our boss’s wife camps out in our office for hours at a time

A reader writes:

I work for an accounting firm with about 40 employees. I’ve been there for about nine months now and generally enjoy it. However, the culture has been a bit difficult for me to adjust to. We sometimes have clients visit for meetings and because there is limited space at the office and it’s always busy, we have a system to make sure the meeting rooms are always available when needed.

Some of the time this works. However, the director’s wife (who works for a completely different company) has a habit of regularly turning up to either hang out and chat or actually work from our office. Jane turns up unannounced with a laptop and camps out in one of the meeting rooms doing work for whatever company she works for, which makes things very difficult for us. The director is sometimes busy for hours until he realizes Jane is there and presumably resolves whatever reason she had for coming in.

Our PA tried talking to her once, but Jane doesn’t make much/any effort to communicate with staff (bar one of the accountants who she knows) and just brushed her off. Her attitude appears to be that she married the boss so she can do whatever she likes. Jane also doesn’t seem to like two of my younger female colleagues and has started coming in even more since they joined. One of them is incredibly uncomfortable when Jane turns up, as she will make a point of staring at her.

Aside from the awkwardness of having the director’s spouse camping out in the office for hours on end, it disrupts our work. Normally, we will fit any internal meetings around scheduled client meetings, but when she is there we can’t. We’ve also had a couple of times where a client turned up and the receptionist was confused as the booked room wasn’t available.

What would you advise we do in this situation? I’ve never worked in a company where family members used the office like that. They would sometimes attend big social events (awards, etc.) and maybe if a well known colleague’s wife had a baby she might visit briefly. But otherwise family and work was always separated. I would never turn up like that at my uncle’s company, despite it being a huge office.

Yeah, that’s disruptive and weird. Showing up occasionally — not a big deal. Sometimes waiting for him to be done with meetings or whatever — fine. But regularly showing up and staying for hours on end, in other people’s space? No. And if she’s showing up more now because young women have started working there, that’s a real problem.

The easiest part of this to tackle is the availability of your conference rooms. When Jane goes into one of your conference rooms, someone needs to say, “Oh, that room is booked for a meeting and isn’t available.” Or, if the room isn’t needed right away, you can say, “Just to let you know, we’re going to need that room at (time), but you’re welcome to stay in there until then.” And then when it’s time for your meeting, you go to the door and say, “Sorry to kick you out — we’re about to use this room for a meeting.”

You say it cheerfully, but firmly and matter-of-factly — as if there’s no question that of course she’ll vacate the room (because any reasonable person would).

It’s possible that this is all it will take to solve the conference room problem. If no one has been speaking up when the rooms are needed, Jane legitimately could have no idea she’s causing a problem, and simply explaining you need the space will likely resolve it.

But let’s say she refuses to vacate the space when told you need it. In some ways that might be a blessing, because it gives you a very easy thing to take to your director. In that case, you’d talk to him and say this: “We’re running into a problem where Jane comes in and sets up in one of the conference rooms when we need them for meetings. We’ve explained to her that the rooms are booked and needed for meetings, and we’ve asked her to move when we need the space, but she’s refused. A couple of times she’s bumped us out of the space when we needed it for client meetings. How would you like us to handle this?”

Even once you solve the conference room problem, though, you still have the problem of her showing up and making people uncomfortable. You might not be able to get her to stop hanging out entirely (unless you can tie it to a work issue, like if there are confidentiality restrictions that are hard to abide by with a non-employee around so frequently). But if she’s staring down employees and making people uncomfortable, that’s something you can raise. Whoever there is most senior and/or has the most capital with your boss should speak to him and deliver that message. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s an awkward message to deliver, but the best way to do it is to just be very matter-of-fact: “Jane frequently stays in the office for a few hours at a time while she’s waiting to talk to you. Since Cecily and Lucinda started, she’s been here more often, and she stares at Cecily in a way that anyone in Cecily’s shoes would be uncomfortable with. None of us have the standing to talk with her about it, so we’re hoping you can intervene.”

And really, in many situations that person would also be able to say, “It’s tough to have Jane here so often for so many hours. She’s making the staff uncomfortable and no one feels they can say anything, but if you can tell her not to camp out here, people would appreciate that.” You can’t say that to every boss, but if the director isn’t an ogre, it’s a reasonable thing to try.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

    1. animaniactoo*

      I’ve got my money on “Jane suspects he will cheat if given the opportunity to do so.” – and is therefore locking down as many possible openings as she can see.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I have to wonder if he’s been caught cheating before and that’s what’s feeding into it. But there are plenty of people who also just assume the worst and are jealous no matter what.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Or maybe she’s cheating on him so figured that he’ll do that too if she doesn’t watch him.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Yes. Yes she does.

      She’s going about it in a very terrible way though. This isn’t Melrose Place.

    3. AnonACanada*

      That would be my guess. She’s being super inappropriate about how she’s handling it.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      That was my first thought–she thinks he is or might be.

      Regardless, no one at the company works for Jane. She has no status at a company where she isn’t employed and has no ownership, no matter who she’s married to. She’s really nothing more than a visitor who is taking advantage. If I were the grandboss, I’d be pretty miffed about this.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        That’s….not realistic. I mean, in a practical sense, she’s the queen to his kingdom. So she does have rights – the problem is that OP & Co don’t know what those rights are yet. Enter: Awkward.

    5. Kiki*

      I think this part of the problem will be the hardest to address but is probably just as important (if not more so) than the conference room issue. It’s sexual harassment territory. As a young woman in the workforce, I have worked in places where I have been perceived by fellow employees and/or their wives as “trouble” or a potential affair partner or whatever. It’s gross and uncomfortable and I generally would have never looked at those guys in any sort of non work-appropriate way in the first place. I am just young and a woman and a software engineer who wants to work quietly and eat free food.

      1. Kiki*

        It also makes it a lot harder to find mentors and collaborate. Especially in fields like mine that are currently male-dominated.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        My coworker’s wife forced him to quit his job because she decided we were having an emotional affair the day after she met me for the first time. I was so flabbergasted – our relationship consisted of making dumb jokes when we’d run into each other on our commute. We never spent time alone.

        1. anone*

          Stuff like this always reminds me of what an absolute ass my dad is, because he *did* have a (one-sided) emotional affair with a woman who was an admin at his firm, jerked my mom around about it, and then fired the unwilling target of his affections when she had the gall to begin dating someone who wasn’t him. In the end, he and I don’t talk anymore, my mother kicked him to the curb, and the woman he harassed and fired became a long-time family friend!

      3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        My parents once had to ~change their phone number~ and have my mom ghost on a job in the late ’70s because her creepy trashbag of a boss had obviously chased off enough secretaries or slept with enough or both that his wife was highly paranoid. She would call the office (and then later my parents house) a ton and make weird threats and eventually it came out that she had bought a gun. My mom ended up filing a police report and not going back.

        Other staff should keep an eye out for the young women Jane is staring daggers at, especially if she might be threatening them verbally. It’s on the more senior staff to shut this down, not them.

        1. A. Lovelace*

          In 2014 I worked in a male-dominated workplace where a wife was leaving anonymous ‘stealing my husband’ hate-mail for all the female staff. The worst part of it is that the wife had no way of accessing the building, so clearly her husband had been convinced to be her messenger.

          Thankfully they investigated, and action was taken (it was all contracting, so was easy to not extend that contract).

          1. Jill March*

            I don’t know why, but the part about the *husband* being the messenger is so hilarious to me. It sounds like you mean physical mail, so I picture a guy putting notes into every woman’s mail cubby like some kind of reverse Valentine’s day. How in the world did *either* of them think that would end well?!

            1. AnnaBananna*

              mmm, I see this happening two ways. 1) she lied and said it was an invite to something. 2) she told him to ‘prove’ that he wasn’t cheating on her, and her way was by him delivering the messages. THAT POOR DUDE. (unless he really did cheat…)

      4. your favorite person*

        I was at a client event one time with my boss, who I had rode with to the event. One woman, who I had never met in my life, looked at me, looked him and said, “Your wife lets you rid here with HER?!” My boss just said, ‘yep…’
        Later that same lady called me a ‘little witch’ because I offered to help her read the menu (she said it couldn’t read it and I asked her which one she was wondering about.)

        I know it said a lot more about her than me but… I was only 24 and it was really uncomfortable.

