our disruptively cheerful new coworker treats us like toddlers

A reader writes:

I work for a company that has grown quickly in a couple of years. We have an informal reporting/management structure, no HR, etc. The boss is the owner, who works about 20 hours a day and doesn’t have time for minor issues. We all have a lot of work, but the atmosphere is relaxed and collegial. We have nice chats in the kitchen over a tea break, and we go for occasional lunches out together, but we don’t have (or want) a social committee.

My problem is a new hire. She has an early childcare background and hasn’t grasped that she no longer works with toddlers. In her first week, she brought in a mountain of snacks and greeting cards, and tried to get everyone to spend their lunch hour writing cards to people we’re grateful for. Most people thanked her but declined. She buys treats for the office most days and then walks around and tells everyone to go have a snack. She makes sure she says good morning to every single person, disrupting workflow in the open concept office. She is trying to organize an “office photo” so we all have a picture of ourselves as a group, despite no one agreeing with her that we should do this. She sends emails to the entire group to remind us to talk like a pirate, eat pancakes, etc. on various “national days of.” She leaves dollar store items like mini clipboards and stickers on our desks as “treats” for hard work. Yesterday she emailed me to ask me what my favourite color was.

I came in this morning to discover she’d left smiley face stress balls on everyone’s desks along with a sheet explaining it’s World Smile Day, telling us to smile, and trying to organize an “emoji war” between different areas of the office, where we all try to come up with the most creative smiley emojis. No one has accepted this challenge.

None of this is bad behaviour on its own, and my colleague is genuinely very nice. I don’t think she’s worked in an office before, and I get that it’s different from a classroom. But all the little “kindnesses” are disruptive, irritating, and presumptuous (I don’t appreciate being instructed to eat pie, to smile, to send gratitude cards, etc.). She’s only been here three weeks, with no signs of organically picking up on what the office culture is. She doesn’t have a traditional manager who could speak to her, and she isn’t on any of the projects I work on. Because this is so personality-based, I don’t know how to approach it without it seeming mean and personal.

Any advice on either how to approach the situation in a way that’s not hurtful or else how to reframe my own mindset so I’m less irritated by her daily cheer would be appreciated!

I also received this addendum to the letter:

An update to the World Smile Day part of the story. Later today, my overly cheery colleague came back from having gone out to a printing house with a pile of cardboard face masks of different smiling celebrities (the queen, Lady Gaga, Denzel Washington, Justin Bieber, among others) and urged everyone to choose a mask for someone else and then all pose for fun photos. We were near the end of having an office lunch for an important visitor. Most people declined to participate, either citing the need to go back to work or that we were chatting with colleagues and didn’t wish to participate. Only four of the youngest employees grabbed masks and posed for photos. The owner wasn’t around, so I didn’t see if he had a reaction to this.

Oh man. It’s awfully gutsy to lean so hard into cruise-directing your office in your first three weeks on the job. Typically people come in with at least some amount of reserve, knowing that they need to figure out the culture of their new office and adapt to it, rather than going full speed ahead on trying to revamp that culture to their own style. From day one! It’s almost impressive.

But yeah, she does seem to be treating you like you’re her new class of first graders. Is there any chance you could get her to organize nap time?

Normally in a situation like this, I’d suggest that you have a discreet word with her manager. But you said she doesn’t really have a traditional manager, so that’s out.

Is there someone else who would be the next-best choice — like a powerful/respected admin, or the person who orients new hires, or the most senior person in your office other than the owner, or anyone else who has some standing to take her aside and kindly let her know to rein it in? Think creatively here. It could even just be the person who trained her — anyone who has some amount of standing to say “this isn’t really how we do things here,” even if you have to kind of squint to see their standing.

If there’s no one like that — or if the obvious choices all decline to do it — it’s something you could do yourself. It’ll be awkward, maybe very awkward, but it would be a real favor to her if you were willing to. (It will also be a favor to the rest of your coworkers, clearly.)

Because the thing is, she’s oblivious to how this is being received and presumably might make different choices if she understood that. It’s a little odd that she hasn’t picked up on that from people’s lack of enthusiasm, but she hasn’t … and meanwhile she’s building a reputation for herself as a well-intentioned but annoying kindergarten teacher. People aren’t going to take her seriously, they may start to avoid talking with her, and her reputation is going to get very weird. None of that is good for her.

If you’re willing to take it on, you could take her out to coffee, ask about how she’s adjusting to the new job, and then say something like, “Can I share something with you that might help you get settled in here? We’re a pretty low-key group; most of us want to focus on our work for the most part. We of course chat during the day and have warm relationships with each other, but this isn’t a group that’s going to go in for things like writing gratitude cards as a group or pirate day or group photos or so forth. I didn’t want you to feel hurt that people aren’t taking you up on those things and not understand why — it’s just not the culture here.”

If you frame it that way — as wanting her to understand the culture so that she’s not hurt or baffled by the lack of response she’s getting, as opposed to just “you are doing this all wrong” — it might help her save face.

If she seems receptive, you could also say something like, “I know it must be a weird transition going from being in a classroom to being in an office, but I would lay off stuff like stickers or encouraging people to have snacks. I think it will come across to people as more like classroom stuff than office stuff.”

This might be embarrassing for her, but I don’t think there’s any way to address it that won’t be. And I’d rather she have one embarrassing conversation than spend months babying her coworkers in ways that are consistently annoying, disruptive, and unwelcome.

If you do this, I think there’s an 80% chance that she’ll receive the message and change her behavior. But there’s a 20% chance that she’ll double down — that she’ll decide the rest of you are sticks in the mud who need her to bring cheer into your lives, and the day after this talk you will come into work to discover that she’s set up pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a sand table for you to all play in.

If that happens … well, you tried. At that point, you’d be justified in responding more bluntly to her efforts — for example, “this isn’t a good time for masks; we have a client here” and “sorry, I’m working and need to focus on this” and responding to her emails about National Pecan Day with “can you take me off your list for these emails?” and so forth.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 631 comments… read them below }

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Hmm. I’ve been assuming my dog is asking for food. But maybe she is trying to get me on board for an emoji war, and just settling for a rollhide when I fail to pick up on her cues.

      1. SignalLost*

        My guinea pig definitely, definitely wants to do karaoke. No one is taking him up on it. I think the chinchilla is actively plotting against him.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          This is why I’m glad that my homeworking office-mates are cats, who clearly just want to be left alone to get on with their important cat business of sleeping, napping, snoozing, dreaming, resting and nesting.

            1. Autumnheart*

              No kidding. I have four extremely affectionate lap cats, and about 90% of the time that i’m seated for any length of time, I have at least two cats that want to be in my lap. They never got the memo about being aloof.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Cats are either aloof to the point of seeming rude, or the neediest creatures alive. Sometimes both – my mom’s cat doesn’t like anyone but her and will never sit with anyone else, but the second she sits down he’s crying to be let up so he can curl up on her chest and go to sleep.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  Mine is both aloof and needy at the same time. I mean, the exact same time. He’ll crawl onto my life, making sure that he’s NOT facing me (shudder, says Aloof Kitty), and then oh-so loudly complains (while still not looking at me) if I need to shift my arm for the mouse, tv remote, etc. *eyeroll*

                2. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Amen. I have five, and I’d classify all of them on the needy side. Four of them are obvious about it. They stick to us like glue. The fifth one pretends he doesn’t want to be loved, but then if you don’t pay attention to him when he wants, he’ll chew on your laptop charger while he looks you in the eye, bat at the giant 48 x 48″ painting on the wall (while looking at you to see if you’re noticing him), etc.

              2. TardyTardis*

                This is why I have my laptop on a short, sliding table (think ‘tablemate’) which leaves my lap open to fuzzy kitties.

            2. Marion Ravenwood*

              No, surprisingly! Only when it gets to the end of the day and they’ve decided ‘OK, you’ve been working too long, food time now’.

              One of them does get huffy if I don’t sit with my feet to the side so he can sleep on my ankle though (with a little claw flex if I so much as lean forward to get my drink off the coffee table), whilst the other one likes to strop my stomach and stand right in front of my computer, so they’re not the ideal workmates I’m afraid…

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Yes, that’s up there with “forced merriment” (I elicited a laugh with that one from a coworker in a different department who was dragged into a Halloween decorating contest). It reminds me a little of the woman who dressed up as Tiana and trick or treated to try to lighten up the stuffy office. Camaraderie should not be chaos and definitely shouldn’t be forced.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          omg I forgot about Tiana

          Alison should do a “How NOT to Celebrate Halloween in the Office” article for Slate or Inc.

          1. Samantha*

            I just got an email today about our office wide Halloween costume contest and I’m just like… no.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        LOL! I remember the post about the board where everyone had to put emojis for their moods every day. I’d just stick the angry one up there and leave it. Perhaps the OP can do the same here.

  1. Professional in the Midwest*

    Oh man, I was cringing SO HARD while reading this. Allison’s advice is spot-on.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Plot twist: New hire is the office manager and exaggerated their experience to get the job, actually has no idea what being an office manager entails.

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I am so glad I don’t work with this woman because I already suffer from a lot of secondhand embarrassment and being around her would be torture for me.

      That said – would love an update!

        1. Auntie Social*

          Yes, but have the talk with her AFTER Halloween, please! I don’t want to miss that craziness.

    2. EditorInChief*

      Great advice from Alison. This sounds like a nightmare. I would have shut that nonsense down after the snacks and greeting cards incident. It’s not her place to tell me or my coworkers that we need to express gratitude for anything. She has no idea what any of her coworkers might be going through in their personal lives.

      Is she spending her own money on all this stupidity? She can’t be getting her own job done. It’s clear that she has no idea on how to act in a non-child driven work environment. OP you’d be doing her a huge favor by taking her aside to tell her how inappropriate and disruptive her behavior is.

      1. Student*

        Am I the only one who thinks she would also be a terrible teacher? Kids need to have fun, but this sounds like stuff many children would find tedious.

  2. Justme, The OG*

    The emoji stress ball thing sounds like something I would totally do with my coworkers. Only I’ve been here way longer than they have and they all have education backgrounds (some in elementary ed).

    This new hire seems very tiring.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think most of the stuff listed above would be a totally reasonable thing to do, if it was the ONLY thing. But wow, that is SO MUCH stuff she has tried to force on her coworkers in such a short amount of time.

      1. Red Reader*

        All of that within any three weeks would be exhausting, but in your FIRST three weeks? Jesus wept.

      2. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        Definitely. The first instance was her bringing in a bunch of bread and jam and inviting us to “toast” the cool fall weather. I thought this was cute. Then it continued….

        1. RG*

          That is cute, and I think most people are cool with someone bringing in the occasional treat like that. But that has to be it.

        2. Shelly*

          I have a coworker like this, where EVERYTHING that she brings into the office to share is accompanied by a cutesy pun! How do they do it?!?

          1. Alfonzo Mango*

            Ah, sorry about that! I am truly just trying to cheer people up and make emails less boring.

            1. Words > Emojis*

              Boring isnt a bad thing. Id prefer to have my emails short and to the point with a skim of politeness.

              Id rather “feel” informed and heard than happy or silly or what have you.

              The typical person needs Less noise and clutter in their lives.

          2. I Can't Think of a Cute Name, and I'm Fine with That*

            I was beginning to think I’m the only person on earth who hates cutesy puns. The chair of our social committee is a cutesy-pun person. Where are these people made?

      3. Parenthetically*

        Absolutely! Bringing in snacks as a new hire seems really sweet! But EVERY. DAMN. OTHER. THING, like phew, I am worn out just reading about it!

        1. AdminX2*

          Except as a woman, doubly except as an admin. I have a hard no bringing goods for the first 6 months rule. They have to establish me as a coworker and then I will enjoy occasionally bringing in cakes or yummies. Until then I have to be careful they don’t turn me into an office mom or the cleaning cooking lady.

          1. Hey Nonnie*


            I have a strict “I am not your mom / nanny” policy with everyone I meet. If someone makes that assumption, they will regret it.

        2. Just Employed Here*

          My kids are actually in kindergarten, and *they’d* be exhausted if they had a kindergarten teacher like this!

          1. Anonny*

            I honestly wondered if my first school headteacher had changed jobs. She’d previously only taught infant schools (4-7 years) and my first school went up to 9 years of age. And she was like this. We all hated her.

            Of course, being a bunch of 9 year olds, we didn’t have the most mature response. Mostly heckling and vandalising her ‘props’. I think our teachers weren’t particularly impressed with her either because their “kids stop tormenting the headteacher” lectures were rather half-hearted.

            1. AdminX2*

              My 8 year Spanish learning history is extremely crazy with stories but one of the saddest is when they had to push the previous kindergarten immersion FRENCH teacher into a 7th grade SPANISH class, and she looked about 15 years past standard retirement age. The classes were merciless on her and she was completely overwhelmed in how to deal with not only kids who could talk but had horrible nasty attitudes. She lasted three weeks and they gave us a temp for another month until we got our actual teacher (who was great until she left in the last quarter to do peace corps or something and then we got busy work again).

            2. TardyTardis*

              “Please don’t hex Headmistress Umbridge…oh, and the library accidentally ended up with too many copies of Prof. Veridian’s VEXATIOUS CURSES, if anyone wishes to ‘send one home’ Madam Pince will be very helpful…” Or Willy Wonka’s whispered “Stop. Don’t do that.’

        3. ComputerD00D*

          As a diabetic, I REALLY do not appreciate having cakes and candy shoved in my face by coworkers. It’s hard enough to stick to a no sugar/processed food/simple carbohydrates diet as is, much less when people are tossing KitKats and brownies back and forth all around you.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I just don’t like people telling me what to eat? I’m fine with treats and candy all around, not my business, whatever, I’m an adult and I can deal but then someone starts “encouraging” me to “just try a bite!” and have to go all buzzkill with the Medically-Supervised Specialized Diet shtick and it’s no fun.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Reminds me of the exhausting clueless intern stories. Once is an interesting knowledge gap; 18 times a day, and you are just tired of explaining the technological leaps of the wireless printer and paper clips.

        Any one of these as a one-off might be charming and pleasant, even if not one’s personal cup of tea. As an en masse assault by rooibos, though, it’s exhausting.

      5. Kelsi*

        Especially when there has been little to no participation in any of them!

        Read the room, Cheer Bear….

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          I agree. No, the Care Bear Stare can NOT always save the day. Sometimes it can just be disruptive and downright annoying…

      6. aebhel*

        Yeah, this. I work in a library, and we tend to do some fairly goofy things at work (our children’s librarian shows up in costume a few times a month, people bring back swag from conferences and share it out, our director left rubber duckies on everyone’s desk for April Fools Day, people bring in snacks for the staff fairly regularly, etc) but this much all at once? And with this kind of attitude? That’s a bit much even for us.

        1. Autumnheart*

          It also seems like a lot of personal money being spent on office frivolity. My office engages in frivolity regularly (last year we had a “decorate your cube row for the holidays” contest that went to genuinely insane levels of creativity–to be fair, we are a department of creatives), but a few times a year, not every day! And all the toys and knickknacks? Either this person has a gigantic tote box full of these items left over, or she’s actually going out and buying them multiple times a week. That’s pretty wild.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Perhaps she’s waiting til the end of the month before merrily putting in her expenses claim…

          2. TardyTardis*

            This reminds me of the cube rat who kept putting up cut-out snowflakes on her cube wall, and after three feet of actual snow we told her to stop it (to be fair, she did put up several bright suns and flowers among the snowflake decorations when it happened).

        2. LKW*

          Once a contractor gave me one of those paper yo-yo’s that you flick your wrist, it spirals out and back. That was cool but only because the movement sensor for my office light didn’t register me and that yo-yo helped turn the lights back on without me flailing my arms.

          1. twig*

            I bought a paper yo-yo just for this purpose! (they are also called paper lasers — how cool is that?)

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I wonder if she does this for attention. You know the type: they seem friendly and are actually doing these things because they want attention from everyone around them…
      If it seems like that and you feel up to it, maybe suggest she find attentive friends outside of work.

      1. user_loser*

        Actually, my first thought was she’s very insecure/ anxious.

        Personally, I was so hyperactive once, when I felt my position in the company wasn’t secure. I reacted by trying to do 300%. I didn’t do things she does of course – I tried to do 300% of my job – but still.

        Stress can make people behave ridiculously.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I cannot imagine how she has any time to do her job given how much energy she’s invested in activities and snacks. OP has my deepest sympathies.

    4. Hey Nonnie*

      The “Smile Day” masks were such a missed opportunity. Just pull her aside and tell her “we need to project professionalism to our VIPs, this isn’t the time or the place for toys.”

    5. Slartibartfast*

      It’s a know your workplace thing for sure. I wouldn’t bring a usb stick that looks like a pug humping the computer to a lawyer’s office, but it’s hysterical if you’re a veterinarian.

    6. Aro*

      The stress ball thing seems like it might actually go over well, if you think about it in terms of crushing a symbol of cheer in your hands.

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      OMG this just made me laugh out loud in a training. Where I am NOT supposed to be reading Ask a Manager!

        1. Future Homesteader*

          Two years into my first desk job, I developed sciatica at twenty six. But it does give me something to talk about with some of our more senior staff!

