my coworker won’t stop talking about how rich she is

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” post. A reader writes:

My coworkers and I work in close quarters in a laboratory all day. We all get along well, and since we don’t have “offices” and often work together on things, we are a pretty close team.

We recently got a new member, Jill, who is 22, and this is her first job out of college. She lives at home with her parents, who are incredibly well-off, and has lived at home all through college. The rest of us are late 20’s to late 30’s. Jill is very nice but also very sensitive and somewhat immature, and I’m not sure if she’s just not 100% sure how to deal with people in professional settings yet or what’s going on, but almost everything that comes out of her mouth has to do with money, mainly how much money her family has. If it might offer some context, Jill and her family are not from the U.S., but have been here since Jill was a teenager.

I usually just kind of inwardly roll my eyes and change the subject, but with the holidays it’s gotten considerably worse and Jill is driving my team and me crazy. Some examples of things she has said just in the past week are: “My dad’s buying my mom a new car for Christmas!” “I’m going to buy my mom a Gucci Keychain for Christmas. It’s $225 dollars!” “I’m so excited, my mom is buying my puppy a Tiffany collar for Christmas!”

The thing that sent me over the edge was when a male coworker asked for ladies’ opinions on a very nice coat he was considering buying for his girlfriend. My opinion was something along the lines of “I like it, but I would go with the gray because white coats get dirty very easily, in my experience,” whereas Jill’s opinion was “It’s not even a name brand, you should go with either a North Face or a Michael Kors.”

I am honestly not sure if Jill knows there are people in the world who are not as well-off as her family is, and that people who aren’t as “fortunate” don’t want to hear these kinds of things every day. We are not paupers, but we are definitely not buying our dogs Tiffany collars. Is there a way that I can tell her to please stop talking about how rich her family is, without sounding jealous or mean, or causing a lot of friction on my team? Like I said, she’s a nice person, but money is a touchy subject in any capacity and I think this might hinder her professionally in the future, not to mention that we’re all sick of hearing about it!

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 876 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Judy Johnsen

    Please pull her aside and have a talk. This can be annoying and insensitive to say things like this, plus immature.

    Reply
    1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius

      I agree that this should be a one-on-one conversation rather than calling her out in front of the other coworkers, which would just add to her possible embarrassment. Either pull her aside when you can or bring it up in the moment if she makes a comment to you, without others around.

      One of Alison’s common pieces of advice for conversations like these is bring it up with a tone of “I don’t know if you know this, but…” which I think could be helpful here since she’s young.

      Reply
      1. Ice and Indigo

        And in that talk, I’d bring up the coat thing as an example, because that’s one where she can’t write it off as ‘just being jealous’.

        It sounds like she hasn’t quite figured out that most people live on their salaries without family money to supplement it, nor what that means in practical terms. So if you say, ‘When you told Fergus he should buy a name-brand coat, it sounded like you didn’t realise that there’s a good chance that if he did that, he wouldn’t have money left for rent and bills. And that’s not because he’s unusually poor, that’s how most of us live. No one’s going to blame you for coming from money, but the cultural norms are different for regular people, and you’ll want to learn them if you want to avoid ruffling feathers. If you’ll take some advice, lay off the money and luxuries talk for a while, listen to how everyone else talks about money and purchases, and you should start getting a sense of what’s considered polite.’

        Reply
        1. ella

          I don’t even know if I would get that specific. This is going to be poor wording because I’m not good at being diplomatically confrontational, but something like, “I’ve noticed that you’re really attached to certain brands when you talk about stuff you shop for, and that’s fine for you! But a lot of people take different things into account when they’re considering a purchase, like durability and cost, and if you’re only ever talking about name brands, it’s going to set you apart from your coworkers in not-a-good-way.” Or something.

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          1. Artemesia

            This will fly right by her. The problem isn’t that she is into branded goods although that does brand her as shallow, but that she constantly rubs everyone’s face in her parents’ wealth. She will not hear anything that is not direct. I have worked in cultures where the focus on brands is quite obsessive. I simply don’t get it, but it is possible she comes from a background like this that is very brand conscious; the audience for Kardashians has to come from somewhere. The amusing thing about the children of the wealthy is not their sense of entitlement but the fact that they somehow think their parents’ wealth makes THEM superior although they didn’t earn it.

            Reply
            1. Anita Brayke

              I’m reminded of a sitcom back in the ’80s when Theo was talking to his friends about how rich their family was, and Cliff said “I’m rich. Your mother is rich. You, my son, have nothing!”

              Reply
            2. Close Bracket

              “but that she constantly rubs everyone’s face in her parents’ wealth.”

              It’s only rubbing their face in it if that’s her intent. That might be her intent, or it might be that she thinks talking about name brands and cost of items is just part of conversation bc that’s how her family talks.

              You, and the letter writer, can choose how to interpret what people say. Start by assuming cluelessness rather than malice. If she, or anyone, demonstrates that they are acting in bad faith, you can easily switch tactics. If you start by assuming bad faith that isn’t there, you could damage the relationship unnecessarily.

              Reply
              1. Ellen N.

                I agree with you. To me, it sounds like the letter writer and her co-worker just have different life experiences. Most people talk about what they know.

                The examples the letter writer gave sound like a person talking about her life. Many people talk about the Christmas gifts they receive and/or give. I’m not rich, but I’ve many times given the advice that it’s better, and ultimately less expensive, to buy something of quality that is more expensive than to buy an inferior product that won’t last.

                It sounds to me like the letter writer and her colleagues are jealous of their coworker and take it out on her by being judgemental.

                Reply
                1. AnnaBananna

                  See and I read it that the 22yr old is insecure and not self-aware of how shallow she appears to others. Just goes to show it’s almost impossible to determine intent by textual hearsay.

                2. Mari

                  Maybe my parents raised me to be mindful of social differences, but I’ve always felt it gauche to brag on brands and to wear logos plastered everywhere. Quality will show; one hardly needs to point it out to everyone in the office. If designer labels matter to you, you will know the hallmarks and, indeed, the trademarks. If they do not, it seems rude to have that kind of thing shoved in your face.

                3. Lunita

                  Many people might discuss the presents they are planning to buy for friends or relatives, but most will not discuss the price of said items. You don’t have to be jealous to be annoyed at someone clueless who constantly talks about the same thing, particularly if that happens to be money.

                4. aebhel

                  “Buy the more expensive one, it’ll last longer” is much different than “It’s not even name brand!” One is practical advice. One is…. not.

                  Same with “Look at this necklace my mom got me for Christmas!” vs. “Look at this diamond necklace that cost $XXX amount of money!”

                  If you’re significantly wealthier than the people you’re talking to, it’s gauche to constantly bring up the fact that everything you own is luxury name brands and Very Expensive. I don’t think the co-worker is evil, but she is going to alienate most people who aren’t also wealthy with this kind of talk. It would be a kindness for someone to tell her how she’s coming across.

                5. TeacherLady

                  Yeah, but even if the coworker is genuinely that innocent, there’s a element of “know your audience” that she is really lacking, and should be made aware of. In high school, I easily got good grades, and used to gget upset/anxious if I scored below a 90 on something. It didn’t take me too long to learn (because my friends told me to shut up, basically) that complaining about my 89 to people who worked hard for their 80 was a Bad Idea. (A lesson that was really driven home when I hit university and started failing stuff, and suddenly understood what was so obnoxious about that behaviour.)

              2. pancakes

                “…or it might be that she thinks talking about name brands and cost of items is just part of conversation bc that’s how her family talks.”

                There’s no reason to infer, from the letter, that she’s been held captive by her family or otherwise prevented from interacting with people who aren’t family. She has a job, for starters, and interacts with people who aren’t family at work, and they don’t talk the way she does.

                Reply
                1. Tiny Soprano

                  Exactly. And if she wants to keep having jobs, she’s going to have to learn some professional boundaries and norms. The OP would be doing her a career solid if they had a chat to her about it.

                  Also assuming it’s a research lab, she’s going to have to develop the understanding that they often rely on hard-won grants to survive, so making unnecessary statements about $200 Gucci keyrings is going to read as insensitive at best and antagonistic at worst.

                2. Ellen N.

                  People with children tend to talk about them a lot. That doesn’t make them bad people even if some of their coworkers are infertile. People who have pets tend to talk about their pets a lot. That doesn’t make them bad people even if some of their coworkers would like to have pets but can’t. People who travel a lot tend to talk about travel. That doesn’t make them bad people even if some of their coworkers wish they could travel more. People tend to talk about what they do. This woman spends money so she talks about spending money.

                  I’ve never understood the view that people shouldn’t talk about anything that might make any other person envious. There would be literally no subject that wasn’t off limits if everyone followed that view.

                3. Ann O.

                  They probably do talk the way she does, though. They just don’t notice it because the details of their purchases or presents aren’t going to make anyone else jealous. But she’s just talking about things, and because she has money, the things that she’s talking about are things associated with wealth.

            3. GreenDoor

              ” The amusing thing about the children of the wealthy is not their sense of entitlement but the fact that they somehow think their parents’ wealth makes THEM superior although they didn’t earn it.”

              I dated someone like this for about 5 minutes in college. Parents were loaded. He was bragging about how he had $50,000 in the bank. And I shot back, “Well, I would too, if all I had to do is hold out my hand and let my daddy put his money in it.” He didn’t like it. But he quit bragging about “his” money. I’d be so tempted to keep tossing that back to this particular co-worker. “You mean your mommy bought that dog collar….’cuz I know we don’t make that kind of money designing teapots.”

              Reply
              1. Snark

                I mean, you’d alienate the hell out of her, but honestly? Sometimes natural consequences are the best consequences.

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                1. ringo

                  And I’ll just also point out that it’s not your job to teach her why arrogance and superiority are social negatives. She’s 22, I imagine having a lab job requires her to have gone to college, and I do wonder how she could have succeeded there while acting superior to her professors, so she has already had opportunity to figure out how interacting with people works. She’s not entitled to your emotional labor.

            4. Reader

              “There is no better argument against genetic determinism than the children of the rich.” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

              Reply
          2. Snark

            Not even that specific. “Hey, Veruca, when you talk about all the expensive consumer goods you buy and how much they cost, it’s comes off like you’re bragging about your wealth.”

            And frankly, you can be harsh too. “Yeah, not everybody can just drop the coin for a Michael Kors jacket, Veruca, some of us just live on our paychecks,” would have been a little crisp but entirely appropriate.

            Reply
            1. Jaz

              I like that first option. There is a great chance tat she has grown up in a setting in which this is normal, friendly behavior. In her mind, the comment about the coat could have been helpful advice. She may just need some guidance on what behavior is appropriate in her new environment, and how her current actions are being perceived.

              Reply
            2. Armchair Analyst

              Yes this. Just be direct. But I would also add “experiences” or “services” to the sentence in addition to “consumer goods” because you know pretty soon it’ll be a vacation and that hot new restaurant on Friday night, and Saturday night, and that great brunch place Sunday morning…

              “It comes off like you’re bragging about your wealth *and that’s not OK around the office.*”

              Reply
            3. Quinalla

              Agreed, if you want to help her out, I’d go with something like the first script. If she is not trying to brag, she will hopefully take your comment to heart and maybe talk to you further about it. If she is trying to brag, nothing you say is likely to change her behavior. Worth a shot!

              For what its worth, I grew up low middle class, we had enough, but rarely extras for eating out, little luxuries, etc. with my parents paying down a lot of school debt for awhile. My parents’ situation has changed a lot since then to where they are much more comfortable financially and I’m very lucky to have a good paying job and my husband too and I’m pretty hyper aware of not coming off as bragging about money or assuming folks can afford things they can’t, but there are still times when just casually discussing a purchase or something you are thinking about purchasing and people start asking questions and then you know that they figured out that you are doing much better than they are and it can be awkward. That’s not what the LW rich coworker is doing to be sure, but even someone who is very aware of this dynamic, I still have made it awkward at times myself. For someone who grew up rich likely surrounded by other rich friends, she truly may not realize how she is being perceived by others.

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            4. Glitsy Gus

              I think that’s a great script. It’s simple, to the point and not overly embarrassing.

              If she keeps it up after that you can switch to number 2 if you like, as long as you keep it lighthearted in the delivery.

              Reply
            5. Terra C

              I don’t understand this part. Name brand jackets like Michael Kors (not the highest end mark of his but the mass market label) are inexpensive! Just go to any Marshalls or Ross, TJ Maxx or whatever store like that in your area and you can get a beautiful Michael Kors coat for <$100 – or much less on clearance. I got my MK coat at last winter's clearance for like $39. I would have spent TWICE that to buy a coat from Target not on sale. If I would have overheard the girl, I would have agreed. Buy the best quality at a discount shop, and it will cost the same or less than a cheap off-brand at its full price elsewhere.

              Reply
          3. Blunt Bunny

            I think what was most alarming was how harshly honest to someone who is not a friend. Saying something along the lines of “I would hate that if I received this” is not something you would say to a work acquaintance. You would either politely say it not my style like oh I prefer long coats or you wouldn’t say anything at all again that could be a cultural thing I’m not sure how you would explain that. It’s can be especially annoying since, it sounds like she wants you to be really excited about what she is buying whereas, she was quite negative about his purchase.
            I think it’s more a general comment about how higher price doesn’t equal higher quality might suffice and could be less awkward when they realise that it mostly marketing. A nice coat doesn’t become a nice coat because of the tag, if they removed them all like they did with Nike logos people would rarely take a second look. I would much rather get a nice “off brand” coat than a branded key chain.

            Reply
        2. SierraSkiing

          I like the idea of grounding it in the coat example: she’s more likely to understand what is driving everyone crazy.

          Reply
        3. OhNo

          I was thinking something very similar, although my personal preference would be to frame the issue as coming across as judgemental of other choices. The coat example would be a good one for that approach, too. Something like,
          “Sometimes when you’re talking about money, the way you phrase it can come across as judgemental. For example, when you told Fergus that the coat he was considering as a gift ‘wasn’t even name brand’. Folks in this office come from all kinds of economic situations, so they may have different priorities when is comes to spending, or be on very tight budgets, and it can be a sensitive subject. It would be worth the effort to step back from discussing your own finances for a while, and try to realign with how others in the office talk about money issues”

          Reply
      2. pancakes

        It’s fine for people to be embarrassed about occasions they behaved embarrassingly poorly. The reason for a private conversation, I think, is that it’s more likely to achieve the desired result.

        Reply
    2. Foreign Octopus

      Also damaging for Jill professionally. She’s 22, fresh out of school, and needs a polite but firm reality check. If you’re not in a position to do so, I would raise it with Jill’s manager as something that’s causing a little bit of friction amongst the team. Perhaps she doesn’t care about her career because her parents are rich, but I know that I said some stupid things in the early years just because I wasn’t used to a work place environment out of retail (where no one was wealthy and this problem didn’t exist).

      If nothing happens though, best thing to do is roll your eyes and internally judged her.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        I would absolutely NOT raise it with her manager. There are a lot of interpersonal things that SHOULD be escalated to a manager. This is not one of them. It’s not affecting her work, it doesn’t seem to be affecting ow she handles work requests etc.

        Now, if she were talking badly about clients who aren’t rich or don’t spend the way she thinks “everyone should”, or she were being disrespectful of people who can’t / won’t spend the money she does, that would be another thing. But otherwise, this is not something to bring to her manager, even though I agree that it’s likely to hold her back.

        Reply
        1. DerJungerLudendorff

          It does seem to have a pretty bad effect on her relationship with her coworkers though. And their team works closely together in the same room all day. It’s also negatively affecting her coworkers, who get upset/annoyed when she does it. So I do think that makes it worth bringing up to her manager.

          But the first step should be to talk to her directly. As you said, this is a relatively minor interpersonal conflict, and you should generally try to solve those between yourselves first. Only involve the manager if she straight-up ignores your requests (or if she deliberately escalates the problem, but LW described her as a nice person, so that probably won’t happen)

          Reply
        2. Foreign Octopus

          I was approaching the advice of going to the manager because I thought that her behaviours would have a negative effect on her cowards as DerJungerLudendorff says just above but I also haven’t worked in a team environment in years so I’m never sure WHEN it’s important to approach a manager.

          I think that the manager should definitely be the last resort if talking to Jill hasn’t worked and she’s still being oblivious to the mood of her coworkers.

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        3. Jasnah

          If she is young and in need of mentoring, and making a social/workplace mistake that is alienating her coworkers and likely to hold her back, wouldn’t it be a kindness for her manager (or another mentor) to talk to her about it? If a manager can talk about their report’s clothing or smell or deodorant use, surely they can bring up “It comes across as you bragging about your family’s wealth and your coworkers think you’re judging them, so tone it down.”

          Reply
      2. Oh so very anon

        Agree with Observer. Do not escalate. But I love the eye rolling/internal judging option as a last resort. I will be applying this to many areas of my life.

        Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      It would be an extreme kindness to take her aside and have a frank conversation about American professional norms and how wildly out of sync her comments are. Just once. After that, it’s up to her to adjust and if she doesn’t, then just roll your eyes.

      Reply
      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        not just American professional norms – she’d get the side eye if she tried that *this* side of the pond as well

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        1. Traffic_Spiral

          True, but if she’s from the subcontinent this sort of thing is much more the norm. It would be a kindness to sit her down and say “in America it is considered bad taste to ‘name-drop’ brands, and how wealthy you are is generally not considered a topic for polite conversation.”

          Reply
        2. Clorinda

          Yes. LW says Jill has lived in the US ‘since she was a teenager,’ and she can’t be much more than 23 now, so that’s a range of five to ten years and many cultural attitudes were set hard before she got here. And very few people would be willing to take the social risk of naming the behavior for her and telling her it’s not coming off well. It would truly be a kindness to let her know (once, as Detective Amy said, then it’s straight to the eye-roll).

          Reply
        1. OhNo

          If saving face is a concern, it can also be phrased as “In this office, we do X”. That way it’s not presented as a judgement of the employee, but rather an idiosyncrasy of the specific workplace (which she still needs to follow).

          Reply
          1. Batman

            That makes sense in some contexts, but I think it would be better to frame it as an American thing because I think most people would find this off-putting in most places in America.

            Reply
          2. Solo

            I like this phrasing better — the “American” focus *could* help save face BUT it can also be aggressively othering and condescending, in the vein of “where are you from / no where are you REALLY from?” that a lot of nth-generation POC Americans (where n>=2) have to deal with constantly. Like “In _America_, we…” >_>

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            1. OhNo

              Yeah, that was my thought. Even if it’s not outright offensive, lecturing her on American norms could well be a microaggression, since the background assumption is that she doesn’t know because she/her parents weren’t born here.

              (As a white American, I’m not the definitive source on whether or not this would be offensive/a microaggression, but it’s something I’ve heard 1st and 2nd generation immigrants talk about, so it seems possible.)

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            2. Jane of all Trades

              i agree. I am an immigrant and such a comment would make me feel othered, and less inclined to hear the message, because I would be offended by the delivery. Because LWs coworker is new to the working world, where this type of talk is inappropriate, that’s what I would suggest focusing on (because frankly it’s probably untrue to make a statement along the lines of “in America we don’t talk about how much brands cost or some such, especially when in her social circle this is probably common).
              It would be better to say something along the lines of “in the workplace it is not polite to talk too much about money [and so on].

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          3. Tiny Soprano

            Yeah I think the fact that she’s very young and new to the workforce is enough for her to save face with. Seeing it’s the norm in loads of countries not to humblebrag about your family’s wealth, it may well be the same in the country she moved from. She might just be out of touch because she’s young and sheltered and that’s enough to cushion her feelings. I wouldn’t treat it much differently from reining in a new grad who swears too much or makes inappropriate jokes.

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          4. ringo

            Framing it as “in this office” leaves the door wide open for her to return to old habits everywhere else, however, including future jobs. Her attitude isn’t going to fly at the place she grabs her morning latte from, either. I’d frame it as “in public” or “outside of home.”

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        2. Tupac Coachella

          I’d usually agree, but OP said she’s been in the US for several years at least. I wonder if it would come across badly to imply that it’s a cultural difference. Teenagers tend to be very good at adapting to cultural norms quickly, and the message she receives might be “since you’re [nationality] you obviously don’t understand American culture” rather than OP’s intended “you seem to not know this, possibly for logical reasons, and I want to help.” Not saying there may not be a cultural gap at play here, but my guess is it’s more immaturity than not understanding American culture (after all, for many American 16-25 year olds, brand name dropping and conspicuous spending is very much a Thing as well).

          Reply
          1. SC

            Right. She’s new to office/professional culture, not American culture. There are absolutely pockets of American culture that name-drop brands like crazy in social settings–I imagine the ones who work curb the discussion in office/professional settings.

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          2. Humble Schoolmarm

            Yup, my middle schoolers of all economic backgrounds love their brands. If she went to grade school wth mostly well-off kids (not at all unlikely), it would probably be even more pronounced.

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        3. CM

          Please don’t imply that she doesn’t understand because she’s not sufficiently American. She’s been living here for years. And this behavior would be equally bad, and equally believable, coming from someone who had grown up here.

          Just focus on the behavior, not the perceived reasons behind the behavior. “You may not realize, but most people don’t share your financial privilege. Talking so much about expensive and designer items will alienate your coworkers.”

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        4. Jasnah

          I would say, “As you know in America, even the very rich try to act ‘middle class'” etc. and draw on your mutual knowledge of American cultural norms.

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    4. Batman

      Yes, you should do this. Be kind about it and do it privately, but she needs to get feedback about how she’s coming across because it will hinder her professionally. It might hurt her socially as well, but I don’t know if she would care about that.

      Reply
      1. Batman

        Also, I don’t know where she’s from, so there very well might be cultural differences and she needs to learn that this is out of line with American professional norms.

        Reply
    5. Karen from Finance

      Yes I agree. It would be kind to her, as well. Be gentle. Possible scripts along the lines of “I realize that it’s not your intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t think you are aware of how certain comments are received from an outside perspective” and “we certainly don’t want you to stop talking us about what’s your normal life, but it would be nice if you could have in mind that this is a sensitive topic for some people”.

      Reply
      1. coffee addict

        I absolutely agree and I think your scripts are perfect! She’s fresh out of school and is more than likely speaking from a place of ignorance.

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        1. Delightful Daisy

          I think those scripts are spot on. It could also be that she doesn’t have much else to contribute to conversation if she’s always lived at home and her experiences all revolve around her parents/family. Good luck, OP! I hope it goes well and that she hears with the intent the advice is being given.

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    6. CynicallySweet

      I would also try to do it somewhere a little private, maybe the bathroom? LW mentioned that they all work in one small-ish room and she’s sensitive. Even if you’re not sensitive having someone basically say “this integral part of how you function is really off putting and is hurting you professionally” is hard to hear.

      Reply
      1. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

        I agree about having the conversation in private but please not a bathroom! That would be so uncomfortable for everyone.

        Reply
        1. CynicallySweet

          Yeah, my work has a little waiting room area before you actually go into the bathroom part and I was thinking of that space when I wrote that. And there was the thought that if she started to cry and needed somewhere to hide and pull it together it would be convenient. But you are right, defiantly not in the bathroom

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              1. CynicallySweet

                Yeah that occurred to me like 15 seconds after I hit submit and I certainly hope so. But since you can’t take comments back it is there

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        1. Airy

          Take her out for coffee/lunch, wait for her to make a comment about the cheapness of the café, then strike. (Maybe not that aggressively, but it could be a good opportunity to “bring up this thing I’ve noticed” organically.)

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      2. another Hero

        This is a great walk-around-the-block conversation imo, if it’s possible to step out like that. That way she can stay out and process if she needs to, coworkers don’t overhear, and you aren’t stuck sitting and facing each other (like if you did this over lunch and it was uncomfortable, you’d be…still at lunch)

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    7. This Daydreamer

      This. She has to learn about working with people who weren’t born lottery winners. She’ll be far better off if this ends before her coworkers start calling Marie Antoinette.

      Reply
    8. Kelsi

      You’d be doing her a favor, OP. I had a college roommate who also came from wealth, and while she was a sweet, genuine person, she had a similar ignorance of what it was like to be anything less than wealthy. (I remember once she invited me to go along with a group to a restaurant where dinner was around $20 minimum. I said thank you for the invite but I couldn’t afford to, and she offered to lend me the money. I had a difficult time getting her to understand that the problem wasn’t just that I didn’t have the money right then, but also that I wasn’t in a financial position to spend $20 on a single meal, no matter how much time she gave me to pay it back.)

      If you’re able to gently let her know, I think it can only help her in life going forward.

      Reply
      1. only acting normal

        A friend of mine once dated a really lovely young woman who came from a fair amount of money. When she met his best friend’s family she was shocked to realise there were people who had never been abroad on holiday or even on a plane. She eventually dumped my friend because she simply didn’t feel ‘secure’ financially with him (and he was solidly middle class with a decent entry level professional job).

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      2. tired anon

        I had this in college as well — “Oh, I can’t go out, I don’t have the money” led to a very well-meant offer to stop at an ATM on the way. We both left that interaction horrified and embarrassed, but thankfully it was college and after that, I bet my friend never did that in an office situation.

        Reply
  2. Audrey Puffins

    I’m not sure I’d be able to stop myself responding to every declaration of wealth with a headshake and an “I guess money can’t buy class”.

    Reply
    1. Audrey Puffins

      But seriously, I think you’ve got the wording there. If you, or a usefully kind but forthright co-worker, could take her out for coffee to ask how she’s enjoying the world of work but also clue her in on a few workplace norms and delicately let her know that most people really do not want to talk finances then it would be doing her a great favour in the long run.

      Reply
      1. Armchair Analyst

        It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich… person to mention gifted Tiffany dog collars at work.

        Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah—a comment like that is also unlikely to change her behavior. It will just make Jill feel like OP is “mean.”

        Reply
      2. JokeyJules

        Yeah, it’s not like she’s doing it to be malicious. A response like this would be malicious.

        If she was making those comments to make her coworkers feel less than, that would be different. It seems like she just genuinely doesn’t realize she is being rude.

        Reply
      3. Foreign Octopus

        I don’t believe Audrey intended OP to actually take that advice, simply that it would be tempting to say but it’s something you need to bite back: we’ve all had those moments where the perfect snarky response was on the tip of our tongue but we had to clamp our mouths shut.

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          It’s tempting to lash out because it seems unfair. That said, I’ve seen several people get nasty as though someone were being rich or successful **at** them. They make nasty passive agressive comments because they feel unsuccessful. They even gossip about the person to take them down. That too is a form of materialism. You’re angry you can have it.

          Reply
          1. Mookie

            This woman is neither rich nor successful; as other commenters pointed out, it’s her parents who are rich and she’s a fellow colleague to the LW, not a higher-up. Also, her comments rankle not because her colleagues are Jus Jellus but because she seems (a) unaware of anyone else’s reality compared to her own privilege and (b) how that privilege colors her interactions with co-workers, such that she makes insulting ‘helpful’ suggestions that can appear both clueless and aggressive. These are comparatively easy deficiencies in chararacter, attitude, and world-view to correct, if she wants it bad enough. Whereas no amount of wanting, wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ can make up for growing up disadvantaged in a comically unjust world. She’s just fine.

            Reply
            1. Engineer Girl

              To willfully get insulted by someone that is clueless shows the problem is you. Normal people would let it pass or even think it was funny.

              I think it’s pretty clear she’s been sheltered so has no idea about the real world. You act as though she’s willfully ignorant of the world. Have the talk and if she doesn’t change then that’s a different deal.

              And don’t blame her for the world being unjust.

              Reply
              1. pancakes

                Being sheltered is a choice. It isn’t mandatory for wealthy people, nor for the rest of us. Either way, it’s a bit over the top to tell someone they aren’t “normal” for saying that the coworkers probably felt insulted. The coat example alone would easily be insulting to many people.

                Reply
                1. Tiny Soprano

                  I have to agree. She clearly doesn’t need a job for money, so it’s quite possible she has it because she’s interested in the field and wants a career/life of her own. It may also be in an effort to BECOME less sheltered. In either case, I think it’s appropriate for the OP to have a gentle chat to her about professional norms, for her own sake.

              2. Justagirl

                I 100% agree with Engineer girl, the problem isn’t so much this sheltered girl but the OP, the fact that she’s bothered by what this girl says shows her own insecurities. The 4 Agreements, take nothing personally.

                Reply
              3. Plastic Sandwich

                But I can blame her for having shallow values.

                It’s true money can’t buy class. I may not be monetarily overflowing, but I know enough not to discuss money and the prices of gifts as if it’s anything to be jealous of. So gauche.

                Reply
                1. Engineer Girl

                  They are shallow under your cultural norms, by which you are judging her. OP states she was raised in a different culture. So why do you expect her to automatically know this?

                  And you don’t know her values. You are assuming them based on her statements about money.