        1. facepalm*

          Too bad you can’t go back to that moment and tell her “Better a little witch than a miserable old hag!”

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s a gross situation to deal with.

        I’m not even that young anymore and it still happens because of the whole “temptress” idea that some stunted minds have come up with and won’t let go of. Their husbands are just following the siren’s calls, you know. Crashing their marriages into the rocks. Barf barf barf.

        1. TotallyNormal*

          Yeah…Jane definitely doesn’t trust her husband.

          I worked for a boss whose previous Admin had a reputation for sleeping with clients and donors. She had tried to come on to him and he turned her down.
          She quit.
          I started and the boss’s wife came in on day 2 to give me the once-over. Basically felt like a second interview as we “casually chatted” about my life, my marriage, etc.

          Even knowing I was married and NOT after her husband, he still never rode in a car with me or would allow himself to be alone with me…if there couldn’t be a coworker present, he would spend the whole day meeting with clients or donors and avoid the office.

          Since it started pretty much the moment I started my job, I never assumed it had anything to do with me, and everything to do with their relationship dynamics. But it was still SO weird and uncomfortable!

          Hopefully OP or someone higher up can nip this in the bud so female employees can focus on their work and not on feeling as they they need to spend their days defending their intentions!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You know us home wrecking temptresses—just wearing our accountant outfits until we can bust out our temptress uniform… Because we only exist as objects of male satisfaction. It’s not like we’re just trying to do our jobs or simply exist.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            This whole idea that men can’t share the same space as a woman without being tempted or whatever is just garbage. I don’t know why any man thinks that way, or any woman would think that way. It’s incredibly easy to not only be just friends with a woman, but to just be coworkers with a woman.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Oh you’re preaching to the choir, PCBH and I are taking the piss.

              I’ve worked with dozens of men, in a male dominated field for almost two decades now. Total number of “more than friends” situations you may ask? The answer is zero. I have no interest. They have no interest. We’ve often looked after each others best interests, they’ll throw out some vagrant who wanders in [industrial complexes, man] and I’ll screen their collection calls they’re dodging or hand off their paychecks to their wife when they’re out of town [with their blessing, it’s always “hey wife is gonna pick that up, is that cool?”]. Or I’ll make sure they get their favorite snacks in the breakroom snack drawer or some nonsense but I’m not hot for anyone who isn’t my partner and they know better than to not sh*t where they eat and also most often in comfortable marriages to women who I would help rip them into shreds if they ever did try any nonsense. Etc etc.

            2. SusanIvanova*

              I had a variation: the wife in the situation believed that neither men nor women could handle being friends without it leading to cheating. Therefore her husband “must” be cheating on her with me.

              It was pure projection; she was the one cheating. They’re long-since divorced and I still haven’t been the least bit tempted by him.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Crunching on those unavailable irresistible mens between crunching numbers.

        3. Not Rebee*

          Never mind that sirens are just water girls singing their own songs without any clue that some sailors are wandering by. The wrecks and awful temptation of men that is so prevalent in siren stories is mostly just account after account of men who just can’t help but throw themselves wildly at women who are just doing their thang and didn’t ask for any of the nonsense from the men. Go wreck yourselves, my dudes.

          1. Crabby Chic*

            “[S]irens are just water girls singing their own songs without any clue that some sailors are wandering by.”

            This is brilliant and I want it cross-stitched on a pillow.

      6. RG*

        “I am just young and a woman and a software engineer who wants to work quietly and eat free food.”


      7. RUKiddingMe*

        I definitely think that Jane is at least hovering around sexual harassment.

        As employers have a duty to protect employees from not only other employees but clients, vendors, etc., I wonder if this doesn’t (should!!!) include another employee’s spouse?

    6. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I’d go a step further and say that Jane feels that one of these young, attractive women is trying to “steal” her husband. Phrased this way because Jane seems to be putting the blame and therefore the awkwardness on the two women and not on her husband (from the narrative, but of course I’m jumping to conclusions. Hey, it might be my only exercise for the day!) She’s staring the women down, not staring her husband down.

      1. Anita Brayke*

        Yeah, this was my impression, too. I couldn’t think of another reason boss’s wife would stare at LW’s coworkers, other than that. Which I think is super-duper-way-the-heck-out-there-creepy behavior. Hopefully following up with Boss will get her to go home, or go get her nails done, or heck, read a book or something! {shudders}

        1. Mami21*

          This reminds me of a time when I was a receptionist at an office and got caught up in a situation that had nothing to do with me.
          A woman came in and asked for ‘Sue’ who was the old manager. When I told her Sue had moved on, she said ‘really…?’ and ‘hmmm…’ and just stood and stared at me. I just stared back in confusion because, how could that be any clearer? After a long and awkward pause, she left abruptly.
          I asked a co worker and she told me that the woman’s partner had been allegedly involved with Sue, and the intense staredown was because she thought I had recognised her and was lying to cover and Sue was cowering out the back somewhere!
          Luckily she never came back.

      2. AKchic*

        Possibly because the husband is pretending his wife isn’t there and is purposely avoiding her?

        Honestly, if I were being accused of cheating all the time (and I have been, before)… I’d avoid that spouse too (I did, until I could get rid of him).

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          You’re probably right, although of course in this case the boss could tell his wife to leave. The professional thing to do here isn’t to avoid his spouse and leave his employees to deal with her. The option of just avoiding the spouse ends when the spouse is acting the way she is in this case.

          1. AKchic*

            Having been in this situation – when you (the accused, yet innocent spouse) tell the paranoid spouse to leave, it merely solidifies their suspicions that you are, in fact, cheating. Otherwise, why would you want them to leave so badly? If you have nothing to hide, you’d want them to be around, right? The other employees (and customers/clients) wouldn’t care because “it’s so sweet!” having the spouse around because “they’re such a cute couple!”
            This is the narrative that paranoid spouses feed themselves. Nothing you do will convince them otherwise. My own ex-husband was so convinced that I was cheating with any and every guy that I worked with and that walked into the building that if he could, he’d camp out in the dining area (I worked fast food on a military installation at the time) to watch me interact with people my entire shift. Any smile – boom: proof of cheating. Any laugh – oh yeah, I’d totally been banging that guy in the bathroom. Any witty retort or co-worker banter – further proof that I was 100% getting railed by every guy I worked with on a daily basis before coming home. Nothing I said or did would convince him otherwise. Of course, I was young and didn’t realize it was a control tactic and a reason to justify his other abuses.

            The thing is – whether Jane has a valid reason to be paranoid or not isn’t the office’s problem. That’s up to Jane (and her husband) to manage those feelings and they must be managed outside of the office, with no disruption to the office or it’s staff.

            1. Angus MacDonald, Boy Detective*

              I don’t have anything to add except I’m really glad that guy is your ex-husband and not current husband!!!

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathrom*

      OMG, I’m so dang naive for someone as past their prime as I am (and even with one long marriage under my belt!) I read the OP’s letter completely puzzled at Jane’s bizarre behavior; especially the part where she did not like two of the employees. I was like “why is she sitting in an office where there’s sensitive information? how does she have any standing to like or dislike someone who does not work for, or with, her?” Yes, this definitely explains all of it, she does. And she picked the worst possible way to go about it! (Like, I’d just leave if I had valid suspicions of my husband being *that* prone to cheating…)

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Me, too. Maybe it’s because neither I nor my husband of 45 years has a jealous bone in our body. My mind just does not work that wzy!

    8. That one silly person*

      That was my first thought as well – especially if she is staring down younger women!

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. And she’s punishing these employees for her paranoia. This whole stare down thing is grossly immature and outrageous.

    10. LilyP*

      Huh. My mind never would have gone there! I would’ve guessed she works from home but likes an office ambiance sometimes or that there’s some logistical reason it’s more convenient for her to work there sometimes (like avoiding traffic on days they share a car or something), and she just doesn’t realize she’s causing any inconvenience. Anyway, I don’t think this speculation is useful to the letter writer — there’s already a clear work-related reason to ask her to hang out somewhere else, bringing something this gossipy and personal into it would just make everything weird.

    11. babblemouth*

      That’s where my mind jumped to as well. Especially if she gets more intent in watching the company when younger women start working there. Whether she’s right or not doesn’t even matter here, she needs to stop it.

    12. Cheaters never prosper..*

      It’s funny, it’s always the young, pretty girls that get the brunt of suspicion.

