my employee is needy and gossipy

A reader writes:

I work for a small company that’s very fast-paced. I have two reports in admin roles, Amelia and Molly. They were hired at the same time about five months ago and work in the same office (literally one room — we’re looking for a bigger space) in a different state from me and our main office.

They’ve hated each other from week one. Amelia is standoffish and quiet. Molly is loud and overbearing. Despite their personality clash, both do great work! They learn fast and don’t make many mistakes.

My main issue is Molly. She’s very needy and gossipy. I wear a ton of hats in my role and have constant demands on my time from others. I don’t have a lot of time to spend just chatting or going over things that are under control. I’ve tried to be up-front from day one that I’m happy to answer questions, explain processes, etc., but that my schedule is unpredictable and I can’t always respond immediately.

I got an email from Molly the other day asking if I was okay because she hadn’t heard from me in awhile. We’d emailed the day before and spoken on the phone a couple days before that! I’ve gotten the sense that Molly wants to spend a lot of time on the phone with me and wants acknowledgement/praise on every small task she completes. Every time we talk on the phone, she rambles and it ends up being literally an hour-long conversation. I know making small talk is part of work relationships, but five minutes of that seems more appropriate to me. I’ve also told her she’s doing great several times. I can’t and won’t talk to her on the phone daily (it’s totally unnecessary — weekly phone check-ins seem fine to me) and also don’t feel like every email I’m cc’d on needs a response from me.

Molly also seems to be jealous of Amelia (they are in no way in competition). She “tells” on her to me (“did you know she left early today?!”). She asks repeatedly if Amelia is doing a good job and seems skeptical when I say yes. She seems offended if I spend more time on the phone with Amelia than her (our projects overlap more so it happens). I’ve told her several times I’m happy with Amelia’s work and want her (and Molly) to be here. I’ve acknowledged Amelia can be standoffish and asked if this impacts Molly’s ability to do her job but she says no.

How do I set expectations with Molly about (a) what I can give in terms of my time and attention and (b) that I do not want to gossip, especially about my other employee? Molly’s capable of doing good work with minimal oversight and I need her to be okay with that and not ask for hand-holding she doesn’t need. I’m scared of alienating her and potentially causing her to leave, which I definitely do not want since she’s so strong at the actual work part of her job.

Sometimes people are great at their work but their conduct is deeply problematic. As a manager, you have to be willing to address that without being deterred by the fear that it could drive them to leave. Frankly, in most cases it doesn’t drive people away— but if being direct with Molly about how you need her to operate does cause her to leave, that would be a sign that she was never going to work out in the role.

It’s also likely that if you clearly set expectations with Molly about what you need her to change, she’ll get the message, adjust, and things will be fine. And you owe it to her to do that — because right now she’s annoying the crap out of her boss, and she deserves to know what she should be doing differently.

So at your next check-in with her, say something like this: “Now that you’ve been here five months and are settling into the job, I want to revisit how we’re handling our communication. Because my schedule is so busy, I need to save most of our conversations for our weekly check-ins. If something is very urgent, we can of course talk outside of those, but in general, I’d like to you to save up anything that isn’t urgent for our standing weekly calls. We’ve been getting on the phone a lot more frequently than that, and going forward, I need to funnel most of that to our check-ins, so I’m managing my time better.”

Ask if she foresees any problems with that that you should talk through now. And if she doesn’t seem totally clear on what you want, use some recent examples to talk through what it means. It can really help to say something like, “So for example, our conversations about X and Y earlier this week — because those weren’t time-sensitive, going forward I’d want you to save those for our check-ins. On the other hand, Z was time-sensitive because you couldn’t move forward without getting answers from me. With things like that, call or email rather than waiting for our meeting.”

Then, from there, if the problem continues, set and enforce boundaries! It’s okay to say, “I’m in back-to-back meetings today so will you put this on our list for our next check-in?” If you don’t do that, she’ll understandably think the frequent calls are fine. But if you’re assertive about setting the boundaries you need, she’s likely to learn them too.