                2. aebhel

                  @Engineer Girl, people are assuming her values based on… things she has explicitly said that she values?

                  Also, she’s a 23-year-old college graduate; she’s not a child. ‘But she must be SO SHELTERED’ isn’t much of an excuse for behavior that is, yes, gauche. It doesn’t mean she’s the Antichrist, but it does mean that she’s alienating her coworkers and it would be a kindness to tell her so–and there’s nothing wrong with privately rolling your eyes at someone who won’t stop talking about how very very very rich they (or at least their parents) are.

              4. Lunita

                Mookie isn’t blaming her for the world being unjust, merely stating facts about her situation as they were related in the OP’s letter. And it is unfair. The world is unfair. You seem to be labeling OP as jealous and abnormal because they dislike her constant talk of money. Being annoyed at constant talk of any topic doesn’t need to stem from jealousy.

                Reply
                1. Engineer Girl

                  She’s not annoyed at constant talk. She’s annoyed because the other person treats money casually.

                2. aebhel

                  If her coworker just treated money casually and didn’t talk about it all the time, OP wouldn’t even know. So, yeah, it is the constant money talk.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt

      I wouldn’t say it this way – but if you are all friendly and joking sometimes gentle teasing can accomplish some basic correction. Like when she said he should buy a designer coat, laugh a little and say “Well, some of us poor church mice need to pinch our pennies a bit more than that”. This worked really well at old job where no amount of me asking a coworker to not spay his cologne near me ever stopped him, but the moment the dudes in the office started teasing him about smelling pretty it ended forever.

      Reply
      1. AK

        +1 I think a calm “North Face/Tiffany/etc is a bit outside most of our price ranges” can be helpful in the right situation. Possibly after a more direct “I don’t know if you realize this, but…” conversation if it still looks like she’s not getting the hint.

        Reply
        1. Wren

          “Out of our price range” type remark works for the situation where she’s advising someone to change their intended purchase, but for the types of comments where she’s excited about what she or her family members are going to purchase/have purchased, the private conversation along the lines of, “I’m sure you don’t mean to, but it’s alienating…” is still necessary.

          Reply
      2. Bubble Witch

        Kind of makes me wonder how everyone would treat the girl if she was excited about just getting her mom a keychain for Christmas, with no additional context.

        Reply
    3. OfOtherWorlds

      She’s not from the US. If she’s not from Western Europe either this sort of conspicuous consumption might be associated with aristocrats and high class people, not with vulgar new money.

      Reply
      1. 30 Years in the Biz

        I’m thinking that this talk of money might be a way she can up her status and feel more comfortable in the group. She might be feeling inadequate in some aspects of her job and this is a method of coping and making herself feel better.

        Reply
        1. Tiny Soprano

          Exactly. It’s uncomfortable being the rookie! You’re the lowest in the pecking order, you don’t know as much as your co-workers, you end up doing a lot of fetch-and-carry, and until you find your feet it can get you down a bit! She’s probably very unused to feeling like this, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head that the money talk is an unconscious way of trying to shore up her own self-worth.

          Unfortunately (also because she’s new and young) she probably doesn’t realise it’s unprofessional, alienates her co-workers and isn’t going to help her get past the awkward rookie stage. If it’s gently pointed out that she’s shooting herself in the foot, she has the chance to fix it before it becomes her defining feature.

          Reply
      2. Auntie Social

        The other way around—it is more likely associated with new money. Old money doesn’t mention the price of anything.

        Reply
        1. Mia

          That’s still a very Western norm though. I have some extended family from the Middle East who would certainly be considered old money and they (and people within their general circle) are all about bragging and showing off. I wouldn’t be surprised if other cultures outside of the Western world have similar philosophies about money.

          Reply
          1. Blue Anne

            Yes. I’ve experienced this type of talk from folks from the Middle East and from Eastern Europe. It’s kind of a reversed norm.

            Reply
          2. Traffic_Spiral

            Yup. I casually-professionally knew a young woman from a wealthy middle eastern family, and one time at a gathering (a group that was all pretty well to-do-professionals, and some with *very* rich parents, but all western) she went on about how her Dad was buying a range rover, but didn’t know if he wanted the white range rover, the black Range Rover, or maybe get a more fun blue RANGE ROVER.

            One of the other guys started taking the piss out of her, “I’m sorry, what brand did you say he wanted? The range rover? No! I didn’t know that – you should have mentioned it from the start.” Then people started joining in and “but is it a range rover” became the in-joke of the night.

            At the time I thought it was a hilarious take down of a classless snob, but as I’ve spent more time in the middle east, I sorta feel that someone should have gently taken her aside and explained the cultural differences to her.

            That jackass I was stuck next to at a professional dinner who wouldn’t shut the hell up about how expensive it was to permanently dock his yacht in the main downtown marina, though – he can go fuck himself.

            Reply
          3. GreenDoor

            This is what I was assuming. And in many countries, people DO hold those who descend from money in high regard. So considering her age, perhaps she’s mostly been surrounded by others of that culture and doesn’t know that it’s different. OP would be doing a kindness to nicely get it across that around here, we tend to have more respect for people who earn their own living. And that it’s generally considered tacky to put a dollar figure on what you’re talking about. “

            Reply
          4. Egyptian

            I’m Egyptian (if you consider that the Middle East) and we definitely have an old money/new money distinction. It’s considered classless to brag about the extravagant things you can afford. I’m sure snobby old money rich people exist there–heck, I’m sure there are plenty. But that’s way more of a new money attitude.

            Regardless, if you’re sheltered, that’s the real problem. Most rich people (and non-rich, to be fair) EVERYWHERE only understand poverty anecdotally. Most of us can’t fathom a lifestyle of living within the poverty threshold. It’s a perennial, ageless problem.

            Reply
            1. Auntie Social

              My Egyptian friend took me to his “little house in the country”—um, he owned all the land around it for miles!!! I love the Egyptian way of doing things–nothing ostentatious at all until you’re sure you’re among friends, then you can put your 6 carat engagement ring back on! They’re very cautious about being vulgar.

              Reply
        2. Blue Anne

          I think OfOtherWorlds was saying that this type of talk is associated with new money in the US and Western Europe, but in other parts of the world this type of talk is a high class signal.

          Reply
      3. Decima Dewey

        I worked for a Delaware investment firm right after college. The figurehead chairman was a minor du Pont with the Eleuthere Irenee as his given names. He drove an orange Chevette with initials in gilt on the drivers side door.

        Reply
        1. I want a nap.

          A chevette? That does not fit in my world view of a showy car. I mean, my father had a chevette when he was working on an assembly line for close to minimum wage.

          Reply
    4. happymeal

      I genuinely think that kind of malicious response would make people feel more uncomfortable than what she’s saying about the cost of things.

      Reply
    5. wittyrepartee

      I’d have responded to the coat thing with “can’t afford that, need to pay rent. Also, don’t like Northface.”

      Reply
      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        Same. Maybe singing it to Jill would take out some of the sting? “Elegance is learned, my friend!”

        Reply
  3. Celeste

    Someone would actually do her a big favor by giving her some feedback that she should learn to read the room before making some of these comments. It will only help her if she decides to stay in the workforce.

    Reply
    1. cleo

      This is where channeling your inner Tim Gunn from Project Runway is really helpful. His attitude is “I like you and I want you to succeed and that’s why I want to give you this feedback.”

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Oh yes, very much this. This is important information for her to know. She sounds clueless, not snobby, so the Tim Gunn approach is well suited to the situation.

        Reply
      2. Public Sector Manager

        I try to convey that same information to struggling members of my time except my version was more wordy and not as classy. Cleo, I’m going to steal this one. Thank you!

        As an aside, the second I saw “cleo” all I could think about was “call me now for your free reading” from Ms. Cleo.

        Reply
      3. LizM

        I love this framing. I watch Project Runway a lot, I don’t know why it never occurred to me to channel Tim Gunn during difficult mentoring/coaching conversations.

        Reply
      4. Close Bracket

        Tim Gunn is my hero. He is so classy. Even his harsh feedback is gently said. I want to be just like him if I grow up.

        Reply
    2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems

      Absolutely this. It seems like she’s young, and from a different culture (and some have very different norms around money) and so is having trouble reading the room. Helping her with some tricks for that skill would be a kindness.

      Want to throw out the fact that it sounds like she may also be the only one living at home so not needing to pay living expenses is probably giving her a lot more “disposable income” than the rest of the group (and again this may be tied to the culture of origin).

      Reply
      1. Observer

        It may be worth point out to her, again in a private conversation that she’s not only tromping all over US workplace norms, but also in a lot of cultures (not just in the US) boasting about your money is considered very declasse. Also that if she’s worried about friendships with “gold diggers” a good way to lower the chances is just to not flaunt her wealth quite so much.

        I’d be interested to know what her social relationships are like.

        Reply
        1. MK

          I agree. I believe that in my culture money is much less private subject than the U.S.; e.g. it’s not considered rude to ask someone what they paid for something or how much they make (though it is considered downright boorish to press for details if they give and it’s fine to give a pretty curt answer in such a case). But volunteering the price of things you bought or bringing up brands all the time is viewed as vulgar.

          Reply
        2. Tiny Soprano

          And we know from the AAM archives how many terrible co-workers out there like to harass their colleagues for money and loans and never pay them back…. She might not end up being rich for long.

          Reply
    3. Folklorist

      Yeah, I’m wondering if she’s saying these things because she’s feeling a little bit of impostor syndrome and is trying to compensate for feeling out of her depth by bragging/namedropping/whatever her way into feeling better about herself. I know that when I was in a really vulnerable place in my career, I did this unintentionally and only realized it with hindsight. It would definitely be a kindness to take this tack with her!

      Reply
    4. CynicallySweet

      I actually think this is incredibly helpful. B/c people do talk about finances at work, not like she does, but the conversations happen. So telling her to just shut it down could be incredibly confusing. Telling her to pay attention to how others discuss these things for a little while might be the best road to go

      Reply
  4. bunniferous

    You did not say where she was from but it is possible this is a cultural issue. It is also possible it is just bad home training. You will be doing her a kindness to take her to one side and explain how the money talk is offputting.

    Reply
        1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems

          Amy,
          This was my take as well. Americans can as a larger group be far more reserved than other culture groups when it comes to money discussions.
          The fact she is still living at home would not be weird in many of those groups either.

          Reply
          1. Jaybeetee

            Western culture in general is admittedly a bit screwed up on this topic. I mean, people are literally more comfortable discussing their sex lives than finances.

            Reply
            1. Anonymeece

              It’s funny, because I read a book by a British person who thought that Americans were very open about money. She was shocked that people openly talked/asked about what people made, and I remember my knee-jerk reaction being, “NO!” just because it was so ingrained that you never do that. Even knowing discussing income helps ensure fair pay for everyone, I still have a slug inside me whenever I think about doing so.

              Reply
                1. Jennifer85

                  Looool.

                  Here (uk) I’d say asking how much rent you’re paying isn’t particularly rude. Asking how much a house cost is a bit ruder.. but also easily searchable public data if you know where someone lives #rightmovestalker.

                  Our neighbour reached ‘the level of money you don’t talk about with friends let alone near strangers’ when they repeatedly asked how much we paid, what our deposit was, how much our mortgage monthly payments are. I imagine that might be weird most places…

              1. Mookie

                Yep. It’s a common truism for western Europeans: Americans are way too braggy / curious/ indiscreet when discussing money, income, tax, and the price od anything and everything. I’m not sure where commenters are coming from in saying otherwise, but I think they’re generalizing a multicultural nation from a certain breed of WASP. Even American WASPs are too forward for some peopke’s tastes.

                Reply
                1. Anonymeece

                  Huh. I’m from the Southern US from a redneck, poor family, and it’s considered very rude and boorish to bring up money at all. I don’t remember anyone specifically telling me not to, but it was just… known, somehow.

                2. Perse's Mom

                  Midwestern born and raised and same as Anonymeece. Then again, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, so perhaps we can continue the condescending generalities by assuming all those western Europeans were born into money.

                3. aebhel

                  IME it’s extremely rude in poor communities to bring up money like this, because the odds are reasonably good that you’re talking to someone who’s not just not-rich, but who is actively struggling to make ends meet, and in American culture there are few things more embarrassing than being poor.

            2. Formerly Arlington

              I hear plenty of people talking about being thrifty, about deals they scored and how they batch cook to save money. It’s when it’s the other way around that it’s off-putting.

              Reply
              1. MatKnifeNinja

                Thank you. I find people oversharing how they make/use toliet rags instead of toilet paper, making your own laundry soap, and power their home with car batteries and a windmill with a huge air of SMUG equally off putting.

                Reply
                1. Myrna M

                  I think the OP was saying it’s actually not as off-putting, at all. And I’d agree – to talk about being thrifty is at least at the outset humble, and achievable by anyone. The opposite is what’s off-putting – bragging about riches. It’s uncouth and really just disgusting.

                2. Jennifer85

                  There’s ‘thrifty because you need or want to be’ and sort of performatively thrifty though. Like ‘isn’t it great I never spend money I don’t need to, even though I can afford to?’ – I think that could be annoying, especially as some of the stuff requires time/education (eg cooking from scratch all the time vs buying ready meals or freezer food) so in that case ‘everyone can be thrifty’ might not actually be true :)

                3. aebhel

                  I find performative thriftiness from wealthy people off-putting, especially when a lot of it is… not actually thrifty?

                  But sharing survival tips with other broke people is a bit of a different beast.

      1. MK

        Oh, I disagree. If a child receives no training at all, they are unlikely to start bringing up money all the time spontaneously. This is learned behaviour, probably by parents who behave that way themselves.

        Reply
        1. Foreign Octopus

          I think this is an excellent point, and it’s therefore useful to remember that learned behaviour can take a long time to be unlearned so if she seems to take onboard the feedback then be patient with her when she slips up.

          Reply
        2. Angry citizen

          And even more difficult a habit to unlearn if she has never lived away from home. They couldn’t use some of that Tiffany dog collar money to put her in a dorm where she could become better socialized?

          Reply
    1. It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's SuperAnon

      This. Explain it is not widely accepted in the US, especially in the workplace. If she’s been here since her teen years, she may have friends who all are brand snobs and she thinks that’s the norm, when in reality it’s not. The focus on Gucci/ Tiffany/ Michael Kors in particular remind me of some very spoiled classmates in high school.

      Reply
      1. Zip Silver

        Depends on where you live in the US. South Florida has such an absurdly flashy culture financed on credit card debt that is overwhelming for somebody moving from the rest of the country.

        Reply
        1. Doug Judy

          My neighbors are moving there soon from the Midwest. My sister used to live in South FL, and so did one of our other neighbors. We have tried to prepare them for the culture shock, but they seem to think it will be fine. I hope for their sake it works out but I have a feeling they have no idea what they are in for.

          Reply
        2. So long and thanks for all the fish

          Agreed. My parents have lived there for a few years, I see articles all the time about how it’s one of the worst places in the country in terms of the average income/cost of living ratio- and then I go visit, and I’ve never seen such a high concentration of Porsches, and higher each subsequent visit. It’s absurd.

          Reply
      2. Classic Rando

        I’d hazard a guess that her social circle is equally monied, so the coworkers are probably the only people close to her life that have a vastly different lifestyle. She probably doesn’t even realize that the things she talks about are considered overly expensive by most.

        This reminds me of a conversation I overheard this past summer at the beach. A group of young women sat near me, and their jewellery choices (pearls and diamonds) and mannerisms caught my attention. While eavesdropping on them I heard one talk about her relationship, saying when she moved in with her boyfriend it was the hardest time of their relationship. Initially I assumed she meant all the normal things that come with living with someone, but she then explained that his family is extremely wealthy, and so he had no concept of cleaning up after himself, because growing up “the help” would do it for him. She had to teach him how to do basic things like dishes and laundry. He’d leave things like sweaters lying around outside to get rained on, and then when she’d point out that it was gross and needed to be cared for, he’d say “just buy a new one” because he had no concept of the actual value of anything he owned or how it affected their income and budget.

        This person sounds like she was raised similarly, and as someone else said, knows the cost of things but not their value.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          That would be my assumption, as well. I’ve certainly heard U.S.-raised, U.S.-acculturated folks talk loudly and at length about their parents’ money and how selfish they are for not sharing more with them. Their bad manners had more to do with being in a social circle of similarly wealthy people, and they had no idea how tone-deaf or stunningly inappropriate they sounded.

          The most eye-opening experience I had was when I was walking down the street and heard a young woman in college complaining loudly on her cell phone that she couldn’t possibly live on an allowance of $100K per year (her parents paid her tuition, rent, and cost of attendance—her allowance was 100% disposable income). This is while walking through a part of the city where there was extraordinarily high poverty. It was so clear that she had never had anyone in her social circles who didn’t share her experience.

          Reply
          1. Environmental Compliance

            I had a similar experience in college. My family is a mix of blue collar & white collar – we were pretty solidly low to middle middle class. A friend of a friend in college was very much in a born into wealth family. As in, his parents paid for a couple dorm buildings on a whim. He had a $2000 a month booze allowance, and attempted to complain to his frat brothers about that because how dare he only have that much, it’s not enough for his tastes in liquor!!!1! It didn’t go over very well. He also would ask others for “just like $1000 not that much, just don’t have it on me right now” like the rest of us would ask to borrow a $10, and then get really offended none of us would lend him $1000 at the drop of a hat, or skip work to go party (“why go in, dude, it’s just work, it’s boring af”, well, yes, but I also need grocery money for the week).

            I honestly don’t recall him ever picking up on the social cues (and blunt conversations) that this isn’t how Life was for anyone else around him until his parents got fed up with his lack of passing classes and cut him off, leading to the friends he still had left finally getting frustrated enough to rip him (yet another) new one.

            Reply
            1. sofar

              I feel like college is a really common time for people to realize what they see as “normal” is really just due to their economic level.

              I remember planning a movie outing for a popular movie for the weekend with some people in my dorm and someone asking me (this was before the days of buying tickets online) if I could pick up everyone’s tickets (for about 10 people) at the theater because I worked on the same street. Then everyone could pay me back later. I asked for everyone’s money up front, and everyone was like, “Nah, I don’t have $10 cash on me right now, I’ll pay you back on movie night.” I had to be really clear and blunt that I barely had $100 in the bank to pay for everyone’s ticket upfront and, if I did, I wouldn’t be able to buy food the rest of the week.

              It was awkward, but those friends understood after that, and there was no need for further explanation in these situations. I hope LW’s coworker gets a similar blunt explanation before she, say, says something tone deaf to someone higher up.

              Reply
          2. Foreign Octopus

            I actually can’t imagine having $100k in fully disposable income. It’s incomprehensible to me: I’d be able to make that last ten years. I just…wow. It really, really is another world when you have wealth.

            Reply
            1. MatKnifeNinja

              I can. My BIL went an Ivy, where his three roommates where foreign diplomats kids (money/family name/no Midwest schmoes). They could not understand…

              Why he couldn’t just go to Aspen with them skiing, go down to Florida for a 4 day vaycay, and why no car? Imagine you could eat anywhere or anything, buy what you want, go where you want with no real planning or scrounging. Your bank account always has cash.

              Maybe my next Karma wheel spin..lol.

              Reply
              1. Classic Rando

                Hahaha, this reminds me of another conversation I overheard in an elevator a few years ago. A couple of the fresh-out-of-college 20-somethings who worked for the fully funded nyc startup a couple floors below my office were talking about school trips and one of them told a story where they were on a school trip in Europe and a couple of kids just decided to extend their trip by a week – without telling anyone in charge. So they basically didn’t turn up for the flight home and couldn’t understand why the adults were upset with them.

                It really is a totally different world, being raised with endless funds and zero consequences.

                Reply
                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

                  A group of my friends worked for a guy like that, at a startup he’d founded in 1999-2000, with the money his rich parents and his friends’ equally rich parents had given them as investment. He and his friends were all about 25 years old, a few years out of college. His friends worked there in upper management roles and my friends in developer roles for ridiculously low pay. My ex-boss from a previous job had found that place first, was hired as development manager, and brought all my friends in. Not even six months after my friends started working there, before the product was ready, the company had two rounds of layoffs in a row. Then the paychecks started bouncing. Then my friends stopped getting paychecks at all. They all still continued to come into work, both with the expectations of someday getting paid, and to search for jobs on company internet. Everyone found new jobs and left within a few months; albeit with credit card debt, because none of my friends had savings, and at least some that I know of were forced to put their bills, daycare fees, etc on their credit cards. At one point during that mess, the CFO somehow got laid off, and my ex-boss seized the opportunity to take him out for lunch, and to ask him what the hell had happened that the company was out of funds so soon. Having just gotten the pink slip, the CFO told everything he knew. Turned out, the “upper management” (ie kids who had grown up with endless funds and zero consequences, and whose parents had given them large amounts of cash to start that company) spent all of the funds on McMansions, vintage cars, and the $100K bonuses that they gave themselves. At which point, the money ran out, and their solution was to lay off half of my friends and to stop paying everyone else. The company folded in early 2001, the product was never released.

                  I occasionally see the company’s former owner’s name in the news. He’s in his 40s now. He proudly talks about how he founded a startup in the 2000s. He leaves out all the details.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I couldn’t, either. The only thing I can imagine doing with that kind of money is paying off my student loan debt, or possibly buying a home.

              I had no idea people had that kind of money until I worked at an Ivy. It was the first time I realized that The Great Gatsby was based on real life, old money and new money was a real thing, and there are people who genuinely believe (and will complain loudly) that they cannot afford designer clothing, trips to Aspen and Ibiza, and recreational cocaine on *only* $100K/year.

              Reply
          3. Virtutlo

            On this topic… Refinery 29’s Money Diaries series is seriously eye opening series where they profile folks across the US about how they spend their money. One in particular always stands out to me, now titled “A Week In New York City On $25/Hour And $1k Monthly Allowance” which originally left out the 1k allowance (and the title still doesn’t capture all of her privilege). It can be really helpful to explore the ways in which these different groups talk about their wealth, and perhaps point Jill in the direction of some of the other diaries for folks who are living purely off their own income as a bit of a learning tool?

            Reply
            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              Was that the one whose parents also paid her NYC rent (which she’d also originally left out)?

              Reply
            2. Tiny Soprano

              Lol I could give her a diary and a half… the couple of years I spent living (not awfully but there were a lot of dinners of questionable nutritional value) on AUD$17000 (about US $12000). The habits I picked up are so strongly ingrained that I default to frugal even when I have more income. Thing is, my best friend was doing the same thing, but she’s from a very wealthy background. She did it deliberately. Her parents used to chastise her for not letting them bail her out when she had $20 to her name. It’s 100% possible for people who come from money to adjust their perspective.

              Reply
          4. Artemesia

            A favorite quote something like this from Seinfeld, who is close to a billionaire. He said his kids said ‘Dad are we rich?’ and his response was ‘well I am, but you aren’t.’ Good answer. I have a gazzillionaire brother who raised his kids required to work summers and put X$ each summer in their college fund as well as do reasonable chores. He could easily have financed college for all of them. The result was kids who grew up rich but with some idea of what it takes to acquire money and as adults have made wealthy lives for themselves (although not his equal) and who are not insufferable about money and work hard for theirs.

            Reply
      3. MatKnifeNinja

        If your family has REAL money, you aren’t spoiled, you are clueless how the serfs roll. Your whole life has been around your own social class. I have relatives who were raised like this. Do you know how wealthy you have to be to not have been impacted by the Great Depression or WWII growning up? I have a side of the family like that.

        I’ve worked with kids who think having their dad’s fly them (owns the plane) to Chicago for an American Girl shopping spree weekend, is like going to McDonalds. Or kids can show jump with horses running tens of thousands of dollars and all the gear and training that costs. A Mercedes is sort of a meh car to get for your birthday. Going to Tiffany’s for a dog collar is like me hitting Target.

        I don’t know if the coworker is that clueless, or cultural. I have friends from other cultures who do ask what things costs, and give commentary on what is nose wrinkling considered cheap to them.

        I like your idea of explaining that sort of commentary isn’t considered polite in a work environment. Be prepared the coworker may not “get it”. My relatives have lived in the US for 100 years, and don’t get it. Money buys you that option.

        Reply
        1. Classic Rando

          Yeah, I feel like, in regards to the Xmas presents especially, that she sees spending $250 on a keychain meant as a gift as “a bit spendy”, much like how some of us would say “$15 is a bit much for this item, but hey, it’s a gift.” She just doesn’t realize/understand that as adults most of us don’t even buy keychains, we just use the one our realtor/car dealer/work/etc gave us for free, or don’t spend more than $20 on average if we do buy them. She doesn’t realize her situation is the outlier, but hopefully with some kind guidance from op can recalibrate her view of the world.

          Reply
    2. HannahB

      I definitely second the cultural thing – my other half is Chinese and he and his friends and family definitely enjoy branded clothes/items and love discussing them and the prices – and they are not rich by any means they just save up or love discussing it. It was really strange for me at the beginning but its normal for him. Also the direct opinion reminds me of him. Your colleague asked an opinion and got a very direct honest opinion. Culturally, she might not realise that its a bit ‘gauche’ to say go for a brand. My partner once said to me that he sees advice as something that can be easily ignored if it doesn’t match what you yourself think, and feels that my culture censures our opinions way too much and it comes across as disingenuous to him. It would be kind to gently mention it to her that its coming across a little off, because one thing I’ve learned in a cross-cultural relationship is things that seem so obvious are not necessarily universal, and that subtle things like this can really through the spanner in the works for people trying to make friends and relationships with colleagues!

      Reply
      1. Manders

        Agreed, when I saw that Jill’s family isn’t from the US, I also assumed this was a cultural disconnect. My family doesn’t discuss money at all (even when we probably should), and it took me by surprise the first few times my friends from other cultures openly discussed income and showed off the brand name products they’d bought. They weren’t trying to make me feel bad, it was just a cultural disconnect.

        I also think it would be kind for the OP to take Jill aside and have a talk with her, because if Jill’s going to continue working in labs, she’ll probably have a lot of colleagues who aren’t well-paid. I wouldn’t immediately jump to assuming that Jill is being deliberately unkind.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It may be cultural, but it may not be a “non-U.S.’ v. “U.S.” issue. This sounds like a class and culture issue.

        I’ve met and seen young women from the United States with similar wealth as Jill, and they, too, often lacked an understanding of how to operate in mixed-income contexts. They made the exact comments Jill made. Most of them had the benefit of having their college colleagues tell them they were out of line, but I’ve met plenty others who never had the benefit of an intervention and still sound like Jill.

        Reply
        1. Hull & Oats

          One thing I have come to appreciate is that some people genuinely didn’t connect the concept of a brand name with wealth. They’d never had to consider price and based purchasing decisions on other variables like quality, fashion and popularity.

          I once had a friend recommend a winter boot I could never possibly afford. She was considering the fact that I couldn’t afford to buy new boots each year and was trying to steer me towards a boot that would last decades. Her economics were bunk, but heart was in the right place.

          All this to say that telling someone to stop discussing money is absolutely the first step but the problem may be more nuanced so don’t give up on her if you have to have top up chats.

          Reply
          1. Magenta

            Actually her economics were spot on:

            “The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

            Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

            But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
            This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

            Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

            Reply
            1. Scarlet

              Actually, it’s the other way around. It’s because rich people are rich that they spend less money. Being poor is actually expensive.

              Reply
                1. Scarlet2

                  I have no idea of the context, I’ve never liked Pratchett that much and didn’t read that book. I’m pointing out that budgeting advice generally point out that buying more expensive stuff is often cheaper in the long run (which is pretty obviously true), but that people need to be able to pay upfront for it, which is not the case if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck.
                  Taken out of context, it doesn’t look like the quote is taking that into consideration.
                  If you just take the sentence “rich people are rich because they spend less”, it actually looks pretty backwards.

                2. Allya

                  @Scarlet2
                  Right, but the context provided explicitly says, “A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

                  I think phrasing this in terms of what each group can afford makes it pretty clear the quote IS taking into consideration that people need to be able to pay for something up front to purchase it.

                  Yes, if you take the first sentence out of context it can look backwards, but you don’t need to read the whole book to understand what it’s saying, just the whole quote.

                3. Shabang

                  That’s been my experience. I used to buy inexpensive boots from Walmart or wherever for work – $50 to $100 a whack. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it 6 months and almost never a year. I figure I was probably spending $200-250 a year for boots, and I invariably would have wet feet or holes in the soles, etc…

                  I finally looked at what the maintenance guys at work were wearing and went to the truck that sells tools and such. It took a bunch for me to crow-bar my wallet open and pay $200 for the first pair of those Australian boots. But they are comfortable and they last a long time. The oldest pair I have are still going strong after 5 years.

            2. Hull & Oats

              In the long run, absolutely, it makes more sense to price out the cost of an item over it’s lifetime rather than solely on upfront expense. In the short term though, you have to physically have enough money to purchase the higher price item in order to realize the long term savings.