      I worked at a BAC years ago and one of the c-level guys was having an affair. His wife who suspected would pop in and glare and huff at every pretty young woman in the office, going so far as to get a few of them fired, because they were obviously cheating with her husband. Her self-esteem was in shreds, and honestly it was a terrible marriage, she was driving herself crazy over this. Even when the young women left, she still suspected an affair, this went on for years with her spontaneously popping in during c-level’s closed door meetings to try to catch him in the act etc.

      After a few years of this, c-level divorced her and it was discovered the object of his affair was a woman 15 years older than him, a professional in the c-level, and as such flew under his wife’s radar for years. She dismissed her because she was older and not “pretty” by her standards I guess. They had been having an affair for literal decades, and only went public when the woman’s husband passed away.

      I thought it was such a sad story all-around, the wife being so suspicious and wasting her life with someone who really didn’t care and wanted her for appearances sake because he couldn’t have who he really wanted, and sad for all of those women who were fired because of her suspicions. The woman who was actually having an affair was “good friends” with the wife, in fact. The wife did end up taking the c-level guy to the cleaners in the divorce though…

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I wonder if multiple instances of young women being fired because the boss’s paranoid wife thinks they’re having affairs with him would constitute gender discrimination? I know that persistent false rumors being spread about your sex life is legally considered sexual harassment.

        Those women should have some recourse. This is not OK.

  1. Terese Hale*

    I have to wonder if Jane thinks there is something going on between her husband and these two ladies. Which, of course, is an issue that Jane should work out with her husband. In any case, she really should not be there, working or not.

    1. The Original K.*

      I’m sure this is it. I mean, I think the entitlement comes naturally to her AND ALSO that she’s threatened by the young women in her husband’s office. Put them together and this is what you get.

    2. Mel*

      The only other possibility I can see is that her husband complains about them not working enough or something and she thinks she’s showing them that they need to be on their toes or something. I’ve known a couple people who thought they could do that to their spouse’s employees. I’m sure the employees just thought they were insane.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I have zero qualms booting someone out of a conference room I booked. It doesn’t happen very often, but I definitely do it. (I think it’s the result of being the youngest and constantly having to self-advocate for limited resources.) I’ve never gotten pushback or criticism for it. If you act confident like you’re supposed to be there, which you are, then almost everyone reacts appropriately to that.

    AAM’s advice about walking in and saying, “Hey we’ve booked this room for this time. We’re going to get started soon,” is perfect.

    Turns out conference room aggression is a thing: https://www.thecut.com/2019/04/does-your-office-suffer-from-conference-room-aggression.html

    1. marxamod*

      I once had 2 people sit chatting in a conference room after my entire group had arrived. They stayed 5 minutes into our meeting time (We started late to accommodate longer walks) when I finally turned and said “are you joining our meeting?”

      Did NOT fly well with my midwestern nice coworkers but at least we got the room back.

      1. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

        That’s some serious chutzpah! I’m midwestern nice, but I definitely would have said something. And a midwestern nice squatter should have been so mortified at being so clueless or entitled that she needed calling out that she would have scuttled out of the room immediately.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Absolutely. Any Midwesterner worth their salt would have taken the hint as the first couple meeting attendees shuffled in. The whole point of indirect communication is it’s still communication. If you ignore the indirect call-outs you have no grounds to get in a snit when someone is forced to call you out directly.

          1. valentine*

            I have zero qualms booting someone out of a conference room I booked.
            How would you respond to “I’m the boss’ wife and I do what I want”?

            1. Kix*

              I’m the unofficial meeting room bouncer in my organization, and if she decided she was going to continue camping in there even after being politely asked to leave, I’d just go ahead and have the meeting with her in the room. Should she try to interject anything into the meeting, I’d shut it down. But that’s how I roll.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            California native (current Seattleite) checking in…polite to me too. Very polite actually.

      2. designbot*

        That sound absolutely perfect to me! I apparently could not survive in the midwest.

      3. Perse's Mom*

        Nah, that’s not an aspect of Midwestern-nice behavior. Midwestern-nice would have popped up as soon as someone else opened the door and asked if the room was reserved and apologized profusely if their presence delayed anything.

      4. Kimmybear*

        As an East Coaster, I thought you were being very nice. :) This is a constant problem in my office so we’ve all just mastered the evil glare through the window.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Around here the technique seems to be that every new person who shows up and sees their group waiting outside pokes their head in anyway. The lingering group isn’t going to get anything further accomplished, for sure. The last five minutes of most meetings are “looks like we’re getting kicked out of our room now.”

    2. The Original K.*

      Me neither. And at a previous job, I sat near a group of very loud colleagues (they were reprimanded a few times for their noise; people with offices near them would shut their doors) so I would often book one of the smallest conference rooms for a few hours to get some work done. If someone came in and said “We have this booked at 2:00,” my response was always “Okay!” and went on my way. It’s totally reasonable.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I like that the admins print out the day’s conference room schedule and post it on the door to the room each day. It makes it easy to see when the room is needed next so that if you need to duck in for a moment you know when to expect people to need it. It’s not foolproof since schedules can change, but it limits most issues like this.

        1. The Original K.*

          Oh, I would formally book the room through Outlook (there was no issue with a single person doing that, lots of people did), so I had a right to be there. Sometimes I’d get lost in what I was doing and lose track of time, though, in which case I was happy to be reminded that my time was up.

          (The only rooms that I would never book were lactation rooms. Competition for those rooms was much stiffer than for the others. I considered those off-limits to me since I wasn’t a nursing mom. I also tried to only book the rooms that were intended to house 4-6 people instead of the biggest rooms.)

        2. CatMom*

          People just IGNORE the sign in my office, it seems. So many times I’ve come in for client meetings to find someone else using the space (with their own clients, so kicking them out is harder).

    3. BradC*

      Strongly agree with this advice; but note you shouldn’t then wait for her response; just immediately start setting up your stuff at the table like you belong there (which you do).

      Set up your laptop, turn on the projector, lay out your folders, or maybe even pre-print a meeting agenda and pre-emptively lay one down at each seat (even if you normally don’t do that) while she’s still sitting there.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, don’t give her the opportunity to object. Just communicate this is happening, make your peace.

          1. Artemesia*

            I had to manage an employee forced on us who was the CEO’s wife and believe me in some organizations this kind of unprofessional thing exists where, yeah, she has standing to pretty much do what she will.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Because if you think about it, what’s she going to say if she objects or goes to her husband?

        I don’t work here. This conference room was already booked by someone who does work here for work purposes. I refuse to move. (Bonus is clients are part of this meeting.) Your employees asked me to move out of the conference room I was in because they needed it for work purposes.

        Seriously parse this scenario out in your mind. There’s literally no logical response at all.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          Very true, but spinelessness will hip-check logic right out the door if the boss doesn’t want to upset his wife.

          1. Marthooh*

            I’m trying to imagine what a spineless hip-check looks like. Really, really, squishily unattractive, is my guess.

        2. On a pale mouse*

          Except that’s not how she’ll tell it. “Honey, I was just in that room for a couple of minutes while I was waiting for you and your mean employees rudely kicked me out.” And if boss is sufficiently out of touch (which considering the whole situation seems like a real possibility), he may not even realize the rooms are genuinely needed.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree, if she’s in there when your meeting starts, you just say “Oh so we need this space for our client meeting at 1pm and they should be here any minute, I need to start setting up…” and go from there. Instead of looking at her and stressing out waiting for her to vacate and praying it’s before the clients show up.

      Granted, I see why you’d be shy to do this to the bosses wife, especially one with a glaring problem and perma lurker status. If it’s just some stray colleagues, it’s different than a stranger who just wanders in off the streets.

      But I’ve had actual strangers in my warehouse and have had to get them out, so I have no boundaries at this rate.I will treat you like a vagrant if necessary.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        Your response is so true. Reflecting over the years, when you are younger and haven’t taken ownership of your position you are loath to “make waves” when what you are actually doing is calming the waters to what they should be. When you no longer have boundaries, as you say, you are much more effective.
        But really, why hasn’t the director been apprised of the situation? If he has and hasn’t taken action, it might be time to start job searching, because this won’t end well. He is probably cheating on his wife with someone in the office AND out of the office and likes the negative attention his wife is generating.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I wouldn’t say this is about young vs old though.