      1. Yojo*

        31, I’ve actually got it as well. But I’m incapable of talking about it without mimicking a New York senior citizen.

        1. AMT*

          My wife (a native Staten Islander) and I sometimes talk in exaggerated Brooklyn accents to each other about old people stuff. We call these characters Morty and Laverne. “Morty! Can you heah me? I made you some instant kwoffee and half a bialy.”

          1. Jersey's mom*

            Staten Islander here! I constantly fall back into the accent, especially when I’m mad or complaining. My non-New York husband says that when my accent comes back, it’s like a rattle from a rattlesnake: warning, she’s about to strike!

        2. Grade B maple syrup*

          I’m not the only one!! I’m 33 and having a flare up and I keep saying to my husband how I am incapable of talking about it without saying “sciatica” like an 80 year old from Long Island. And I’m nowhere near from Long Island! Why is that?

    2. LKW*

      This is what I was thinking.
      -Start using the words dangnabit, whippersnappers and dungarees.
      -Have all the men start wearing their pants up to their armpits.
      -Have a coffee klatch while perusing the obits

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Ask what the latest ditties are in the hit parade and what the youngsters bop to at the discotheque these days.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Start talking endlessly about your last trip to Home Depot or Costco. Discuss slow-cooker recipes.

    3. Faith*

      As someone who works in tax and is currently dealing with sciatica because of pregnancy, this advice speaks to me on a very personal level.

    4. Bea*

      Idk. I’m an accountant and will flip my lid over tax thingamajigs. And my back is giving out at just 34. But I’m over here with cat ears watching mascot Instagram videos…some of us swerve both directions erratically.

    5. Lora*

      Ha! Am Old. When my friends’ kids would fuss about being sent to their rooms while the adults talked, we told them we were talking about Adult Themes (just like the movie warnings):
      -Real estate prices
      -Tax reform
      -Low fat / low sugar recipes
      -PTA fundraisers
      -Homebrewing beer equipment design
      -Clothing swaps
      -Jazzercise classes
      -Wine tours in California

      Friends’ kids rapidly learned that they didn’t actually want to watch that R-rated movie on teevee. Boooooring.

      1. whomever*

        Yes, a truly Adult Movie is something like “Hot form 1040 action! Watch that base tax rate rate get an AMT”

    6. KayEss*

      My first thought was similar: reply to every “It’s National Chocolate Fudge Day! :) :) :)” email with one about awareness of something depressing, like how many women are murdered by domestic partners per day or how many years we have before the planet is uninhabitable from climate change. Not really the best idea since it would probably wreck your own reputation in the office, but I’d love to see the look on Pollyanna’s face.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        Debbie Downer!

        Or even just, “Do you realize how much sugar chocolate fudge has? I don’t think we should be promoting the chocolate fudge industrial complex, do you?”

  3. AnonToday*

    All this in *three weeks*? Yikes yikes and yikes. She sounds exhausting and I would hate being constantly treated like a child like this at work. You have no HR, but someone high up must be able to have a quiet word with her. This stuff sounds seriously disruptive and she needs to cut it out.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Most of the behavior is just annoying. But the treats for doing your job well? I’m sure she means well but that’s so condescending. That would piss me off.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah, that part stood out to me as so condescending – after three weeks, she’s decided to take it upon herself to tell others when she thinks they’re doing a good job. Also, rewarding good behaviour with treats is reminiscent of how you train a dog.

      2. Artemesia*

        Yeah this one would enrage me — who is this newbie twit to be judging how well I am doing my job? Cup cakes because I just won a major award — not necessary but okay. Cup cakes because I am doing such a great job on the TPS reports — not her place to judge or reward. Totally condescending and presumptuous.

  4. Lance*

    She… went out to a printing house? I sincerely hope this, and any more time-consuming ‘supplies’ (that’s the best word I can come up with right now) aren’t being picked up during work hours, because then it’s very much time she’s not working.

    As for the behavior itself, she sounds blissfully clueless (or intentionally ignorant) that her efforts aren’t being received well, so somebody’s definitely going to have to be direct with her.

    1. Havarti*

      Also, is she paying for all this out of pocket? I mean, neither should she expect the company to reimburse her. I get that teachers perhaps get use to buying supplies for their classrooms but it’s really not normal to blow cash on your coworkers on an ongoing basis like this either. Yes, they may be papers and cheap trinkets but it does add up after a while.

      And when enough people have declined to play along, you don’t want her to get bitter and pull out the “I spent [x amount on of money] on this – you should be grateful/do the thing I want you to do because I sacrificed time/money” argument. She wasn’t hired to be “office mom” and she shouldn’t be taking on that additional emotional labor that no one actually needs her to do.

      1. Havarti*

        Unless she was hired to be “office mom.” Then that would warrant a talk with the owner first on WTH were they thinking.

      2. Celeste*

        Exactly! Of course it’s her money and she’s free to spend it as she pleases. But if she stops that, it will be like getting a raise!

      3. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        It has to be coming from out of pocket. We have petty cash for things like birthdays and occasional lunches out to celebrate achievements, but it wouldn’t be authorized for someone’s rogue social activities. That’s a good point about not wanting her to turn bitter later on that no one is appreciating her expenditures.

        She was hired to be a writer and content developer, definitely no “office mom” in the job description.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          It’s a big change to go from being surrounded by small children to being alone at a desk. She’s used to constant demands for her attention and support. Is there a way to get her to make a smoother transition?
          Also if she enjoys interacting with people all the time, she might not be happy as a writer. Just so you’re prepared if it turns out this way.
          I love interacting with people and found being alone at my desk difficult before I found AAM.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s a good point about mobs of small children’s unrelenting need for attention and support. If you’re in charge of 25 kindergarteners, you don’t absently zone out with a spreadsheet for 45 minutes, then look up to see what they’ve gotten up to in that time.

            1. Observer*

              Do yo actually teach or know any active teachers? Given the amount of paperwork that teachers at all age ranges need to handle, the ability to be able to sit down with a spreadsheet, document, database etc. is an absolute necessity. Also, a huge percentage of teachers are going to school themselves, and a lot of these classes require plenty of work on your own.

              Being a teacher is not synonymous with never doing individual work.

              1. Observer*

                My first line may have come off a bit harshly. What I meant to say is that this is a bit of a stereotype that generally crops up when people are not familiar with how teaching works.

                1. Kelsi*

                  Depends on what age/subject you teach, I guess. My mom worked with 1st-5th grade and was never able to get any kind of paperwork done while the kids were present, but she taught art, so it may just be that it’s a subject that requires a lot of intervention, direction, and question-answering?

                2. Observer*

                  Most teachers don’t do the paperwork during / in class. Instead they spend time – often hours – doing that stuff after hours.

                3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  Kelsi, I teach K-4 and do lots of quiet solo work, but only when the kids aren’t in the room. If my older students are all focused and working on something I might be able to do a task like cutting out 40 blue triangles or alphabetizing a handful of worksheets… but odds are good that I’ll have to stop after about 60 seconds to work with a student.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                My point is merely that being a teacher of tiny children IS synonymous with not being able to sit in the classroom with them, but take your attention completely off them for 45 minutes and assume they won’t somehow interrupt your focus on AAM, studying for your exam, or catching up on Breaking Bad. Teachers put in lots of solo time outside the classroom on lesson planning, grading homework, and reading AAM–but not when they are supposed to be actively supervising the 5 year olds.

                Middle schoolers might totally be willing to consider a deal in which you watch YouTube on your phone and they watch it on their phones.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  No one is suggesting that her behavior is reasonable. But if OP is destined to keep quiet or have an Awkward Conversation, it might help if she can figure out part of coworker’s head space.

                2. Observer*

                  I understand that. But this is not the hedspace you can realistically expect of any competent teacher. They all know how to do sustained “alone” type work, they all know how to work cooperatively with other adults and they most DEFINITELY can code switch between adults and children, allowing for the occasional tone and language slip. They do NOT run their classrooms with tons of “RAH RAH”, nor do they have EXCITING NEW ACTIVITY on a constant basis. As for random activities, with no planning, coordination or warning? Not in a million years. ESPECIALLY with younger children.

                  In other words, don’t go into this trying to think like a teacher. Because most teachers really do NOT think like this.

              3. Yorick*

                You’re right that teachers have to be able to sit down by themselves with a spreadsheet or whatever. But, at some point throughout their day they have intensive interaction with lots of people, and the coworker might really be missing that. It was jarring at first for me to go from teaching college students to a purely research position where I’m alone in a cube all day. I can only imagine what it’d be like for a teacher of small children.

          2. neverjaunty*

            She’s also used to having to interact with other adults in the workplace – other teachers, parents, administrators, and so on – as well as with adults outside of work. Her behavior isn’t that of an inexperienced kindergarten teacher, it’s just plain strange and maladaptive.

          3. Fact & Fiction*

            I both enjoy interacting with people and am happy as a writer. The two aren’t diametrically opposed. But of course it is possible that this particular person may be having a hard time adjusting to a job that’s extremely different from her previous position.

        2. Competent Commenter*

          Wow, she was hired to be a writer and content developer? As a professional writer I have to say that her behavior runs counter to my general experiences with writers, who if anything tend to be introverts, not cheerleaders. This new information makes her behavior all the more bizarre to me.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, I’ve thought about being a writer but I would be too lonely, bored and cranky. I need interaction.
            I once applied for a job at the Inspector General reading, reporting and investigating white-collar fraud. That would have been interesting! I assume I would have been interacting with colleagues and not doing it all by myself. The investigative aspects would have been good too. If I was a writer, it would have to be something like this with research.

              1. Airy*

                That’s a terrible job, you have to get all those cybernetic implants and then you’re always on duty.

            1. Red Lines with Wine*

              I’m a professional writer and honestly, the interaction varies quite widely from team to team. If you’re a lone writer, yeah you’ll probably spend a lot of time in solitude. On my time, we have 40+ writers and have meetings and opportunities to work together quite frequently. Most writers work from home a few days a week to get heads-down writing done, but otherwise we’re a pretty interactive group.

              1. Girl Alex PR*

                +1 I’m a science writer and I’m super extroverted. Being outgoing and liking conversation doesn’t mean I can’t focus.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I don’t mean a person couldn’t focus. I have a great need for interaction and get uncomfortable if I feel isolated. I think that’s separate from focus.
                  Some have even more need for interaction than me and it sounds like OP’s colleague does.

        3. Djuna*

          Whoa, really? I’ll admit that while I was reading your letter a part of my brain was wondering if she somehow had some sort of employee engagement aspect to her role which could explain a lot of it. It would not, let’s be clear, excuse her failure to take the pulse of the office culture and carry on a campaign of aggressive cheerfulness despite being met with general bemusement.

          But…nah, I can’t see that as an add-on to a content role. I work in content and no-one has ever suggested this means I’m responsible for the contentment of the office at large. I’d straight-up quit if they did.
          Could this all be a horrible misunderstanding of what a content role means?

          1. Auntie Social*

            Tell her she’s the office malcontent, a combination of Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.

      4. CM*

        That was my question, too, because this sounds like it’s getting expensive, and I think the answer of who’s paying for it might shed some light on why it’s happening. If the office is paying for it, then maybe she believes that this is part of her role? Or maybe it is part of her role? Or maybe her informal supervisor is confused about whether it’s part of her role?

        If she’s paying for it herself, she may just be on the yellow part of the personality wheel where it’s important to her sense of well-being to feel connected. If that’s the case, then maybe getting everyone to figure out a modest office connection activity they CAN agree to would help her calm down. Or like, if she was deputized to organize a fun, optional activity each quarter. Or the Christmas party. Or something.

    2. JS*

      It could be that she went to the print house for a press check or similar work-related need. Many of the printers I’ve been to for large jobs do have some swag or promotional materials that people can take with them– although I’ve never personally seen celebrity face masks included!

    3. Kes*

      Yeah, the amount of time, effort and money she’s putting into these things is incredible, although she may be used to doing so as a teacher.

  5. Foreign Octopus*

    Oh my.

    I felt the pain when the OP wrote about bringing in mountains of snacks (I’ve been reading AAM long enough to have that ingrained in me as a no-no in the first few months) but the gratitude cards and then everything else?

    OP, you don’t mention their age in your letter. I’m not sure if it really makes a difference but someone who has been in childcare for a long time might have a hard time breaking the habit; conversely, someone new to the work environment might only have their experience in childcare to fall back on but still – weird, weird, weird.

    Honestly, if there’s no one else, I think you have to do this. It’ll be a kindness for your co-worker and much easier to say it now than wait six months – the embarrassment will be less for both of you. This is going to be a horribly awkward conversation but, if your co-worker is young, you’ll be doing them a great kindness for their future career; and if they’re older, well, you’ll still be doing them a kindness and I hope they’ll be able to adjust their behaviour accordingly.

    1. Tardigrade*

      This is a good point about doing it now/soon. If you are the one who has to have this talk with her, just remember you’re not the one who is doing this awkward, out-of-touch thing. And I would think that with her background, she might be used to having similar conversations – just ones that flow in the other direction.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      There’s going to be an awkward conversation with her about this, one way or another. It’s far better to have it now, while OP (or whoever) can still be kind about it, than for everyone to ignore the behaviour and three months from now someone snaps at her I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR ANY F’ING MASKS AND GET YOUR @#$#%#! GRATITUDE CARDS OUT OF MY FACE!!!

      Basically, there’s no way out of this without awkwardness of some sort. And it’ll be far easier – and kinder – to embrace the awkardness now, than to let it fester until it’s too late for her to save face. Good luck, OP, and I’d love to hear an update when you have one!

      1. kittymommy*

        Late to the game, but this so much. Someone, some where will reach a breaking point and this’ll probably happen. I’d bet money on it.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      I’ve done a lot of work with children in the past and the only “carry over” I experienced was forgetting that I could use profanity when I was alone or around my adult friends. I just got so used to saying things like “darn” and “whoops” that it became an ingrained speech pattern. I was most certainly not bringing in toys and dress-up costumes for grown adults or reminding them about snack time. The fact that this person doesn’t seem to realize just how bizarre her actions are is puzzling to me. Does she treat *everyone* like this, I wonder, including family?

      1. matcha123*

        I worked at a kindergarten for a few months and had to resist the urge to constantly ask coworkers at my new office if they needed the potty, brushed their teeth, or had their water. Heck, even talking with my boyfriend when I was working there was a mental struggle to form sentences that were typical for someone in their 20s and not their 2s…

        In this woman’s case, either it’s a holdover from her previous job, or her personality is just like that. If it’s a holdover, it may dissipate soon. If it’s her personality…

        1. Vicky Austin*

          I worked at a daycare many years ago and I would occasionally catch myself saying, “I need to go potty” instead of “I need to go to the ladies room.”

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        You know, I would not appreciate a teacher doing so much of this in a class, let alone in an office! I don’t like the idea that kids need to be jollied or coaxed or rewarded into learning stuff. If the content is intestering and age-appropriate, they’ll learn it without all these frills. If my kid was in a class taught by this woman and she was doing this amount of weird cheerleading and special treats and goodies, I’d wonder what learning is happening. (Yeah, even if preschool, where puzzles and blocks and figuring out that you don’t grab the red crayon out of Annie’s hand even if you want it ARE what you’re supposed to be learning.) I kind of think she was not actually a very good teacher.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          Yup. Once in a while, sure, but honestly, it already seems like my friends’ kids have a million and five Theme Days, which is weird to me. When I was a kid (she says grumpily) we had Halloween/day-before-Christmas-break/day-before-summer-vacation/Valentine’s Day parties, plus maybe a movie-and-pizza day on the last Friday of the month, but that was it. Otherwise? You go to school, you do school stuff, you come home.

          Granted, as a kid, I’d have welcomed anything that got me out of long division.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I agree. This seems far too busy and exhausting even for small kids with short attention spans. How did she ever find time to teach?

        3. Jessica*

          I would have no enthusiasm for any of this mandatory workplace fun, but I am THRILLED with your username!

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m honestly intrigued by the idea of a class of kindergarteners all wearing Justin Bieber and Elizabeth II masks.

          I picture them on a bank heist.

    4. Mimi Me*

      I appreciated the kindness of a co-worker pointing out that I sometimes drifted into what I called “kid speak” when I first came back to work after several years of being a SAHM. Apparently I used a sing-song tone and words used primarily with younger children when I was trying to explain things to my co-workers. I didn’t really notice until it was pointed out.
      I do agree that the OP’s co-worker sounds exhausting, but the good news is she’s only been there three weeks. It’s still early enough that it wouldn’t come off as weird if a co-worker pointed this out. The longer it goes unchecked the more normal the co-worker will think this is and the more surprised she’ll be when someone finally does say something to her.

      1. Anon From Here*

        The code-switching between childcare and the workplace is for real! My child is grown and out of the house, but I still have a few terms/phrases that are more kidspeak than workspeak. And I do find that I feel a need to coach or even “mother” very young co-workers sometimes.

        1. many bells down*

          Once, 20+ years ago, I had a new 2-year-old in my class who only spoke Farsi. So her mom taught me some “baby Farsi” to get along with until she learned English. The only two things I remember how to say are “sit down” and “potty.”

          TO THIS DAY when someone isn’t listening to me, I have the overpowering urge to tell them “sit down!” in Farsi.

