my coworker keeps demanding I say “please”

A reader writes:

I have a problem with a coworker and have been hesitant to send this to you as it seems petty but it has been bugging me for awhile. It started as a pet peeve but has moved into something bigger the more she does it. This coworker, I’ll call her Eleanor, demands you say “please” whenever someone asks her to do anything work related. Some examples would be as follows:

“Eleanor, can you email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss?”
“Only if you say please.”

“Eleanor, can I call you about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action?”
“Only if you say please.”

Generally I do say please, but on those occasions I forget I don’t want to be talked to like a three-year-old. This feels like a silly power play and it is a game I don’t want to play. She even does this to her boss! Another concern is that she is doing this to our customers and I feel like this does damage to our reputation and makes us seem difficult to work with.

How do I respond when Eleanor says this to me without being rude (and without playing her game)? Is it that big of a deal that she is doing this to our customers as well? Should I just let that go?

That’s incredibly obnoxious. “Only if you say please” is a statement that’s really only okay for a parent to say to a child, in the process of teaching said child manners. It’s not okay to chastise other adults with it, and it’s definitely not okay to say it repeatedly in a work context. (Once or twice as a joke is a different thing.)

If Eleanor feels she’s not spoken to with sufficient courtesy, that’s something she can address with people — but this isn’t the way to do it. And I doubt that’s what this is about anyway. This sounds more like she seized on this as a cutesy response or is, as you suggest, a power play. Or maybe it’s become a tic and she barely realizes how often she does it. But regardless, it’s inappropriate and annoying.

Your options:

1. Just make a point of saying “please” whenever you ask her for anything so that you short-circuit the annoyance. This feels like giving in, but it might be the most direct route to not having to deal with it … although it doesn’t solve the problem of her doing it to customers.

2. Tell her to cut it out: “Eleanor, we’re all adults here, and constantly responding that way is slowing things down and frankly coming across differently than you probably intend for it to. Could you stop?” (But if she responds to that with “only if you say please,” you have my blessing to make a voodoo doll of her and ritually destroy it.)

3. Tell her to cut it out, option 2: “If you feel I’m not treating you with sufficient respect, I’d certainly want to know about it, but I’d like respect back from you as well — so I’m asking you not to chastise me this way every time I need something from you.”

4. Ask your boss to tell her to cut it out: “Could you ask Eleanor to cut out the ‘only if you say please’ stuff? It was irritating enough when it was her constant refrain with just us, but she’s now saying it to customers, and I’ve got to think it’s putting them off.” (This is the kind of thing that some bosses would gladly handle and others would want you to handle yourself, so you’ve got to know your boss for this one.)

Also, I guarantee you that Eleanor is annoying the crap out of everyone in her family.

{ 601 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    Ooh, if she’s doing it to customers I’d be inclined to tell my boss. I do not think this incentivizes return business.

    1. Perse's Mom*

      This sort of condescending, time-wasting behavior absolutely contributes to customers choosing to go elsewhere if they have the option – or complaining to all their friends/family/management about it.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        As tempting as it is to put glassbowl customers in their place, it isn’t good business.

        1. Thursday Next*

          And who’s to say they’re even glassbowls? If Eleanor is speaking to the OP this way, she’s undoubtedly acting this way with perfectly civil customers.

          1. Morning Glory*

            This is really obnoxious behavior with her coworkers, but I don’t think it means she ‘undoubtedly’ acts this way with customers.

            Plenty of people code-switch and I know that back when I was in customer service, my demeanor, language, and even pitch of my voice were different for customers compared with speaking to my coworkers. Of course, it is possible she’s being obnoxious with everyone indiscriminately, I just don’t think it’s a guarantee.

            1. Temperance*

              Okay, but in this letter, Eleanor is doing the same thing to customers that she’s doing to LW. I don’t care if she’s using a nicer tone of voice, she’s still being a turd.

              1. Morning Glory*

                I read that sentence to mean the OP is concerned that Eleanor may be doing this with customers, based on her interactions with Eleanor. Not that she knows Eleanor is doing it with customers (and is concerned about it).

                I can see the alternative way of reading though, now that I look again.

                1. fposte*

                  To me it was clear she was doing it to the customers as well, but only the OP and Eleanor know for sure.

                2. Triumphant Fox*

                  Every statement from LW indicates that she is doing it to customers:

                  “Another concern is that she is doing this to our customers and I feel like this does damage to our reputation and makes us seem difficult to work with.”
                  “Is it that big of a deal that she is doing this to our customers as well?”

                3. Jennifer Thneed*

                  OP says: Another concern is that she is doing this to our customers and I feel like this does damage to our reputation and makes us seem difficult to work with.

                  She IS doing it with customers.

            2. lulu*

              We know she asks customers to say please, like she is talking to a toddler, so clearly she is being obnoxious to them, no matter what tone of voice she uses.

            3. strawberries and raspberries*

              This has nothing to do with code-switching. Demanding that your peers say please where it’s clearly implied is patronizing and demanding that your customers do it before you serve them is a fantastic way to make sure you stop having customers.

              1. Morning Glory*

                Wow, I…really was not defending her, and explicitly said I thought she was obnoxious. But people often do codeswitch between obnoxious and not obnoxious, nice and not nice depending on the person – it is not always a good thing.

                I clarified in my response to Temperance I misinterpreted the sentence about being concerned and was pointing out that obnoxious to coworkers does not necessarily mean obnoxious to customers. Because it doesn’t.

                1. strawberries and raspberries*

                  I think we posted at the same-ish time (I didn’t see your reply until after I’d posted) and I think you’re reading more hostility into what I said than I meant. And to be clear, even if you’re one way with customers that’s different from how you treat your colleagues, I don’t think that “being obnoxious to some people and not others” falls under the umbrella of code-switching.

            4. fposte*

              The OP says she acts this way with customers. Thursday Next’s point is that she might be doing this regardless of whether the customers are polite or rude.

            5. Thursday Next*

              MG, yes to code switching, but if anything, you were probably *more* polite to customers, I’d imagine.

            6. Legal Beagle*

              The tone of voice is irrelevant. If she’s saying to customers “Not until you say please” (or any similar reply), that is obnoxious. Even if she’s engraving it on cardstock and presenting it to them on a silver platter, the bottom line is, it’s rude, unprofessional, and will assuredly drive away customers.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                It could be that rather than saying it “rudely” (i.e., peremptorily), she’s saying it patronizingly, as in “Now, Emmie, what’s the magic word we say when we ask Grandma for something?”

                Not that that’s much better, mind you, but it is a little bit better. If she says it peremptorily, she sounds like the etiquette police; whereas if she says it patronizingly, she sounds like a nursery school teacher. Neither one is good, and both are very unprofessional, but the latter would annoy me a little less than the former, probably because, rightly or wrongly, I’d assume it was a joke.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  Either way, if I was a customer someplace, and I regularly ran into her doing this, I’d probably stop being a customer there. Very annoying.

                2. Khlovia*

                  The first time, I’d take it as a joke. And laugh. And wait expectantly for whatever I’d asked for.

                  The second time, I’d take it as a deliberate insult.

                  The peremptory version I’d take as the poor kid having a bad day, and ignore it.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Eleanor may think the OP is treating her like he/she is her supervisor without being one. I had a co-worker join our staff and order me around like a field hand before she even learned what her job was (and she was so busy ‘supervising’ I had to take over some of her work). I’d like to know how the OP treated Eleanor here before coming down on Eleanor.

            1. Observer*

              It doesn’t really matter. Based on what the OP says, there is no reason to believe that they were mistreating Eleanor. But even if that were the case, this would not be the way to deal with it.

              Also, what’s the excuse for doing this to customers or her boss?

        2. Observer*

          I’m with the people who say that it’s probable that these customers are not even being rude. “Could you do X?” or “Can I have a dozen Y?” is hardly rude.

          1. Serin*

            We have conventions for “soft request” in the same way that we have conventions for “soft no.” We all generally understand that “Can you do X?” is a soft request (because we all know that the command form is “Go do X”), and that the soft form does exactly the same thing as the word ‘please,’ namely indicate polite acknowledgement that we’re talking to a fellow adult with whom we have a workplace relationship.

            I can’t imagine that Eleanor doesn’t understand this, but then my dad spent most of his life responding to “Have a nice day” with “Don’t tell me what to do,” and I never knew what was up with that, either. I loved my dad, but he enjoyed being annoyed; maybe Eleanor is the same.

            1. Triumphant Fox*

              Saying please can also come off as more irked and sarcastic than genuine. It’s easier for me to make a request sound soft than it is to say please with every request, because I can accidentally place too much emphasis on please. Please can also end up sounding weak, childish, or too sing-song/girlish if used all the time.

              1. Julia*

                That’s how I read it as a non-native speaker. “Could you please do X?” was never in any of my textbooks AFAIK because, well, it sounds a little annoyed?

                I guess “Would you mind handing me Y, please?” popped up sometimes, but that’s uber-polite.

            2. Jules the Third*

              And all of this is *highly* variable across different cultures.

              I’m not even talking ‘cultures from different countries’, I mean ‘US NE vs US South vs US Midwest’. ‘Can you do’ is not interchangeable with ‘Please do’ in the US South, and I’ve been working with a couple of people in the US Midwest for whom it is also not interchangeable. Our interactions got a lot more positive when I shifted to explicit ‘please’ with everything.

              Just say, ‘Please send me’, if it’s really interchangeable in your culture.

              1. Micklak*

                This is an interesting point that I handn’t considered. I started a new job once where my boss said please whenever she made a request. But it didn’t come across as a request. It came across as a command with please in front of it: Please do this. To my ear it is much softer to say: Can you do this? I would still do it either way but they feel very different to me.

                I would never say “Please do this,” and it’s a bit vexing to think that I’ve been offending people all this time.

                1. OhNo*

                  I’m with you on “Can you X” sounding softer, mostly because there’s at least the illusion of the ability to say no. Any kind of statement – even if it has “please” in front of it – doesn’t leave that option open, so those feel a lot more dictatorial to me.

                2. Teapot librarian*

                  I have employees who would answer “yes” to “Can you do X?” but not do it. Not because the request didn’t include “please” but because they read the question as literally “do you have the skills and knowledge to do X?” rather than as “do X.”

              2. Serin*

                Huh. I’m a born Southerner and I’ve never observed any difficulties about “Can you X,” though it’s true that I’ve been gone a long time.

              3. Mad Baggins*

                Really? Can you share more about your experience with this? I’m curious how big the gap is between interpretations and how much it intersects with tone, content of the request, and the relationship between speakers.

                In my personal experience, Mom asking teenage Baggins, “Can you fold the laundry” is not the same as a coworker asking adult Baggins, “Can you help me move this table?” and replacing these with “please” or “Could you” wouldn’t fundamentally sway my interpretation, so I’m curious about how others interpret it.

            3. Blue*

              This is really interesting to me, because I didn’t think about how (relatively) rarely I say “please” at work until I read this letter. I say “thank you” a LOT (dozens of times a day, probably) regardless of setting, but at work I tend to use “Could you…?” or “Would you mind…?” instead of please. I have a pretty direct written communication style, so I do throw in a “please” to soften things with minimal effort, but that may be it. Huh.

    2. Seriously?*

      If the OP knows for sure that she is doing it to customers, then she definitely needs to let her boss know.

      1. Specialk9*

        I manage a number of big contracts. You had better believe that I would be PISSED if a vendor was reprimanding me like I were a toddler. I’m old enough and give fewer Fs than I used to, and I don’t tolerate that anymore — I’d have some strong conversations with their boss. When I was younger and more timid, I’d have found a way to steer the company to another vendor.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Nope, it does not, and my jaw is still on the floor since the moment I read that she does this to the customers and still has her job!

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is so infantilizing and obnoxious that I hope OP says something to Eleanor and to their boss. There is no way this goes over well with customers, and it’s likely to engender a lot of unnecessary annoyance.

    5. sometimeswhy*

      Yep. I once had a cab driver do it to me. I sat down said, “Hi! I’d like to go to [street at crossstreet]”–hadn’t even closed the door yet, hadn’t even really finished my sentence (spoiler alert: there was going to be a please at the end)–and he interrupted me to say, “Please? I’d like to go to [street at crossstreet], puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?” I got out.

      I also once had a colleague go on a week-long rant about how rude I was after I’d not used a very specific form of greeting and closing in a two-line email (that, incidentally, included both a please and a thank you).

      Some people have a bell they like to ring.

      1. Serin*

        Yay, you got out of the cab! I love it when stories like that don’t end with the annoying person being allowed to go on being annoying.

        1. sometimeswhy*


          I have no fucks left to give to people I’m not obligated to interact with for love or money and my supply of those is running perilously low.

          1. Specialk9*

            I think I had more fucks in 2014. I’m pretty sure I had a whole RESERVE of fucks. Not in 2018, by a long shot.

        2. sometimeswhy*


          I have no patience left to give to people I’m not obligated to interact with for love or money and my supply of THAT is running perilously low.

          (Ah rats, I’m sorry Alison. A stray curse made it into my first reply.)

          1. London Calling*

            I think you and I might get on. I have reached the age where I don’t take NO shit unless you are paying my salary.

        3. sometimeswhy*

          AND I would add that I was in a situation where I COULD do the thing that didn’t let him get away with his behavior. I wasn’t late for a thing that was going to affect me in any crucial way. I don’t belong to a group of people who are regularly bypassed by taxicabs so I was reasonably certain I’d get another. My destination was near enough and I was physically able to walk to my destination if I didn’t get another. I was mentally and physically prepared for the possibility that he might escalate the confrontation (he did not, unless you count peeling out as he drove away from me).

          The stars aligned that day so I did my small thing. The stars don’t always align.

      2. Legal Beagle*

        Some people have a bell they like to ring.
        I love this. It explains so much obnoxious behavior, and why we (very often) shouldn’t take it personally.

      3. French Fry Tickler*

        Once when I said to a fast food counter person, “Can I have a large fry?” he replied with “I don’t know, can you?” I was a little annoyed to say the least.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          Oof, that reminds me of the time I had a debate with someone in college about ordering food, like “I’ll have the (large fry)” vs. “Can I have a large fry?” I usually do the former*, and he thought it was rude to the person taking the order and and thought the latter was a better way.

          *And now I feel the need to point out that I always try to smile, be friendly, say please and thank you, and tip well.

        2. motherofdragons*

          In the first grade, if we asked “Can I go to the bathroom,” our teacher wouldn’t let us (!) until we said “May I.” I am now 31 years old and I deeply, deeply regret not just pissing all over the floor the first time she did that to me.

          1. Snorks*

            I never got that.
            You are the one who controls whether I can go to the bathroom or not, using ‘can’ is perfectly acceptable!

              1. seewhatimean*

                that said, it is a control/microaggression thing to do, even to a child learning grammar

      4. Liz*

        Yeah, I’d get out of the can.
        And I’d probably say to the coworker, Ok, I’ll ask someone else.
        Not an AAM approved response but . . .

    6. Hosta*

      I, and a lot of other nurses I know, don’t go to the default uniform store for our hospital system because one of the ladies working there is so condescending and mean. The prevailing logic is that if the shop is willing to tolerate someone so awful at the front, then the back must be just as bad.

      So yeah, I’d say your business might have a problem.

    7. Specialk9*

      I had a coworker who I truly loved (still do) but she could be very forceful, and would DEMAND that I look at her eyes when she had a point, over and over until I did. I would, but it felt like such a power play / mom bossing a toddler. I don’t think she meant it that way, but man it made my blood pressure spike.

      I am guessing it feels really similar to this.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Wow, that’s creepy! I wouldn’t even demand that a toddler look me in the eye; that feels really aggressive and domineering, and for what? You can know that someone is listening to you without sustained eye contact.

      2. Louise*

        This is also kinda problematic if you’re talking to folks with autism spectrum disorder. Like, folks with asd who avoid eye contact don’t do it because they’re being rude, but instead it’s usually to avoid overstimulation/allows better listening and concentration. People have weird hang ups about eye contact.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I’ve heard there some cultures wear looking people in the eye is considered rude.

          1. Airy*

            Many Polynesian cultures have this; it’s not all eye contact that’s rude, but younger people keep their eyes down when talking with their elders, for example. This sometimes leads to trouble at school when a child raised with that expectation has to deal with a teacher of a different culture who thinks eye contact means “I am paying attention to what you say.”

            1. Julia*

              Apparently in Korea as well, according to Koreans I know. In Japan, I haven’t noticed it as much, but obviously I wasn’t a child here so who knows. I do think people make less eye contact than in Germany, though.

              1. WS*

                In Japan it’s a rank thing – someone in a higher position can look someone lower in the eyes if they want (though usually don’t), but a lower person looking a higher person in the eyes is extremely rude and aggressive. (People you’re very close to are exempt from this, of course, but that definitely doesn’t count co-workers!)