If you’re on a call with her and she’s rambling or spending too much time on small talk, you can say, “I don’t have a lot of time today, so we better talk about the questions you had.” If she’s gossiping about people (not Amelia — more on that in a sec), shut that down by saying, “Well, enough of that! So about (work topic)…” If the gossip is pretty blatant, say, “Well, we don’t want to gossip. So about (work topic)…”

You also should try giving her time markers at the start of calls — like “I have about 10 minutes and then I need to get back to this proposal” — to help her make better use of the time.

Keep in mind that as her manager, you have all the power here! You can take control of these conversations, shut down anything you want to shut down, redirect as needed, move the call along, and end it when you think it’s time.

You also need to firmly shut down the comments about Amelia. The next time Molly reports on Amelia to you, you need to say, “I trust Amelia to manage her own schedule. This is not something you need to keep track of or tell me about.” And if it continues: “I’ve asked you in the past not to report to me about Amelia. Please don’t do it again.” And if it still continues: “I’m concerned that you keep reporting on Amelia after I’ve repeatedly told you not to. What’s going on?”

If she asks again if Amelia is doing a good job, say this: “You’ve asked me that before. Do you have a specific concern about Amelia’s work that impacting you?” And then hear her out, because who knows — you’re in a different office than them, and it’s possible Molly is seeing things that are genuinely concerning. But if she is, she needs to tell you what’s going on, not keep hinting around. And if she doesn’t name anything specific in response to your question, then you should say, “If you have a specific concern in the future, please bring it to me — but otherwise it’s not appropriate to keep asking me how a colleague doing. I’m not going to discuss her performance with you, just like I wouldn’t discuss yours with her.”

With all of this, the first time you convey one of these messages, you can use a warm, friendly tone to say it. If the problems continue after that, your tone needs to get increasingly serious (which is a kindness to her so that she understands it’s serious). But to start, you’re just clarifying expectations and letting her know how you want things to work. Being very clear about it may be all it takes.

{ 282 comments… read them below }

  1. Rose Tyler*

    I’m sort of surprised at Allison’s advice here – when you’re managing remote employees I think you need to be really intentional about keeping an interpersonal connection running smoothly. When OP says that they feel like they are talking with their employee enough because they emailed yesterday and talked on the phone a few days before that, to me that’s pretty sparse. Now, Molly’s preference for hour-long talks is too far in the other direction, but I personally wouldn’t advocate for trying to shift all non-urgent communication just to a weekly check-in.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is probably situational. If they are in a role where their duties are well defined and they understand them and know how to do them well, then there may not be a need for a ton of communication. I suspect those hour-long phone calls would be more like ten minutes if Molly wouldn’t ramble.

      1. valentine*

        that’s pretty sparse
        Molly is using OP to socialize because Amelia’s not providing that for her. If Molly can’t move to the main office (where she might still be a nuisance, depending on how much interaction she wants at work) or fulfill her need for talk/sound outside of work, it’s best to let her go so she can find the environment she’s seeking to create.

        OP: Is it possible Amelia is not standoffish per se, but as a response to being stuck with Molly? Is Amelia more personable when Molly’s out? Does Molly call more when Amelia’s out? Separating them might serve everyone.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            After reading this I had a gut-deep pity for poor Ameila. I would be way more worried about her leaving.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It’s not a coworker’s job to provide a social outlet. That’s on Molly to do on her own time.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            I could get behind this to a degree. I think in this case it’s a perfect example of why doing due diligence in interviewing is key. Clearly Molly didn’t ask about the working environment, or didn’t factor in only having one colleague. Or perhaps it’s her first time working remote and it’s not what she expects.

            It’s a shame for all three of them as it’s problematic all around. I personally would likely be wearing my earbuds all day long so I could focus.

            That said, Molly has Red Flag written all over her. She’s only five months in and is working to unseat OP’s confidence in her colleague. I have a feeling that she might be toxic (and/or just came from a toxic work environment and needs to shed some bad habits), based on my past supervision experience. I would be watching her like a hawk (well…as much as is feasible from out of the office), and increasing my check ins with Amelia.

