’t want predatory people like this to like us anyway – they’re only looking for someone to use to make themselves feel powerful. She’ll either get bored or get nasty, so just hope for the former and be prepared for the latter! Good Luck OP, she sounds like a real piece of work!

        1. MLB*

          THIS! Stop making excuses, just say no. This kind of person does not take hints. It’s like when you break up with someone and they keep trying to contact you, and you keep answering and saying you’re done. Communicating with them, even negatively, is still communicating and give them a reason not to leave you alone. When you make up excuses or try to drop hints, she is taking that to mean she needs to keep trying different angles to get you to agree.

          And I would have someone at your wedding on standby to escort her out if she shows up uninvited. Even if you don’t talk about the wedding at work, she may find out where it is and show up anyway.

        2. Lil Fidget*

          Look up Captain Awkward’s advice on “the African Violet of broken friendship” if you decide to go the more direct route. Apologies if others have already referenced that.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I’ve been hoping someone would refer to Captain Awkward – this sounds like the type of thing she frequently gives answers for.

      2. Casuan*

        Engineer Girl is right about the manipulation.
        For me, I’ve found that distance gets longer when I avoid phrases such as “sorry” & I limit my replies to as few words as possible, which precludes needing real or imagined excuses; the apology implies I wish I could & I don’t owe reasons for something I don’t want to do. Pretending I’m a broken record helps.
        The caveat to this strategy is that this isn’t always feasible in a work environment where one might need to keep the peace. Of course, be civil although don’t extend yourself because Sally will use everything to her manipulative advantage.

        Sally:”Girls’ night out!”
        You: “I can’t.”
        Sally:”Really? What are you doing? How about tomorrow?”
        You: “I can’t go, although now I need to finish this report.”

        1. Bagpuss*

          or even just “No thanks”

          Sally:”Girls’ night out!”
          You: “No thanks”
          Sally: “Why not?”
          You “It’s just not possible. But you have fun. Anyway, I need to finish this report, bye”

          1. Lil Fidget*

            To me, to be honest, that is just a little confusing from a former friend. OP did spend a whole day and a night at this person’s house, so if someone was just like “I can’t” I would literally be confused. What happened? This is a great approach for an office annoying dude who won’t take a hint and leave you alone, but with a friend, I might try to say something to indicate that my feelings have changed, and it’s not something she can fix. Even “I’m sorry, I realized I need to pull back on socializing and focus on X, I need to take a big step back here” – at least this indicates that you’re aware of the change, that it’s deliberate, and non-negotiable (I don’t love it because it suggests a vague “later” when you might be available again – any suggestions for improvements on this script?).

            1. Clare*

              I agree Lil Fidget, I’m not sure it is right or useful to be telling OP to ghost on someone who was/is a friend. Always better to use words.

              1. Casuan*

                Lil Fidget & Clare, thanks for the perspective on the other side of this relationship.

                I also believe it’s better to use words & to convey that the relationship has changed in some way. It’s the respectful thing to do for both parties & for the relationship itself.

                My take on OP1’s situation is this:
                OP1 gradually realised that Sally was blatantly taking advantage of the relationship. OP1 kind of recognised it early on, although she was willing to give Sally the benefit of the doubt- that Sally wasn’t really as bossy or manipulative as she first seemed. Sally only got worse & eventually OP1 realised that she had enough. OP1 spent a long time trying to politely distance herself from Sally. Sally hasn’t taken hints or direct language & she’s continued to try to manipulate OP1.
                So whilst ghosting really shouldn’t be a default end-the-relationship action, OP1 is rightfully in emergency containment mode. This is why most of us are making suggestions that involve blunt wording. OP1 needs to talk to Sally in the language & tone that Sally understands & she seems to know a harsh tone.

                Someone asked why so many of us assume that Sally will crash OP1’s wedding.
                I don’t believe that she will, however I do think it’s a possibility based on what we know: Sally has made many comments about the wedding & that she expects to be in attendance.
                Should OP1 be worried about this?
                Not so much “worried” as “this is a known potential snafu so it’s on the perimeter of the radar.”

            2. Samata*

              But I feel like at this point this person IS acting like the annoying guy who won’t take a hint. Say “I want to respect your boundaries” while, in fact, doing the opposite is beyond just a little concerning here. If she did have a break up conversation, I am worried this person wouldn’t get it. And I think saying “I realized I need to pull back on socializing” doesn’t indicate non-negotiable, it opens a door for reasons that down the road might be open. And doesn’t address the wedding situation, which I full on think this person is going to show up to invited or not.

              I see what you are saying about friends, I agree with that part. I just don’t think this behavior falls into that category.

              1. Luna*

                I’m not really sure why so many people think this person is going to show up uninvited to the wedding. There’s really no indication of that.

                The letter makes it sound like OP has been friends with this person for several years, and has only started giving hints that she no longer wants to be friends for a few months. Honestly I don’t blame the friend/coworker for being confused.

                1. Anon for this*

                  I had a ‘friend’ like this. We started off as housemates when I moved to my state. The boundary violations escalated and escalated. She slept with my ex-boyfriend when he visited me, etc etc. I felt like I had to keep being ‘friends’ because I’m a ‘nice person.’ Stuff stuff stuff. With therapy she’s been able to work some things out and we are friends with distance now…. but for a long time I was afraid if I had a baby she’d show up at my house unexpectedly, try to take the kid; I was afraid if things went wrong in her life she might have a psychotic episode at my house (it happened when we were living together). When I was reading about borderline personality disorder some bells started ringing in my head — no diagnosis here, just learning — but honestly my ‘friend’ behaved a bit like the LW’s ‘friend’ and I was truly afraid it would escalate to stalking.

                2. Observer*

                  Two years. And the OP started pulling back somewhere between 6 months (when the behavior started going off the rails) and 18 months into the relationship (ie 6 months ago) at which point she basically said “no more”.

                  NOW the coworker is claiming that she “want to respect [op’s] boundaries”, by clearly NOT respecting those boundaries. Even if she WERE confused, continuing to push *is* a boundary violation. But, clearly she is NOT confused. She KNOWS that she’s reaping the results of pushing the boundaries (including lying to her “friend”!)

                  Why on earth are people trying to guilt the OP into appease someone who is most definitely NOT healthy for her?

            3. ket*

              This person wasn’t a friend. This person pushed her way into accomplishing friend-like activities. She will now use that to guilt the LW. That is different. If you’ve never been in a relationship like that, you won’t understand how the rules of social courtesy are used against you by people who act like this.

              1. Observer*

                If you’ve never been in a relationship like that, you won’t understand how the rules of social courtesy are used against you by people who act like this

                That is actually not true, fortunately. It’s not intuitive, and it may need to be explained. But people CAN understand. Of course, it does mean that you have to be opening to listening and understanding things that are not in your direct experience. So, for some people it CAN be hard or impossible, because they simply are not capable of understanding something they have not experience. But anyone who is capable of that should be able to understand.

                1. Casuan*

                  Observer, I understood Ket’s comment to mean not so much that one without direct experience *couldn’t* understand as a concept of resonance. For me, resonance means there are always nuances that we miss because we haven’t directly experienced them.
                  Theory is not always the same as practical experience.

                  The best example I can think of is pregnancy. Women have often told me that they knew being pregnant & giving birth would be so very much more difficult & intense than they were thinking… after the birth, most of them qualified this with a “wtf it’s even way so much more than that.” These feelings aren’t just for the laborious aspect of pregnancy; they’re also for the joys that come with it.
                  I believe them. However, I’ve never been pregnant so there’s a unique aspect that I’m missing- the resonance. Thankfully, I don’t need this resonance to empathise with someone.

                  What’s cool- at least for me- is that it can be just as helpful to know someone who understands the theory as it is to have someone with the experience. I like the different perspectives. :)

            4. Observer*

              The OP has already spent a lot of time with soft answers, so this is NOWHERE near to ghosting. The reason for this kind of reply is because Sally is refusing to take a hint. And, it IS a flat out refusal. The OP started with reasons, and got argued with and even blasted for it. She has now gotten consistent in her refusals, but Sally is still pushing and refusing to take no. And, she has made it clear that she KNOWS exactly what the problem is by her claims about respecting boundaries. Except that she not.

              So, the OP knows that this person neither respects boundaries AND lies about it. This is the point at which she needs to stop giving this person a chance to make her miserable.

        2. UnPleasantries*

          I like this. Especially how it never says “I’m sorry.” No need for social niceties with Sally. Be blunt. Be firm. Hell, even when it comes to the wedding, I may suggest not giving any sort of excuse or reason. You don’t have to defend your decision with lies. It sounds like Sally is the type who would try to problem-solve whatever you tell her anyway.

          When she asks if she’s invited, just say “No.”
          When she asks why not, just say “I really need to finish this email.”

          It’d be hard for her to start any drama if you give her nothing. Plus, if she’s already known as “intense,” chances are people will know what’s up…even if she is more profitable for the company.

          1. Life is Good*

            OP Don’t let this bully railroad you anymore! Others are correct when they say to just be cool, but polite in all dealings with this jerk.

            On another note, the fact that she is profitable for the company but others in the office describe her as “intense” really pisses me off. Why is it that people can be a pain in the ass for others to work with, but that’s overlooked by management because they are money-makers? Sorry, direct experience with a former report on this issue. Off my high horse now.

              1. tangerineRose*

                And the sad thing is that 1 obnoxious “rainmaker” person can drive away all the good people, and that can doom the business. So in the long run, the bottom line won’t be helped so much, probably.

        3. AKchic*

          Never say “sorry”.
          Having been married to a narcissistic, manipulative abuser, I can tell you outright that when you say “sorry” it only reinforces their belief that they are not only in the right and you are wrong (otherwise, why would you apologize?), but that you owe them some kind of remuneration for the slight/insult to their person (for which you have just apologized).
          Yes, we have been conditioned to apologize as a social lubricant. To grease the wheels, as it were. You will need to break that habit with Sally. Sally is never to hear the word “sorry” again from you.

          1. PattS*

            I second AKchic! No apologies are required here. The fact that she keeps trying to force any kind of relationship with OP shows that Sally does not respect boundaries. You may consider speaking to your HR department about this situation, that she is pressuring you into activities you do not want to participate in and this behavior is becoming unwelcome even after Sally has been told you do not want to participate.
            She is an abuser, plain and simple. High producer for the company, fine, but still an abuser.

      3. Isabelle*

        I agree especially because Sally knows exactly that what she is doing and she even mentioned she would “respect OP’s boundaries” meaning that she knows fine well she was trampling all over them before.
        Sally seems very toxic and manipulative. Since OP can’t go no contact with a work colleague, she needs to work on her grey rock techniques. I would suggest reading some posts from Captain Awkward on this topic.

      4. Lynca*

        And OP don’t worried about being seen as trying to start drama taking this route. Being distant, professional, and polite will not be viewed badly. She’s already seen as “intense.” That’s not a compliment.

    3. small jar of fireflies*

      Yeah… I wouldn’t say she wants to be friends because I’m not sure she understands a reciprocal relationship with shared experiences and emotional support? It sounds more like she wants an accessory and personal favor machine that bestows attention.

      Gradual icing and firm “nos” are really the only way to go.

    4. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I currently am dealing with a very serious stage 5 clinger at work. The kicker here is that she isn’t even my coworker; she is a person who works for a separate agency in the building where I work. Her desk is next to my cube in a bullpen style office. This woman physically grabs me while I walk down the hall and often runs after me as I leave for the day to try to socialize or ask why I’m mad at her. It is bizarre and embarrassing.

      OP, do not tell her your wedding plans and perhaps tell her that your New Year’s Resolution is to stop socializing at work or something like that. She cannot be dealt with in traditional means.

      1. Penny Lane*

        “Please take your hands off me” coupled with a look of incredulity that anyone is grabbing you, unless they are trying to push you out of the way of the piano about to fall on you.

        “I’m not mad at you, but I will be if you keep asking why I’m mad at you.”

        1. Sabine the Very Mean*

          Thank you! I’m working on it. I’ve wiggled my arm out of her grasp with that look on my face. I replied with, “Jane, we don’t have the sort of relationship where I would feel anything other than indifferent toward you”. She’s on another level. I’m working on, “excuse me I’m working/please stop asking me that/my answer won’t change”. Brutal.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I don’t know if this would be acceptable at your workplace, but a small shriek if you’re physically grabbed might help underline how unwelcome this is. If someone grabbed me by surprise, I might shriek without thinking about it.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Let her run after you when you are leaving. No one says that you need to stop, turn around, acknowledge her, etc. You have a train or a bus to catch (or whatever). Like the OP here, you are too nice for your own good.

    5. Emmie*

      “I can’t. Please stop asking.”
      “I can’t. It’s odd that you keep asking. Please stop.”
      OP is doing the right thing, in case she needs to hear it. This person doesn’t belong at your wedding. I’d also go silent on all your details – venue and date. I’m sorry you need to deal with this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “You have asked me that already.” Followed by silence.

        As far as grabbing you, you can loudly say, “Please keep your hands off of me.” Once you have said this you have laid the groundwork to say, “I have asked you before and now I am telling you. You need to keep your hands to yourself.”
        Practice saying this in the mirror so you are used to hearing this out of your own mouth. You are shooting for an unemotional voice, very matter of fact and very pulled together. The same tone you would use to report facts about your work to your boss.

        You can also say something like,”I have noticed that you run after me every (or most) night(s) when it is time to go home. That is kind of odd and there is no need to do that.”

  4. Lord Gouldian Finch*

    #3 – I’d think this would depend on the amount of time passing between turning down offers. If you turned down an entry level position five years ago, and turned down a middle-manager role down, then they’re not likely to hold it against you if seven to ten years from now you are a candidate at a VP level or something. On the other hand, if you apply for a similar role a year or two from now, they’ll probably expect some serious change in circumstance.