        2. Drew*

          Shortly after his first child was born, my manager poked his head in my office to tell me that if anyone was looking for him, he was going potty.

          The look on his face when he realized what he had just told me was priceless.

          1. Anon From Here*

            Sometimes when we’re leaving the house together, I’ll slip and ask Mr. Anon From Here, who is a grown-up adult person, “You got your keys? Got your wallet? Got your bus pass?” which I said to my kid five days a week, nine months a year, for a half-dozen years. -face red-

            1. Marion Ravenwood*

              No kids here, but I also do this to Mr Ravenwood. Mainly because if I don’t, five minutes before we have to leave he’ll ask ‘where’s my phone/wallet/keys/iPod?’

            2. Short Girl*

              If I don’t do that, we are likely to be locked out of the house. Mr. Short Girl forgets keys/wallet often!

            3. Oranges*

              As a person who has the “front door list” done to me because I’m… ooohhhh shiney thing! Um what? Oh yeah me. I’m grateful but again it’s knowing when it’s welcome and when it’s not.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I live in Seattle. I own like 50 umbrellas. They are by the door. I had to put a BIG NOTE on the door reminding me to take one. #FacePalm

                1. MsCende*

                  I used to like ve in Seattle. I just decided it didn’t rain hard enough that I was going to get THAT wet, and stopped caring about umbrellas.

                  Bonus: I don’t leave them anywhere.

                2. Polaris*

                  @ MsCende I’m a born Seattleite and have this attitude, and it gets you really weird looks when you move to another part of the country and still act this way.

            4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Yup. I had to train myself not to over-explain things to my husband. Or “remind” him to be careful not to spill things.

            5. Owler*

              Um…in our house, it’s Mr. Owler or Preteen Owler asking me if I have everything.

              Also, we now play the Passport on Your Forehead game in the car after an ill-fated start to a weekend ferry trip when Gramma Owler left hers in her main suitcase back home. We were lucky that we had time for one person to drive home and retrieve it while the others waited in the Customs check in line.

            1. bean*

              I work with kids. I once made my husband a sticker chart and hung it on the fridge. He was trying to motivate himself to go to the gym more often. So I put an envelope of stickers under a blank calendar sheet and he would choose a sticker to reward himself each day he went.

              It worked for a while. He thought it was silly at first, but I just posted the blank sheet up on the fridge, and then suddenly I noticed it filling up day by day with stickers. He usually chose the dinosaur ones.

              1. Noobtastic*

                Stickers are fun, small and cheap. More than half the population, regardless of age, actually gets a small, but real, kick out of a sticker. And if they don’t, it’s not really going to be offensive if they say, “no thank you,” or even take it politely and then throw it away when no one sees them.

                So, if you want to greet all your new co-workers with some sort of small, fun, memorable thing to get your relationships off on a positive note, bring a bag of stickers while you are being introduced around the office. That is, in my opinion, the hard limit on just how far you can go with the cutesy “I’m welcoming myself into this work group” as you can go without being downright cloying and/or establishing yourself as “the official treat-bringer” who will be relied upon (nay, DEMANDED) to bring treats for the whole office, at least once a week.

                If she had brought stickers for everyone on the first day, that would have been cool. Even if she did want to have a very brief fun time, once a week, “It’s sticker time!” for five minutes, as she holds up her container, and lets anyone interested grab one from the stash, and then they look at them and smile or laugh, that would be OK. But really, there are LIMITS.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            When I was home full time with a toddler, I was laying in bed with my husband and said ‘Where’s the husband?” *Pulled covers over my head, then pulled them back down* “there he is!!”

            I immediately was told to go out with friends and do something, anything, even if it meant spending money.

              1. Auntie Social*

                That’s okay–when we were out to dinner with another couple, the wife/toddler’s mom reached over and cut my husband’s meat, all the while looking at/chatting with me. We kept going “Barbara! Barbara!” but she didn’t stop. Then she looked down and saw what she had done, and my husband quietly said, “Thanks, I’ve got this.”

                1. PolicyChick*

                  “Thanks, I’ve got this.” That made me laugh right out, scaring the cat. Thank you. Tell your husband that he rocks.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Anecdatum: An academic study on mom-speak, the high-pitched simple word phrasing that people caring for small children instinctively default into. The researcher explained the study to a parent participant, a big burly construction worker, who responded, “Yeah, that’s just not something I ever do.” Turns to toddler, raises voice half an octave. “Isn’t that right sweetie? Noo-oo-ooo, daddy doesn’t do stuff like that.”

        4. Geillis D*

          I have a group of friends with kids who are all in their late teens, but one of the group members has the phrase “good job!!” ingrained so deeply that, when another friend happily announced her husband’s promotion to a senior position at the hospital, her off-the-cuff response was “good job!!”.

    5. many bells down*

      It’s true, there’s a lot of habits that are hard to break after a long time in early childhood education. I taught preschool for 10 years and then elementary students after that and I STILL have “Baby Beluga” stuck in my head. But I’ve also held office jobs and the whole reason I’ve taken those is to have a break from teaching! To talk to adults about adult things! To not be quizzed about my favorite Pokemon!

      Even as a teacher this would exhaust me. Being “on” all the time is so tiring.

        1. Miss Fisher*

          Or what about Daddy Finger and those other awful youtube songs. I still do not get why the kiddos love watching people play with toys more than playing themselves.

          1. AMPG*

            I finally declared YouTube videos Off Limits Forever. It’s PBS Kids or nothing. I’m told I’m a mean mom.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              I was a camp counselor in the 1990’s and I banned my campers from singing “The Song That Never Ends” from
              the PBS show “Lambchop’s Play-Along.”

          1. PSB*

            Ha! Ironically, I said the exact same thing to someone on Facebook who reminded me of it last night. I totally deserve the hate. Sorry!

        2. Ellex*

          The Blue’s Clues and Martha Speaks theme songs. And I don’t even have children! But my mother is a retired preschool teacher who likes to check out “what’s on for the little kids”.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            My son was born in 1987. Songs I still have go around my brain randomly: The Barney theme song, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (heroes in a half shell…turtle power!), and the Power Rangers theme. Ugh.

            Great now that I typed that the TMNT song is being an earworm.

      1. Mr Yikes*

        I left teaching two days ago – I’m having to transition very, very quickly into not being “on” with my coworkers, because it’s my default work state and right now they think I’m bizarrely enthusiastic about everything. (Not that they’ve said bizarre. I’ve actually got quite a few comments on how great it is, but I don’t want to set myself up as always showing that amount of enthusiasm at 0700, because it’s exhausting.)

        1. Noobtastic*

          I actually did have a supervisor tell me, once, long ago, that I was “too cheerful.”
          Granted, she had not yet had her caffeinated drink of choice that morning…

          I was shocked that “too cheerful” was even a thing that was possible. Then, I remembered *that roommate* at college, and shuddered. I learned to tone down my enthusiasm until at least 10 am.

          Apparently, there’s a spectrum for this sort of thing.

      2. Noobtastic*

        What’s your favorite Pokemon?
        Me: Pikachu!
        Why’s that?
        Me: Because that is literally the only one I know.

    6. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      I agree! I worked with a person once who had come from a daycare background, and while she wasn’t nearly as over-the-top as this person, some of her habits that she had picked up on from that background really grated on people. When someone pointed it out to her that she did this and that it bothered her coworkers, she was grateful for the advice.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      What I’m getting from the comments is that there can be quite a bit of “code switch” issues people have when they have spent long hours around children, but that they largely appear to be limited to speech patterns and word choice. There’s a big difference between saying you need to potty and bringing in masks (!) for picture time.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Also lets not lose sight of the fact that the whole “office mom” thing is gendered and limiting. OP (or whoever) might want to point this out to the coworker. Act too stereotypical, particularly as a woman and you *will* get pigeon holed and held back.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Also, there’s a world of difference between bringing snacks (almost always welcome, even if an individual can’t partake due to diet), and *reminding adults* that it’s time for them to have a snack, and/or pushing the snack on the adults.

          Most people know, intellectually, that someone on a diet, whether it be for medical reasons or for weight-loss, or even for religious/ethical reasons, gets *really honked off* when someone tries to force a snack on them, because it basically says, “I do not respect your right to your own body and to choose what you put in it.” Yeah, most people know this, and feel it, when it happens to them. But when they are overly-enthusiastic about this particular snack that they brought and *have* to share with everyone because it’s just that good, they sometimes forget it.

          Adults do frequently have to remind children to eat a snack (mostly, so that hey don’t crash at just the wrong time), but by the time people have grown up enough to vote, they have generally figured out how to read their own hunger signals. Some people really do need a snack. Some people have trained their bodies to only eat at meal times. I knew one woman who only ate dinner, ever, and that worked for her body, because reasons. Bodies are individual, and there is no one size fits all rule for how to feed them, or when. And so reminding them to eat is offensive.

          The only exception to that is if you really know this person well, and you know that they have obsessive tendencies, like the Absent-Minded Professor who is working on his new invention and literally forgets about things like eating or using the restroom, until he gets unavoidably interrupted, and then WHOOPS! But this is the sort of thing you establish with that person, along with a close relationship and trust. Like, you can do this with your spouse, or maybe your co-worker of ten years, as a thing you have both agreed upon, but not to your brand-new co-workers.

          Sorry, I’m just having a mini-melt-down about the whole, “reminding them to eat their snacks” thing. I suppose it’s better than telling fat people not to eat anything, or thin people to eat a burger, but it’s really close to that level of bad. It’s not body-shaming, so much as brain-shaming.

      2. Vicky Austin*

        I wonder if she’s one of those people who has a hard time understanding that what’s appropriate in one situation isn’t always appropriate in others. There are people like that. I have ADHD and I struggled with understanding it when I was younger. For instance, in college I had more than one group of friends; and I often would say or do something with one group that would have been acceptable or funny with the other, but not so much with the group who I happened to be with at the time.

  6. EddieSherbert*

    Oh wow, that would irritate me to no end, and I work in a very casual office with a “everyone is friends and/or family” dynamic. My sympathies.

    I think Alison’s script is great, even though it’ll probably be awkward!

    If you can make it work, it’d be kind to talk to her towards the end of the day (versus at lunch). I know not everyone can swing a late afternoon break or grab coffee after work hours, but if she’s embarrassed, it might be nice if she doesn’t really have to go back to the office afterwards.

    1. Oranges*

      Yes, I find it’s sooooo much easier if I don’t have to go back to work after I’ve gotten a “you need to work on this” talk.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed on the end of the day thing. Do that if at all possible. Then you don’t have to spend the afternoon pretending that you didn’t have a completely awkward conversation with her and she can go home and hopefully think about what you said. It’s definitely going to be awkward, so be prepared and plow through anyway. Even if she’s not receptive and protests that everyone needs to lighten up, you will at least have paved the way to refuse her offerings more bluntly.

    3. Doug Judy*

      Maybe also suggest some lower key “activities” she could coordinate, like a holiday food day to soften the blow. That I think would stop the daily cheer bombs, yet let her have a little fun. Emphasize that even those things should be more low key, so no props or photo booths, just some food is usually enough.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Good idea. It’s important I think for her to “get it” that adults, on the whole, do not like to be treated as if they are small children…especially at work.

        Many people (even children as far as that goes) don’t want all the high energy, go, go, go, “on” thing…ever in some cases.

        Even when I was an actual child this would have worn me right the fk. out. At work? Hell no.

    4. solar flare*

      this might be an unpopular opinion, but i actually prefer when those kinds of conversations happen earlier in the day because then i *can*get back to normal. if i mess up (real or perceived) at the end of the day – or, gods forbid, at the end of the week – i spend my evening/weekend consumed by anxiety and blowing things out of proportion. it’s only when i spend more time being functional in the presence of my colleagues that i can relax.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think it’s good for the OP to know it can go either way :)

        I was personally remembering a very naive intern that dressed inappropriately and HR talked to her at the beginning of her shift (but did not send her home) and then I walked in on her crying later… I so wish they had talked to her later or sent her home!

        1. Oranges*

          I agree since I thought it was universal that bad news should be end of day news but knowing that some people don’t like that means that I won’t assume that any longer.

      2. wherewolf*

        I can see this side too. I think if it’s something that can be fixed, beginning of the day gives them a chance to fix it (like, “Priscilla, you tend to talk over people and your team feels smothered”). But sometimes you gotta call it out as soon as it happens.

    5. Noobtastic*

      Yeah! A lunchtime explanation could lead to a very embarrassing afternoon, especially if people notice/comment during the afternoon, that things changed that day.

      Taking her out for an after-work drink/coffee/smoothie/walk in the park could be much better. And it gives her a chance to talk it out without worrying about getting back to work on time, plus gives The Cheerful One all night to think about it before she has to face anyone. You also have some time to soften the blow. For example, walk-in-the-park. “Now we’re not at work, and trying to be professional, what do you say to a ride on the merry-go-round before we go home? My treat!”

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Yes and that triggers something deep inside me. Trying too hard and contrivity (is that a word?) are my real thorns and I really believe I’d be the person actively avoiding her to the point where it may seem mean. I’m surprised I didn’t read that people are being overtly rude to her like rolling their eyes or furrowing their brow each time she speaks. Not that I’m condoning being mean–just a human thing. I have a hard time controlling that.

  7. Tardigrade*

    Is there any chance you could get her to organize nap time?

    I really appreciate Alison so much for things like this.

    1. Dance-y Reagan*

      Yeah, LW can just…redirect new hire for more desirable results. “We’re not much for masks and photos here. Chocolate macadamia cookies and cozy nap blankets will go over much better.”

      (FYI National Nap Day is March 11.)

        1. Anonny*

          Lets just hope she stops doing this before National Kazoo Day. That’s January 28th.

          For additional nightmares, International Bagpipes Day is March 10th.

      1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        Minor note on National Nap Day- it is March 11, 2019 but changes each year. It is celebrated on the Monday after we “spring forward” to DST. National Sleep in Public Day is February 28th every year. I celebrate neither day in my office, but have been known to bring in food on other National Days (October 18 is National Chocolate Cupcake Day). No pressure, just an email saying the tasties are in a central location and then I go about my work.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          National Sleep in Public Day brings to mind loads of people in bunny slippers and flannel pjs taking over all the park benches, waiting rooms, and bus stop benches for a quick nap.

        2. londonedit*

          October 18th is my birthday, so I’m very glad to hear it’s also National Chocolate Cupcake Day…but then I’m not in the USA, and I don’t think we have National Chocolate Cupcake Day in Britain. Sad times.

  8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    The new hire seems to be investing a fairly huge amount of time, energy, and money into this. What is her actual job title and responsibilities? How’s she doing with learning those as a new hire? Who assigns her work if she does not have a traditional manager? Lastly, I admit I am jaded after 20+ years in corporate America, but is there any chance that she was hired to do these things? or, maybe, that there was something she was told as a new hire that she interpreted as having to do all these things as part of her new job? I agree that this is all very bizarre, and having a coworker try to coax me into participating in these activities every day would very quickly make me not want to get out of bed every weekday morning!

    1. The Original K.*

      But in that case wouldn’t the owner have told them? “I think we need a morale boost around here, so I’m going to be bringing in Jane, whose job it is to improve team togetherness” or whatever?

      1. It's Pronounced Bruce*

        Doubt it. If the guy is as occupied as the LW describes, I would be 0% surprised if the decision to have someone do regular morale boosters didn’t make it out to anyone other than the person instructed to do that.

        I’ve seen weird conflicts between teams due to this about a thousand times– Susan hires Wakeen to keep track of client interactions, or something. Wakeen keeps trying to do what he was hired / told to do by Susan. Susan neglects to inform anyone else of what exactly Wakeen is supposed to be doing. Everyone else is angry at Wakeen and won’t cooperate with him, because why is this guy suddenly inserting himself into me dealing with my clients? Who does he think he is? He doesn’t even know how things work here!

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Or admin or office manager or anything could be remotely tied to office activities?

        P.S. Now I’m just thinking of Pam in The Office :)

        1. solar flare*

          as an admin (currently executive assistant, but previously office manager in my career), unless she was specifically told to do these things, they’re still bizarre

          1. Noobtastic*

            As a former admin, office morale frequently was part of my job. But, we had limits. Limits on how much to spend from petty cash, limits on how much time we could take on it, limits on how much we could pull people from their desk/projects, limits on how much we could “advertise” it, and if it was fundatory or opt-in. It was almost always opt-in, by the way.

            The difference is that everyone knew it was part of my job, and that if they wanted anything, or had suggestions, they would go through me (official channels), with the sole exception being bringing treats. Anyone could, and did, bring treats at any time. They would then come to me, to send out an official announcement. “Wakeen brought treats! They are in the usual spot. Thanks, Wakeen!” I actually wound up doing that a lot, because with a large group, there was usually someone doing treats at least once a week, and during the holiday season, I’d wind up doing it two or three times a day. Because people LOVE to do treats. But we never forced the issue.

            Morale is very important to keep your employees motivated and productive. But if you give everyone a Happy Helmet, they’ll be too busy gritting their teeth while singing “Happy Happy Joy Joy,” to get any work done, either. And they’ll probably destroy the happy helmet, with extreme prejudice, the moment they finally manage to yank it off.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Great. Now I want to watch that Pink Submarine movie, and my DVD player is broken.