          2. Tim Tam Girl*

            There definitely are – many Indigenous Australian cultures, for instance. There’s a TV news program made by and for Indigenous Australians that trains the camera on the newareaders’ feet instead of their faces, because that is more reflective of how the interaction would look to the viewer in real life.

            Unfrotunately, even though this is a well-known and well-documented fact and has been for several decades, non-Indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system in Australia consistently report Indigenous people as coming off as untrustworthy, shifty or guilty-seeming because they won’t look people in they eye when they talk to them. (It’s almost as though white Australians in power will take any opportunity to ignore the facts in order to prop up and perpetuate institutional racism. Huh. \s)

            1. Apari*

              That program sounds really cool! Do you know what it’s called? I’m in Australia and interested in checking it out.

              1. Tim Tam Girl*

                @Apari: At work so speed-Googling and unfortunately not finding anything, but if memory serves it was a local/regional program in the NT. I learned about it at uni so 15-20 years ago now [bursts into tears], which means that it was quite possibly back when Australia had more local-access TV channels. It may well have ended years ago, but I remember it vividly.

                If you’re looking for Indigenous-focused and -produced programming, NITV would be a great place to start. I get it with my standard free-to-air connection; but they also have a great website with archives (they’re a branch of SBS, which tends to have great online resources) so if you don’t get the station/have a TV, you should still be able to check them out.

          3. seewhatimean*

            at least some Indigenous N. American cultures consider this to be the case. And yes, I have seen it be used against people “because they must be *lousy trait* since they wouldn’t look me in the eye”. :(

        2. char*

          Yes, insisting that I make eye contact with you is a very good way to ensure that I don’t process a single word you’re saying.

        3. Lance*

          As someone on the spectrum… I can very much attest to that. It took a fair few sessions of social therapy as a child before I was even able to look anyone in the eye for more than, say, a second or two.

      3. Blue*

        Wow, that sounds incredibly obnoxious. I’m very glad I don’t work with her, because I don’t think I could respond graciously in that situation. And she’d definitely have a problem with me, since I tend to look into the distance when I’m thinking seriously about something. It’s a way for me to momentarily block other distractions, so it’d be to her advantage – it’d mean I was actually focusing much more closely on what she’s saying than I would be if I were staring her in the eye.

      4. Indoor Cat*

        Wait, what? That’d freak me out way more than the ‘say please’ thing. “Say please” is condescending, but demanding full eye-contact is unsettling and uncomfortable.

    8. I prefer tea*

      Absolutely if this is happening with customers, it should be addressed. As a customer, if you make me feel weird, I’m never coming back.

    9. Duffman*

      I stopped going to one restaurant because every time I went to the drive thru, the lady would go “WHAT?” to me when she didn’t understand something. We customers are a fickle bunch.

  2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I’d go with option 5…

    “Eleanor, can I call you about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action?”
    “Only if you say please.”
    …OP carries on like they don’t hear the ‘please’ part.

    1. Ali G*

      This is tempting.
      “Eleanor, can I call you about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action?”
      “Only if you say please.”
      “OK, thanks I’ll call you shortly”
      Then..if she makes a comment about not saying “please” when you call her:
      “Eleanor we don’t have time for that back and forth right now. Did you hear what happened with the Smith account? Good, so if you would do X and Y and I will handle A and B we should be able to get this fixed asap. Really appreciate the quick assist!”

      1. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

        I think the “really appreciate” and its variations is important her. Make a point of being courteous and respectful to her in other ways, so she can’t complain about you being rude. Then it becomes even weirder for her to insist on the Magic Word, as part of an otherwise professional interaction.

      2. Joielle*

        Yeah, this is what I try to do when someone does something off the wall. Just assume they’re joking (even when you know they’re probably not), smile warmly, and carry on as though they’ve agreed with whatever you said. 90% of the time it works and you never have to have the awkward conversation.

        1. emilyemitter*

          Sometimes when a coworker asks me to do a favor for them (I’m the office admin but some people feel weird about asking me to do stuff?), I will jokingly reply “Only if it’s legal!”. Quick laugh and we move on…. But I do this MAYBE a few times a month and only to people I’m friendly with.

          That “say please” line is a) annoying and b) overused.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yeah, I’d start pretending that “say please” actually means yes, and talk to her as if that’s the case. If this is a power play or some weird cry for attention, ignoring it might actually be effective.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this would be my first course of action: Don’t let her derail the email chain.

        The more response she gets from you, the less incentive she has to stop doing it. I’d ignore it and proceed as if she hadn’t said anything.

    3. I'll say it*

      indeed, this is what I’d do too. after waiting a beat, I’d either repeat myself without saying please, or I’d continue on as if she had said “sure”.

      1. irene adler*

        Yep. Just construe the comment as agreement. Don’t play into her request.
        It’ll just work it’s way into a follow-up of “now, say thank you.”

        Kinda wonder how she’d react if request were challenged or ignored.

    4. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

      Yes, this. Ignore the weirdness and move on. It doesn’t address the issue of what to do about the customers, but it does put the whole thing in the area of “no longer OP’s problem” as far as workplace behaviour goes.

    5. CatCat*

      Yes, this is what I would do too. It does a bit of the return awkward to sender by just acting like it didn’t happen.

      ““Eleanor, can you email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss?”
      “Only if you say please.”
      “Okay, great, I’ll look for your email.”

      1. Michaela Westen*

        In this example though, she might not send the email!
        I suppose then the next step would be notifying the boss you’re waiting on the email to finish…

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yes, exactly. Make it more trouble for her not to proceed without getting her way.

    6. MicroManagered*

      And perhaps, before carrying on as if she didn’t say it, OP can add a meaningful pause and not-amused face.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        This. I’d stare at her for a moment as if she had a third eye pop out on her forehead and then move on as if the weirdness didn’t happen.

      2. Specialk9*

        “You may not speak to me as if I were a toddler. That is deeply disrespectful.”

        1. seewhatimean*

          I think this approach would be absolute gold for a person who uses the strategy, and wouldn’t be likely to reduce or neutralise it as much as a brief flat look and moving on right over top of the bullying (because at some level that is what is going on)

    7. cataloger*

      Yeah, I wonder if this is a joke that’s just falling flat, or her go-to cutesy response. It reminds me of a coworker I had that would respond to requests with “Sure! That will be $100.” but they’d only give you a second or two to blink at the weirdness before smiling, and starting to do what you asked. I might also try ignoring it and acting as though she agreed, especially in a non-crisis situation. (Can you imagine her trying to explain to the boss that she won’t send you the data you need until you say “please”?)

      1. SophieK*

        Yes, this strikes me as her attempt at a catchphrase. Not that it’s any less obnoxious.

        I might try reciting “say please” with her to indicate that it’s getting old. Or saying any other word other than please. Potato? Putz? Packrat? Pap Smear?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          *snerk* putz and pap-smear *snorting with laughter here*

          (For those who don’t know, “putz” is just one of the many charming terms that Yiddish has for a gentleman’s sexual organ, and like all such euphemisms, can also be applied to people.)

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Oh, maybe we should put your coworker and OP’s coworker in a room together.
        “Can you do X for me?”
        “Only if you say please!”
        “Sure, that’ll be $100!”

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I like this approach. Ignore her “pleases” and respond with the normal courtesy (thank you) that a person ought.

    9. LBK*

      Yeah, I might call her bluff and just move along as if this is her “cute” way of saying okay. I mean, is she really not going to do her job if someone doesn’t say please? Is an adult woman actually going to say to her boss, “Well, Jane did ask me for that report, but she didn’t say please so I didn’t send it”? I can’t picture her doing that unless she’s truly delusional.

    10. Manager Mary*

      This. Everyone should just act as though she’d said “only if you buy me lunch first” or “is water wet?”
      Just say “haha” or ignore it and follow up with “because I need this info before our meeting with the Johnson Group on Tuesday” or whatever. If Eleanor continues to be weird, treat her accordingly–as if she’s being weird! Because it’s extremely inappropriate to refuse to grant a request that was delivered politely and professionally, just because someone didn’t explicitly use the word “please.” She might as well force you to play Simon Says with every request–it’s every bit as inefficient and unprofessional.

      I cannot comprehend why an entire office of otherwise rational adults is indulging this bizarre behavior! When everyone stops putting up with her games, she’ll stop playing, quit, or get fired. All better options than forcing you to say “please” with every little ask.

    11. OhNo*

      If it’s the phrase itself that grates, I might also adjust the wording of my questions so adding “please” wouldn’t make sense. Like, instead of, “Can I call you to talk about X?”, maybe use “Do you have time to talk about X?”

      If she still responds with any variation of “say please”, I’m the kind of salty person who would probably respond with a jerk comment like “I was checking on your schedule, not asking for a favor. Do you have time or not?” But I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re willing to go whole hog on dealing with this problem.

  3. Amber T*

    Dear lord – she’s probably annoying everyone in her family, coworkers, social circle…

    If she’s doing that to customers, I’d definitely bring that up with boss, because if I had a vendor do that to me, that would make me rethink the relationship.

    1. Clorinda*

      Yes, the business will lose customers and the boss won’t know why, because the customers won’t tell him. It would sound like such an odd, petty complaint, but it isn’t–it’s real. Nobody wants to be mommed at by a stranger. Get out of here with that nonsense, Eleanor; and, by the way, Miss Manners says it’s rude to correct people’s manners, so there.

    2. Anion*

      Yes, me too. I love etiquette and am generally as polite as I can possibly be, but this isn’t politeness. This is beating people over the head with your overblown idea of etiquette in an effort to make them feel inferior to you, or like they’re begging you to do them favors instead of conducting a professional transaction. Eleanor is actually being extremely rude with this behavior, and making people uncomfortable instead of comfortable (which is the main goal of etiquette to begin with: making people comfortable).

      Every other sentence doesn’t need to have “please” in it. And if a vendor was doing this to me every time I didn’t actually say it, I’d lose my sense of humor and bonhomie about it very, very quickly, and start looking for a vendor who didn’t think she was my mother.

  4. Pollygrammer*

    I would be tempted to ask “and if I don’t say ‘please,’ are you going to refuse to do your job or act like an adult?”

    1. KHB*

      Right? “Please” is what you say when you’re asking for a favor. Giving someone a task that falls within their normal job description is not asking a favor.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially if it’s a customer.
        Say please? Eleanor, I’m purchasing stuff from you, which is helping keep your company solvent and you employed. I’m not asking you for a favor; if anything, it’s going the other way!

      2. Thursday Next*

        +1 One should not take umbrage at being asked by coworkers, customers, or managers (!) to perform one’s typical work obligations.

        1. LSP*

          Your use of the word “umbrage” made me immediately think of Eleanor as Professor Umbridge, and her insidious little laugh after she says something particularly awful.

            1. Alli525*

              The word “umbrage” has a meaning in English, but it’s not really a meaning I’d want put on a road sign – how strange!

          1. Tuesday Next*

            I was trying to explain some awful office politics to my 11 year old son, and he replied “oh, like Professor Umbridge?” Spot on!

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

              My daughter is reading the Harry Potter series for the first time (oh how I wish I was able to do that again!!) and she started book 5 this morning. She asked “is this the one with that Umbridge lady? Everyone says she’s awful.” She has no idea!!!!

      3. chocolate lover*

        I don’t think you literally need to say “please” at every opportunity, but I know multiple people, including myself, who use it more frequently than asking for a “favor.” It’s just gracious sometimes.

        1. Infinity*

          Yep. I use “please” to soften requests. For example, I think it could be rude to say, “Send me the report for X.” I would say instead, “Please send me the report for X.” I’m saying the same thing, and adding “please” doesn’t make the second statement sound like a favor (at least to my ears). On the other hand, to me, it’s iffy to add “please” to a statement already phrased as question. For example, “Eleanor, can you please email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss?” (I added please to this sentence taken from the original letter) reads as demanding and as if Eleanor should have already done this. IMO, “please” is not one-size fits all.

          (Disclaimer: My first job out of college was at a law firm where the boss would routinely rip people for not phrasing emails just so. We would get screamed at for the perceived misuse of single words, and it would take me a good 15-30 minutes to send a two-sentence email out of abject fear. I had panic attacks over using “could you” vs “would you” in email requests to clients. My boss would also write emails where a single word like “please” could either mean she’s happy with you or ready to throw something at you. So… I overthink these things.)

        2. Observer*

          Being gracious is good. But, you can’t require that from coworkers and customers. (I’m not talking about common, basic courtesy, which definitely IS something you can require.) Also, you don’t need to use “the magic word” to be gracious. The language that the OP mentions falls into the category for the most part.

        3. Alienor*

          I think there are lots of ways to ask for something nicely, though. If someone emailed me “Hey, Alienor, could you send me the link to that article we talked about when you get a chance? Thanks!” I wouldn’t take it as rude or demanding, even though it didn’t contain the “magic word.”

      4. Jadelyn*

        I mean, I try to use “please” more often than just when asking someone for a favor outside the routine – it’s just a social nicety that smooths the way for things a little, whether you should *need* to say please when asking someone to do something they should be doing anyway or not. This may be a holdover from being an admin assistant – because you usually have very little actual authority, you learn to mix deference with giving orders to people who far outrank you, otherwise nothing gets done. A bit of verbal groveling usually helps with nudging your busy execs into doing what you need them to do, or has in my experience anyway.

        But demanding it like that for routine stuff, and especially with that phrasing – you’re not my mother, lady. Hell, if my actual mother said that to me I’d probably laugh and flip her off and keep on with the conversation, because that’s the kind of relationship we have at this point – but if my actual literal mom can’t “only if you say please!” at me, some coworker sure as heck can’t.

        1. KHB*

          Very true. I do say “please” sometimes even when asking for routine tasks, but I think that’s more out of habit than anything else. And even when you do have actual authority, treating your coworkers with respect (as opposed to barking orders at people like they’re trained monkeys) goes a long way. But that doesn’t necessarily have much to do with whether the word “please” actually escapes your lips.

          And that has little to do with what Eleanor is doing, which is just ridiculous.

      5. LBK*

        And it sounds like she’s weirdly strict about explicitly hearing the word “please”. I make sure to be deferential/appreciative with favors, but I don’t generally use that exact word. It’s more along the lines of “I’d hugely appreciate it if…” or “I know this is a pain, but…”.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          I suspect Eleanor is also the kind of person who offers unsolicited grammar corrections. “Can I ask you a question, Eleanor?” “I don’t know, CAN you?”

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think I would actually say that, but I probably would think that, after “Did you just tell me to say please?!”

      1. Luna*

        If Eleanor does this in person too I would be tempted to respond by looking confused and saying “What? Did you just tell me to say please?!”

  5. Murphy*

    That sounds really obnoxious to do to coworkers and inappropriate to do to customers.

  6. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’ll periodically (as in once – MAYBE twice – a year) joke about needing a dozen chocolate cupcakes to get a difficult request in.

    But 1) it’s not a regular thing and 2) the person asking me acknowledges that what they’re asking is a royal pain. It’s also a way for me to gain some time to finish the thing I was working on so I can hop right on what they asked me for. I can’t imagine doing this on a regular basis.

      1. LQ*

        I’ve joked with this (the “only if you say please” thing actually) with my boss. But he was asking for something he thought was incredibly onerous and that was going to be a huge pain and require overtime and me cancelling a vacation. It was actually a fix I was able to do while we were talking. It was so small and menial that his extravagant ask was funny and the relief when it turned out to be incredibly simple was great.

        (And I already had a good rapport with my boss, and it was just me stalling for a few extra seconds to finish it before he went into apologizing for me having to cancel my vacation which I didn’t have to do.)
        It was funny that once.

        1. LQ*

          (And I’m not sure it was actually that funny, it was more a huge relief for both of us. The relief would have made anything funny. You have to be really cautious about stuff like that is what I was going for.)

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      In my company the currency for big favors is alcohol :)

      But yes this is saved for the big and painful favors, not for everyday requests.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Starbucks is the currency here – as in “Okay, I can drop everything and get this for you by your meeting in an hour. So when are you making the Starbucks run?” Said half-jokingly, but most of the time someone actually will make a Starbucks run as a thank-you for extravagant requests.

    2. DecorativeCacti*

      I’ve done that before. Also, when people come in asking, “What do I need to do to get X?” I’ll say something along the lines of, “Well, you just say please and flash a smile!” But that seems… very different from this.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Agreed, your example is that you are willing and happy to help them. The OP’s example is just yuk…

      2. Morwen the Grad Student*

        Also, that phrasing invites your warm, joking response. What Eleanor is doing would be more like if you gave the same answer to “Hi, could I get X?”