    1. Kiwi*

      Maybe. Or I might think, hmph we weren’t good enough for them when we had low-level jobs available, but now we’ve got a prestigious job we are.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I wouldn’t worry too much about that. If they’ve advanced in their career to the point that they’re a reasonable candidate for a prestigious job, it wouldn’t make sense to take issue with them not wanting a low-level one long ago. (And really, turning down offers isn’t inherently about “not good enough for me”; it’s about fit with that particular job, that particular team, that particular salary, all at that particular time in your life and point in your career.)

      2. MK*

        By the same token, a candidate you rejected when they were a new grad should not even consider an offer from you after they got experience and more qualifications?

        Professional rejection isn’t personal.

        1. Julianne*

          Right. If I’d rejected all job offers from employers who rejected my candidacy when I was fresh out of school, I wouldn’t have been able to find a job within an hour of where I live!

      3. ainomiaka*

        that. . . seems like a lot of reading into it. The lower level job might not have been what they needed for a lot of reasons. “We weren’t good enough” seems like only taking the most absolutely personal one as a possibility.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I get turned down all the time. It’s not personal; there are other jobs out there and mine isn’t always somebody’s best fit. Sometimes I work with the applicant in their new position.

      4. Tuxedo Cat*

        It really might not have anything to do with the candidate thinking the company wasn’t good enough when they had low-level jobs.

        They might’ve received a better offer somewhere else, personal circumstances, they felt like they weren’t the right fit for the job, the company changed significantly…

      5. Observer*

        And why is that a problem? A job is supposed to be a an EXCHANGE. If you didn’t have what they wanted IN EXCHANGE for their labor, why should they have taken the job?

        Also, are you REALLY going to turn down good talent because they didn’t take your offer before? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

        In addition to what everyone else said…

  5. all aboard the anon train*

    #2: Honestly, this is the reason why I only list my email address on resumes. I will only put my phone number if it’s an online form that requires a phone number. I work in an open office with very little room for private calls, so when I have a phone interview, I have to spend time in advance to find a place to take the call. A cold call phone interview would really turn me off from a company.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I once got home and was just unlocking the door when my phone rang. Since I was looking for a new job at the time, I thought it might be interview related, but then the woman said “Have I caught you at a bad time?” I politely said I could talk briefly, but it turned into more than a quick setting-up-an-appointment call, and of cause, I wasn’t really prepared for it.

      Thankfully I could get my fishfingers in the freezer before they defrosted!

      1. Purplesaurus*

        I hate the “have I caught you at a bad time” line. Because the person almost certainly knows she has, and you aren’t in the position to say “yes.”

        1. Queen of the File*

          Or… they could just be asking because they don’t know your routine and are hoping you would be honest and tell them if it is a bad time for you? Not everyone who phones is trying to be a jerk.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            I was referring to the cold-call interview calls and situations that turn out to be more than brief, as Chocolate Teapot described. And I wouldn’t even consider the person a jerk (I didn’t say that); I merely said I hated it because you’re already at a disadvantage in that you do really need to talk to them, but they don’t need to talk to you.

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            What Purplesaurus said, but with the added note that the lack of intent to be a jerk does not make a person not-a-jerk.

            This is one of those impact vs intent things, and people (not saying you’re doing this, Queen, moreso referring to OP’s boss) brushing it aside as “of course I’m not trying to be a powerplay jerk, of course they can say ‘this isn’t a good time'” do so without regard for the fact that they’ve been told that the behavior has a bad impact on others and are choosing to continue to do the behavior anyway. The boss might not have started doing this practice because they’re a jerk, but the fact that their impact has been pointed out to them and they haven’t changed their practice circles back around to them, yes, being a jerk.

            1. Queen of the File*

              I really just meant to respond to the idea that someone who asks “is this a bad time” would know in advance that it is a bad time. I agree that this interviewer didn’t exhibit thoughtful behaviour by ignoring the “brief” part of the interviewee’s statement.

              1. Observer*

                No, what the person asking should know is that you CANNOT expect an honest answer in this kind of situation.

          3. Observer*

            Anyone who calls a job applicant (outside of some very narrow circumstance) and doesn’t realize that the person might not feel able to say no is pretty close to being incompetent. And anyone who doesn’t realize that “it’s fine” is generally predicated on the idea that it’s going to be a SHORT call should not be in a job that requires any sort of judgement. For instance, in the case of Chocolate Teapot, it WAS an ok time for a SHORT call – no screaming babies, no nosy co-workers to overhear, etc. But it was NOT a good time for a long call. What makes it even worse is that they actually TOLD the caller that it was OK for a SHORT call.

        2. Not a Morning Person*

          Yes. The answer to “have I caught you at a bad time” is always, “it depends”…upon who you are and why you are calling.

      2. please*

        “I politely said I could talk briefly, but it turned into more than a quick setting-up-an-appointment call, and of cause, I wasn’t really prepared for it.”

        I don’t see the problem with this. Why have phone numbers if people can’t call you, ask for a time, and then use a few minutes. I hate talking on the phone by the way.

        “Because the person almost certainly knows she has, ”
        How do they know this? I think what Queen of the File said is spot-on.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yes, but if someone said, “I can speak briefly,” and then you pulled them into a half hour interview, they were honest with you, and you ignored them and did your own thing. That’s tacky.

        2. Oryx*

          Because often they aren’t using just a few minutes.

          I’ve been cold called like this and asked if I had a few minutes to speak and then 30 minutes later I’m still on the phone.

          1. please*

            Not in the instance I was saying wasn’t a problem – it was “a quick setting-up-an-appointment call” and I’m saying I don’t see the problem of someone asking if you have a few minutes to do that and then doing it.

            Do you really think there is something wrong with that?

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              I think you mis-read. “*it turned into more than* a quick setting-up-an-appointment call”- means it was *not* a quick call, even though she said she could take a quick one only.

            2. Oryx*

              Do I have a problem with someone cold calling and asking “Do you have a few minutes to chat?” No.

              Do I have a problem with someone cold calling, asking “Do you have a few minutes to chat?” and when I respond “I can speak briefly” the person who cold called me decides they can just ignore that and take up more than a few minutes of my time? Yes. Yes I do have a problem with that.

              The latter is what was presented. If you cold call someone and they say “I can speak briefly” you need to respect that answer and their time. If you require more than a few minutes then you need to actually schedule something in advance.

            3. Wehaf*

              The poster you were quoting specifically said they indicated they had time for a brief call, but instead it “turned into MORE THAN a quick setting-up-an-appointment call” (emphasis added). It’s the “more than” part that’s problematic.

          2. AKchic*

            I get this with survey takers calling my landline. Most days, I am happy to help. Some days, I just do not have the time/patience/energy. When you are misleading, I really don’t want to help.

            *Intro spiel* “Do you have a few minutes to take a brief survey”
            Brief being the operative word, tends to have different meanings to different people. According to one senator’s office; “brief” means 53 minutes worth of questions. During the dinner period. I was not pleased and made sure to give my full opinions during the “open” commentary solicitation.

  6. Harvey P. Carr*

    In response to 1. My coworker isn’t picking up on my cues that I don’t want to be friends, specifically this:

    . . . . . she pulled a scheduling bait-and-switch to trick me into helping her deep clean her apartment and then directed me around like I was her maid . . . . .

    I hope you got out of there the moment she started doing that.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      It sounds as though the OP went along with it: “after she pulled a scheduling bait-and-switch to trick me into helping her deep clean her apartment and then directed me around like I was her maid”.

    2. Artemesia*

      If she did go along with it then she needs to do some reflection on how she sets boundaries. It would be a cold day in hell before anyone manipulated me into cleaning their apartment.

      1. Thlayli*

        Fair play to you on being so hard to manipulate. Most people aren’t that good at a) spotting manipulation when it’s happening and b) pushing back on it. I can totally see myself being manipulated into cleaning someone’s apartment.

        1. Mookie*

          I am exactly the kind of conflict-averse pushover who’d be bullied into doing this, but I don’t actually think people like you and me represent the majority. This is egregious enough, even if the penny is slow to drop, that I’d expect most people to leave or laugh in / be angry towards the ridiculous person’s stupid face.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yes, but unfortunately users, abusers, and manipulators tend to have an instinct for people who, for whatever reason, tend to go along to get along, whether it’s due to childhood abuse or something else.

            1. eplawyer*

              Most people can tell if someone is a go along to get along type. It’s just most people don’t take advantage of that fact. Some will actively try to help the person stand up for themselves in the appropriate situation. Some will just be friends. Abusers take advantage of the situation.

              LW, you were exactly right that this reminds you of your abusive ex. Because it is abusive. Maybe not physically, but she is a controlling person which is what abuse is. Do your best to keep things low key at work. If that proves impossible, considering polishing up the old resume.

              1. fposte*

                I think what often happens is that it’s like sales–they try it on with a bunch of people and proceed further with the ones with whom it sticks.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            OP did say it was a bait and switch. So my guess is Sally probably didn’t approach OP in the office with a “wanna come over this weekend to deep-clean my apartment while I treat you like a maid?” She probably lured OP in. Again this is something I’ve had happen to me. People start out asking you for something small and fairly reasonable, you say yes, and they then escalate their requests by just a little bit at a time, so, when they get to the truly insane demands, you no longer recognize them as such. It’s like boiling the proverbial frog.

            1. Sabine the Very Mean*

              It is how folks get into Scientology. Start with the universally accepted stuff (self-help and growth stuff). Slowly add in the weird stuff with a spoonful of the normal stuff and add it in more and more over time. Easy.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                (content warning, attempted sexual assault)

                In my case, I was 17 and had just moved from Small Town to Big City for college. I was sitting on a park bench reading a book. An older man (28) sat down next to me and asked what I was reading. Three hours later, I was at his apartment in his bed, with no clothes on, he was next to me, and I had already called the relatives I was staying with to tell them I’d be spending the night at my girlfriend’s and not to wait for me. It was a long series of small, seemingly reasonable, requests that somehow got me from point A to point B. (He ended up letting me go, probably because I was a minor, and acted very afraid once I realized the situation I was in, and it probably finally dawned on him that what he wanted to do could get him in a world of trouble.) I guarantee you that, if he’d sat down next to me in that park and said “wanna go to my place and have fun?” I would’ve said no and walked away. Instead, he kept progressing from one 99% normal/1% weird thing to the next, until it was 100% weird and 0% normal. I avoided that park for three years after that.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Thank you!!

                  I actually remember all the steps 30+ years later, because a part of me is kind of in awe of how ingenious it was. Here they are:
                  asks me what I’m reading, we chat about the book
                  we walk around the block, chatting. he asks if I want ice cream, we walk into one of the many ice cream shops on the block
                  he gets me a scoop of ice cream and a glass of champagne (totally a thing in my home country in the 80s)
                  repeat at a few more ice cream places until I am good and buzzed
                  meanwhile, he finds out I’m new to City, and asks if I’ve ever seen the drawbridges being raised (a very touristy thing specific to City, that obviously happens late at night) I say I haven’t yet and he suggests we go do it later that night
                  “it’s getting cold and it’s like three hours till the drawbridges. but I just happen to live right in this building! want to go up and wait there? don’t worry, my mom lives there too”
                  (we go to his place. his mom is indeed there, lets us in, and goes straight to her room. I never saw or heard from her again)
                  “you may want to call whoever you’re staying with, tell them you’ll be very late coming home, so they don’t worry” (I call)
                  “eh, screw the drawbridges. It’s two more hours and I’m already tired. Are you tired? I know your relatives are not expecting you, but you can sleep here. You can have my bed, and I’ll be on a cot”
                  (five minutes later) “wait a minute. why am i sleeping on a cot in my own room? what the hell? i live here.” (gets into my bed, which was when I finally sobered up and realized what was happening)

        2. Allison*

          My issue is spotting manipulation when it feels too late to say anything, and worrying that they’ll act all taken aback and say “you seemed okay with it ten minutes ago, what changed? you already agreed to it, think of the mess I’ll be in if you pull out now!”

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Same. I’d stay and clean the apartment just out of overall shock and disbelief that this is happening.

          My last SO (2 years) helped me become more assertive, recognize manipulation early enough to nip it in the bud, and say no. But that is not a skill I was born with. This is something I need to continually work on, and remind myself to be on the lookout for.

          1. Queen of the File*

            Same here. I actually have been tricked into cleaning someone’s apartment. My goal is to only let that happen to me one time, and I’m succeeding so far :)

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              One of my best/worst teenage memories is of the 15yo me stopping by the high school, where I was a member of student council, being asked if I could do a small favor and drop a package off at this old lady’s apartment on my way home “since it’s on your way”, and being stuck there for the rest of the day running errands for the woman. She was a disabled WWII vet and apparently someone at my school was in charge of getting students to come help her around the house a few times a week. Also apparently, she was expecting someone that day, because she was prepared with a to-do list a mile long. (I would finish one thing for her and assume I could go home now, and she’d be “okay, next…”) But I had no idea it was happening, and she had no idea I was only there to drop off a package. I stayed all day, because what terrible person says no to an elderly war vet? (in hindsight, also because no one else was probably coming to help her that day.) My school pulled a fast one on me that day, hopefully the Vet Lady was none the wiser. She didn’t need to know. The adult me is, however, thinking that the 15yo me should’ve had a serious talk with the school people later. I just pretended it never happened and we never spoke of it again at school.

          2. BadPlanning*

            And it probably started with, “Hey, I need to hit the dust bunnies under this couch and it’s a two person job, can you help me out quick.” Then somehow, you’re scrubbing baseboards with a toothbrush.

        4. NaoNao*

          Yeah, especially if your options are:

          Leave and potentially suffer her wrath/spiral of whyyyyy later
          Stand there awkwardly while she cleans

          I can see this happening thusly:

          Hey before we go shopping, can you just help me….
          Then before you know it, you’ve been sucked into a four hour cleaning zone.

          I have a friend who used to pick me up for “coffee” and then suddenly we’d be running by the mall to return an item, going to such and such store to get xyz, heading to the liquor store to get this and that, and so on. I finally put my foot down in a strongly worded “quit this nonsense or we’re not friends anymore” email that said “running errands with you is not hanging out.”