          Operation Petticoat, are you on Netflix?

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree, this info is missing and might be pretty helpful. What is she supposed to be doing? If she was hired as more of a general office admin as opposed to an individual contributor, I could see this as an interpretation of, “Organize office activities” or something. But if she’s supposed to be a project manager, then this is way misaligned with her job duties.

      I also think the OP might run into some pushback because, apparently, there ARE some people in the office who are into it. “Most thanked her but declined” means that some wrote the greeting cards, and then some of the younger staff went along with the mask-and-photo stuff.

      I don’t envy the OP. At all. This is a tough one. If it were, say, looking at porn on an office computer, it would be a whole lot easier to ask her to stop.

      1. Triplestep*

        Yup, this was my first response. What is her actual job supposed to be? She may be doing exactly what she was hired to do, and the boss was too busy to explain, or thought an explanation was not needed.

        1. SignalLost*

          It’s actually in Smarch. It was moved a few years back. Helps to counteract the stupid Smarch weather.

    3. Allison*

      Yeah, I was wondering this as well, LW didn’t really mention what her actual job was, maybe she thinks this is what she’s supposed to be doing. Or maybe she heard that positivity and morale are very important in an office environment and thought these were the best ways to increase that.

    4. Sarah*

      This was my thought. To jump right in with this kind of stuff and be so over the top about it, I feel like someone must have told her she was being brought in to fix/create the culture.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      It’s odd enough that it does make me wonder if she’s somehow supposed to be doing this, or at least just thinks she’s supposed to be doing this. I would probably quickly become the office grouch and put on my best death glare whenever she came near me. The description of her behavior makes my skin crawl, and I love doing whimsical, childish things. I just like to do them on my own time, not be harassed into forced fun at work.

    6. katie counter*

      I wondered too if there was any way she might be thinking that morale is part of her job. Like even if she had made a pitch that she could do this as an added benefit during her interviews, and didn’t realize that no one was that interested in it. If she’s made a career change she might not be great at realizing what strengths she was hired on, and she might be insecure and overcompensating. (The fun treats and quirky activities sound more like sorority spirit committee or start up shenanigans than kindergarten to me, fwiw, so I’m not actually convinced she’s carrying this over from her previous career!)

    7. Kes*

      I wonder if someone told her that the office is self-organizing and if people want things to happen they take the initiative to make them happen, and so she’s taking it on herself to try and make the culture more ‘fun’. (Which might be somewhat reasonable, if she started organizing the occasional national food day or office photo, but the manner in which she’s trying to do so many things, in a way that’s distracting, and not really paying attention when coworkers aren’t interested, is problematic).

    8. It's Pronounced Bruce*

      Yeah, I’ve seen enough people hired on with expectations that aren’t shared with any of the existing employees that I also wonder if she was brought in to do something like this. Or, was told to do some of it, and she’s taking it to its logical extreme partially because no one is engaged. She’s thinking, “They hired me to organize more social stuff in the office, and no one’s biting! I have to keep trying until I find the thing that people like, or I’m not doing my job!”

    9. ManderGimlet*

      I was thinking this too. Does OP even know what this person was hired to do? Because if not, and if they are in no way on the same team/projects and do not share a lead, OP may end up being in the wrong. I think the first step would be to find out who does her reviews and/or who hired her and start there. If that ends up being Boss, then so be it. I’m sure he’d work more than 20 hours a week if he knew a brand new hire was wasting inordinate amounts of her own and everyone else’s time on pirate day or whatever. This seems way too aggressive (and COSTLY!) for her to have just come up with all of this on her own.

  9. The Original K.*

    I agree with Alison that you should talk to her. I have a friend who is a former special ed teacher and for a while when she was still teaching, she had a tendency to forget that she wasn’t talking to a group of kids with special needs when we were in social settings. We are close enough that I’d just call her on it in the moment, and her other friends did too. “I can handle my bathroom needs myself, thanks; you don’t need to ask if I need to go.” She was always like “D’oh!” and a little embarrassed, but she understood that, you know, we’re adults and can handle our own lives, and we understood that she had a teacher persona that she just hadn’t switched off. She’s been out of the classroom for years now, so she’s out of the habit.

    I think if you frame it as “hey, FYI, this is really not the way we roll around here,” odds are good that she will cringe once and get over it (at least outwardly; she may be kicking herself in private) – but the longer this goes on, the worse it’ll be.

  10. Amber Rose*

    Some of that sounds not SO bad. But all together, it sounds like a nightmare. I have no idea how nobody has snapped at her yet. I’d have been tempted to be the Eeyore to her Pooh and tell her that her greeting cards contribute to deforestation and garbage production and are terrible for the environment and will doom us all or something.

    Snark aside, you CAN push back. “Please stop telling me about food and snacks, thank you.” “Please only email me about work related matters.” “I’m not interested in taking photos, please stop asking me.”

    If everyone is just not showing enthusiasm as opposed to asking her to stop, well, now is the time to ask her to stop.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I’d probably just do Amber’s second paragraph and opt-out of everything in general (versus just declining each instance). I like Alison’s “please take me off this email list” for her silly “national X day” emails. I’d tell her to stop coming to my desk to offer me snacks and to stop bugging me to do crafts.

      It’d be really nice of you or someone else to have a talk with her like Alison suggested, but ti’s also not your responsibility if you don’t want to!

  11. Kramerica Industries*

    I’m imagining that she has it in her head that because it’s a smaller company, she can be the savior to inject fun into the office in a “be yourself” gone wrong sort of way.

    1. Sister Spooky*

      Yep. I had a coworker like this. She was convinced that office morale was in the dumpster and she was our only hope. Seemed bent on saving the world with custom shrinky dink’s and legos.

  12. Folklorist*

    Oh, man…I really want an update on this one! The masks when there’s an important client there…oof. This reminds me of clueless interns at a startup who are trying to create a work hard/play hard culture!

    Is it possible that she’s not getting enough training or assignments while everyone else is working hard? Maybe she doesn’t have enough to do and/or sees everyone working so much as being sticks in the mud? Not that I really have a solution to that, but still…

    1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      This is a good point, and I think something we need to address as a group as we grow and bring on more staff. I have worked in larger, more corporate offices, and while I like the less formalized vibe in this office, we’re going to need a better standard of orientation and training. It’s likely the client and her project were explained to her, and very little else.

      1. Shelly574*

        If that’s the case, than I would think you would be doing a kindness to see this as a systematic problem as well as an individual problem. Clearly, there needs to be better on boarding. She sounds… difficult to deal with, but I suspect she’s coming from a place of ignorance, not malice.

        I do agree that something needs to be said and you’d be a good person if you were willing to be the one to say it.

    2. Noobtastic*

      I HATE “work hard/play hard.”

      How about “work hard/freaking RELAX!”

      Now, I’m all for the odd fun break at work, but it must *always* be opt-in, only, and it needs to be mostly simple, except for maybe a once-a-year blow out that fits in with the office culture at large.

      But “play hard”? NO THANK YOU! I get massively ticked off whenever anyone encourages me to play hard. The very word “hard” indicates extreme levels of difficulty and energy usage, and after working hard, I am TIRED.

      Let me have the odd fun break, and I will continue to give you my best. But push me to play “hard,” and I will craft sneaky and elaborate tricks to *destroy* you. Oh, but they sure will put a smile on my face, so does that count as “playing hard”?

      1. give me something I can use*

        Where I come from, work hard/play hard meant working efficiently and competently and then gtfo the office for serious elaborate hobby/partying (let’s go clubbing… in the woods!)

        I’m still confused by the people who think work hard/play hard means… drinking on the job, or something. It’s weaksauce partying, and coworkers aren’t automatically the people I want to have fun with!

  13. Observer*

    What is Nanny’s actual job?

    One thing to point out to whoever might have standing is that her behavior is not just annoying but could have significant impacts on business. She actually tried pulling this stuff when the office staff was with an important visitor! While it’s not a shocking or terrible thing to have done, I can see a LOT of reasonable reactions that would not be beneficial to the company. So, that’s another significant reason why this needs to be reigned in.

    IOW, the smile day bit has taken this from annoying to bad judgement with potential for problems.

  14. FormerTeacher*

    OP, you don’t mention the role that the new hire was hired for. Are you sure she/he wasn’t hired with this as part of the job? With all that said, she seems very tiring and Alison’s advice is solid. I’m a former elementary teacher and made the transition to a more traditional office in technology, she probably just needs some guidance on what is acceptable in an office setting.

    1. Dot*

      Who’s he/she? LW clearly states that the new employee is a “she”. Another commenter above referred to her as “they”. Why introduce ambiguity where there isn’t any? The LW was clear.

      1. Bea*

        It’s part of removing perceived genders. Just because someone says “she” doesn’t mean diddly. Lots of times we misidentify others.

        Stop nitpicking please.

        1. Dot*

          It says in the rules we’re supposed to take the LWs at their word. I’d be frustrated if I wrote in using a specific pronoun and readers questioned it.

          1. Bea*

            I dig it. But this is nitpicking and detailing.

            Many people also use gender neutral words around here. It’s just how they interact with the world. It’s really off putting to correct people’s language.

            1. Dot*

              I would argue that deliberately using different/more complicated pronouns than the LW is what counts as nitpicking here.

              Also, it’s distracting to those of us reading the comments. When I saw “they” and “he/she” I thought I had read the letter wrong and had assumed a gender that wasn’t there. So I went back and checked. Turns out, I hadn’t misread or made any assumptions. It was jarring and frustrating, and felt dismissive of the actual words the LW had written. It also felt like the commenters were the ones correcting other people’s language.

              Again, that’s the kind of thing that would make me not want to ever write in.

    1. Allison*

      I was thinking Elle Woods, or Andi Anderson from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when she was trying to be an absolute nightmare.

    2. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      I 100% sent a snarky email to my partner after she asked me what my favourite colour was to say “Working in peace is my favourite. Make that you’re new favourite.”

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        When I was a kid in the 80s and I would ask my mom what her favorite song was, she’d say, ‘The Sound of Silence’.

        It was not, in fact, her favorite song.

      2. Jessica (tc)*

        Has anyone seen the movie The Matchmaker? “Bollocks is my favourite colour!” (I think that every time I hear someone ask about someone else’s favorite color, and it never gets old to me.)

    3. RVA Cat*

      That, or she lost her job as a Canadian mayor for outsourcing emergency services to a kid and his talking dogs….

  15. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Does anybody watch the Good Place? If you don’t a group of people joined a scientific study, if you do SPOILER: last week’s episode, a new person joined the group. He made matching T shirts with everyone’s picture. He brought lemon bars, he organized outings and asked everyone to talk about their best and worst. Turned out, he was literally a demon, a demon, sent from Hell who determined this was the best way to make everyone so miserable that they quit.
    Just sayin’, it’s a theory!

    1. Sarah*

      “I Went to Australia and All I Got Was This Lousy Cross-Disciplinary Study and a Ton of New Best Friends!”

      1. Drop Bear*

        Those people are not in Australia! Worst Australian accents ever – they can’t be so unknowingly awful!

            1. Not Tom, just Petty*

              The woman Chidi is seeing? That accent isn’t right? I’m curious, because I’m American and her accent isn’t like an Outback commercial, so I thought she was fine. No?

              1. Rebeck*

                That accent is HIDEOUS. The actor is British, but I have to assume the terribleness if the accents are part of the story because if not, why are they putting the viewers through this torture???

                1. Airy*

                  I think they honestly think it’s good enough, and that Michael’s accent when pretending to be a librarian was the only one we were meant to find unconvincing. Chidi’s friend with the awful red boots sounds like an Australian to me (New Zealander) so maybe they advertised for Australian actors and at least got him, but the rest are varying levels of off.
                  Ironically Michael’s accent when Ted Danson was trying to sound fake was better than Simone’s.
                  I also slightly wonder how Eleanor paid for her ticket to Australia and what money she’s living on while she’s there, since she was working in telesales and that’s not especially well paid. Not to mention when she’ll get the boot from immigration for overstaying on a tourist visa.

    2. The Original K.*

      I loved this reveal, because when I was watching him I was like “He is doing entirely too much and would be driving me crazy.” And then THAT WAS THE POINT! That show is so good.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Yes, I was watching, like, “but those are nice things…I mean, but well, I would go nuts, but well…OH MY GOD! INSIDIOUS!”

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Pro Tip: if a sitcom character is doing it, it is Not Appropriate for a RL workplace

  16. AngryOwl*

    I really want to know what the new person’s official role is. Is there any way she (possibly erroneously) thinks this is part of her job?

    I know if that was a possibility the LW would probably have mentioned it, but I’m just so baffled by how intensely this person is acting.

  17. Lexi Kate*

    Who is paying for all of this? Is this all coming out of her own money or petty cash? If this is petty cash ask around to make sure everyone is on the same page and then it may be time to email the owner.

    Was the client your client? If so I would go a little further and set up a meeting afterwards with only her and tell her you were embarrassed by her childish actions with the client. And in the future explain that when the client is present you do not want her to bring up any of the childish implements she inflicts on the staff day to day.

    If its not your client your only option is to decline to participle and ask if she has an extra of whatever childish thing she has so both of your kids have one. Or to promptly throw away whatever toy she brings in immediately.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I was wondering that, too. If she got used to buying her own supplies or if she thinks she’s just supposed to hold the receipts until the end of the year for reimbursement. She may be surprised…or unstoppable.
      Are the younger people participating because they don’t know that they can opt out?
      I know if I were only a year or so into my first job, and additionally school was a recent experience, I would not realize that I could opt out. Hell, it took a couple years to learn you could skip “cake in the conference room for dude I don’t know” office wide events a few years ago, because I wasn’t sure of the protocol.

      1. Myrin*

        To your last point: From the way the OP describes the situation, it sounds like it was easy to see for basically the whole office that everyone but the few young people opted out, so I’m assuming they themselves were also aware of that. (Also, unless they’re equally as clueless as the new coworker, they’ve probably had ample opportunity beforehand to witness that no one really takes the newbie up on any of her suggestions.)

        1. Em*

          The few who participated could also be doing it because they feel sorry for her if no one participates.

    2. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I wonder if the money could provide a way to tactfully bring this up? “No thanks – but gosh, that looks expensive! I hope you aren’t spending too much of your own money on this; our office doesn’t really go in for this kind of thing and I’d hate for you to be spending a lot on something most people won’t appreciate.”

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Or alter it to suggest that she do a head count of people interested before she spends the money. “You don’t want to burn through the budget” kind of thing.
        “Oh, no, I’m buying these things myself.”
        “Wow, that’s above and beyond. I definitely think you should see who is interested before you invest your own money. By the way, WHY are you doing this?”
        Well, my hypothetical went off the rails, but I really want to know.

  18. give me something I can use*

    responding to her emails about National Pecan Day with “can you take me off your list for these emails?”

    Email etiquette has come a long way from reply-all ‘UNSUBSCRIBE EOM’, my goodness. (This is a good thing!)

  19. Marlowe*

    What the hellll.

    I’m a teacher. My students would loathe me if I acted so condescendingly with them. I can’t begin to imagine acting like this with adults. At work!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Someone commented above that it sounds more like sorority sister spirit stuff than teaching, and… yeah. I have seen a lot of this type of stuff. I know some people love it, but I’m not into it at all. As in, I tried decorating for Halloween once and I couldn’t even do that well. I don’t begrudge people their fun– in fact, I often enjoy the finished product– but man, the bouncy enthusiasm, I just can’t get with.

  20. Observer*

    By the way, I think it would help to realize that this is not really a “former teacher” thing. I know a lot of teachers, including some preschool teachers. NONE of them would ever behave close to this with adults. I mean, yes, the occasional overly cheery “OK everyone have all finished? Let’s be good and clean up!” or “Does anyone need to go to the potty?” or similar slip ups. But I’m talking about OCCASIONAL. And, also nowhere near as intrusive and over the top as the things this person is doing.

    To the extent that anyone I know has gone further than that (and as I said, NEVER anything close to this), it’s been because of their character, not because they were a teacher. People would comment “Oh, you can see why X became a teacher.”

    1. Competent Commenter*

      I agree and appreciate you saying that. I work in the education field around many people who made their careers in K-12 education and NONE of them do this. They appropriately and usefully use some K-12 classroom techniques when teaching adults, so it’s clear they haven’t lose their teaching chops. But they don’t do anything like what’s described by the OP.

    2. bonkerballs*

      I have definitely, in the heat of an argument with my boyfriend, accidentally said “use your words, please” in my best preschool teacher voice. I was mortified and it definitely made him angrier at the time. Now we think it’s funny. But yeah, those things are mostly muscle memory, and you notice right away that what you just did doesn’t match the situation.

    3. neverjaunty*

      THIS. Her behavior isn’t ‘sorry, I’m used to three-year-olds’. It’s BANANA CRACKERS.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        My three year old niece has what I can best describe as an “old fashioned expression” for certain ludicrous situations. Think the aside glance to camera with one eyebrow raised.
        I’m her primary source of entertainment when she visits, and the *one time* I tried to do silly masks and drawing smiley faces she gave me the *oldest* of old fashioned expressions, and proceeded to put Princess Teddy in a time out for saying a bad word.