              When I was shopping for the boots, it would have taken me seven months to save up for the expensive boots. I needed boots right away. That’s how the cycle you described above gets started.

              Reply
            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              It’s not always that they spend less, but having adequate credit and financial security can significantly lower costs. It’s incredibly expensive to be poor (or even simply low-income).

              Reply
              1. Airy

                I think Pratchett’s point that having to buy several replacements of a low-cost item that doesn’t last long can easily end up as a bigger expenditure over time than buying the more expensive version that lasts longer once stands.

                Reply
                1. AdminX2

                  No one disagrees with the point. But the real day life economics means you get the cheaper boots because that’s what you have and you need boots and no one is going to give them to you or give the extra money to you. Just like you may spend enough bus fare over years to put a down payment on a car- but you need to get to work that day.
                  Most people just need a nudge to be told “Actually that’s expensive in my world, you never know what challenges a person has.”

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I understood :) If you’re more affluent, you have the means to buy a more expensive pair of boots in the short-term, whereas lower-income folks often don’t have the cash flow or credit to buy a longer-lasting, higher-cost item. My comment was primarily aimed at the very high costs that low-income/wealth people (esp. low-income people of color) incur because of cash and credit limitations.

                3. Decima Dewey

                  Yes, but I definitely have the money to buy new boots at Payless. The expensive boots that would last longer? Don’t know when I’d ever know when I’d have the money.

            4. pleaset

              This is like when someone tries to sell you “the best” of something, and you wonder if you can afford it. But really, can you afford to get something cheaper, that’ll wear out?

              As an example, supposedly Michael Bloomberg has just a handful of pairs of shoes for the office – all Allen Edmonds. Those are fairly expensive – like $400 to $800 shoes. But they can be re-soled every few years, and he’s supposedly had some for decades.

              Not sure if this is true, but it’s interesting.

              I’m pretty well-off – like top just in the top 20% of income in the US, and I can buy stuff on sale even if I don’t need it, etc, saving money in the long run. Maybe not $800 shoes though.

              Contrast all this that with someone living paycheck to paycheck, who has an emergency, has to borrow at high-interest, and is screwed even more. Being poor is expensive.

              Reply
              1. Mookie

                Also, let’s not confuse marked-up by virtue of a name that appeals to conspicuous consumers with well-made or well-tailored. The quality of some of these brands is atrocious for the price. The marked rich (nouveau included, obviously) like their off-rack fast fashion same as anybody, but longevity beyond a season is not their primary concern.

                Reply
              2. Tiny Soprano

                Speaking of shoes, I had a really interesting convo with a cobbler once about how cheap shoes are designed to need replacing. How they’re designed so you CAN’T re-heel them, even though it’d be cheaper. It forces poorer people to keep buying new shoes because the patch above the heel’s worn through, even though the rest of the shoe is still fine. And though it’s possible to find cheap shoes that aren’t designed this way, that takes time and effort that you don’t have if you’re working two or three jobs. It was fascinating and depressing.

                Reply
        2. Rebecca in Dallas

          Yes, it’s cultural but those cultures can be wildly different here in the US. I grew up in the South where you don’t talk about what things cost and the old money families look down on the “nouveau riche.” One of my good friends grew up in a wealthy part of LA where money is money and you brand name-drop like crazy. She doesn’t say she bought new shoes, she says she bought new Valentinos. Her habit didn’t stop when she went to college, either, because she went to an Ivy League school with other trust fund kids. (I will say that she is an extremely hard worker and very generous, so I tend to let her comments slide.)

          Reply
      3. DaniCalifornia

        This is what I was thinking. I worked with Chinese grad students and it was eye opening to learn what was acceptable to ask and give opinions on vs how Americans view it. They had no problem telling you if they thought you gained weight! Or asking how much something was very bluntly. We had several cultural lessons on this to learn about theirs and for us to teach them about customs in the US workplace if they were staying for jobs/internships.

        Reply
    3. Zip Silver

      New Money behavior transcends cultures worldwide, if #RichKidsOfInstagram is anything to go by.

      Can’t buy good taste.

      Reply
    4. Karen from Finance

      Yes, and “cultural” is wider than country of origin.

      I’m from outside the US. I’ve had friends do this and I haaaate it. It’s not something that’s acceptable in the culture overall. But what I’ve noticed is that people from privilieged backgrounds, of whom I’ve met quite a few, tend to have one or two attitudes about discussing money depending on their social circles: (1) they’ll be very coy about having money and try to hide their upper-class-ness as much as possible, or (2) they’ll take money for granted and talk very much how the girl in this situation does; because they’ve always had money they don’t care about it, and assume it’s the same for everyone else.

      It comes down to how aware people are of their own privilege, in the end. And how much they care about it.

      Reply
    5. sfigato

      I live in the SF bay area, and I’m amazed at how different attitudes towards wealth/materialism differ from city to city. What people wear, what cars they drive, how they talk about possessions, all changes depending on the zip code. What is totally normal in some social circles would get the serious side eye in others.

      And culturally, there are some cultures where brand names/materialism is much more important than in others. Also, in my experience, folks who grew up poor often care more about this than people who grew up comfortable. I’ve learned to be less judgemental about it because I know that it means something very different if you grew up struggling.

      I think it is worth having a talk with her, because it is super sensitive to many people. It can come off as really insensitive and out of touch to brag about how wealthy you are to some people. You don’t know your colleagues financial situations – they may be totally struggling. Being aware and sensitive to those differences will only help her long term.

      Reply
    6. Engineer Girl

      I agree with this so much. And frame it as an “I want you to be successful here and not alienate people”

      I really don’t think she gets it. Technically, talking about money, liking designer duds, and having high standards is not rude. But many people feel burdened by money so will have strong negative emotional reactions when they see others with it. The mean spirited will see a need to retaliate and take down that person.

      The key issue is that others may be struggling so flaunting the wealth is rubbing salt in the wound, even if it wasn’t intended as such. Explain that the culture of playing down wealth is strong (Steve Jobs in blue jeans).

      Also realize that some people will resent her money no matter what. They will see it as unfair or gained by illicit means and then blame her for it. It would be a great act of friendship if you could be a regular worker sounding board on those occasions.

      I suspect she has no idea what it means to live on a smaller paycheck.

      Reply
      1. Anoncorporate

        Jill is obviously clueless, but it’s so ironic that she is doing this in a lab setting. Like, this type of behavior would be somewhat more accepted in the corporate world. In general, it would still be rude, but you’re more likely to find multiple Jills in the corporate world than in a science lab.

        Reply
    7. Anoncorporate

      I’m definitely interpreting this more as a parenting issue than a cultural issue, even if her parents did come from a different culture. The issue isn’t just that her parents have money – it’s that her parents pay for everything and didnt teach her etiquette. This leads to a couple of things: she probably genuinely doesn’t know the prices and price comparison of things, and thinks she is genuinely being helpful by saying Tiffany’s is better quality. This is obviously causing her some issues.

      I grew up in an educated middle class family that was not at all materialistic, but the did the equivalent of the brand thing with universities. I was brainwashed as a kid to believe that only people who attended Yale/Harvard/Tufts were smart and anyone who attended state school or community college was dumb. (Seriously!) It wasn’t until I started applying for colleges myself that I realized something – there is a HUGE ASS DIFFERENCE in tuition pricing! I ended up going to a state school.

      Reply
  5. MxCat

    If you have a rapport with her I would suggest you pull her aside as a concerned person not just a colleague. It’s best to sit with her and tell her you’re concerned for her professionally, as that has a chance to get through to her

    Reply
  6. Mike C.

    Just talk to her? Tell her to knock it off? Anything other than just sitting there and hoping things change on their own?

    Reply
        1. Ella

          There’s a pretty big range of possible reactions, from yelling “you’re annoying and everyone hates you” at her in public to subtly pulling her aside and giving her a polite heads up that talk of gifts and money is coming off badly. I assume OP is asking where on that scale she should fall, and if anyone has suggestions for how to word things.

          (And OP, I agree with what other people say. Pull her aside and give her a gentle heads up that her constant gift talk is coming across awkwardly, and she might be better off avoiding it in the future.)

          Reply
        2. Murphy

          You can look at the reader responses her and find a variety of strategies about how to have that conversation with her.

          When I was young and inexperienced “You’re being extremely rude, knock it off” would not have been something I would have responded to well.

          Reply
          1. nonegiven

            How about, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, your family has more money than god. Your puppy has a larger clothing budget than I do. I’m tired of hearing you brag about money, cut it out.”

            Reply
        3. Marenthius

          Phrasing it like that is extremely rude though and most likely to cause even more animosity. The fact that LW his asking means they want to help change the dynamic. Instead of being them for asking for help we should be giving useful scripts from times we’ve delt with a similar situation.

          Reply
        4. Eeyore's missing tail

          I think OP may be looking for a nice way to phrase. Just saying “You’re extremely rude, knock it off.” can come across as rude or abrasive. Especially if she’s otherwise a nice person, but just seems clueless in this area. I like cleo’s response above. It’s more positive way to phrase that she’s acting rude and annoying, but that we still want you to succeed.

          Reply
        5. Not Australian

          Frankly, I’d be tempted to say “My dear, we simply do *not* discuss money” in my best Lady Bracknell tone …

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            Hold up – discussing money in the context of “hey, are we all getting paid similar amounts for the work/experience/value we bring to the company” are perfectly fine discussions to have, so we shouldn’t be saying that discussing money is completely off the table.

            Reply
            1. Someone Else

              Given that you just had to clarify that, it sort of proves the point that your original “just say it” is not as straightforward and obvious as you initially implied. The OP is looking for advice on HOW to say this and get the right message across. So “just tell her” isn’t really helpful.

              Reply
            2. Mookie

              Yes. A certain kind of affected ‘distaste’ for discussing nickels and dimes is because money is a source of inequality and inequality is something people can and do actively defend, if not outright fight for.

              Reply
            3. Lobsterp0t

              You might be unaware of how often this has happened recently, but i wanted to feed back to you that it’s actually consideed gauche to bring up personal and family wealth in workplace conversations. (Coat example). It can give the impression of bragging or taking luxuries for granted, even if you’re only intending to join in the conversation.

              Done.

              Reply
        6. Dust Bunny

          This is really unnecessary. She’s young, likely grew up in these financial circumstances, and as far as we know, nobody has told her before that this is tacky. It’s not like she’s 40 and has been told repeatedly that this isn’t cool. Always err on the side of gentleness the first time.

          Reply
        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think you channel the “hey, you may not realize, but…” tone that Alison recommends and you say something like:

          “Hey, Jill, do you have a sec? I’ve noticed that when people ask for advice or discuss their non-work life, you often bring up luxury items and labels. Discussing luxury items and labels in this way can be really off-putting, especially because we have such an economically diverse staff. There are many folks who either can’t or simply would not want to purchase luxury items. Hearing about your and your family’s spending can sound insensitive, even to people who share your love of luxury goods. I know you wouldn’t want anyone to feel that you were being insensitive, so I wanted to flag the issue for you.”

          Reply
        8. Oxford Comma

          “I know you meant well when you suggested a North Face or a Michael Kors jacket to [name of male co-worker], but I wonder if you realize most of us here do not have that kind of disposable income.”

          Because it’s entirely possible she has absolutely no idea.

          It’s also entirely possible that she will never change, but it’s a kindness to have that conversation now where she can maybe adjust to workplace norms and become a more considerate colleague.

          Reply
        9. CynicallySweet

          Honestly when I was younger I would find that comment exceptionally confusing. Especially in a situation where it appears to stem from genuine obliviousness. She obviously doesn’t think she’s being rude. So, just saying You’re being rude isn’t the way to go here

          Reply
    1. Kes

      I think that’s a little unfair – OP does want to talk to her and is just looking for advice on how to approach it. Also, it sounds like it was happening less often before and OP was ignoring in hopes that Jill would pick up on her coworkers’ reactions or lack thereof, which is normally how people realize they’re talking about an awkward subject. Since she hasn’t figured this out on her own, OP is preparing to take further steps.

      Reply
      1. Katherine

        This. The letter doesn’t mention “sit there and hope things will change” as an option, and your comment reads as condescending and impatient.

        Reply
      2. Mike C.

        I’m not criticizing the OP by saying, “do anything but sit there and wait”, I’m trying to support the idea that there are a ton of ways to go about it, just don’t go this specific way.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          It also doesn’t help when seemingly half the updates last month involved OPs doing nothing, taking none of the advice offered and just waiting for something to change.

          Reply
          1. Marthooh

            People read that out of context because you didn’t give us any context. As it is, that last part of the comment comes off as “Wow, you sure are being stupid about this!”

            Reply
        2. Bostonian

          Ah I see. I think people were interpreting “do anything but sit there and wait” as your assessment/criticism of what OP has done so far, hence why it sounded harsh, when in fact you were legitimately advising to do anything other than nothing.

          Reply
          1. Katherine

            To be fair, making basic suggestions in the form of a question, as Mike C did above [just talk to her?], generally carries the subtext of “[insert advice here?], you dumbass.” May not have been the intent, but I think it would come across as harsh to a lot of people, possibly including the OP.

            Reply
              1. WakeUp!

                Or you’d choose the indirect and passive-aggressive way to do it, and then complain about it on another message board?

                Reply
          2. DerJungerLudendorff

            Which seems like we just demonstrated another reason for taking the gentle approach, and for actually explaining what she did wrong. If you’re terse and rude, you’re not communicating clearly, and people will likely take a negative interpretation of what you said.
            Not because they’re evil or can’t take criticism, but because our opinion of the messenger influences how we receive the message.

            Reply
    2. cleo

      Depending on the situation and the personalities I do think a gentle, “hey, knock that off, you sound really snobby” at the moment could work. And if that’s not comfortable to do, talking to her one on one.

      But this is one of those things that is both really obvious and actually hard to do, especially for people in their late 20s – early 30s.

      Reply
    3. LQ

      If everyone just spoke to everyone when something was bothering them there would be like 2 letters a week here. Clearly people aren’t good at it, so sometimes they (I!) need help with how do you approach it? What language would you use?

      And I’d actually doubt that OP is currently just sitting there hoping things change, more likely is giving subtle social ques that aren’t being picked up on. (And may be so subtle that the people that are doing it don’t notice it. Humans are strange.)

      Reply
      1. Hermaine

        I’d just be flamboyant in response and day, “Tiffany’s is so yesterday, I flew to Paris and bought a keychain from Chanel just because it’s a world-wide exclusive and only sold there in store – what you didn’t know about it?”. Then I’d whip out a random keychain and keep pretending it’s the real deal. A few silly jokes will overshadow the snotty comments. The girl will be too embarrassed to keep talking so much about wealth after everyone hams it up and says even more outrageous comments.

        Reply
  7. Four lights

    After she says something again…”You know Jill, maybe it was just the Christmas season, but I find you talk a lot about your families assets. I’ve found that in the workplace people don’t typically go into that much detail about their finances.”

    Reply
    1. Smithy

      Since the OP mentions that Jill’s family came to the US when she was a teenager, this can also be framed in the context of “in the workplace in the US”.

      While I can make assumptions about where Jill might be from and whether or not what’s she’s doing would or would not be acceptable in her social circles there – this sets up the conservation to be about US workplace cultural norms. And potentially particularly US work culture in laboratories and wanting to support her success in the field.

      Reply
      1. ANon.

        I think it’s important to consider that it may be a cultural difference for OP’s sake so as to help empathize with Jill, I also think it’s important to not make assumptions that it *is* a cultural thing when speaking with her. Bringing up the “this is what we do in the US” sort of language – especially unsolicited – could have some really bad optics and offend Jill.

        Reply
        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Thank you – I’ve had people do that to me and it never fails to make me angry; which I’m sure is not the OP’s intention. (My favorite still remains the first guy I went out with after my divorce, who asked “is this cultural?” when I said I did not want a relationship with him. No, buddy, it’s not cultural, you’re just a douchebag that I would not wish on any woman.) Besides, surely there are US-born people who brag about their families’ wealth? I don’t know enough really wealthy people for it to have been my experience, but they have to be out there.

          Reply
            1. TechWorker

              Definitely. And whilst this could be deliberate bragging it could also just be what you get in all cultures, clueless people who assume their experience is the norm.

              Reply
          1. Oxford Comma

            I work with a US born person who is obsessed with brand names and seems bewildered when we’re not impressed that she got a Prada purse for her birthday.

            Reply
          2. MatKnifeNinja

            I have relatives who come from wealth, and worked for wealthy people. The are US born.

            It’s not bragging (I have those friends who spend beyond their means and brand drop), but not having a clue how the bad cattle survive.

            Reply
          3. Lobsterp0t

            Yeah, I’ve lived in the U.K. for ten years so when people assume I don’t know something because I’m not British, rather than for another (usually more obvious and immediate) reason, it just sounds patronising. Why assume? She can’t volunteer that insight if it’s a reflection she has on her lack of context.

            Reply
        2. Elemeno P.

          Yes, this. I’m surprised at the comments saying to specify US work norms to her; this is her first job, so she has no work norms to compare them to. She may be a little rude (and the actions may not be perceived as rude in her cultural background), but making a point about her being Other is going to make the discussion more heated than necessary.

          Reply
        3. Audrey Puffins

          This. At best, it might be worth bearing in the back of your mind in case *Jill* brings up that it’s a cultural thing in not-the-US, but it’s not a flag to hang out from the get-go.

          Reply
        4. Kramerica Industries

          Yes! There are highly materialistic people in the US too. Let’s not pretend like this is a cultural thing that only exists outside of the US. What solutions would we be proposing for an American trust fund student new to the working world?

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            And ironically, not all of them are wealthy. Some of them don’t have enough money and get resentful (and make comments) when someone else has nice things. That too is materialism.

            Reply
      2. Scarlet

        I’d be inclined to *not* make it about “US workplace” specifically, because that could come off as “Hey, Foreign Person who doesn’t know stuff…” – I’d think a conversation about professional-and-social norms in the OP’s particular workplace should be plenty, since that can ground it in where they *are* (straightforward observable territory) rather than resting it on the co-worker’s cultural background (an approach full of landmines).

        Reply
        1. bonkerballs

          Agreed, especially since this is a kind of behavior the US is not exempt from. Lots of wealthy US people don’t know how talk around non wealthy people.

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Framing this as “in America, we do X” could easily come across as xenophobic, and depending on Jill’s country of origin, racist. I think the faux pas has more to do with the culture of certain SES strands than it does with a person’s home country. I’ve had someone make the mistake of telling me “In the U.S., it’s common to do X,” because they assumed I was an immigrant, and in addition to their advice being flat-out wrong, I was additionally irate with how they framed their feedback.

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          Yes, this. I teach English to immigrants and have to use the “Americans do XYZ” language with them since the whole point of the class is cultural immersion, but I would never say that to someone who isn’t my student.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            Tangential, sorry, but — Elemeno P., I hope you also talk at least once about the wide variations within a culture as well. I remember having to do an activity where the professor asked everyone in the class what time they had eaten breakfast and what they had eaten. Obviously the answers ranged from five am to noon, and nothing to a full hot breakfast. She then asked us what we would say a “typical” American eats for breakfast, and when. While we were able to agree on a general norm (maybe a bowl of cereal or a granola bar around 8 am), the activity emphasized to us how much individual choices can vary within a single culture.

            Reply
    2. ANon.

      Agreed, something along the lines, “Hey, I don’t know if you realize this, but you seem to talk about money quite a lot, particularly about buying/doing really expensive things. Personal finances really aren’t something that’s discussed in the workplace as it can make people uncomfortable. Can you try toning it down?”

      Reply
      1. Huts

        I think personal finances are fine to discuss but the problem is that she is basically bragging about her wealth and flashing it.

        Reply
    3. Four lights

      If you have to get more specific, you could kindly say, “Most of the people here are living solely on the salary the make here. Some of the items you’ve been talking about cost the same amount as people’s food budget, or car payment, or rent. It’s fine that your family is so fortunate, and I’m happy for you. But when you talk about spending money on these high end items like it’s nothing, it definitely stings because that same amount of money would make a huge impact on my life.”

      Reply
      1. Nonny

        I don’t think that level of detail is necessary, and sort of comes off weirdly guilt-tripping. I think the use of the “this is an office norm” framing is it deflects attention away from “you’re making everyone mad/jealous/uncomfortable,” which will just make her feel uncomfortable around her co-workers in turn.

        Reply
        1. Four lights

          Yes, I wouldn’t set out to say this, but if the conversation goes this way, or if the OP wants to bring it up.

          Reply
        2. eee

          Agreed. I think that the first 2 sentences are fine. But then it gets a little bit like …idk “I wish I had the money you had”? Which I mean, I want the money she has! But it would be a bit awkward to say. I would maybe frame it more around professional norms and is centering back to the interviewing advice of: you want the most memorable thing about you to be YOU, not your hair or your suit or some hobby you kept bringing up. The problem with talking like this is that people are going to think of her not as Jill who does great work as X but as Jill who talks about her family’s assets a lot! Maybe “It’s a professional norm to not draw too much attention to differences in family’s assets, brand names, or detail about costs of your purchases. When you talk about these topics, you’re violating an office norm and risk becoming known as someone who talks about these things a lot instead of someone who does great work. “

          Reply
          1. Electric sheep

            “When you talk about these topics, you’re violating an office norm and risk becoming known as someone who talks about these things a lot instead of someone who does great work.”

            This is a great approach, I really like this script.

            Reply
        3. Archaeopteryx

          True, the point you want her to take is “Talking like this comes across as unclassy/ immature/ shallow” rather than “People feel bad that they don’t have as much money as you “

          Reply
      2. Dust Bunny

        No, don’t do this. It’s not her fault her coworkers don’t make more or have loans. Stick to the professional and cultural aspects: That it’s not really done in the US workplace.

        Reply
        1. Scarlet2

          And yet, I think she’s old enough to pull her head out of her behind and realize that serfs have feelings too.

          Tbh, I wouldn’t really bring up culture, I would bring sensitivity. If she’s as sensitive as LW says she is, she could be gently reminded that not everyone is as wealthy as she is. Surely, she can be made to understand that while her salary is just pocket money, most people actually have to pay all their living expenses with it.

          Reply
          1. Name Required

            ” Surely, she can be made to understand that while her salary is just pocket money, most people actually have to pay all their living expenses with it.”

            It would be wildly inappropriate for a coworker to assume the responsibility of making her understand. Just as inappropriate as constantly talking about your expensive purchases. The only people in her life that should be helping her understand the impacts of income inequality are her family, friends, and mentors.

            Focus on the professional impact to her and leave out any moralizing on wealth disparities, even if you’re in the right.

            Reply
            1. Scarlet2

              Oh I personally wouldn’t try to educate her, I would just quietly roll my eyes at her cluelessness. Let her eat cake, I say.

              Reply
          2. only acting normal

            Maybe she is sensitive, but sensitivity doesn’t always work both ways. One of the most sensitive (to criticism and insult, real or perceived) people I know is incredibly insensitive to others’ feelings.

            Reply
      3. DerJungerLudendorff

        Maybe don’t start with the comparisons, but you probably would need to explain why those comments are landing so badly with her coworkers, and wealth disparity and flagrant disregard of their financial limits is a big part of that.

        Reply
      4. EddieSherbert

        This is a nice script, but I also think you don’t have to get this detailed. It’s not really appropriate to talk about your wealth or money (or lack thereof) in the workplace and it’s especially not appropriate to CONSTANTLY talk about it and make judgemental comments about people who aren’t buying designer products.

        And, realistically, if Jill wants to be taken seriously as a professional and an adult… makybe don’t constantly flaunt living off your parents? (Don’t include that part though, OP! Or at least don’t include it how I said it…)

        Reply
        1. CynicallySweet

          Maybe don’t include how you said it, but I do think mentioning that the constant talking about her parents (which talking about their money counts as) isn’t conducive to a professional persona. So, if that’s something she cares about she should be more judicious with the mentions of them.

          Reply
    4. MLB

      Agreed, I would replace the last sentence with something more like “It’s not really appropriate to discuss finances at work”, because really it’s not. I barely talk about finances with the closest and dearest friends, other than “sorry can’t do it, not in the budget”. We don’t brag to each other about what we can buy.

      Reply
  8. WellRed

    As others have said, it would be a kindness to pull her aside. Frankly, in addition to the $ brags, I wonder if there’s a way to tell her that constantly talking about her parents comes across as really young and immature.

    Reply
    1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius

      Eh, I don’t know if talking about parents occasionally is immature (provided that it’s not excessive)…it rings the same to me as people who talk about their kids. When you’re living with your parents, who else are you going to talk about?

      Reply
        1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius

          That’s fair, but I interpreted WellRed’s comment to mean talking about her parents outside of the money context, which I don’t think is so bad.

          Reply
          1. Où est la bibliothèque?

            Certainly not terrible, but I agree with WellRed’s point. You don’t really want to draw attention to how young and not-self-sufficient you are in the workplace.

            Reply
            1. WellRed

              Thanks, this is what I was trying to say. I think it’s totally fine to live with parents, but no need to be all mom and dad, all the time.

              Reply
      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian

        I’m in my first “real” job, post graduate school, and am younger than most of my coworkers, and I’m very careful about how I talk about my parents. I want to be viewed as an independent adult, not someone barely out of adolescence or reliant on “real adults”

        Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      Yeah, talking up mom and dad’s money is a great way to make yourself look like an heiress slumming it in an entry-level job. Don’t know how you’d bring it up, but that was rubbing me the wrong way too.

      Reply
    3. CynicallySweet

      I would actually agree with this. If you’re trying to be seen as a professional adult, constantly bringing up your parents is going to hurt you long term. Not one offs, like about how someone is sick, but I do get the impression that she talks about them a lot

      Reply
    4. Anonanon

      There was a time when my parents-in-law lived with my husband and me and the major culture clash was causing me to vent waayyyy too much about my inlaws at work. So, one could say I talked about my parents (in-law) a lot. But we were financially supporting them.

      Jill is being immature, but framing it as how she talks about her parents too much might miss the point entirely. Jill isn’t alienating her coworkers because she talks about her parents.

      Reply
  9. Roscoe

    This is one of those things I’d really only say if you are fairly close with her. There is almost no way that it won’t be taken as somewhat of an attack, because I’m guessing their are annoying topics many people bring up that she doesn’t want to hear much about. Maybe its one of those things that you go out for cocktails after work one day and bring up.

    Reply
    1. MLB

      I disagree. Someone needs to say something. Talking about money all the time is not only obnoxious, but inappropriate in the workplace, and they need to let her know. If she’s been brought up in that kind of environment, she’s probably used to hanging out with others in the same boat financially so it’s not a big deal. But if she’s going to work in the real world, she needs a reality check.

      Reply
      1. Name Required

        Yes, someone needs to say something — someone fairly close with her. She needs a reality check from people she is invested in listening to, which is not some random coworker she recently started working with. It’s not clear if OP is in a position to be heard by her coworker even if OP is willing to say something.

        Reply
        1. MLB

          True. I’m just saying that regardless of OP’s closeness to rich girl, if rich girl is speaking to OP about being rich, then she should say something. I don’t consider many co-workers that I interact with daily to be “close”. It’s a different kind of relationship. But if I were in OP’s shoes and was a part of several of the “woohoo look at me and all of my moneeeeeey” conversations, I’m saying something.

          Reply
  10. LGC

    Oh my god, if Jill worked in a different sector I would swear I knew her! And knew her very well!

    Does she have any close friends that can tell her directly that…you know, it comes off like she’s bragging about money? I ask because my Jill is pretty…obtuse in general. I don’t know if she’s being malicious (it seems like she’s very materialistic and unable to take perspective, but she isn’t necessarily A Jerk), so I’ll assume she’s not for the time being. Ideally this would come from someone she really trusts.

    Reply
  11. Kes

    I think it depends on OP’s status relative to Jill, but if they at least work somewhat closely together I think OP might be able to act as a mentor a bit and give her a word to the wise that her coworkers may come from a range of financial backgrounds and that she might want to tone down her comments on how much money her family is spending. I think OP could also reply in the moment to remind her that name brands aren’t everything, and they aren’t in everyone’s budget.

    I think the important thing here is to resist the temptation to be snarky and focus on helping Jill – really, it is to her benefit to know that the way she’s behaving is offputting and that she’ll be able to build better relationships with her coworkers if she’s not going on about how rich her family is.

    Reply
    1. cleo

      I think the important thing here is to resist the temptation to be snarky and focus on helping Jill

      Exactly. This is the time to channel your inner Tim Gunn from Project Runway. His attitude is “I care about you and I want you to succeed and here’s some information that will help you.”

      Reply
      1. irene adler

        Oh yes. Be kind.
        First, she lives at home. She cannot relate to living on one’s own as the rest of you are. No clue what it’s like to pay one’s way. Probably thinks that her money talk is the same as everyone else’s when such topics as rising cost of living or rents or high bills are discussed.