          If I had a dollar for every time someone who has much more seniority at a company and also is just older than I am has been too shy to make waves, I’d have a lot less debt! They’re too scared to ask the “boss” anything because oh my goodness, they’re VIP. No, they’re here to be bothered, it’s their job to answer the questions you have most often.

          I have tried saying “Ask the boss, they should know!” and they just tuck their tails and decide they don’t need an answer. Which seriously can be as light as “Hey boss, are we going to have another company BBQ soon, it’s been awhile!” or “What’s the date of the holiday party this year?”

          1. Aquawoman*

            Ha, I’m a low-level manager, not a VIP but when people apologize for bothering me, I sometimes say something like, “that’s my actual and only job, you are just keeping me employed.” Seriously, I’m here to answer questions, ask me questions.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I get that all the time as well. People have no choice to go around me, the information they need from me is from me only [HR or Accounting, the one and only]. So I always respond with “You’re never bothering me.” and “I can easily re-prioritize, no bother.” because if my door is open or my phone isn’t to my ear, I’m not so busy you cannot come in with whatever is going on.

              I blame others for hurting them and teaching them to think they’re peons while someone in a “higher” more “important” position is clearly going to need to pencil them in. I don’t subscribe to it. And having the ear of executives, I know all mine have always had the same POV. That and I can read a cue, if the door is closed or they’re on the phone or I know they’re 5 minutes until they need to be down stairs waiting for an Uber, whatever, then of course it’s not the right time! And worse case, they say “Gotta jet, email me or I’ll catch you when I return from the meeting!” We’re not equals in pay and they have more say in things but they’re certainly not “better” than anyone or heaven forbid scary. I’ve seen them pick their wedgies and have to help them fight with computer software, they’re just like us ;)

    5. Antilles*

      Agreed. I think the biggest key to this is your tone and body language.
      You aren’t asking permission, you aren’t discussing it, you’re not even really giving an order – you’re just calmly and casually asserting a natural fact of the universe – we live in North America, the sky is blue, humans breathe oxygen, I’m using the conference room from 2:00 to 3:00.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        This tone is actually helpful with kids too. At some stages they hate to take orders, but a cheerful “it’s time to get in the car now!” isn’t as likely to get their backs up. It’s just time. It’s not “I am making you get in the car now” (until you say no, that is. Then I am making you.) It’s just time.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Conference room aggression happens because people no longer have OFFICES to go into for privacy.
      Another reason to hate open office concept.

      1. Massmatt*

        I’m actually surprised how many commenters and letter writers have offices. Most places I have worked it’s cubes, sometimes with very low walls so everyone can see everyone else while sitting. Even in call centers. Very few people had offices, mostly VP and above.

        I don’t like most things about the open office concept either but it’s here to stay given that it’s cheaper and more flexible.

    7. Close Bracket*

      I read the article, and I was expecting CRA to describe the people who were running over, not the people waiting!

      I used to work at a place where running over significantly, and being late bc your last meeting ran over significantly, was just a fact of life, like tides. I don’t get mad about it anymore than I get mad about tides. If my room is taken, I just tell whoever is in there that I have the room, and they wrap up their meeting and leave.

    8. Batgirl*

      I had to kick someone from the board of governors out out of our school meeting rooms when I was still brand new. He watched me setting up, all the while telling me how important he was and how he had a weekly booking here. I just cheerfully asked him how he was going to manage his meeting in a corridor/canteen now that all the bookings were cancelled for exam week, a week of notorious room shortages. He tried to bleat a refusal but I just sweetly offered to double check that it was in fact exams week, the week that overrides all else.
      In this situation, I’d probably poke my head in the door and say that ‘Meeting x has a booking and will be here in 5, just FYI!’ (giving her no chance to answer) and if she’s still there when clients arrive cheerfully introduce her as ‘Boss’s wife, who is just finishing up. Coffee?’

  3. AnonACanada*

    Is it possible to put a sign on the door to the conference room? Something like “Reserved for meeting with ClientName (or staff meeting) from 8am – 10am”

    1. KHB*

      We started doing this a few years ago – putting a little card on the door of each conference room showing who’s got it reserved for what times – and it’s worked like a dream. No more confusion about who’s kicking out whom or who’s scheduled to be where.

      1. Working with professionals*

        My company recently adopted an interface called Condeco that has a display pad by the door of the conference room. When you book the room using Outlook, it automatically shows the booking with the name of the meeting and a nice big red colored bar along the screen. You can also walk up, swipe your security card and set a meeting at the display when needed. Works great!

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      My current location blessedly has little screens outside each large meeting room clearly showing the contact name, meeting attendee count, and time slots for each day, all booked through a central system or support staff, depending on the size of the room / features. It is the BEST. Two offices ago, my boss got into a serious argument with someone who was intending to squat and take a 30 person room for a 3 or 4 person meeting, when it was booked by the large group months in advance.

      They should definitely look into even a cheap little dorm white board that an admin or EA can change daily so there is a clear demarcation of when Jane needs to vacate. They can number the clients or just internal names if client privacy is a concern.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        My old office had this too, and if a room was available when you were looking for a place to crash, you could just press a button on the display to book it right there (helpful when you get kicked out of your conference room because someone else also thought they booked it – occasionally there would be a glitch that caused a room to be double booked – or a senior leader needed it, or when you were having a hallway conversation and realized you needed to actually take 30 minutes for a meeting). You could just press the button on your way into the room and not take the time to pull up the room in Outlook. It was a great feature!

    3. The New Wanderer*

      This is a good start – our reservable conference rooms usually have the day’s schedule printed out and posted right next to the door. It doesn’t help with day-of reservations, but generally people don’t plan to camp out if a room clearly has several meetings happening throughout the day b/c they know they’ll just get bumped.

      The other thing reservable rooms have is an info sheet describing the booking procedure (some are through Outlook, others have to be reserved via phone) and which admin is the final authority over the room. Big font, easily readable.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I would go to the boss immediately with this issue, since she just brushed off the PA the time they tried to speak with her about the issue. I really wouldn’t speak with Jane at all, since she’s a huge problem and this reeks of “I have to keep an eye on my husband, so I just randomly show up at his office.” He may or may not rock that boat if that’s the case, since he’s most likely completely aware of her jealousy issues.

    There’s a difference between showing up for a visit, to drop off a forgotten lunch or to grab lunch with a spouse/family member. And just showing up and camping out with their laptop like this. A drop in to say hello and hangout for a few minutes as a ‘break’ in the middle of the day is somewhat normal for a family oriented small business. We have had people have their spouse meet them at the office for something or other, then they take them around and say “Hey this is my partner! Just showing them around.” and we do the casual “Nice to meet you, we enjoy working with your partner, they’re great! Have a great day.” and they go on their business. Then sometimes someone may sit in the breakroom while their SO finishes up but it’s again, very much a limited interaction/lingering sort of thing. There’s no sitting and glaring and just taking up valuable office space, we’d speak with anyone about that right away if it were the case. But I bet your boss doesn’t want to light that fuse so he pretends to ignore her and that she just “shows up” to lurk.

  5. Adlib*

    Kind of a funny coincidence – this morning a firm-wide email went out about proper usage and booking of conference rooms. I guess we have squatters sometimes! (You’d think this would be easy for people but apparently not!)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A lot of people think they’re “sneaky” or flying under the radar by just squatting in there while nobody is looking. So yeah, those emails are sadly a thing in a lot of places with limited space!

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      There is one downside: it allows for Mrs. Boss to go find another conference room she knows is free and continue to stare daggers.

      But, yes, this should be done anyway!

    3. Alfonzo Mango*

      I believe this is the best policey. It needs to be addressed as a company wide culture point. You should not delay or impede others from their work by making them tardy to meetings.

      1. Mel*

        Except a company-wide email wouldn’t work for the LW, precisely because the boss’s wife does not work for the company and therefore is unlikely to receive such an email.

  6. Mid*

    I’m wondering if there is suspected infidelity here. Not that that justifies a non-coworker taking up office space. However, it could add another layer of complication to the situation. If the boss asks her to leave, that could make her more suspicious. If one of the glaring-targets asks her to leave, that could also cause issues. It shouldn’t, assuming everyone is a rational adult here, but the glaring and increased frequency of visits makes me suspect potential future drama.

    So, I wonder if the conference room can be locked, so when it’s not booked, it’s not open for people to wander into. Or if there can be a strict rule for *everyone* that bookings must be made to use the room. Basically, I wonder if there is a way for the conference room to be respected without making the wife feel like she’s getting kicked out, only because I can see inappropriate reactions coming from that.