      3. JanetM*

        And that response would probably irk me. (I’m now remembering an occasion when, in response to a fast-food worker’s standard, “What can I get you today?” I said, “I’d like the daily special, please,” and he responded with, “Not until you smile!” He sounded very lost and puzzled when I said, “No, thank you,” and walked away.)

        But I’m weird, and I could be wrong about that whole interaction.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking would be my reaction to Eleanor as a customer. I always ask very nicely for something as a customer, but I usually don’t say please because as others have said, it’s a little condescending to phrase it in an overly polite way when you as a customer have that kind of economic leverage over someone. It’s not like a server or retail worker really has a choice if they want to keep their job.

          But I always say something like “Could I have the blue widget on the left there?”, and then follow up with “Thank you” or something similar. So if I was told “Only if you say please!” by someone, I’d probably respond exactly the way you did above.

          I will admit, yours is more creepy and sexist. I would have asked for a manager if I overheard that, as I’d hate to think of any woman I know being subjected to it.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          I’m guessing from your username that you’re female? And you tell us he’s male. And this is a thing, where men tell women to smile — usually out of nowhere, as she’s walking by deep in thought, unaware of being observed. He probably never saw a woman refuse to submit to the demand.

          Let’s hope he learned, because f*^&@&! you, random man. My smile is not a performance and you have NOT just made me happy.

          (The worst is when a woman looks sad and some *(*&#$* says something about “Smile, it’s not that bad!” because if a woman isn’t smiling the world will end. I love the stories where the woman in question says something like, “actually, my mother just died” and then walks away, leaving the guy doing the fish-out-of-water thing.)

          1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            That actually happened to me years ago. My father was just diagnosed with lung cancer and I was in a deep funk walking back to work after getting the news. I was waiting for the light to change and some guy said, “Smile, it can’t be that bad.” I said, “My dad has cancer.” and walked on.

            1. Naptime Enthusiast*

              I’m sorry about your dad. But I can’t help but think of the ED coworker when you say that!

            2. pandop*

              Ditto. I was away at University when my Dad died, and I had a nightmare journey back on the trains. A chap on my 4th train/bus of the day told me to ‘cheer up love it might never happen’ – so I told him it had just bloody well happened!

            3. Ellex*

              The last time someone said, “Smile, it can’t be that bad!” my cat had died that morning. I was walking by, minding my own business. I told him “Yes, it is that bad,” and kept walking.

              Sorry about your dad. What is it with these obnoxious strangers? And why is it always men doing it to women?

          2. bolistoli*

            I think we need to come up with a variation of Joe Pesci’s response in Good Fellas: “You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”

    3. Amber Rose*

      Yeah, I have joked with people who ask me to do something frustrating that they owe me a coffee, and sometimes people respond by actually bringing in coffee, and everyone acknowledges that it’s all in good fun.

      There’s a difference between that and basically threatening to refuse work if you aren’t given something.

      1. What's with today, today?*

        I sometimes have to ask big favors of my (much younger, junior, recent-graduate-probably-broke) co-worker, and I usually end the request with, ”Lunch is on me tomorrow.” Which he thoroughly enjoys.

        1. LSP*

          I’ve brought in donuts for the office, as a thank you to some coworkers for going above and beyond in some seriously pain in the butt thing. I told them first, they got their pick, and then I told the rest of the office to help themselves. It’s a nice thing to do, but if someone asked repeatedly for donuts, even as a joke, I would be put out.

    4. Eve*

      It’s a know your audience thing. Joking occasionally with people you know will know you are joking if different.

    5. sunny-dee*

      I joked to a coworker once that I would do something if he paid me in gold. (We’re also friends.) A year or so later, he came to my wedding, and his wedding present to me and my husband was a velvet bag with silver bouillon. It was awesome.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OMG that’s amazing.
        I joke about it sometimes and always use currency that is impossible to indicate it’s a joke. Like you did with the gold, only it’s usually something like “For ten zillion dollars,” or “If you get me a date with Thor,” or something silly like that.

        1. Abe Froman*

          I want to believe that if someone actually arranged a date for you with Chris Hemsworth that you’d say, “I meant the actual god of thunder, not some actor.”

    6. Leela*

      I also think that asking for a dozen chocolate cupcakes would be out of one’s way enough to do that they must know you’re joking unless you’re deadpan and unpleasant about it, whereas with Eleanor here it comes off like she literally wants you to, right then and there. So bizarre! I wonder if she thinks she’s coming off as joking like you are.

      I really hope that this is brought to the manager at least re: the customers, and I hope that the manager makes it very clear that unless people are being rude, Eleanor can’t demand that they be respectful with exactly the phrasing she wants them to use with her, can you imagine if all employees demanded that and everyone had to learn 100 sets of phrasing to appease every single coworker? I wonder if Eleanor has a similar cultural background to OP because if she does, I can’t imagine her doing well if the company hired people with different cultural backgrounds. People simply don’t express everything the same way

  7. Alucius*

    ” (But if she responds to that with “only if you say please,” you have my blessing to make a voodoo doll of her and ritually destroy it.)”

    I love me some good catharsis

    1. chocolate lover*

      That comment totally made me smile! But then Eleanor might put a curse on OP in return.

  8. Czhorat*

    Does Eleanor have young children? Sometimes parents get out of the habit of talking to adults. I’ve at various points through the years found myself chanting to myself “up, up, up the stairs, just like ducks and bears” while ascending the stairs alone, or singing the yoghurt song to myself.

    That said, we need to treat other adults like adults and, to be fair, not be CONSTANTLY critiquing our kids’ manners either.

    I’m with Allison in that this can be shut down gently, but then needs to be shut down hard if it doesn’t stop. If she does it with clients it should almost certainly be brought up to her and, if needed, escalated to her boss.

    1. Hey-eh*

      I have a parrot that talks like a 2 year old, so we talk back to it like a 2 year old often. The number of times I’ve accidentally said, “Is it yum yum yum?” instead of “Do you like dinner” to my husband would make people cringe.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve almost accidentally asked adults if anyone “needs to go potty” before we walk out the door for an errand. It becomes so ingrained with small kids to check for that anytime you walk out the door, that getting ready to walk out the door becomes a trigger to say it. Thank god I’ve caught myself before saying it to coworkers.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I worked as a teacher in a school age after-school program when I was in high school. One day when I was at school (my school) a kid was running down the hall and I ‘teacher yelled’ (loud authority voice, not actually yelling) “Hey we don’t run here!” all my friends just stared at me and started howling, the poor kid who was probably late for class came to a screeching halt… and beet red I had to say “Ummm… sorry long story shouldn’t have said that carry on”

          1. It Me*

            I work with kids, and I’m constantly telling them not to run inside. Which has led to the point where it’s just an instinct now. I hear running and my mouth shouts out “Walk, please!” without any direction from my brain at all. And then my family is embarrassed because I just told a stranger at the grocery store, where I am not an employee, to walk.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Love it! I totally use “inside voice” stuff but hadn’t heard this one.

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

              I’ve done this!!! I was at the library recently and a group of high school girls were acting a bit disruptive while in the “teen room”. I was not in the room. I was walking by the room (a giant glass room). One of the girls was leaning back in a chair and all I did was look at her sternly, point at her and then the ground and she immediately looked contrite and put the chair safely back on all four legs. The girls all quieted down. The librarian who had been heading toward the room, was behind me and saw what I did. She kind of laughed and said “I have GOT to learn how to do that!” And I responded “I don’t know any of those girls. I wish I could unlearn it sometimes.”

    2. Pollygrammer*

      There is a chance that all she needs is someone to say “people really don’t like hearing that.” She may be oblivious. She may think she’s being cute.

      There’s also a chance she’s on an enormous, obnoxious power trip and that will not make a lick of difference. But it’s a worth a try!

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I agree. I can certainly imagine someone developing this as a conversational tic without realizing – starting it as a joke and then it just getting stuck. Most of us have little stock phrases that are just verbal fillers instead of “uhhs”.

        It’s best to assume that sort of harmlessness, rather than approach with the assumption that it’s a power-play of some sort.

      2. Czhorat*

        Yeah, that’s why she probably needs one gentle correction.

        If it persists after that she’ll need increasingly un-gentle corrections.

    3. Buckeye*

      I watched a woman mortify herself last week when she asked another adult “Do you need to go potty before we leave?” Definitely the mother of young children.

      The difference, of course, is that she immediately realized what she’d said and apologized. You’re right, though. Talking like that does stick with you.

      1. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

        I’ve done that! Not about the potty, thank goodness, but when one of my colleagues spilled her coffee, I came out with “Uh oh, did you make a mess?” in my mom-of-a-toddler voice. I was mortified – fortunately, she thought it was hilarious!

      2. Meg Murry*

        I live in terror of the day I cross the line into NOT immediately realizing that I just talked to adults in kid-speak like “need to go potty”. I’m sure it’s happened at least once during my sleep deprived past.

      3. Kittymommy*

        I’ve done that to my boss before. Not potty, but I did use the word “tum-tum”. Sadly, I have no children to blame!!

      4. anon24*

        I don’t have kids, but I do have cats. When they were kittens my husband and I used to jokingly say “beep beep” when we needed them to move, and it worked so well that it stuck. If they’re at my feet while I’m carrying something it’s “beep beep!” and they move.

        I work in EMS and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bringing a patient through the hospital on the stretcher and almost said “beep beep!” to a nurse or doctor with their back to me. Thankfully it hasn’t happened yet. I’d be mortified.

        1. Ali G*

          Have you all seen the commercial (I think Geico?) with McGruff and everyone is treating him like their pet? One woman says “Do you have to go tinky poo-poo?” in *that* voice. Well, my hubs and I of course think it’s hilarious and are now saying it to our dog…and we may have said it to each other. I’ll be mortified if it ever comes out while I am among the general population and not alone in my own home.

          1. Scout*

            I LOVE this commercial and I ask my cats this all the time, much to my husband’s annoyance! I would also be mortified if I ever accidentally let it slip in the office.

        2. Hlyssande*

          I’m sorry, but that’s a hilarious mental image. Except in my brain it was a yelled HONK HONK.

        3. strawberries and raspberries*

          Oh my God- I actually joke that my cat says “beep,” and when he’s running around pouncing on his toys and has that super-focused wide-eyed look we say that he’s making a “beep face.” It’s very cute.

          HOWEVER. One time I was trying to navigate super-dense NYC rush hour subway traffic one time to race to my train, and beside me was this young woman running and pushing past everyone shouting, “BEEP BEEP! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!” Of course no one moved out of her way, because that’s not how humans communicate. I was mortified for her.

        4. Environmental Compliance*

          I have definitely clicked at people to move as though they were a horse.

          On the plus side, my horse now moves out of the way when you say “excuse me”, so the clicking at people has lessened significantly.

          1. KellyK*

            Haha! That is awesome. I have dogs, but no kids, and I *just barely* stopped myself from telling my nephew (a toddler at the time) “Leave it!” when he was about to grab for something he shouldn’t.

            1. TonyTonyChopper*

              I did this the first time I babysat my goddaughter! She was at the crawling stage and found something random on the floor and started to put it in her mouth. It was definitely small enough to choke on, so as soon as I saw her do it I just reacted with “DROP IT!” in my dog mom voice.

              Funny thing was, it totally worked (even though she was less than a year old) – she looked at me so startled and put whatever it was back on the floor so I could pick it up – just like my dogs do. So now I just talk to all my nieces/nephews/godchildren like I do my dog. At least until they are old enough to talk back :D

          2. Persephone Mulberry*

            The custom at my mom’s barn is to call out “door!” before going through any closed door so you don’t startle a horse on the other side. I worked at said barn for 6 years. I bit my tongue a LOT the first few months at my next job.

        5. Allison*

          My mom and I do that too, when the dog is underfoot in the kitchen we say “Beep beep, Tucker! Move your butt!” and he moves, but oh man, I would never dream of saying that to an adult in public.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Whoa yep. You’d be one misheard syllable away from a fistfight with that phrase.

        6. President Porpoise*

          My almost two year old daughter has started saying ‘beep beep’ to us if we’re in the way. It is just so cute.

      5. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha, I just posted upthread that I’m glad I’ve always caught myself before asking. It has come to the tip of my tongue so many times!

      6. AKchic*

        I’m in the local renaissance fair. Two weekends of fun, mayhem and ren speech.
        Unfortunately, switching my brain back to regular vernacular the day after our last day of fair is sometimes hard. My last job had scheduled a board meeting and I couldn’t take the day off. So, tired, mouth still in ren mode, I am in this board meeting setting up for everyone to show up (I’m just a program assistant, I’m there to set up, serve food, take notes and generally be a background person, even though everyone knows me and likes me). A few people show up and say “hi”, and what do I do? I grandly gesticulate as my danged character and say “hail to thee, and welcome!” gesture to the seats and proclaim “seat thyselves, the meal will be ready momentarily, may I provide any of thee with refreshments?”

        A giggle from the board president, who looks at our CEO, who is looking at me and trying not to laugh. Board president asks CEO if I’ve had a stroke. She says “nope, she has spent the last two weeks at the renaissance fair”. The board was put out that they hadn’t heard any employee was *in* it, they would have made an effort to actually come out. My gaffe is now jokingly referred to, 6 years later, even though I am no longer there, and half the board makes a point to show up to the fair every year to continue supporting me and the show (we’re all non-profits).

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Wow, that is a fabulous story! I have such a fabulous image of it in my head. Thank you so much for sharing!

        2. Nea*

          I adore this story.

          And if it helps, I use “Huzzah!” as congratulation/celebration in normal speech all year around.

        3. Specialk9*

          I’m trying not to laugh too hard bc I’m in semi-public, so I’ve got laugh tears spurting out. This part “Board president asks CEO if I’ve had a stroke.” I’m dying.

          1. Three Pines Visitor*

            It’s reassuring to hear a good story about a non-profit board for a change!

        4. calonkat*

          I’m in a year long group similar to a renfair. Had a job in a county attorney’s office once, after a week long event, went to work on monday and was asked to take something to the attorney who was in court. I walked in and was actually starting to drop a curtsy to the judge, when some part of my brain screamed that it wasn’t a king holding court!

          1. AKchic*

            I just did a television news spot this morning and came to work (on a military installation) in my fair garb because I can’t put my corset on by myself, so I could leave work an hour later to go to the fair site. The military guards at the gate all did a double take when I pulled up.

            For the next two weeks, answering my phone will be difficult. It’s a laugh and the regulars understand, but some of the new soldiers will be confused!

      7. Abe Froman*

        My mother-in-law asks me if I need to go potty before we leave somewhere. It is not ironic or a joke.

    4. TaxAnon*

      I once shushed a group of my friends for laughing very racuously one night. I then realized we were not at my house and thus not in danger of waking my child. I was MORTIFIED.

      1. London Calling*

        My mother used to grab my hand as we were about to cross the road. I was 50.

    5. Sarah*

      Yes! My mom is an elementary school teacher and we occasionally need to remind her that her family members are no longer 8 when she uses her “teacher voice” with us. :-D But, I agree, even if it comes from an innocent place like this, it’s still totally appropriate for you to ask her to stop. If it is more of a habit/reflex thing, I think she would want to know it is annoying people!

      1. Abe Froman*

        Oh my gosh, yes. My wife taught for 5 years. I used to get shushed when I reached for things she wanted (like the remote) because her default when her kids were misbehaving was to shush.

      2. seewhatimean*

        Oh lordy…my mom taught kindergarten, and used that voice on my partners over the years. Always fun to bring home a new person to meet the family and have them greeted with that sort of “do you want to take of your coat? Do you need the bathroom? Would you like a drink” in five-year-old-friendly tones.

    6. Allison*

      Yes, this! I had a coworker in my last job speak to me like I was a kid, and I figured it was because she had a 4 year-old daughter at home. I’ve also suspected some older women think young women find mothering tones to be soothing and nice – NO WE DO NOT, SUSAN! It’s patronizing as hell. Speak to be like I’m an adult, because I am adult, and when someone speaks to me like a child I’ll wonder what I did to make that person think I’m developmentally or intellectually disabled.

      Also, I agree we need to stop nitpicking our children’s manners. Teach them please and thank you, speak to them after the fact if they committed an etiquette faux pas but if you don’t pick your battles, you’re gonna raise a neurotic etiquette geek with serious anxiety issues because no matter how hard she tried to be a good little girl growing up, some adult would always find fault with her tone of voice, choice of words, or body language.

    7. Meghan*

      I had a related but opposite issue at work once. I had brought my three-year-old son in after the regular work hours. I don’t even remember why, but I had him sitting at my desk playing with toys for a few minutes while I gathered things up. He took off, and I used my mom-command-voice to get him to stop running away and come back. That ” Get Back Here” tone.

      It was not an inside voice. Apparently, I can project. The people who were still in the office were very startled.