            OP – I would really love an update, if you remember/are so inclined. Good luck! :)

            1. Jule*

              “I have a feeling that she might be toxic”

              Can I ask sincerely what you mean by this? I mean, if someone came in here and said “sounds like she’s poisonous.” that would pretty intense, extremely personal, and indicative of an issue that requires instant firing, right?

              1. Marie*

                I recently left a workplace where blame and credit were parceled out in proportion to how skillfully you could back-stab. That’s toxic. My former coworkers didn’t used to be like that in past jobs (tiny field so we had ex classmates/coworker in common). Those are maladaptive coping strategies that need to be consciously discarded as soon as possible.

                I was full time remote, thankfully as my cats were much better company.

                1. Jule*

                  Mmmhmm, you describe your workplace as toxic. I’m still interested in hearing a response about calling a person toxic if AnnaBananna stops back here.

          2. Isabel Kunkle*

            This. I am #teamamelia so hard: the more chatty people get to me–five minutes here and there is fine, or a non-directed post on a group Slack channel that I can respond to or not whenever, but being cornered for conversation either live or online is not–especially when I’m on deadline, the more I start resenting them.

            Molly needs a life. And a grip.

          1. Meercat*

            I think it’s a little more nuanced. Yes you are right about that on a fact basis. However, in reality, a lot of us get social contact in a work environment, we make work friends, we chat with people (to a degree – not for hours) and that can all part of a normal work environment. I agree with the commenter above that it’s probably that Molly needs / is used to a bit more social interactions at work and this setting isn’t doing that. It can be a case of not every work setting is for everyone. (And I used to work remote, and even then we would have a fair bit of social interaction via little chats at the beginning of 1:1, and a group skype chat) and that was very valued by everyone on the team.
            Now, having said that, the degree to which Molly seems to be looking for interaction (plus the things about speaking negatively about Amelia etc.) are all signs that this is more serious, but on the face of it I think it would be judged too harshly just saying ‘oh work isn’t social’.

            1. LizM*

              This right here.

              I work in a regional office and had a special project for our headquarters office a few years ago. Because our regional office was having the parking lot redone, I (along with others) was given permission to work 100% from home.

              A couple weeks in, I found myself going into the office a few days a week because I hadn’t realized how much that social interaction kept me sane. I realized that moving to permanent remote work would require a huge change to my lifestyle. Not everyone is suited for remote work.

              I still agree with Allison’s advice, it just may be that this isn’t a good fit for Molly.

              1. LizM*

                And just to be clear, I’m not talking hour long gossip sessions. Just a quick 15 min walk to Starbucks on a break or someone to eat lunch with in the cafeteria.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          If I were Amelia I’d be very standoffish. There’s no way I’d provide information to a gossip.

          I’m also concerned about the one sided rivalry. I’d be worried about Molly doing things to impact Amelia. And I would also be very worried about Amelia leaving due to the intrusions.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Yup. There’s people at my work who probably consider me very reserved. I’m actually naturally pretty bubbly.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Agreed. The more needy for attention Molly gets, I bet the more Amelia stiff-arms her to enforce boundaries and have some peace and quiet.

            If they work remotely from the main office, don’t seem to be doing any customer-facing tasks, and their work doesn’t rely on the other…could they not work away from each other? Why look for a bigger remote office when no office might be the better solution. Then Amelia gets her peace, and Molly can sit in the middle of Times Square talking to the tourists if she wants attention. I don’t think more square footage is going to fix the problem one bit. One of them is going to quit, and since the amount of attention Molly seems to require is unsustainable for the OP, go ahead and let it be her.

          3. boo bot*

            “I’d be worried about Molly doing things to impact Amelia”

            Yes to this. I think it might be a good idea for the OP to talk to Amelia a little more about how this is going for her. Without talking specifically about what Molly has been doing, I think she can ask some questions and be really clear that Amelia can come to her with any issues.