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I could be all “bye Felicia” now, at this point in my life, but a younger and less-experienced me? I can easily see that person being roped in, once she was already there and felt obligated and needed to seem polite and agreeable. (Not to suggest OP is young and/or inexperienced.)

      3. Observer*

        Well, apparently she HAS done some reflection. And has pulled back on her involvement with this person. If you notice, she’s not falling for this person’s “I want to respect your boundaries” nonsense either.

        What is REALLY blowing me away is the small number of responders who are telling her that she more or less owes Sally some sort of “explanation.” And that she’s not being “nice” enough.

    3. Edina Monsoon*

      I was wondering about this, why didn’t you just say I don’t want to clean your apartment, I’m going home, see you at work on Monday.

      If she asks about your wedding tell her a different venue and date, that way if she tries to turn up it won’t matter. I actually did this with a pushy colleague I couldn’t stand, because she was exactly the sort of person who would turn up uninvited. We got married on the Saturday but I told her it was the Sunday and I told her it was the hotel about half a mile down the road from where we actually got married and then I was really vague about everything else wedding related. I figured if she found out the truth I could always say she must have misheard me.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Ooh. And it was even on the same weekend.
        That’s close enough to be a “misheard” and far enough away to avoid the problem.
        I like that the fake date was after the real date. That guarantees they miss it.

        Although the best way is to never mention the venue and time at all. Unless pushy knows another friend that is invited.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        With respect, any question that begins “why didn’t you just” is asked with the assumption that you would have done something differently in the other person’s shoes. It’s not “just” doing anything. Especially for someone who has experienced trauma and may have a freeze response.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          That said, I also think your script here is really useful – it’s ok to say things like that, it’s just not necessarily easy!

          1. Edina Monsoon*

            I guess I just cannot imagine cleaning anything in anyone’s house, never mind doing a deep clean and being ordered around.

            I can see your point though, sometimes people feel unable to say no and it sounds like this coworker is someone who knows how to take advantage of that.

            1. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus*

              It takes practice to say no. You can start with small things like, Do you want a glass a wine with your dinner, and you say no politely. Over time when the home remodeling people come to your house 5 times to your house to ask to do repairs you can become a “no sensei” and say F@CK NO and not bat an eye.

            2. Gaz112*

              I can’t speak for the OP, but I’d probably be so shocked that I’d kind of go along with it in a bemused state.

            3. NYC Weez*

              I’m assuming it played out a little more slowly, with OP1 showing up expecting they’re going to go out to brunch, and the coworker saying something like “Can you just put this over there? Oh grab that vase and put it up on the mantel.” Most reasonable people wouldn’t think anything of a couple small requests, until they realized that there had just been 15 of these small requests in a row and no signs of heading out.

            4. Temperance*

              People like LW’s coworker look for timid people to push around. Whereas I would tell Sally to get bent, I know it’s not easy for everyone.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                It is definitely an ability that comes with experience and age. The older I get, the less patience I have for other people’s bullshit.

            5. Specialk9*

              She was pretty clear in her letter with the fact that she believes the coworker to hold power that she doesn’t, because the pushy one is a rainmaker for the company and well established, while the OP is newer and in a support role rather than sales. Further, there are only two young women in an entire medium sized company (which, really?!?!) so that even less reason to rock the boat.

              And yes, blaming someone for not doing X like you woulda done, is an unkind move.

        2. Penny Lane*

          “With respect, any question that begins “why didn’t you just” is asked with the assumption that you would have done something differently in the other person’s shoes. It’s not “just” doing anything. Especially for someone who has experienced trauma and may have a freeze response.”

          Well, yes, but I don’t think we need to go all the way to the drama that the OP in this situation is someone who has undergone terrible trauma in her life, to the point that she fears for her safety if she were to ever turn down a request from someone else, and that if the McD worker asks do you want fries with that, she has flashbacks to trauma and feels obligated to say yes because she can’t possibly let anybody down.

          It’s just possible that some people are so overly socialized to Be Nice And Friendly (esp women) that they put other people’s desires, no matter how inane, above their own.

      3. Parenthetically*

        Temperance mentions that people like Sally often target timid folks, but they also target the generally conflict-averse or socially “nice,” which is, frankly, a lot of women in the workplace. The pressure on women to “be nice” at work is huge, of course, and the social and professional penalties for being seen as a b!tch/bossy/difficult/whatever are real and documented.

        I’m not timid at all — I’m VERY opinionated, very outspoken, and very persuasive. But. I have a whole load of family and personal history that combine to mean I typically freeze up in situations where I feel pushed around. It’s entirely possible for a person to be professionally successful and personally “together” while also finding herself in situations like this and not know how to get out of them.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, plus add in the fact that this isn’t just someone the OP knows socially, it’s someone she doesn’t want to get in conflict with at work. When I was younger, sometimes it was easy for me to say no, but if the person ignored my no and pushed back, I’d get (rightly) annoyed or angry, and I’d react in a way that made my feelings obvious. It took me a long time to learn to say no in a way that was firm but also diplomatic enough to preserve a working relationship with a difficult person.

      4. UnPleasantries*

        I can imagine a few scenarios in which one could be conned into cleaning. Say Sally and OP had plans to go to a movie. OP drives to Sally’s house to pick her up. OP enter’s Sally’s house to find Sally shampooing her carpet.

        Sally: Oh OP, I was going to call you, but when I looked at the time, I figured you were already on your way. The 11:15 showing of Black Panther is sold out.
        OP: Oh, well, that’s too bad. I guess I’ll just go home.
        Sally: Don’t be silly, there is another showing at 3:30! Would you mind helping me out with this real quick. I thought I could finish this cleaning before the movie, but I overestimated how much needed done! Can you just run this shampooer over the rest of the carpet?
        OP: Uh, yeah sure. Want to go get brunch or something?
        Sally: After this! I need to go put my laundry in the dryer and I really don’t want to leave this carpet half done.
        (1 hour later)
        OP: You want to go to brunch now?
        Sally: While you were finishing the carpet I was straightening up my dishware and dropped a glass. I swept it up, but now I see the floor is filthy. Probably from when you didn’t take off your shoes during our All Day Girls’ Day…thanks a lot! Ha. Ha. Grab the mop and go over the floor while I get these dishes back in the cupboards?
        (3 hours later)
        Sally: Oh crap, we missed the movie. But man does this place look great!

        I know I’ve been tricked into doing things by “intense” friends without realizing it until long after the favors took place.

      5. Queen of the File*

        Maybe I’ll go into how it happened to me. The person who tricked me into cleaning her apartment was a new friend but someone who was otherwise nice and quite generous etc. so I was not on alert. She asked me to come over to help her party prep that afternoon, and when I arrived I realized what she actually meant was “the party is in three hours and I haven’t cleaned my house in 6 months–here’s the bleach & mop, I need to go out and get a cake”. So at the time I felt like it was partly on me for not clarifying (mostly on her for not clarifying). I considered noping out of there but she had never pulled anything on me before and I decided the fallout of leaving her in the lurch (mutual friends, confrontation) was not worth it. So I scrubbed toilets and floors with all the love I could muster and resolved she had used up all future favours from me (I stuck by this & our friendship cooled as a result). I don’t have any hard feelings, I just think she is used to expecting a grander level of give-and-take in both directions with her friends than I (or, arguably, most people) feel comfortable with.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I think what’s weird to me is if someone sprung that on me (unless it was really minor, like “set the table” or “put ice in glasses”) is that I would say, “I’m not dressed for deep cleaning and I don’t want to stain my clothes.” I am a very lazy person (I think) and if I’m dressed for a party, I’m usually in heels and jewelry and a nice top, at least, and if I’m cleaning, I’m in my tatty T-shirt and flannel PJ bottoms, because I don’t want to splash anything on clothes that anyone will ever see. Also, it’s more comfortable for kneeling and scrubbing and I am lazy and I’m not doing to do that if it causes me mild discomfort.

        2. Lehigh*

          Thank you! I can see how that works now. If you’ve never been in the situation (as I haven’t), it can be hard to picture.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            My reply to the wedding hints would be “Remember when you invited me over to do X and I ended up deep cleaning your apartment? That’s why you’re not invited to the wedding.”

      6. Annie Moose*

        Reminds me slightly of a wildly over-clingy guy I knew in college. I flat-out told him I absolutely was not attending my graduation ceremony because I knew he’d show up if he thought I’d be there! And I went to the ceremony and had a lovely time with friends and family and didn’t have to worry about him.

        I’m not saying that lying is always the right thing to do, but sometimes one small lie can save you a lot of trouble.

        1. AKchic*

          Sorry… I’m imagining a bride telling someone she won’t be at her own wedding because someone might show up.
          I kind of wish I could have given that ultimatum to my MIL, but she would have shown up on purpose so I wouldn’t be there (and she would have worn a bridal gown and stood in my place if she could have).

    4. essEss*

      Agreed. I don’t reward bait-and-switch…. “This isn’t what I was invited to do so I’m going to head home now.” and then LEAVE.

      1. Parenthetically*

        This kind of, “I would have done X in this situation, why didn’t you just do what I would have done?” isn’t helpful to letter writers, IMO. I think it’s overly critical of something in the past that can’t be undone and which was an example of Sally’s bad behavior, not the OP’s deficiencies.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          Thank you! I think people mean to be commiserating here or offering advice for the future, but it’s really not helpful when it comes out as “why didn’t you just…?” It’s much easier to know the right thing to do when you’re not the one in the situation and have time to think abstractly and calmly about it.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      OP, I say this as someone who has had issues setting boundaries: you might want to visit a therapist to discuss how to get better at exiting situations like the one you described.

  7. Casuan*

    OP5, even if this was legal, often short-term arrangements tend to become long-term before onne even realises the switch between the two.
    Such an arrangement is not for your benefit- not at all.
    If your boss tries to convince you on the arrangement, tell him it’s illegal & tell him why & ask how he thinks this would help you. Then tell him still not happening & update us on that conversation. :-)

    Also, if he writes a check, how is that under-the-table unless he miscategorises the check [ie: the reason he is paying OP5]?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The “under the table” part refers to paying in a way that evades labor (or other) laws, although it can also refer to cash-only transactions for labor.

      1. Casuan*

        Probably I could have phrase my question better, although I’m not certain how to do so.
        I know that under-the-table is illegal.
        I’m questioning that Boss wants to pay by cheque & not cash… If he writes a cheque payable to “Jane Doe” then how does that not raise any yellow or red flags?

        1. MK*

          Their previous work relationship makes it inherently suspicious. If I lay off someone and then begin to write biweekly checks to them for set amounts, I am going to have to have a hard time convincing the tax inspector it was for an unrelated reason. But even without that, what kind of situation requires giving someone else money in a set and regular way, other than employment?

          1. KayEss*

            I mean, I rent a condo directly from its private owner, so I pay the rent by sending her a check for the same amount once a month.

        2. Steph*

          When I was a dumb student I worked under the table. It was a mom and pop business, they couldn’t afford the taxes. They paid me cash out of the till at the end of every shift, and because it was a video rental place it was easy for them to just slightly under-report income. If I hadn’t been eighteen years old and excited about getting to watch movies for eight hours a day two days a week, I might have googled it and known better- but even looking back now it’s hard to hold it against them. It was the kind of place where I’d catch my manager hotboxing in the storage cupboard. They eventually laid me off because they couldn’t afford me, and were closed about a year later when all those places went the way of the dinosaur.

          That said, I do not know how it would work at all in an actually remotely professional setting.

          1. Annnon*

            Thing is, if you can’t afford to pay the taxes to legally employ the people who work for you, you can’t afford to have a business. I’m not surprised they closed.

        3. Natalie*

          He could book it the same way he books other expenses to contractors, which might raise a yellow flag depending on how closely anyone looks at his tax return. But realistically, probably wouldn’t. It’s still not legal – the OP almost certainly does not meet the definition of an independent contractor – but it allows the employer to at least report the payment to the IRS. Which would also, incidentally, remove the employee’s option to not report this income (also illegal, but something that happens) which means she would be certainly paying self employment tax + income tax.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Some under-the-table owners use their own personal checking accounts for under-the-table payments, too, rather than the business account, so the payment never sees the business books/IRS files at all. I saw that in my former life doing some domestic relations litigation, when a parent wanted to avoid child support and an employer wanted to avoid paying taxes.

      2. Thlayli*

        I wonder if the employer actually said “under the table” and OP didn’t realise what that meant. I think “under the table” is a euphemism everywhere for “let’s not tell the taxman about this”.

        OP to answer your original question the pros of being paid “under the table” are that you don’t have to pay tax and you can sometimes claim benefits while doing it. The cons are you don’t get any of the benefits of paying tax (Alison listed them – you lose out on pension etc), it’s illegal and you risk getting into serious trouble, and if you claim any benefits as well such as unemployment or disability then that’s also illegal and you can get into even more serious trouble.

        I know lots of people who’ve been paid “under the table” for part time roles. Usually when they were minors or illegal immigrants, or seasonal workers, or working for family. It’s very common for people just starting out who have to take any job they can get, but it doesn’t sound like you are in that situation. I don’t know much about the social welfare system in America (I’m pleasantly surprised to learn today that you actually do have a social security pension system – I thought American people just had to save or work till they are dead or disabled). So I don’t know if the benefits of the social welfare outweigh the cost of paying taxes in your case. But since you are not just starting out and are already “in the system” so to speak, and hopefully have other options, I think the risks of breaking the law probably outweigh the benefits of keeping a bit more income in your pocket.