        So, yeah. This behaviour doesn’t fly with 3 year olds either.

    4. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      Fair point, thank you. We have other educators on staff who do not behave this way.

      1. Airy*

        Perhaps she’s no longer teaching because she approached it this way too, all gimmicks and no real rapport with the children.

  21. JJJJBBB*

    She’s being condescending and controlling for someone in the office only 3 weeks. She envisions herself as superior to all of the working jerks and is using too much work time pushing people to do things. Why is her way right and why does she think she can intrude on everyone every single day with her micromanaging parenting of competent adults. It’s not that she’s oblivious. She thinks she’s right and everyone else is wrong not to want to play all day at work. These activities are better left to a company picnic rather than an office and I would be resentful of her insistence that she be viewed as the “fun” one. It’s all about how she wants to be perceived and has nothing to do with what people want or need. She’ll be lucky to keep her job if she doesn’t start doing it.

  22. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Is OP asking how to opt out or how to guide new employee (can we go with Buddy the Elf, that Pumpkin said?) away from this demeaning, distracting and for the sake of alliteration demented behavior?
    Because OP, you can opt out easily: No thanks. Don’t explain, “I’m busy NOW. I have a meeting at X. I need to focus.”
    Just no thanks. Every time.
    If she pushes, she’s rude and out of line.
    Again, though. If you are looking for people to help in this ridiculous situation, help the newer, younger employees understand that this is completely optional, that it is not officially sanctioned and that they can say no, that they need to stay focused on work during the workday and that they do not have to give up lunch hours for any of this.

  23. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

    Thanks so much for answering my letter, Alison. This is very thoughtful advice. I’ll speak in private with the person who brought her up to speed on the project she’s working on and see what her take is. She works from home part of the week and sits far away from our new colleague otherwise, so she may not be as aware of the forced cheer. If she’s not interested in or willing to speak with her, I’ll follow your advice about asking her to have a coffee and a chat. I really like the idea of framing it as helping her not be hurt or baffled. Not perhaps a fun conversation, but one difficult chat is going to be better than being constantly irritated by the cheer.

    For those asking, she’s in her 40s and none of this is part of her job. She’s been brought in as a content creator and writer. We’re working on a very large document in her teaching area for a government client, and she’s meant to be the architect of this document, followed, we hope by further documents, teacher materials, training materials, etc.

    1. Celeste*

      I’m actually interested in why she left the classroom. She sounds like she would be amazing at it.

        1. many bells down*

          I have left the classroom a few times over the years to prevent burnout. I don’t think a tired, burnt-out teacher is good for the kids so I’ve gone and done something else for a few years until I’m ready to go back to teaching.

        2. Piper*

          Over 100k a year sounds like a pretty good living wage to me. That’s what the teachers I know make.

          1. 5 Leaf Clover*

            According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for a preschool teacher is $28,990 per year.

            1. Ellex*

              My mother is a retired preschool teacher – with a degree in early childhood education, no less! That salary sounds about right – preschool/kindergarten teachers usually make even less than grade school teachers, who often don’t make very much. It seems like the younger the kids you teach, the less money you make doing it.

          2. Hope*

            Where the hell are they teaching, because I’ve never heard of anyone making that much teaching, at least not in k-12 public schools. I had a masters when I taught 4 years ago and my salary was 40k. My colleagues with just a bachelor’s were doing good to be making 35k with a few years of experience.

          3. AnaEatsEverything*

            Any chance you’re not in the US, Piper? I’m in one of the most expensive areas in the country (Seattle) and the average salary for public school teachers here hovers around $60k. That even goes for the parents of my two best friends, who have both been teaching for 20+ years and make less than six digits.

          4. Eeyore's missing tail*

            Where do you live? Most teachers I know, including my MIL and SIL, make nowhere near that.

          5. Aisling*

            I’m guessing the teachers you know are professors in an academic environment at a university. No K-12 teacher I know has ever come close to six figures.

            1. Piper*

              I’m in NYC suburb area and teachers start at around 50/60k with bachelor degree. They get to six figures after masters + and years spent teaching. I would imagine a preschool teacher makes less as that is much less rigorous than a secondary school teacher.

              1. Aisling*

                Ah, you’re in the area with the best K-12 schools in the US and a higher cost of living, so higher salaries would make sense, though I’ve still never heard of six figures outside of administration. Preschool teachers usually do make less as they have shorter contracts than secondary teachers do, but I wouldn’t classify what they do as much less rigorous – they teach a different set of skills besides just academic, but important skills nevertheless.

              2. Starbuck*

                Those are going to be some of the highest paid positions in the country, then, and you’re talking about people with two advanced degrees and quite a lot of experience – not at all representative of the pay for the profession generally, unfortunately.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  Yeah, my mom a special Ed teacher with an MA who retired two years ago after 20-odd years as the head of the department, and I think she made about 50k. She doesn’t live in a particularly wealthy area but it’s not a small town or anything.

            2. Smarty Boots*

              Hahaha, most professors don’t make that much either. Six figures!!!!! Lol, I’ll tell my spouse they need to get a raise. (Sorry, not intended to be mean, just so far outside my experience!)

      1. Observer*

        Actually, I don’t think she’d be an amazing teacher at all. Good teaching is not about “rah, rah, rah” and FUN ACTIVITIES every day. Those kinds of teachers can be every bit as exhausting to children as to adults.

        She’s also missing some key components of good teaching, most notably the ability to read your students and respect their needs and reactions. She’s also clearly not understanding that context matters in how acceptable a behavior is. You know, like “indoor voice” vs “outdoor voice”. Or “we do x in the backyard, but not in the classroom.” Or “we do silly face masks in class with teacher, not when the Principle comes to class with a Very Important Visitor.” etc.

      2. LawBee*

        I don’t know – she is acting more like a daycare supervisor or Family Fun Castle birthday organizer.

        either way, good luck, LW. And maybe drop a word to the four young employees (I’m assuming young means first job) that they don’t have to participate if they don’t want to.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        No… I think she’d be really, really bad at teaching if she tried to pull that stuff with kids. The ones I know would eat her alive…

      4. Else*

        That does NOT sounds like an amazing teacher – it sounds like a maddening, exhausting one. I hated every teacher I ever had who tried this awful fakey-fakey forced cheery bonding stuff. Most of what was described sounded more like those terrible icebreakers for new groups rather than fun activities for preschoolers.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yeah, don’t get me started. I could write books, especially about my 2nd grade teacher.

      5. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        I believe she wants to make a greater impact, and this job will definitely allow her to reach more people. I understand she’s an extremely good teacher and an expert in the area she was hired for. Also why I don’t want her to be hurt over office culture, and why I don’t want to be irritated with her. It’s a really great group of people doing good work, and I wouldn’t want her to feel like she doesn’t fit in or that people are avoiding her.

    2. rocklobsterbot*

      sounds like she’d be having trouble getting her actual work done with all this nonsense. Is she any good at it?

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Exactly my question. Hours every week thinking about and executing these cruise director things, plus coming up to speed on her actual responsibilities, can’t be good for her productivity.

      2. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        I’m not sure of the quality of her work. I’m an editor and project manager, and I work on a different set of projects. I’ll likely see the document as an editor down the road, but it’ll be months form now.

        We’ve been lucky (or well-hired?) until now, in that almost everyone we’ve brought on has had the right skillsets and attitude for the job. We really haven’t developed a formal onboarding process, and we should probably do that to help new hires orient themselves.

        1. Bea*

          Since she’s new, does she have a full workload yet? Maybe she’s filling in gaps until her work picks up? Still she shouldn’t be disrupting others but that’s a thought of why she’s not working steadily on things.

      1. serenity*

        Exactly. Writing gratitude notes and doing “fun” activities with masks sound very far removed from her actual work duties. Someone higher up should be aware, or made aware, of this.

      2. Snickerdoodle*

        That is a good point. Others have observed that maybe she doesn’t have a full workload yet, but I wondered about that since usually the first couple of weeks on the job are super busy with training, asking questions about initial projects, etc. And to start right off the bat with all this out-of-pocket stuff is so . . . EXTRA . . . that I kind of wonder if there wasn’t some misunderstanding involving what her actual job duties are.

    3. Audra*

      You say she works from home part of the week. I wonder if she’s lonely and wants to make friends with everyone and just doesn’t know how to do it.

      1. Myrin*

        The person who works from home part of the week is “the person who brought [new coworker] up to speed on the project she’s working on”, not new coworker herself; I feel like everyone would be grateful if new coworker was the one working from home, though.

          1. Kathy*

            What is her job title? Does the person who hired her see this behavior?
            Apologies for the questions; but in a small company; how is she getting anything done?

            1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

              She’s a writer and content developer for material in her teaching area. She would have been hired by the person who has given her training and by the owner, so no, neither sees the day-to-day stuff as much as many of us do. I would imagine the work so far has been good, as that is what they’d have seen so far.

              I think she just has a LOT of energy and does a lot of the prep work on her own time. The stress balls appeared before the start of the day, the masks were procured at lunch, etc.

    4. Nita*

      Oh, my. Sounds like she’s spending an awful lot of time on bringing cheer to the office, so maybe she has no idea how to start working on the document, and is expressing her frustration in this really strange way. Might help to ask her if she needs any extra support with the writing.

      Also, if your company is big enough to have the funds, maybe communications training for her? Since her work will still have to do with teaching, it kind of makes sense why her mind is still in teaching mode – but she definitely needs help realizing when to switch gears to dealing with adults.

    5. BeenThereSaidThat*


      I’ve actually had to have a very similar conversation with a new employee at my current job. She was very excited to decorate cubes and bring in surprise treats. I phrased the conversation that the people in the office are fairly conservative and quiet and prefer to focus on work, so “although that sounds fun in your last office, it won’t go over well here”. It seemed to help take the blame/awkwardness off the new employee and she was fine with hearing that she needs to change her actions.

      1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        Thanks. This framing is helpful. I haven’t been able to frame it in my head in a way that isn’t “OMG go away please.”

      2. theletter*

        Same here – I’ve told a couple of women that I’ve mentored that it’s a really bad idea to offers treats on people at their desks, or to bring in store-bought snacks to ‘cheer people up’. I think what can happen is that people get into the mindset that every gathering is an excuse for a potluck . . . but work is not the case. Work is for working, the end. If you’re the person pushing treats on people instead of working . .. that looks bad. It looks like you’re trying to compensate for something, instead of just getting your work done.

        There’s a couple of holidays/events where it’s fine to have a celebration, but those should be few and far between so they feel special.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          At my old work place, people often brought in treats and left them in the kitchen, but they didn’t force them on coworkers.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Based on what I’ve seen at my own company, she’d be a great fit for marketing.

      I think it would be a real kindness to have a chat with her if no one else has. I’m surprised she hasn’t scaled it back based on employee reaction, but she also seems kind of oblivious to reactions.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Oh, no thanks. I’m in marketing. You have to tailor your efforts to your target audience and adjust as needed.

          1. Else*

            I sympathize with both of y’all – I’ve come to really value the purpose and skills of marketing, but my early encounters with the profession were SOOOO annoying. It took years before I met some normal ones and was able to overcome my first impression.

    7. annejumps*

      Huh. As a technical writer, I have to say there’s not much of a connection between this field and early childhood education, but then, maybe they were interested in her degree…?

      1. Kelly L.*

        It sounds like it’s a document about teaching, and so they wanted a teacher heavily involved in it.

    8. Kella*

      OP, I very much agree with Alison’s advice and if you find that you’re the one talking to her about the issue, I encourage you to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she has a good reason for doing this, and she’s just misinformed about how its affecting others or whether it’s a good idea at all.

      I was also struck by how much time, energy, and money she must be putting into this. Some other folks are guessing that she must be expecting reimbursement or not actually getting her work done if she’s doing all this too, but my understanding of teachers is that organizing activities, buying supplies, and just generally doing work outside of working hours is very normal, so it’s unlikely she would let these extra things interfere with her actual work.

      But others have pointed out, this is extreme even for an elementary school teacher. It’s not normal to put together this many activities in such a short amount of time. Which makes me wonder, *why* is she putting so much time, energy, and money into this? Even if she has a lot of energy, it must be challenging and stressful for her to keep up all of this work and adjust to a new job at the same time, right? What is she getting out of dedicating so much to this?

      My best guess is that she somehow got it into her head that this is the best tactic she had to get people to like her, to fit in, to be accepted into her new community. If an office environment was foreign to her and she was nervous about fitting in, she may have thought okay, what do I have to offer that will make me likable? And apparently organizing fun activities was what she settled on. Other than not reading the room, she seems to be very good at it. Why she hasn’t noticed people’s lack of enthusiasm and stopped I’m not sure, but we all get into ruts sometimes where we’ve decided that if we do this particular thing well enough and/or frequently enough, then we will truly be able to prove our worth as human beings, and if it hasn’t worked yet we just need to *do it more*.

      With all that said, it’s very likely she’ll be really relieved to hear that she doesn’t need to put this much time, energy, and money into getting people to like her, and will appreciate some guidance on how to get adjusted to this new group of people who want to like her, but can’t with her current set of behaviors.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Maybe I’m just a little tired, but I’m not feeling quite as generous. ‘I’m now starting to wonder if there’s not some kind onf social experimenet happening in her head and she’s using her co-workers as a way of helping to generate the content for the teaching materials.

        (As in “When it’s National Smile Week, here are some projects you can use with age groups x,y,z”)

    9. Close Bracket*

      > content creator and writer

      I don’t know about your company specifically, but in general, those are creative roles and her behavior sounds in line with a creative thinker. That might be an aspect to keep in mind when you talk with her.

    10. Name Required*

      OP, you are a saint. From heaven. You are saving your coworkers from this unnecessary nonsense and trying to be kind and generous to your coworker at the same time. On behalf of all of your coworkers: Bless you.

    11. Auntie Social*

      Don’t talk to her until after Halloween–we want an update. And to know what kind of snacks she brought.

  24. Rae*

    Is writing “gratitude notes” a thing? Like an actual thing? It sounds like the evil second cousin of thank you notes or something.

    1. Cassandra*

      Gratitude exercises can be one way to redirect a relentlessly complaint-filled workplace vibe (assuming, of course, that actual problems have been appropriately dealt with). That’s… not what’s happening with OP’s colleague.

    2. Aleta*

      I’m pretty sure I remember doing that in Sunday School? Not sure though. (I was homeschooled until high school so no point of reference there)

    3. Cruciatus*

      It’s reminding me of Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes segment and would be how I’d do them if this was actually required.

      “Thank you, take-out restaurants who put two spoons a two forks in the bag, for being nice enough to assume that all this food I ordered is for two people.”

      “Thank you, ‘Talk soon!’ for being another way of saying, ‘Talk never!’”

      1. Dance-y Reagan*

        This is ripe for a Friday thread.

        “Thank you, weird guy in accounting, for reminding me that my Uncle Frank’s eye-blistering cologne could always be worse.”

    4. Lucille2*

      This sounds similar to peer-to-peer recognition that some companies do. I’ve worked for a couple of large companies that had different versions of this. It was not mandatory, and there was not a designated day to do it, it was an ongoing program. There was always some kind of reward system attached to it that was ripe for abuse. I’m a fan of recognizing peers for their work, but I wasn’t a fan of any of the systems I’ve seen.

      1. Rae*

        Does anyone else ever think there is a room full of people where they put sticky notes with nouns on one wall and calendars on another wall and just throw darts at both and then match them up for “World Whatevertheheck Day”?

        1. Else*

          I think in the US they create these so that our divided, antagonistic legislative branch can pretend they did something bipartisan.

          1. TootsNYC*

            there are almost never connected to the government, and almost always connected to some industry, trade organization, special interest group, nonprofit, or charity.

            And occasionally by a hobbyist.
            For example:

            In 2006, National Punctuation Day® founder Jeff Rubin and his wife, Norma, began performing Punctuation Playtime® assemblies in elementary schools. Punctuation Playtime® has been performed nearly 75 times in schools from California to Chicago to New York.

            This guy started it in 2003 simply by declaring it (and probably making a website), and it became a promotional thing for his business in addition to a fun thing.

            National Popcorn Day is named and promoted by the National Popcorn Board.

            There’s generally nothing governmental about it, certainly not in the beginning. (Some states might declare them)

    5. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

      Once you get over the sort of eye-rolling cheesiness of it, it can be a really wonderful exercise. Some recipients will roll their eyes and toss it in the trash. But you may be surprised how a little card or note out of the blue letting you know how much you’re appreciated can be a huge deal to someone. Maybe they’re secretly going through a rough time. Maybe they just never get told that they’re an important person in someone’s life (this is especially true for men who get fewer compliments from strangers and friends).

      The key is not to go overboard (the only people who I’ve sent multiples of these to have been very important people who have been in my life for years) and be sincere. It doesn’t have to be sappy. Sometimes it’s as small as a post-it note stuck to someone’s monitor that says “Thanks for [thing]. I appreciate it. -Me”

      But I agree with everyone: this woman is like, whoa, overboard.