            Right now, Molly has engineered a situation where she and the OP discuss Amelia’s work and conduct, even though the OP is not an enthusiastic participant. The OP needs to shut that down, but I think she also needs to correct for it and make sure Amelia doesn’t feel like she can’t raise concerns about Molly because Molly and the OP appear to be aligned.

          4. YoungTen*

            Thank You! Why interact with someone whos looking for things to tell the boss. Quiet people are usually good at judging the character of those around them. Plus, it’s not hard to see where you stand with a loud-mouth.

          5. Salymander*


            I would be reserved with a coworker like Molly. She is actively trying to sabotage Amelia’s job, her reputation, and her relationship with her boss. That sounds pretty toxic to me. Also, being introverted is not a personality flaw, and it doesn’t sound like it has a negative impact on Amelia’s work. Molly’s personality, however, seems to be interfering with her own work as well as OP’s and Amelia’s.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          “Molly is using OP to socialize because Amelia’s not providing that for her.”

          This. Molly wants/needs to…talk and Amelia isn’t indulging her.

        4. JSPA*

          Thing is, as standoffish as Amelia may or may not be, Molly isn’t trying to get her to chat more, she’s trying (so far as we can tell) to drive her away.

          Either that, or Molly can’t wrap her head around the idea that two very different people can both be the right person for two similar jobs.

          Or she’s under the misconception that one proves oneself to be manager material by pulling this crud.

          I’d call her directly on style issues, and explicitly re-direct:

          “Style and temperament are not part of the job description. Excellence and dependability are. I will notice if someone’s product is inadequate or missing. The only feedback I need to hear on a coworker is if there’s a really significant problem that only you can see. Anything outside of that isn’t just unhelpful, it’s unprofessional. Your professional product is excellent; don’t harm yourself and your brand by veering out of your lane. It’s not managerial behavior, it’s problematic behavior.”

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Unless Molly’s work is reliant upon communicating with OP, frequent check ins are not necessary. Alison’s advice is spot on IMO. OP needs to be direct about expectations, hear Molly out if she has any legitimate concerns and work to address them if necessary. But it sounds to me like Molly is very social, doesn’t like her co-worker, and goes to OP for interaction.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      I think it really comes down to the individual remote employee. I work remotely from my boss (she’s in another country entirely and six hours ahead of me timezone-wise), and she and I only really speak once a week during our weekly team meeting. We might IM or email each other from time to time between then, but our communication is what you would consider sparse and what I think is just right. I specifically sought a work from home/remote job so I could get out from under micromanagers and regular managers who always liked to come over to my desk and talk all the time – this level of communication is a godsend to someone like me who just wants to get assignments and be left alone.

      1. Clisby*

        STANDOFFISH! Seriously, I don’t even know what this means in the letter. Is Amelia refusing to acknowledge Molly’s presence? Or is she just focusing on her work and not being sociable? (It doesn’t sound like they’re particularly dependent on each other to get work done.)

        1. SuperAnon*

          If Molly is the type of clingy needy person OP describes her as, then if I were Amelia, I too would be standoffish, meaning: not feeding into Molly’s chatter, not responding to every off-topic comment, not agreeing to gossip with her about boss (because I’d bet Molly attempted that too), shutting down Molly’s millions of Qs that don’t need responses.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          I think it’s the latter, and like SuperAnon, I’d be the same way in that situation. Molly would only get a hello and goodbye from me – she’s too much.

      2. wfh?*

        Fortitude, how do you find these types of jobs? Sorry if off-topic, but I think I would love this set up. My long-term partner has worked from home for over a year, but he is on-call basically 24-7. I guess I wouldn’t mind that trade-off, if it was necessary.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I actually found a lot of these types of jobs through Indeed and Glassdoor. The thing is, I’m a writer who was looking for writing jobs, especially in the proposal development/technical writing field, so more companies are now realizing that they don’t need to have their writers in house. I work in tech now, and that’s another industry that has a lot of remote/work from home positions, so try to target fields that lend themselves to that set up and set up alerts on the major job boards.