        Assuming you do want to go the legal route, approach it with your boss like “I’ve considered your offer to pay me “under the table” and Ive decided I don’t want to do that. I’d like to stay on the books and keep paying taxes through my pay check – even though it will cost me more i think the benefits of getting social security pension contributions and so on are worth it”. Act like you are unaware he would be saving any money too, and don’t make it sound like he was breaking the law. If he pushes it and says something like you can pay your taxes yourself then maybe say something like “I looked into it and I really don’t think I would fit the definition of an independent contractor because …” if he still pushes it then ask him right out if he is willing to give you the job as an official employee or not. If not then you could go the independent contractor route while looking for another job. At least you wouldn’t be breaking the law, though he still would be. Good luck

        1. Bea*

          We’ve had social security since the 30s and many people still cannot live off of it. My aunt is 70 and still works full time. My dad was able to retire because of his pension plus social security plus my mom being full time.

          And the huge thing we younger people deal with is being told our social security will not be there because they’ve robbed it when there was a surplus forgetting we all live longer these days. We keep paying into it because it’s the law but yeah we do work until we die unless we have a retirement fund like my dad did. Thankfully he was a laborer when they still paid benefits like that.

        2. Hellanon*

          I think it’s also fairly common that what starts out as “under the table” becomes a 1099 at the end of the year when the tax accountant looks at what the business owner has been doing.

        3. zora*

          As far as I understand, in the US we pay a much smaller percentage into Social Security (both employee and employer) than in most countries with a functional pension system. At this point, the monthly payouts are much less than anyone can live on. Especially since they also have to still pay out cash for things that are not nationalized, like health care.

    2. MommyMD*

      It’s not legal. Under the table means off the books, not complying with tax laws, being criminally evasive, no matter how the payment is being delivered.

    3. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

      Most don’t consider the tax implications, and they are substantial. Look at your paycheck and add your social security and Medicare tax, then multiply by 2. That’s the minimum additional tax and other expenses you’ll be paying. Plus you’ll have to make quarterly payments to IRS plus your state and local if they have income tax. Your hourly rate will have to go up substantially to cover that. And you can kiss your affordable health insurance goodbye as well.
      Or you can not pay the taxes and face federal jail time and/or fines and penalties for tax evasion. But it’s your decision.

      1. SeeReeves*

        I am glad someone mentioned the quarterly payments since Alison said end of year. If you plan to remain above board and pay your taxes, you’ll want to do that quarterly like someone on a 1099. If you wait until the end of the year, there will be penalties for not having paid throughout the year (if we’re talking about the US).

        I learned this the hard way. I had an internship in ugrad and afterwards continued to work freelance for the company. I knew nothing about being an independent contractor and didn’t pay any taxes during the year. Got hit with surprisingly high penalties when I did my taxes in March. This case was a little different in that this was not under the table. The company I freelanced for reported paying me as a contractor and sent me a 1099.

        1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          I had this happen to me too, and the penalties I had to pay to the IRS were staggering based on how little I made at that time. It’s worth noting that if you file your taxes on time and can’t afford to pay the whole thing, the maximum interest penalty is 25% of the taxes you owe. That’s worse than credit card interest!

        2. Evan Þ*

          And if you’re in a state with income tax, you’ll probably need to file and send in payments quarterly with them, too.

      2. Academic Addie*

        Yes, I’ve been a 1099 contractor before, and it was expensive. Think carefully about this.

        The other thing people don’t realize is that 1099s have implications for how you are treated, in terms of your hours, expectation to be in the office, etc. But I’ve noticed a trend in my husband’s field for mom and pop shops to “hire” people as 1099s, but treat them as employees. OP, will this employer be treating you as an employee but sticking you with the tax burden?

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I was waiting someone to bring up freelancing, where I’ve heard that you should charge between two and two and a half times what you grossed as a full-time employee, because you’re covering all your own overhead (insurance, taxes, rent, utilities, equipment, etc.).

        2. BlueWolf*

          Exactly, I was misclassified as an “independent contractor” in a previous job when I started. I was just out of college and needed a job and just said yes without thinking about it. Basically, I was a part-time employee. It only lasted a few months as I eventually got wise and insisted on being paid (correctly) as a regular employee.

        3. Bea*

          I will rephrase this for folks not familiar with contractors and 1099s, you will be taxed as though you’re operating a business and treated as a business.

          I only dealt with this doing a few huge commissions jobs that padded me enough to pay taxes just fine in the end. Then I had some dolt incorrectly post my proper paycheck to commissions so I’m up shhht creek this year coming up with money to pay triple taxes on that. Yes I could fight it but no the IRS doesn’t work well in these moments unless it’s a large enough sum to really get in the mud over. Sigh.

          1. Natalie*

            Does your employer not withhold from commission checks? They are supposed to, at a higher rate actually, and would pay the normal payroll taxes as well.

    4. C*

      And if you decided to not pay the taxes (illegally), it would only take 5 years for you to no longer be insured for Social Security Disability at all…

  8. LouiseM*

    OP #1, unfortunately I have to disagree with Allison that the wedding situation will be “easily handled.” Sure, if you’re dealing with a normal but slightly clingy coworker like in the letter linked to. But you compared this person to your abusive ex three times in this letter! From what you’ve described, a polite excuse like that you want to have a smaller wedding may not work with her (even if it would with a reasonable person). I don’t have a better suggestion for you, but that’s why I’m not running an advice blog! Maybe you should check out Captain Awkward or Dear Prudence at Slate. They will have a better understanding of how to deal with this kind of person. Good luck.

    1. Radius20*

      You are telling her to go to a different website where someone else can give her better advice than Allison? Wow!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, that’s fine! She’s saying that it’s less a work-advice issue than a relationship issue.

        I disagree that the wedding thing definitely won’t be reasonably straightforward though, as long as the letter writer holds firm. You can set boundaries with people if you’re willing to hold firm and not be guilted into softening your stance. Because this is a coworker and the letter-writer specifically said she can’t have drama between them at work, there’s a slightly different spin on it than there might be in a different context. She needs to be scrupulously professional, but she can continue to repeat “we have a limited guest list” and not soften. The coworker can’t force her to issue an invitation, or force her to hang out. The letter writer just needs to commit to boundaries, which it sounds like she’s been doing.

        1. Gen*

          Coworker can just decide to turn up at the wedding invite or not and pretend like it’s all just an oversight. I have seen unbalanced/vengeful folks do this, though in the UK where wedding ceremonies have to be publicly accessible to all. Then once they’re in and have ingratiated themselves to the other guests it’s damn hard to remove them without a scene. She’s not taking the hint, honestly I think she might be ignoring the hint.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            We don’t know that she’s not taking this particular hint. The OP says the coworker brought it up when she had been dating her now-fiance for two months, so it sounds like it’s been a while since it happened. (And really, people who say “you have to invite me to the wedding” when you’ve been dating someone for two months are often not serious, given that there’s no wedding anywhere in sight at that point.)

            Regardless, if it does start going in the direction, there are ways to deal with that (wedding blogs are full of advice about keeping unwanted crashers out of your wedding), but the easiest will be for the OP not to talk wedding details at work. If the coworker doesn’t know where the wedding is, she’s far less likely to show up. But it really doesn’t sound like it’s there yet (although it’s still a good idea for her not to talk about the wedding plans at work).

            1. tangerineRose*

              “If the coworker doesn’t know where the wedding is, she’s far less likely to show up.” This!

          2. Runner*

            I think (hope) that’s highly unlikely, especially if OP has used some version of the phrasing Alison suggested to indicate she’s plainly not invited.

          3. Colette*

            A key part of Alison’s advice is not talking about the wedding at work, which includes things like not mentioning when or where it is. If she has no idea it’s happening, it’s hard for her to show up.

          4. Frank Doyle*

            Gen: sorry, I know this is a little off-topic, but what do you mean by in the UK . . . wedding ceremonies have to be publicly accessible to all? I know they have to take place in an approved location, does that mean that only publicly accessible locations are ever approved?

            1. Ninja*

              Per one website: “In England and Wales it’s the place, not the person, that’s licensed for marriage,” says wedding planner Kathryn Lloyd. “The venue must be a permanent structure with a roof, approved for marriage and accessible to anyone to book for their marriage.” So no, you can’t get married anywhere – at home, for example, or on a boat that’s sailing.

              1. Liz T*

                Ah so it’s not that one’s own wedding ceremony must be open to all attendees–just that a wedding venue can’t refuse to book someone who can otherwise afford to book. (i.e. the venue can’t say “Catholics only” I guess.)

              2. MsSolo*

                But you also can’t just walk in to a random venue (exception may be religious venues, but that would be down to tradition). It’s rare for a venue to check if guests are actually invited individuals, but they will generally stop the public wandering in, as much for fire regs as anything else.

              3. Frank Doyle*

                Ninja: As I said, I realize that you have to be married in an approved location; my question was, does a location have to be publicly accessible to be approved in the first place. Further googling reveals that religious ceremonies do, in fact, need to be held publicly, but civil cermonies do not.

                Which is fascinating! It’s nice to know that there are other archaic/silly laws on the books in a developed country that ISN’T the U.S. for once.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Frank Doyle: AFAIK it’s to do with the historic/religious/architectural/tourist-destination significance of churches in many places in Europe and the UK. It’s been discussed in previous threads but you can’t really shut down St. Paul’s cathedral to tourists for a wedding I guess. I witnessed part of a wedding ceremony in a lovely baroque church I was visiting in Germany once — it was just part of the deal; if you booked your wedding at this particular church, you risked being walked in on by tourists. They did have the front of the actual sanctuary roped off and signs posted asking people to be quiet, but the doors were wide open and the signs indicated a need for quiet, not a need to scram! It was very interesting!

              4. Legal Beagle*

                Fascinating! So you couldn’t get married in a park or botanical garden, presumably. I saw a wedding ceremony in a public park once in New York City and stopped to watch (quietly, at a distance behind where the guests were sitting). It was lovely! I love weddings and I would so enjoy watching random wedding ceremonies in historic venues, that sounds so fun.

            2. Allison*

              This is new information to me as well, and I’m doing a bit of Googling here but I’d love to hear more about it! I guess it came to light for Pippa’s wedding, but that looked like more of a Church of England policy than law . . . or are they the same thing?

          5. Always anon for these things*

            My sister had done this with my children’s graduation ceremonies from high school and college. She had a habit of showing up uninvited and definitely unannounced from several states away to many other family functions. And homes. She just Googled info and it’s easy enough to find, including my daughter’s wedding date, I assume from registry sites. It wasn’t hard for her to figure out where – not that many choices in our town.
            Re: the therapy piece for teaching better confrontational skills: +1. So many of the things folks here suggest saying I can’t even imagine EVER being able to say. I’m awful at that, admittedly, but trying to get better. Even my therapist can’t believe what I find impossible to say. Therapy has helped me speak up and stand up for myself, but I still worry about possible ramifications and turning absolutely purple and my temperature goes up 25 degrees when trying to speak. :-/

          6. Observer*

            That could be true, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea to get some relationship advice.

            I do think, though, that from the workplace perspective, Allison is completely right. If the OP handles it the way Allison is recommending and CW just decides to turn up anyway, then this is not going to be an issue with the OP being seen as causing drama with CW.

      2. MK*

        I don’t think it’s inappropriate, but CA or DP (both of whom I like a lot) won’t really have a better understanding of the situation, even if they do of dealing with this kind of person. I often read their advice about co-workers and think it’s great advice generally, but not suitable for the workplace.

      3. Mookie*

        There’s some overlap between the two sets of commentariats and I believe both Alison and the Cap have referenced one another with respect to good advice coming from a different, more closely-aligned perspective. In addition to being Alison’s territory, this question and its implications also reside within the Captain Awkward wheelhouse, for sure.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah I hope nobody ever thinks when I recommend Cap for an issue, that it’s an insult to Alison! I love them both. I love advice columns generally. They just have different slants sometimes. Captain does a good job on nerd issues around boundaries and relationships, which is a little outside the scope of Alison’s professional-minded advice around how to best proceed in the workplace. I wouldn’t expect Alison to dedicate entire pages to helping people address their self esteem issues that have arisen from abusive parenting. I wouldn’t ask Jennifer how to advocate with my boss for a raise.

      4. Nanani*

        FWIW, captain awkward pretty consistently calls upon AAM for work-related or work-adjacent letters on her site. People can and do read more than one website, possibly at the same time.

  9. Tuesday Next*

    OP3, if you didn’t apply for the position and are pretty sure you wouldn’t take it, don’t waste their time and yours by going for an interview. I think it would be a good idea though to let them know that you are interested in the company but would be looking for a more teapot spout focused role (if that’s the case).

  10. Casuan*

    OP4: Are your colleagues also giving you the silent treatment? If not, after you’ve done the documentation Alison suggested, you could offer to help your colleagues- especially with any “little things” they need done.
    You said the environment was toxic & I couldn’t tell if you had colleagues, so my suggestion might not be feasible. However if it is, then offering to help will keep you busy & perhaps build up some capital.

    Mostly, be glad that you’re getting out!
    Good luck!!

    1. anon scientist*

      Or, if your colleagues are receptive, make sure to let them know where all your documentation and notes are so they can look at them when you are gone, since the managers sound like they may not be receptive.

      I left a ton of notes/documentation at my last job, and made sure to tell my coworkers where everything was, because my boss had a habit of not listening/remembering stuff we told her and then blaming us when she couldn’t find stuff. I did hear later that even though I told her where stuff was, she was blaming me for not doing certain tasks and my former coworkers pointed out to her that I did do it and where it was. I bet you can guess a major reason why I left that job.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I had a big boss who I thought was an okay person. When I gave notice he quit talking to me and he would turn his head if we passed in the hall. I was really disappointed in his choices on that one. I thought he was a better person. I later learned that he had a bunch of stuff going on, including a pending divorce then he got a job at a competitor which was a huge no-no in our company. So life was not that smooth for him.

      OP, you can give your attention to the people who are still speaking with you. Make yourself a count down calendar if that helps and cheer yourself on. Realize that these people will become non-issues in a while. That big boss is gone from my life, except for stories that people tell me. We will probably never cross paths again.