    8. bonkerballs*

      Ha, as a former preschool worker I have totally done that kind of thing. Even though it’s been a year since I worked there, I still find myself holding up fingers whenever I’m telling someone a specific number.

    9. xms967*

      My partner was sick once, and could barely eat anything. He finally managed to get some soup into him, including most of the broth part of the soup. My first response in my head was, “Good job, you ate all of the soup!”, just as I’d say to our toddler. >.>

  9. Hey-eh*

    I’m so petty I would probably use “please” every third word whenever I talk to her.

    I want to know her tone when she says this. Does she sing-song it like she’s OVERLY CHIPPER or does she say it like she’s talking to a three year old? Does she sound pouty? Does she genuinely not do the task unless you actually say please? I’m so curious.

    1. Catalin*

      My smart mouth would take it a little farther, i.e. (turns to Eleanor for request) “Please, please, please, please please please?” using standard speech intonation. When she gawks with disapproval/disappointment/disbelief, calmly carry on as though nothing happened.

      1. boo bot*

        Oh, I would go the absolute opposite: unfailing politeness without ever using the word “please.” “Eleanor, would you XYQ? I would so appreciate it, thank you.”

        heh heh heh

        1. boo bot*

          I specialize in complex psychological revenge plots so deviously subtle that I am the only one who even knows they are taking place.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s my preferred method for flirting. If they catch on to my interest, I’ve failed!

            Thank the heavens for online dating.

          1. Hera Syndulla*

            “Lieutenant Provenza, could you follow up on that report, please? Thank you.”

    2. Perse's Mom*

      Ha! I considered this – pleeeease, Eleanor, pleease can I pleeeease call you about this account pleeeeeeeease… – but you run the risk of her being angered by it (she was just asking you to ask her politely, gosh!) OR it making her happy (see, was that so difficult!?) and just reinforcing the behavior.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        If I did that and it made her happy, I’d have to get out the voodoo doll.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      If you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, or Eleanor is from there, I’d respond with “Please?”

      Eleanor: “Only if you say please.”
      Me: “Please?”

      In Cincinnati, saying “Please?” in this manner is verbal shorthand for “Can you please repeat that?”, and said with the same inflection. It usually means you didn’t hear what the other person just said. It’s most commonly used by people whose ancestors were German immigrants. My brother picked it up, I didn’t, but I do respond to it.

      I’ve also never heard it used outside the Cincinnati area, so this is unlikely to have the desired effect anywhere else. (That said, if anyone else is familiar with this, I’d love to hear about it!)

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’m unfamiliar with “please?” used in that way, but I do say “sorry?” for the same purpose sometimes!

      2. KL*

        I’ve never heard “please?” used like that either, but I’m in the deep south. I use “sorry?” at work if I miss hearing something. At home, it’s “do what?”

      3. Flower*

        “Bitte?” has that meaning in German, so I definitely recognize the origins, even though I’ve never heard it used that way in English. ‘Bitte’ also means please and you’re welcome (including a preemptive you’re welcome) and the verb form means “to request” but with a more eager/needy connotation (noun form also being request).

        I do use “Sorry?” that way though, standing in for “Sorry, I missed that, can you repeat it?”, and that seems to be understood by at least any American I’ve said it to.

        1. whistle*

          Yep, Cincy is a German town, so that’s exactly where it comes from! To the best of knowledge, it’s a quirk of Cincinnati and is not used in other historically German towns.

      4. Keyboard Cowboy*

        In the same vein:
        “Would you send an email to X?”
        “Only if you say please!”
        “Oh, please!” As in, shorthand for “Oh, please, grow up!!”

      5. Anon for this one*

        My mother-in-law is from Cincinatti, and she does this all the time! I hadn’t realized it was a Cinci thing rather than a personal preference.

  10. Granny K*

    Can you please get the ‘X’ account email out today?
    Only if you say ‘please’…
    Can you please do your job and get the ‘X’ account email out today? K thx.

    1. AnonforThis*

      It reminds me a little of in Mad Man where Peggy is mad Don didn’t say thank you for something and he goes “That’s what the money was for.” Like out of the ordinary stuff, sure. But you shouldn’t expect groveling or submission to be expected to do your job. That is, after all, what the money is for.

  11. Anon Accountant*

    The receptionist at my old job did this exact behavior. “Hey Jane, will you mail this for me? Chocolate Teapots needs this for their tax filings”. 2 days later people would realize their stuff wasn’t mailed. “Jane this wasn’t mailed out! Ummm they needed this”.

    She would respond “you didn’t say please! When you remember your manners I’ll send it out”.

    1. irene adler*

      Dang! Hope that wasn’t entertained for very long.

      “Jane, how about we handle your paycheck in the same manner?”

        1. Observer*

          Two years of the receptionist affecting customers, and no one has done anything about this?! How do they keep competent staff and customers?!

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          HOW? What dirt does she have on the owners that she’s still there?

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*



          What on Earth has made her so invaluable?

          1. Autumnheart*

            I’m trying not to burst out laughing in the middle of a meeting at “Holy shingle jingle jingle”. *face shatters under the pressure*

    2. Ali G*

      WUT?! Let me guess: she’d been there foreeeevvveeer and so it was “impossible” to fire her.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Yup. Impossible as she was friends with the boss. That’s the only way she got the job because she wasn’t good at her job.

        1. Leela*

          This is amazing to me. If I was a boss and a friend that I’d helped get a job was putting my company at risk, I’d be beyond furious with my friend, not take a “deal with it, everyone else!” attitude. Does the boss….not…care if the company they’re at has problems/loses business because of their friend’s behavior? My “friend” would be out of there so fast

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Ummm… Please tell me Jane was fired by saying “Please leave and never come back!!”

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I kind of hope they left out the please, then called the cops and let her explain to them that she’s “trespassing” because they didn’t say please.

    4. Katniss*

      Man, I’m amazed that there are so many Nedrys in the world.

      “ha ha ha, you didn’t say the magic word, ha ha ha”

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      Just, wow. If I were her boss, the first time that would be a warning, the second time that would be firing.

    6. Bea*

      Nobody I’ve worked for would accept this shit. Things have to be mailed by x deadline and if she got us a fine acting out like that…omfg I would want to personally fire her myself. I have only enjoyed a termination once and it was some dickweed who refused to take direction.

    7. Jadelyn*

      Holy hell…bad enough being a condescending pain about it like OP’s coworker, but to *actually not do your freaking job* because someone didn’t say please??? Nope. Nopity nope nope. Noooooope. That’s a firing offense right there – maybe without a warning, because if she really thinks it’s acceptable behavior to not complete required parts of her job because the request wasn’t worded the way she wanted it, she’s frankly too much of a reclamation project to bother with until she learns the most core, basic professional norms on her own.

    1. Natalie*

      This is the one I want, although I doubt it would go over well. Yeesh this person sounds unbearable.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I was thinking “Eleanor, I need you to please get the F over yourself and do this thing, since it’s your job,” but that’s probably taking it a bit too far.

      1. Emi.*

        The baby sign language sign for “please,” which if I recall correctly is rubbing in a circle just under your collarbone with a flat hand.

          1. Jay Harris*

            That is the sign for SORRY. PLEASE would be to put your palms together with fingers up and closed, as though in prayer. To say PLEEEESE, use a slow and exaggerated motion before the palms go together and give a little hand rocking motion at the end along with a “begging” facial expression. I find this a really great way to express exhaustion with the situation.

          1. Emi.*

            Yeah, I had thought it was one of the ones that was made up to be easier for babies than the ASL sign, which I realized today is a category I had made up (unless it’s true for non-American baby signs maybe, since I first encountered the idea of baby signs in another country so idk).

            1. CoveredInBees*

              I had thought it as ASL signs that had been adapted for babies as well until I started trying to teach a bit to my son. Some of the relevant signs require coordination of two hands in a way that he just doesn’t have yet.

      2. KL*

        I think she’s referring to baby sign language. My SIL taught both of her kids that before they could talk. It was super cute to watch the kids sign when they were full or “all done” because they’d smile and throw their chubby little hands back.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          That’s just actual sign language. I don’t think there is a special babies-only sign language dialect? (The books geared to parents I have seen really just teach some basic ASL.)

          So, if you use the sign for please, you are just saying please to her. It won’t have any connotations other than just saying please.

      3. Canarian*

        A simplified form of sign language for babies- just gestures, no grammar.

        It helps very young children communicate. For example, a baby will be able to request milk by signing for it (opening and closing the fist) before they have the motor skills to form the phonemes for the word “milk.” It also definitely helps in that stage where kids have the vocabulary but not the pronunciation skills, so you can tell from the gesture plus the sounds what they’re asking for instead of having to offer up every object in the vicinity to figure out what “beebee” means.

      4. Avatre*

        Baby-sign = sign language as adapted for babies and small children (and non-ASL-speaking parents, I assume). I have heard it’s useful for babies a little too young to speak verbally, because if they know a few signs they can communicate sooner than they would otherwise be able to.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It is absolutely that. It’s a quirk of baby development that they develop comprehension before they have enough muscle coordination to pull off speech (which is really tricky, yo). So give them a few simple signs to communicate — and once they can speak, they will, because speech is more useful — it lets you communicate with someone out of visual range.

  12. Admin2*

    This may just be Eleanors “script” as a way of acknowledging while trying to be funny and cute. Lots of people have scripts they run and have no idea automatic or bad it is. Breaking the script is good, plus just always saying please.

  13. Bend & Snap*

    Nobody should be talking to customers like that! Speak to her and tell her to knock it off, then go to your boss. That is unbelievable.

  14. Canarian*

    This reminds me of the judge played by Ana Gasteyer in The Good Wife, who wanted every attorney to end their arguments with “in my opinion.” Demands for weird linguistic quirks that add nothing to the communication! Why!

    That being said, I’ve noticed we really hammer kids to say “please” and then mostly phase it out by adulthood. No one I know actually thinks it’s rude for an adult to say “could you pass the salt?” but if a five year old says it, we remind her to include “please.” I think the only time I regularly use “please” is when ordering at a restaurant, or in work e-mails when I say something like “please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.”

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I dunno, I would bet you do it way more than you think!

      And really, if you think about it, we’re not necessarily trying to teach children that they have to say “please” we’re trying to teach them that they need to be respectful when they request things from others. In a chaotic classroom, insisting on please is a pretty good shorthand for that, but overall the message is: ‘other people’s time is valuable and they don’t owe you things, when you need something, it’s more effective to ask kindly.’

      So even if you’re not using the exact word you were taught, you’ve probably absorbed and adopted the underlying lesson.

      1. WillyNilly*

        I teach my kids “please” by instruction, but certainly by example as well.
        But I also often accept a “thank you” from my kids instead of please. And in my own modeling, I sometimes use other softeners “would you be so kind as to” “excuse me” “can I trouble you for”, which depending on the circustance, IMO, serve the purpose as “please”.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*


          I’ve done a lot of work with children, and most people have slightly different scripts that they use: “please is the magic word,” or “ask again nicely”, but the overall message is the same. Even adults who aren’t using any “softening” language are probably asking for the salt in a much gentler way than a five-year old would, so it make sense that we hammer this stuff home.

          No stock phrase is better than parental modeling though!

      2. Pollygrammer*

        For kids, “please” is the difference between demand and request. Adults have more nuances in their language–“could you” “would you be able to” and “do you mind” are all requests, and they’re perfectly polite. And even “pass the salt?” is a request with the right intonation because the full “would you mind passing the salt?” is implied.

        1. Libervermis*

          This is such a good point. I realize I often use please with “statement language”, so it’s “please pass the salt” or “pass the salt please” as a way to soften what otherwise could sound like an order. “Could you pass the salt?” has the double-softener of question and subjunctive, you can absolutely tack a please in there but you’ve already signaled it’s not an order so it’s perfectly polite as is.

          And with regards to children and nuance, who hasn’t seen a child in full meltdown shrieking “pleeeeeaaaase”? We definitely teach it as the politeness shorthand such that kids use it in ways that are very much not polite!

        2. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

          We call it the “Yo, Bitch” rule in our house. Any request that’s phased as if it could easily be followed by a “yo, bitch” must be restated. It doesn’t have to explicitly include a please, but it should sound like the please is there in tone at the very least.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, this is it. With kids, it’s easier to teach “please” first and give them a go-to polite expression to use, and then they can pick up the nuances of “how to sound polite without actually saying the word please” later, because that’s subtler and more difficult to teach.

    2. Amber Rose*

      The lawyer who writes the excellent legal humor blog Lowering the Bar regularly posts snippets from legal documents with absurd language use. Like this quintuple negative: “The grounds of appeal announced on Monday state Justice Sifris erred in not finding Mr Goldberg was wrong in failing to set aside the summonses.”

      We hammer it into kids to say please for the same reason that when learning a new language, we learn the most formal version of it first. When you don’t know the social rules, it’s better to err on the side of courtesy. Imagine trying to explain to a five year old why it’s important to say please except in the following specific scenarios. Yikes.

      1. Canarian*

        Oh good point you and Mystery Bookworm both made, it’s about teaching etiquette and courtesy generally. I hadn’t thought of it that way!

        That quintuple negative sentence is… really something. I’m tempted to diagram it just to figure it out! I’ll have to check out Lowering the Bar.

    3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I think you’ve already covered the politeness bases by saying “Eleanor, could you send out the whatchamcallit to these folks?” Phrasing as a question and with the softening language of ‘could you’ makes this already totally polite for adults.

    4. Observer*

      Actually, that’s not really true. Lots of people hammer please because most young kids don’t have the linguistic skills to “ask nicely” without that. Also, there are a lot more situations where children need to be more deferential.

      1. DArcy*

        I’d say it’s more that adults expect grossly unreasonable amounts of deference from children.

        1. Blurgle*

          It’s a power ploy. A necessary one, perhaps, but a power ploy all the same.

    5. AnonforThis*

      That is also crappy judge-ing because lawyers aren’t arguing thwir opinion, they are crafting a legal argument for their client. A good lawyer never argues his or her own opinion. No one cares what the attorney’s opinion is.

      1. DArcy*

        It’s presented in the show as a really annoying quirk that just has to be catered to because it’s the judge demanding it.

    6. only acting normal*

      Frequency of using “please” and “thank you” (by adults) is also cultural – e.g. generally the UK use it a more than the US.

    7. dawbs*

      I dunno, I have a kid with receptive-expressive disorder (often associated with asperger’s syndrome, although that’s not what’s happening at my house), and I hammer ‘please’ day and night and day and night…
      Not because I need ‘please’ to be in front of ‘pass the salt’ but because what we are trying to get through (and through lots and lots and lots and LOTS of work, and OT, and speech therapy, are getting, I hope) are saying is that ‘please’ NEEDS to be somewhere in what you say. Not always the words but somewhere in there.

      Not always in the word ‘please’, but in how you say something or in the words you say. The please has to be there in voice or words.
      But 5 year olds have very different worlds. “Please is sometimes a tone of voice” is a hard thing to explain. And explaining it to 1 intelligent kid at a time is hard, explaining it to 25 of them in a group at rug time? please. (<HA. I"m sorry, I started typing that, and had to leave that other usage there, because it tickled me :)

      5 year olds exist in a different, very black and white, very rule oriented world. I had lots of 5 year olds in my day today. I asked questions to go over our rules today–I made them 2 choice questions with easy obvious answers–I hope. "DO you think we should use our walking feet or our running feet around this area?" "Do you think this soap is a food?– Do you think you should feed it to your dog or baby brother?"

      Once a kid learns to say please, they can unlearn the word please, and learn all the other ways to say it.

    8. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I am not sure. This might be cultural but I use please for every request (or at least I hope I do). I was trained this way as a kid and I think I would have to concentrate very hard not to say it because it is a deeply ingrained habit.
      I would be quite offended if someone I dealt with regularly gave me orders without saying please and thank you.

    9. Lily*

      Oh, my mom still tries to correct me when I say something like “would you be so nice and pass me the salt” because I didn’t use the word “please”. But in my ears, pointedly adding “please” sounds almost always passive-agressive and I had never the problem to be perceived as rude anywhere else, so I mostly ignore her.

  15. Amber Rose*

    “Eleanor, did you know, there isn’t anyone who works here who is younger than 20 years old? Oh, I just thought I’d ask since you talk to everyone like they’re five and it’s creepy.”

    I would be at BEC stage in about three seconds and would surely have snapped, so kudos to you for trying to find a professional way around this LW.

  16. Leave it to Beaver*

    This is irritating enough that I would almost turn it into a demand, rather than a question.

    Eleanor, email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss.

    If she still requests you say please, repeat the statement or ask her if she would like to explain to your boss why the requested information is unavailable.

    “Eleanor, email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss”
    “Only if you say please.”
    I’ll let the boss know you were unable to email me the forecasts.