        2. Marie*

          Look for careers where everything is done on a laptop and roles that are independent like senior contributors. Contracting is another option. I worked full time remote for 3 years, and the commute was outstanding lol.

    4. Kathleen_A*

      With an ordinary employee, you may be right. If the OP could trust Molly to talk about non-urgent things outside the weekly check-in only when it was really necessary, that’s one thing.

      But she can’t. Molly needs to be completely retrained on this issue, even though the rest of her work is good. So maybe the OP really does need to be pretty specific, at least until Molly learns to discern those things that can wait, those things that can wait a while though perhaps not for a full week, and those things that are urgent. She doesn’t seem to have that discernment now, though.

      1. nonymous*

        In this situation I would probably put Molly on a 2-day a week plan. Allocate (schedule) 15 minutes T/Th (or whatever days make sense) for check-ins and hold her accountable for keeping to the allotted time. To the point of sending out an agenda, giving her a 2 minute warning, and instead of going over time tabling anything else for the next check in (which is only two days away). In my agendas I will summarize work that has been accomplished in the previous week, but the discussion is focused on identifying next week’s goals (and what initial input I need from Supervisor to act on them). That way Molly knows that OP is “seeing” her work, and there’s a clear spot on the calendar for getting feedback, but there’s also pressure to be concise.

        And then at her quarterly review, set a goal of reducing that to once a week.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I read “retrained“ as “restrained.”

        Molly needs to do her socialization with family and friends.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty standardized advice for this kind of setup. If someone doesn’t require daily supervision and daily interaction, it’s just the way the jobs work.

      It sounds more like Molly isn’t in tune with how the office is setup to operate. With her being pretty free-range, along with Amelia being in charge of her own time management and check-ins when necessary.

      It sounds like what Molly is doing doesn’t require much interaction with the boss. So why would they check in daily when it’s not necessary and the boss has a packed schedule? Most 1:1’s are on a weekly or even bi-weekly schedule because it’s overkill to talk more often than that. It’s about establishing communication requirements for the job as fit for the positions at hand.

      In the end it seems like Molly is a great worker but she may be in an office setup that she’s not happy in. She’s working with just one person, who she doesn’t like much, who doesn’t talk to her much and is “standoffish” and now her boss is like “Gurl you talk too much tho.” Which stinks but it’s better to be up front with her so she can either acclimate to or go somewhere she’s much happier in!

      1. Rose Tyler*

        Yeah, I’m not suggesting a daily check-in, that would be a little much. I think some of this goes to culture – in my workplace not talking to a direct report for several days in a row would be out of place, but a quick “hey, how’s it going” IM would count as contact. We’re also all pretty good about keeping chit-chat short because everyone always has too much on their plate. If you’ve got someone who is more socially-focused at work I can see how that would be a challenge.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I agree that going several days without interacting is strange, that’s for sure! However the OP doesn’t give me that idea. She said she had a few days prior talked on the phone and then the day prior had emailed her. So that’s not several days without talking, it’s just a different form of communication, which may also be a huge issue here for Molly as well! She seems to prefer the phone and the boss seems to prefer email/chat feature since that’s less “immediately” time consuming.

          I think it may be good to establish that “email counts as communication” if that turns out to be the case.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          My boss/coworkers and I check in daily but if we were working remotely we wouldn’t really need to. I only *need* my supervisors for certain things; a whole lot of what I do is really independent.

        3. Kathleen_A*

          Back when I was a remote employee, I’d generally talk to my boss once or twice/week. If there was an issue, I could and did call him more often, but it usually wasn’t necessary. We were located an awkward distance apart (about 300 miles – far enough that it was a very long drive but short enough and badly placed enough that air travel just wasn’t a good option) so we’d only meet in person maybe 6 times/year.

          1. Marisa Meyer wannabee*

            This is exhibit A for those of us who (like Marisa Meyer) are leery of long-term telework arrangements. A well functioning team needs to be on contact much more than once a week and often more than once a day. I am sure there are some situation specific exceptions, of course, but my gut reaction is that OP needs to make more time for communication with her team — or at least hire someone else who will to do so. Molly may have a tendency to ramble but that is not the fundamental problem here.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s really not true. Many, many well functioning teams don’t have contact more than once or twice a week; it really depends on the nature of the work.