  11. MommyMD*

    I would just be professionally polite with coworker, not invite her to your wedding and give her the social fade. Unstable people like this blow when directly confronted.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      And when they do blow there are no limits to what they pull. Because for them there are no boundaries.

        1. Penny Lane*

          No, Irene. This is highly problematic, to make up stories because of other people’s inability to respect boundaries. And then you get caught in lies. And then there’s an AAM about “I went to my coworker Jane’s wedding and she told me not to say a thing about it to anyone at any time and make up an excuse as to where I was that weekend because she’s engaging in this fiction that she eloped in order not to piss off her other coworker Cassandra. I don’t even know this Cassandra and I don’t get why my friend needs to engage in a charade.”

  12. MommyMD*

    If you want to break federal and state law, possibly be convicted, and be under IRS radar until the day you die, go head and work under the table. Depositing regular checks from this guy into your bank account is proof positive you will be seen as a criminal.

    1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      Huh. Different country (and different continent) but now you’re making me nervous about my past café job where I signed a dairy the boss owned, got a crisp £20 note, and never had any paperwork or anything. A job advisor asked me for a P45 and I had no idea what one of those was…

      …I was 20 at the time, if it changes anything. :/

      1. paul*

        My first job (in the US) was like that. After the place closed down I was surprised that other employers cared about stuff like ID’s and social security numbers…I mean I was 15, so the naivety is excusable (maybe), but AFAIK that whole restaurant was that way.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If you’re a kid working part-time, I don’t think off-the-books is a big deal. If you’re an adult with things like an employment record, living expenses, a desire to access SS and other pay-in benefits, and taxable income, you want to be aboveboard. (As noted upthread–freelancers need to earn enough to pay both sides of taxes, so “your same rate, but off-book” is not a good bargain.)

      3. Ainomiaka*

        Eh MommyMD is overstating the issue in most of the us as far as I have been able to tell. It’s not illegal for the employee to just get cash every x weeks. They do have to claim it and pay both employee taxes and employer taxes which is where people get in trouble. Tax fraud is criminal. As Alison states, this is a good deal for the employer, but a bad one for employees. It’s slightly possible that the employer could get in trouble for misclassifying employees as contactors but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

        1. Nanani*

          Well, nobody said “get cash”, people are specifically talking about tax evasion.
          Being paid in cash is perfectly legal, but it’s almost always comorbid with improper tax handling and often with underpaying/misclassifying/not reporting things.

      4. Bea*

        Saw a company audited for payroll once. They found 2 or 3 small checks to people we thought if it’s a quick weekend job paying cash would be fine. Since technically if it’s under 600 you do not send 1099s to them.

        All this resulted in was being billed for the taxes otherwise due.

        They may audit you and send you a bill but unless you fail to pay taxes on hundreds if thousands of dollars, jail and tax evasion is a huge leap. Nobody goes to jail over $20 a week, the IRS has bigger fish to fry.

        It’s often referred to as how they got Al Capone in the end. Never on murder or racketeering but for tax evasion.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Nobody goes to jail over $20 a week, the IRS has bigger fish to fry.

          Yep. Our family’s tax accountant always said it’s vanishingly rare for anyone who makes under $100k a year to be audited for cause, because the man-hours that go into an audit cancel out any revenue they might get back. A certain number of returns are randomly selected for audit, but when you think that there are people in the US who owe millions in back taxes, there’s no need to worry that the Big Bad IRS Agents are going to come knocking on your door and haul you off to the slammer for failing to report a few hundred bucks. You get a bill and some payment plan options on scary IRS letterhead, and as long as you pay it or show cause that you don’t have to, that’s literally the only consequence.

    1. Peggy*

      That movie was so good but my face was stuck in horrified cringe position for the entire duration and probably an hour afterwards. It was SO hard to watch! Audrey Plaza was incredible at making you feel so, so uncomfortable!

  13. Knitting Cat Lady*


    So, if an employer is caught employing people off the books, what happens to them? Cause over here in Germany that can (and has) lead to jail time…

    And someone who is payed off the books can have benefits cut and heavy fines imposed if caught.

    1. The Car Crash Victim*

      Here in the US, abusive bosses are increasingly celebrated. I’m dealing with this right now – as a temp, I burned a lot of bridges by refusing to work for free off the books (illegal) and then my boss fired me and is spreading lies about me all over town because I scheduled a spinal surgery he told me not to get. With this “race to the bottom” shit, there’s always someone who WILL take abuse for peanuts pay.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        And/or your state’s attorney general? DOL and the state AG have mechanisms for people to report wage and labor law violations.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            You can ignore the reporting option if you like. Just pointing out it exists. As an attorney I’ve seen it work sometimes.

          2. Rat in the Sugar*

            I’m not sure what you mean by “Get real. This is FL.”? I live in Florida as well, and several coworkers of mine at a restaurant I worked at in college got fed up and reported management for wage theft (shaving hours, not paying for staff meetings or time spent sitting in the parking lot waiting for the opening manager, etc.) and it ended up turning into a class-action lawsuit against them. And even before the class action lawsuit got rolling my old roommate got a big check out of them for just threatening to report and sue over it. My management at the other restaurant I worked were always wary of the DOL and were much more careful about making sure everyone got paid for every minute.

            I’m not familiar with this attitude that the DOL won’t act on complaints in FL–are you maybe in a different region than I was? I am in North Central FL (also known as south Georgia).

    2. Anon Accountant*

      If they should have been classified as an employee and not a contractor they’re liable for Social Security and Medicare taxes.

      When the IRS determines it was intentional with willful failure to evade employer taxes the penalties are much more harsh. My firm recently had a new client who was cited for this but they weren’t intentionally doing it. Taxes were assessed and a few other steps were taken but it was resolved with no jail time or such.

      When it’s willful and intentional there are much higher penalties.

      1. Runner*

        It’s a fascinating and incredibly frustrating area that takes place in both companies or industry otherwise considered top notch as well as among borderline sleezy individual owners. There is the famous case Alison referred to not long ago where Microsoft categorized temp employees as contractors (they came to be called “Microserfs”). There was an IRS dispute a while ago over a Las Vegas employer who didn’t pay dancers at all — claiming he didn’t employ any dancers, period — and instead charged dancers $1000 per night for a table, and they took home any tips they made beyond that fee. (I know this charging-to-work approach is also going on at one of the local cab companies.)

    3. Bagpuss*

      Here in the UK the employee is unlikely to face any kind of criminal process. (Unless they were using the situation to do something else, such as claiming / continuing to claim state benefits on the basis they are not working, in which case they would be liable to criminal proceedings for benefit fraud)
      They might have to pay back taxes and fines, if they were earning enough to be liable for tax. They would also potentially miss out long term as they would not be getting their National Insurance paid, which could affect their entitlement to a full state pension, and to contributions based benefits.

      An employer would face hefty fines – I am not sure that they would face criminal proceedings or not, possibly if they were committing tax fraud or if things were very large scale.

    4. SallytooShort*

      They are liable for back taxes.

      But, honestly, mostly the government doesn’t care about the employers. They are more likely to punish the employee for withholding. Just like there have been all of these raids for undocumented workers but almost none of them have actually focused on the employers who hire them without documentation.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think that’s accurate. The IRS prosecutes very few people for tax evasion, because they have to prove willful violations (rather than negligence) which is a fairly high bar for an individual taxpayer who isn’t expected to know much about the tax code or hire a tax professional. Typically if you get audited and you underpaid, if it was a genuine error (or good faith disagreement) you just pay the back taxes plus interest, and if they think you were being negligent you might have to pay a penalty. Businesses routinely face the same consequences.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        They’re liable for more than back taxes. Penalties and interest, and then it also has a domino effect on employee benefits issues, so the employer will face more penalties and fines (because misclassified workers were supposed to have been included in, say, the 401(k) program and there are separate fines there for failing to include the misclassified workers), and then it’ll often trigger serious audits and investigations from the DOL and IRS.

      3. Observer*

        With the IRS? No. Because employers have deeper pockets and there tends to be more than one violation. ie If they go after Joe Shnook who earned $10K in 6 months, they’re not getting much, even after every penalty they can think of and interest on top of that. But, if they go after Joe Shnook’s employer, they can probably prove that this happened to 50 people and get a juicy penalty. And, it’s the same work, so why wouldn’t they do it that way?

  14. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I know from my own experiences that, if you’ve survived relationships like the one you describe, it can sometimes correlate with finding yourself in ‘friendships’ like this – because some people can unfortunately sense who might be vulnerable to their emotional dementoring.

    For example, I used to really struggle with potentially upsetting someone else and, deep down, I didn’t feel like I was allowed to say no or set the boundaries I wanted because I hadn’t yet had enough experience of being able to do that safely. I didn’t know, yet, that it was ok if someone asked me for something and didn’t get it, and that I wasn’t responsible for both their feelings AND mine. So I ended up in some friendships with people like your colleague.

    People who act like this don’t understand explanations, but it is possible to set boundaries – they might not like it, but tough. What can help: be very vague, bland and boring (“that won’t be possible”, “no I’m not free”) and don’t justify, argue, explain or apologise. If necessary keep repeating the same answer over and over.

    What I have learned over time is that you cannot stop people asking you things that feel like they’re stomping on your boundaries (which is sometimes called ‘encounter stress’). What you can do is try to really learn and believe that it’s ok to say no, that you are not responsible for their feelings and you do not have to have any obligation to tiptoe around them. You can say no, and decline to have any emotional stake in the situation.

    Sorry this turned into such an essay. It’s taken me a long time to really believe it’s ok to just not have a fork to give in these situations. One thing that can help is to actually do a kind of boundary check in with yourself: how am I feeling today, so I feel ok about saying no, what do I need to make that ok?

    1. Mookie*

      It’s a good essay, Ramona Flowers. There’s a lot in it that’s familiar to me, as well.

      Privileging the feelings and comfort of other people and avoiding awkwardness because awkwardness casts illumination onto the deep and dark conundrums we’d rather not face head-on, are obviously self-destructive, yes, but these are difficult habits to break because over time we’ve rationalized them into making sense. Not rocking the boat becomes a permanent fixture of our social and professional lives, a mode that feels easy because it requires only fealty, not anything more difficult. The resulting incantation is that being Helpful and Compliant to Others is good for us, protects us from something. It rarely is, though. It’s the logic of an abuser: if you would only do these things how and when I tell you, you won’t feel bad (because I won’t orchestrate bad feelings in retaliation for disobedience). Really hard, as you say, to accept that “encounter stress” is the price we will always have to pay to walk amongst other people who themselves are rarely all that compliant and self-sacrificing, but we get to decide what to spend it on. Spend it on yourself. Feel the feelings that sing-songingly say “you’re not being helpfuuuuuuulllllll,” agree that being helpful is not your main priority in life, and then let those feelings fly away.

      I wish I could take my own advice, of course. :)

    2. Autumnheart*

      “Encounter stress” — I like that there’s a phrase for the feeling that these situations cause.

  15. AB*


    It sounds like the kind of thing my ex-boss would suggest going, ingoring that fact the best candidates are more likely to be busy in the middle of the day, not sitting around waiting for future employers to call.

    1. Dolorous Bread*

      I have to take issue with this — I don’t think this is true. People get laid off all the time, or work shift work, and it doesn’t mean they’re not the best candidates for an interview because they’re available during the day.

  16. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW1 – not only what Alison said, but…(Non-gender specific) dude, you’re just as valuable to the company as Sally is, even if your job isn’t revenue generating. Otherwise, why would you even have a job there?

    And if your office values individual contributors that much more than support staff where you think they’d side with Sally over you, then Sally is just one of your problems.

    That just jumped out to me for some reason.

    1. MLB*

      I was even thinking that she might want to have a casual conversation with her boss. Even though it’s not a work related issue, if she keeps refusing her, it may start affecting things at work and it may be smart to give her a heads up.

      And people like this woman do not take hints. She needs to be direct and just tell her no. She doesn’t need to make excuses, she just needs to decline any invitations and leave it at that.

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        I agree that it might be worthwhile to loop in her boss about this, somewhat casually. Probably Sally’s reputation is known in the office so it won’t be that much of a surprise, and that way if she does try to retaliate by claiming the OP is incompetent at her work, the boss won’t buy it.

    2. Ten*

      Yes, me too! But there are places where the dynamic of all-serve-the-moneymakers is not only present, but actively encouraged. It’s a terrible atmosphere if you don’t happen to be one of those moneymakers.

  17. dr_silverware*

    OP 1, you’re doing great. To catalogue, you’ve recognized that Sally is an unhealthy person for you to be around, you’ve pulled back on the relationship, and you are creating & holding boundaries with her. This is great!

    You just have to continue, basically—continue not inviting her to your wedding, not telling her the details, not hanging out with her. This you can do, you’re already doing it.

    I think you have the best sense of whether she’s going to escalate to higher pressure and stalking-type behavior, and if you’re worried about that, I would add documentation into the mix.

    1. grace*

      Yes, this. And OP, if you have social media that Sally is aware of, please make sure you’ve blocked her/restricted access so she can’t find out about where you are or what you’re doing (especially WRT the wedding and its location/date).

  18. Drama Llama*

    Question: If it’s really a brief call screen to ask a few basic questions, does it still need to be scheduled? What is the “cut off” time before call screening should be scheduled?

    I’ve always had recruiters call me without prior scheduling, when I was job searching. As a hiring manager I also do brief phone screening without appointments (typically calls last less than 10 minutes; also if someone says they are busy I understand and will arrange another time to talk). Now I wonder if I have offended a bunch of people and gave a negative impression.

    1. anon scientist*

      I would always rather get an email first. The problem I would have is that I may not feel totally free to say that they can’t talk right now, because of the power dynamics of employer versus job seeker (i.e, what if I say I can’t talk, and then never hear from you again? I’ve had this happen. It sucks when you are really desperate, and/or its a job I’m really interested in). If at all possible, I’d suggest sending an email a day or two before to ask if a call around X time is OK.