        Yeah, “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is certainly the way to go. I’m sure she never meant harm or insult. Just doesn’t realize how she’s coming across-could be immaturity, lack of emotional intelligence or that she simply knows no other way to interact with others.

        After explaining to her what her money talk is doing to others, it might be helpful to ‘coach’ her a bit -she might be at a loss for topics to talk about with co-workers.

        Reply
        1. boo bot

          I think this is all good advice, although I would be more explicit about what you mean by “a range of financial backgrounds.” I would say, “A lot of people here live only on the paycheck from this job,” or she might take it as meaning a range of “doesn’t even own their own plane” to “owns their own airline.”

          Reply
  12. The Guacamolier

    What do you think about letting her conversation starters involving money and things pass without much comment and then asking her about something related, but without the emphasis on money or brand? Something like:
    “My puppy is getting a Tiffany collar for Christmas!”
    “How nice for your puppy. What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions/Christmas song/least favorite Christmas song” (Seriously, if you’re needing to make small talk that’s more like small-to-medium talk, ask someone what their least favorite Christmas song is.)

    Or, since the holidays are over:
    “I’m getting my puppy a crystal goblet for MLK day!”
    “Cool. Any fun plans for the long weekend?”

    Given that she’s new and it looks like she is attempting to start conversations with the people around her, you could try not engaging with the money and things talk, but happily chatting about topics unrelated to wealth.

    Reply
    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Eh, I don’t think that’s kind. When you’ve got someone who is young and probably still needs to learn the ropes, it’s better to have a direct conversation with them about the issue instead of hinting and hoping she gets it.

      Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      I think this is a noble impulse and might be a good way to redirect an annoying peer or supervisor, but with someone this young and new to the work force, it’s better in the long run just to be kind and direct.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Yup, because some people are just as clueless as I am, and don’t realize that people are making comments like that *for a reason*. When I got re-directing comments like that in my 20’s, I just took them at face value but didn’t extract any further meaning from them. (Pretty embarrassing in retrospect, yes, but that’s decades behind me now.)

        Reply
    3. Observer

      The odds of her figuring out are very low.

      If there is one theme that shows up here (and I think just about every good advice column) on a regular basis, it’s that hinting is generally not a very effective way to get people to understand something. That’s true even when you have reason so believe that the person in question has the background knowledge and tools to “get it”. That’s exponentially more true when dealing with someone who is young and apparently clueless.

      Reply
    4. Name Required

      If OP’s objective is to reduce the amount of money-related discussions she is having with her coworker, then I like this approach. Honestly, if Coworker hasn’t sought out OP for mentorship and OP isn’t in a supervisory role over Coworker, there is a risk that OP will come off as moralizing and rude regardless of how she approaches the conversation with Coworker.

      I don’t see how this approach is unkind at all — OP has no obligation to teach coworkers new to the workplace that talking about money is tacky. It could really backfire on OP. OP seems willing to take that risk with the right script, but it doesn’t mean that they are being unkind if they choose not to.

      Reply
      1. The Guacamolier

        Other than the “It’s not even a name brand!” comment about the coat, it is difficult for me to imagine a whole office of people being irritated by her statements about things her family members are purchasing to the point that it interferes with their ability to work/maintain a positive working relationship with her. Working with other people means you’re subject to their personality quirks, and asking someone to stop talking about anything to do with money or purchases…that seems like it could rule out quite a bit of very normal work conversation. I’m absolutely positive that there are aspects to my personality that my co-workers would change if they could…and vice versa! (Stop hogging the whole coat rack!!! Stop leaving your half finished sodas and energy drinks throughout our shared fridge for months! Stop ordering things from Amazon and not taking them home for weeks at a time, including large boxes of dog food, and A PATIO FURNITURE SET.)

        I don’t think she’s being rich *at* anybody. And maybe she’s not even rich! Because rich people probably don’t make multiple announcements to a group about their Very Expensive Purchases. I think it’s a personality quirk.

        I have a co-worker who keeps us up to date on what new Groupon’s she’s purchased. One talks a lot about her travels. (She takes an international trip AT LEAST once a month.) I would never, ever go to either of those people and tell them to change the things they choose to share with us because I can’t afford international travel or Groupons to a llama farm or beekeeping class. This reads as being similar to me.

        Reply
        1. CynicallySweet

          If this is almost all she talks about and it’s a small enough room I could easily see it being that annoying. That coat comment alone probably turned a bunch of people off from asking her about a whole host of things. She could be cutting herself off socially, which can be really demoralizing (work friends are important for most people). I think a big part of this is that it’s not her money that she’s talking about. Right, wrong or indifferent there is a cultural perception of people who live off their parents wealth like this that isn’t flattering. The fact that she’s constantly bringing it up is going to hurt her long term. Plus if she’s at all looking to be seen as a professional adult constantly bringing up the fact that Mommy and Daddy buy her expensive stuff all the time is going to hinder that. Adults don’t usually talk about their parents all the time (reasonable exceptions exist of course, but it’s not the norm). I think not addressing this would be doing her a disservice and hurt her in the long term professionally.

          Reply
        2. Working Mom Having It All

          I have a coworker who is from a wealthy family (almost certainly wealthier than Jill’s family) who, when family, holiday, etc. topics come up will say things that make it clear that she and I grew up in very different circumstances. But that doesn’t mean she’s not allowed to talk about her family or upbringing at work!

          Reply
        3. tired anon

          She may not be being rich *at* anybody, but comments like “it’s not even brand name!” are still inappropriate in the workplace and show her as oblivious to workplace norms. And while god knows everyone has at least one coworker with an annoying quirk, there’s a lot of cultural baggage around money/wealth/class that’s very likely going to come across a lot differently than my coworker who is currently humming to himself at his desk loudly enough to irritate me.

          Reply
    5. Sour Grapes

      I love this approach! As from the letter it appears she just wants to connect, albeit ina way that’s against cultural norms. It would be kind to her to engage *without* furthering the money talk. Like with the North Face/Kors jacket, I would probably ignore that comment and keep the conversation going on the qualities of the jacket at hand, like her: “it doesn’t cost enough”. You: “I love the detailing on the pockets, your girlfriend would be so happy to get this, it’s clear you really thought about what she would like!”. And then if everyone kind of gets on board, hopefully it will become some sort of quirk instead of a dreadful annoyance as you can get to more fruitful conversations with her.

      Reply
    6. drpuma

      I like this approach * after* a more straightforward conversation. The initial conversation could include something like, “Hey, if you want to connect with people first be an awesome coworker and then talk all you want about your weekend plans, pets, hobbies, etc.”

      Reply
      1. Non profit pro

        But what if her weekend plans include flying to Aspen for skiing or going to the Met Gala? What if her hobby is yachting or travel photography?
        Her lifestyle is different from their’s and it seems like she’s not being rich *at* them, its just a fact of her life.

        Reply
        1. Jasnah

          True but there’s a difference in framing. “This weekend I went out on daddy’s yacht and lost my [brand name] sunglasses, nbd I’ll just get new ones next weekend.” vs. “This weekend I went yachting, the weather was just perfect, we saw a little family of ducks that were so cute, here is a picture.”

          Reply
          1. aebhel

            This. And I think that’s the distinction. I’ve worked and gone to school with people who had a lot more money than me who did things like example #2, and the worst that ever inspired in me was a bit of wistfulness. Example #1, which sounds more like what Coworker is doing, would get an internal ‘Oh, f*** you, quit bragging.’

            Reply
        2. Grapey

          Surprised it took me this long to find a comment like this. I think it sounds like jealousy if someone complains about someone else talking about their money. I haven’t heard any example about Jill putting down others for being poor. I can only assume that people don’t like being reminded that they can’t afford north face jackets…which is a reaction for them to manage, not Jill.

          Reply
    7. Dr. Pepper

      I think this is a good idea, but should be implemented *after* having a direct conversation. If she hasn’t got the hint already, she’s not going to without help. I can’t imagine that there’s been no indication of everyone’s discomfort and lack of interest in her chosen conversation topics, so if she can’t read a room hinting harder isn’t going to do much good. I’m sure everyone has been giving her plenty of nonverbal cues already and now it’s time for a direct approach.

      After a direct conversation, rerouting conversations, giving merely a passing comment (or just ignoring) to any of her pronouncements of wealth, and introducing interesting conversation topics would be great. You don’t want to freezer *her* out, you just want to freeze out these particular topics.

      Reply
    8. Working Mom Having It All

      I think this is a good tack. The examples given, to me, as someone who has mixed a lot with people of different socio-economic classes, like someone who doesn’t realize that dropping references to designer brands or material things like new cars isn’t just basic everyday small talk. None of them are about her family’s “finances” (Christmas shopping isn’t the same thing as talking about how much money your father makes or how much your house is worth), but they are things that probably pass for casual conversation among a certain set.

      I also feel like young people/people still supported by their parents are more likely to talk openly about expensive gifts? I remember there always being the “it” name brand item to have when I was in high school (I grew up upper middle class and went to parochial school), whereas as an adult I couldn’t tell you the last time anyone I know commented on brand names or designer labels at all.

      I think a subject change is probably all that is really needed here. Or, in situations like her scoffing that someone’s coat “isn’t even name brand”, maybe just commenting in conversation that not everyone likes the same brands, you get a lot of your clothes from Store X and they’re great quality, etc.

      My guess is that if Jill has any social skills at all, she’ll pick up quickly that other people don’t do this and learn new small talk topics.

      Reply
  13. Girl from the North Country

    As someone who loves splurging on designer things, I am very conscious to NEVER talk about money or name-drop brands around pretty much anyone, especially at work. People who do this are clearly trying to show off, so I really wouldn’t feel too bad about shutting it down.

    Honestly – and this is probably bad advice – my first instinct would be to dryly say “nobody cares” or (really sarcastically) “wow you are so cool and rich.” lol not the most professional approach, but maybe she’d take the hint and stop.

    Also, random snobbish side note: I’m surprised someone who claims to own/buy Tiffany and Gucci also considers Michael Kors and North Face to be high-end brands.

    Reply
    1. Ramblin' Ma'am

      Yeah, this jumped out at me too. I like Michael Kors…but I got my Michael Kors winter coat for $80 at TJ Maxx. It’s nice, but not a super luxury brand by any means.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        To be fair, there’s Michael Kors and then there’s Michael Kors.

        But I agree she was trying to come up with something rock-bottom but still acceptable to suggest.

        Reply
      2. Dust Bunny

        I have two Coach handbags . . . for which I paid $25 each secondhand. Good things come to those who wait (and surf eBay regularly).

        Reply
      3. Works in IT

        And I think most designer things don’t fit my style at all, so if anyone was trying to talk to me and name drop expensive brands I would stare at them and go “wha?”

        Reply
      4. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Gurl…TJmaxx is the castoffs store. They get luxury brands all the time, usually the outdated stuff from last season. So you’ll find tons of high ranking brands but you’re still out of fashion.

        Reply
        1. Ramblin' Ma'am

          True, but the original price was maybe $140. Again…not cheap, but not what I’d consider a luxury purchase for something that lasts years.

          Reply
        2. eee

          Nah, TJMaxx and Marshalls are the “we make these items at a lower price and quality so you feel like you’re getting a great deal” store! I think sometimes you may get something that was last season, but a majority of “designer” clothing are specifically manufactured to be sold at the outlet, and the quality and price reflects that.

          Reply
          1. pancakes

            Yes — sometimes the items manufactured just for outlets have their own label, à la J. Crew Factory. Kors has lots of licensing deals, which can dilute the brand. I remember people snickering, when I was young, about Gloria Vanderbilt ruining her designer jeans brand by licensing the name for down-market luggage & whatnot.

            Reply
        3. KX

          Until Nancy Pelosi shows up in the news in a 2013 Max Mara coat and makes it popular again. Things come back! My mother takes that as fact that she’s been right about clothes all along.

          Reply
    2. Asst. to the Regional Manager

      I kind of thought the same thing re: brands, but TNF and MK are very very internationally recognized (and are possibly more expensive in Jill’s home country than they are here). That’s probably why she buys them, if I had to guess—MK and TNF May well be considered on par with Gucci and Tiffany where she’s from, even if they aren’t in the US.

      Reply
        1. Annie Moose

          She’s also only 22. Depending on what “teenager” means in this context, she could easily have only lived in the US for five years or so; certainly she has spent less than half her life in the US.

          (earliest possible age of a teenager is 13, if she’s now 22 then she’s been in the US 9 years. Oldest possible age is 18, which is 4 years. So she’s been in the US sometime between those two)

          Reply
    3. Non profit pro

      She doesn’t. That’s why it was suggested. My ILs come from money and when I was looking for a new handbag for work, Micheal Kors was suggested since they thought that would be a budget option easily accessible to someone making my income. To them Micheal Kors is the equivalent of going to JC Pennys.

      Reply
    4. Arctic

      Sorry, I didn’t see this before I commented. I think she probably was intentionally picking brands she thought he could afford.
      Those are still expensive but not anywhere near what she would probably buy. She probably was aware enough to see that he likely couldn’t get Burberry.

      Reply
      1. sam.

        Even if that’s the case, her perspective is very skewed. I’ve spent a fair amount of time interacting with young people (and some full-on-adults) from affluent backgrounds for work, and I found that many of them didn’t have much experience with non-wealthy people and so they just didn’t think about the fact that other people might have different priorities. Mildly pointing out that others approached the world differently tended to be pretty effective. Honestly, if I were the coworker Jill made that remark to, I probably would’ve matter-of-factly replied, “Oh, Fiance really isn’t concerned about brand names. The main thing she wants in a coat is [the ability to withstand shark-filled tornados]. Do you think this would work for that?”

        I do think OP would be doing Jill a kindness to have a larger conversation with her about work norms, but I don’t think they need to completely ignore her comments in the moment, either.

        Reply
    5. Jen S. 2.0

      I strongly suspect that SHE doesn’t wear MK or North Face, but thought they were a decent starter-brand suggestion to give to some poor uninformed soul who was about to buy his girlfriend —**horrors!** — a no-name coat.

      Reply
    6. Julia

      I think it is a good rule of thumb to avoid responding rudely to statements that were not intended to be rude. Boasting about how rich you are is tacky, but to me doesn’t qualify as intentionally rude and therefore doesn’t merit a rude response. If she were saying something like “haha you’re so poor, must suck”, your proposed responses would make more sense.

      With that in mind – LW, I’m definitely in the minority here, but I’d advocate keeping it to yourself. It sounds like she’s feeling insecure, which is unsurprising: she’s in a new environment, her first professional setting, and she’s the youngest. Some people respond to feelings of insecurity by boasting. I bet if you’re friendly and draw her out, she’ll feel more comfortable and stop being ostentatious. This sort of thing can sometimes just die down with time.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        To add: I’m usually chief of the “just talk to them about it” brigade, but in this case I think a) her sin is minor and b) she’s young and insecure and quite possibly in a phase of feeling overly sensitive about how she’s perceived, and so a softer touch makes sense.

        Reply
    7. Kes

      I think the temptation to be sarcastic/snarky is definitely there (“I’m sure your puppy will feel so much better with diamonds on his collar”) but OP is better off resisting and taking the more professional route.

      It kind of sounds like in Jill’s family, everything must be name brand. I wonder if she was recommending Michael Kors and North Face as lower-end name brands that her poorer coworkers might be able to afford, as in at least buy one of these.

      Reply
    8. JB (not in Houston)

      I’m not sure what the point was of your last comment, but I don’t think “snobbish side notes” are particularly helpful to the OP. If anyone else wants to join in with opinions on that topic, can we please save them for the weekend thread?

      Reply
      1. Jasnah

        I agree. The comment came off to me as “Wow this girl is a snob, I would never show off my wealth like that, also those aren’t even expensive brands!”

        Reply
    9. Où est la bibliothèque?

      They’re not expensive brands, but they’re status. Ask a trendy teen girl about fleece jackets and she’ll say North Face no matter how much money she has, because North Face is the It Fleece, Accept No Substitutions. For some reason. And for some reason, I know this.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Exactly. Fjallraven backpack, Sperry topsiders, Patagonia puffer coat — there are WAY more expensive/designer brands, but for my high school girls, you HAD to have a Fjallraven, Sperrys, and a Patagonia even if you were rich enough to afford Balenciaga or Louboutin or Moncler.

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          To be fair, Patagonia is a great brand. I’ve had one fleece jacket that is over 20 years old and been dragged though multiple climbing expeditions. Only now is it starting to show wear at the elbows. I could argue it is the frugal choice. My other Patagonia items are showing the same durability.

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Absolutely! And so is Fjallraven. They’re just not $1000 Canada Goose parkas or $2500 Balenciaga backpacks.

            Reply
          2. No Green No Haze

            You can certainly argue it’s the frugal choice for anyone who has the ready cash to buy it at all upfront and amortize the cost of it forwards, like buying a good quality chef’s knife and never another one because it’ll last your whole life.

            But if you can’t afford the purchase cost, period, you end up buying cheaper things, more often. It’s expensive to be poor. So it’s all up to the individual circumstance.

            Reply
            1. Parenthetically

              Yeah, I say this all the time! It’s cheaper to be rich because you can afford to buy quality from the start. I’ve had my eye on a super-high-quality, full-grain leather handbag for YEARS but I just cannot front the $700 for it at this point in my life. It’s frustrating to only be able to afford a string of $40 Target handbags that will wear out completely in 2 years tops when that $700 one will last me literally the rest of my life.

              Reply
            2. Engineer Girl

              I realized this in university when I didn’t have enough money to buy tires when they went on sale. I had to buy them at full price later on because a) I finally had the money and b) at that point they desperately needed replacing.

              That’s why it’s really critical to establish a small savings account as a first step in financial management. Then you can take advantage of sales and also not put it on a credit card (and pay money in interest). Even if it is only a dollar or so a week it will eventually become significant.

              Reply
    10. Observer

      It didn’t sound like she thinks they are “high end” at all. More like her attempt to be inclusive – Like “a” name brand is the minimum acceptable gift.

      Reply
    11. It's a Doughnut morning

      That was my thought too michael kors and northface and not montcler, burberry, or louis Vuitton. This girl is most likely not as wealthy as she is putting on especially if she is not from the US and is considering Michael kors and northface the IT brandnames.

      I love high end purses and have a Birkin savings acct going but would never name drop brands. With this girl it would be hard not to be a little petty and when she name drops gucci I would have to say something like oh are you on a budget this year?

      Reply
    12. anon today and tomorrow

      Same. If someone asks where I got my clothes or accessories, I have no problem telling them it’s Burberry or Louboutin or YSL, but I’m not going to bring it up and walk into the office bragging about it. I also tend to choose items that you wouldn’t know where designer unless you looked at the label rather than getting something that has a big logo slapped all over it (but that’s personal preference).

      I like nice things, and I have the money to buy them (and contacts via work and friends where I can get some items wholesale or heavily discounted), but I know it’s a faux pas to brag about them. As someone who didn’t grow up with a lot of money, I buy them to remind myself of how far I’ve come, but I’m also conscious of how upset it would have made me growing up to have someone brag about owning such items. I think people who don’t come from those environments aren’t aware that it’s not great to brag about your money. Especially if you come from a culture where talking about name brands is a big part of conversation.

      On the side note, I was surprised as well, but I wonder if she was going for “affordable” name brand. To me, they’re like Coach in that they’ve made names as a middle class “designer” product. They’re more accessible to a lot of people than something like Versace or Gucci, and I think there’s been a growing market for middle class designer items tbh.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        On the side note, I was surprised as well, but I wonder if she was going for “affordable” name brand.

        That’s an interesting thought! She actually realized that the person had less money so was recommending a good product that she thought was in their budget. It was merely a lack of calibration. That would also mean that she doesn’t realize how far off her conversations are.
        Dunning-Kruger

        Reply
    13. Flash Bristow

      Re North Face: you say that. I hadn’t thought it was high end either, until today! My dad-in-law turns 80 this weekend, apparently he wants a black padded gilet for gardening. I looked at a few on amazon, seemed nice, £20-40 ish.

      Hubby said not to worry, he’d deal with it. Used the shopping errand as an excuse for a run, meh, whatevs.

      Returned with the gilet for me to wrap, North Face, seemed nice enough, then I saw the receipt – £140!!

      Gulp. Whether they’re decent quality I don’t know, but that’s £100 more than I was planning to spend on a remarkably similar product..!

      Reply
      1. TechWorker

        They are decent quality, they also usually have heavily discounted sales, which is when my partner has bought stuff there. (I was frankly horrified by the standard price tags when we went into the shop).

        (That doesn’t really help you, but at least it should last!!)

        Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          This. I’ve always purchased my high end tech gear on sale. You can get 50-70% off.

          And BTW, the sales are on NOW (January). You can also get winter stuff in May and summer stuff in October.

          Reply
    14. ....

      I know the inner snob in me thought; a Tiffany dog collar is like $200? More than some have but hardly an indication that you’re rolling in it?

      But the nicer outer me would probably just say something along the lines of “Id rather not talk about money or clothes at work” or “Thats nice but he asked which of these coats to choose from”.

      Reply
      1. Ann O.

        There is no real indication from the quotes that the co-worker is actually trying to brag about her family money. She was just talking about holiday presents!

        I don’t personally get the brand name thing, but I know plenty of people who are into brand names. Many of them aren’t from money. They just think of certain brands as being very distinctive, so they view the brand as an important adjective in describing the thing.

        Reply
  14. Lena Clare

    Well, I suppose your male coworker did ask for all of your opinions and she is part of the group… so she offered her opinion.

    I would find this annoying too but it’s part of growing up and being with other people that you learn that not everybody’s experience is the same as your own.

    She will learn eventually too, I hope. As long as you all continue to discuss your own real life with each other, not in a kind of comparison to hers, but just in a matter of fact way she should pick some things up. So what if she has a Tiffany collar for her dog (I mean, yuk, I’d hate that too, and I would feel it’s a waste of money) but what are you going to say? Anything you do say would just be an opinion, and she’s entitled to have a different one.

    And actually, I think that’s kind of sad, that the only things she values in the world are monetary things. You could ask her what she’d do if it was all gone tomorrow, but this might genuinely provoke anxiety in her.

    If she has to fend for herself she might realise what the real world is like – or, she may *never* realise it.

    But it’s not your job to correct her perception of the world, only her perception of you.
    If she comments on *your* lack of brand names, whatever, then respond to that that only.

    Otherwise, I would just think of it as a quirk a colleague has, and try to ignore it.

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      “Otherwise, I would just think of it as a quirk a colleague has, and try to ignore it.”

      This is where I land, too. I think you could talk to her about it, but I think it’s more a quirk of different life stages and different backgrounds that she will [possibly] figure out eventually and tone down. If she doesn’t, she’ll just marry some guy from the country club and become an insta influencer instead of furthering her career, ha.

      I have kids who are 14 & 21. My own kids care a lot more about brand names and money than we do, and that’s true even though they weren’t raised by rich parents. I find some kids their age would rather have one name brand thing than a closet full of Target clothes and shoes. I had one friend like this growing up. We were all blue collar middle class, but he worked specifically to buy Abercrombie clothes. He went to state school, got a job at Exxon and EMBA from a top school, and is now a VP, so I don’t think having different “material” values is necessarily bad. In his case, it was a huge motivator for success in his career.

      I also have a few coworkers in their early 20s, and they talk about a lot of stuff that I think is dumb and don’t care about. I just ignore it.

      Reply
      1. Jasnah

        I think this is very common because status in your social circle is really important when you’re an adolescent/young adult. Suddenly at age 9 or something you realize other people have opinions of you, and those opinions affect how people interact with you, and suddenly it is desperately important to you What Others Think. Especially when you only have one peer group that you see all day at school.

        Then once you leave school and go to college, enter the workforce, start spending time less time with one social circle, and see more ways of living in this world, What Others Think starts to matter less, and you’re more selective of who you project to. It’s easier to pick new friends as an adult if you make the wrong choices for your social circle.

        For various reasons, some people always care more about their status than others, but I think we all care about this to a certain extent. My social media feed shows a beautiful model with expensive fashion next to a beautiful blogger preaching minimalism, I see these as two sides of the same coin: Please Think I’m Rich vs. Please Think I’m Modest.

        Reply
    2. CatCat

      Yeah, I agree with you 100%.

      I get that it’s annoying. But, I mean, her life circumstances are just different. Would you be annoyed at a coworker that said similar things about less expensive stuff? Like “My dad’s buying my mom new car seat covers for Christmas!” “I’m going to buy my mom a nice monogrammed key chain for Christmas. It’s $50 dollars!” “I’m so excited, my mom is buying my puppy a collar for Christmas!”

      Unless Jill actually disparages you in some way related to wealth, I don’t think there’s really much to *do* here beyond what you are already doing, just as you would if anyone else continuously spoke in a way you find personally irritating, tedious, or dull.

      Reply
      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        Rubbing people’s faces in something they lack is something you should make an effort to avoid. I had a coworker who absolutely loved recreation sports but injured his knee to the point that it would probably be years before he could play again. There was somebody else who talked about his flag football team a lot, and I think he did get a nudge to lay off around Injured Coworker because it was a sore subject.

        Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          I didn’t really see her rubbing it in anyone’s face. The only thing I saw that was to that direction was the comment on the coat not being name brand. However, I think it’s a valid point and comment. My dad would not see the difference between a North Face coat and a Columbia coat, but my sons would, and they would rather have the more expensive one, even if it meant saving some of their own money or receiving fewer other gifts to get that one thing. If she started saying stuff like, “Ew, Jane, you really need to get a better car, this one is really cheap, gross, and old,” I would shut that down, but so far, I am not sure she’s not just saying normal things, but inserting a specific brand detail that the OP is a little uncomfortable with.

          Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Yeah, but she’s closer to that than she needs to be. When a coworker shows you a coat he wants to buy as a gift and you tell him it’s inappropriate, not because it’s not warm enough for the purpose, but because it’s not a specific brand name? That’s not valid and it does need to be shut down.

            Reply
        2. CatCat

          I don’t get the sense from the letter that Jill is rubbing in others’ lack of as much wealth in their faces. She doesn’t seem to be lording around over others and OP says she is a nice person and they get along.

          Someone talking about something you lack or find tedious is not “rubbing it in your face.” I can’t have a dog, and my coworkers talk a lot about their dogs. That’s because they like their dogs, not because they are putting me down or projecting a feeling of superiority over me due to the fact that I can’t have one.

          Reply
      2. Guacamole Bob

        Yeah, this. This letter reminded me of this one, where the advice is pretty different:

        https://www.askamanager.org/2017/07/can-i-ask-my-employee-to-stop-showing-off-her-wealth.html

        If you do decide to talk to her, be specific (as Rey notes below) about exactly what the issue is. Mentioning prices and emphasizing brands can come across badly. It can help to speak with some awareness that many of her coworkers have less money than she does. But this is her life – if people are discussing family Christmas gifts, is she supposed to just not participate because her father bought her mother a car? Or not tell anyone where she’s going on vacation? Ideally she’d find ways to talk about these things that are more sensitive, but that’s hard to coach someone on.

        It seems reasonable to have a talk with her and point out that many people in the office can’t afford to buy the brands that she does, so talking about brand names and expensive items can be off-putting and come across as bragging. But you can’t ask her not to be wealthy or ever display any sign at all of that fact.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Well, that situation was different. Both the woman’s behavior and how others were reacting.

          Most of the people here were not suggesting that the supervisor get pulled into this. Also, most suggestions were framed as helping her to curb a behavior that is legitimately annoying – and goes well beyond actually being rich and spending as though she’s rich.

          Reply
        2. Guacamole Bob

          The other reason to be specific is that she may not recognize that saying “I’m getting my dog a Tiffany collar” is talking about money. She may know that talking about money is inappropriate at the office – but she’s not talking about her family’s income or investments or taxes or anything. It may literally just not register for her that talking about a Tiffany dog collar is talking about money.

          Reply
        3. EventPlannerGal

          I agree. A lot of the suggested comments here really come across as “Let’s Talk About Your Attitude To Money And What That Says About You As A Person”, which is a very heavy conversation that – if it needs to happen at all – is really out of the scope of a colleague and unlikely to produce practical results.

          If she’s making specific insensitive or hurtful comments, focus on those. And definitely skip the parts about her background.

          Reply
      3. Kramerica Industries

        This is kind of where I am too. I think there are multiple factors leading to feeling like she’s being distastefully annoying. She’s young, inexperienced, may have different cultural norms, and has family wealth. On the other hand, I had a coworker say that she’s super excited to get her end-of-year bonus because she can finally buy Gucci shoes. This doesn’t bother me because my perception of her is that she’s worked and can do whatever she wants with her money. Now, if she had said “My mom is buying me Gucci shoes”, I probably would have been more annoyed (honestly, out of a bit of jealousy that I have to work for what I want but she gets it handed to her). But the facts don’t change: She has the money somehow and she’s happy about being able to afford her lifestyle.