            2. Yorick*

              This just isn’t true. It depends on the nature of your work. I work on long-term projects (mostly ones I came up with myself), so I don’t need regular interaction with my boss to be able to complete my work properly. Even when we do collaborate on a project, we mostly just do our parts on our own.

            3. Kathleen_A*

              I agree. There are jobs where more frequent check-ins might be necessary, but mine (either the one I had then or the one I have now) isn’t one of them.

              I basically work on three continuing projects. It’s three different publications (two monthly and one quarterly), I’m very experienced with them, and they follow a pattern that generally varies only slightly, if at all, from issue to issue. They take a lot of work, but almost none of it involves my boss. Although there are of course exceptions, as a general rule, I honestly struggle a bit to come up with much to say during my *weekly* check-ins.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        *raises hand* If everything is going well, it wouldn’t be unusual for my communication to be emails every few days. It’s quite lovely when that happens. Lots of email usually means a string of “Where the directions say groom the llama, they actually mean paint the llama chartreuse…”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I don’t talk to my boss every day either, besides a “good morning” and a “good night” frequently enough as well.

          It’s nice too because we really do have time to chat when the occasion pops up. Since we’re not draining our conversations every single time.

          I’m also very happy to just communicate in writing [shocking, right?]. So often my communication is just me IM’ing my boss stupid links to ridiculous office furniture when I’m looking for a replacement chair or whatever it may be. “Can we get this one? It’s pirate themed…we could totally work this into my plans to create a mascot for the company…” and I hear him cackling from his office and I go about my business.

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          I have been both Molly/Amelia (working for a boss remotely) and the OP (managing employees remotely). In neither of those instances did I need daily phone calls…and my manager/direct reports did not need them either. We were in semi-frequent email contact, but phone calls were generally scheduled once weekly, with additional calls if projects required them. In other words, we had an Amelia relationship and that worked extremely well.

          BTW, none of this meant we were not social with each other. When I saw my remote employees/bosses (every 1-2 months), we had extended chats and would eat lunch together. We just didn’t see the need to use our phone time for social calls.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          You made me nearly spit out my tea… I had some chartreuse clarification on a project this week. Beautiful phrase to turn my annoyance into amusement.

        4. Isabel Kunkle*


          I work remotely and there are about four people I talk to every day, technically, but it’s really just a “here’s the teapot ready for you to paint, have a good weekend/hope you had a good weekend/how about that weather we’re having” two-line exchange unless questions come up. I probably have the same thing with my boss once every week or so, but that’s more a “hey, can you grab this thing?” or “hey, I had a question about X,” and we have a scheduled chat for fifteen or twenty minutes every month. There are team meetings and such every two weeks, but I don’t talk at all in one–it’s all-hands and basically down to our leader and presenters–and the other has everyone give a two-minute update on what they’re doing.

          I have actual friends I don’t talk to as much or as regularly as Molly seems to want to chat with Amelia/the OP. Hell, I have a *mother* I don’t talk to that regularly, and we’re pretty close.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        I think the weekend messed with my head. First I read “retrained“ as restrained and now “positions” as “prostitutions.” I think it’s margarita time…

    6. ooo*

      Like everything, this is all about context. If Molly were just asking for more communication, I’m guessing the advice would have been different. But Molly is also rambling on about her personal life and making inappropriate conversation about Amelia. Her boundaries and expectations are clearly out of whack.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Yup – outside of good morning or good night there can be 3-4 days without an actual discussion and I can see both of them from where I sit. Unless there is a business need or a funny story (2-3 minutes), I don’t need a rehash of their day and they don’t need one of mine. If they wanted that I’d be much less choosy while job hunting.