    2. MLB*

      You need to be in a certain frame of mind for an interview. If you’re in the middle of something, running errands or any number of other things you’re not going to be able to concentrate for a phone interview that you didn’t know was coming, regardless of how quick it is.

    3. SallytooShort*

      Even if it’s just 10 minutes the person isn’t prepared for any questions beyond “set up a time” and also may not be in a physical place they feel comfortable doing a screening. Like if they take the call at work not realizing and it’s beyond an interview set-up suddenly they are clearly interviewing while at work. And having to ask someone they want a job if they can call back can be awkward (although totally fine to do it makes people uncomfortable to not be available for a job they want.)

    4. please*

      Ask yourself how you would feel if you were in their shoes – imagine you are at work, with a meeting coming up in 15 minutes, but really needing the money from a job, and worried there are a lot of people who will jump at the opportunity to get the position you are offering.

      If you are going to keep doing what you’re doing, make it clear you can reschedule right then or by email – do not allow the slightest impression their is a downside to putting off the phone screen to another time.

      1. please*

        “Hi, [reference the position and their application, with thanks for their interest] I’m calling to set a time for a brief phone screening – do you have a few minutes to set that up? If not, I will email you about this.”

        [listen to response, then proceed to scheduling on phone if appropriate]

        “The screen itself would take about ten minutes and good times would be A, B and C. We could even do it now if you prefer, but A, B, and C are fine. Do any of those work for you.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Offended no, but annoyed/exasperated/frustrated? Yes, probably, because it’s a legitimately annoying/frustrating thing to do, especially given the power dynamics.

        1. Allison*

          Yes, this. I just hate it when “offended” is used as a blanket term any time someone’s actions aren’t well received, maybe because I’ve encountered a lot of people deliberately using it to gaslight others – “aww I’m sooo sorry, is the wittle snowflake offended?”

          But my comment was overreacting, nitpicking, tone policing, and breaking the rules of this website, and I am sorry, I’ll stop.

    5. LizB*

      I’m wondering this too, as a hiring manager. My phone screen process is, call applicant > if they don’t pick up (which most don’t), leave voicemail saying who I am, that I’d like to phone interview them for X position, and some times I’m available > if they pick up/when they call back, ask if they’d like to do the interview now or put something on the calendar > if they say now is fine, have a 10-15 min phone screen. I’d say it’s about 50/50 whether people choose to talk right then or schedule a later call. Now I feel bad that I’ve been putting pressure on folks.

      1. zora*

        Don’t feel bad, I think you are doing it right. If you are saying these actual words “Would you like to do it now, or put something on the calendar” then people know those are actually two options, and can feel free to say, now’s not good, I’d love to schedule something. That’s fine, and people know they WHAT they are saying yes to: “a quick interview”.

        The problem is if you ask a question without them having all of the info. “Is now a good time?” is not fair, because the caller knows they mean “I have 10 minutes of questions for you to answer” but the person being asked has no idea what the context is and what they are actually saying yes to.

      2. Nanani*

        Is there a reason you can’t schedule the call by email first? Seems like that would save everybody time AND avoid the issues discussed above.

        Maybe there is – maybe you’re hiring for a field where most candidates don’t have much use for email or are working out of internet access or something – I’m not saying this to attack you, but really, I think scheduling important calls *not with a call* is both polite and common.

    6. A Person.*

      If your basic questions are, #1, are you still interested in X position you applied for, #2, what time would you be available for a 10-15 minute phone interview, and #3, what is the best number to reach you, you would have no complaints from me.

      Anything more than that, I would want to discuss on a scheduled call with the job description in front of me in a quiet place with no interruptions or eavesdropping colleagues.

    7. JamieS*

      I know others would be but I’m not too concerned with saying I’m busy due to the power dynamics. My general POV is if you’re upset over that then I wouldn’t want to work for your company in the first place so bullet dodged.

      My main hesitation is whether or not you’d be asking technical/interview questions or just calling to set up an interview time and maybe a couple verification questions. Just by how my mind works if I’m not in the right frame of mind I wouldn’t be able to answer what 2 + 2 is even though I know the answer so I wouldn’t want a potential employer calling me and asking things like ‘describe a work problem you’ve had and how did you overcome it?’ because my mind will be completely blank so the answer will be ‘um, well uh, hmm…’.

  19. Sci Fi IT Girl*

    OP #1 – Manipulator may give you silent treatment, blow up (keep her in your sight even if you turn away), do the longest stand-there-awkward-silence, pity party, etc. Say your very bland “I can’t, I have to finish this” and then nothing – awkward silence. Expect those long awkward silences – count to 100, breathe, imagine your wedding, etc. Hopefully she will eventually stop (which means turning to someone else. If you see that in the future, maybe you can then help that someone else set boundaries because you will have had practice).

    Another thing I have seen, is people like this will come up with a very reasonable sounding emergency that will make you seen horrible for not helping – suddenly someone at home may get the worst cancer ever, car accident, etc. and then come to you for help. If she goes this route, refer to community resources (bland voice, polite, then silence). Horrible people can have bad things happen to them / make bad things up and they have OTHER options for help – which not the person they are abusing or targeting.

    Last remember – it. is. not. you. These people are experts at making it feel like you are off / mean / heartless / wrong / it’s just a little x. It. is. not. you.

    Sending you strong thoughts and wishing you well.

    1. OP1*

      OP1 here- Wow. She tried to pull the emergency thing last week. She had a genetic test done that showed she was predisposed to colon cancer or something– she doesn’t have it, and she’s not guaranteed to get it; just predisposed. I found all this out when she asked me for some work help (so I had to go to her office), and then dumped all that on me. Then she said she’d now realized that she had no one in our city (oh wait except for her sister that lives here that she doesn’t get on with??), and that she needed family. Since her own family isn’t there for her, she considers me and my fiance her family. I just said I couldn’t go out with her for drinks that evening and said I had to run. I had no idea how to respond to “you’re my family now” line.

      1. Temperance*

        OP1, it’s definitely outside of the scope of this blog, but if you Reddit at all, come on over to /BPDlovedones. I’m not diagnosing her at all, but you may find some familiar stories there and strategies for dealing. What she’s doing now is what we call an “extinction burst”.

      2. small jar of fireflies*

        I’m gonna be honest, OP: I wouldn’t know how to answer this either, and I’m pretty good at setting and policing my boundaries.

        With someone who was genuinely in need, I might say “I’m sorry, I’m barely keeping myself afloat and I don’t think I can be the support you need. I’ll be happy to (x, y, z) and help you look for options.” And then follow up.

        This is like her looking at the weather predictions for next year, seeing there will be hurricanes somewhere in the world, and demanding you carry her everywhere so her feet don’t get wet.

      3. fposte*

        You are probably not the first person she’s done this with, OP. I think your response was good–I’m not convinced that Sally would hear a “hell, no, I’m not your family,” you avoided reassuring her that you were, and you refused to socialize with her outside of work.

        1. Driving School Dropout*

          I agree, not responding is a good response. You are not her family. She cannot unilaterally make you her family. You don’t need to convince her of that and you probably couldn’t if you tried. You just have to continue doing what you are doing.

        2. fposte*

          BTW, I think it might be helpful to practice speedy disentanglements from her personal flareups. This doesn’t sound like it was a quick conversation. Can you muster your defenses to say after the first line of bad news “I’m sorry, Sally; that sounds rough. But I’m afraid I have to get back to work now; I hope you feel better” and then walk away? Feel free to insert “Email me the answers to my questions” if that’s what you’re waiting on.

          Right now she’s depending on your willingness to be an audience. But it’s not actually obligatory to stand there while she talks it out. She won’t like it, but that’s okay; she’s not going to like any of this, and at least this way you get to walk away and get back to work.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*


          And I definitely recommend reading some Captain Awkward for more in depth advice about setting boundaries with these types of people.

      4. Big Person*

        Good start! Keep it up. I think you did the right thing by turning down going out for drinks with her and not responding to her comment about family. The more you say no, the easier it will get, just don’t give her any info on why you have to run (or do whatever) so that she won’t be able to come up with a reason that you don’t have to do whatever but instead can join her.

      5. AdAgencyChick*


        I really hope management at your company has reasonable people who aren’t of the “rainmakers can do whatever they want” mentality. If so, I’d approach your boss and let her know this is happening — not because you expect your boss to do something or because you want to cause drama, but you want to let her know that you’re planning to say no to all of these requests and you’re hoping that’s the end of it. That way if Sally does decide to make a fuss, your boss will be prepared and can back you up should Sally or Sally’s boss come knocking.

        But if your company is likely to treat her with kid gloves because she brings in revenue and you don’t, I think you have to decide whether or not you can live with it (and decline her invitations on a case-by-case basis rather than having a Tough Conversation).

      6. Chloe Silverado*

        I had a friend just like this once, so I totally empathize.

        One thing that you mentioned in your letter (and came up again in your reply here) is that her primary desire seems to be to get drinks with you. The friend I mentioned had a troubled relationship with alcohol at best. Sally’s disrespect for your diet not including alcohol was something I also experienced with my former friend. My friend would also say things like “well we can just go get lunch, I understand you’re setting boundaries,” but oftentimes she would end up getting wasted at the lunch, or, if she didn’t drink, the lunch would be unpleasant or full of passive aggressive conversation about me not wanting to drink with her. In my case, she didn’t want to see me achieve goals and more importantly, she didn’t want to lose a drinking buddy. For awhile she was able to manipulate me into thinking I was unfun or a bad friend for not indulging with her. I now realize this was all on her. I’m not sure if that’s the case here, but if it is, know that it’s a whole separate layer of issues that ultimately she needs to reckon with herself before she can ever have a functional relationship with anyone.

        Something I would prepare for is the manipulation attempts that will come after you tell her she’s not invited to your wedding. Expect to get an elaborate gift with a guilt trippy card, expect for her to request a girl’s day (or even a getaway) to celebrate since she won’t be at the wedding, and expect for more of these emergencies and inconvenient errands to come up since she believes she has leverage. Be ready to hold firm on your boundaries and say no. This all sucks and I’m so sorry you have to deal with it, but I think the more you’re prepared the easier it will be to ignore her manipulations and say no.

        Good luck and congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

      7. Tuxedo Cat*

        I wrote this above, but I really think you’d benefit from professional advice via a therapist. This is an unusual and creepy situation.

      8. Lil Fidget*

        Yikes, this does change some of my suggestions above about making a more explicit break. This person does sound actually unhinged and unpredictable. They’re probably not going to accept a slow fade but I think you need to privilege your own safety and comfort 100% first and not get sucked into any heart-to-hearts here.

      9. Penny Lane*

        Re the predisposition to colon cancer: It is beyond ridiculous that someone needs “support” to find out that they are PREDISPOSED to colon cancer. It’s not like she had a diagnosis.

        You need to learn how to let what she says go in one ear and out the other. I don’t know why you feel that you have to respond to the “you’re my family now” line.

      10. Observer*

        Wow is right.

        You handled this really well. Not responding to the “you’re my family now” was the best thing you could have done. And refusing to go out for drinks and getting back to work was perfect for everything else.

      11. tangerineRose*

        Not surprise that her sister doesn’t get on with her – it’s probably a survival skill her sister has learned.

        Sorry you’re having to deal with this. Stay strong!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If the “you are my family”thing comes up again, just say, “In fairness to you, I cannot be that person for you, and it would be unfair to you if I did not say that out loud. So no, I cannot be your in case of emergency person. I do not make those kinds of commitments to people because it is a huge responsibility that one should take very seriously.”

      See, OP, the problem here is that ANYONE can be her ICE person, a neighbor, another cohort or a passerby. I have to tell you an example from my own life. When my husband took sick, it was not family and old friends (all were too far away) who did the heavy lifting. It was people who were relatively new to our lives who actually helped us the most. Do not think for one minute that you have any sort of obligation to her and don’t slip into thinking that no one else will take care of her so you must. That is an illusion, it’s not real

      A good response to “who will take care of me?” is “People are basically very kind. You will always have someone willing to help you.”

  20. Natalie*

    LW #1

    Sally and I are the only two young women in a medium-sized office where she is considered “intense” by others but is a very productive seller of our product. I am middle-management administrative support for the company. She is more profitable for the company than I am just by nature of our jobs, so I need to be especially carefully of not being seen to start drama.

    Not in a snarky way, but how do you know this? Has your management behaved in such a way that suggests that they privilege sales people over their other employees, or rank people by how much money they make, or similar? Or is this just an assumption you are making or possibly even something Sally says that may or may not actually be true?

    I ask because it reminds me a bit of how abusers will convince their victims that no one will believe or help them, because the abuser is so very awesome and respected and so on. It might be worth interrogating yourself a little bit – have you seen actual evidence of your bosses privilege sales people or high earners generally, or Sally in particular? Or is this something you just took for granted, or possibly even heard from Sally? And if you’re in the former situation, I would suggesting making plans to move on, because a place where you can’t even set reasonable professional boundaries with someone irrational is not a place where you’re going to be happy.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      I always wanted to mention that determining your value to the company based on sales doesn’t make any sense. If you are good at your work, you are as valuable as anyone else.

      Your impulse to keep drama out of the workplace is a good one. Putting boundaries in place is not creating drama however, and Sally infringing on your boundaries is her drama, not yours.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a great comment.

      I have the least revenue generating position in my office, but my position is arguably the most important because I keep everything running smoothly so the money makers can actually, you know, make money.

    3. OP1*

      I’m in a position where I can see how much she brings in, so she’s not making that up. It’s the kind of place that will put up with a lot of eccentric behavior from high earners, although it does make an effort to keep hold of non-sales staff that performs well– the average staff tenure here is in the high double digits. This place has promoted me into a management position a good decade before anywhere else would have, has incredible work-life balance for the field, and pays better than other places. Sally is really my only problem here nowadays. I don’t think I’d get fired at the drop of a hat over her behavior, but at the end of the day, I’m more replaceable than she is– her sales area requires a great deal of specialized knowledge, and the company has invested *a lot* of time in her training.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m in a position where I can see how much she brings in, so she’s not making that up.