      1. Auntie Social*

        My dad was a senior VP of a large bank in the midwest and a Rotarian. He sent 5 “attaboy” notes a day, with the stationary and postage in his car, and a list of his recipients. He said people were recognized less and verbally abused more, and who was sort of “invisible”–hospital orderlies, the fruit guy at the grocery store, the presser at the cleaners. He’d talk to gardeners and maintenance staff and say “So you’re why this always looks so nice!” At his funeral it was so crowded you’d think the president died.

    6. ECHM*

      Every once in a while I write an encouraging note to someone when I appreciate something they are doing, especially if I think they might not be getting recognized for it.

  25. voyager1*

    The emails wouldn’t bother me. I can just delete those. As for snacks, uhh I like to eat. :)

    But the rest of that is a bit much. Just pull her aside and thank her for what she is trying to do, but tell her it isn’t necessary and quite disracting in an office environment . If that doesn’t work then become more direct to her.

    I wonder what is motivating this kind of behavior though.

    1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      For sure. On their own, each incident isn’t bad. And people definitely bring in stuff they’ve baked, the owner will bring in snacks sometimes, etc. We never have a dearth of things to munch on. But it’s the going around telling everyone to go get a snack that is irritating. I’m capable of finding pie on my own, trust me ;)

      1. 5 Leaf Clover*

        Haha yes – in my office you would have to hide a pie in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory to keep it from disappearing within an hour.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Haha, yes–My coworkers and I detour regularly past the mailboxes where treats routinely show up. No one needs to be told. We’re like pets in that regard; we behave best when motivated by food.

      2. LKW*

        Maybe make your own office calendar with theme days:
        – Peaceful Contemplation Day
        – Somber Reflection Day
        – Chocolate cookie day (snacks are snacks)
        – Thoughtful consideration Day
        – Hell Yeah, it’s Friday Day

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          At toxic old job, we used to get Thank God It’s Wednesday cakes to celebrate making it halfway through the week.

  26. Observer*

    A few people brought up the possibility that she was actually hired to do stuff like this. I find it very unlikely – and if they did, they did a TERRIBLE job of hiring.

    For one thing, this person seems to be hitting every single stereotype of “awful forced fun” activities (with the exception of the “bro” type stuff.) For another, most organized “fun activities” are not done randomly around important visitors.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I don’t think anyone thinks she is actually doing her job correctly right now!! The main line of thought seems to be that she was hired to do “something” that includes office events or maintenance or admin work… and has terribly misunderstood it!

  27. Free Meerkats*

    I would add into the anticipated outcomes a 20% chance of serious butt hurt and “I was just trying to help!” with added sulking. And I’d take it from the 80% side. So be prepared for that possibility.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Yeah, your comment brought to mind my father, who would say to us kids when we were irritating him: “Don’t go away mad, just go away.”

    1. chi type*

      Yeah, I was going to say- I think Alison’s odds calculation was preeeety optimistic with someone this aggressively clueless. But it still needs to be done!

  28. Junior Dev*

    “But there’s a 20% chance that she’ll double down — that she’ll decide the rest of you are sticks in the mud who need her to bring cheer into your lives, and the day after this talk you will come into work to discover that she’s set up pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a sand table for you to all play in.”

    This is honestly how I feel about most Mandatory Fun attempts at work and the response Alison describes is the most irritating thing to that. I’m not at work to have fun.

    1. Airy*

      When people have fun at work it’s usually because they enjoy the actual tasks they do, not because of bolted-on or jammed-in activities that distract them from the parts of their job they really like.

  29. MuseumChick*

    If you do end up speaking directly to her about this, you could also point out that behavior like this can lead to her being taking less seriously in the work place, especially as a woman.

      1. KC without the sunshine band*

        It would certainly lead me to believe she doesn’t have enough work to fill her day, and rather than being proactive in a productive way, she’s wasting her time (and everyone else’s) on her little “fun”.

  30. ThatGirl*

    It’s funny, I had a part-time coworker at my last job who was also a preschool teacher.

    She brought in fun themed pencils for our small group on holidays – Valentine’s, St Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July – but that was the ONLY classroomy/teacher/preschool type thing she did. And it was cute and I had a fun collection of pencils. Anything much more than that would be serious overkill.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’d actually like that.

      Some of the stop OP’s coworker does wouldn’t bother me, like the snacks (food!) and toys (I like little toys to play with while I’m working something out), but a lot of it is WAY over the top and annoying. I like some fun, but that’s way too much for me.

    2. LKW*

      It’s a sweet idea. Unless your colleague demanded you take the pencil, or would get upset if someone didn’t take a pencil, it’s a nice blend of being quirky and sweet without being overbearing.

      1. ThatGirl*

        she typically brought in a bunch and let us take our pick. If anyone had declined it would’ve been no big deal.

    3. Belle of the Midwest*

      We had an administrative assistant here who always brought in Hershey’s miniatures on St. Nicholas Day. She’s send out an email saying, “St. Nicholas left me some treats to share. Stop by my office if you would like one.” And we all loved it. People who didn’t like chocolate or were off sugar didn’t have to directly say no, and those of us who never say no to chocolate knew where to find it that day.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Yeah, all the “fun” stuff in our office is planned, optional, and very food-centric. No one feels ambushed, and no one really notices or cares if you don’t participate.

  31. TootsNYC*

    Thank God she’s not in a classroom–can you imagine how much math and social studies her first-graders would NOT be learning every day?

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, yes. One of the more embarrassing facts from my past is that, for two years, I taught Sunday School. My first year, they partnered me with someone like OP’s coworker, who taught kindergarten. I was supposed to be in a sort of apprentice role to her, who was a more experienced teacher. My partner would ALWAYS come in late or no-show, quickly drop a load of incorrect information on the kids, and have them do crafts. She told them so many things that were way, way off. I don’t mind as much now, as my opinion of Sunday School and whether five-year-olds need to be attending one has changed a lot since then. But, back then, I was livid. I found myself looking forward to her no-show days, so I could actually teach the class something. At the end of the year, I called the principal and begged her to partner me with anyone else the following year. But we always had the best-decorated classroom – she’d come in early or stay late and decorate, with supplies that she bought with her own money (see the pattern?)

    2. bonkerballs*

      To be fair, OP says she has an early childhood background. That’s infants through pre-K. They wouldn’t be sitting through math and social studies lessons anyway.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I don’t know Maths and Social Studies, but there are daycares and kindergartens that offer bilingual (and even trilingual) education and other early stimulation for toddlers. Those parents wouldn’t be happy if a teacher brings Justin Bieber masks instead of teaching them the ABCs.

        1. bonkerballs*

          Let me be clear, I’m not saying kids don’t learn in early childhood education. I’m saying you don’t have math and social studies lessons the way a first grader would. The best preschools are moving away from rigid curriculum and instead using reggio and reflective practice models where children learn through play. So those Justin Bieber masks and other dramatic and musical play are just as important (and in fact maybe more so) than sitting your toddler down and making them recite their ABCs.

      2. TootsNYC*

        My kid was in a really great daycare, and they did a lot of “academic” stuff. Building with blocks (physics), coloring (small motor skills), etc. The stuff she’s doing isn’t really teaching anything.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My youngest son’s daycare/preschool had a teacher who had a second job as a ballroom dance teacher, and she would teach every outgoing class of preschool “seniors” (4-5 years old) ballroom dancing. Then had them do a dance recital at graduation. The kids wore their best clothes and she provided bowties, gloves and such. It was actually pretty amazing. All the kids somehow danced exceptionally well.

          They learned numbers, letters and basic reading, and other similar things as well. My son was reading by the middle of his last year in preschool. It was in no way a fancy private daycare that you read about, with tuition fees in the five digits or anything like that. There was a short waitlist because of how popular it was, but overall, just a regular preschool.

        2. bonkerballs*

          I mean, that’s probably because she’s in an office of adults and not actually a classroom?

  32. Lucille2*

    Coworker’s behavior seem pretty over the top for someone who is just trying to bring a bit of personality into the office. What is her role exactly? I have to wonder if part of the terms of her hire were to help boost morale or something since hard work and long hours seem to be the norm. Or perhaps she’s been task to bring in some kind of reward system. I mean, she’s obviously spending a lot of time and money on her pursuit. It seems like a lot of cost & effort on one’s own dime.

    There are some office cultures where this would be welcome, but unfortunately, sounds like she’s not in one of them. Believe it or not, but I’ve actually seen the celebrity mask thing at a former workplace. I thought it was corny, but people were taking selfies with them. And I’ve never known anyone to balk at the offering of treats.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think people are really balking at the offer of treats per se. But “reminding” people that they should go get a teat is a bit different. Also, it’s not just ONE thing – it’s a pattern. I mean look at all of the things she’s done and it’s only been three weeks.

      Even if you left out the most problematic issues – the gratitude cards are SERIOUSLY out of line and doing unplanned “cute” stuff around important guests is tone deaf at best – the intensity of the activity is just exhausting.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Also, co-worker’s behavior could be undermining people with health issues. Lots of people have to lose weight or watch their cholesterol or have diabetes, for instance. Reminding people to get treats needs to be shut down – NOW.

      2. EddieSherbert*

        Exactly! I’m all for treats in the break room but I don’t want you coming around to my desk to remind me to go take a break and have a snack…

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Since I can’t eat the treats with my food allergies, it would be annoying and, after the first 3 times I said “no thanks, I have food allergies”, disrespectful!

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    Alison’s idea for taking her out to coffee and explain that is NOT A THING HERE is great (as usual) but I would also add that no one outside of New Girl wants it to be a thing and it is time to shut it down. That will hopefully cut off any the doubling down she might do.

    1. The Original K.*

      I agree. “This is not a thing here” could be met with “Well, why not make it a thing? It’s fun!” Don’t give her an opening!

        1. Auntie Social*

          This is how you wind up with one employee in a princess costume on Halloween, trying to liven up this stuffy place. At least this one will be giving people treats and not begging for candy in the board room!

  34. Murphy*

    I’m ForeverAlone at work, and sometimes I wish I had more social interaction (or even work interactions) but then I see what the opposite can look like…

    1. Bea*

      This is the extreme!

      In my old position I found these cute cat ears headbands. I wore it because I’m that girl. My reports loved it so I got us all matching pairs. When not wearing them we had them propped up on our desks.

      Hard at work with our cat ears. I never would have brought them in for everyone if I hadn’t received such great reaction to them, you know? It’s all about knowing your audience.

      I quietly decorated my office door for Halloween. Low-key window clings. People stop and admire them and how they make them smile etc. You can be social without these antics!

      1. Murphy*

        Haha, that’s awesome. I definitely know that it’s possible to be social without it being like daycare.

        Off topic, but I do actually wish I had more social interaction. I’m not avoiding people on purpose! I’m just a team of one and all the desks around me are empty. I have social anxiety on top of that, so it’s hard for me to reach out when I have very little reason to interact with people “naturally”.

        That being said, I would not be volunteering to pose for pictures with silly masks. Bring on the snacks though!

        1. Bea*

          I was an island for over 10 years. It’s absolutely isolating, I feel you! My short time in an open office (low cube walls though) was freeing until drama creeped in from the sides.

          This is why company lunches are nice! You have a reason to venture into a meeting spot.

          I loath pictures so masks or costumes make me feel safe LOL

      2. Snickerdoodle*

        “You can be social without these antics!” is perfect. I have cat pictures outside my cube to show off my favorites from the shelter. A lot of people stop by to look at the pictures or read their stories (little blurbs under the photos), and sometimes I get questions about shelter events or cat behavior, and sometimes people bring me donations for the shelter. I would NEVER traipse around the office insisting that everyone look at the pictures, attend an adoption event, donate, etc. That would achieve the opposite of what I hope for.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I had to stop watching most broadcast TV because the abused-animal commercials made me want to kill myself. I also have to block that stuff on FB and unfollow friends who post it.
          The slightest hint of such things makes me brace myself and avoid. I would probably not walk by your cube at all if I could avoid it, or look away if I couldn’t.
          If you did go around putting it in my face, I would have to go to HR or quit without notice.

          1. puppies*

            I believe Snickerdoodle is just referring to cute pics of adoptable cats. Not pics of animal abuse.

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      Yes, my old job was constant noise and people getting in my face and never shutting up. Now I sit in a cube in a low-traffic area and nobody ever bothers me. It’s fantastic. :D

  35. Ruthie*

    I’m not convinced the behavior has anything to do with her background. I work in early childhood development, and while my office doesn’t interact with children, just about everyone I work with does have an educational and professional background with Kids. And the same things would fall flat here.

  36. Rusty Shackelford*

    This does sound annoying and exhausting, but I’d be able to put up with it if it came with a daily afternoon nap.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Y’know… there are MANY things I could live with if it meant a daily afternoon nap… bring on the masks!

  37. Yikes Dude*

    Are you sure that “culture building” isn’t part of her job? She could just be really bad at tailoring programs to the audience. I know that I when I joined my company everyone was like “why is she planning activities and posting random stuff on slack?” because no one had ever had that job before. BUT I understood the whole point is to build up this team, not to make them feel obligated to do weird stuff.

  38. AKchic*

    Oh good grief. *I* personally semi-celebrate daily holidays as a distraction and to get people to see the ridiculous (and to GISH daily), but never would I do this (and I organized Waffle Day for 6 years in my last job).

    This isn’t over-the-top. This is crossing lines and making yourself out to be a nuisance (that is the kindest word I can find).
    I think everyone should celebrate Beer and Pizza Day to deal with this individual.

    1. Shelly574*

      We do Pie Day (Pizza and Fruit Pies), but it’s once a year. I mean… wow. This just seems like a lot.

  39. Bea*

    I’m exhausted reading this letter. I’m into everything she’s doing but on a much smaller and sporadic scale. She’s steamrollering you all in hopes to break right into the office like a clown…does she have a very small car by chance?

    I even dress up for comic relief at lowkey events and have been greeted with joy. But the whole thing is understanding timing. It’s like comedy.

    Goodness gracious. I pray it’s the transition to working with kids but I’ve known countless preschool and daycare providers who can switch it off for the big kids or parents…jeez.

  40. AdminX2*

    I’m curious what she was hired to do and if it was at all encouraged to her to become a Spirit Team Leader or something? Even then there’s such a thing as pacing and reading the room which she isn’t doing. Other than politely saying no thanks every time you don’t want it or eventually creating a true spirit team to try and rein her in, it’s a tough spot.

    1. Bea*

      Hmmm perhaps. If she was, I should give her some pro tips. I was most spirited after all. It’s about reeling them in on their own and not force. I’m the one with outfits and face paint, you just have to hangout and let people come to you. It can be infectious if you aren’t in their face constantly.

  41. AnonToday*

    Anyone else reminded of the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily takes a guy’s baseball because he was mean and that is how she dealt with kindergarteners? Lily (rightfully) gets fired in that episode. You can’t treat adults like children.

  42. Retired Lady*

    This sounds way over the top crazy, except for one thing–the idea of a group photo (a normal one, not with masks) is nice. I’m retired now and have some work photos of my office, usually taken for an occasion (office baby shower, someone leaving, just goofing around, etc.). My company has since gone bankrupt and closed, everyone lost their jobs. I cherish those photos now.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Group photo to put on your website in an “about us” or something like that could be great PR too, depending on what kind of work you do.

    2. AdminX2*

      Even then, that’s something to be planned, with management, well in advance and an opt out. The problem when you do SO MUCH is that even the good stuff becomes annoying.

      1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

        Definitely. I don’t think I mentioned, she came in with a camera and asked everyone to gather around. I’d dress up a bit and pick a different lipstick if I were ready to have my official photo taken!

        1. SleepyTimeTay*

          Wait, wait, wait….she just brought a camera in and tried to do it!? Did anyone partake?

        2. bonkerballs*

          Ugh, that just happened to me! It wasn’t work, but a community performance based organization that I am part of. During our last rehearsal they announced that someone was there to take promotional photos for our upcoming performance. I was like !!!!! Let people know ahead of time so they can make sure they’re presentable for promotional materials!

    3. Bea*

      This makes me smile. I wish I had photos from my past jobs.

      The only place we did semi structured photos was hell on earth. The photo was outdated within a month at times. No joke.

  43. Cosette*

    I think some people make the mistake of thinking you can force fun. For me, the most enjoyable treats and such have been really spontaneous. Recently someone in our office (with the grandboss’s blessing) organized an ice cream social.. planned well in advance. And hardly anyone came. Not out of disinterest, I don’t think, just because they were so busy. OTOH, one very hot day at another job, a few of us got together and bought a bunch of ice cream treats and offered them up. It was a quiet day, not so busy… maybe a friday afternoon… and we were all just trying to get through to the end of the week. That went over extremely well. Of course, we also did stuff like that only very rarely… and not in the first 3 weeks of coming on board!

    1. AdminX2*

      Then that wasn’t planned well to not carve out time or plan it for AFTER the busy part as a celebration. Because if groups DON’T plan that, they get the feedback they never do any team building and dinged for it.

  44. Goya de la Mancha*

    I would expect to see a list like this being shared about a well liked long term employee at their retirement party. “Polly always brought in those amazing cake bars!” “Remember that day that Polly got us all stress balls and it escalated into an impromptu snowball fight?!” – NOT ALL WITHIN 3 WEEKS OF STARTING YOUR JOB!!!

    “Is there any chance you could get her to organize nap time?” yes please! If organizing is your jam, please add this to your list. Always.