    1. Batgirl*

      Locking the conference room is simple genius. But you’d have to be prepared to either say “No you can’t have the key” or “The Keymaster of Gozer is out to lunch” because she will ask.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    Did I miss something? Have y’all asked your boss how he’d like you to handle this? (Or told him that it’s a pretty significant problem?) If he’s in meetings when she gets there he may not realize just how much time she’s spending hogging the meeting room. I’d go to him and let him know that this is getting in the way of work and you need him to clarify how he wants it handled. It’s his business and his wife–he needs to be in the loop.

  8. Because Jane*

    Eventual dialogue:

    “Why are so many clients dropping us?”
    “Because Jane keeps monopolizing the conference room and preventing us from holding meetings.”

    “Why are some of our best people leaving?”
    “Because Jane keeps scaring them away.”

  9. Llellayena*

    Does no one tell the director his wife is in the office? If it’s hours before he notices she’s here and does something to get her to leave, why not tell him sooner? When she shows up, have someone poke their head into his office or shoot him an email “hey, your wife is here in the front conference room.”

    And definitely kick her out of the room if you have a meeting. It’ll feel weird the first couple of times, but it’s not her office. It’s a company resource and she’s not in the company.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Especially since they have an assistant in the office. This is the kind of thing that I will just poke my head into an executive’s office over every single time [unless they’ve given strict “no distributions” heads up with is extremely rare because we’re not meeting with anyone that important, like ever, unless we were to get randomly audited and it’s the government.]

      But again, I’m a herder of high paid cats.

      1. Sammy*

        We can’t always get hold of the director, as he can either be on an international call (and doesn’t want to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency) or sometimes not in the office at all. If he’s out, then she will just sit in there all morning/afternoon until he returns. It’s easier when someone can get hold of him, but she seems to know his schedule and plan accordingly.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Oh, you definitely need to escalate that and make it clear that she’s camping out while ostensibly waiting for him and creating a business issue by refusing to vacate the meeting rooms when they’ve been booked and are needed.

          1. Clisby*

            Unless I completely missed it, nothing in the original post indicates that she’s refusing to vacate a meeting room when it’s needed/booked. Whoever booked it needs to speak up and tell her the meeting is about to start.

            1. animaniactoo*

              From the OP a little further down: “We’ve actually tried the signs on door approach in the past, but she either doesn’t see them or (more likely) just ignores them. We don’t have much day to day contact with the director, but will try to get one of the ‘higher ups’ to have a word if possible. ‘Jane’ has apparently had a few discussions with various people other than the PA and nothing has ever come of it, so we will try to escalate the issue now.”

              She’s ignoring the door signs for booked times and apparently a few people have tried to address the issue with her in general – it’s not explicit that she’s been asked to vacate the room, but it is implicit here that she’s been alerted it’s a problem and she’s not voluntarily paying attention and vacating at need.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          I wonder why she doesn’t go to his office, especially when he’s not there. Visiting spouses should be treated like visiting kids in offices and shunted away into their working spouse’s space to be unintrusive. If she’s as jealous as she seems, I’m sure she’d love to be right where she can see her husband all day.

          Then again, I doubt anyone wants to tell the boss his wife should be hanging out in his office.

          1. Artemesia*

            I wondered that too. If I had showed up to see my husband and he wasn’t in, I would have gone to his office to wait if I were waiting. This also makes it his problem.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Yes – this – wow. The fact that she is planning this to do when he is away makes it so much more problematic. I would absolutely find a way to let him know all the things she is doing.

          2. BeenThere OG*

            Oh it makes perfect sense, she is trying to figure out who he is cheating with from the office when he is out. So she is looking for which young woman is missing from the office at the same time as her husband.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh…gurl. That’s why she’s lurking around in there. She knows he’s “out” doing “things” [despite it being business related] and with trust issues, she’s waiting for him to come and explain himself.

          Triple yikes.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          But you can still bring this to him when she’s not there: You tell him that Wife shows up when he’s either busy or not there and bogarts the meeting room. It’s a general problem, so you don’t have to wait until she walks in to address it.

        5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          This is so much the time when I’d use “read receipt” on emails to him. I know damn well he saw the message and he’s gonna stay away as long as possible. Because as long as he knows she’s there, he knows she isn’t going to hunt him down where ever the hell he really is. OMG. Please win the lottery and tell her that he just messaged you and wants her to meet him at the client’s office or where ever he’s having a meeting. Hell, I’d pay for her cab. She’s your problem now, bro.

        6. MissDisplaced*

          What? You mean she KNOWS he’s not there, but comes in to his work anyway?
          It sounds like she’s just using this company as a place to run her own business or something. How much do you want to bet she uses this address as her own work address too.

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

          Since you can’t lock the doors, how difficult is it to steal the light bulbs out of the room and put them back just before a meeting? Or how about all the chairs? Can they be hoarded in another office that she won’t have access to? I’m kidding, mostly.

          If she seems to know his schedule and plans to do this when he is away, is there anyway to preempt her? Maybe have someone else camp out in the conference room before she gets there on days that the boss is scheduled to be away or busy. If you can disrupt her habit enough, she might go away.

        8. TootsNYC*

          wait–so she seems to be deliberately camping out when she knows he’s not in the office?

          Maybe the receptionist can not let her in? Tell her to wait until you are able to reach her husband, since the policy is that guests should be escorted.

        9. Madeleine Matilda*

          If the director isn’t in the office, could you direct Jane to work from his office? A friendly, “Sorry the conference room is booked, but you can work in director’s office until he is back from his meeting.” And then go into conference room to set up for a meeting.

    2. crochetaway*

      Yeah, this is good advice if you want to take a softer approach. In addition to kicking her out of the conference room when it’s needed. You need to start telling Mr Boss when she’s there. Every. Single. Time. The constant shuffling of her and the interruptions to him should clue them both in that they are doing something wrong.

      1. crochetaway*

        Ok I responded before I saw the update. Yeah, sounds like a more direct conversation needs to be had with Mr Boss.

    3. WillowWeep*

      Yeah, that was weird – Jane is there for hours before he even knows she is there?

  10. Dandelion and Burdock*

    This reminds me of a time when I had cordoned off an area of a restaurant I worked in to deep clean it. It was quite obviously blocked off (end of shift, late at night) and there was plenty of other spaces for someone to sit and eat or chill out. I turned my back for a minute to get my mop and bucket and when I came back, someone had broken through the barricade and set themselves up, laptop and all, in the centre of the cleaning area. I explained why she couldn’t sit there and she said that she wasn’t bothering anyone (apparently I didn’t count as anyone) and proceeded to ignore me. I proceeded to clean around her, steam cleaner and all, and she didn’t even twitch until I shut off the lights at the end of the night when we were locking up. She walked past me and said “that wasn’t such a problem, was it?”

    My point of this is that some people are just unreasonable. Jane may not see a problem with what she’s doing, and she may not care. Definitely be ready to take this higher when she doesn’t relinquish her grip on the meeting room.

    (And yes, I’m still angry about that woman ten years later).

      1. Dasein9*

        I might have flipped the power cord over the table a few times, coming very close to her head. And if I missed once, well. . . .

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Those kind of people are so frustrating! When I read Alison’s script of “Just to let you know, we’re going to need that room at (time), but you’re welcome to stay in there until then.”, I immediately took what I knew of the wife and imagined her blowing up at being told she’s “welcome” to stay there, like she’s not the wife of the most important person there and should be welcome anywhere.

      But maybe I’ve known too many military officers’ spouses that tend to fall into the “my spouse’s importance directly transfers to me” trap and it’s made me cynical.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, yes sadly these exceptionally rude people do exist. They don’t view others as their equals, especially not someone in a service position. So Jane may very well feel above everyone else because she’s “the directors wife”, I’ve seen that a few times in my life, needless to say.

    3. animaniactoo*

      “You mean apart from being stressed that I might bang against you or accidentally splash you and have you go off on me? In this area that was closed off so that neither of us would have to be concerned about that? No. Not such a problem at all.”

  11. animaniactoo*

    Hmmm. I might go to the director now because it’s quite possible that he hasn’t realized how much of a problem his wife has been creating for the office and would deal with it directly and privately with her if he was aware.