    But I have little patience for power plays like this.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’m with you on this one. And I like the quick shut down in your suggestion. Although I’d probably change ‘unable’ to ‘unwilling’

    2. whistle*

      I like this. Another variation that might work:
      “Eleanor, email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss”
      “Only if you say please.”
      “Does that mean you’re not going to send that email?”
      Send the awkwardness back with a question that will be difficult for her to answer without looking ridiculous.

    3. E*

      I like this response also. Asking politely is the adult equivalent of “please”. The OP is nicely asking for work to be done, there’s absolutely no need for anyone to be treated like a child.

  17. Dogmama*

    I would just stare at her like the condescending twit that she’s being until she realized what she’s said is petty and ridiculous and does the task. That’s just me, I have a very low tolerance for dumb things like this in the work environment.

    1. motherofdragons*

      I was thinking a stare with a couple of confused blinks. Like saying “…did you really just say that?” but with your face. Although truthfully I think if anyone said this to me I would just burst into laughter! So, so bizarre.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    Me as customer: Could you do X?
    Elenor: Only if you say please!
    Me as customer: Can I speak to your manager please?

  19. Mystery Bookworm*

    This is incredibly annoying behavior and would drive me bonkers.

    That said, I do think it’s best to approach this with the assumption that she thinks she’s being funny and/or that she’s not even really aware she’s doing it. (It could just be the verbal equivalent of an “umm,” for her). That frame of mine will likely help keep the overall tenor of the relationship cordial even as you try to steer her away from using that phrase.

    It also sort of reminds me of the Scalzi observation that “the failure mode of clever is asshole”. I could see her retort getting a laugh in the right scenario, but in the wrong one…ugh.

  20. OP*

    She doesn’t have small children that I know of. She says this over IM and in person and in person it is kind of in an up talky way. I have tried several methods including ignoring the please request and she will come back with things like “ well you didn’t say please so I guess you didn’t want my help” or something along those lines.

    1. Bea*

      You have to pull management in if she’s ignoring you because you refuse to be spoken like a child.

      Your requests are properly worded. If you just said “Hey Eleanor, call me at 1 to talk about the project.” that’s casual, demanding and not proper for work. You’re asking her nicely and then she’s playing a game instead of doing her damn job. Hell no.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Oh wow. Well, then I think you should refer it upwards if possible. That’s really obnoxious.

    3. Dogmama*

      “I guess you don’t want my help.”
      “I guess I’ll go speak to the manager that you aren’t doing your job.”

      1. Lance*

        This. Just this. The moment she says something like ‘I guess you didn’t want my help’, it’s well beyond ‘annoyance’ territory and into ‘this woman isn’t doing her job well’ territory.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Wow. The voodoo doll seems inadequate now. I want you to stick pins directly into Eleanor.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Me too. Large blunt ones, right into pressure points.

        (And my mother’s mane is Eleanor, so it’s pretty deep if I’m on board with stabbing an Eleanor.)

    5. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Because you didn’t say please you didn’t want her help? No. Hard no. This isn’t a cute tic this is absurd and condescending. I’d go with talking to your boss at this point.

      And perhaps the voodoo doll, for good measure.

    6. D. Llama*

      Is she low-level? Maybe she feels under appreciated and feels ordered about by people and this is a way to feel like others see her as a human being.

      Still super annoying, but perhaps there’s a non-evil motivation.

      1. Temperance*

        Why do we need to find a “non-evil motivation” for Eleanor’s obnoxious behavior? If anything, if she’s low-level, she shouldn’t be bossing around her superiors.

        1. D. Llama*

          Because compassion can help us look at a situation differently and remain calm when we would otherwise be aggravated.

          1. Temperance*

            I’ve noticed a pattern here where a letter describes terrible behavior, and the comments section will do backflips to rationalize it.

            1. Agent Veronica*

              Funny, I noticed a pattern where people try hard to determine where everyone is coming from, because understanding motivation helps us understand how to most effectively handle the situation. That’s not always (or even often) the same as excusing the behavior. It’s basic recognition that (a) most people have reasons for what they do, even if those reasons are weird, and (b) the best way to deal with that behavior can and often does depend on the reasons behind it.

              And for the record, I’m a whole lot less likely to be annoyed by “backflips” to explain bad behavior than I am by the commenters who work hard to come up with malicious intent on the part of all actors, particularly letter writers.

      2. AKchic*

        Her motives don’t matter. She is actively not doing her job, regardless of her motives, simply because she is not hearing “please” at every questioned work-related order. That is absolutely unacceptable. How many customers has she upset by doing this? How many customers have they lost who chose not to complain, but rather just found another company to work with?

      3. OP*

        She is at my level. She does also say things like “ Well since you said please I guess I have to do it” and things like that. Like I said I do say please in general but it is the times I forget she does this and even when you do say it she has to bring it up. It’s tiresome.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          She does also say things like “ Well since you said please I guess I have to do it”

          Ohhhh THIS bullshit. So if you do say please, it’s not going to make her any more enthusiastic about doing the task than if you hadn’t. Clearly this isn’t about her wanting people to be polite or treat her like a human being. This is majorly aggressive.

          1. Snark*

            Man, she just finds every goddamn excuse she can to be a bullshit person, doesn’t she? The mind reels.

        2. Dlique*

          “Well since you said please I guess I have to do it” – I don’t know why but this makes it worse for me. Eleanor, get over yourself.

          1. Snark*

            I’d have a reaaaallll hard time not saying exactly that in response. “……seriously? Get over yourself.”

          2. bonkerballs*

            I’d respond back “No, you have to do it because it’s your job and that’s the only reason we keep paying you.”

        3. AKchic*

          Oh goodness no. Please, for your sake, and for everyone else’s sake, document all of the dramatic garbage she says and take it to the bosses.
          This really is ridiculous and no way for a person to behave.

        4. Sofie*

          “ Well since you said please I guess I have to do it”

          … Is she perhaps an alien who is under the mistaken impression that “please” is an actual magic word for humans?

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Maybe not alien but raised weird with a natural difficulty in picking up social skills?

        5. rldk*

          Oh my god. Yeah, this is immediate escalation level, because it’s clearly not a tic or an attempt at cutesy, this is just trying to be unhelpful and actually not doing her job. Definitely something your supervisor needs to become aware of sooner rather than later.

          (My petty side loves the idea of sending back tasks to boss with “Eleanor is unwilling to produce these reports” but it’s probably best to be collaborative)

        6. Pebbles*

          “ Well since you said please I guess I have to do it”
          This reminds me of the Geico(?) commercial with the little old lady that has posted actual photos by taping them to the wall of her living room instead of Facebook. And her friend is saying “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!”

        7. irene adler*

          I think I need to correct that one immediately.

          “No, you have to do it because it is your job to do so.”

          Wow. I wonder, does she give attitude with upper management too?

        8. Totally Minnie*

          Okay, get up from your chair right now and walk directly into your boss’s office. This passive agressive behavior is 100% not okay, and Eleanor’s supervisor needs to tell her to cut it out and start acting like a $&*#@%^ grown-up in the workplace.

      4. Infinity*

        I was wondering the same thing. I’ve worked with coworkers perceived to be low-level who did things like this. I can think of a few right now who would often say “you didn’t say please, so you must not want my help” in up-talky tones. And I will say…the ones who didn’t do this or something like this? Are the ones who had barely-mid-level coworkers walking all over them with things like “put this one piece of paper in this envelope and make sure it gets out today” or “Oh, you’re eating lunch? Well, make 50 comb-binded copies of this 100-page report right now; I need it done in 45 minutes and make sure coffee is ready in the conference room by then.” It’s a coping barrier, and it works beautifully as a deterrent against people coming to you for things. (I’m not saying it doesn’t spike my blood pressure and I’m certainly not saying infantilizing business interactions is acceptable.)

    7. Ciara Amberlie*

      “ well you didn’t say please so I guess you didn’t want my help”

      Oh my goodness. This is unacceptable. Talk to her boss.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Me too. If I worked with her, I would probably lick things before I gave them to her.

        1. Temperance*


          I don’t know if you are a fan of Upright Citizens Brigade, but they had a sketch where a man put pennies in his underwear and gave them out as change as a way to feel powerful or get back at people. Eleanor would get alllllll the ass pennies from me!

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          Literal LOL at “ass pennies.” That may be my new band name.

          Re licking things, I once had a coworker who was so obnoxious that I swore that the next time I caught a bad cold, I was going to come to the office on a sick day just to lick her mouse and phone, and cough on her keyboard.

    8. drpuma*

      How long have you and Eleanor worked together? Is this something that she started doing relatively recently, or is it “just Eleanor” and you just haven’t experienced it? The please thing is so passive-aggressive that I wonder if it was triggered by something else you may not know about (feedback about her attitude, not feeling supported by her boss when she complained about a colleague’s attitude, recently turned down for a large project or promotion, etc).

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        From the OP: “it seems petty but it has been bugging me for awhile”

        Of course, we don’t know what “awhile” is, but I’d say it’s not just in the last month. And it’s to everyone, including customers and her boss.

    9. Imaginary Number*

      Yeah, that’s not a tic or being cutesy. That’s being deliberately obnoxious because she doesn’t think she should have to do anything that helps anyone else out.

    10. Amber Rose*

      “I wasn’t asking for help, I was asking you to do your job. If you don’t want to do your job, then I will have to ask management to find someone who will.”

      What a twit.

      1. Drew*

        “I was asking you to do this because it was more polite than ordering you to do it. Either way, it wasn’t a request, so get it done by 2 p.m.”

    11. Canarian*

      Oh yikes! You said you hesitated to write in because it seemed petty, but the fact that she actually doesn’t do her job unless you say please DEFINITELY puts this in legitimate, non-petty grievance territory.

    12. Seriously?*

      In that case I would go with option 3. If she is going to take offense if someone does not say “please” then she needs to know how rude she is being in response.

    13. CatCat*

      Ooooooh, I’d be at my last straw with her. She sounds insufferable.

      “Eleanor, I need you to cut it out with this ‘you didn’t say please’ nonsense. It’s coming across as infantilizing and unprofessional. Can you stop doing it?”

      If anything other than an unequivocal yes would send me to management.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Hmm. If somebody said, “Eleanor, can you please stop doing that?” do you suppose she’d stop?

        1. Lehigh*

          Ohh, I love this.

          “Eleanor, can you get me that report?”

          “Only if you say please.”

          “Eleanor, can you please never ask me to say please again? It’s really irritating, and I need to be able to talk to you like an adult. Please don’t do it anymore. If you’re unhappy here, please take it up with your boss.”

          1. Avatre*

            I really want to see the look on Eleanor’s face after hearing that (assuming her motives are passive-aggressive, which is looking more and more likely).

    14. Leave it to Beaver*

      Eleanor sounds like a control freak. In fact, the level of her idiocy is so bad, I’m picturing her as a cartoon villain and want someone to vanquish her.

    15. Lynca*

      My jaw is on the floor. She literally wants a please in order to do something as part of her job and won’t consider it unless she does? She’s lost her mind.

    16. Ali G*

      What they all said – and you are sure she is doing this with customers too? If that is for sure the case then this is management level crap that needs to be dealt with.

    17. Small jar of fireflies*

      Oh my lord. At this point i would probably just disgrace Allison and replace her name with “Please.” “Hey Please, can i get that report?” “Please, could you not demean the customers?” It actually might be better to find a better managed workplace if the boss won’t stop this. This is missing stair behavior.

    18. animaniactoo*

      Oh. I wrote you a lovely reply e-mail below that was half sarcasm. But I totally think you should use it now. All the way through.

      She is ridiculous and I would start cc’ing boss every time this happens. “Please note: Eleanor is refusing to respond to my request because I didn’t use the Magic Word. This is ridiculous and petty and I find it inappropriate to be treated as a child in a business environment.”

      Also: Does SHE always remember to say please? Because if not, oh my I would find such satisfaction in replying back “ONLY IF YOU SAY PLEASE!”

    19. Observer*

      How do you respond when she says something like this?

      It’s time to loop in your manager. For one thing she’s refusing to do her job. Also, if she ever does that to a customer – or to anyone in front of a customer – you are going to have a MAJOR customer service and PR fiasco.

      This is the kind of story that goes viral very, very fast. Pre-internet, it’s the kind of story that an entire community would know about by the end of the day. And you can be sure that it’s not going to make the business look good.

    20. Blue Eagle*

      How about this. “Please do your job.”

      When I first started working I used to include the word “please” in my e-mails. Then I noticed that the men never did, so I made it a point to stop using that word and just asked for what I needed.

    21. Nom De Plume*

      This is so passive-aggressive and childish, it almost defies credulity. You’re a saint for not blowing up at her.

    22. JustAnnAnonoly*

      I once had a co-worker who was obnoxious like this. Is she a blabby talker, too? I think with my co-worker, it was partially because she thought it was fun or cute or endearing and partially just to fill the air with more sounds from her mouth. She. never. stopped. talking.

      She never actually didn’t do something requested. She also didn’t leave you hanging more than a few seconds. It was draining, though. To the point of only asking her to do things when it was vitally necessary. Which actually led to me requesting access and learning the programs she used so I could get data myself. Her boss (and mine) authorized it because I was like “Oh, I know Eleanor is so busy. I’m sure I can pull those reports if you just give me access. Then I don’t have to interrupt.” Access granted, regular one thing taught, obscure things figured out. Win, win.

      It also wasn’t nearly as obnoxious to play along on the rare occasion I actually needed/wanted a favor. Like . . . can you pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please, with sugar on top, grab me lunch when you go, but no sugar on mine, thanks. Here’s some money. ;)

  21. Bea*

    If a vendor did this, as a customer, I would already have reported it to her manager. If it happened again, I’ll find a new vendor. It’s beyond obnoxious to treat a client like that.

    It’s ridiculous to communicate like that as colleagues as well but a different conversation all together. She needs retrained on internal and external communications, which makes it fall in managements lap.

  22. Lisa Babs*

    I really really want the boss to reply to that with well “only if you don’t want to be fired”. I mean please is for favors. Favors is not doing a report that’s your job.

    On a more helpful note, since the OP is the one annoyed not the boss. OP, please stop asking questions if you can (sorry I had to say please). Instead of “Eleanor, can I call you about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action?” say “I’m calling you in five minutes to talk about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action” Or simply call and say “Let’s talk about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action”. Or if you want to be nice “Do you have a moment to talk about this crisis so we can work out a plan of action?” None of those leave you open to “please”.

    1. Temperance*

      All of your suggestions totally open Ms. Crankypants to retort that LW didn’t say “please”.

    2. Joielle*

      Oh, I really like this. It’ll be more work for the OP to mentally re-word each request, but after a while I imagine it’ll start coming naturally. Plus, I’m sure she’ll hate it and I’m petty like that. :D

    3. TootsNYC*

      Ooh, and also use non-human actors: “Eleanor, this report needs to go out by 3pm.” Or “I need this report typed up by 3pm.” If she says, “only if you say please,” you can answer, quizzically, “But I wasn’t asking for a favor; I was just letting you know the timeline. Anyway, I’ll leave you to do your job.”

  23. Oh Heck No*

    Tell Eleanor to grow up. Seriously. I’d tell her, “Eleanor, I don’t need your passive-aggressive nonsense about “saying please” when I’m asking you to work as part of this team. It’s become a problem. Cut it out.”

  24. Thursday Next*

    OP says Eleanor is speaking to her boss this way—I’m surprised her boss hasn’t called her on it. I’m not sure which is worse: demanding a “please” from customers, or from her own boss.

    It’s also such a bizarre thing to focus on, since the presence or absence of “please” doesn’t necessarily indicate politeness or its lack. Someone cheerfully saying, “Thursday, shut the door on your way out” would be far more courteous than someone loudly snarling, “Thursday, please shut the door on your way out.” Tone, volume, and the appropriateness of the request all contribute more to the civility of the ststaement more than “please.”

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Right, and in certain contexts, the addition of “please” makes the phrase seem more snarky, not less! Can you PLEASE (with emphasis) always seems like a snarky and/or exasperated way of asking, not a more polite way.

      Of course, I would have to start all my requests like this. Eleanor, can you PLEASE send out the mailing to these folks pronto?

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      +1 I’m thinking about British passive aggressiveness, where “please” and “thank you” can be pretty damn withering. I especially enjoy the use of the sarcastic thanks…

  25. Comms Girl*

    This just reminded me of that The Good Wife judge who wouldn’t move anything forward if the lawyers didn’t finish their sentences with “in my opinion” at all times. While there it was a funny gag, in real life this “only if you say please” thing is certainly annoying as hell. Ugh. Alison’s script is on point, as ever!

  26. Laura H*

    A. It’s not hard to say please.
    B. It is however, hard to remember to say please.
    C. Pretty sure we’re able to contextually reason when please is implied by the nature of the request.