        I want to clarify, I’m not suggesting she doesn’t earn a lot, but she may have given you the impression (directly or indirectly) that this somehow protects her from management.

        From what you’re describing, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re at a dysfunctional place that would protect her at all costs simply because she’s a high earner: putting up with eccentricity from important contributors is pretty typical, but doesn’t necessarily translate to tolerating abusive behavior from them. Keeping their non-sales staff happy and promoting people and so forth also suggests you’re at a fairly healthy place. Which is great! You can breathe a little sigh of relief, and go forth and set boundaries with her.

        1. Thursday Next*

          +1 to Natalie’s take on your workplace, and accompanying advice on setting boundaries.

          And congratulations!

      2. Penny Lane*

        OP#1: So what? Yes, they may tolerate eccentric behavior in the workplace, but I don’t see anything in your description of your workplace that says “and they would demand you have frequent girls’ days with Sally, clean her apartment at her behest, drink with her even if you have medical reasons to avoid alcohol, and invite her to your wedding.”

        You’re acting too afraid of her. I hate using the word “privilege” but you are privileging HER feelings, HER angst, HER desires, HER wants over your own. Why is that?

      3. Autumnheart*

        Kidding on the square reaction:

        Have you considered shopping around for positions for her at other companies that would be a promotion over her current position? “Hi, Sally! Sorry, I can’t go for drinks. But I was reading posts on my LinkedIn professional group and happened to see a listing for Director of Teapot Sales, and I immediately thought of you…”

      4. Observer*

        Good support staff are worth their weight in gold and smart companies know this, even when they don’t pay awesome salaries. And your company sounds like they are pretty smart about this stuff. Replacing a good support person can be quite expensive, and given that they have promoted you so quickly, it stands to reason that they see you are valuable too. And even if they have not poured $X into your training, you have valuable institutional knowledge that would be hard to replace. So you’re not as vulnerable as you seem to be assuming.

        There is also a difference between eccentric behavior, and behavior that is abusive or overly dramatic. It’s one thing for you to make a scene or get into a yelling match with her, or something like that. But, if SHE were to make a scene because you didn’t invite her to your wedding, or something of that nature, I can’t imagine that management would blame you. Same for her complaining to management that you had her removed by security at your wedding if she showed up uninvited, worst case. They would surely realize that this is HER problem, not you.

        If they punished you for it rather than leaving the blame where it belongs they run several risks. This person already has a reputation. Which means that if you are the one getting penalized rather than your CW, that’s going to be a morale hit. Smart and healthy high sellers are going to look at this and thing “What happens if I have an off streak. Is that going open me up to being a target for any higher seller that has a bad day?” And EVERYONE else is going to look at this and worry about the potential to be abused by CW and any other high seller. By the same token, they risk losing not just YOU, but every other good support person in the place, because a lot of them are going to look at that and thing “What happens if someone targets ME. Better find a place where this kind of behavior is not tolerated” and start job hunting. The GOOD staff will find other jobs – they are the ones with the options. And they are the ones the company has been investing in keeping.

        Then there is the issue of sales. Right now she’s a high seller. But if she goes off the deep end, your mutual employer would have to consider how that’s likely to spill over to customer relationships. Even if they were sure that you would never say anything to any customer AND they were sure she would never do something like this to a customer, they still have reason to worry. You really don’t know what the customer might see or hear, that would make them uncomfortable. And that’s not the kind of thing that makes for good sales.

        So, you keep your behavior polite, professional and cool. Keep on doing what you are doing. If she blows up, it’s on her.

  21. Temperance*

    LW1: Sally reminds you of your toxic and abusive ex because you are in an abusive relationship with Sally, too. It’s not romantic, but she clearly keeps stomping on your boundaries and then, when you assert yourself, manipulating you so she has control. If one of your actual friends mentioned being tricked into cleaning someone’s apartment (!), you would be horrified. I think a part of you might feel that you “deserve” this since she is able to manipulate you, but it’s not true.

    The way to deal with Sally is to be boring. Look into “grey rock” or “medium chill”, which are ways for dealing with people like your bunny boiler coworker.

    1. Nik*

      Great response! I have been dealing with a similar issue for three years now and it’s been awful. One day I heard about the grey rock approach on a podcast and I thought I would give it a try. It actually works! The person still hasn’t stopped attempting to rope me into an unwanted friendship, but since I’ve been doing this she has backed way off and it’s been wonderful!

    2. OP1*

      I did some quick Googling, and that approach sounds like it could be helpful. The descriptions of narcissism in the articles describe Sally to a T. One article said that they will claw into the TINIEST detail of your personal life. That is so true. I thought I was being boring when talking to her by saying “Oh, I can’t, I’ve got a thing tonight.” “Oh what?” “Just dinner with the parents.” But according to those articles, I really need to just say that I’ve got to do laundry!

      1. Temperance*

        Seriously, the less detail you give her, the better! It will have the bonus of driving her nuts because her manipulating techniques are failing.

      2. MLB*

        Don’t be afraid to just say no, with no reason, and if she presses you change the subject. More details will invite more questions from her.

      3. Penny Lane*

        Bingo! And so what if she thinks you’re “boring” because when she asks what you are doing tonight, you say the laundry? Why is it important to you what she thinks of you?

        You’d be well served to examine why the opinions of others about you seem to be more important than your opinions of those others to yourself.

        1. OP1*

          Oh, I am definitely okay with her thinking I’m boring. What I do not want is her spreading around that I’m being catty, hostile, unreasonable, etc.– I don’t care if she thinks that; it’s what she says to our colleagues that concerns me. When I finally broke it off with my ex with a hard “no,” he made it seem like I was being unreasonable and crazy to his/our friends. I ended up going no contact with almost that entire group of people, along with him, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I would rather avoid that kind of drama in the workplace if there is another way to handle it.

          1. Observer*

            Well, the fact that she has a reputation helps there. And the fact that you are good at your job helps, too. You’re not a new and unknown quantity.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Why do you think that your coworkers – who presumably know and like you, or at least think you are a reasonable, calm, pleasant coworker – are all of a sudden going to believe the rantings of someone who is unhinged and doesn’t understand boundaries?

            Do you take HER pronouncements on other coworkers seriously? I hope not, because you know she’s a whack job. So why do you worry your coworkers will take her impression of you as “catty, hostile, unreasonable” when there’s no reason for those coworkers to believe that about you?

  22. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus*

    It really is mind over matter, you pay them no mind because their opinion doesn’t matter.

  23. doctor schmoctor*

    #2 That happened to me once. I was outside, in a noisy place when they phoned me. The guy explained who he was and started asking technical questions. I stopped him and said I’m rather busy, and this was a really bad time to call, could he please phone me back later. I mean, I’m standing here next to forklifts and trucks, trying to work. Come on, right? The dude asked me how I expect to get a new job if I’m not available for interviews. I hung up the phone. If that is how they interview, I don’t want to work for them.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Good for you!

      I hope other candidates did the same and the hiring manager has learned to respect others’ times.

  24. Audiophile*

    #4 as someone who worked off the books for several months during college, I definitely regret it in hindsight.

    It was a small business run out of someone’s house and I only worked weekends.

    I was given a check every few weeks, but when shit hit the fan, I had no protection. Since it was a small business, they likely would have been excluded from a few requirements but I couldn’t turn to anyone to find out since all my work was paid under the table. It really limited my options in getting my final paycheck. I ended up restorting to having a family member get it, since I really needed the money.

    Long story short: don’t do it. It’s not worth it in the long run.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      #5, So not OK for an adult work situation. Really not right for my high-school summer job either, but we’re talking peanuts there compared to what one would be making in the adult work force.

  25. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: Check out Dr. Nerdlove, Captain Awkward, and Allison about setting up your boundaries and dealing with people who try to violate them. One way to do that is to give boundary pushers less leeway to invade your space. Do not discuss your wedding — especially about the venue and its location. If you do have to talk about the wedding, make it as boring as possible giving only the basic details. As morw messages, only rreply to work messages and ignore personal messages, chats, and invites. Block her social media.

    #2: Blah. I remember interviewers would call me while I was in classes and exams. It sucked! If they get snappy with me when I can call them back, then they are not a conpany to work for!

    #4: Woohoo! You don’t have to talk to these assholes! If something geta fucked, that’s their problem for being petulant children

    #5: NOOoOoooooOoOoooo!!!!!!! Don’t take it! Tell your boss how super illegal this is and demand money in the legit way! Consult a lawyer!

  26. That Guy*

    I hate to be That Guy, but I feel like the advice to #1 would have been different if Sally was a man. Sally’s behavior is extremely concerning and I think you need to tell her very clearly (if you haven’t already) that you’re no longer interested in maintaining a friendship (or “I no longer have time and energy to maintain social relationships” or something like that, I’m not great at scripts) and prefer to go forward as coworkers only. Document everything she does. If she continues to try to press you for more contact, go to HR.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      The advice would be the same if she was a dude. Set up boundaries, enforce them, and take it to HR is the person escalates.

      1. That Guy*

        I agree, but Allison’s advice was “Don’t invite her to the wedding, keep saying no and hope she goes away” and I feel like in cases where a LW is being pursued relentlessly by a man, the answer always more clearly goes to “If he doesn’t back off, go to HR.” That’s all I was getting at. People who push boundaries are tricky to deal with no matter what gender the parties happen to be.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I mean, not to be a jerk, but underlying most of my scary interactions with men is the fear that they may attack me and/or sexually assault me. It’s certainly possible that Sally may be so insane that she physically attacks OP some day, but with amorous men the risks seem much higher, based on statistics and personal experience. I don’t mess around with guys who are coming onto me aggressively at work – that gets escalated to HR / authorities / whatever immediately.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think the genders matter so much as the intent behind the overtures. The advice would certainly be different if Sally was pursuing the OP in a romantic way. This is far more subtle.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, if OP were female and Salvador a gay man who wants a work friend, or both male and straight, similar situation. Adding BUT THEY ARE MY TRUE LOVE, THEY JUST DON’T REALIZE IT YET is a serious extra complication that isn’t here.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          And if that element was included, it would be a lot more straightforward for LW. It would be perfectly legit for HR to say “Sally, stop asking OP out on dates” but it gets a lot murkier for them to say “stop being friendly”. And manipulative people like Sally know this and use it to their advantage.

          1. Lady Phoenix*

            you explained it better than I. Being a push and creepy friend is different from being a creepy sex offender and require different treatments.

          2. Guitar Lady*

            This. It’s not a good thing that you can only go to HR over romantic related harassment and not other forms, but that’s where we are right now. Just like people often don’t take emotional abuse in a relationship as seriously as physical.
            Also if Sally were a man, the fear that he might physically harm the OP would be much more of a concern. Sure, a small percentage of crazy women might be inclined to escalate to something physical, but statistically that’s much more likely with a man.

  27. Jim*

    LW#4 – are you me? I gave notice on Monday, and while my coworkers have congratulated me and said that they’re sad to see me go, management has been… quiet. No arguments, counter offers, exit interviews, etc. Not even questioning why really. We’ll see if next week changes anything.

    1. CheeryO*

      That happened to me when I left my last job. I ended up being asked to leave two days early in the first communication that I had with my supervisor since putting in my notice – not sure if it was a last-minute F.U. or if they genuinely didn’t want to pay me for two days of doing nothing. I had already moved on mentally, so whatever.

  28. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, relax and enjoy!

    This happened to me two jobs ago — my boss was clearly glad I’d resigned (because, although I was beloved by enough people at the company that she couldn’t fire me like I know she wanted to, SHE didn’t like me), but not glad enough to actually talk to me and tell me who would be picking up my work when I left. So I was twiddling my thumbs when I could have been imparting valuable information to my colleagues.

    I was so fed up with her at that point that I did not care. I figured it was her problem to figure it out after I left. And it was, and I walked off to my awesome new job without giving her another thought.

    Not your circus, not your monkeys, OP. If those who will be left behind don’t want your help making the transition easier, it will be they who pay when you’re gone. (Don’t take any phone calls asking you to help after your last day!)

  29. Stan*

    #4 – Friend, you are singing my song! A couple of months ago, I quit toxic ex-job. When I told my abusive, gas-lighting jerk of a boss that I was quitting in two weeks, he made me sit down for a long heart-to-heart about how sad they were to see me go and how they needed as much help as I could give in the transition, and would I maybe consider doing some consulting to help them in the weeks to follow? I said that of course, I would do what I could to make the transition smooth, and we could talk about fair compensation for consulting. And then, nothing. Complete and utter radio silence. People refused to make eye contact.

    There was no one who could take on my role and I couldn’t get them to decide how the work would be divvied up. I spent a day wrapping up my projects and putting together transition documents. Then I spent the next 9 days playing approximately 1000 levels of Candy Crush and shredding old files.

    When I went to leave for the last time, she wanted a hug and just didn’t know what they’d do without me.

    tl;dr — Enjoy your time! Do what needs to be done and then use the silence as a chance to let yourself mentally prepare for a new role in a new place.

    1. Julianne*

      My husband’s last employer did almost the same thing. They wanted him to continue helping with a medium-difficulty, highly time-consuming task on weekends for the foreseeable future after he stopped working there. I told him that if he was going to give up a weekend day and drive over an hour (to the other side of the city) to do more work for those morons, they needed to pay up for it, so he put together a fee schedule that appropriately considered the nature of the work, the market rate for said work, and the costs he would shoulder as a 1099 contract employee.

      His 2 bosses responded by (1) asking him if he’d do it for 50% less (no), (2) asking him if he’d do it for an unspecified amount less if they paid cash under the table (also no), and finally (3) talking loudly to everyone in the office for the next three weeks about what an idiot my husband was for leaving this great job and turning down their “generous” offer to remain involved in the business. We have, mercifully, not heard a word from these people in the 3 years since.