        I agree that it’s just good manners not to be flashy or brag about having money, but if she’s not making comments like “Why can’t you afford a designer coat?”, it doesn’t REALLY affect you.

        Reply
    3. Amber T

      I agree. If her parents keep supporting her, she’s not going to realize that dropping $$$ on random stuff is out of the norm. I have a friend who’s my age (late 20s) who’s parents have been supporting her and her husband, and she’s constantly jetting off somewhere or buying new things. It just does not compute that having a budget and having to stick to it is a thing most people have. I do admit there’s a hint of jealousy when I talk to her (I’d love to fly first class all over the world and buy a new laptop and not pay a mortgage), but anytime the money talk comes up with her, I steer it away to other points of conversation.

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        I know multiple people in their *early 30s* still coasting on mom and dad’s money (and still living with them in some cases… in other cases, mom and dad have bought them a house).

        They’re mostly people I can only spend a limited amount of time with (let’s get lunch, but I have to be somewhere at 3!) because I really just don’t have patience for people like Jill, unfortunately – especially at my age!

        Reply
    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      I agree. If she were making judgments about people — like some people are better than others — sure that’s problematic and the OP should say something. But saying a North Face jacket is better than a non-name brand shouldn’t put anyone “over the edge”. Sometimes expensive things are better quality, and sometimes they’re just more expensive. This is an annoying habit to be sure, but so would someone who talks incessantly about why their favorite team is better than another team, their favorite TV show is better than another TV show… If you want to say something, try just to focus on how repetition of the same subject is boring. “Jill, I’m kinda bored with same topic so I’d love to talk about something besides shopping for a while. I’d like to get to know YOU better, not your purse. Do you have a favorite TV show? Read any really good books? What made you decide on lab-work?”

      As an aside, the most price tag conscious person I know grew up pretty poor and is more obsessed with bragging about how much something costs than any wealthy person I know — so this isn’t a habit of just entitled, privileged, clueless rich people.

      If you really want to have a conversation about value verses cost you could try asking questions, “What about North Face would make it better? Yes, I know it’s more expensive but what makes it better quality? When I shop, I look for quality so I’m not being scammed. I hate buying things that are expensive but garbage.”

      Reply
      1. Psyche

        I think what put that “over the edge” is that she crossed over from bragging about what she has to criticizing others for not buying name brands. It is pretty offensive to tell someone that their planned gift is not good enough because it isn’t a name brand. I think it would be kind to explain to her that many people cannot easily afford name brands. Debating the merits of a name brand coat are moot if you can’t afford one.

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

          But in the OP’s story, she offered an opinion after it was solicited. The OP criticized his choice of color. And, I disagree that this is pretty offensive. It’s minor. People discuss the merits of stuff they don’t, or won’t ever have or experience all the time.

          Reply
        2. AnotherAlison

          But the OP doesn’t need to! In this instance, the coworker who solicited the opinion could have easily said, “I’d love to get her a NF coat but that isn’t in my budget right now. Do you think this style is okay, though?” or “Mmm, yeah, she is not really one to get hung up on labels. She would be mad if she knew I paid $100 more just to get a NF coat.” No one needs to be offended at all here.

          In this whole story, it sounds like all the office can probably afford the same stuff Jill has, but they have different demands on their budget and different priorities. I mean, I know a lot of people leasing European cars and wearing designer jackets who make half my household income. I just roll my eyes and know that I have a big 401k account and they have a lot of debt. She’s annoying, but not really offensive, IMO.

          Reply
      2. Lucille2

        There’s being into brands and buying luxury brands for yourself, and there’s talking about the cost of things to people in a way that should impress them. The former is no big deal. You got on the waiting list for the rare insert-luxury-brand handbag and I’m sporting the free company-logo-backpack? We are just two different kinds of people who can coexist in peace.

        It’s different when coworker is seemingly bragging about the luxury items her family tosses about. She’s clueless about how to relate to coworkers who come from varying backgrounds or who might possibly be supporting others on a modest income.

        Reply
  15. Yeah, no...

    I would personally start having conversations with coworkers about all the savings we could get. Start couponing. Or start talking about how “I only paid $20 for this jacket with the sale the store had going on, isn’t that great?!”. I’d do this as frequently as she talks about money. And when she says she would pay more for it, I’d have a blank, confused look, and say “But why would I pay more?”

    Reply
    1. Strawmeatloaf

      That sounds really passive aggressive though, and if she has a hard time understanding that, I doubt it will make her understand.

      Is there a reason that passive aggressive would be better in this case? Is there a reason people just can’t… talk to her about it?

      Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          People who have grown up with money often don’t have a good grasp on what it looks like to not have money. They might know intellectually that other people aren’t as wealthy, but they don’t really understand what that means in terms of day to day choices.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer

            I get that no one can ever 100% understand how the other half lives, whether it’s people of another race, economic class, gender, etc. However, I’m getting to the point where I have little patience for people who refuse to step out of their bubble and try to learn. There’s little excuse.

            We are more connected than ever before. There’s so much information out there about how people that are different live day to day that I think this kind of ignorance is willful. I’m not saying that they should be rude, but a firm rebuke of her comments wouldn’t be unwarranted here.

            Why are her feelings more important than those of others in the office who may be struggling to pay bills?

            Reply
            1. Excel Wizard

              I don’t think anyone is saying her feelings are more important, but a kind and friendly discussion may go a long way to help her realize that she is not acting within typical office behaviors. She may really not know, she may have educated herself on what it is like to be truly poor, but she may not be aware of all the nuances between lower-middle class, middle class, wealthy, etc. and what things are accessible to each.

              Also, in general I’d say, trying to address issues in a kind way is probably much more likely to solve the problem than being passive aggressive to someone and hoping the pick up on the signal.

              Reply
            2. Observer

              They aren’t. But you are making a lot of assumptions with no basis in the information you have. And you are jumping to the most obnoxious – and LEAST EFFECTIVE way to respond. Which tells me that that either you are as clueless as she is, in your own way, or are more interested in slapping someone down than positive change.

              Reply
              1. Delphine

                A “firm rebuke” isn’t necessarily obnoxious. And I don’t think there’s any need to call Jennifer “clueless” for a reasonable opinion.

                Reply
              2. Jennifer

                Her coworkers don’t have to create positive change in someone that isn’t their child. Tell her that what she is saying is rude. Rinse and repeat.

                Reply
                1. Observer

                  Her coworkers don’t have an obligation to create positive change. True. On the other hand, telling someone that they are rude, is equally rude. Doing so repeatedly goes beyond annoying and rude.

                  If you don’t care to try to get her to change her behavior, that’s fine. But if, like the OP, you do want to change her behavior (or at least try to), then it behooves you to look at an approach that might actually work. Taking an approach that you know won’t work and is apparently designed simply to slap the other person down / show your moral superiority doesn’t really give you the moral high ground or much of anything else other than self satisfaction while creating a bit of a “glass houses” type of situation.

              3. Yeah, no...

                Observer, I feel you are the one being rude. You’re the one applying “snark” where there is none, and stating how ineffective my/our response would be when, in fact, you don’t know how effective it might be. I simply said that’s what I would do. I didn’t say it was the best choice for anyone or everyone. I did not state that it was anyone’s job to teach her the value of things. I stated this is what I would choose to do in this situation, and apply it as a lesson in value as opposed to cost.

                I won’t respond again to you, and ask that you do the same, and especially not with assumptions about me…in a reply rebuking me for making assumptions.

                Reply
                1. Observer

                  Do what you please. But perhaps you should look at who is saying what before getting into a huff. I’m apparently not the only person you did this to – the comment you just responded to was not even a response to you.

            3. Parenthetically

              The thing is, even if you’re absolutely right and she’s being intentionally, deliberately rude to her coworkers, there’s nothing to be lost in approaching the initial conversation in the way many of us are suggesting, because if she responds with an eyeroll and doubling down on her money talk, OP will know what to do next. But if you’re wrong and she’s just a clueless noob with some cultural crossed wires, the kind of verbal smackdown you’re talking about is going to come across as a seriously unwarranted cruelty that could damage OP’s professional reputation.

              Harm less often comes from assuming the best interpretation of someone’s actions than from assuming the worst.

              Reply
              1. Yeah, no...

                Parenthetically, as a reader for a few years, I value your input from the commentariat very much. I’m not sure if you feel that what I posted is the “verbal smackdown”, but I do not intend for it to be as such. It is, in my opinion, an equal but opposite opinion that is valid to be shared. I guess being as it’s the internet and none of you know me in person, I need to state that I am capable of making conversation…conversationally. Talking about how much savings I could come up with is not meant as a rebuke for this new employee, but as a manner of opening up the conversation with her. Saying it light-heartedly, not meanly, and then furthering the conversation as needed. She doesn’t want to hear about my coupons; I don’t want to hear about her $300 dog collar. Alone, in single instances, either of those things would be (generally) fine to say at work. But as a constant conversation about having/not having this that or the other…it’s not fine.

                However, I will say that if it was the other way, and there was someone who was constantly talking about how broke they were, I would not talk about the things that I’d buy either. So I guess that’s food for thought.

                Reply
                1. Parenthetically

                  That’s very kind. :)

                  No, with that I’m specifically referring to Jennifer — she’s suggesting a “firm rebuke” and seems to believe Rich Coworker is not a nice person who is being willfully unkind and snobby for the purpose of putting OP and their other coworkers down. I simply do not believe that kind of approach, particularly one that assumes the worst intentions, is going to be the most effective.

                  I don’t think countering Rich Coworker’s bragging about how much she spent on Fifi’s diamond collar with bragging about how little you spent on your clothes is going to be effective either, mostly because it still puts focus on money, when the goal is to get her to talk about money LESS. As a jokey opener for a more direct conversation later, perhaps (“Hey, you know how I was joking around earlier about spending a whole entire dollar on this shirt? I’ve been meaning to say something to you about this…”). But I don’t think anything less than a kind, straightforward, one-on-one explanation of workplace norms is going to do the trick here.

                2. Yeah, no...

                  Thank you for the helpful response, Parenthetically. I agree this isn’t the most effective solution, nor that saying such things in and of themselves would bring a resolution. I guess I, ironically, assumed that people here would assume the best of intent by me, without properly explaining my reasoning/follow-up. Lesson learned.

            4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that Jill refuses to step out of her bubble and try to learn. She’s young, newly in the working world, and my guess is that she is more likely to be very naïve than deliberately mean-spirited.

              The OP should start from giving her the benefit of the doubt; if Jill proves to be unworthy of that benefit, then it’s possible to escalate, but it’s much harder to de-escalate if you start out harshly with someone who may or may not deserve it.

              Reply
            5. Jessie the First (or second)

              “people who refuse to step out of their bubble and try to learn. There’s little excuse”

              The coworker is 22 and this is her first job out of college, so I think it is completely uncharitable to characterize her as someone who refuses to step out of her bubble. That’s just a whole lot of projecting onto this person that is not warranted.

              More likely, she simply hasn’t been exposed to anything different yet. We all have to start somewhere. We have read story after story on this very site about people new to the workforce having no clue about professional norms – why be any less forgiving to this version of that problem as opposed to the hundreds of others we read about here?
              If no one ever talks to her about it, how can you blame her for not knowing? She would hardly be the first person to not pick up on the hints or cues from those around her.

              A kind but direct heads-up to her. It makes no sense to get angry at her before that happens.

              Reply
            6. MatKnifeNinja

              My aunt literally is clueless why the Fed employees will struggle without getting a paycheck this Friday. Why don’t people have some sort of savings?

              She doesn’t even have the awareness of her living in a bubble, because all her family, friends and neighbors live on that same plane too.

              Reply
            7. Old Biddy

              I agree. It’s up to us to educate ourselves on our privilege as well as the cultural norms where we are living, and this includes the wealthy coworker.

              Reply
            8. Anoncorporate

              Chances are, her poorer coworkers don’t talk about how poor they are and their budgeting habits the way Jill talks about her spending habits. We may be reading different comments, but all of the advice I’m seeing is just practical advice on how to get Jill to stop doing the thing she is doing and leaving the rest of her coworkers in peace. No one is saying that her feelings are “more important” than others. Jill has the problem – not her coworkers. (And by the LWs account, they aren’t poor. They just find Jill to be very out of touch.)

              Also, I know it’s hard to believe, but some people really are just this clueless. It’s horrendous that the world can be so terribly organized to let this kind of wealth disparity happen, but I don’t think it’s constructive to take it out on clueless 22 year olds like Jill.

              Reply
        2. Observer

          For the same reason that you apparently cannot figure out where she is coming from.

          Different life experiences shape our perceptions and understanding of the world. Snark and “hints” that are meant to offend don’t do much to change that.

          Reply
      1. Kes

        Yeah… that’s really passive aggressive, and if Jill hasn’t picked up on the other clues in her coworkers’ reactions, I honestly doubt she’d get this either. OP should just talk to her.

        Reply
    2. fromscratch

      Oh this would be my exact reaction. I am an extreme bargain hunter. I’d be tempted to point out that my shirt cost $1 at goodwill.

      Reply
      1. bookartist

        I disagree. She’s not a child she’s a 22 year old adult who can drink, vote, and join the service. The way to shut this down is to look her dead in the eye next time she says something and say, ‘Are you done? Because I’m tired of hearing it.” She knows exactly what she’s doing.

        Reply
    3. Amber T

      Honestly, if I had a coworker like Jill and another coworker started constantly bringing up how much they saved/didn’t spend as much, I’d be annoyed with both of them. I don’t think it’s likely to get any point across to Jill and would probably start alienating her other coworkers.

      Reply
      1. Jasnah

        I agree, this seems really unhelpful and basically two sides of the same coin. If you had a coworker always talking about their diet, the solution isn’t to talk to them about how great it is you don’t have to diet. Likewise, engaging her in a competition to compare how much you saved/spent is not only not going to translate to her privileged perspective, it’s not a good look for you either.

        Reply
    4. Yeah, no...

      Strawmeatloaf and Arctic, I am not meaning this to be a passive aggressive or jerk move, and I apologize for not fully explaining in my initial post. To me, it would be more about teaching her the value, as several people mentioned upthread: my jacket works perfectly fine and it cost me $20. Why would I want to pay $500 for a jacket instead? This jacket keeps me warm…the $500 jacket keeps me warm. I hope that helps explain.

      Reply
      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        But then you are not teaching her about laying off the money talk – you are simply shifting the focus of the money talk slightly, so that that it turns into a debate on how best to spend the money you have.

        And a debate on how best to spend money surely is not the goal!

        If the money talk is not appropriate for the office, a direct but discrete heads-up is better, instead of an argument about how people should spend money (or lessons in “teaching her the value” which would likely feel patronizing).

        Reply
      2. Kramerica Industries

        It’s not going to teach her anything to crap on what she values though. Designer brands exist and are popular for a reason. Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean that you should snark about where she chooses to place value. “Value” to her is something that can show status and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

        Reply
      3. McWhadden

        I don’t think it’s the LW or anyone else’s job to “teach” her the value of a dollar or anything like that though.
        She can spend what she likes. She just shouldn’t talk about it as much. Nor should anyone the other end.

        Reply
      4. Blueberry

        Well, it seems her values are different than your values. You value a coat that keeps you warm. She values a coat that has a name brand on it. I could get a purse at Target for $20, but I’d rather spend $200 on a Kate Spade purse because I value the design/cache more than the concept of a bag to hold things.

        Reply
      5. Tinker

        If she didn’t ask to be taught those things, it’s questionable to impose that on her. Also, I’m not sure how making indirect “educational” remarks about thrift is a solution to the problem of someone making out-of-step remarks about their consumption habits isn’t passive-aggressive — it seems like exactly that, actually.

        Reply
    5. Excel Wizard

      Totally get why you want to do that. But having everyone talk about how inexpensive their items are is still having them talk about money at work, and that may just make her think that money/wealth conversations are totally normal in the workplace, and they really aren’t.

      Reply
    6. Observer

      Why would you do that? At best it’s just not useful. At worst it’s rude and passive aggressive bullying.

      I get why her behavior is annoying. But if I had to listen to a coworker go one like this, even without this context, I’d be equally annoyed.

      Reply
        1. Annie Moose

          Oh come off it. In your suggested situation, you wouldn’t be casually having conversations about clothing sales at random, you would be specifically and deliberately discussing the topic because of Jill. You wouldn’t decide independently to start couponing, in your suggestion, you’d do it specifically so you could obnoxiously talk about how CHEAP you are and how GREAT IT IS TO BE CHEAP and HOW LITTLE MONEY I SPENT ON THIS AND IT WORKS FINE HINT HINT. And you even suggest that if Jill happened to suggest spending more on something, you respond with this theatrical passive-aggressive “oh my but why would I ever do that” thing!

          No, I don’t think this would be bullying under most circumstances. But it is kind of rude and it definitely is passive-aggressive. Just UYFW and have a nice conversation with the poor girl. There is no need for these elaborate shows and little hints.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Exactly this.

            Either have a conversation with the girl – or don’t and just internally roll your eyes if you don’t feel like taking it on. That’s equally perfectly legitimate.

            Reply
        2. CynicallySweet

          I don’t want to speak for Observer, but the way I read the comment is that suggesting to deliberately going out of your way to bring up things that you know would confuse her and reacting in a negative new way (b/c this has been going on for awhile) rather than having an honest and open conversation with her could be read as bullying. You’re not suggesting trying to help her. You seem to just be hoping to upset her enough that she just stops…which could very easily be read as bullying. Her infractions are unintentional, yours wouldn’t be.

          Reply
        3. Observer

          That’s not what I suggested. And there is no reason to think that it was.

          You suggested repeatedly putting down her choices and specifically discussing how you do things differently (and better) than her as a response to her (gauche and inappropriate) comments. The specific words don’t matter.

          Reply
  16. your favorite person

    I’m thinking telling her, “Jill, I don’t know if you are aware, but talking so much about your families finances isn’t really work-appropriate. Because it can be seen as immature and also tasteless when you don’t know other peoples circumstances. Can you cut down on that kind of talk?”

    Reply
    1. Budgie Lover

      This is good blunt advice that gets to the heart of the problem. Whatever the reason for her behavior, she needs to be told to avoid certain topics in a work context.

      Reply
      1. Angry Citizen

        This. There is no reason not to blunt and straightforward since Jill is also being straightforward. That said, if there is any way to do so, I’d see if I could pull in either an HR person, or a supervisor or someone above you, because this could just start an argument since she is younger and doesn’t seem to have great social skills and seems to lack perspective and maturity. She might just get butt hurt, and sulk, and continue to talk about it to be a jerk and prove to herself that she was not wrong to talk about those things.

        Reply
    2. Approval is optional

      I can see a problem with this – the glass house issue (people in and stones..). Some people would see asking coworkers for advice on gifts for girlfriends as not really work-appropriate. The LW says they are a ‘close team’: does this closeness mean they share personal (ie non work related) information with others in the team? Some people would see that as not work-appropriate.
      Talking about children at work could be seen as inappropriate if you don’t know other people’s circumstances around fertility and so on – so should the LW pull aside anyone who discusses children, and tell them to cut down on that kind of talk? How about someone talking about how much they enjoy playing a sport when they don’t know the circumstances of the others with regard to health problems that limit participation in that sport.
      Also, we don’t get to tell someone that their conversation is ‘tasteless’, because taste is subjective.

      Reply
      1. your favorite person

        I think the key is that she is doing it SO MUCH it’s becoming an issue. As Alison often says, it is fine to have small workplace conversations about your life but when you are sharing so much, it ends up being annoying. Additionally, you have to know your team and workplace. Obviously this LW does and because several people have issues with it, her coworkers oversharing isn’t within the norms of the team. That’s why it would be doing her a favor to say so.
        Also, tasteless was actually not the word I meant! I meant tactless, but I think either works, personally.

        Reply
        1. Approval is optional

          I think telling Jill that the LW has noticed that people are annoyed at the money talk is actually better than saying it’s not work-appropriate. Removes the glass house problem!

          Reply
    3. CynicallySweet

      Or maybe ask her to stop talking about it and observe how others do for a little bit. B/c people do talk about their finances at work. I think it’s more of a frequency/tone/obliviousness thing on her end, and maybe if she spent more time picking up on how others talk about this stuff she can too, just not how she has been. Just a suggestion though

      Reply
  17. Mediamaven

    I don’t have any advice but people like this need to realize that once you become an adult, it’s time to stop bragging about what your parents have and start cultivating your own accomplishments. It’s so juvenile.

    Reply
    1. Aurion

      Well, yes, but that’s why the OP wrote in–Jill obviously doesn’t have the self-awareness to read the room, nor the context that her experience is out of the norm. If she’s not getting it she’s going to have to receive that lesson from an external source, whether kindly or not. That’s probably how Jill is going to “realize” this mistake.

      Reply
  18. Murphy

    Ugh, I went to grad school with someone like this, and as I was a poor struggling grad student, it really made me not like her. I remember her telling me how “cheap” her new hair place was because it was “only” $180.

    Reply
    1. Amber T

      I remember for a friend’s like, 11th birthday (we were young), I found this really cool purse I thought she would like based on the style and colors. She opened it up in front of everyone at her party, flipped it around and checked inside before asking “who designed this?” I had no clue, I just picked it up because it was cool and stylish. She got this super disappointed look and mumbled her thanks only after her mom prompted her. Never got a thank you card and never saw it in her room. (We’re late 20s now and rumor is that she’s still very much like this.)

      Reply
    2. Doodle

      LOL, I had a friend in grad school who had a trust fund. They were in no way snobby, and if you were clueless as to the cost of their clothes, you’d never know. Until the day we were talking about budgeting and they mentioned that their shoe budget was $300/month. I am sorry to say I could not control myself, burst out laughing, and said that $300/month for shoes was not a budget. ($300 was my budget for clothes for the year…)

      Reply
    3. Rusty Shackelford

      My mom worked with someone, decades ago, who was legitimately bewildered that anyone could survive on less than $100K/year. The funny thing was, she had this discussion with a group of people who all made much, much less than that, and assumed they’d agree with her, since she didn’t have a clue how much they made.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Oh man, conversations like that crack me up. My husband and I went to a friend of a friend who’s an estate attorney to get wills drawn up when I was pregnant with our son, and as we handed our financial stuff over, his jaw dropped looking at our income. I started laughing and said he should have seen the state of things when I was making $20k a year rather than $28k. This is a guy with two Ivy League degrees and a degree from Cambridge. He and his wife were both rowers. They closed down an art museum for their wedding. He owns horses. He does not own a loud tie. Posh oozes from his pores. To his credit, he got it back together really quickly, but not before stammering, “H-how… how did you survive?”

        Reply
    4. Spiky

      My husband once asked our accountant if there was anything we could do to not get screwed in taxes. He asked us why we didn’t own property. We told him we couldn’t afford it (we live in NYC). He said, “But you could put a down payment on a condo for $30,000. You have that, right?” And we laughed and said no. And then he said, “But you could ask your parents for it?” And my husband said, “My dad would be more likely to ask me for money than the other way around,” and I said, “Even if my parents had that kind of money, I’d only get it once they were dead.”

      Reply
    5. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials

      In my first job out of college, I worked with someone whose family also had scads of money but was the polar opposite in terms of bragging about it. She was, however, just as clueless. She could not wrap her head around the fact that I did not own a car. “But where is it? Where did you leave it?”

      She was not a snob at all – she invited us to her parents’ house for a party, and we carpooled and show up to this MANSION with like a manned gate and all the other attendees arrived in couture and made ‘entrances,’ and we huddled in the kitchen (~500 sq feet and open plan meant not very hidden) hoping we wouldn’t be shooed out. She was actually delightful and took us on a tour of the manse, including the wing that used to be servants’ quarters. Egad.

      Reply
  19. The Other Katie

    Has anyone actually talked to her about it? She’s young, and status signalling like this is important in some social contexts for younger people, especially at universities. Someone needs to have a talk with her and explain that it’s not really appropriate for a workplace.

    Reply
    1. Thursday Next

      I think you’ve struck the right tone here. It seems like a combination of youth and cultural differences. “Been here since she was a teenager” could mean she’s been in the U.S. anywhere from 3 to 9 years, which is a big spread. At any rate, none of those years were spent in a professional workplace.

      Keep it simple, OP. “Talking about luxury brands and purchases often isn’t really appropriate workplace conversation.”

      Reply
    2. Kill ItWithFIre

      OMG yes this! It’s status signalling and is inappropriate for the environment. Maybe if someone puts it to her like that it will go over better?

      Reply
    3. AnotherLibrarian

      I totally agree that this is a form of status signalling and she’s probably doing it, because she is insecure and immature. It’s also likely cultural, as some cultures are much more money status oriented than the US. If the OP can pull her aside and have a nice, frank, conversation about how it will (and likely is) negatively impacting how others see her, it would be a kindness.

      Reply
  20. EverythingHurtsAndI'mDying

    It would be a kindness to speak with her, but it may be more effective to discuss the impact to her specifically, rather than the impact to others. I don’t mean in how people perceive her, but more that she could be passed up for promotions, even unintentionally, because she obviously doesn’t need the pay bump. Also if she ever becomes a supervisor it will be much more uncomfortable to deny someone a raise when they know how well off you are. I know those two things aren’t connected, but emotionally I imagine it would be stressful.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Pepper

      I actually think that how others perceive her based on her actions/words would be valuable information. She’s annoying people and looking very out of touch, insecure, and possibly boorish. Unless she’s fine with being hated, knowing that her behavior is negatively impacting how other people perceive her might be the best wake up call to be mindful of her words.

      I agree that it’s best to leave the impact to others out of it. For one thing, she may not actually care about anyone else’s feelings. For another, you’re not trying to make her feel guilty or ashamed, or like she has to make reparations of any kind. You just want her to stop and talk about something- anything- else.

      Reply
  21. blink14

    I don’t think she’s doing this to brag. To me, it sounds like she grew up in a very wealthy household, likely in a very wealthy local culture, and since she lived at home in college, she probably didn’t experience the average student life. This is what she knows as life.

    So, I would look at this as inexperience. I would talk to your manager and have them deal with it. If you don’t think that’s a possibility, take Jill out for coffee or lunch and gently point out to her that discussing money related things at work isn’t appropriate.

    Reply
    1. Non profit pro

      I agree with this interpretation. We were recently talking about doing a family vacation and my IL said that we should go to New Zealand because she found a deal online for “only $8,000” per couple. The idea that this would not be in our budget completely bamboozled them. We run into this frequently because their spending levels are so out of sync with ours. It’s not meant maliciously, just clueless about what is and isn’t accessible to most people.

      Reply
      1. blink14

        Exactly. I can relate to this girl somewhat in my own life experiences – my family does well financially, but built businesses from the ground up and lost one of them to a fire, and experienced a long down turn after the 2008 recession. Our life was less financially stable when I was a young kid, and I remember living in a one bedroom apartment before moving into our house and wearing the same Halloween costume 2 years in a row because buying a new one wasn’t that important. My parents never spent money on super flashy items – it took me months of begging to get a handbag I wanted for Christmas as a teenager – but I knew my family had solid financial ground, and I also remembered what it was like to not have that. I went to private school for most of my life, and I encountered many kids who were much like the OP’s co-worker – they literally didn’t realize they were outside of the norm, and being wealthy was what they knew. It is a culture all on it’s own.

        Reply
    2. Observer

      I agree with your interpretation. But I would most definitely NOT pull in the supervisor. It’s not something that’s really the supervisor’s job, unless she’s allowing it to color how she interactions professionally with either co-workers of clients.

      Reply
      1. blink14

        I agree with you somewhat, but if it’s causing some conflict with co-workers, it is the supervisor’s job to manage that piece of their team as well.

        Reply
  22. Rey

    You should be specific and detailed about what causes the discomfort (naming the specific price, attaching a brand name to everything) and what she should be aiming for (never talk about this stuff again, it should only happen once a week, etc.) so that she really understands what fits with your team’s norm.

    Reply
    1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived

      I agree totally. When I was Jill’s someone had a kind conversation with me about hoe to behave at work and it helped me immensely. It would be a kindness to do that for Jill.

      Reply
  23. Ginger

    I’m reading her focus on $$ is a lack in confidence. Since OP mentioned she is sensitive, I would pull her aside, maybe go out for coffee and approach the conversation from a, “Hey, we’re excited for you to be part of our team and all do great things together. I want you to be set up for success but I’ve noticed you have a tendency to talk a lot about your parents spending and monetary things in the workplace. I’m sure you might not even realize it but it takes away from your talents.”…. maybe something along those lines?

    Alternatively, you could call it out in the moment. Tell her there are many great labels out there or laugh off her price dropping saying no one needs to know or cares about how much she spends on gifts.