    I’m pretty sure I annoy my coworkers and the people I interact with, due to my pattern of adding please as an addendum rather than integrating it as part of the request…

  27. Another Sarah*

    Ha. I would end up saying, “Only if you say please!” Back to her. She didn’t say please when telling you to say please, after all. ;)

  28. Sara without an H*

    You are all much better people than I am. My response would be to preface every request with something like: “Oh, great Eleanor, of thy manifold and great mercies, vouchsafe to get these documents to Fedex before darkness falls!”

  29. Imaginary Number*

    I don’t always use it, but something adding the “thanks” without waiting for a response (as in I’m implying you’ve already agreed to do it) can be effective.

    “Hey, can you forward me those reports? Thanks! You’re the best.”

    I wonder what her response would be to that.

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      The preemptive thanks makes me enraged. In fact, when my ex would say to me, “Can you grab me a beer? Thanks.” , I almost always responded with “What’s the magic word?” It may be more reflective of that particular relationship, but someone assuming I’m going to leap to their bidding without even giving me a chance to say no is not okay with me.

    2. STG*

      Yea, I think that would probably irk me more than the please comments. Although in all fairness, I would likely go with number 1 on the list since it’s simple and I just want to get through my day.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I too hate the pre-emptive “thanks,” but I think it would be reasonable to use it here.

  30. Lissa*

    How does the boss respind? Does she give in and say it?!? This would really cheese me off…

  31. Colorado*

    I think you need to tell her directly to cut it out, it’s condescending or use the scripts in the comments. Or just ignore it, but you’d be doing a service to others by shutting it down. I think about the word please when I send emails. I know this sounds weird but sometimes it comes across as condescending in the case if you’re asking for something that is my job, “can you please do this…” almost sounds aggressive. Of course, I can and will, it’s my job. On the other hand, if it’s a special request or something that is needed immediately or will take some special consideration, I think it is appropriate. I start my emails with “Please find test report X attached for your approval. It needs to be signed by xyz”. I’m starting to wonder if that sounds condescending. No need to say please, I can see the attachment.

    1. Deus Cee*

      I use ‘please find attached’, ‘please see below’ etc – I think it’s sufficiently standard a phrase as to not sound condescending.

    2. AKchic*

      Sometimes I say “please find the attached report” simply because it’s a plea to the internet deities to not lose or somehow corrupt things in transit. I know it won’t happen, but there’s still that niggling doubt in the back of my mind that it will. And then there’s always the issue of “do they have the right program to view the data I just sent?”

      Then I wonder if saying “please find” is kind of condescending because I’m telling them “I don’t think you can clearly see the attachment, so then sometimes I word it “please see” or “attached is X, if you have any problems viewing it, please contact me”.
      Language is irritating.

    3. Clorinda*

      I think you’re overthinking the risk of condescension, Colorado. It’s better to be a little extra polite than not polite enough, and ‘please find attached’ is just the regular formal way of saying ‘here’s the thing.’ Carry on!

      1. Lexi Lou*

        I usually say please see attached because if I don’t say please, I’m likely to forget to attach the attachment. For some reason, typing the extra word reminds me to check before hitting send.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Off-Topic — I attach the file(s) first, before even writing the subject line. I have hit send too many times w/o anything attached.

  32. Rebecca*

    OP, is there a reason you aren’t ever saying please in the first place? At the places I have worked, almost everyone says please all the time to one another as part of basic courtesy (except one lady who was rude in other ways anyway). Your co-worker is clearly obnoxious, but why not just say please when you give instructions to people?

    1. Canarian*

      You may have missed this sentence in the letter:

      Generally I do say please, but on those occasions I forget I don’t want to be talked to like a three-year-old.

    2. Dee*

      Although I agree in general with the principle of basic courtesy, why does OP have to change the completely acceptable way she’s doing things, rather than Eleanor, who is acting inappropriately for a workplace?

    3. Pollygrammer*


      There is nothing wrong with OP’s language. It’s ridiculous to expect that every single request all the time needs a “please” unless you are a preschool teacher. “Forward me that email” is not rude. “Forward me that email?” is actually a request, and actively polite.

    4. Murphy*

      There are other ways to convey courtesy without having to explicitly say “please” every time.

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      Also, as mentioned upthread, a request can be polite without the addition of please, and rude even if it has a please in it. Of course it’s not wrong to add a please, but assuming OP’s tone, demeanor, and manner are polite and professional, and assuming what she is having Eleanor do is well within the bounds of Eleanor’s duties, Eleanor is overboard and passive-aggressive in refusing to DO HER JOB unless OP uses the exact wording she prefers.

    6. Leave it to Beaver*

      Are we really at a point in our society where we have to say please and thank you to someone for doing what is quite literally part of their job? Secondarily, the fact that Eleanor won’t do her job because someone won’t perform a social nicety is utterly inappropriate and unacceptable. So, Eleanor has completely stripped the whole meaning behind the act of people saying please, because she literally forces them to do it.

      1. Avatre*

        Your question rubs me a little the wrong way because I find it easy to read as “it’s their job, so I don’t have to be nice to them.” Which… please (ha!) don’t do that. I make a point of saying please and thank you at, for example, fast-food restaurants and the grocery store, because darned if most service-industry jobs aren’t dehumanizing enough already.

        But, I think we’re in agreement that customers (or coworkers, in this case!) who behave decently but don’t specifically use the word “please” are not being rude. And even if OP and Eleanor worked at a McDonalds patronized only by mannerless riffraff, it would STILL be obnoxious to demand a “please” from anyone too old to play in the play area.

        Saying “please” on top of other polite phrasing is often a choice I make when I feel a little extra kindness is in order. That’s CLEARLY not the case with Eleanor-the-soon-to-be-burned-in-effigy.

        1. Leave it to Beaver*

          I understand your point. My question isn’t really intended to give folks license to be rude to others. Asking a question or making a statement isn’t inherently rude, so that’s where I’m coming from. “I’d like a big Mac” or “Where is the bathroom?” doesn’t necessarily require a please. It’s when a request is outside the norm or if you know you’re asking for something difficult, where a please and thank you should be expected. Requiring people to say please in order to get a Big Mac or getting directions to the bathroom, is where I draw the line.

    7. Lynca*

      Because every request/task assignment does not need a please to be courteous.

      Ex: “I’m assigning you the X report. It needs to be done by August 31st.” There is nothing rude about outlining what needs to be done as part of your job. It is rude to come back with a condescending addon request for a please if someone doesn’t ask the way you want them to.

    8. Kate 2*

      I was wondering the same thing. I am a receptionist, and I don’t mind if my coworkers don’t say please (though I strongly prefer it!) if they ask with a polite tone, rather than a snappy, short one. I wonder if that is part of what’s happening here.

      1. Observer*

        Well, if you actually read what the OP writes, that’s not what is going on. For one thing, they say that they ARE generally using please, and for another, the language they describe when they do NOT say please is clearly polite and appropriate. “Could you do x?” is just fine.

        1. Infinity*

          Upthread, OP stated that s/he is at the same level as Eleanor. Personally, I don’t tend to often give direction and assignments to coworkers who are at the same level as me, and, in the rare times I do, I certainly don’t leave it at “Could you do X?” They’re the same level as me, they don’t report to me, and they don’t owe me – they get an explanation and a “please.” “Could you do X?” is unapologetically giving someone work and expecting them to rearrange priorities. You don’t forget to say “please” when giving an equal-level coworker work. That is not fine.

          I have had the experience of being assigned work by an equal-level coworker, who waited until the last minute to work on her solo project and then demanded a customized, multi-level, complicated report from me by the end of the day, all without a “please” or a “I’m so sorry for the crunch” or a “I appreciate it.” When I said, “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do that today because of X, Y, Z” that coworker came back at me with, “Well, it’s your job, so you have to.” LOL. No. Shoulda went with “please.”

          1. Elsajeni*

            I mean, I send requests along the lines of “Could you take a look at this file and…” or “Could you send me that list of…” to my boss all the time, without an additional please. It’s not obvious to me from the letter how big the things are that the OP is asking Eleanor for, or whether they’re part of the normal scope of her work (i.e., Eleanor always does the quarterly forecasts and OP just needs to see them when they’re done) or more like a special request or new task the OP is passing off to her, but neither of the examples she gives strikes me as rude or demanding without more context.

            1. Infinity*

              I think Eleanor is completely out of line by ALWAYS demanding “please” from EVERYONE…or at all. It’s infantile. I was responding more to the general comment of just saying “Could you do X?” is always just fine and polite. I disagree that it is always just fine and polite, especially in terms of two equal-level coworkers. How many AAM letters are about “my equal peer keeps assigning me work – what do I do?” A lot of them. “Could you do X?” could be “could you forward me that list?” or it could be “could you pull together all data on teacups for the last 10 years and compare sales by color and have that to me by 3pm?” The former doesn’t need a “please” more than a “thanks”; the latter needs to recognize what is being asked, what work is being created, what priorities will likely need to be shifted, and then appreciate all of that with AT LEAST a “please.” Sure, it’s my coworker’s job to do that work, but it’s not my coworker’s job to scramble for me as a peer. It’s a favor and a lifesaver if they do.

              Fact is, we don’t have much context about the OP and Eleanor, except Eleanor is likely very out of line, and now we know they work at an equal level. That’s really important context. IMO, a lot of the advice here seems to be coming more from an “Eleanor should JUST DO HER JOB” context, when I know *I* don’t have any idea what Eleanor’s job is, except that it’s equal to the OP, who asks Eleanor to help handle crises and forecasts.

              (IMO, me asking my boss for extant items (e.g., a list), or asking my boss for feedback on an item I’ve prepared, is not anywhere near the same as me asking equal coworkers for work to be done for me (e.g., “pull all the sales data for pink teacups versus orange teacups and get that to me before 3pm today for a report”).)

              1. Observer*

                Here is the context we do have:

                The two are on the same level. OP *usually* says please. When the OP doesn’t say please it’s couched in perfectly normal, polite usage. “could you” and “can I” are not orders any more than “please” is. And the examples that the OP gives are clearly the types of things that fall into normal work roles. We also know that Elinor does this to her boss, who DOES have the authority to actually issue orders, and probably does have the authority to order Elinor to do things that are not in her job description. And she ALSO does it to *customers*, from whom you don’t get to demand softening layers.

                Which means that the idea that she’s responding to the OP’s possible impoliteness simply doesn’t add up.

              2. Mamaganoush*

                Eleanor is doing this to clients. It’s not just the OP’s relationship with Eleanor. We don’t need to speculate about whether the OP is misrepresenting her tone or her professionalism or anything else (I think it’s reasonable to take OP’s at their word unless it’s obvious that something is off in their representation of the facts). Eleanor is doing this TO CLIENTS.
                It needs to stop.

    9. Snark*

      Because it’s not necessary or desirable to append “please” to every single request one makes of a coworker in the course of doing normal and expected job duties.

  33. Agile Phalanges*

    Oh man. I’ve caught myself accidentally adding “please” for someone who asked a favor rather brusquely, as a habit after having done it to my son roughly a zillion times. Hopefully I haven’t done it to colleagues, and certainly not as consistently as this person seems to. Ugh.

    I’d be tempted to take Alison’s suggestion #1 and go REALLY over the top:

    Please Eleanor, please can you please email me those forecasts please for next quarter please so I can please get this project to our boss please? Please? Thank you!

    Totally passive-aggressive, but if that doesn’t get her to stop, nothing will.

    1. Leave it to Beaver*

      Based on my assumptions about Eleanor, I think she would view this as a win. Hahaha! Got so-and-so to say please. She won’t care that it’s passive aggressive, since this is about her getting what she wants moreso than it is about being nice.

      1. rldk*

        Upthread, it was mentioned that when OP does include please, Eleanor responds “Well since you said please, I have to do it don’t I”

        Literally nothing will make her happy, apparently. Except for getting paid to not do her job.

  34. Deus Cee*

    This is obnoxious! There are plenty of ways of communicating a request politely without using the word ‘please’, and contrarily there are ways of saying ‘please’ without sounding polite at all. What’s she gonna do when you give her the stink eye and say ‘please’ sarcastically? Complain that you didn’t ask nicely??

    As for the customers, well, yep, I’d be looking elsewhere to buy from.

  35. AKchic*

    Oh Hay-ull no. I am not a child, and Eleanor is certainly not my parent. I would never say “please” again after this. I am not asking a favor, and neither is any Adult within the organization who is asking her to do her *job*.

    Start out with ignoring her ridiculous tic.
    [Asks for task to be done]
    “Only if you say please”
    “Thanks, let me know if you need anything else, let me know when it gets done. I gotta get the rest of this project done and need that by 3pm.”

    If she balks, be direct: “I’m not your child. If I had meant to say ‘please’, I would have.”

    No matter what, I would certainly bring it up to the manager. The fact that she is doing it to customers is alarming. What on Earth would possess her to do that to customers? I wonder if she got so emboldened to do so because she received no push-back from her peers and supervisors. Well, it really doesn’t matter, because it needs to stop before she chases the clientele away.

    1. Drew*

      “If I had meant to say ‘please,’ I would have.”

      I love this more than I can say.

      1. Andy*

        I do as well. Honestly, it’s a totally appropriate response to the flagrant condescension.

    2. essEss*

      “I would appreciate it if you don’t treat me like I’m a 3-year old child. This was a work request, not a request for you to do me a personal favor.”

  36. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    I feel like this is something I’ve heard a lot of people do at some point. I’ve always heard it in kind of a playful tone. I’m not sure I can explain it accurately, but anyone I’ve ever heard say it isn’t actually expecting the person to say “please”. It’s not quite joking, but along those lines. It’s her way of saying yes. Don’t get me wrong, doing it for every single thing you ask is incredibly annoying. And it should never be done with customers. But I’d bet money that it’s an automatic kind of thing that she doesn’t have any idea how it’s coming across.

    If she’s doing it to customers, then I’d definitely say something. If it was just to other coworkers, I’d proceed as she just said yes. Or even say, “Ok, that’s a yes. I’ll proceed to (whatever you were asking)”.

    1. baconeggandcheeseplease*

      The OP said in the comments that “she [has] tried several methods including ignoring the please request and [Eleanor] will come back with things like “ well you didn’t say please so I guess you didn’t want my help” or something along those lines.” So…maybeeeeeeeee she doesn’t know truly doesn’t know how that’s coming across (this is a stretch), but it’s definitely intentional.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        Ugh – I missed the OP’s comments. That’s just extra obnoxious then.

  37. LemonLyman*

    I’d be tempted to respond with a simple “Please” but use the tone Neil Patrick Harris’s character (Barney) used in How I Met Your Mother when he’d be asked what he did for a living. It’s said in an almost cocky tone and without a question mark. The tone denotes more of a “Yeah, right” vibe than anything.

    She’ll get her “please”…

  38. Storie*

    If the boss hasn’t objected to be asked to say please at this point, they probably aren’t inclined to intervene. Go with the other options to shut her down.

    Oh, the annoyance!

  39. animaniactoo*

    “Dear Eleanor,

    While I normally do say please, there are indeed occasions when I forget. Primarily because we are in a business environment and these are necessary conversations, not favors that I am requesting, and I believe that the “Please” is implicit under those circumstances.

    However, in the event that I am wrong, I would like to call to your attention the dictate of Emily Post, Miss Manners, and every other etiquette maven, on correcting someone whose etiquette or manners have temporarily failed them. They all agree: It is extremely rude and improper to correct someone else’s etiquette. Indeed, so wrong that I hesitate to call it to your attention – but I feel that you would want to know as I am sure that as such a strong supporter of manners and etiquette, you would not want to be incorrect about this yourself. Please forgive my rudeness in bringing to your attention.

    With warm regards,


    P.S. I look forward to receiving the afore-mentioned ATM report, thanks!”

      1. AKchic*

        Naw, in email so you have a time-stamped copy of the missive as proof that it was sent, in case she complains about getting rude messages from OP.

  40. nnn*

    Passive-aggressive option that is probably a bad idea: Say “please” with a tone and delivery that suggests you don’t mean it, like a childish “Please pretty please with a lump of sugar on top”, or “Puh-LEEZE!” Or do your best James Brown impersonation.

  41. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Yikes. I’m a please-and-thank-you person, this is ridiculous. I think I could easily be tempted to respond thusly: ‘Eleanor, I asked you politely and pleasantly to do something that is part of your job, not a personal favor to me. Do we need to meet with your boss and HR to go over your job duties and appropriate behavior in the workplace? Or can we get on with our work like adults?’ Pretty sure Eleanor would make her own voodoo doll but I’d be willing to risk it.

  42. Boredatwork*

    OP – I think it’s time to start referring her refusals to her boss. I would at this point start emailing your requests (or the follow up) to her boss.