    1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      This certainly was driven home for me during the lunch last week where everyone *was* enjoying each other’s company and talking over good catering before she came in and tried to hand out the masks so we could have “fun.” The natural stuff is always better than the enforced stuff.

      1. OhNo*

        You know, that might be a point to bring up if you do have a chat with her. If you want to give her alternatives to the forced-fun nonsense she’s been trying, you could mention that this office’s version of “fun” is low-key chatting with coworkers after a big meeting/lunch, or one-on-one collaboration sessions, or something else equally quiet.

        If you think she’s the type to latch on to categories, toss the word “introvert” in there as well. I’ve had at least one colleague in the past who refused to believe people just weren’t that into group events until someone uttered the magic word and basically said, “It’s not you, it’s us! We’re all just boring, anti-social introverts. So please stop.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        Use the term “organic”–that your team responds better to “organic” bonding, and that it seems to happen all on its own, if she hangs back and observes for a bit, she’ll see.

        I once read a study that had been done that proved that the best way for children (and adults) to make friends is NOT to walk up and say, “Hi, I’m Joe,” and expect to be immediately welcomed in. It doesn’t work that well.

        The EFFECTIVE way to join a group is to hang back, observe, and then insert yourself in small doses here and there, when it’s more organic.

        And of course, like so many grownups, I’d told my own young daughter to do the first one.

  45. an infinite number of monkeys*

    Well, +1 for celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day, at least.

    I have a coworker who started out a lot like this and has, very gradually, toned down quite a bit (though it’s been a couple of years now, and there was some pointed sulking over who did and did not accept Facebook friend requests). It’s possible that she’s just extremely anxious to make a place for herself in the new workplace and will calm down on her own after a while, if you can stand the adjustment period.

  46. puppies*

    OP – any chance she feels this is part of her job? Or that part of her job is help with employee culture? You say she doesn’t have a manager but who hired her? What is her job function?

  47. Nox*

    My office culture is into gimmicky stuff like this. We are just a bunch of rowdy call center animals and we like it that way.

    I definitely agree you gotta wait it out to see the office culture first before going bananas.

    1. anonykins*

      Yes, I find this super amusing because my office also celebrates World Smile Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day and all manner of ridiculous holidays. We do emotionally taxing work, and we need a fun way to blow off steam. But, that’s our culture (whether it’s always totally appropriate and non-pressurey…no. But I’m the most junior person on staff and not really in a position to change that). I would NEVER come in and try to do all of those things, on my own, in my first three weeks. Agh!

    2. Bea*

      I’m giggling over “rowdy call center animals”.

      But yes a million times, yes. Know your audience.

      I moved to a much more somber pulled together company. I eased on in. Now my silliness is shown with clipart on our all office memos and window clings on my window (I don’t share space so I can decorate to my own tastes). I’m a quiet clown that people can visit at their own risk.

  48. LKW*

    I could not deal with this. My first thought with the emoji stress balls was that you could x out the eyes on them, stick them on pencils and line them up, much like they used to behead prisoners and then post them on the gates to warn people. That probably would be overkill. I’m sure it would be overkill. Don’t do that.

    1. Oranges*

      My little McDonald toys got “hung” by tape at my desk. In the hanger’s defense, I might have put them all in a line staring at them…

      What can I say, the line between cute and creepy is endlessly amusing to me. They knew their audience though and knew I would find it hilarious.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      Clearly OP is referring to something like a Kinko’s or whatever. 30-whatever copies on cardstock isn’t rap star money, c’mon.

      1. LKW*

        But it’s still roughly $30, plus time to assemble said masks. If my coworker is going to spend money – don’t buy me tchatzchkes – give me munchkins.

        But seriously though – one of my greatest work achievements was convincing a party planning committee to forego the stupid trinkets with the company logo or stress balls or pens with hidden USB memory sticks and instead, let me buy $1500 of fancy chocolate (2 bars per person).

          1. Airy*

            When I was teaching the only thing in the way of “swag” you ever got would be a logo pen, and people would go “ooh a pen!” with genuine pleasure and sometimes there would be a discussion of whose freebie pens were best, concluding usually that the finest free pens are those nice smooth twisty ones in the BNZ bank.

        1. Flying Fish*

          My employer once bought everyone zip-up sweatshirts with the company logo and gave permission to wear them when the office is too cold. Best and only really great swag I’ve ever gotten at work.

  49. Terry*

    OP should advise the owner of this and see what they say. My view is the co worker is trying to create workplace culture for a workplace that clearly lacks it. Maybe it’s a good chance for OP to realise this is a really huge deal in other organisations and some ideas could be applied to increase motivation and engagement, which is also as important as studiously sitting at your desk and working independently.

    1. annejumps*

      Actually it sounds like these antics could be demotivating and cause disengagement. Kind of condescending to suggest any organization that isn’t rah-rah all the time is in the wrong and has no culture.

    2. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      I’ve worked in larger organizations before and even ran the social committee for a few years at one of them, where we would do costume contests, themed lunches, discounted tickets, 50/50 draws, bake sales, etc. We do have an office culture here, it’s just informal. We’ve never been a “pay to wear jeans on a Friday” type of place. We do have charities we’ve agreed to support, theatre or sports events we occasional will go out together to see, celebrations for birthdays or various achievements, and so on. Everyone chats and is friendly, and it’s never deathly quiet. For me personally, this kind of relaxed culture suits me better than “we’ve organized a fun fair and everyone has to go or people will ask why you didn’t participate.”

      That said, the owner wouldn’t have the patience to deal with this. That’s not a great thing, but he’s still very much in startup mode, works literally 20 hours a day, and isn’t ready to relinquish some of his many tasks to allow himself the brain space for interpersonal issues.

    3. JSPA*

      Complete disagree. It sounds like a bunch of people who know and legitimately enjoy each other and their work and their workplace, and don’t need gimmicks to make the day bearable. If that’s not true for the new hire, maybe she should find someplace she actually enjoys, or else go someplace where everyone else hates their job, doesn’t know their coworkers, and will welcome her distractions.

  50. Rayne*

    I’m sure she’s lovely, but I would HATE to have a coworker like this. I love that my office has a very low-key vibe. We’re all very friendly and chat, etc. but forced “fun” and cheer just wear me down like nothing else.
    OP, along with Alison’s advice I would say that if your cheery new hire has anyone else in the office she talks to the most then maybe they would be the best person to explain the culture situation. It might be less embarrassing for her.

    1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      She is very lovely, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feeling like she doesn’t belong. It’s a great workplace and I wouldn’t want her to feel excluded or disliked. I like your idea of someone she knows better having a chat with her.

  51. La Framboise*

    I have a friend who is like this, and sometimes we need to shut her down. Can’t imagine what working with her would be like. However, it’s just her personality, so be prepared for her inability to deal with pushback, and tell her, soon! (We have birthday parties at work for our co-workers, and have stopped bringing in random snacks–except for our Wednesday person, who brings in a 20-pack of Tim Horton assorted timbits. We tolerate that snack.)

    1. Colleague of Kindergarten Teacher*

      Haha Timbits are a staple here too. And no one has to walk around the office urging everyone to go eat them.

  52. I'd Rather not Say*

    Maybe it would be helpful for whoever hired her to be the messenger to this new person that some of her activities are a little over the top.

  53. Liet-Kinda*

    Guys…c’mon. She’s obviously a whole lot, and working with her is obviously like dumping a whole packet of kool-aid into one cup of water, but I think a lot of the hostility and aghastness is an awful lot. She’s clearly a nice, sunny person who, in her wrongfooted way, is trying to make people’s lives happier.

    And with that in mind, I really don’t think speaking to her is going to be as fraught as Alison and various commenters is assuming. This is good energy. It just needs redirecting. Use your words, don’t treat her like an imbecile, and set her loose on planning the office christmas party or whatever.

    1. Aurion*

      I think the aghast reactions are due to the new hire’s complete inability to read the room. It’s one thing to be overly sunny and wanting to do Activities All The Time (despite tepid responses from colleagues), it’s another to be Doing Silly Activities when your colleagues are preparing for a visit from an external VIP. This is giving me flashbacks to the story where a coworker dressed up for Halloween and interrupted a client meeting for trick-or-treating.

      1. Liet-Kinda*

        Sure. And I think she needs to be corrected on stuff like that – no impromptu silly time, and if she starts doing it when a client or VIP is around, “Hey, Bubbles, this is not really the time, Important Person is coming and we need to be on point.”

        I guess my point is, let’s not treat her or her behavior as fraught. Yes, it’s awkward, but I suspect if she’s told kindly to slow her roll, she will.

      2. Indie*

        It’s normal for kids to be pretty meh or grouchy though and she’s forged a very unfortunate habit of ploughing through it with positivity. Good in preschool, not so great with adults.

    2. Bea*

      I agree.

      My personal motto is “When I get going, I may need an adult”. My best friend has reeled me in numerous times, I refer to her as “my handler”. I’m like that big slobbery dog who needs to be told not everyone loves my shenanigans.

      Once I’m told I’m coming off poorly or it’s a bad time I snap to attention.

      Since they are casual, it sounds like “Hey slow the roll, sis!” moment. “We don’t have the bandwidth to celebrate every holiday…lets stick to the big ones.” kind of thing.

      1. Name Required*

        Wow. What? You ARE an adult, as is this woman. Cheerful Coworker’s new coworkers are not responsible for “handling” her “shenanigans.” They aren’t her parents.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          This. Big slobbery dogs are cute and don’t know better, and even they need to be trained before going out in public. Adults in the workplace have none of those excuses.

      2. Courageous cat*

        I feel like this is something you should grow out of and be able to handle on your own at some point, though. Like this sounds exhausting to manage as a friend.

    3. Observer*

      I’m not so sure it’s “good” energy. And you know what they say to road to hell is paved with…

      There is a level of obliviousness and boundary crossing that’s problematic. And people who “Just want to help” can be the hardest to reign in. So, while I think that a conversation will probably help, I don’t think that people are necessarily overreacting all that much.

      1. Cardamom*

        I’m also concerned that it’s not good energy. With SO MUCH inappropriateness packed into 3 weeks, it feels less than rational. Things will eventually burst and much drama will ensue.

    4. Name Required*

      Liet-Kinda, I don’t think Cheerful Coworker is being kind at all here. No one asked her to “make people’s lives happier.” In fact, it’s inherently unkind to assume that other people are unhappy to begin with just because they don’t do the same sort of fun activities as the ones Cheerful Coworker enjoys. That’s why everyone is so aghast.

      When someone is doing stuff like this without enthusiastic participation, it’s becomes so obviously about them and their needs that it becomes problematic.

      1. Liet-Kinda*

        That’s reading an awful lot between the lines, and I think you’re reaching to justify a viscerally uncharitable reaction. She’s not necessarily assuming anybody is unhappy. Of course nobody asked her to make them happy, and of course this is obviously about her needs, but this reads as “tone deaf and oblivious due to very different past work experience” rather than “problematic.”

        The extreme reaction you’re voicing strikes me as just as weird as what she’s doing. It’s not something to be aghast over. She’s not being anti-woke. It’s just something to deal with forthrightly, kindly, and with the benefit of some doubt.

        1. Observer*

          But this is almost certainly NOT about “previous work experience.” This is NOT how good or even competent teachers operate.

        2. Name Required*

          You can do all of those things — be forthright, kind, and assume no malicious intent — while still acknowledging that her behavior is wildly inappropriate. A person can be unintentionally unkind.

          My reaction isn’t extreme, judging from the comments here. To clarify, I don’t think her behavior is oppressive or “unwoke” or whatever. I meant problematic as in it is causing a problem that needs to be resolved, which the OP has said they intend to do. I was trying to be succinct, but I guess that adjective is out for any other use rather than the social justice one.

          We both agree that it’s a problem, and we both agree on how it should be addressed. I think we’ll need to disagree as to which emotions I’m allowed to feel about her behavior.

    5. zapateria la bailarina*

      she’s being willfully oblivious and condescending. she’s giving her coworkers dollar store “gifts” for *doing their jobs*

    6. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Gotta agree with Liet-Kinda here. Also, I get the sense that her idea of reading the work culture is calibrating which Basket O’ Fun will finally click in with everyone.

  54. LawLady*

    Is it possible that the coworker likes to be seen as a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl type? Like, she recognizes that she’s over the top quirky, but just thinks that’s a good way to be?

    These antics just seem so much like something Jess from The New Girl would do. That quirkiness is funny on a tv show, but would be obnoxious in real life.

    1. LKW*

      Yea, if you want to put on a Beiber mask while typing up a report – have at it. It would probably make me laugh. But printing out several Bieber masks and trying to get me to put one on and take a pic at work? Nah fam, I’m good.

      I generally try to be a live and let live person – I say “Whatever floats your boat” much too often. But folks, my boat does not include affirmations, funny photos or similar activities, especially at work.

  55. Valkyrie*

    I feel for everyone in this situation. I was a camp director and Montessori teacher for years before I transitioned into an office job. Going from “up and doing stuff with people all day!!” to a desk was really hard, I was so used to being “on” and doing activities all the time. I was never like this, but I empathize with the transition.

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on, a kind, “hey, let me help you out” approach is great.

  56. Umvue*

    “Disruptively cheerful” is a great phrase. Thanks for an amusing letter, Allison (and to the OP, I feel your pain).

  57. Existentialista*

    I wonder if her energy could be channeled into something more productive? Maybe coordinating some (on-brand! no smilely faces!) Marketing or PR activities, or a corporate responsibility/giving project that aligns with company values?

  58. T*

    I’m sorry this woman sounds bonkers. The masks had me gritting my teeth, this would be beyond annoying. I think she’s forgetting the objective is for everyone to do their job, and she is nothing but a disruption. My office hands out free things or has a special activity 2-3 times a year tops, not every damn day. This would drive me to saying something pretty blunt to this woman.

  59. Hiring Mgr*

    I would wear a Robert Wagner mask–not Denzel or Bieber though. Robert Wagner has always struck me as very handsome and I would like to feel that I look like him, even if only temporarily.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, oh, I know, I would wear a Robert Englund mask! Of him as his most famous character. Can I please?

  60. Kat Em*

    I would like to point out as a former preschool teacher that a lot of us hate this kind of stuff too. If I have lesson plans and sixteen developmental observations due this week, I have no interest in participating in an emoji war.

  61. Indie*

    Most teachers have been told this before by a loved one, thank god: ‘Err you’re using your classroom voice to me and I’m a grown up’. You get used to it. You have to be so ‘in character’ as a teacher that you can slip into role so easily and being told you’re doing it is like being told your underwear is showing. I’d be grateful!
    That said the examples are so extreme (even taking into account that you have to be so much more ‘on’ and super-jaunty in early years) that it makes me wonder if anyone in her civillian life has ever told her this before… if not, it’s overdue.
    Since she’s presumably not going back into the classroom she doesn’t need the voice or peppyness any more and she just needs it pointing out.

    1. raktajino*

      This is a very good point. I still slip into the classroom voice occasionally. Sometimes it’s legitimately useful, not so much if it ends up making adults feel patronized.

  62. Troutwaxer*

    GROUP EMAIL: “Hi Everyone, I hope you’re really happy to be at work today, because it’s Work Like An Adult Day! There is coffee available in the breakroom (please make more if you’ve finished the pot) and for your entertainment we have spreadsheets, reports, and memos, plus the most important part of Work Like An Adult Day, which is a wonderful 1:00 p.m. meeting to work out the issues with the Company Incorporated Account. Meanwhile, please get your own lunch without disrupting your co-workers, keep your personal problems to yourself, and don’t talk politics in the breakroom. So let’s keep our heads down, get something useful done, and Work Like Adults!”

    Too Much? Maybe print it out on festive paper instead?

  63. Catabodua*

    She reminds me quite a bit of the activities director at the senior housing complex my parent lives in. That person is EXCITED ABOUT EVERYTHING!! at a level that I honestly can’t imagine she’s able to sustain, but then she does.

    Does your hire also talk way too loudly in hopes that she can rope in people who aren’t in her immediate area?

    I’ll just throw in my agreement – try to talk to her, or have someone talk to her, to head off someone exploding at her at some point.

  64. Laughing Alone with Salad*

    In some places, this kind of energy *could* potentially be channeled. For example, some places will have a designated area that everyone could access (like a counter, break room table, etc.), and everyone knows that whatever food/stress balls/etc. are there are up for grabs. Then people can opt in, ignore it, or appreciate the gesture without opting in. Depending on the culture, there might be times when activities like she does could be appropriate, like at a retreat, breaking up a long difficult meeting, having a session for people to get away from work-a-day and reconnect with the company’s mission, getting to know new team members, a holiday when few people are in the office, etc. But these would need to be occasional and still done thoughtfully, respecting the level of buy-in that people are willing to offer and that is worthwhile to your work. So, perhaps you could say something like, “These activities might be best saved for…” or something so she can work that muscle in more appropriate bounds. But I’m hesitant to suggest this because if she’s not reading the room now, she might have trouble doing so even within boundaries.

  65. CustServGirl*

    I’m very curious as to what kind of position she holds- unless she was hired to be a HR, the office manger, perhaps an event coordinator of some sort, etc., it has an additional level of strange as to why she would want to or volunteer to do all these things!