    So I would approach this now as a method of notification and seeking approval for handling. Something like “We’ve always kind of juggled this around and just tried to handle it, but Jane has been coming into the office even more recently. How would you like us to handle this going forward? Would it be acceptable to just tell her that we need the space? Is there an alternate space we could ask her to use when she’s here? Do you want us to contact you as soon as she comes in so you can resolve whatever it is she’s here for?”

    Because the thing here is that it sounds like the director actually doesn’t know how long she’s been in the office for – at some point he figures it out and then he goes to talk to her and then she packs up and leaves. It doesn’t sound like Jane is letting him know she’s there – and she probably doesn’t intend to. Because it sounds like her goal is to be on the premises and keeping an eye out. But if somebody is letting him know when his wife shows up, that might thwart a whole lot of what’s going on here.

    Another point of this plan is that if you tell her you need the space and she ignores you – it gives you the backing to go back to the director and say “We tried asking her to leave when [Client X] came in for the [Y Program] meeting, but Jane was insistent on staying in the conference room. What would like us to do if that happens again?” and not have that be the first that he hears that Jane’s presence is creating an issue.

    1. A Reader*

      “But if somebody is letting him know when his wife shows up, that might thwart a whole lot of what’s going on here.”

      Yes, this. I think someone – or even a few someones – could make sure they alert him when she’s arrived. Not just when it’s time to kick her out of the conference room, either, but when she’s actually arrived on the premises.

      I also hate to be that person, but does Jane even have some kind of key card or something to get in? If she can just waltz in and use an office, then what’s stopping some random person from doing the same? Security – or lack of – should be another tactic to discuss with the boss. An accounting firm should have some sort of barriers in place. OP, this conversation isn’t one to fall on your shoulders, but it is something you can bring up to someone else.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Go ahead and BE that person. My neighbor’s daughter worked for a government office that had a mass shooting many years ago before we got blase about that. I’ve always been finicky about letting people who are not signed in into the office.

  12. CBH*

    Does anyone have a friendly relationship with the boss that they could clue him in on the situation? While it sounds like the wife is there with a personal agenda, it is boss’ business; her presence is affecting his company’s outcome. My thinking is maybe boss is high enough up that he does not realize his wife is taking up a conference room/ scheduling conflicts.

  13. Sammy*

    (I’m the one who wrote in about this). Thank you for the advice. I wrote this on behalf of a few people in our office, so they are also very grateful! We’ve actually tried the signs on door approach in the past, but she either doesn’t see them or (more likely) just ignores them. We don’t have much day to day contact with the director, but will try to get one of the ‘higher ups’ to have a word if possible. ‘Jane’ has apparently had a few discussions with various people other than the PA and nothing has ever come of it, so we will try to escalate the issue now. We are just worried about the potential kickback if the director takes her side or if she causes an issue. She was instrumental in getting another person fired before I joined the company, so clearly has some influence behind the scenes.

    As for the comments regarding cheating… yes, we have joked that she might be a bit of a control freak type and taking an offensive approach to preventing her husband cheating. Although one of the girls is engaged and the other is dating and very happy with her partner. Neither of them has any interest in this woman’s husband, who is nearly 20 years older. They don’t work directly with him and barely speak to him let alone have an opportunity to start an affair!

    1. OhNo*

      Does your office have the option to lock the conference rooms? Some places I’ve worked, all of the conference rooms are locked and only opened when there is a scheduled meeting, or when someone asks the admin to unlock it for an impromptu one.

      I don’t know if that’s feasible at your office (or if the admin team wants to have that much responsibility), but cutting her off from her preferred places to camp out might help, too.

        1. Yvette*

          Sammy, I just want to thank you for participating with clarifications and additional information.

          1. Sammy*

            It’s helpful to get other people’s opinions on this since I’m sure others have faced similar situations. There’s actually a few of us (from the same office) reading this!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She got someone fired?

      You need to find another job if that’s how deeply embedded she is in that office culture. That’s slipping into a evil hive of bees territory. Now I know why you’re all trying to do this without just telling the director to get his wife out of the meeting spaces. But again, she’s not doing something that’s normal and seems to have jealously issues.

      I hope your office doen’t have any pet rabbits around.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, it sounds like the wife is a missing stair – the office seems to work around her, which is weird because she doesn’t even work there.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, what? This is getting into Toxic Workplace territory. She doesn’t even work there!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Please never ever take comfort in the fact that someone being engaged or happily married is a reason for someone who is unhinged to think they’re still a possible homewrecker in their minds.

      I had this happen years ago and it was frightful AF. The woman was thinking I was a threat, despite being happily coupled along with the fact this was her much older husband, whom I couldn’t even communicate with well due to him being ESL. Yet the horror stories that I heard were outrageous, we had to ban her from the property in the end, no joke. Thankfully I lived nowhere near that place but the foreman/supervisor confirmed/translated a lot of it to me just so I was aware of what was going on. Nope nope nope nope nope.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      For what I think is an interesting perspective, think about what your company would do if the genders were reversed. If the husband of one of your employees was showing up frequently, staking out her workplace for hours at a time, and steady stinkeye fight staring at her male colleagues.

      You would be banning him from the premises and handing her a pamphlet with the number of a shelter.

      1. Jennifer*

        You are right. This behavior is not okay whether it comes from a man or a woman. I do want to point out that the reason why people react the way they do when an abuser is a man is that the potential victim may be in more physical danger, based on statistics.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s not necessarily true.

        If the director was a woman and her male spouse was acting like this, they’d probably still accept it for what it was because it’s still the director’s spouse.

        It’s different if it’s just an employee at a lower level in most situations, it’s easier to start pulling out “policies” and “safety” concerns but if the person is a high ranking official, they don’t want to touch it all the same.

      3. bonkerballs*

        If it was just an employee, sure. But if it was just an employee, I doubt this would have gone so far this time either. But it’s the director and the director’s wife. That often comes with more blurred work/life lines and more privileges.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      If your director is the kind of boss who would take his wife’s side in this issue, you very much do not want to keep working for him. If you seriously believe it’s a possibility, I’d start looking at job postings now.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      She was instrumental in getting another person fired before I joined the company

      Ugh, sounds like this place is messed up from the top down.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yeah, I’m really curious about the back story there. Maybe it’s something that ended up helping like “ex-employee was a serial harasser who finally crossed the line with the boss’s wife.” I suspect not, given that she acts entitled to be there and dismissive to actual staff.

    7. Pebbles*

      OP, I don’t suppose you have a security officer on the premises? I work in a secure area of the building and this kind of thing would instantly get security called on them and they would be escorted out. The only way around that is if they had checked in with the front desk and had someone who works here sign them in for the day and given them a badge allowing them access, but I doubt a potentially philandering director would do that so his wife could spy on him.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I did see your reply to the comments above regarding notifying the director immediately, but I still think this is the best and safest approach. Assume that whenever anyone’s spouse shows up at work, it’s because they want to speak to the spouse. So notify him in as reasonable a way as possible.

      You said that he doesn’t want to be disturbed on important calls, but is there a protocol for important interruptions? Do you IM him or something if needed? If you can signal to him that she’s arrived when she arrives, I think you should. If you really can’t do that, then notify him immediately when he’s off the phone. “Jane is in conference room 3, she’s been here since 11 am.”

      Same thing when he’s off premises. “Jane is here. When should I tell her you’ll be back in the office?”

      Does Jane actually refuse to vacate the conference room when you have clients on premises waiting for their meeting?

      1. Sammy*

        I think the PA does try to get hold of him at first. Sometimes he knows she is there, but is too busy to see her immediately. Other times the PA just can’t get hold of him straight away or he doesn’t respond for whatever reason (I guess if travelling then maybe he doesn’t get the message immediately, I’m not sure).

        Jane doesn’t totally refuse (she doesn’t say ‘no’), but she doesn’t always move or she takes her time packing up and moving. Or she will agree but just move to the other meeting room, which doesn’t really solve the problem.

        1. MJ*

          At the moment, boss is doing nothing because it means he doesn’t have to deal with wife. If the company starts losing clients, he still won’t do anything because he doesn’t want to deal with wife. It’s a lose-lose situation because their marriage is troubled.

          If boss is away, why doesn’t she use his office? Or you use his office?

          And it doesn’t matter that the new employees aren’t interested in the boss, in that way. The wife sounds she will believe what she wants to believe, and if she believes one of them looked at boss with a smile, they will be gone.