    Between us friends here… a Tiffany dog collar? that’s so 1995. She sounds like she lives in a sad little bubble.

    Reply
    1. Jaybeetee

      I picked up on a possible lack of confidence as well, but it could also be a cultural difference. But in my (admittedly relatively limited) experience around Fantabulously Wealthy People – the people who are cool with their money aren’t name-dropping the brands they buy. Like yeah, they’ll mention in conversation buying a “new purse”, you’ll eventually find out it was a Coach purse that probably costs more than I’ve spent on purses throughout my life… but they’re not *saying* “I bought a Coach purse!” I’ve found the ones that are constantly mentioning brands are still rather… insecure about their money? Often “Nouveau Riche” or otherwise not used to being able to spend at those levels?

      Reply
      1. blink14

        In my experiences with very rich people, mostly in private school and boarding school, people with true, unbelievable wealth (and/or inherited wealth) tend to be more casual and not name drop. Those who are very wealthy, but it’s more “new” money, or live in a place where high value is placed on having the right brands in your home and in your giant walk in closet, tend to name drop more heavily.

        Again this is based on my experience, and not a jab at anyone.

        Reply
    2. Dr. Pepper

      Even if it isn’t an actual lack of confidence, she may think that this is how one establishes one’s place and social standing. She may think this is normal and for whatever reason is not picking up on the fact that nobody else is talking about these things. You say she’s sensitive, but sensitive to what? I can’t help but think she might not actually be all that sensitive to other people’s reactions, since she hasn’t figured out that nobody enjoys hearing about her family’s money. Even if you haven’t said anything outright, there is no way that there’s been no indication of discomfort among your colleagues.

      So, since hoping she’ll get the hint hasn’t worked, consider taking her aside and telling her nicely that it’s not customary to discuss finances and buying of luxury goods at work because it annoys people. It makes her sound insecure at best and boorish at worst. Don’t get into moralizing or preserving other people’s feelings, like saying she’s making those with less money feel bad or whatever. Those arguments are far too easy for her to dismiss, but telling her that it’s making her look bad in a specific way, might make a dent. Try to approach it in a friendly, giving her a head’s up kind of way, not a lecturing or “correcting” way. Once you’ve done that, brightly and determinedly cut her off and change the subject whenever she starts talking about money or whatever luxury item she’s buying next.

      Reply
  24. Gently Screaming into the Void

    I’d try to address it in the moment, but maybe with a touch of humour. “I would buy the Kors jacket, but I also pay a mortgage,” or the like. The more I try to workshop phrases, the more biting they become (“Sounds great! I miss not having bills!”), but it might just be about setting those boundaries and pushing back when she gets oblivious.

    Reply
    1. whistle

      I like this suggestion. Immediately counter her statements about brands and spending lots of money with your own perspective. You don’t have to reply to everything she says, but a few statements along these lines will help I think. “Oh wow, a Tiffany collar would never be in my budget, but I hope your puppy enjoys it!” “I love it when I can find North Face jackets on clearance.” “I tend to avoid brand names myself, but to each their own.”

      I think the advantage of these types of statements said casually is that they can remove some of the stigma associated with not having a lot of extra money.

      Reply
    2. Smitherton

      I’m in favor of direct, immediate correction.
      Tone would be tricky. I’d mainly aim for total bewilderment on why she’d spend money on that and then tell you, or mild general interest.
      “I’m getting my mom a Gucci keychain that costs $225!” — “Why are you telling me how much it costs?” “It seems silly to spend a day’s salary on something like a keychain. If you got a less expensive one, you could get her a hat, gloves, and scarf, too.”
      “My dog is getting a Tiffany collar!” –“…Why?” “I hope he doesn’t eat it. It’d be awkward trying to get it back.”
      “You should get X or Y brand.” –“Quality is more important than brand.” “You don’t want a girl who’d demand a certain brand.” “That might come across as flashy.”

      If she’s actually bragging, instead of cheerfully sharing something that makes her happy/ is part of her life, being judgy of people with less, or really awkwardly interjecting costs at inappropriate times, directly asking “Why are you telling us that?” could be enough to shut her down.

      Reply
      1. Grapey

        “If you got a less expensive one, you could get her a hat, gloves, and scarf, too.”

        Saying that as a suggestion would make you come off as clueless as Jill does when she brags about expensive gifts. Parents that raise kids like Jill would absolutely shame their newly employed daughter for getting them cheap items. “Do they not pay you enough at your new job?” etc.

        And saying “that seems silly…” injects your own morals into Jill’s decisions and comes off as judgemental as well.

        Reply
  25. Construction Safety

    Many years ago we had a similar admin. Turned out that EVERYTHING she said was a lie.

    What kind of car does your co-worker drive? Is it consistent with her stories?

    Reply
      1. LKW

        Depends on the family. Old money typically doesn’t but Paris Hilton counts as established money and I doubt she’d drive a beater. Bloomberg is new money but it wouldn’t surprise me if his daughter showed up in an 8 year old volvo.

        Reply
  26. bookwormish2018

    Just take her aside and tell her. “Jane, you may not have noticed, but you talk about money constantly. I know this is something that people talk about in school, but it’s just not much of a topic of conversation in the working world and particularly in the scientific community. Scientists are rarely rich and are famous for their lack of money and lack of fashion sense. You run the risk of seeming like you aren’t a serious scientist by talking about material possessions all the time. You want people to remember you for your talent and intelligence. It’s not the end of the world, but you might want to find some other topics for small talk, like books, movies or hobbies. Or something related to our field.”

    It is very common for young women to talk about this stuff to seem sort of dumb and unthreatening. I remember (with horror) myself doing it in my late teens/early 20s. I thought it would help me fit in (ugh). So maybe try being a bit sympathetic but also telling her that this is not how one behaves in a more professional setting. You’ll be doing her a major favor, even though it will be uncomfortable for her to hear. If this plays badly among other students or recent ex-students, it’s going to play horribly as she gets into older academic circles.

    Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, that sounds like the right angle to take to me. It makes it about professional norms, not anything personal.

      Reply
      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        I like this a lot, especially mentioning that this might have been the norm when she was a student. It gives her a really kind ‘out’ to spare her some embarrassment. I think you have a perfect script.

        Reply
    2. rebelipar

      Also, depending on how far she plans on going in science/research…. Science funding is a perpetual struggle. Talking about her myriad purchases at work isn’t going to get anyone to think of her as a frugal scientist who can stretch funding dollars to get everything done.

      Reply
      1. No Tribble At All

        +1 for being rich in academia: all the other grad students in the lab will go crazy listening to her talk about her puppy’s Tiffany collar when they’re eating Ramen for the fourth day in a row

        Reply
    3. The Ginger Ginger

      Yes, I think this is my favorite response, especially if sprinkled with rebelipar’s point about how it comes across when seeking out funding.

      Reply
    4. Jules the 3rd

      + 1 to this.

      Direct, kind conversation is way better than passive aggressive sniping, and this is a pretty good script.

      Reply
  27. Arctic

    If she’s a nice person someone should just speak to her. It seems like she’s somewhat aware and tries to make suggestions knowing not everyone is rich. Northface and Michael Kors aren’t high-end (my sister’s Michael Kors winter coat was cheaper than my no name brand) so it seems like she was trying to make a suggestion that was more reasonable than the kind of thing she would buy for herself or a loved one. I’m not saying anyone could afford those but it’s definitely not what someone who is spending a ton of money on dog collars would buy for themselves. (By contrast, those Canada Goose jackets are $1,000.)

    But keep in mind this could be cultural. And, if so, it’s a hard habit to break.

    Reply
  28. anna green

    In a lot of wealthy areas, this is normal conversation, a “keeping up with the Joneses (Kardashians)” kind of thing. She may just be sheltered and have been raised to think this is normal and expected if all of her friends/parents would always be bragging or discussing how much money they have and how much things cost. A polite notification that this isn’t actually how the entire world works would be a perfectly fine thing to do. Expect it to take a while for her to change and for her to be flabbergasted at first. This is the kind of stuff that typically takes place in a freshman year dorm as different people from different wealth status live together for the first time.

    Reply
    1. Long time fed

      Is it normal though? I live in a wealthy suburb. People have nice homes and things but no one brags about brands or money.

      Reply
      1. EventPlannerGal

        It can be. I went to school with many people for whom saying things like “my Gucci purse”, “a Tiffany dog collar” and so on would have been purely descriptive, like saying “my blue jacket”. At my university it was even pretty normal to use the brand name itself as the entire descriptor – “my Canada Goose”, “your Uggs”. It isn’t necessarily an intentional name-dropping thing, it’s just that, well, that’s what the item is.

        Reply
        1. EventPlannerGal

          Oops, sorry, I misread your comment slightly – but the cost-bragging thing can also be normal in some circles too.

          Reply
  29. Jennifer

    Can you not just tell her to be quiet because that’s rude? She’s not your boss. If she brings it up after that, just tell her you don’t care.

    “This is a picture of my dog’s Lamborghini. They custom-made it so he can drive it himself!”

    “I don’t care.”

    “I ate diamonds for breakfast this morning!”

    “I ate dirt because I’m poor.”

    Rinse and repeat as needed until she stops.

    I don’t think is about youth or inexperience. It’s about poor manners. 22 is more than old enough to know that’s poor behavior.

    Reply
      1. Jennifer

        It was a joke. The point is this girl needs to step out of her bubble and learn how the other half lives. She’s not a child.

        Reply
        1. Aurion

          Well, yes, but as with everything, delivery matters. Jill is out of step with the norm, sure, but sarcastic/biting/passive-aggressive retorts are likely to create unnecessary animosity if the goal is to level up Jill’s tact and lessen such comments. Since OP describes Jill as nice (rather than malicious), going straight for the proverbial jugular seems unwarranted.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer

            I disagree that she’s nice. I think she’s a mean girl hiding behind the facade of niceness. “Love ya! Mean it!” a la Regina George.

            I was exaggerating but my point is to be firm. There’s no need to tiptoe around this.

            Reply
              1. Jennifer

                My basis is the unkind comments she’s making to other coworkers. It’s my opinion based on the information provided. I’m allowed to have an opinion that differs from yours. Her behavior is rude. The impact of her behavior matters.

                Yes, I’m biased against snobs. I know what it feels like to be made feel like trash because you don’t have as much money as someone else.

                Reply
                1. London Engineer

                  But there isn’t actually evidence that the intern is doing that, and certainly not that she is doing it deliberately – the OP is mostly just annoyed. OP has also known this person for a significant amount of time, describes her as nice and is concerned for her future, so I think that deciding based on what seems to be a personal sore spot that she is a nasty snob is really overblown

                2. Jules the 3rd

                  There’s nothing in the letter indicating that she’s making these comments *at* people, which is what I’d need to see to think she was being unkind. You are assuming that she’s doing so, but there’s no evidence supporting that in the text, and some evidence (nice, young) contradicting it.

                  To me, there’d have to be some dig at the audience to make me assume ‘unkind’:
                  Clueless: ‘My parents are getting my dog an expensive collar’
                  Unkind: ‘Your dog’s collar sucks / is ugly / is dangerous – I’m getting a better one’

                  Clueless: ‘Dad’s buying mom a new car for xmas!’
                  Unkind: ‘Dad is getting my mom a new car, way better than yours!’

                  Clueless: ‘Buy a brand name coat, since you asked!’
                  Unkind: ‘Your choice is ugly / defective in some way that reflects on the chooser’
                  (I don’t consider ‘not getting a name brand’ to reflect badly on the chooser)

            1. Aurion

              OP says she’s nice and OP should know Jill’s pattern of behaviour better than any of us, I think. I’m assuming that Jill is behaving nicely in general, thoughtless comments aside.

              I agree that Jill needs a frank, and firm, wake-up call–but that doesn’t preclude kindness. When dealing with a generally nice, if thoughtless, person, it usually works far better to start off nicely as well.

              Reply
              1. Jennifer

                I do get your point. I just have a different viewpoint. I don’t get it when people say about someone, “she’s a really nice person except for this one really rude, thoughtless thing she does.” Maybe they aren’t as sensitive about those types of comments as someone else may be so it is easier for them to make excuses for them.

                Reply
                1. Où est la bibliothèque?

                  The majority of commenters don’t seem to think she’s being deliberately unkind, but even if she is, why respond with more unkindness? The goal is to change the behavior, not the person.

                2. Carrie

                  Nearly everyone has at least one thing they do that someone else finds unbearable, so if that’s your standard there are no nice people.

                3. Name Required

                  Well, perhaps you’ll get this: you’re being really rude and thoughtless with your degrading and baseless comments about OP’s coworker. Anyone who thinks you are a really nice person must not be as sensitive about those types of comments, and must think it’s easier to make excuses for you, like the excuses you’re making for yourself in this thread.

                  Does it make more sense now why people can call someone nice while disagreeing about an aspect of their behavior?

    1. Parenthetically

      This is hilarious, but as a course of action it’s also needlessly hostile. OP can address this and get coworker to stop without blowing up her relationship with coworker or looking like a jerk.

      Reply
        1. Zillah

          Yes. It obviously depends on the context, but “I don’t care” often comes across as extremely dismissive and hurtful, especially if you’re talking about something that the other person does care about. (“I’m not interested in this” is much more mild but gets the same point across, IMO.)

          Reply
        2. Jules the 3rd

          Depends on the context. If:
          – you’ve had a direct conversation about ‘this is outside work norms’
          – And have an otherwise very friendly relationship
          – And deliver it jokingly and softened (Oh Cersei, you know I’m not into Jaime, I just don’t care what he’s up to!)
          then it can be not aggressive.

          But delivered as the first social correction, without a lot of prep and softening? Yes, telling someone you don’t care what they are talking about is very aggressive – it very much shuts down the conversation instead of leaving people polite responses. Especially if they don’t know that some people would be offended by their topic.

          ‘I love sunshiney days like today’
          ‘I don’t care’
          ‘ooookaaay – backing away now’

          Using it to shut down racist comments or sexual harassment is also aggressive, though I argue that’s *justified* aggression.

          (I just realized, I did a lot of prep and softening on this response… lol )

          Reply
    2. EventPlannerGal

      No, she can’t do that. I mean, she can in the literal sense, it’s a free country. But if she wants to preserve a relationship with a colleague that she works with in close quarters all day and not appear extremely rude and aggressive, she really can’t do that. This has a touch of Internet Badass to it, really, because I’m sure you’re aware of all the reasons this is not realistic advice.

      Reply
    1. Où est la bibliothèque?

      It doesn’t seem like she wants to make other people feel bad–she’s just very focused on material things and very, very obtuse. I’m guessing that naming brand/cost is the same to her as “thing that is good.”

      So I might talk about a gift and say “I’m buying my mom a cool keychain, I think she’ll like it” and she would say “I’m buying my mom a keychain, it’s Gucci and cost $225” and because to her they’re pretty much communicating the same thing.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Mentioning the name brand is one thing, still tacky, but maybe not rude, but adding the price is completely different. People do that to put others down. I think the OP and many commenters here are making excuses for her because of her youth and I don’t think it’s warranted. I knew behavior like that was rude in elementary school. The only people who went around flaunting how much their stuff cost were the mean girls.

        I’m not trying to make this about race, but would people be making all of these excuses if she were making racially insensitive comments? Does being young excuse that? Comments about people’s economic status can also be extremely hurtful. She’s more than old enough to know better.

        Reply
        1. Delphine

          But she’s not making racially insensitive comments. And she’s sharing stories about her own shopping habits. She’s not commenting on anyone else’s status. There’s no evidence to support malicious intent here.

          Reply
        2. London Engineer

          I have known plenty of nice people who were nevertheless slightly oblivious as to their comparative wealth. I went to a private school where most of the students were significantly better off than me and there were definitely a lot of conversations about holidays or clothing where I did a lot of eye-rolling but none of those people were being malicious.

          I also think the comparison to racist comments isn’t really effective – it is possible to show off without meaning to put people down, and in some places/cultures it is expected

          Consider this analogy instead – I know some people who frequently talk about makeup/hair/nails as a regular part of conversation – I’m not particularly interested in that stuff but I don’t think they’re doing it to make me feel ugly. Nevertheless if I had an intern who was doing this excessively I’d probably tell her to tone it down because of the risk of not being taken seriously

          Reply
          1. Jennifer

            I don’t think the hair/nails comparison is the same. They just have different interests than you do. It would be a bit of a stretch to think they are saying you’re ugly.

            A better comparison might be bragging about how thin and perfect your body is around someone that is sensitive about their weight. I know that not everyone that is overweight is sensitive about their weight or is even trying to lose weight, but I’m just using the example of someone that does feel that way.

            Bragging about your thin, perfect body in front of them and talking about how you can eat whatever you want without gaining a pound would be incredibly insensitive. I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t be aware that those comments may be hurtful to someone.

            Reply
            1. Zillah

              I think that weight is an interesting example, though – I wouldn’t say that someone who talks about having a hard time finding clothing that isn’t too big or concerns about unexplained weight loss is definitely bragging about their weight, though some people sensitive to weight may read it that way.

              Reply
            2. lawyer

              You are viewing stating the price and brand as bragging. You’re also assuming, in your weight example, that you know the listener is sensitive about being overweight. But if Jill doesn’t understand the difference between her coworkers’ financial situation and her own, why would she have any cause to believe that they would be bothered by hearing this? To her, the brand and price may just be facts; she doesn’t necessarily know the weight those facts carry to listeners. Making her aware of that would be a kindness on the part of the LW.

              Reply
          1. Huts

            I think talking about price in certain contexts (even at work) is fine, like when you want to buy something, too, and you want to know if it fits your budget, or discussing where you can find cheap items, etc. Bragging about your wealth is where it gets tacky.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              In fairness, our neighbor is Chinese and is very frank – to American sensibilities, offputtingly so – about how much things cost. It’s tacky to us, but it’s very typical in China to matter-0f-factly inform folks how much you spent on a thing.

              Reply
    2. Alldogsarepuppies

      This is very unkind. People know the world and culture they grew up in. People not fitting to your specific cultural norms and habits does not make them a mean or bad person, and I see no evidence of “nanana I can afford this and you can’t” coming from her mouth. I think talking about Christmas presents is a very very very normal conversation people have, and never being in a situation where naming the brand would be rude and uncalled for before, means she doesn’t know. I think you are projecting your expectations onto the world.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        I just have a different opinion than the majority. Telling someone to “sit this one out” is a bit condescending.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          I think your opinion on this is being colored by your own history of being ill-treated by wealthy people, as you mentioned above and I think it’s making you read hostility and rudeness into a situation where neither Alison nor the majority of the commenters are seeing hostility or rudeness. You can tell you’re in the minority with your take on this, of course! And that’s fine! Maybe she IS as big a snob as you say. But I still think it’s better to start with a kinder approach and escalate if needed.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer

            I didn’t see that Alison weighed in here. But anyhoo, I can tone down the snark if it’s making people uncomfortable.

            Reply
            1. Belle8bete

              I also would bristle as being asked to “sit out” in this context, although I think honestly the best reaction to this person is to internally roll your eyes and ignore it. Like. Whatever. Move on with your life and laugh on the inside.

              Reply
    3. pcake

      I disagree. I used to know a VERY nice woman who behaved that way. She was new to having extra cash and generally socially clueless, and was excited to share all about her purchases. She was a friend of a friend staying with me for a month, and I finally said something because every one of my family and friends – not to mention me – were fed up hearing about her brand name purchases and how much she paid for them. She was very embarrassed and apologetic when I told her it wasn’t something we liked hearing, and she never did it again.

      Reply
    4. Anonymeece

      I don’t think that’s necessarily fair. I had a friend in college who was spoiled, but genuinely a nice person. She just never had been around people who grew up poor. My other friend and I were both of the “couldn’t afford to replace a water heater in the house, so we lived with cold showers” camp growing up, and she just literally didn’t understand. She was still sweet and warm and kind, just a little clueless because she had grown up sheltered from that sort of thing.

      Reply
      1. TechWorker

        I totally agree this is probably cluelessness/ignorance rather than wilful boasting or meanness. At the same time you could argue that the ignorance is partially wilful – did she never read a newspaper? I guess maybe she assumes her parents earnings/assets are normal (or even, doesn’t know what they are).

        I had a friend who was a bit like this at college (not as boastful or bad but would just say things that were a bit tactless, like when another friend in the group had £50 stolen, she was like ‘oh but won’t your parents just pay you back for that?’). She improved when she started earning and then living on her own and is now quite careful around making sure our friends who are earning less can afford stuff she suggests doing as a group. It’s a definite improvement! So this may improve all by itself (although ofc maybe not if her parents are rich enough they’d still give her money… hmmn).

        Reply
  30. beth

    She’s just out of school and this is presumably her first ‘real’ (non-part time, non-internship, career-track) job. You’d be doing her a massive kindness if you took her aside and told her that talking so much about money and wealth-signaling via brand names is going to hurt her professionally.

    Your actual question is whether you can do that “without sounding jealous or mean, or causing a lot of friction on my team,” and that’s harder to answer–mostly because it’s not in your control. She might interpret what you say as jealousy or an attack on her, no matter how kindly and gently you phrase it. She might react badly and cause tension on your team. But those are about her reaction, not about your wording–you can minimize the odds of problems by not being a jerk about it, but ultimately you can’t control if they happen or not. Focus on explaining professional norms for your workplace around money talk and try not to worry too much about what you can’t control.

    Reply
    1. All Stitched Up

      Yes, this. There’s no way to guarantee what her reaction will be. LW, you sound like a generally kind and thoughtful person, so I think it’s important to remember that once you’ve done your best to come up with a script, that’s all you can do, and the rest of it is up to her.

      I know a lot of people are advising that focusing on the impact to her career might be more effective, but I think it’s also important to very clearly let her know how her behavior is coming across, even if she turns out not to care. Something like, “I know you don’t mean it this way, but when you talk about name brands and how much things cost, it can come across as insensitive and like you look down on people who don’t have the resources your family does. That kind of reputation can be really damaging to your career.”

      Reply
  31. Clever Name

    I think this is tricky. If you have a particularly close or friendly relationship it would be worth mentioning to her. But if you aren’t friendly, I feel like it would come off poorly.

    This is definitely something that isn’t great and that she needs to work on. Maybe just make comments like “not everyone can afford that” in the moment?

    Reply
    1. Luisa

      I totally agree with this. If I were in this situation, I could see myself addressing it in the moment, but I’d be unlikely to bring it up for a conversation. If I had a colleague who did this, it would bother me, but not to the extent that I’d feel like talking about it with the perpetrator. (Which is not to say that I think others are wrong to be put off by this, because it is off-putting – it just doesn’t rise to that level for me personally.)

      Reply
  32. anonymouse

    As an American who now lives in England, one of my favourite sayings is “all fur coat and no knickers”. Meaning, all style and no substance. You’d be doing her a favour to let her know it doesn’t come across very well.

    Reply
  33. Mm

    I come from a wealthy-ish family and I try really hard to be mindful of what I share at work about my finances. Every now and then I’ll slip up and say something tone-deaf. Usually when this happens my close work friend will roll his eyes and say “wow someone’s rich.”

    Reply
    1. blink14

      I can relate. My family owns multiple properties, and I get really uncomfortable sometimes talking about vacation plans if I’m staying at one of those properties.

      Reply
      1. Dog Person

        I get uncomfortable talking about my vacations plans as well. I have cousins that live in Europe. It is hard to discuss travel plans without making people feel bad or causing awkwardness. I

        Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      Same. Years ago at one of my first jobs out of school I request some time off because my family was going a cruise. I went to great length to not tell anyone why I wanted to time off. I know not everyone has the $$$ to go on a cruise and I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or seem like I was bragging.

      Reply
  34. SandrineSmiles (France - At Work)

    If you can, talk to her in private about this.

    She’s ruining her own reputation all ber herself right now. Not that we shouldn’t accept that some people have more money than others, but even then, it’s not even her money (since she does have to work, apparently) .

    I would tell her something like “Jill, it’s really nice that there are things your family doesn’t have to worry about, but you need to remember that not everyone is in this situation. Talking about money the way you do not only hurts your reputation at work in general, but may also prevent you from having cordial working relationships with people around you.” Or something like that.

    Sidenote: and I’m the one who gets picked on when I mention money struggles haha… I’ve been told off so many times cause I dared mention my current truth xD …

    Reply
  35. ISuckAtUserNames

    Depending on your relationship with her and seniority/standing in the hierarchy you could offer her the “I know you don’t mean it like this, but comments like that can be hurtful when people can’t necessarily afford the same things you’re used to in your family.”

    The dog collar thing is eye-rolly, but the slam on your male coworker for not buying a name brand coat when trying to do something thoughtful for his wife is kind of out line and can be hurtful.

    She’ll possibly find out the hard way when she alienates people. Or she might just be able to continue in her bubble and never realize how fortunate she is, which won’t really do her or anyone else any good, but what can you do?

    Reply
  36. learnedthehardway

    I’ve had situations where candidates who were being considered for positions were not hired because the perception was that they did not NEED the role, being financially independent / well off, and so would not take it seriously enough. Make of that what you will re the employer’s attitudes, but being perceived as too well off can really hurt someone’s chances to be employed or taken seriously for career progression. Regardless of whether that’s a bit of jealousy, or a feeling that another candidate needs the role more, or a perception that a well-off candidate won’t have enough skin in the game, this might be an argument that really resonates with this particular person. ie. make it of personal self-interest for her to desist from flaunting her wealth, and perhaps she’ll stop sooner than if she’s told it makes other people uncomfortable.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer85

      There was someone who worked at my company who actually fit this stereotype – the company wouldn’t let it affect future hiring or anything but he was so wealthy he just… couldn’t really be arsed…

      Reply
  37. Teacher Out There

    If you have a decent relationship with her, this might be a good time to have a “coffee talk” about how she is coming off. I used to work with a Jill. She was a former executive who retired and then decided that she wanted to be a math teacher. She was not the worst of the “teaching is my second career” folks I’ve had, but definitely not the best.

    It never occurred to Jill that no one lived the lifestyle she was used to, and after half a school year of her bragging (although to her it probably didn’t sound like it), I sat her down and had a friendly conversation with her. I framed it as “you know, when you talk about the five cruises/vacations you go on during the summer and expect the kids to relate? Well, they can’t.”

    Umm. Yes. So I had to have that conversation and it wasn’t easy, but it was truly eye opening for My Jill. She never talked about her lifestyle again and lasted another 4 years until she decided to fully retire. (That said, she still carried a designer purse and drove a luxury car, but they weren’t the topic of every conversation with her, and honestly, that didn’t bother anyone.)

    Reply
  38. Akcipitrokulo

    I think that if you want to – and there is zero obligation on you – it would be a kindness to both her and the rest of the office to have a chat.

    Tell her that you know she doesn’t mean to upset people, but has she considered…?

    But yeah, I think a word may be appropriate. Also let her know that the guy with the coat was buying a thoughtful gift, and it is very rude to say “you should spend more!” when asked for an opinion – especially when it’s quite possible they are already at the top of their budget.

    A reality check of what other people can and can’t afford might be of use as well.

    Reply
  39. Llellayena

    I think the comments where she is talking about things she’s getting for herself or family (the new car, gucci key ring, tiffany dog collar) might not need to be commented on (except maybe to say you don’t need to know how much it costs). That is her family’s finances affecting only her family. But the “up-sell” of other people’s selections should be brought up. Ideally in the moment or immediately after in private: “Jill, I know you meant well when you recommended a name brand product to , but not everyone is concerned with getting only name brand products and there are many people who can’t actually afford them. When you’re interacting with coworkers or people who may not share your financial ability, you might want to limit your comments to the aesthetics of the item or how much the intended recipient might like it.” This is a ‘mild-language’ approach because ultimately you don’t have control over how she speaks about this subject with other people. (The exception to this is if she’s in a job that provides services to low-income clients. Then her manager can probably tell her to cut all talk of pricey products because it will make the clients uncomfortable.)

    Reply
  40. BeagleMama

    I worked with a woman who did something similar – post Christmas I’d be subjected to a recitation of every gift her boyfriend gave her with brand names, etc. It was grating and frankly made me uncomfortable because she would expect me to do the same. I’d demur and try to change the subject. In my case she was in her late 30’s and born and raised in the US, as were her parents, so it wasn’t a cultural issue. My gut was that it was coming from a place of insecurity and a need to prove her worth.

    In this case, I wholeheartedly agree that pulling this woman aside and talking to her kindly is the best move. If she ignores your advice then so be it. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Old Biddy

      I have neighbors who do this. They’re all middle aged folks who spent their entire lives in the US. I’m not sure if it’s cluelessness, insecurity, or snobbism.