    Even if it is in her job description to host company events or something, everything mentioned is definitely reflective of her time in elementary education. I hope this gets fixed fast, or the coworker moves on to a new job somewhere where this kind of behavior would be desirable (like a preschool classroom).

  66. raktajino*

    My office is primarily former teachers and nobody is this enthusiastic. NOBODY.

    The one coworker I had who got anywhere near this preschool-like did respond fairly well to individual requests, even when simply ignoring her or politely declining didn’t catch on. However, she did eventually leave because she felt like she was unappreciated, so I suppose she never really adjusted to the change.

    So yeah, take Alison’s script and be polite but firm. I also agree with the suggestion upthread to encourage her to channel that energy into one or two arenas.

  67. Me*

    I, fortunately, do not have quite this level of coworker. However I do have one who started buying cutesy dollar store decorations for seasons and holidays and put them on other peoples doors. Currently we’re on ghosts and Frankenstein’s monster. Without asking. I work in public safety in an office. When she came to my door and started hanging the first time I firmly and politely told her I appreciated her thinking of me but I was not interested in these things on my door. She attempted to “jokingly”argue (harmless fun, she got them for everybody etc) I think at one point she even said something along the lines of I hated fun. However my door is cutesy free. I wish she would direct that energy into being competent at her job but that’s an entirely different story.

    Anyway, I’ve found with people who are that tone-deaf to what really belongs in a workplace and forcing your stuff on others, do much better with firm boundaries. I have other coworkers, and even a boss, who find it harmless if not silly but are fine with humoring her. I would never speak for them, but I have zero problems with asking people to leave me out of things like this.

    1. Snickerdoodle*

      Ew. I had a boss like that. I don’t want stupid stickers on my phone. I just want my phone to be a phone. Every last sticker went straight to the trash can.

    2. Catabodua*

      At a former employer I was the first person to say no, I was no going to participate in their “Sunshine Club” which was essentially you giving the person who ran the club money each month for her to then spend on birthday cakes or whatever. She pestered me for several weeks about when I was going to give my $5 and I finally snapped one day and loudly replied (perhaps I yelled) I am not participating in this. Stop asking me.

      I was loud enough that others heard me, who then inquired about the yelling. When she told them I was being horrible and not participating in the club it gave others the courage to stop also. In the next few months it dropped to only 10 people giving her money.

      She never forgave me for ruining it all.

  68. JSPA*

    OP, it really depends whether this is something dear to her heart, or a misunderstanding of how offices work and misapplication of “how to make friends.” It sounds as much sitcom than kindergarten, actually.

    I’d frankly start to push back more clearly on anything that’s out of bounds. There is no excuse for anyone’s pet entertainment project to intrude on customer interactions. None. I’m sure you were flabbergasted, but take her aside ASAP and explain the following:

    a. some people like to be encouraged to be playful at work, occasionally. But other people find it distracting or awkward. This is epecially true when the encouragement becomes pressure, and the occasional pressure isn’t occasional, but daily. She needs to cut back. Once a month might be very welcome. Twice a month, maybe. Daily? Heck, no.

    b.Most imporantly, you are a business. A professional business. There is no circumstance where encouragement to play should intrude on customer meetings. If she can’t tell when there’s a customer present, she needs to wait until she can reliably recognize that situation, before starting games.

    c. similarly, work email is, above all, for work communication. If she wants to share her personal email or facebook invite others who’d enjoy “pi day” and “talk like a pirate day” and “smile day,” people can opt in. But it’s not OK to use work email to opt them in, which forces them to be rude if they want to opt out.

    d. you really appreciate the goodwill behind her urge to make friends, have fun, and brighten everyone’s day. However, this should not come at the cost of giving her a reputation as someone who distracts coworkers, nor should she ever have to pay (even in dime store gifts) to make friends.

    Then follow up by inviting her to get coffee. If she’s not too trying, add lunch, and occasional events–whatever else it takes to make her feel included–so long as she keeps the boosterism well under wraps.

    Finally, I fear there’s a non-zero chance that she’s afraid she’ll suck at her job, and wants to be loved before the poop hits the fan. If she’s good, let her know! If not…she’ll be gone, soon enough.

  69. Serin*

    Was anyone else reminded of the Cheerful Fairy in “Hogfather”?

    > ‘Charades?’ said the Cheerful Fairy. ‘Or perhaps you’ve been playing them already? How about a sing-song? Who knows “Row Row Row Your Boat”?’ Her bright little smile hit the group scowl of the assembled wizards. ‘We don’t want to be Mr Grumpy, do we?’

    1. Undine*

      Dutchy in the Salterton Trilogy — “This is the crossroads of a party. You can either go on to the Ho Hum, when everyone wishes it was time to go home, or you can go on to the Whee! What is it to be? The Ho Hum or the Whee?”

  70. Gotta be anon*

    OK, I am going to confess to being part of the social committee for my department (40-45 people), and as a result I sometimes do some cutesy and gimmicky things. But this is over the top. We plan a quarterly birthday celebration at a non-mealtime (generally 10 AM or 2 PM) with an email appt sent ahead of time and nobody keeping track/pressuring who attends. We do a spirit week around the holidays (dept luncheon on day, cookie swap one day, cube decorating, tacky sweater contest) but we just announce the timing and let folks opt in. Prize distribution and such take place in the lounge area so as not to interrupt anyone who has chosen to stay at their desks and not participate. On random National Days (Doughnut Day, Nacho Day, Chocolate Covered Candy Day, Oreo Cookie Day) we might bring in food and send an email about what day it is; it’s just one email and the food is left in a central location (we do also ring a hotel bell whenever food is set out to alert folks, but no additional reminders). We did a team spirit day a few weeks ago, so folks wore their gear and we had some stadium food- nachos, kosher dogs- available at lunch in case anyone wanted to partake. We did a chili cookoff once, but reserved a conference room instead of doing it in the middle of all the desks.

    IOW, it’s OK to have some frivolity that folks can opt in for, but nothing to impede our actual work lives. The activities I’ve outlined have been spread over the course of almost two years, unlike the three weeks (!) in which LW’s colleague has done her stuff.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, I totally get being on a committee (we have one too) and I think yours is being very good at not pressuring people into activities. (Ours, hmm, not always.) But there’s no committee at LW’s office. Miss Cheery is a one-person committee that she appointed herself, by popular demand from herself. Also, yes, THREE WEEKS. Can you imagine what the holiday season will look like with her in the office? Yikes.

  71. El Esteban*

    Reading this letter, I was like, “none of these things in isolation is terrible.” Then I read that she’s done all that in three weeks (!) and thought, “where’s my pitchfork?” :)

  72. zapateria la bailarina*

    this sounds exhausting and i would honestly have trouble refraining from responding to her attempts with, “no thanks, i’m not a kindergartener”

    i agree with alison’s advice. you could also start with giving her confused look as you say no to whatever it is she’s suggesting.

    i would definitely immediately push back on her use of the office-wide email blast.

  73. Lilivati*

    “Because the thing is, she’s oblivious to how this is being received and presumably might make different choices if she understood that. It’s a little odd that she hasn’t picked up on that from people’s lack of enthusiasm, but she hasn’t … ”

    Most children, even young children, don’t enjoy being ordered into pointless activities either, or be interrupted, or to forcibly socialize. With children it’s always a fine line between allowing some autonomy while providing structure, education, and teaching socialization. Telling them “do this, do that” generally turns out about as well as you’d think. And some children don’t enjoy having their picture taken.

    So it’s entirely possible this woman is used to pushing onward despite a lack of enthusiasm- and as a former teacher, also accustomed to her “pupils” falling in line simply because she, the authority figure in the room, bade them to do so.

  74. Aaron*

    I’d be okay with celebrating things like Pie Day (ten different days!) or Talk like a Pirate day, but the rest would be a bit much for me. My office had a month in which we were encouraged to celebrate a holiday they picked out, each day for a month. They even had a giant calendar with the days on it. Most people stopped halfway through.

    Eventually you may need to send her a reminder for I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore Day (Jan. 7)

  75. HereKittyKitty*

    We have an employee who is a former teacher/cheerleader who does things like this. I think it’s also a “I really want to fit in thing.” It drives me nuts, truthfully, as I find it very “cutesy” and disruptive. She does whole celebrations for people’s life events, even if she doesn’t know them and asks others to participate…. I cringe.

    I would hope by most of the company not participating in these gestures they would eventually stop, but it’s been a year and our girl is still going strong.

  76. VegetableLasagna*

    One of my coworkers is this, but less aggressive. We ended up taking the route of just not participating if possible (often that is difficult because she ALWAYS organizes any parties we have). The things we have to participate in are generally begrudgingly done–as quickly as possible–and then we make an excuse to go back to our desk. It’s become a thing where a significant portion of the office refuse retirement parties/baby showers because they know it’ll be themed and decorated like a 4 year old’s birthday party.
    Sidenote: if anyone remembers the woman who was painting on a canvas instead of working, this is also her. And when she isn’t painting or coloring at her desk, she also disappears to “plan” parties.

  77. Jenm*

    What exactly is her role in the company? How does she have time to do all of these things instead of her actual duties?

  78. Jennifer Thneed*

    LW, you say that your overly-bubbly coworker “doesn’t have a traditional manager who could speak to her”, but surely someone hired her? That is the person who should be talking to her. That is the person who you should nudge to talk to her.

  79. Ellen N.*

    If it were me I would ask the coworker to have her “fun ideas” be opt in. She can send out an email and assume that anyone who wants to participate will respond instead of going around to everyone to push them to participate.

    This goes for everything except asking people to smile. To ask someone else to arrange their face in the way that pleases you is out of bounds.

  80. Book Badger*

    I’ll say, I can sometimes be a little cutesy (I love bringing in baked goods to share, for example), but dear Lord. That’s a level of cheer I could not sustain for two minutes. Even reading the letter is is making me cringe.

  81. HermioneMe*

    Our newest hire, Fergus, began his first three weeks by playing his favorite music loudly in the small office that he shares with 2 others AND singing out loud (loudly) with the songs. His office mates were used to playing music very low (just loud enough for them to hear it) – he didn’t ask if he could play his music or what the standards were for the office. Then as he worked, he began cussing (to himself, but loud enough for office mates to hear). One office mate had enough of that when Fergus said “G-d D-mn” and the office mate sternly told him not to say that. Fergus replied “sorry about that, but come to think of it, I haven’t heard anyone cussing in this office.” Office mate replied very sternly with “that’s because we work for a CHURCH!.” Grrrr. And he was told that we only play Christian music in the office!

  82. LadyCop*

    Ok but seriously though…a sand table sounds like fun ;)

    I think the good news here is that she likely just doesn’t know better…so it’s easier to make it a learning opportunity rather than a ‘cut this out it’s annoying’ type conversation.

  83. Mellow*

    I hate to shrink people, but really, it sounds like she is compensating for a lack of confidence. I work with someone who is 6 months into her job and who is constantly self-deprecating; she is a nice person but the “Aw, shucks, I’m such a loser” schtick has gotten really old. She meets with my department every now and then and always brings to them a couple of different kinds of treats and little prizes, and does the same when we as individuals have one-on-one meetings with her from time to time. It’s like she is apologizing for us having to share our air with little ol’ her and so gets us gifts to make up for it. I stopped accepting the gifts and treats after the first time, and altogether stopped saying “Oh, no, you’re doing just fine!” in response to her need for reassurance.

    Just one day, I would like to go to work, smile and chit chat a bit, have a good lunch, get work done, and go home. Managing other people’s BS at work is just so *tiresome.*

  84. Poldark Lite*

    An anonymous note on her desk would save time and remove the cringe factor. She’d have no idea who wrote it and would know that it could be from anyone who’s shut her suggestions down; sounds like there’s been a fair number of those, so that could be effective.

    1. Observer*

      No, it would not be effective. And no, she would not know that it came from someone who shut her down.

      Anonymous notes of this sort are cruel and cowardly. They are also useless.

  85. Sister Spooky*

    My former coworker was a lot like this. She was obsessed with “recognition” and “improving morale” but she was totally tone deaf to what people actually enjoyed or liked. She desperately wanted people to like her and any, ANY positive feedback fanned her fire like crazy. I hope this person is reasonable and is able to hear you and temper this, but for my coworker her entire identity and feeling of self worth hinged on the idea that she made other people feel happy and valued at work so if she couldn’t do that (in the way she wanted to) she felt bad about herself. So she was either annoyingly chipper like this and running around making people shrinky dink’s or passing out legos, or she was despondent and crying that she felt like everyone hated her. It was super fun.

    1. Mellow*

      “for my coworker her entire identity and feeling of self worth hinged on the idea that she made other people feel happy and valued at work so if she couldn’t do that (in the way she wanted to) she felt bad about herself.”

      Another coworker (this one in my department) is EXACTLY this ^^^ except if you don’t let her do for you, fix for you, rescue you, and otherwise roll over so she can burp and diaper you, she retaliates through a variety of passive aggressive means, including low-slung jabs, tattling to our boss on the dumbest things, and purposely procrasting so as to sabotage projects. I believe her retaliation to be yet another one of her ways of exerting control. She aches to be everyone’s surrogate mother, but she is quite an agressive bully, depsite the mother hen face she puts on all of it. Can we say “issues” and then some?

      And BossWithHeadBuriedInSand won’t do anything about it. I have built extremely thick boundaries with her and it’s awkward at times but she respects my space. Still, Boss refuses to accept the fact that employees like her require constant managing. That’s part of the deal, and, since he refuses to handle her, I have to do it my way, and thus make no apologies. I’m civil, but that’s it.

  86. Cheapskate*

    I am actually struggling with something similar in my team. We’re a small marketing team of three – a manager and two people that report to her. Our manager is very easy-going and my new team member is super enthusiastic, but in a way that I find … overzealous and grating. He gets really excited about doing “fun!” and “awesome!” things for the company that I find to be beyond the scope of our work, overstepping boundaries and unprofessional. I also think there’s a risk that people will consider our team to be responsible for things that should actually be in the hands of HR or upper management – so it affects my work too! I’ve explained how I feel about it several times but he just steamrolls ahead and my manager seems to think everything he does is fine. It’s enough to make me want to change jobs.

  87. NewBee*

    Sounds like a redirect from a more senior person (or get everyone on the same page) is in order.
    “Look, I brought snacks with fun stickers” Answer – Um, you do realize that none of this is reimbursable by our company, so you are ok with buying this with your own funds? Oh you are, you must be rich/make more money than the rest of us/won the lottery, etc?
    “Good morning everyone, I’m bring around stickers and sign up sheets for talk like a pirate day!” Actually can you update everyone on how far along you are on the llama grooming estimates? Or, that’s great, but have you called and set up the appointments for the candle making demo for our clients, and how did it go?

    1. 653-CXK*

      +1000. Overly cheery coworker isn’t concentrating on her job, and she needs a little “come back to Earth” reminder. I like your approach a lot!

      The summar, or if all else fails and she still tries to do the ‘camp counselor’ schtick: “We’re here to do business. Please concentrate on your work and your assignments rather than things that are irrelevant to your job.”

  88. Annie Moose*

    So in three weeks–fifteen days–this coworker has:

    1. brought in greeting cards
    2. tried to organize an office photo
    3. sent out an email for Talk Like a Pirate Day
    4. sent out an email for Pancake Day
    5. left mini clipboards on people’s desks
    6. left stickers on people’s desks
    7. threatened to do something with favorite colors
    8. left stress balls on people’s desks
    9. tried to organize an emoji war
    10. tried to get people to take photos with masks

    AND has brought in snacks most days, so let’s say at least 8 out of the 15 days, for a total of at least 18 unique instances of Forced Jollity based solely on specific things mentioned in the letter (which implies there was more that wasn’t explicitly mentioned).

    This coworker is going to unusual lengths every single day. She did at least three things requiring significant effort in ONE DAY (bought everyone stress balls and printed off the Smile Day sheets, tried to organize an emoji war, and somehow acquired the celebrity masks)! Where does she even find the time to organize this stuff???

    1. el*

      THIS! I also wonder how come the coworker is spending (what I am guessing is) her own money on all of these items. Stress balls and snacks aren’t free?

  89. Justin*

    What I don’t get is why anyone feels like they have to participate. If this was my workplace, I’d just ignore it and do my job.

  90. Dawn*

    I work in a K-8 school and this is intense even for the youngest grade band, K-2. For one, it’s gotta be getting expensive. Ideally, teachers have budgets for the little rewards and fun things they do with their classes. (Many don’t, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.) As a teacher–albeit in middle school, where we don’t do these things much if at all–I can attest that cost of things like this adds up fast.

    I mean, going to a printer for masks? That couldn’t be cheap! (And real teachers would have made those on plain typing paper because they weren’t willing to spend their budget or come out of their pockets on something like that.)

  91. Big Biscuit*

    I can’t get over the fact that she came in guns blazing with this behavior as someone new to the job. There’s a lot of BSC out there! I would still attempt to have the owner deal with this. I know I’m speculating, but it sounds like his “20 hour” days, have created a wall (which he may have intended) so he can avoid dealing with issues. This avoidance won’t behoove him in the long run no matter how hard he works. He’s the leader by default. Small issues become big issues without leadership, see if you can get him to do his job.

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