          You’re looking for alternative employment, right?

      2. TootsNYC*

        I would vote for writing “Jane arrived, in conf. room 3. 12:40” and slipping it in front of him.

        30 minutes later: “Jane still here, conf. room 3”

        60 minutes later…

  14. Fabulous*

    I had almost the opposite problem when I worked as a receptionist. Everyone had individual offices for client meetings and we had one conference room for larger meetings of 4+ people, visiting consultants or internal meetings. Our waiting room also only had seating for 4 at a time, so we often told clients they could use the conference room to wait, which ended up posing a problem when 4+ people were waiting and a larger meeting needed to happen. They didn’t plan that office layout well at all… LOL

  15. Amy*

    My company moved offices last year. Our old office had a drab boring standard conference room. Nobody really cared.

    Our new conference room has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides providing about 250 degree views of Midtown Manhattan from the 20th floor. Everybody wants to be in there now.

    So they had to get really strict. We have to sign up internally on a shared calendar. Client facing takes priority then large groups, then very senior people (not their spouses!) and after that it’s first come first serve. The schedule is displayed digitally outside the room, though a dry erase board would work too. It’s usually completely booked up 9 hours a day starting a few days out but sometimes months out for client stuff.

    Systems can be great.

  16. Looking for Logic in All the Wrong Places*

    Doesn’t Jane have a boss who might wonder why she spends more time at her husband’s office than at her own office?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If she’s working on her laptop, I’d assume that her boss just thinks she’s working from home.

        1. Sammy*

          As far as we know, she just works for another company. Although that is an assumption. Plus I don’t think it’s legal to use another company’s office for a second company without telling the building owner (and I’m guessing having to pay some sort of rent). So I doubt that is the case. That would be a whole new can of worms. I don’t know how we would go about checking that anyway.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            You can use any address you want for the most part. Lots of people share addresses in order to give someone a “mailing” address if they’re out of towners or don’t have a permanent address of their own. There’s nothing illegal about it.

            But that’s still a pretty huge stretch, unless she has her own business and that’s what the comment was aiming at.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              That’s what I was aiming at. Why else would she go there to work?
              I mean, if she comes in and is waiting, most people wouldn’t haul around their laptop and files and setup camp. Instead they might be using just a mobile phone if they were just intending to meet their husband for lunch or something. So again, why the heck would she bring all her “work” to hubby’s office?

              It’s weird! Something isn’t right, and the fact the Director knows she’s coming in and doing that makes me say she’s using that office as her own business office address.

  17. Jennifer*

    Oh, Jane. You need to resolve your own insecurities or the issues in your marriage instead of doing this. But that’s not anything the OP can help her with. Can the doors be locked, or can access be restricted in some other way? Can someone work from there during the day and kind of “reserve” the room, the same way you might reserve a picnic table at a busy park for the family cookout? These are kind of extreme suggestions but if nothing else has worked, I don’t know what can be done.

    1. Jennifer*

      Maybe multiple people need to sit in there so that every chair is taken. If only one person is there she may just take up residence across from them.

  18. StaceyIzMe*

    This is just over the top, in my view. But- if your director hasn’t put a hard stop to it by now, I’m not sure how much progress you can reasonably expect to make. If she’s regularly hanging out and he’s not completely obtuse, he’s aware enough to have performed the calculus with respect to impact on the workplace (and has, in all likelihood, concluded that it’s all good, as long as he isn’t directly experiencing said impact).

  19. BadWolf*

    It would be tempting to make her “stay” very non-relaxing. Set up a casual rotation of people who “need” or want to drop in on Jane. “Oh hey, Jane, didn’t see you in here” “Oops, gotta make a call in this room, Jane.” “Hey Jane, how was that weekend trip to the zoo?” “Did you see it started raining out there? Hope you brought your umbrella.” “Someone brought cookies in, wanted to make sure you know.” “Was there a folder left in here? I put the Darcy account down somewhere.” “Hey Jane, the lightbulb was flickering in here yesterday, are you seeing a flicker? Wondering if I need ask for a new bulb.”

    Assuming her sole purpose isn’t to keep an eye on things…the “free” conference room might lose appeal.

    Of course, this the kill them with annoying kindness approach when the better advice doesn’t work.

    1. Batgirl*

      Well, the woman is okay with giving a complete stranger the stinkeye, while being completely nonplussed that her husband pretty much ignores her. You’ve got to wonder what WOULD make her uncomfortable.

  20. Utoh!*

    Does she ever show up when someone is actually *using* the conference room…if so, what does she do?

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Can everyone ELSE camp out in all the conference rooms?

      I’m kidding. Mostly.

  21. Lemmy Caution*

    A bit sidestepping, but has anyone in the… past 20 years or so, actually had ”enough conference rooms”? When I started in IT and you could smoke in your office… *cough* there wasn’t really a need to book a room. Then came the cubicle farms and trouble started, though a manager had an office so you ended up there if you didn’t have a spare room available. Then even the managers got put into the whack-a-mole area so they started to squat in the conference rooms…

    Now open offices have their points, and I’ve seen some wacky concepts… like an office with huge long… imagine those national park picnic areas with the long wooden benches and tables. Something like that, and then you had screens fall down from the cieling as a ”tent” to provide privacy. (Seen similar ”fitting cabinets” in posh boutiques you go stand in a painted corcle on the floor, and a cloth tube falls down from the cieling to about a foot hight, and there you strip in the middle of the store…) But yeah, it was also the first such office there was no assigned seating and I saw the future and I will never complain of being in the whack-a-molery ever again…

    But conference rooms? No hope?

    1. EH*

      I think open office plans are at least partly to blame – they increase the number of people you can put in a space, but I’ve never seen a company go open-plan and increase the number of conference rooms available. More people but the same number of conference rooms.

    2. Lemmy Caution*

      And in an open office, it’s not the ”more people” but smaller things that need a bit of privacy or would cause disruption to others that make the need for conference rooms double or triple… I am just wondering who is the idiot who came up with this idea… not an architect who has to go to the studio and grab a random drawing board and spend half the morning adjusting it and then find all the ink has spilled in the box his pens are in…

    3. Light37*

      Nope. I work in a public library and we have free study/conference rooms that can be reserved a week in advance for up to 2 hours. Hardly a day goes by without people booking them using their business address, and I’ve had people flat-out tell me that it’s easier to get one here than it is where they work, so they’re willing to put up with the inconvenience of travelling to get here.

  22. cmcinnyc*

    My guess is that the director is fully aware of his wife’s behavior and has chosen not to address it. He “can’t be disturbed” and the PA has been blown off. The wife was instrumental in getting someone fired. And the glaring at women stuff is definitely in sexual harrassment territory. If the someone she got fired was a woman it’s probably over the line into discrimination there too. Do you have an HR dept? Is there someone who could quietly ask about this? As in, “The director’s wife is a disruptive part of our day-to-day lives–is that just the way it is here?” You say you’ve been there 9 months? Only 3 to go for a full year and JOB HUNT. Because I am skeptical given all the variables that this will change. It doesn’t sound like you have standing to address it. Everyone who does have standing, apparently has not addressed it. Or tried and failed. Back away. There are angry bees.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s accounting, I wouldn’t even bother with waiting 3 months. Unless your last job was also a short stint, it’s really not that big of a deal and won’t throw a job-hopper flag. Unless it’s a small area, it’s a good area to be looking for jobs in these days.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah, I think it’s a stand off between husband and wife. He’s hoping she’ll go away if ignored, and she’s hoping to get better access to him and a better peg on his whereabouts.
      I think they have a good shot of boss saying ‘no’ to the abuse of conference rooms.

    3. Light37*

      I’d start looking now, personally. The office has a Jane problem because Boss allows there to be a Jane problem, and it’s not going to get better from the sound of things. Someone already got fired because of this mess, so I would not be hopeful that it will get magically fixed.

  23. Commentariat*

    Assuming that OP has the right handle on the situation: “Jane is jealous and worried her husband is going to have an affair, so she camps out and stares creepily at young women in the office,” Jane’s position is pretty hard to defend.