    Elenor – Could you accomplish X task, (that is her assigned job)
    You – Day/hours what ever – email follow up “Elenor, did you accomplish the task”
    Elenor – “you didn’t say please, so I didn’t do the assignment”
    You – CC her boss – “Elenor, it’s my understanding that X and Y are part of your job, am I mistaken in asking you to do these things? I’ve CC’ed (her Boss), maybe we can all get together and hash out the assignments.”

    “(her boss) can we have a quick meeting to discuss Elenor’s job duties? I want to make sure I’m not asking for things that are out of scope”

    This may or may not work – TBH I have an admin that has to be asked in the most polite way possible and given enormous amounts of positive feedback (even when they fail spectacularly at a simple task).

    1. Teapot librarian*

      The person who does our supply ordering and approving all of our invoices is like your admin. She isn’t in our reporting chain so there’s really nothing we can do other than be obsequious. I actually wonder now if she doesn’t do things if we don’t say please, but isn’t telling us.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Here’s the thing though… at some point she is in your chain. That’s why if she doesn’t do something you escalate to your boss… who can either work with her boss or continue to escalate.

        1. Teapot librarian*

          Yeah, we don’t intersect until the CEO, and we are not burning political capital on “she doesn’t do what we ask if we don’t start our emails to her with ‘good morning.'”

    2. Ali G*

      I was thinking similarly – just start having all interactions with her over email. If you email her an assignment/request and she writes back “you didn’t say please” ignore her. So like this:
      “Eleanor, I’ll need those numbers from the Smith account by 3 pm so I can get Boss the final report by COB”
      “You didn’t say please!”
      *no response*
      At 3 pm reply to her email:
      “Eleanor do you have the numbers ready?”
      “Nope, you didn’t say please!”
      Whole thing is forwarded to her boss with a note along the lines of what you wrote.

      1. AKchic*

        I think this might be the best thing to do.

        If you have to request in person, follow-up via email.

        “As per our discussion at XX:XX am, the ABC Report will need to be submitted to me no later than 2:00 pm so I can add it to the bigger report to send to Boss. Thank you”

        Then at 2:15 when it’s not there, email again, with a cc to the Boss, attaching all emails in the chain
        “Where is the report?”

    1. Murphy*

      I loved that episode! I thought it was fascinating.

      I also think I use “please” like a British person, despite being American.

      1. Teapot librarian*

        I just listened, and I do too. It particularly struck me when they said that “please feel free to contact me” is a British use of “please.”

    2. Koala dreams*

      Thanks for the link, that was really interesting! It’s fascinating how politeness differs from place to place. I’m from Scandinavia, so the comment about how scandinavian languages don’t have a word for “please” was spot on. In Swedish, we mostly say “thanks” a lot.

      1. Birch*

        Same in Finnish. Getting through the grocery line usually involves about 3-6 repetitions of “kiitos” from each party. I kind of love it. I’ve wondered if it has something to do with the culture being so egalitarian that it’s polite to just assume that if you need or want something, someone will help with that (even in a transactional environment).

  43. Squeeble*

    Ugh, this reminds me of a relative of mine from when I was a teen–we were at a restaurant together and I said “May I have the pasta?” to the waiter. This relative goes, “SAY PLEASE,” which I did, but it was rather humiliating. I wasn’t being impolite in the first place. I agree with Alison that this coworker is definitely being this obnoxious in her personal life as well.

  44. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW, when you mentioned that she was DOING THIS TO CUSTOMERS, my eyebrows literally shot up off my face. PLEASE mention this to your boss before a customer does.

    Tangentially related: the senior manager in my office (not my direct boss but higher up) has a habit of punctuating ALL HIS REQUESTS with “please.” (Like, “file the reports please,” “we need to have X done by Friday please,” “make sure the team is thoroughly shampooing the llamas please,” so on and so forth.) There have been many occasions where I’ve just wanted to reply, “you know, Fergus, ‘please’ doesn’t make it polite.”

    (Also, although I called him Fergus, he’s actually pretty good. He just has some quirks. Also, although he’s fluent, I don’t think English is his first language so that might be another factor.)

    1. rldk*

      Ugh my ex-manager did a similar thing, but English was her first language. Work assignments, from scheduling or printing to incredibly time-consuming, would be “Would you be so kind as to X if you wouldn’t mind,” but with no actual softness or any indication that clarification or pushback would be received well. It felt incredibly condescending, but I was also at BEC level with her.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        I can imagine! (And actually, a couple of my coworkers do that. I’m not at BEC stage with any of them, though, so it’s not quite as bad.)

      2. Avatre*

        My brain totally just flashed to the game Bioshock, where “would you kindly” is used as a mind control phrase! :D

        1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

          …oh god now I won’t be able to unsee that. (There’s another guy that tends to use “kindly.” A lot.)

  45. MuseumChick*

    Oh this would be so annoying. To add to Alison’s suggestions, you could also try not playing along, for example:

    You : ” Hey,Eleanor, can you email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss?”
    Her: “Only if you say please.”
    You: *awkward silence* So, is that a yes?”
    Her: “Only if you say please!”
    You: “I’ll need those forecasts no later than (deadline).”
    Her: “Only if you say please.”
    You: “I’ll follow up with you tomorrow morning about this.”

    1. Lehigh*

      I’d be really tempted to go the other way.

      You: “Hey, Eleanor, can you email me those forecasts?”
      Eleanor: “Only if you say please.”
      You: *awkward silence* “So, who can get me those forecasts?”
      Eleanor: “What? I’m the one who–”
      “You just said you weren’t going to do it. I really need them. Please direct me to someone who can help me.”

      1. Yomi*

        Yup, this is what I said in my own comment but this is exactly what I would do. Just refuse to play her game, and also treat her comment as a refusal to do the work.

        But I am also being very petty about something specific at my own job right now, so IDK if people should listen to me ; )

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I’d probably replace *awkward silence* with *heavy sigh* but that’s because I’d be done with her responses at this point.

      3. AKchic*

        Maybe even step it up and call her out on her game?

        You: “Hey, Eleanor, can you email me that Teapot report?”
        Eleanor: “Only if you say please.”
        You: “Okay, I’ll ask your boss who else has access to the report since you’re refusing to do your job.”
        Eleanor: “What?”
        You: “I don’t get paid to play your power trip games. Either you’re doing your job or you’re not. I asked you to do something well within your job scope, and you are instead choosing to engage in a petty power play for your own personal reasons. I’m opting not to engage. I’ll document this and deal with someone who isn’t trying to stroke their ego.”

        Yeah, it’s callous. It’s probably unprofessional. It is shocking enough that it might snap her out of her ridiculousness, if only for a period of time or just towards you, OP.

  46. EmKay*

    I’d be tempted to preface everything I say to Eleanor with “please”. And insert it needlessly and repeatedly into every sentence.

    “Please Eleanor, do you have a minute please? I please need your help with the Johnson file please. Please could we meet today please for 30 minutes or so, please?”

    Disclaimer: I can be petty af.

  47. thelettermegan*

    Me: ‘hey can you do a thing for me?”
    My significantly younger coworker: “what’s the magic word?”
    Me: ‘ . . . now.’

    Worked every time.

    1. Observer*

      She actually used “what’s the magic word” in a work context, and not as a joke?

      That’s just weird. But at least she got it when you said “now”.

      1. thelettermegan*

        We had a pretty jovial work relationship. My response always elicited giggles.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      Is anyone else tempted to respond to “What’s the magic word?” with “Abracadabra”?

      1. AKchic*

        Avada Kadavra
        Wingardium Leviosa
        Undies Debunchies (trust me, it’s a handy one!)
        Harum Scarum
        Snickerdoodles (a tasty spell)

      2. Decima Dewey*

        I thought the magic word was “Julie Andrews”. Like in the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore version of “Bedazzled.”

  48. Environmental Compliance*

    I’d be tempted to just throw either a ton of extra pleases in or say please in a random language. Though I do like the idea of “Eleanor, Queen of the Please, I humbly beg of you to kindly bequeath me this urgent report by noon upon this day!” *flourish and waltz away*

  49. Moledemort*

    Oh geez! This is really something new I’m learning. I guess I worked with an annoying bunch cos my ex-colleagues and I used to do this to each other! In a joking way of course and even if the other person doesn’t say please, we would still help each other with whatever they need. Didn’t know it pisses people off so much…

    1. Observer*

      Well, there are a couple of differences. You were clearly joking with each other, and didn’t refuse to do your job.

    2. Yomi*

      An ongoing joke between several people is a piece of office culture, that everybody has (probably) bought into. One person enforcing it consistently with everybody they talk to regardless of their reaction to it (including her superiors) is the major problem.

    3. Linden*

      The thing is, it’s not funny. Not because it is horrible and mean or anything like that, but just because, well… there’s really nothing witty about it. It’s a low form of humor, like simple sarcasm; part of the reason it’s annoying is that it’s boring, repetitive, and just doesn’t really have much to it.

  50. LurkNoMore*

    Sometimes I wish I heard ‘please’ more. I have a co-worker that demands that I come over to his desk and help him with various issues….”Delilah, come over here and see what’s going on with this laptop”. He’s not my boss and in a completely different division.
    Once, I did say ‘I didn’t hear a please’ and it went right over his head. So now I tend to be too busy to help him out. As Grandma use to say: good manners will take you far.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      But he could still say this more politely without using the word “please.” Like “hey, LurkNoMore, my computer is acting up … would you be able to give me a hand?”

  51. batmansrobyn*

    “Please” always seems vaguely passive aggressive to me in workplace contexts. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the urgency of a request–maybe because I’ve only ever heard “please” in the context of exasperatedly asking someone to do something you’ve already asked them to do at least once before? As in, “I already asked you to do this thing, will you PLEASE actually do it instead of just telling me you’ll get around to it?”

    That said, I realized recently that I end pretty much every request with “Thank you!” or some variant. I have literally no idea where this habit comes from, or when I started doing it, but so far nobody’s complained.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      When I was learning Russian, a native speaker pointed out to me that asking for something using extremely polite language (Russian has a “polite ‘you'” vs a “casual ‘you'”) is generally interpreted as passive aggressive sarcasm, after I asked them for something pretty unobtrusive. I think it’s definitely all contextual, but overuse can come off as passive aggression all over!

    2. memyselfandi*

      I came here to say something the same. There was a whole thing on some broadcast or podcast I listen to about the difference of the use of please in US and Britain. Americans tend to feel the word “please” sounds bossy .and we don’t use it as much as in Britain.

    3. aebhel*

      Yeah, I’m actually hard-pressed to think of a work request that wouldn’t sound significantly less polite if I appended a ‘please’ to it. Unless someone is doing me an actual favor, saying ‘please’ when I’m asking people to do things as part of their jobs strikes me as kind of passive aggressive.

      New Yorker here, so that may have something to do with it.

      1. batmansrobyn*

        Yes exactly! “Please” is how I preface things when I need a favor from someone, and even then I’m much more likely to say something like “I know this is a big ask, but could you do X” over “could you please do X.” I’m from Texas but am based in Chicago now, so this seems to be pretty standard across regions too.

  52. I'm Not Phyllis*

    This would irritate me to no end. I’m a pretty polite person but like others have mentioned, as long as you’re making the request in a polite way you don’t necessarily have to use the word “please” – it’s not a favour. (For example, “hi Eleanor, could you do x task?” is sufficiently polite!) I would ignore her request to say please and if she refused to do her job I’d loop in her manager. So ridiculous!

  53. AMT*

    I’m glad Alison’s advice is always so level-headed, because my response would be something like, “Tear her still-beating heart from her chest and take a generous bite out of it.” I don’t know why this bothers me more than any other letter I’ve read this year. I think it’s the combination of repetitive cutesy-ness, infantilization of coworkers, and weird overemphasis on gestures of gratitude for routine tasks. Before I entered the workplace, I don’t think I realized the depths of weirdness to which people can sink at work, but now I’m waaaaay too familiar with it. Can’t people get through the day without robbing lunches or faking an accent?

  54. Ennigaldi*

    So oddly enough, I was just talking about this with my therapist yesterday. I was griping about feeling like my coworkers were ordering me around – in this very hierarchical workplace, my job is parallel to most of them, with a separate chain of command. I can’t assign tasks to their subordinates, and only my direct supervisor and the dept head can assign tasks to me. I have discretion over what and how information goes into our database, and once in a while I get a request to add or remove something that’s more of an order. Therapist suggested I use this technique (ONLY if I have a good rapport with the person, and certainly ONLY verbally because tone in email is so tricky). Is this the same level of obnoxious?

    1. Thursday Next*

      To clarify, does your therapist think you should say, “if you say ‘please’?”

      1. Ennigaldi*

        No, her advice was to have a lighter, jokier tone and definitely not to like, refuse to do any work until someone says please.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Ohhhh. Please ignore my reply below then. I misunderstood what was being advised.

          Although – lighter jokier tone only goes so far if you’re truly irritated by it, as what will often happen is that not being direct and trying to tamp it down means that eventually you get SO irritated that you completely overreact to that next time when you just Weren’t. In. The. Mood. So you will need to find a balance, but the lighter jokier tone will help your more serious and direct requests be taken to heart generally since people won’t see you as That Person vs someone they can relate to and is probably being reasonable.

        2. LBK*

          Hmm, I still don’t love this advice. I think it’s likely to come off as passive aggressive – if I were rushing around trying to get stuff done and (probably knowingly) came off a little terse when I asked someone for something, I wouldn’t be thrilled to get a “sure, if you say please!” If someone’s genuinely rude to you, you can absolutely say something. But if the issue is that people are saying “send me that report” rather than “can you please send me that report?” I kinda think you just have to suck it up.

          I mean, obviously I’m not your therapist, so do what’s right for you. But I think you’d be better off trying to learn to take those things less personally rather than trying to get other people to change their behavior. I’m actually kinda surprised a therapist would suggest that (and I don’t love therapists giving work advice that’s not about your own internal stuff in general).

          1. Luna*

            I agree with LBK, I think your therapist gave you bad advice here. Ideally therapists should help with techniques to not take things so personally or to help with assessing your own reactions. I don’t think therapists should be giving out specific action items like this, especially since therapists obviously only have a one-sided view of these situations.

            When I first started working I used to get a little offended by terse emails (sometimes still do then have to remind myself it’s no big deal), but it’s important to keep in mind that people have different communication styles. I was taught to always write somewhat formal emails (always with “Hi X,” please, thank you, appreciate it, blah blah, ending with a signoff and my name). But plenty of people, especially when they are busy, are used to writing shorter and more to the point emails. It’s not intended to be rude, that’s just how they typically write.

        3. batmansrobyn*

          Ooof, I would not do that if I were in your shoes, especially if you’re managing a company database as part of your job duties. Presumably you’re being told to add/remove items from the database it’s because these are changes that need to be made, not because someone REALLY wants you to add their favorite dollar slice joint to your cross-indexed spreadsheet of all the best pizza places in Brooklyn.

          If they’re asking you to do something very time-sensitive or that makes you rearrange your responsibilities you could maybe get away with saying something like “Sure, but you have to promise to ask nicely next time around!” in a light/joking/cheerful tone but even then I’d only do that if it was something that required you to completely rearrange your schedule.

    2. animaniactoo*

      If it is someone who normally says please and has just not done it this time, then yes. It is headed down that path and I believe that your therapist gave you bad advice for a workplace setting.

      Instead, I would make a concerted effort to assume the benefit of the doubt. Towards that I mean – what could be reasons why co-worker stated it more as an order than a request? Are they filtering an order from their boss and didn’t translate it to co-worker speak? Are they perhaps in a super rush trying to resolve a bunch of things and is in “urgent-fix-it-now” mode all around?

      I would also keep your replies professional while establishing your own authority in return: “Can you give me more background on why you’ve requested this to be added?” (Note, you’re couching their statement as a “request” back to them vs being “told”, and you’re calling attention to your own discretionary power by asking for information that informs *you* in making a decision vs simply taking action based on order).

      “Is everything okay? Normally you’re not that curt when you make requests, so I just wanted to check in with you.”

      But only do those last 2 for someone who has repeat offended one too many times. Otherwise, looking at it as granting them leeway to be human and make some minor errors without a fuss being kicked up over it, a kind of leeway that you appreciate receiving in return – and make note if you can of when you are receiving it. Especially as it will allow you to apologize for those moments: “Pardon me. That was poorly phrased” or “Sorry I was short earlier, I was having a morning and it got away from me a bit.”

  55. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

    My husband once was working with a client and he asked my husband for something (a “can you pass me that” sort of request”). Well, we have a three-year-old at home and without thinking my husband said “and how do we ask?”. He was immediately mortified, but laughed when the client (who also has a small person at home) immediately and sheepishly said, “please.”

    That was funny. This is not.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      My MIL famously once went to a fancy dinner, was seated next to an ambassador, and midway through their conversation realized she’d been casually cutting his steak into small pieces for him.