      Reply
  41. Mayor of Llamatown

    It would be a kindness to her to reflect to her that this kind of conversation is off-putting and isn’t going to help her professionally and a personal, private conversation is the best avenue. Alison often recommends using language of “I know you would want to know about this since I know you would never intentionally hurt or slight someone” as a way to soften the message – implying that you like her, you know she’s a kind person, and you’re bringing this up as a favor to her.

    If you aren’t comfortable having that direct of a conversation, sometimes just verbally reflecting what’s going on in your head is enough to help. Things like, “Oh wow, a car for Christmas? That’s such a huge gift!” or “I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about putting designer collars on my dog – she’d just tear it up.” Even just a remark like, “Oh gosh, I don’t know if I’ve ever owned a designer jacket! I guess name brands just aren’t my thing” might help her realize that there are other people in the world who aren’t as status- and wealth-obsessed as she and her family are. Carolyn Hax often recommends something similar to this – just making observations aloud instead of in your head.

    I had a roommate in college who was from a different country and came from a wealthy, brand-obsessed and image-obsessed family, and it drove me nuts. It was a learning experience for me that some people just really have that ingrained in their culture. So you have all my sympathy.

    Reply
  42. coffeeandpearls

    I would go with a “ I don’t know if you realize this, but you …”. This lesson may take some more life experience to sink in for her! I am taking a few seconds to lol a bit about this because I’m used to Boston monied people who would never, ever talk about money and are super frugal (wearing their Bean boots and Barbour for at least 10 years before thinking about repairing them).

    Reply
    1. Delta Delta

      That’s a New England thing, though, too. You don’t replace stuff that doesn’t need replacing and you don’t say anything…. well, you pretty much never say anything about anything ever.

      Reply
      1. londonedit

        Also a British thing! Proper ‘old money’ families drive ancient cars and wear knackered old Barbour jackets and live in houses with threadbare old family furniture that several generations of dogs have half-ruined. You don’t talk about wealth in polite society, it’s considered the height of vulgarity.

        Reply
        1. Lora

          +1000000 cause it’s true. And very difficult for New Money people to wrap their brains around.

          I love living somewhere that socioeconomic indicators are minimal, as it implies a level of class mobility, but also the way you’re treated is much less unequal. People figure there’s a nonzero chance that you’re from one of the old Boston Brahmin families and are civil to you on the general principle that you MIGHT be trouble for them and they don’t want to be unlucky. You might be driving around in a sedan from the Reagan Era but you also might be a Cabot/Lawrence/whatever, better be nice just in case…

          Reply
  43. Delta Delta

    This strikes me as a combination of immaturity and insecurity. She may not feel like she’s got anything else to bring to the table other than to talk about her family’s largesse. It also seems like it might be a habit for her. It would be a kindness to talk to her individually and mention that her always bringing up her family’s money or talking about name brands can be a little off-putting. I think it’s worth it to say you (or whomever is having the conversation with her) likes her and values her as a co-worker, and this is why you’re telling her. Coming from a peer this might go over better than going to management and then have that person say something. That would feel like a scolding that wouldn’t be warranted.

    This is reminding me of a girl who was in my cabin at summer camp one year. She was a little bit homesick, and it got worse when her best friend ended up having to go home early with the flu. Kiddo kept saying, “only [x] more days til I get to go home and listen to my radio! my $400 radio!” (this was the 80s when a radio was about all we had) Finally another kid said, “nobody cares about your stupid radio. And why do you even need one for $400? I have one from a garage sale that plays the same stations.” This obviously won’t work for adults. If you can find a homesick 8 year old, though…

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I agree about her possibly not feeling she has much to bring to the table, so she falls back to family shopping anecdotes as what’s on her mind. This is not a practical point that affects what OP does next, but it might help to view her chatter with that filter. (This hit a chord for me re calls to an ill relative and how many times I have heard everyone’s detailed symptoms of the day. I would never point this out to them; it’s just a reminder for my own mindset when dialing.)

      Reply
  44. LA

    I would suggest gentle deflecting or redirecting comments rather than a Big Talk, which shouldn’t really be the LW’s project or burden.

    “Not everyone can afford a designer coat, or wants to spend the money.” “Let’s not focus on dollar amounts – not everyone has that kind of money to spend.” “Can we change the subject? I don’t enjoy talking about financial details at work.”

    These comments might open the door to the larger conversation… even if not, LW won’t feel she has to just listen in silence.

    Reply
  45. Jule

    It sounds like I’m going to be in the minority here, but I don’t think there’s anything you can say. It seems on the surface like an annoying quirk that she “does,” but being critical about these practices is going to run up really quickly against who she “is,” whether it’s something she would explicitly claim about her identity or not. If she values wealth and especially values very demonstrable wealth, and she’s grown up around people who promote those values, and hasn’t figured it out yet that others don’t share those values, pushback is going to create actual cognitive dissonance for her. Is that probably good for her in the long term? Yes! Do you, her coworker (not even her supervisor or, it sounds like, a personal outside-of-work friend), want to be the person to spur what ideally will be serious reflection but might also be extreme defensiveness (even IF she gets to a point of serious reflection and change)? I really wouldn’t.

    Money talk is a minefield, and it’s much worse when someone is oblivious about the fact that they’ve even been talking about money, in my experience. Talk to your supervisor if it’s actually making it impossible to work.

    Reply
    1. Jule

      To be clear, I mean anything you can “say” in a separate discussion, as many have suggested. In a moment like the gift conversation, it’s definitely possible to provide the other angle (“I know I found xyz to be a great option within this price range” or the like).

      Reply
    2. Ralph Wiggum

      She deserves to know how her behavior affects others.

      She can choose to continue this quirk, because she especially values demonstrable wealth, in the face of potentially annoying coworkers. But she can’t even make that decision until she’s informed that she’s potentially annoying coworkers.

      Reply
      1. Jule

        I do not think it is as clearly an ethical right-thing-to-do as you do to tell a coworker (not employee) with whom one does not share a special relationship, “You constantly annoy everyone around you, and you should change.” I do think the LW would be taking a huge risk by doing that and is more likely to make her working life difficult by doing so.

        Reply
      2. EventPlannerGal

        I think the OP could certainly address specific instances as and when they arise, eg actively hurtful comments about other people, particularly blatant dollar-value bragging and so on. But going beyond that is getting into what is essentially an evaluation of her character – “we all think that you value material things too much”. That particular conversation is, IMO, not within the purview of a work colleague. I’d say the same of many other conversations – “hey, when you take the last of the coffee remember to put a new pot on, that’s the way it’s done here and you always forget” is fine, “we all think you are a selfish person” is not.

        Reply
    3. Lynca

      It’s my experience talking but I agree there’s not much you can say in a short conversation to make someone really stop this. It gets into a deeper issue of values and worldview.

      I grew up really poor. The people I work with come from much more financially secure backgrounds than I did and it’s a night/day difference how we view what is expensive, what we consider a bargain, etc. Sometimes it really irks me but I know it’s not something I can change. It’s not even really wrong, just sometimes thoughtless and painful.

      Reply
  46. Geneticist

    Has anyone seen or read Crazy Rich Asians? It sounds like she grew up in that world and literally has no concept of anything else. You’d be doing her a favor to tell her that if she wants to be taken seriously in science she has to learn how to act appropriately for the science world, in which spending money like that especially on clothes is looked down upon.

    Reply
    1. Drax

      Can you elaborate on that? I don’t work in the sciences, so it seems little odd that clothes is a sticking point. This is also a genuine curiosity comment, not a snarky one. I work Oil & Gas so in this industry it’s more how you look then how much it costs so my Walmart hoodies are frowned upon as they look as cheap as they are so I’m curious to know how that changes in other industries!

      Reply
      1. Lora

        There’s a sort of Lady Scientist Uniform thing, where we all have blunt bob haircuts, kindergarten teacher sweaters and slacks, quirky glasses and sensible shoes, but there are very practical reasons:

        -In many bench science type jobs, you’re going to get stuff spilled on your clothes. Bacteria that need to be bleached or autoclaved, dyes, animal blood/poop, chemicals that eat through the clothing — if you spend enough time at the bench you WILL ruin your favorite shirt and pants. So you wear crummy hard-wearing practical things because you’ve set your sleeves on fire at least once and anticipate it happening again. If you don’t spend that much time at the bench == not a very serious scientist.

        -For safety reasons, long pants, long sleeves, natural fibers (that don’t melt when they catch on fire) and flat-heeled steel toe shoes are required in many lab jobs. You have a choice of Dr Martens, Skechers or Wolverine for your steel toes, not Jimmy Choo, Louboutin or Ferragamo.

        -If you’re wearing a skirt that prevents you from easily crawling under a bench to see what’s come unplugged, slacks that are too nice to muss by clambering up on a bench to fix the buffer sipper on the top of the HPLC, heels that prevent you from running away from an explosion, there’s the perception that you’re there to get an MRS degree rather than do science. The Real Scientists (TM) work 12 hour days, laboring away in the fume hood, and at the end of the day their clothes and hair reek of mercaptan and are dotted with acid burns. I’ve worked in companies where the blue collar folks (i.e. me) were few and far between and the vast majority of my colleagues went yachting and golfing on the weekend, but they still were careful to maintain the Real Scientist (TM) aesthetic. The message was, “we have enough money that we could do ANYTHING, including farting around on a yacht all day, but we just LOVE SCIENCE sooooo much.”

        Reply
        1. Tau

          I did my PhD in maths where all these points don’t apply (the most danger to my clothes came via the omnipresent chalk dust) and I still felt that overly expensive/fashionable clothes, make-up, and generally paying attention to your appearance beyond the bare minimum were sort of culturally frowned upon. I always thought it was this vaguely sexist strain of thought that if you were a Real Mathematician (TM) your brain would be focussed on maths all day long and there wouldn’t be any space left to put on lipstick, plus this image of a Real Mathematician (TM) as unworldly, socially unskilled and slightly mad – i.e., not the sort of person who thinks about cute shoes. I always thought at least part of this affected STEM subjects generally, but I’m not a scientist and couldn’t say for sure.

          No matter the cause, it’s still fair to warn her the attitudes exist.

          Reply
  47. Ralph Wiggum

    I actually had an intern like this, but not nearly as bad.

    When you do talk to her, I recommend phrasing the issue in terms of how she wants to be perceived professionally. “When your name is mentioned, you want to be seen as ‘Oh, yeah, Jill, she’s the one who gets stuff done.’ Right now, the first thing that comes to peoples’ minds is ‘Oh, yeah, Jill, she’s the one how talks about expensive things.'”

    Reply
    1. boo bot

      I think this is the best framing yet – it’s focused on helping her, but doesn’t dive too deeply into how and whether she should be talking about her family’s money, which is likely to feel like more of a criticism of her personally. Plus, if she listens, it really will help!

      Reply
  48. Lady Phoenix

    Since you make it sound like she doesn’t maliciously rubbin your face about her priviledged status and that she is young, it would be a good idea to just sit her down during slow time.

    “Jill, you may be aware of this, but whenever you talk about how much luxary you and your family have, you are alienating yourself from people who in office who are not as fortunate.”

    As for the dude, it is kinda too late now but the next time she bashes something for not being name brand, “Jill, I’m sure you are aware that not everyone can afford [Name Brand] products. I would suggest making comments about whether the product looks well made at a glance and practicality.”

    Reply
    1. irene adler

      I would hope she would also consider the feelings of the persons concerned before making any comments-especially detrimental ones. Kindness counts.

      Reply
  49. Not Australian

    I think it might be useful to work it into the conversation somewhere that money and class are not necessarily the same thing, and that constantly mentioning exactly how much wealth one has is usually a sign of insecurity.

    Reply
    1. Lady Phoenix

      Definitely not. I wouldn’t say any of that because it inplies that Jill is insecure and classless, which is not what you want to say in a polite discussion.

      Reply
  50. Falling Diphthong

    This is the sort of thing where Jill might be very grateful later in life to the person who pulled her aside and told her how her actions were coming across. Thing is, I’m not sure “coworker” is a category of person who can successfully do this. Sometimes yes–sometimes it’s the very fact that the person doesn’t have a larger emotionally deep relationship that makes the feedback sink in as an isolated bit of useful information.

    Often, someone senior would have more leeway to lay this out for a new employee. Is your boss a witness to this stuff, and might they be willing to sit Jill down and explain that she’s inadvertently frustrating her coworkers?

    Reply
  51. Actually commenting for once

    While it’s good to cognizant that this might be a cultural issue, I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume it is. There are lots of people born and raised in the US who talk too much about how much money they have.

    Address the behaviour itself, the cause of it isn’t really relevant. “When you talk about X, it comes across this way”.

    Reply
  52. Nettle

    I’m not even sure if Jill is that rich. Or if she is, her family may have come into it recently. The truly rich people I’ve known may buy the name brand fancy things, but they don’t have to trumpet it to everybody. Sounds like a lot of insecurity on her part.

    Reply
  53. Media Maven

    To me, this seems as though Jill isn’t actually that wealthy and is instead doing some weird flex to assert superiority in her new work environment because she’s insecure. Truly wealthy people don’t brag about a $225 keychain or buy Tiffany dog collars – they do everything they can to not draw attention to themselves. Jill is buying her mom the least expensive item from an expensive brand. Similarly, her mom isn’t buying her a $5,000 necklace, but the dog is getting a fancy collar because that’s all that they can afford while still achieving the status of owning Tiffany. Suggesting Michael Kors or North Face as a “name brand” all seems rather middle class. While her family may be on the wealthier side, this seems less like Jill is clueless and more like Jill is intentionally putting on airs.

    Reply
    1. Jule

      “Truly wealthy people don’t brag about a $225 keychain or buy Tiffany dog collars – they do everything they can to not draw attention to themselves.”

      “all seems rather middle class”

      Yeah, I don’t know if it’s helpful to the OP or to anyone else to be suggesting that being “truly wealthy” is still a moral pinnacle that this sad, “middle class” person hasn’t achieved.

      Reply
      1. AKchic

        Regardless of where they are on the tax bracket; the bragging should stop. Putting on airs and graces one doesn’t have is still gauche and inappropriate for the workplace.

        Reply
        1. Jule

          I don’t disagree. I also strongly feel that pointing out that one doesn’t have the right to such “airs and graces” is really counterproductive in building a better, more inclusive environment. It is still placing people with more wealth above people with less wealth.

          Reply
      2. EventPlannerGal

        100% agreed. I find it kind of strange that when situations like this arise, so many people seem to instinctively react with “well, they may be rich but they can’t be PROPERLY rich – everyone knows that a REAL rich person would wear clothes made from old curtains and drive a Ford Escort they found burnt out in the ditch surrounding their ancestral home in 1983”. I promise you that “real” rich people are very capable of drawing attention to their wealth when they feel like doing so.

        Reply
    2. Audrey Puffins

      This is getting into armchair diagnosing territory though, while also not actually answering the LW’s question.

      Reply
        1. Audrey Puffins

          Not literally diagnosing an illness, it’s just a similar principle of diverting away from the question that has been asked in favour of trying to work out what’s going through Jill’s head. It doesn’t help to sit in judgment, or be distracted by guessing what’s going on, if doing so doesn’t actually answer the question that the LW has asked.

          Reply
  54. Bopper

    “Jill, may I offer you a little coaching? I notice that you are often talking about designer items and how much you have paid for them. Its kind of off-putting…I understand that in some cultures/groups this is important ..to show your status or whatever. However, in an academic environment where people typically don’t value that sort of thing as much or don’t make so much money, it comes across as boasting. We are happy that you are giving nice gifts to your family, but I would like to coach you that as a young person, you want to be taken seriously in the work place and boasting about expensive designer items is not the way to do it.”

    Reply
    1. AKchic

      I wouldn’t even make it about a culture/group. That could be veering into a protected class depending on how the conversation ends up going.

      Reply
    2. Drax

      I’d also change ‘boasting’ to ‘a little out of touch’ but other that that, this is actually excellent wording

      Reply
  55. Ann Perkins

    Unfortunately people like this tend to be so oblivious that the only way to address it is to be blunt. It may not keep her in your good graces, but if she knows they entire lab is frustrated with her materialism and rude comments, then it may inspire her to change. Probably not though. But at least she’ll shut up.

    Reply
  56. RUKidding

    ::puts on anthropologist hat::

    First, define “teenager” 13, or 19, or???

    That said, in a lot of cultures, particularly in developing countries, how much something costs, name brands, and so on can be a Very Big Deal and speaking about it is not considered crass.

    Even if she’s been here since she wasca kid she was socialized by both the culture in which she lived and by her parents who were also socialized by that culture.

    Note that I’m only explaining not excusing her behavior. It’s considered rude here, she lives here and should more closely follow the general culture here.

    “Here” could mean anywhere she lives, not just here “here,” and here it’s just “not done” to talk about money like that as a general rule. When in Rome…

    So yes take her aside and explain that. Point out that it’s rude and that most oeople arent buying Tiffany for their dogs.

    Sure status matters here like it does everywhere, we just don’t generally tell people how much things cost, nor do we tell them that a gift isn’t good enough because it’s not a designer label.

    Hopefully she will take it to heart. If not, she will end up alienating pretty much everyone who doesn’t have Prada sunglasses.

    Reply
  57. President Porpoise

    Honestly, I think that a peer pulling this young lady aside and telling her that she’s being socially unaware/rude/gauche is kind of a jerk move. Certainly, her “I’m so rich” talk is off putting and not great – but so is the person who won’t stop talking about their favorite sportsball team/their oh-so-adorable babies (human or furry)/their new weight loss program/their super-couponing victories, etc.

    If there’s someone on staff who is her particular friend, then maybe they could get away with raising the issue with her without coming across as oversensitive or jealous. Otherwise, I think that leading by example and showing her how to be professional at work is the way to go. If she says something overtly offensive to someone, they have grounds to tell her to knock it off. {art of being grown up and professional is recognizing that other people are annoying and not self aware at times, and getting over that fact. DON’T be mean, rude, gossipy, or unprofessional to her – it reflects badly on you, rather on this clueless kid who really has no real-world experience.

    Reply
    1. President Porpoise

      Also, I don’t think it’s fair to give this young lady the task of censoring her private life discussions about normal things like what she’s giving to loved ones for Christmas in order to manage the emotions of others – who have not raised this issue with her themselves. She’s not malicious, she’s just trying to fit in, which is hard when she’s coming from a different cultural background.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Well, I think that if someone pulled this kind of thing about their health, children or anything else it might be a good idea to give them a heads up as well that “It’s really nice that you have x, but you may not realize that for a lot people the constant discussion is kind of grating. Especially in the workplace.”

      Reply
      1. President Porpoise

        Yeah, but I think you have to have some sort of standing to police someone’s conversations in that way – actual authority (manager), sincere personal concern (substantial friendship), or actual harm done (someone who has been negatively affected by the comments, like coat guy). Random coworker/peer doing it? Overstepping and potentially offensive, and therefore unlikely to be effective.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          I hear what you are saying, but if it’s really constant, noticing – and noting – it becomes less policing because it’s a constant behavior that’s grating.

          You are right that some people have better standing to do this than others, but it doesn’t look like anyone in one of those roles exists (ie a good friend who realizes that this is a problem) or is willing to step up to the plate (ie a supervisor).

          I don’t think that the OP or anyone else HAS to do this, but I think it’s not inappropriate either.

          Reply
  58. Ro

    Yes, please do kindly pull her aside and give her a head’s up on office norms and reading the room.

    I had a slightly similar experience (40 years ago!!) and I *still* remember it. I was the clueless kid in their first job and while I was in no shape or form rich, I was working part-time at Mickey D’s while in high school and living at home with my parents who paid for everything I needed. I was so excited to have my first pay/disposable income and a chance to choose my own Christmas gifts for family. I must have been bragging about it and one co-worker (I had several who were grown adults) who informed me that many people are working just to pay their bills. Obviously, I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that these folks were out of school, responsible for households, and possibly working in jobs they might have for a very long time. This wasn’t a “fun” part-time job or necessarily a stepping stone on to something better. It was good to have to someone share that perspective with me. It’s stayed with me all of these years, and I still feel a little ashamed about my cluelessness.

    Reply
    1. BadWolf

      Oh yeah, I have definitely put my foot in my mouth making clueless money related statements. If I was doing it ongoing, I would be embarrassed, but would like to be clued in.

      Reply
    2. learnedthehardway

      Thank you for mentioning this learning experience. I was talking with one of my kids about their part time job. They don’t really see the point of having it, because, as they pointed out, “You buy everything for us that we need. This is just a few hundred dollars.” I think I need to have a chat with them that this few hundred dollars is what some of their colleagues live on, beyond the more obvious explanation that you start off at the bottom in order to get the work experience and references to get the next job.

      Reply
    3. lawyer

      Yeah, I would say that the kindest way to do this is to clue her in to the fact that a lot of her coworkers are in very different financial circumstances than she is and to ask her to bear that in mind. I work in Biglaw and am by any reasonable definition a rich person (HHI in the top 5% in the US), but I didn’t grow up that way and so I’m very aware of this stuff. Someone who did grow up that way might not be (which would explain the “North Face as budget option”) suggestion. The talking a lot about prices and brands thing could be common in the community or culture she grew up in, but I think she’s more likely to self-correct if she understands *why* this is often considered inappropriate rather than is simply told not to mention Gucci.

      Reply
  59. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

    I just thought of something. Growing up, in my hometown, my family (my parents, and I, the only child) was for some reason considered ridiculously well-off. People would tell me to my face how lucky I was to be part of such a well-off family. My parents kept me completely in the dark about the family finances, so I just assumed everyone was right. Wasn’t until after I became an adult, with kids of my own, who’s lived through several rounds of being broke, that it finally dawned on me: even by my hometown/home country standards, we were not well-off at all. Not poor either, maybe a bit below average. I was one of the few kids in class growing up who didn’t have a room of my own. Our apartment was studio-like and all three of us shared the only room. My parents had the same furniture in their apartment when they left for the US, that was already there when I was born 30 years earlier. And so on. They just never complained about money, or about anything really. Always made sure that their 2-3 work outfits looked polished and like new. Never asked coworkers to lend them a bit of cash to hold them over till payday. And so on. I once stopped by a second-hand store as a kid, because I was curious to see what was inside, and got a lecture from my mom when she found out. “We do not go inside second-hand stores. What if someone from my work saw you going in?” (I am sitting at work typing this dressed entirely in clothes I bought at a thrift store.) My parents were super big on keeping up appearances and worrying about “what will people say” (something I utterly failed to inherit from them) and that I guess was what led everyone to believe that we were rolling in cash, even during the times when we were not. Maybe Jill’s family has a bit of that going on. I mean, would Jill even have to work for a living straight out of college if they were as wealthy as she says? My younger son is 23 and a number of his college classmates are not even thinking about finding a job yet. They graduated last summer, and are presently traveling around Europe finding themselves. Something does not add up. It might really be a really weird family quirk. Either way, she does need to know how it makes her coworkers feel.

    Reply
  60. Dasein9

    I would be pleased to have the opportunity to pay forward some of the kindnesses more experienced colleagues did me when I was young. A few conversations that came from a place of wanting me to succeed with the organization were necessary before I understood professional norms in various contexts and I suspect that’s true of most of us. The best possible outcome is that someday Jill gets to help someone the same way.

    Reply
  61. I Work on a Hellmouth

    You can definitely perform an act of kindness for her here by pulling her off to the side and explaining that talking about money and how much stuff costs is a professional faux pas in general, and that she may not be aware of it but that she is doing this pretty constantly. You can frame it as just letting her know because it could hurt her professionally and make her stand out in a not great way. You can say that it’s in the same category of Stuff We Don’t Talk About at Work as, like, politics, and that sometimes a lot of that kind of talk can be very irritating to coworkers. If she’s a largely okay person and, you know, not a total dink, she’s probably not even aware that she’s engaging in toolish behavior as she is so inexperienced and new to the workforce.
    Of course, if she kept it up after that I would personally be very tempted to counter every single money statement with a ridiculous counter of some sort (in the most deadpan tone possible) until she got the hint. “My dad’s buying my mom a new car for Christmas!” “Oh, really? My dad is buying MY mom a unicorn!” ““I’m going to buy my mom a Gucci Keychain for Christmas.It’s $225 dollars!” “Oh, okay. I’m buying my mom Paraguay. It’s a few billion more than I spent last year, but you have to splurge on family, y’know?” “I’m so excited, my mom is buying my puppy a Tiffany collar for Christmas!” “Just a collar? Pffffft, my mom bought my puppy a bejeweled fully functional Tiffany mechsuit with matching bejeweled food and water bowls. She paid to have Jean Michel Schlumberger raised from the dead to design them.”

    But I am clearly not a role model.

    Reply
    1. Delta Delta

      Or, “I really hate how Tiffany is cheapening its brand over the last decade or so. You don’t see Van Cleef and Arpels or Harry Winston selling dog collars.”

      But then again, I also can be awful.

      Reply
  62. Statler von Waldorf

    This is one of those situations where having an honest and straightforward conversation is the best approach. A small amount of empathy will go a long way here.

    The approach I used when I was in a similar situation was much less effective. I just started singing “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates in the most mocking, sarcastic voice I could whenever I wanted her to shut up. As it turned out, mocking and making an enemy of someone who has access to buckets of money was a really stupid idea that blew up in my face in so many different ways. Learn from my dumb-assery, and don’t be a jerk like I was.

    Reply
  63. Lora

    It could very well be a cultural thing. Without writing out a complete taxonomy of wealthy people and their phenomenology, there’s Old Money and New Money, and other countries (especially non-Western countries as someone above mentioned) are much more open about money and wealth in a way that Westerners usually consider quite gauche. Bragging on brands and money is a very New Money thing in the West, but normal in many Asian countries; Jill may legitimately not know that this is considered rude. I have a lot (A LOT) of expat colleagues who have to be taught explicitly that Americans consider openly talking about money and personal health issues quite rude in mixed company, despite having lived here for several years – because not only do we consider it rude, we tend to get very quiet and cold shoulder the person rather than explaining that we consider it rude. If you’re not Western, you’re naturally going to wonder if you are doing something wrong or whether they don’t like you for another reason, but dragging that information out of people is like pulling teeth and the expat community can be quite insular. You’d be doing her a favor to explain kindly how this is rude: not only does it telegraph insecurity but it also implies a world view of meritocracy that doesn’t exist in real life.

    Reply
  64. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

    Let me start this comment off by saying… I’m not rich and I’m not particularly brand conscious.

    I was expecting really different examples after reading this “but almost everything that comes out of her mouth has to do with money, mainly how much money her family has. ”

    From the examples though it sounds like she’s dropping brands vs. flouting wealth. Maybe I have a different perspective than most, but to me these are two different things. Perhaps because the people I know who are wealthy generally aren’t all that interested in brands and the people who are aspiring to wealth are the ones who are all about the brands.

    The examples of the brands given are pretty mainstream middle of the road brands that in my mind don’t equate with wealth at all. Michael Kors/North Face can be found in any mall in any city in the US. Tiffany does still have the ‘exclusive’ allure to it, but honestly not that indicative of wealth these days* and Gucci is a watered down brand.

    I guess if the examples given were “Daddy gave away his Bugatti Veyron because he didn’t like the color” or “Ho hum… Daddy just told me I can’t take his jet to Monte Carlo this weekend for the races because the yacht is being redecorated” Then I would probably agree with the wealth brag. Even with that, one thing that’s hard for people to get their head around is that for people with money, the things that they are talking about means as much to them as someone else talking about their new Instapot or iPhone. In other words, it’s their normal vs. someone else’s normal.

    You just have a run of the mill not quite mature brand bore. They come in many different forms and the brands or interests range from fashion to tech to hobbies to travel to fitness. The way to deal with all of them is to A) Ignore the brand talk. B)Ignore the brand talk and C) Ignore the brand talk.

    *I googled because I was curious… the pet collars are in the $200-300 range. While expensive for a pet collar it’s hardly a diamond encrusted $3.6m one like the one in the list I linked in my username

    Reply
    1. myfemmebot

      Also, I would guess Tiffany dog collars and Gucci key rings are things that are faked to a high degree. Small enough and easy enough to fake for it to not matter to many people if it is real.

      Reply
    2. $!$!

      I agree with you. This also reminds me of when the store H & M came to my state and everyone was so happy at work and one person piped up and said “great, it’s the old navy of Europe” and the look of devastation everyone had was hilarious

      Reply
    3. Delphine

      This may well be true. I have a young friend, Brazilian, but has lived in the US for many years. She lives with her family as well. She’s always going on about Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, etc. But I know for a fact that neither she nor her family is wealthy. She earns considerably less than I do. She just likes brand names a lot, considers them status symbols and saves up until she can splurge on them.