  30. mia*

    #2 – that is a TERRIBLE practice, as Allison said!

    Put yourself in their shoes. What if you just got off the phone after a fight with your mom, was in the middle of a busy day at work with a huge deadline at 5pm, or any other number of things? Would you like a sneak attack interview? I bet not!

    People need to be prepared and in the right mindset for interviews. Give them that respect.

  31. clow*

    OP 2 – I would not bother moving forward with an interview if a company did this to me. It reeks of a huge lack of respect for candidates and would make me wonder how power playing works when you work for said company. I, like you, see it as a huge red flag, maybe I am biased because only one place has ever done that to me, and it was a very toxic place to work and people were disrespected by those in power a lot. It is a red flag, and the fact that the hiring manager is that thoughtless would make me wonder how much more thoughtlessness goes on.

  32. KR*

    OP2… I have had companies call me for impromptu phone interviews before and it’s always gone bad because I am never prepared. One called when I was asleep (because I was unemployed and sleeping late) and I had to quickly adjust to being fully awake and in the professional mindset instantly while I was tired and dehydrated. I also did not have time to grab headphones and the interviewer could not hear me well the entire time which I’m sure was one of the factors in me not getting the job – but if the interview had been scheduled I would have been ready with headphones and an area with good service!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If you’re job hunting, do NOT answer your phone for an unknown number when you are sleeping! I call people to schedule interviews and it’s just as frustrating for me as it is for you. Let it go to voicemail and call me back when you are properly awake.

      1. Tina Belcher*

        You’re assuming, though, that the candidate who’s interviewing is in a situation with some power.

        I was unemployed and had put in with a temp agency. I found out later they had a “three strikes” policy. If they called and you did not answer, that was 1 strike. Three strikes, and you were removed from their roles. I never did any work for them, because the three times they called, I was at the dentist/in the shower/underground on the subway with no service.

        Someone who is desperate for a job may feel pressured to answer any and all calls for fear of being passed over.

  33. Bookworm*

    #2: As a candidate, I’ve hated it. I do exactly what Alison outlined: I let it go to VM. As an introvert (and as my overall preference): I just like to have time to prepare and gear up before getting a “surprise” interview like that. If it just so happens I’m out doing errands I often don’t realize someone has called me since I’ve put my phone on silent and I refuse to be THAT PERSON who is clearly more into the phone conversation and not paying attention to whatever is going on around me. It’s understandable if you need to hire ASAP and want to get a candidate on the phone/in the office but it’s really better to shoot an email or just leave a VM for setting up a better time for the both of you to talk.

    I haven’t strictly been on the hiring side in a formal capacity but when I’ve been the person who has to communicate info nothing annoys me more than to give the talk of what they need to know only to be told to call back and leave a VM because they’re too lazy to pick up a pen and paper or it is clearly not a convenient time for them and they didn’t want to say so at first. It’s just better to set aside a block of time.

  34. Seal*

    #4 – This happened to me at my last job. In fact, my former boss was such an ass that he didn’t even bother to say goodbye on my last day. I made a point of wrapping things up as best I could and leaving extensive documentation regardless; I was not going to give him or anyone else reason to complain about me when I left. Interestingly, during my last few days there people started coming out of the woodwork to trash this guy. Unbeknownst to me, he had been reviled throughout the organization for YEARS; everyone knew I was the person who got things done and kept the department running. Not surprisingly, he was demoted and eventually fired within a year or so of my leaving, stemming in part from his behavior towards me at the time – serves him right, too.

    1. JokersandRogues*

      Ha, that’s funny, my manager talked with me the afternoon I resigned to see why I was leaving and never spoke to me in person again, even though we were in meetings every day. It was great.

    2. Tad Cooper*

      When I was laid off last year, I was given 2 weeks notice about it, then my boss ignored me for the next two weeks. He emailed me a couple of instructions on transferring my projects, then nothing. Never talked to him after that day.

      1. Op4*

        Op4 here
        That’s exactly what’s happening to me now. Got emailed a few instructions. Other than that silence. I actually got sent over to help another department, which has great people and no toxcicity, but I doubt they’ll let me keep going over there until I leave. Unfortunately, my bosses can be petty and if they’re talking and I even walk into my department they stop and glare. I live how childish people can be.

        Thank you all so much for the advice and guidance through this toxic weird period.

  35. JokersandRogues*

    LW #4 (Silent Treatment) – Something similar happened to me at my last place. I took the opportunity to stop doing the TPS reports, and documented everything. i also cleaned out every single folder of my email box, saved text versions of any ongoing project emails to the shared drive, and documented every single process. I saved a reference file with the locations of all folders and what they pertained to and sent that out to relevant people. Cleaned out paper folders and distributed anything that needed to be and recycle the rest. I had an absolute blast being Ms Organized and left on the last day with a great sense of closure.
    Nobody had yelled at me, nit-picked, or really told me what to do for two weeks and it was great. Take the opportunity to leave it as clean/documented as you can and try and enjoy.

  36. JokersandRogues*

    Ha, that’s funny, my manager talked with me the afternoon I resigned to see why I was leaving and never spoke to me in person again, even though we were in meetings every day. It was great.

  37. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I have a friend a bit like this (and we’re still friends!). I’ve learned that subtle and polite hints don’t always work – not necessarily because these people are malicious, but because they’re clueless. My friend has the best of intentions, but she can be smothering, demanding, and bossy (we have a number of common interests, and she was great with me when I was going through some hard times a couple years ago, so I do want to keep her in my life. Just…not taking over my life.) I’ve had to learn to be polite but firm with her at times about what I am and am not willing to do.

    It’s hard, when you’re used to being very mild and agreeable, to stay something a bit more directly and sternly. Probably your best bet, assuming you’re not socializing with your other colleagues that much either, would be to tell her you want to keep some professional distance from now on and want to separate your personal and professional lives. Happy hours are one thing, weekend trips are another. It sounds like that’s true for you anyway, and she can argue with you till she’s blue in the face and not budge you on this. It’s your life and that’s how you want to live it. Keep politely declining her invitations (what I found helpful was treating my friend’s invites like FB events I could accept or decline, and stop feeling pressured to say yes to everything). Nod along when she’s trying to tell you how to eat/drink/live, then do what you were going to do anyway. If she gets angry, absent yourself from the room if you can. Occasional lunch with her probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but don’t let her use that to push you into other activities with her.

    Finally, I recommend you check out some Captain Awkward, as I know she’s gotten similar letters (albeit in a more social context) along the lines of “I have this friend, and she’s great, but she wants to hang out All. The. Time. And I don’t know how to say no without hurting her feelings!” CA has prepared some handy scripts you can use that are perfectly reasonable and mooostly inoffensive, and allow you to maintain your boundaries.

    1. AliceBG*

      Some of them really are malicious, though. IME, once someone demonstrates that they don’t give a shit about your boundaries, it’s time to stop empathizing with them and time to start distancing yourself from them.

  38. Brett*

    #2 That is exactly how my first interview with Google went back in 2007. It was not even the hiring manager, it was just one of the team members from the team they were hiring for. I think we went through about 50 technical questions in 30 minutes, so it pretty much felt like a pop quiz until the end where we actually talked about the job.
    (There was a separate real follow-up phone interview before they flew you out for an in-person.)

    What was even more bizarre is that they were calling me because of an application I had submitted on a whim 6 months early while I was in the middle of grad school. They saw I was graduating and called me without warning.

  39. Dzhymm*

    #5 – Notice the progression here. First you get busted from full-time to part-time, then your boss suggests paying you under the table. This looks to me like an employer that is in serious financial trouble and may not be long for this world. I’d start looking for a new job if I were you.

    1. Interviewer*

      This is what I was coming here to say. This is a giant red flag, so pay attention. Has your company laid off a bunch of people? Have vendors complained about late payments? Has anyone’s check bounced?

      You may think that money under the table is better than nothing, but this has the potential to backfire on you – get out there and job search now, before all of your coworkers are, too.

      As a final tip, if you have benefits, moving to part-time could change your eligibility for coverage. Getting paid under the table would take you off the payroll and cancel benefits entirely.

  40. Brett*

    #4 For this letter (and all the other similar stories above), I hope the other employees are watching and thinking about how their co-workers are treated when it comes time for them to serve notice.

  41. Wehaf*

    OP1, Sally is picking up on your hints and indications of pulling back just fine – she is reading those signals, and she is ignoring them, deliberately. She knows she has violated your boundaries, which is why she now says she’ll respect them. She knows you are pulling away, which is why she is trying harder to hold on to you. The problem is not that you haven’t revealed your preferences, the problem is that she doesn’t care what you want, only what she wants. She is purposefully manipulative (similar to the way abusive partners are) and I recommend you look up resources on how to deal with emotionally and psychologically manipulative people, so you can practice how to evade her manipulative efforts without having things blow up. Many other posters have mentioned giving minimal responses, and not giving reasons – explanations, reasons, and justifications give her something to argue against and try to get around. Good luck.

  42. Yorkshire Rose*

    OP #1 – I feel like I could have written this letter myself. In my case, the overly clingy/user/toxic “friend” got herself fired from my company and now we only communicate via text. I kept my responses short and polite, like others have pointed out, and simply deflected any overtures or questions. She got the hint. I’m no one’s therapist or doormat.

    That aside, she had very severe personal issues going on, and part of me wanted to cut her slack from that. But she sucked the life out of me and frankly I don’t really miss her. As we get older, we learn to let go of things and people that don’t enrich our lives….

  43. anon. y. mous.*

    #2 This is very relevant to me as I do the phone interviews in my office. I call people and usually they don’t answer and I leave a message. Sometimes I call and they answer and I ask if it is a good time and if they would like to schedule a phone interview. A lot of times (in our industry) they will tell me that they want to do the phone interview now and I tell them that it will take 20-30 minutes and they still want to do it because they have already ducked out of their office and they don’t want to have to find another excuse later to leave their desk. Maybe that is just my experience, but if you have any pointers on what could make the process better for the candidates I am all ears because I don’t want to rub people the wrong way. My feeling is some people just don’t like getting calls in general and they will always feel “put out” getting calls, but I can’t do email only because people in our industry are busy and don’t tend to respond to emails as well as phone calls.

  44. mf*

    #2: Seriously, don’t do this. Not only does it show a lack of respect for the candidate’s time, but the natural result is that you’re going to miss out on a lot of good candidates because their schedule won’t let them take cold calls. (It’s hard to do a cold call phone interview when you’re working during normal business hours.)

    I’ve only had one cold call phone interview, and it was SO BAD. I decided to end the interview when I asked whether I had kids or was planning to become pregnant (the male hiring manager actually said, “Well, I don’t want to pay for maternity leave!”). And that’s only one of several bizarre and/or illegal questions he asked.

    1. Anon. y. Mous.*

      Yikes that’s horrible. I would never want to work for this person and I would honestly be thankful they showed their true colors so easily. I always say interviewing is a 2 way street.

  45. automaticdoor*

    #2: As someone who is job-searching while working in a small office with no privacy… if you call me in the middle of the day and expect me to do a full-on phone interview with no warning, I’m going to have to pass on you. I currently HAVE a job that I would like to keep until I find a new one, and I cannot take a call longer than about two minutes without raising suspicion. I think it’s inconsiderate and a pretty terrible hiring strategy — many strong candidates are probably also in my position.

  46. Fired! Salaried to Hourly*

    I was recently wrongfully terminated ( it’s getting legal)… and I am updating my resume getting ready to start looking for a another job. I was a Supervisor making $60,000+ (salary) but I don’t want to be in management in my new position. I was promoted from within and prior to being promoted I was making $18.75 and hour. Having never been in this position before I’m unsure how much to ask for when applying for a position. Should I stay at the $18.00 rate or ask for more my Supervisory experience? My fear is I’m going to ask for too much and not even get an interview.

  47. Fired! Salaried to Hourly*

    Removed. I ask that posts here stay on-topic, but you can email this to me as a question to be answered or post it on tomorrow’s open thread.

  48. HRM*

    I cold call phone screen sometimes for entry level positions where the phone screen is less of an interview and more just ensuring they meet the basic criteria – i.e. are you available for this shift? Do you have a high school diploma/GED? These are usually 5 minutes or less and I always let them know we can schedule it if the time I’m calling isn’t a good time. The reason I cold call for these is because I’ve found in my experience that sending an email very rarely results in an answer, or if it does it can take a week or two.

    When it comes to higher level roles I’m much more likely to reach out via email or call to schedule a specific time for a true phone interview. Those conversations are much longer so I think it’s only fair to schedule them ahead of time.

  49. Bea*

    Enjoy the silence, they’re bitter and deserve to stew! You’re better than that nonsense.

    Voldemort wouldn’t talk to me after resignation in a professional solid way despite his behavior that drove me out. He used messengers and when I spoke to him a couple times about important things to follow up with when I was gone,radio silence. My last day I said goodbye to everyone but him. He sucks.

  50. SineNomine*

    Forgive me, but I’m not sure I understand #4…you’re leaving in two weeks. They aren’t giving you more work. Whats the problem? Get all your work done and enjoy a few relaxing days before getting out of there? Is there something I am missing?

  51. oranges & lemons*

    OP1, since Sally seems so unstable, I almost wonder if it would be worth giving your boss a heads up in case she starts escalating her aggressive and manipulative behaviour. Based on what you’ve described, it doesn’t sound unlikely to me that if she got angry with you, she might try retaliating in a way that might hurt your job.

  52. Filofox*

    OP4, that happened to me when I recently left my job. My boss stopped replying to emails and would do his best to pretend he didn’t notice me when we were in the same room. It was disappointing and coloured my perception of someone who I had previously considered a very decent boss. I spent my time making sure I made things as easy as possible for the person taking over my role – tidying up any loose ends and writing comprehensive notes – and took enormous satisfaction in popping into my boss’s office on the last day and cheerily and graciously thanking him for everything and wishing him the best for the future.

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