  56. Yomi*

    I’m incredibly petty, so I would just start responding every time with “Oh, so you can’t do it then, I’ll find someone else” and walk away.

    And then bring it up with the boss probably. But I would treat “only if you say please” as a refusal to do the work. But I am in a bad mood today.

  57. Ella*

    After reading all these comments, Eleanor has turned into a mishmash of Dolores Umbridge and Peeves in my head. “Can’t say nuffink if you don’t say please!”

  58. Susana*

    Oh, I say do the opposite – every time you ask her for *anything* – including what time it is, say, “Elinor, please, please, pretty please, oh please, can you please, please pull the fire extinguisher because the office is on fire?

  59. Nanc*

    Compile and memorize a bunch of songs with Please in the title and bust out a random chorus every time she requests a please. You’re fulfilling her request and bursting into song gets more oxygen into your brain!

    Caveat: I would exclude that one song by Snoop Dogg. I would definitely include Please, Mr. Postman because it’s ever so peppy!

    1. Nea*

      I have you to thank for “Please, Mr. Please, Don’t Play B-17” stuck in my head now.

    2. Thursday Next*

      The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” works on many levels for this situation.

  60. Case of the Mondays*

    When I was in high school, I was a waitress at a chain restaurant. We had “on call” days where you had to call in at a certain time to see if you were working that day. My family had a pool and on one particular day, I waited to go in until I knew I wasn’t working. About a half hour of pool time later, my boss called back and said someone called out and he really really needed me to come in. I jokingly said, yeah, I’m in the pool now, I’m only coming in if I get a raise. (I was 15 so not crazy out of line.) He said, fine, I’ll raise your base 25 cents an hour. And he did!

    Word got out and there was this older waitress who had been there years. She heard I got a raise after working there one summer and she had never got one. Being the smart ass that I was at 15 I said “well, did you ever ask for one?” and she hadn’t. I was just wise beyond my years.

    1. pleaset*

      “I said “well, did you ever ask for one?” and she hadn’t.”


      A lot of people who write in should take this to heart.

  61. Ann*

    My husband used to correct me when I didn’t say please. I finally pointed out that he wasn’t my parent and that it was infantalizing behaviour. If he felt that I was being discourteous to him in general, we could talk about it, as adults, but I didn’t like having every request to pass the salt scrutinized.

    He got the point instantly, apologized, and has never done it since.

    1. Linden*

      Yeah, one of Miss Manners’s biggest rules of good manners is not correcting other people on their manners. (Dhe gives herself a pass in her role as advice columnist.)

      Also, kudos to you for working this out with your husband!

  62. MLB*

    Option #5 – “I’m an adult and would appreciate not being treated like a child.” Then repeat the request. If she says the “say please” thing again, I’d ask her if she was refusing to do the work. And her saying that to me would GUARANTEE I would never say please to her again. Not to mention, while saying please is a part of being polite, you’re at work. It’s your job, you’re not asking for a favor. As long as I request something with common courtesy and respect, saying please is not required, nor is it rude to eliminate it.

  63. Candid Candidate*

    This is one of those situations where it’s entirely possible that it’s a habitual response because she has young children or general family dynamics. Not sure if others have suggested this, but the next time Eleanor says that I would just ask her why she does it and see how the conversation plays out:

    OP: “hey, can you send me XYZ files in an email?”
    E: “only if you say please”
    OP: “Hey Eleanor, why do you always respond with that? I respect you and try to treat you that way, so I’m not sure if you’re teasing, or if it’s just a habit, or if you genuinely feel like I’m treating you badly. Either way, it comes across as chastising sometimes and I feel like it gets in the way of us being efficient in our work together.”

    See what she says. It might catch her off-guard and make her think about why she does it at all.

    1. CM*

      I think this is the best answer! Eleanor may not realize how disrespectful she’s being by ordering everyone to say “please.” This gently calls out the behavior for her. (I think it’s a little too charitable saying that it may be unconsciously carried over from family dynamics, though… sounds like it’s been going on a while and she’s probably aware that people are annoyed.)

    2. Apari*

      This is the suggestion I like the most from the comments. It’s direct and polite, and also nicely explicit about the problem.

  64. London Calling*

    *you have my blessing to make a voodoo doll of her and ritually destroy it*

    I am officially adopting this as policy towards irritating customers as of now. Top of the list is the one who told me how much better my predecessor was at my job than I am. In writing, which is about to come back and bite her on the ass, tee hee.

  65. ShyDesign*

    The only thing that makes my blood boil more than this is when people say “excuse you”

    1. Only here for the teapots*

      Ooops! I say this to people egregiously blocking foot traffic or who have chosen to bump into me rather than navigate an area courteously. Petty, I know, but slightly satisfying.

    2. hiptobesquared*

      I am quite small so only say this when people walk into me or step on my without acknowledging it. This happens, and sometimes I get annoyed and yell something to that effect, though usually it’s just excuse me super sarcastically.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I am incredibly short – and the amount of time people are bearing down on me as if I’m not there is amazing. They just expect me to move out of the way of their force majeure. Sometimes I physically can’t get out of the way and I’ve been know to say ‘what do you want me to do – fly’?

    3. aNon*

      And that’s the reaction I want to get when I tell someone “excuse you”. I only say it to people who are being rude themselves so I’m kind of looking to make someone mad. :D

    4. Temperance*

      I admit to doing this when someone walks into me, steps on me, or who is blocking a walkway. I still rage thinking of the guy who felt the need to stop and ask a question of some people sitting on a bench at a SEPTA station without stepping aside. (I did scream EXCUSE YOU at him, and then he moved his ass … but I still missed the bus, and had to wait around for another hour and fifteen minutes during a sleet storm.)

  66. Only here for the teapots*

    “Eleanor, are you moonlighting at a preschool? You’re at your day job now, with X company. No worries though, it’s easy to get mixed up when life is so busy.”

    1. hiptobesquared*

      I do this to my nephew but he’s only two and I only do it because how he says “peas” is really cute.

  67. Greed is something we don't need*

    “But if she responds to that with “only if you say please,” you have my blessing to make a voodoo doll of her and ritually destroy it.” – just be careful with this, doing this could be considered cultural appropriation, very disappointing to see such advice here.

  68. JessicaTate*

    All I can think of is responding with “Please,” but in the dismissive tone that means “I’m not responding to such a silly question/statement.” (Like the running gag on How I Met Your Mother when anyone asked Barney what he actually did in his job, and he always responded, “Please.”) Don’t do it. SO unprofessional. But it’s fun to think about.

  69. John*

    A big reason I’m not in the business of giving advice (and temperamentally unsuited for the corporate environment): I’d be including the word “Please” at least 3 times in every interaction. Until they begged me to stop.

    Hey, it worked with teh kids!

    (the above is a joke)

  70. Not An Admin*

    This post has been bugging me all afternoon. As I’ve been sending emails, asking people to do part of their job, I’ve noticed that I typically don’t say please, but I am otherwise polite in the request and typically end with a thanks. If anyone doesn’t do what I’ve asked because I didn’t say please, there would be problems, because it’s stuff that just HAS TO BE DONE and it’s what the company pays us for.

    However, when I’ve been asking for things that are a little above normal duties (like a lot of extra small favors to help with some tasks I normally do myself but can’t at the moment), I do typically say please, because it’s above and beyond.

    “Please” just doesn’t always equal polite, and it’s very possible to have great working relationships without using it for EVERY request.

  71. YB*

    There’s a phrase that I almost always find helpful when dealing with difficult coworkers: “Shut up, Eleanor.”

    1. irene adler*

      That works.

      My personal preference is “Bite me” but that probably offends some.

  72. Melissa C.*

    Does this remind anyone else of the scene in Jurassic Park where the one guy hacks the security system and when the other guy (played by Samuel L. Jackson) tries to get in it starts saying “Ah, ah, ah. You didn’t say the magic word!” over and over again? And then the guy played by Samuel L. Jackson yells “PLEASE!” at the screen?

    No? Just me?

  73. pleaset*

    The “can you” in “Eleanor, can you email me those forecasts for next quarter so I can get this project to our boss?” is equivalent or almost equivalent adding the world “please” to “email me those forecasts.”

  74. Gotham Bus Company*

    So she REFUSES TO DO HER JOB without the word “Please”? And her manager tolerates this? Isn’t that insubordination?

    If my boss comes to me and says, “Ralph, the design for Teapot #76 needs to have more polka dots at the bottom to match the polka dots in the middle and at the top. What is the added cost?,” should I ask him to say “Please” first? No. What I should do is tweak the design for Teapot #76 and estimate the added cost.

  75. OlympiasEpiriot*

    This has bugged me a bit this afternoon.

    Note that the “please” is — as so many here have said — already implied.

    I have also been writing coordination e-mails most of the afternoon. They are to-the-point and no one wants any fluff. We have problems to solve.

    In general, I have really come to like the (US) military format for e-mail with the directive tags at the start of the subject line (ACTION, INFO, SUBMITTAL, COORD, etc.) and the BLUF summary at the start if there is a long decision tree inside the body. Otherwise, I use numbers or bullets. Much easier to keep track of thoughts and to walk someone through while on the phone if it becomes necessary.

    No one has come to me saying this is rude. In fact, on those occasions when I draft an e-mail and send it to a higher up for review, this way of writing is not negatively criticized and no one adds “please”.

    If I am asking for a favor or for someone’s extra involvement (like contacting an acquaintance at a govt. agency and asking for their advice on how to get through to the correct path/bureaucratic ladder for a particular problem to be solved), I explain my request, ask if it is possible, and sign off telling them I am grateful for any advice/help/pointers. “Please” wouldn’t really cover the situation. It is really too general. (Pre-thanks are also exceptionally weird.)

  76. sange*

    This scenario reminds me of a former colleague of mine, who was always irked when people thanked her for completing work tasks. Even when it was clearly just a cursory “Thank you!” in an email, she always rolled her eyes or didn’t respond – her perspective was “that’s what the money is for” – she didn’t do anything special other than completing her regular work activities, so any thanks was useless.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I felt that way once. I was about 22 and found it very irritating. And then one time my boss *didn’t* say thank you when I handed him something I’d typed up, and it *hurt*.

      That’s when I figured out that sometimes “Thank you” means “You handed me the thing and we are both human beings”.

  77. AKchic*

    And can I just laugh at the name choice?

    My original renaissance fair character was Eleanor the Unkind – official torturer of Hillshire. I don’t say “please”.

  78. Cat Lady*

    Ick. My former coworker (who I now consider a friend actually) used to say without fail anytime anyone went to the bathroom “don’t fall in!”. Every. Time. It was annoying but I’m pretty sure it was just an awkward tic and they just kept saying it because they felt they had to say something. I just ignored it and stopped acknowledging it. They eventually started saying it less.

    This seems more annoying, and even problematic if there’s a power play or some kind of etiquette lesson gone wrong here. I’d probably respond with “and what if I don’t” in as flat a voice as possible and wait for her to say or do something. I’d imagine it would dissuade most people from the habit, maybe make her realize how silly she’s being (if it’s unintentional). She definitely shouldn’t say it to clients! Of her boss.

  79. Linden*

    I agree with Alison and everyone that this is annoying, weird, and doesn’t really make sense (to the extent that tone, context, etc. are often more important in conveying courtesy than the word please). However, I can’t help wondering if this is a boundary thing. Maybe people have been rude or controlling to Eleanor in the past in a deep way that has affected her psychologically and this is her way of regaining a sense of control and respect (perhaps suggested by a therapist, life coach, etc.) It may be misguided, but it would make me more sympathetic to what she’s doing.
    My boyfriend yells and curses at me a lot. Swearing seems like one of those things that is silly to get on someone’s case about, but I actually really don’t want to have a significant other who swears at me. I have asked him many times to stop, but I think I should (have) set and maintain(ed) stronger boundaries around this, so if that’s what E is doing- being hardcore in establishing and maintainig her boundaries- I kind of have to respect that. After all, it’s a generally accepted rule of polite behavior to say please when you ask for something, so even if it misses the mark a little on reality, it’s not really asking anyone to do anything but be polite to her.
    I would love if LW would ask Eleanor (in a curious, non-irritated tone, if possible) what the “please” thing is about. Like, “I know it’s really important to you that people say please when they ask for you something. Can you tell me what that means to you?” and if you’re feeling daring, follow up with, “Was there a time in your life when [her answer to the previous question wasn’t true]?”
    Mostly just to satisfy my own curiosity, but it could also lessen the irritation you feel if you know where it’s coming from. It might also be a hint to her that it’s a weird behavior.

    1. Jan*

      Sorry to hear about the way your boyfriend treats you, you definitely don’t deserve that and shouldn’t have to put up with it. But not using please every sentence is completely different from shouting and swearing and being outright abusive. It’s reasonable of you to expect your boyfriend not to behave like this. Eleanor is not being reasonable.

    2. Observer*

      Your situation sounds awful. Please don’t blame yourself for it. But please DO consider walking away from it.

      In any case, that has no bearing here, though. What she is doing is not asserting reasonable boundaries. She’s being rude, nit-picky and difficult to work with. In a normal, mutually respectful working relationship, it is not necessary to preface or end every single request with “Please”. It certainly is not necessary for a boss to do that!

  80. Jemima Bond*

    I vote for taking the mickey; how about imitating Perry, friend of Kevin the teenager from Harry Enfield and adding to every request, “please fank you Mrs Patterson fank you please fank you”.

  81. mxAli*

    I’m confused. How is the person that won’t say please while requesting something is the one that is not obnoxious? Its called being polite and addressing the other person as fellow human being.

    1. Julia Gulia*

      Refusing to do your job unless a coworker says “please” is controlling and obnoxious. OP is already being polite and respectful, she doesn’t need to say “please” every single time she asks for an email or file.

  82. Ellex*

    I have actually, as a customer, had someone pull that kind of “only if you say please” type of thing on me a couple of times. I found it extremely rude, unprofessional, offensive, and off-putting. I’m aware that I look younger than I am, but at this point it’s more that I look like I’m in my 30s rather than in my 40s, so I can’t even excuse it as them thinking I’m a teen/in my early 20s any more.

    And it would still be rude and unprofessional even if I was/looked like I was in my teens/20s.

    OP, you definitely need to bring this up with your boss. I guarantee your customers aren’t happy about it, and it’s definitely the kind of thing that might cause me to avoid a particular store/vendor.

  83. Nicole*

    Another option is after you make your requests to her, end with a quick “please and thank you” and walk away. She can’t say you didn’t say “please” but rushing it out at the end and walking away also robs her of the satisfaction of getting it on her terms.

    If I were a customer and someone pulled this on me, I would strongly consider ceasing my business with them.

  84. Greta Vedder*

    Back in the day, I used to have a housemate, “Stacey,” who did the same thing. If we were eating breakfast or dinner, and I said, “Pass me the milk,” she would say, “Pleeeeeeeeeeease?” in a high-pitched, condescending voice. It really annoyed me, so I got into the habit of replying to her “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?” with “Pretty please with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and cherries on top!” I was hoping that doing so would clue her in on how inappropriate and annoying she was being. It didn’t. Stacey would simply sigh and say, “Greta, you don’t need to say all that. Just ‘please’ is fine.”
    Then, finally, one day I told her that it annoyed me when she said “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease,” and she said, “But I do the same thing to the kids I work with!” Stacey was a preschool teacher. So I said, “Okay, but I’m NOT one of the kids you work with, and I find it really condescending when you talk to me in that way.”
    Eventually, Stacey said that she grew up in a family where everyone said “please” and “thank you” at the dinner table, and that when I said, “Pass me the milk,” without adding “please,” she thought it sounded like I was ordering her around. I thought she was being petty, but finally agreed to meet her halfway by making an effort to remember to say please; and in turn, she would stop saying “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease” in that condescending voice like she was talking to one of her kids at work. It was really the condescending voice that got to me more than the reminder to say please. She also said she was trying to make a joke by using that tone in an attempt to be light-hearted, and I let her know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t find it amusing.

  85. gina*

    I’m not nearly so nice. I’d ask her why she thought I had to say please to get her to do her damn job.

    1. Greta Vedder*

      Well, Stacey wasn’t my co-worker. She was my roommate, and she had her reasons for wanting me to say please (because it was the way she was raised). Unfortunately, she communicated it in a way that made the situation worse instead of better. If she had simply said “please” and not “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?” it probably wouldn’t have annoyed me so much.
      I’m so glad to read this letter and the repsonse and the comments and find out that I’m not the only one who strongly feels that it’s never appropriate for a grown adult to remind another grown adult to say please.

    2. Greta Vedder*

      And hey, at least Eleanor is saying “please” and not “pleeeeeeeease?” so she’s not as out of line as Stacey.

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