          1. Alanna of Trebond*

            On the other hand, I talk to my bosses and my reports — remote or in person — much, much more than this, and that’s also fine with all of us! I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong level of communication; it depends on the company culture, the needs of the job, the personality of the people involved, etc. The problem is that Molly’s style isn’t working for her manager, and it’s the manager’s prerogative to set the terms here. She needs to speak up and draw a boundary.

        2. Anonymeece*

          Same. I actually prefer it – if I have a problem, I go to her, but otherwise she kind of leaves me alone and I leave her alone.

          Some people want more communication with their boss (it sounds like Molly may be the type), but others are pretty happy without it. Not having communication isn’t automatically a bad thing, if all parties involved are happy and there aren’t any problems with the work.

        3. lemon*

          Yeah, at Old Job, my office was right next to my boss’ office, and I only talked to him once a week at our weekly status meeting. That would have been a totally fine set-up for me if he’d actually been present and engaged at those weekly meetings, but he frequently cancelled or would show up 20 minutes late (to a half-hour meeting), and also wasn’t good at answering email in timely fashion. So, it’s more about quality of the time spent with your boss, and not quantity.

      1. a1*

        I’d say it’s precisely because you are in the same office that you (or the more general “one”) does not feel the need to talk to them that much. You are more connected to each other by the sheer fact that you see each other nearly every day. It can be difficult to feel that connection with people in other office or otherwise remote, even with occassional emails and weekly “one on ones”. It’s really not the same.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          It’s not, but it’s also fantastic for self-sufficient, independent workers who don’t feel the need to socialize all the time in the workplace. It sounds like OP wants less contact (she’s more on Amelia’s wavelength there) and Molly wants more, so Molly may just have to face the fact that this arrangement isn’t right for her and go find an office job that will provide her with the social interaction she so desperately craves ‘cause she’s not going to get it here.

        2. smoke tree*

          On the other hand, I also work from home and certainly don’t need to spend an hour every day catching up with my boss. We talk pretty regularly through chat, email or phone depending on what the conversation is, but I don’t feel the need to make extra conversation just because I’m remote.

    7. Knitrex*

      Agreed! As a remote employee myself I feel much more engaged when my manager is available. I talk to her every day usually by instant messenger.

      I do find the time markers helpful though. If I know I only have 10 minutes I can prioritize as needed.

    8. Jadelyn*

      I’d say that depends on several factors, the big ones being how independent the employee’s tasks are, and how accessible the boss is when truly needed.

      I work directly for our VP. He spends a fair bit of time traveling or working from home, to the point where I sometimes tease him about it when he shows up in the office. But he’s made a point of replying quickly to IMs, calls, and texts from me when I’m trying to get his okay on something time-sensitive, and for the most part my work is pretty independent anyway, so it still works fine.

      There have been times in the past when he’s less accessible, and it’s made me more anxious about needing contact with him, simply because there could be problems if I need his decision on something and can’t get that in timely fashion, and I felt like there was a significant chance I wouldn’t be able to. It made me grab onto any bit of communication I got.

      But that was the point at which we used our people words and discussed the issue, resolved it, and moved forward. Maybe if Molly feels reassured that she can get urgent guidance from OP when she really needs it, that might alleviate some of the clingyness.

    9. Alanna of Trebond*

      I agree that this sounds sparse to me, but Molly getting in touch to basically ask “Are you alive?!” isn’t appropriate either. It doesn’t sound like Molly reached out because she needed her manager’s input on something specific, or even just to check in about priorities — she just wanted some contact/connection.

      More broadly, OP, it seems like Molly is treating you more like a friend/confidant and less like a boss, and you’re letting it happen because you’re worried about alienating her. You need to draw some boundaries with her. Allison’s suggestions are a great place to start.

    10. Jules the 3rd*

      It really varies, and the manager should be in a good position to assess how much is needed.

      I talk to my remote manager 2x / mo if I’m lucky. 1x / mo worked well when I had a team lead who saw and understood my work and could advocate for me in assessments. Since I got a new team lead who doesn’t, I’ve been trying to get on my manager’s radar a little more often, but… 1x / week to run through what I’ve accomplished would be great. However, since he’s managing 17 people on top of operational duties, it’s just not an option.