      Reply
    4. Oxford Comma

      All of this is true, but I think it really depends on your perspective. I have a good friend with great taste. Grew up in the same neighborhood I did roughly around the same income level. My friend married well. Very well actually to someone she loves. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years and I had them over. They were lovely and complimented my home, etc. At one point, I was saying how I was looking for a particular piece of furniture and she suggested a company and commented that their items were very well made and really affordable. And ballparked that I could get what I wanted for a mere $8k. Now to her, that’s affordable. To me that’s a fortune.
      She meant well. Maybe the coworker here meant well too. Maybe Michael Kors and North Face are affordable for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean they’re affordable for the LW or her coworkers.

      Reply
      1. Ann O.

        It’s a Christmas present. Spending $200 on a Christmas present is not something that everyone can do, but it’s also not something that requires being rich to do. She lives at home and works. Her parents are probably functionally like a double-income no kids couple.

        Reply
  65. AKchic

    A lot of people are giving kind interpretations of her behavior as “immature” or “young”. She is 22. She isn’t being kind to anyone else.

    I get wanting to be kind, but she has been in America for at least 5 years, she at least went to college here (which says she’s intelligent enough to get in, get through and pass all of her exams), and has an internet connections. She cannot be completely oblivious to the notion that not everyone can afford the luxuries she’s been blithely bragging about.

    Is the manager hearing any of this? Jill is self-sabotaging her career. Any potential goodwill towards her could be limited because all anyone sees is Spoilt Little Rich Girl Who Brags Whenever She Opens Her Mouth. I know I would actively avoid talking / associating with her if all she ever talked about was the price of her possessions, what she owns, and what her family buys. If the manager isn’t going to address it, then maybe it’s time for a one-on-one coffee talk for career/personal advice. Someone would be doing her a huge favor.

    Reply
    1. Elbe

      Agreed. I think it depends on whether or not the LW gets the sense that she’s bragging. If she’s under the impression that everyone buys their dogs Tiffany collars, then mentioning it is just factual. But if it seems like she’s bragging, then it means that she’s aware that not everyone can afford them and the whole thing becomes a lot more intentional. People don’t brag about things they think are common.

      The comment about the coat makes me think that she’s bragging. Most people generally understand that people buy the nicest gifts for loved ones that they can afford. And most people (even 22 year olds!) could grasp that if this is the price range that he is considering, that’s probably the highest range he’s comfortable with. Even someone with relatively poor social skills could pick this up.

      Reply
    2. CheeryO

      Agreed. She’s 22, not 12. No adult should need to be coached on this stuff. It’s worth having the conversation, obviously, but I’d put money on “knows it’s wrong and doesn’t care” or “actively wants to brag.” The idea that she’s just sheltered is a little too precious, but I understand that people want to be generous.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        No adult SHOULD need coaching on this kind of stuff. But the reality is that more and more young people are reaching adulthood without learning a lot of things that many of us consider basic life skills. It’s not for nothing that “adulting” has become a word that people use.

        Stuff like this is especially tricky, too. Because stepping out of your bubble and life experience can be extremely difficult to do even for people who are otherwise competent adults. And it’s even harder when you don’t have the knowledge to know what you don’t know. If this girl had lived in a dorm at college, she might have had enough exposure to enlighten her to the fact that a lot of people live VERY different lives than she does, even if not enough to get her to understand those differences, but she didn’t even get that.

        Reply
  66. Kate

    OP, have you tried just casual replies in the moment? “Wow, that seems like a lot of money for a keychain.” “North Face is really pricey, I’m sure she’ll like that coat Guy Coworker.”

    But I agree with others that the fact she’s new to the working world gives you the perfect “in”–“you might not realize that it can make people uncomfortable to discuss personal finance so openly in the workplace.” You don’t even have to point to cultural differences, but if you mention that you paid your own rent after college (or whatever) she might start to pick up on some of those on her own.

    Reply
  67. Avatre

    While I can understand the impulse for snark, it sounds like Jill is not actively being a jerk, she’s just super young and doesn’t know any better. So, add one to the votes for “take her aside and explain kindly that this is off-putting to a lot of people.”

    I won’t judge though if, *outside* your work circles, you indulge in a moment or two of “who the hell spends $225 on a KEYCHAIN?!”

    Reply
  68. Bertha

    When you listed the specific things that she said, they didn’t strike me as intentionally bragging. I think that money is so loaded of a topic that it’s easy for things to come off that way, and agree with others that it would be a kindness to discuss this with her, but always be careful of making assumptions or being passive aggressive. I still remember when I had recently graduated college and was struggling with student loans and a car payment and car insurance and rent, with no help from my parents or even a safety net as they were both unemployed, and working 50-60 hours a week at two jobs that both paid $10 or less. I was with a group of acquaintances, and one of them asked what I’d done that day. For whatever reason, I thought “working from 7:30-4” wasn’t worth mentioning, so I said “I got my eyebrows waxed,” leaving out the part that it was $8 at Supercuts. I remember the response from someone I didn’t know well: “Wow, I’d love to do that, but I’m on a *budget*.” It really rubbed me the wrong way – I think that she was trying to convey the message “Wow, we aren’t all so rich as you, so quit bragging” but instead it came off strangely condescending. I mean, even if she had said something like was suggested above – “Wow, what a luxury! I wish I could afford that,” or something along those lines, we could have had a conversation about money and perception, etc. But her sarcastic and defensive tone was enough to shut me down.

    Reply
  69. Tricksie

    Um, am I the only one who immediately googled Tiffany dog collars? Not to buy one…I was just so curious. It’s amazing to me that this is a thing people buy.

    You can also buy a Tiffany dog bowl that says “dog” and costs $125.

    Reply
  70. Anonomo

    Sounds like Jill is sheltered, not just because she’s from another country but because wealthy people usually interact with other wealthy people socially. If she’s fresh out of school, she likely went to a wealthy highschool and made lots of friends in college that appreciated her expensive taste so she likely doesnt have the societal norms lower income people have. If youre in a friendly position to her it would be a benefit to pull her aside and say something along the lines of “I know you dont mean any harm when you say things like X and Y, but I thought you would want to know it can be pretty off putting to people in other economic situations. I think youre a really great person all on your own, and I think you can be a really great Llama Director if you let your natural charisma be what people think of when they think of you!”
    Its possible she is just a braggy person, but its equally possible she brags because her experience is that she is appreciated because of the money.

    Reply
  71. Salamander

    People like this remind me of the movie Idiocracy, where everyone wore T-shirts with advertising brands all over them. BRAAAAANDS.

    Reply
  72. Elbe

    I agree that the LW should take her aside for a conversation.

    The conversation should be pretty specific. Instead of just saying “don’t talk about money” I think the LW should be a bit more detailed. This is really about wealth signifiers. In addition to not mentioning the price of a thing, she shouldn’t talk about brand names or store names or anything else that gives the price away. It’s okay to mention the new coat you got that you like… it’s not just polite to go out of your way to say that it’s Gucci and that it cost XYZ and that there were other, less expensive coats there but you just HAD to go with this one!

    The bottom line is that if the main point of what you’re saying is to impress people with your wealth, you just shouldn’t say it at all. It’s not a professional topic and, frankly, most people here aren’t going to be impressed, anyway.

    Reply
    1. lawyer

      Honestly, though, how does that work? What is the acceptable price level of brands Jill is allowed to talk about? Can she talk about buying clothes at Banana Republic, or is anything more expensive than Target unacceptable? Is the instruction not to talk about brands at all – and if so, is everyone going to be told that? It takes you to a really weird place of having to decide how rich is too rich for conversation, and I’m not sure that’s a great place to be. There are many people for whom a Banana Republic suit is a once-in-many-years splurge. And there are people for whom that’s the cheap suit they keep on the back of the door in case they spill coffee on their Akris blazer.

      Since the LW seems to think this is driven by cluelessness rather than a desire to impress, I think the more effective route is probably making it clearer to Jill that her financial circumstances are vastly different to those of her coworkers. She’s more likely to be able to logic out how to behave if she understands that, rather than if she’s trying to follow a “Target is okay but Michael Kors isn’t unless you bought it on sale at TJ Maxx AND it was the lower-end MK brand not the high-end runway line” rule.

      Reply
  73. KR

    Could OP take Jill aside and say something like this?

    Hi Jill, I wanted to mention to you how you tend to talk about your family’s finances a lot. Most people in the US don’t enjoy support like this from their parents and came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. I love that you’re excited about things and goodness knows I can appreciate a good handbag/a cute dog collar/a nice car, but it can come across as tone-deaf to be discussing all of these expensive things when you don’t know your co-workers financial positions. I know you wouldn’t want to inadvertently make someone uncomfortable.

    It might help if you can think of some minorly annoying tone-deaf thing you did as a young employee. That way you’re conveying a message of, here’s something you should know and don’t worry because everyone including myself does silly things for starting out in the work world! I’ve noticed attitudes like this in situations where someone used to be poor and now they’re not, and as a family they’re incredibly proud of the things that they can afford & the lifestyle that they can have.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Namey McNameface

      I agree with your general advice but it sounds condescending when you include lines like “…most people in the US.” It comes across as racist even if you don’t intend it that way and dilutes the quality of your actual advice. Particularly if speaking to someone who has lived in the US for several years or longer. It’s a classic example of othering and microaggression.

      Reply
  74. Viki

    From where I’m from this is part of the culture. You buy something and tell the people where you’re getting and how much it cost to show both a deal and the price. The second issue was someone said she recommend Micheal Kors or North Face and they’re not exactly high brand top tier-but they’re relatively affordable. If I were her, and someone was asking me my opinion, and I knew relatively their salary, I would recommend within what I would assume affordable range which is what Micheal Kors and North Face was.

    It sounds cultural, let her know kindly that you don’t talk money at work. And if you can’t do it kindly, then find someone who can.

    Reply
  75. Boredatwork

    If the money comments are bothering you and your team, you need to have a talk with her. My level of bluntness would depend entirely on if you guys are asking her questions or if she’s just word vomiting all this financial data.

    Questions like – “what are you doing for Christmas” or “what did you get your mom” or even “is your family giving each other gifts?” or asking another co-worker that question, where she might chime in – can be triggering.

    I say this as someone who has to self-edit and out right lie to my co-workers. My in-laws usually pay for us to go on some lavish vacation, I usually get expensive jewelry for Christmas, I give my parents $500+ presents, the list goes on.

    I know not everyone can afford these things, so I edit how I phrase things. There’s also a good chance that she does not even begin to comprehend not everyone’s family does these things. She seems pretty sheltered and I bet this is a totally normal thing in her social circle.

    Reply
  76. Anonymousse

    I’m not sure why you think it’s relevant she is a migrant.

    So, I am migrant myself and I am fortunate to be financially comfortable. I would never talk like this. Nor would other affluent people I know especially when they are around coworkers. I know sometimes people will talk about branded bags and such amongst themselves…but even the biggest show offs understand it’s tacky to brag in a professional setting.

    It’s not an age issue nor a migrant issue. She is just immature and enjoys bragging. Personally I won’t have the patience to sit her down with feedback. I would just make snarky comments like “oh wow good for you!” and change the subject obviously. But that’s just me – maybe other people are more patient.

    Reply
    1. Hailrobonia

      I think the migrant angle is that some cultures are more open about direct talk about wealth, especially in countries where there is an emerging middle class or nouveau riche (side note: it took me ages to spell that correctly!).

      I know that in China this has become a Big Thing, so much that there has been a strong mocking response against people doing just this sort of thing (there is a popular slang term “tuhao”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuhao)

      Reply
    2. Jennifer

      Thank you! She is just plain rude. No need to infantilize her. None of the stuff about her age or her immigration status is even relevant.

      Reply
      1. Zillah

        I don’t think that referencing inexperience or potential cultural differences is the same thing as infantilizing her.

        Reply
    3. KR

      I can see your point but I can also see why OP included the information. Commenters have been know to criticize OPs for not providing enough information and they dont have a way of knowing whether immigration status could be relevant.

      Reply
    4. Yet another Kat

      It depends culturally on where she comes from, though.

      When I studied abroad at an American University in Europe, I met a good number of very wealthy European people in their late teens-early 20s (wealthy enough that their families would shell out high-priced-American-U-level tuition in a place where there were many free/v inexpensive equally prestigious options) who had primarily grown up at boarding shcools, etc and just genuinely had NO IDEA that anyone they might be interacting with on a daily basis (same school/class/job/etc) might not be as wealthy. Everything in their life experience had lead them to believe that there are people “like then” and people who are dying from starvation/exposure, and basically nothing in between.

      If Jill had a similar upbringing she may still, at 22, just not understand that she’s being obnoxious by talking about extravagant gifts or recommending that a colleague “invest” in a “higher quality” name brand coat ( a fairly common piece of advice, despite being tone deaf in a some contexts.)

      Reply
  77. Suzy

    I want to give her credit… if she is working but she doesn’t have to work, thats pretty cool. But obviously she is pretty clueless. Almost literally as though she is from the movie Clueless.

    I think this is an opportunity to help her develop empathy and compassion for others. It would be interesting for her to think about what it would be like to live on her paycheck (pay rent, phone bill, transportation, utilities, etc). She may genuinely have no idea what things cost. Having her think about what it would be like to get feedback that a gift she is giving isnt nice enough because its not expensive or having her think about how her comments may impact others who are struggling to make ends meet might be a good thought exercise for her. Most of us consider how our comments impact other people and that is a skill for her to work on. But while talking to her I think its worth doing that exact thing – responding to her with compassion.

    Reply
  78. Joe

    Jill isn’t rich … her parents are rich.

    I once worked with someone who came from a very (very!) moneyed background – we were all in our 20s and fresh out of school and in our first jobs. “Mary” was quite sensitive to those around her, understanding that she enjoyed the privilege of her parents’ wealth (they paid her rent, clothes, food and paid for her car, leaving her income to be enjoyed as purely disposable – for this, she was grateful). Mary was generous and appreciative, completely devoid of any entitlement. (Today, 25 years later, Mary manages two not-for-profits and volunteers!)

    Sadly, Jill sounds clueless to her unearned situation. This isn’t a case of not understanding workplace norms due to inexperience – she’s likely alienated people for years with her materialism and lack of sensitivity to those around her.

    You would be doing Jill an enormous favor by trying to explain how her behavior shows a lack of emotional intelligence but it may fall on deaf ears. She’s been taught this level of materialism (Mary was clearly NOT) and it may be difficult to counter this up-bringing. Unfortunately, this will harm her in both personal and professional relationships if she does not develop sensitivity to those around her.

    And, you may just conclude that she isn’t a like-able person and can listen to her prattle and draw amusement throughout your day (“What will she say next?).

    Reply
  79. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    I think that her various comments deserve different responses.

    Comments about the extravagant gifts she’s giving or receiving? No response necessary; she’s not obligated to pretend that shes not wealthy. She got a car for Christmas! Yay!

    Disparaging comments about other people’s financial choices? I’d just signal my disapproval: “Uh, what? That’s a cute coat! Why on earth should he buy a different one just because of the brand name?”

    Reply
  80. Asenath

    This reminds me so much of some long-ago relatives who invariably boasted about their expensive Christmas presents while the rest of us tried not to roll our eyes or laugh too much behind their backs!

    It might be a kindness to try to give her a bit of feedback in a situation in which she can’t really expect to get a pass because she’s family. On the other hand, I wouldn’t make too big a deal of what appears to be simple unfamiliarity with the kind of money talk people are comfortable with. Perhaps just a comment from time to time as something comes up would be enough. Something like “Oh, you don’t need to buy a particular brand name to get a good coat! Look at the stitching/style/etc of that one.” And if it is a thing to compare Christmas gifts (!!), surely she’ll notice eventually that others have very different examples.

    Some people (and they aren’t all rich) always will think that the brand names they buy are important, and that the most expensive present is the only one worth giving. Often, this can be seen as merely a personal quirk – although I think ostentatious buying is a bit silly, if it makes someone feel better to have a diamond collar for her dog, why should it upset me that she buys or is given one? I don’t think I’d make a really big deal of it unless it’s distracting for her work – and if I found the conversation tedious, I might either deflect and change the subject, or engage with the topic by expressing my own views.

    Reply
  81. Amber Rose

    No advice just sympathy. I have had two coworkers like this, although the first turned out to be a compulsive liar and the second was old enough to know better and was probably more of a braggart than a clueless kid. The annoyance is real though.

    I’d be so tempted to start bragging about how poor I am, just to see what would happen. I really wonder, if I went around talking about how I can’t afford to eat this week, would people like this get a clue, or at least pick up on the awkward?

    But running social experiments on coworkers is generally not a great idea.

    Reply
  82. agmat

    Pull her aside and say “Jill, you might not’ve heard, but there are three things you generally shouldn’t talk about at work: sex, money, and religion.”

    Reply
    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Agree with the sex and religion and will raise you a politics. But the money thing is a little harder to navigate. Damn near everything you can talk about can be equated to money.

      I’ll use an example that seems to be a great topic for conversation at my husband’s work. Vacations.

      Apparently we are millionaires because of the vacations we take. Yes, someone has actually called my husband a millionaire because he told them where we were going on vacation (FTR- the Caribbean all inclusive resort). But the next guy talks about his vacation to an all inclusive resort in Mexico… he’s not accused of being a millionaire. So should my husband not talk about his vacation because it might signal that he has more money because the other guy thinks the Caribbean is more expensive than Mexico? (Funnily, I know what all the guys he works with makes (they all do) because it’s a public sector job and under a bargaining contract. All of them are doing pretty well for themselves. )

      What things are ok to talk about?

      Can someone talk about their new car? Does it matter if it’s a Toyota or an Audi? What’s the limit on the price?

      Home improvements? Can I talk about the new roof I’m putting on, the basement remodel, or the in ground pool? Which one is bragging or flouting wealth.

      I’m a knitter… if someone asks me what yarn I’m using how should I answer if it’s a fancy fiber? Am I bragging if I say wool vs. acrylic? How about qiviut ($80/oz)? Is that bragging? Vicuna fiber ($300/oz) would definitely be bragging and showing of wealth.

      Giving the advice ‘don’t talk about money’ doesn’t actually help anything in my opinion.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        I think that’s over complicating it a bit. Don’t mention specific amounts. Yes, you can mention you got a new car or thank someone for complimenting your shoes, but you don’t have to say how much you spent.

        If people get annoyed when one person mentions vacations but not when another guy does, it could be that the original person makes comments about vacations or other large purchases a lot and the other does not. I obviously don’t know for certain. Just something to consider.

        Reply
        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

          But it’s pretty common knowledge that a toyota is going to cost less than an audi… just like the OP knows that a North Face jacket costs more than a no name brand. Or that a Tiffany dog collar is going to cost more than one bought at Petco. So even if the price isn’t specifically called out they will know that X is more expensive that Y.

          I recently witnessed a discussion with one person calling people who shop at Whole Foods snooty and snobby because it’s more expensive than the local Kroger or Piggly Wiggly and assigning moral values to a people based on where they grocery shop for goodness sake.

          Reply
          1. A dollar goes a long way

            WF does have certain products that they carry that I can’t find elsewhere and I can walk to it from my apartment. The other grocery store also in walking distance, while not a fancy health food store, is overpriced. :)

            Reply
            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

              And this was exactly the counter argument to the snooty and snobby based on grocery store habits supposition.

              Which didn’t matter at all to the person who was against WF shoppers.

              In that person’s mind if you shopped at WF you were a prime target for stereotypes and assigning judgments to. On the flipside if one shopped at the ‘lower priced’ chains somehow you were a better person. I just can’t get my head around judging someone based on totally superficial trappings.

              Buying a Petco collar vs. a Tiffany collar isn’t a litmus test to determine a persons character anymore than getting your milk from WF vs. Piggly Wiggly. Just as telling your coworkers that you got a great 2-1 deal at the local food truck vs. a fancy specialty dinner at a hot new restaurant doesn’t necessarily make the fancy dinner person a braggart . Different experiences for different folks.

              *I personally find WF an annoying store, but they are the place to go if you find yourself needing to make gallons and gallons of trail mix! Their bulk granola and dried fruit options are amazing and not replicated anywhere else I’ve seen :)

              Reply
  83. Jenn G

    I guess I’m going to be in the minority here and say that while she needs to learn to read the room and clearly is learning your culture, her comments as reported mostly don’t come across as bragging or rude to me. Her remarks definitely come across as overly brand-focused or specific…but even the coat remark was in the context of a conversation, not gratuitously coming up to someone and critiquing their coat. Like a commenter said above, if she was like “I got my mom this George bracelet at Walmart, it was only $20!” or “I always buy my coats at VV boutique” (Value Village/Savers/2nd hand) would you feel the same? So that it’s not the mention of dollar amounts or brands but the simple fact of them being expensive (or perceived as expensive)?

    I noticed you said that it’s a laboratory environment and I wonder if that’s a part of why she’s experiencing a culture switch. I’ve worked in very functional, serve-the-poor environments where I don’t think I heard too many brand names uttered even for brands of peanut butter, and I’ve worked in environments where it was part of the information about things people loved to share. (Similar salaries. Different focuses.) So in that context I think it would be great to use the Tim Gunn technique: I’m so glad you’re on the team and I really want you to succeed, so can I let you know how this is coming across?

    Reply
    1. KX

      I am having trouble getting mad at her, too. People who are close at work talk ALL THE TIME about the objects they give an receive. The coworkers have probably spent all their time together discussing birthday cakes they have made or bought at certain bakeries, or theater tickets they gave or received, or indulgence purchases they’ve made for themselves, or a host of things that they consider “normal” and “polite” to talk about because they all have them in common. She is still talking about normal and polite transactions. And honestly… if I told people I was getting a keychain for my mother for Christmas, they would certainly ask me what kind of keychain. (It is the what kind of keychain that makes it interesting, and that people want to know about.)

      It is a key fact of this letter, to me, that the letter writer is in a crowd of younger-side people, talking about an even younger person. Jill is talking about herself and what she has. The letter writer (and maybe other people in the office) are feeling like Jill is actually talking about THEM and what they don’t have.

      I would never take Jill aside and suggest that normal conversation about the gives and takes of normal life is inappropriate for an office. It isn’t fair, perhaps, that Jill has more in kind than the coworkers have, but she is having all the same experiences and wants to talk about the same things. There is no situation here.

      Reply
  84. Moose

    I think it would be appropriate to take her aside and explain the situation. Be kind and sincere, and come from the angle of “I’m certain you don’t realize that you are doing this, but ____” and tell her that it has the potential to negatively affect her relationship with her coworkers. It’ll be awkward, but she’s the one creating the situation.

    Reply
  85. The Man, Becky Lynch

    Omg I’m picturing Leida from 90 Day Fiance right now, only without the tantrums. “My family is riiiiiich!!!! I come from a riiiiiich family!!!”

    I would mention it in private and then let it go. She’s young and immature but once she’s been told, it’s up to her if she changes

    Reply
  86. The Friendly Comp Manager

    You can say something, even in the moment.
    I had a friend in my mid-20s who was a couple years younger than me, and had always lived with her well-off parents. We were hanging out with a couple of other people, and one guy (we’re all similar in age) said he was working really hard to save up a couple thousand dollars to get started on pilot school, but that it was really taking a long time to save enough money.
    She said, “How hard is it to save a couple thousand dollars?”
    I am a fairly reserved person, so my reaction actually surprises me. I just bluntly said, basically, that when she has lived on her own for any length of time and has paid her own bills, she can have an opinion on how hard or easy it is to put money in savings.
    She apologized.

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Yeah my response is usually similar. “How hard is it to save $2000?” “That’s some people’s monthly take home pay. After rent and bills? Very hard.”

      I’m glad the woman in your situation apologised. It’s easy to forget people all have different circumstances when you’re surrounded by similar folks regularly.

      Reply
    2. Sylvia

      I’m so glad you blurted that out. It needed to be said.

      I’ve found myself in a similar situation as your friend. I have a friend in a third world country and I’m frequently saying stupid things like that to him. I grew up poor, so I thought I “got it”, but now realize that growing up in poverty in the U.S. amounts to being middle class in other countries.

      Reply
    3. BadWolf

      I was recently in a conversation with someone about whether you should have an emergency fund — he was saying it was a waste and should be invested, etc. Finally he announced casually, “Well, of course, we have $10,000 in savings if we need it.”

      Out of surprise, I practically yelled out, “That’s a huge emergency fund for many people!”

      At the risk of living in a glass house, I have also said some pretty clueless money things around friends and family.

      Reply
      1. Oh So Anon

        I find that the most clueless things come not from people who are trying to flaunt status, but who are financially comfortable and, if they’re young, had their parents shield them from how much things actually cost. A good number of people I know who grew up upper-middle-class but in somewhat frugal families tend to be like this well into their 30s.

        The worst was when a friend of mine passed away from a terminal illness in his mid-20s a few years after he graduated from university and his parents were trying to raise money for his memorial and medical costs. A mutual friend our age was like, “how can someone’s family not afford a funeral? It’s only like $8,000.” I didn’t feel like explaining that someone whose never worked might not have life insurance or savings to cover burial costs, or that despite being in Canada, you still have to pay for medication and only being able to work intermittently means one might not have prescription coverage once they leave school. I understood these things at that age, but someone whose parents have a lot of money and are hush-hush about it may not until well into adulthood.

        Reply
        1. londonedit

          I had a similar experience with a friend, except we’re in our late thirties. Said friend has always earned a very good wage, owns a nice house in London, has all his pension and savings and life insurance ducks in a row, etc etc. A mutual friend’s husband tragically died, and people were trying to raise some money to help her pay for the funeral. My friend and I were chatting one day, and he commented that he thought it was pretty crass to ask other people to chip in for the funeral expenses – ‘I mean, I assume he had life insurance, didn’t he? And what about their savings?’ I had to explain that no, not everyone has life insurance, particularly if they don’t own property or have any dependants, and that not everyone has enough savings to magically pull out a few thousand pounds to pay for a funeral. He found it so hard to believe that eventually I ended up spelling out in great detail exactly what I earn every month (about a third of his take-home pay) and explaining that not everyone can afford a pension/savings/life insurance. His jaw hit the floor.

          Reply
  87. Zillah

    I think that this is a situation in which you’re most likely to get a productive result if you approach her from a place of face saving and empathy. It can be really tempting to tear people down with a snarky response, and sometimes it’s warranted – but approaching every ignorant or tone-deaf statement with a goal of mortifying the person involved just really isn’t great. Whether or not you think someone should know better doesn’t necessarily mean that they do, and while it’s certainly sometimes warranted, I think this is a situation where you don’t want to start from a place of escalating friction without trying something less likely to make her feel defensive. (I know that you’re not saying this, OP, but I feel like a fair number of commenters are.)

    I might go with something like, “You have a tendency to reference money much more often than most people do; a lot of people aren’t as comfortable talking about it, and while I’m sure you don’t mean it to come across this way, it often makes people feel uncomfortable and to some people, it can even make you sound tone deaf or shallow. Keeping that in mind and minimizing the money talk at work could really help you avoid unnecessary friction in the future.” If she argues, just say, “Maybe! I’m just speaking from my experience” or something along those lines – you don’t need to get dredged into an argument.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  88. Drax

    I think I’m in the camp of “annoying thing she does, that you just roll your eyes at and move on”. No matter how you phrase it, people this obsessed with dollar signs are not going to hear it how you mean it, and there’s a strong chance they’ll hear jealousy instead of what you are actually trying to say.

    If there is anything to talk about with her, it would be the coat thing. Specifically, telling people their chosen gifts aren’t expensive enough. But even then, I’d focus on how it’s rude to tell someone who narrowed what their partner may like down to a few items, and someone – who doesn’t know the giftee – says they are wrong because it’s not expensive enough. It’s rude and out of touch to do that.

    But when it comes to the money thing, it’s just a crappy quirk of a young co-worker. Redirection into better topics is going to be your best bet.

    Reply
    1. Drax

      Also, reading some of this comments i think there’s an aspect I forgot about. I can honestly say every single person I’ve even met was obsessed with some sort of symbol between middle school and now. For me, the cool kids wore converse (and to remind everyone of scene kids, the really cool kids wore different color shoes on each foot!) but for my partner, growing up the cool kids wore Air Force I (but the mid ’07 ones, not the new ones) and very specific brands head to toe.

      Maybe she’s just in a phase where the cool kids wear brands, but to the rest of us it seems kinda weird. This is just her symbol of choice right now. Seriously, every been around a bunch of guys when a cool sports car drives up? It’s in all of us, it just doesn’t continue being that important in the day to day living.

      To summarize – I think I’d still just roll your eyes and ignore it. It’s a quirk that may or may not go away, but odds are she’ll start to get it as she grows in the work field.

      Reply
  89. Sylvia

    Well, in her defense, America does have a materialistic culture. She’s not a terrible person for noticing and participating in it–it’s just that she hasn’t been socialized to pretend like it doesn’t exist.

    I don’t think there’s any harm in explaining to her that people might judge her for talking about that stuff at work. (Actually, there’s no reason to talk about brands–Michael Kors has considerately put his initials in big gold letters on everyt