    That said, the tone of these conversations is always, “Can you believe that wack job? What a nutcase.”
    What you are probably looking at is not so much of a wack job, as someone who has arrived at an unsuitable method of defending against a super common domestic disaster. Men with status/ women who are happy to fast track all that youthful struggle stuff are time-honored companions. We wear seatbelts and get vaccinated against tetanus, but the odds of getting tetanus or even a serious road accident are way, way smaller than the odds of a marriage breaking up over infidelity. If Jane is doing this because she’s trying to prevent an affair, and not because she needs a coworking space or whatever, she has picked an annoying, exhausting and ineffectual—I guess?–method. But— people spend most of their time at work, workplace affairs are common, and there’s no workman’s comp for divorce. If I’m, say, the former wife of David Brooks, I probably didn’t have any practical tools to prevent his falling in love with his 30 year old research assistant. I would no doubt have been too dignified to look for any. Perhaps I believed the fashionable consensus that only bad marriages founder on workplace infidelity, or if I didn’t believe it, I would have kept my thoughts to myself, because the accepted cultural attitude is sublime disregard. Note that I am not saying Jane is *right* to hover like a drone over her husband. I’m just saying I’m tired of the scorn heaped on spouses for being wary of the possibility, as if it weren’t more likely than breast cancer or getting creamed on your bike or most of the other disasters we try hard to foresee and prevent.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Then these people shouldn’t be married. It’s a risk you take, you may get hurt, things can happen but you don’t get to just waltz around acting out and lurking in the corners, glaring at everyone who may be a possible target for your spouse who already is checked out and on the prowl.

      Yeah sorry, there’s no promise or vaccination against being the victim of a cheater. Just like there’s no vaccination against a lot of things we deal with on a life long basis.

      My loved ones will all die one day too, so should I lurk around and watch just in case I can shove them out of the way of that bus they don’t see? Come on now, you’re being unreasonable.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Nope. If you don’t trust your spouse, leave them. Or make them wear a chastity belt or something, but you don’t get to make this a workplace problem. Also, infidelity isn’t caused by the betrayed spouse because they didn’t spy on their cheater enough. People cheat because they choose to. It’s a character flaw in the cheater, not a surveillance failing in the other spouse.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


        You either cheat or you don’t. If you are not the type, you can share an office all day with the most attractive coworkers of your preferred gender(s) in the world, and nothing will happen. Most of us don’t do it. Most of OP’s coworkers would never do it. That Jane’s husband might be into it, does not mean anyone else in that workplace is.

    3. Batgirl*

      An objection to Jane’s presence isn’t necessarily ‘sublime disregard’ to infidelity. If I were in that office, I’d be very concerned about the infidelity vibe! Particularly as someone guilty of nothing more than being a young woman. Honestly, her approach is more like that of someone who was originally extra-marital anyway. The fun tug of war is over, and left her with a questionable prize.
      I’ve been the wife who had to verify what was going on for filing of divorce purposes: what Jane is doing is not that. Nor is it preventative.
      She’s doing it for sheer love of competition; because she enjoys hovering and staring down a younger woman No one is stopping her dropping by for lunch, or meeting him at the end of the workday, or even stopping by randomly but briefly. Hell, she can park at the end of the street with binoculars, or get a PI; but she won’t because she enjoys the personal touch when it comes to intimidating people.

    4. Kat in VA*

      She’s free to stalk, eyeball, track, and hound him as much as she wants. Her circus, her monkeys. However, interrupting the flow of business at work by squatting in conference rooms and refusing to leave, giving snake eyes to someone who doesn’t deserve it, and managing to be a total nuisance are *not* the way to go about it.

      I understand your point that some people will go to great lengths to avoid having a workplace affair happen to them because it is relatively commonplace – right down to keyloggers and camping out in the parking lot with a pair of binoculars.

      However, her behavior goes above and beyond and is actually disrupting people’s jobs.

      1. Commentariat*

        Yeah, I am not supporting the behavior— didn’t I make that clear? Sounds like I didn’t. The limited point I am trying unsuccessfully to get across is that it is not per se batshit crazy to worry about workplace infidelity when it is as common as grass.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Yeah, I think maybe a little unclear. I hear what you’re saying that it does happen, and commonly to boot. The sad part is, if he’s inclined to stray, all of her shenanigans won’t stop him from doing so. It might make it more difficult, but if he’s determined to go outside his marriage, her eyeballing him within an inch of his life (and making everyone else uncomfortable at his work) won’t help. It’s a bummer, but cheaters gonna cheat.

          1. valentine*

            it is not per se batshit crazy to worry about workplace infidelity
            She’s doing far more than worrying. She’s stalking and harassing and disrupting and preventing work. And, far from preventing infidelity, it tells her husband when he’s safe.

            1. Allypopx*

              ^ This. People are certainly entitled to their feelings and concerns, but that doesn’t excuse how they choose to behave in response to those feelings and concerns.

  24. AKchic*

    It seems like it’s time to manage Jane’s visits (and your boss) a little bit more efficiently.

    “Hi Jane, I’ll let Boss know you’re here!” and do so. She can’t wait around for him for hours if he is aware she is there from the get-go. It also makes it seem more urgent if someone alerts him.
    Start putting up daily schedules on the conference/meeting room doors so everyone is aware of the scheduling. When you need to go set up, be firm. “Jane, I’m sorry, but I need to set up for the meeting now. Has Boss gotten to see you yet?” Act confused because why wouldn’t he have seen her yet so she could be on her way?

    Document all of her visits. Time in, time out (and yeah, make her sign the visitor sign in sheet every time she’s there, too. It’s also for emergency evacuations y’know. Gotta know who may have been in the building. Document the glares, the conference room take overs. Everything.
    Definitely bring it up with a higher up who can bring it up with the boss. She’s getting free office space, but more importantly, she’s creating an uncomfortable (at least) environment for women she may perceive as competition for her husband’s affections and that is gross.

    1. TootsNYC*

      maybe everyone who sees her should say, “Oh, Hi, Jane, I’ll let your husband know you’re here,” and turn around and hand him a post-it note w/ “Jane is in conf. room 3 waiting for you. 2:15pm”

      Just all of you act as though you’re the receptionist.

      (I’d kind of love it if the two women felt brave enough to say, “Jane, is there a reason you’re staring at me? It looks as though you’re angry. What’s up?” Drag this stuff right out into the sunshine.)

      1. AKchic*

        I like that kind of challenge too. Make her keenly aware that it’s noticed and not going to go unchallenged.

  25. H.Regalis*

    I read it as she is attracted to them, which made the staring seem like a bold (and ill-advised) move. You shouldn’t be eye-fucking your partner’s employees. Whatever the reason for the staring though, it needs to stop. That is creepy and the power dynamics make it worse.

  26. June First*

    If I were repeatedly being stared at like that, I’d be tempted to ask if I had something on my face. Even better, I’d say in a super cheerful face, “Ooooh! I get it! Staring contest. I LOVE those!! 123-go!” and dramatically stare back at her.

    Just kidding. I would just marinate in the uncomfortable atmosphere.

    1. valentine*

      Jane is still second to the kid who infected staff with norovirus, but her firing someone is possibly above the kid who kicked Mom’s employee in the genitals.

      1. Allypopx*

        PERSONALLY I’d rather get norovirus than get the stinkeye at work all day from my boss’s wife. I acknowledge that is possibly not an across the board opinion though.

  27. boop the first*

    Do you guys not have any security at all? Boss’ wife or not, this is an unauthorized stranger entering a workplace. If a random person walked in with a concealed weapon is everyone going to look the other way because maybe it’s Joe-from-accounting’s cousin? I’ve worked in places where my coworkers were violently stabbed, because of people just coming and going through unlocked back doors.

  28. Eeee*

    I would ask the director if you can set up an office or cube for his wife to use. It’s a way to solve the problem without sounding like you are complaining about her – you want her to be even more comfortable and welcome than she already is!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is brilliant. It would call attention to how often she is there in case director doesn’t know…and in a way that the worst outcome is the same thing you’ve already got !

  29. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I’m sure Boss is aware of this, it’s just the extent to which it’s happening that he may not be aware of. It also occurred to me that he may be planning to divorce her in the near future, so he doesn’t want to make waves now. Also, how many of us believe that Jane has an actual job? Maybe she did at one time. And showing up when she knows he’s not there? Maybe he doesn’t know that she doesn’t still have an actual job.

    As far as preventing someone from cheating, you cannot build a wall high enough.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve been wondering that…maybe she’s job-hunting. And glaring at the relatively new hires because she thought she (Jane) “deserved” one of those jobs.

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