      Any more than 1x/week would only happen if there’s a problem in my area that he’ll get pulled into.

    11. Liane*

      Depends on the job, and some don’t need much. My one remote job (medical transcription QA/editor), I only needed to IM/email my supervisor if I had a question, aside from my start/end of day emails. When I started working in the office, there was hardly more interaction with my supervisor or coworkers, since 90% of the time everyone had headsets on, listening to dictations while reading transcripts. In office or WFH, it wasn’t a job where there was time for much chatting, since everyone had a lot of transcriptions to edit and the required turnaround time could be a few hours.

      A friend is currently mostly remote, and I gather he works very independently during the day–he gets on, does his job and all that matters to the boss is the work gets done. He’s held the position for 2-3 years, so knows everything, and it’s not a job with a lot of interaction even when he is in the office.

    12. Random Thought*

      I agree. I work in a different state than my boss and I prefer to hear from her at least once a day, even if it’s just a “Thanks” in response to an fyi email. 90% of my job is not contingent on responses on her so I’m not hamstrung if I dont hear back, but I don’t like to be out of sight/out of mind either.

    13. Clisby*

      Hmm. Even when I worked in an office, once I got past the trainee stage, that’s probably about how often I talked with my supervisor. When I switched to working remote, the vast majority of my interaction was through email. It sounds to me like Molly just wants somebody to talk to, and since Amelia doesn’t want to step up and be BFF, Molly’s looking to LW to fill the bill.

      The more I think about this – Molly just needs to move on to a workplace with a lot more employees, which could increase the chance she’ll find a few who want to socialize with her.

    14. JD*

      I think it’s situational. I’ve been the remote employee (intern, actually) with almost no feedback, and it worked out OK.

      There was another time in a similar situation where it worked out terribly, but that was kind of on me. In retrospect I wasn’t a good fit for the role.

  2. Fortitude Jones*

    I’ve acknowledged Amelia can be standoffish

    Yeah, don’t do this. It’s not at all cool to basically badmouth one employee to another, especially one who’s an annoying gossip (gee, I wonder why Amelia doesn’t talk to her?) – she’ll take it right back to Amelia and take it out of context, and then you’ll have an Amelia problem on top of your Molly problem.

    Good luck to you, OP. Molly’s a piece of work and sounds utterly exhausting.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      RIGHT?! I’d be standoffish with Molly, too, if I were in Amelia’s shoes. I like to get along with my coworkers, and am happy to chat sometimes. But the level of attention Molly seems to want is something I would find exhausting, and it would send me metaphorically running in the other direction. (I’ve had a few…experiences…with people I would describe as “needy,” so now, behavior that reminds me of that seriously freaks me out and tends to result in what I can only describe as a “flight” response.)

      I’d actually suggest that the OP have a talk with Amelia, too, about how things are going, because I’m getting a whiff of potential bullying (or maybe “undermining” is a better word?) off the OP’s description of Molly’s behavior regarding Amelia. Tattling on Amelia, questioning her work to the OP…that sounds like an attempt at undermining Amelia in the OP’s eyes. Now…maybe there is another interpretation, but I’d treat cautiously with Molly about this.

      1. valentine*

        sounds like an attempt at undermining Amelia
        I’m thinking Molly just wants to talk and keeps OP on the hook (and horn) by grasping at work-related straws, which means Amelia.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Maybe…if Molly were saying that Amelia seems stand-offish (whatever that means) or similar, I’d be more inclined to cut Molly a bit more slack and chalk it up to personality differences. It’s the reporting on Amelia’s time, in combination with the other stuff, that makes this smell fishy to me. But then, having been on the receiving end of this kind of thing, it’s a sensitive issue for me.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        That’s my question. Is Amelia standoffish, or is she just not willing to drop what she’s doing and have a chat anytime Molly wants? Are they the only two members of your company in that location? If not, can you check in with someone on the ground there and see if you can get a more objective opinion?

      2. Dust Bunny*

        She’s allowed to be standoffish!

        (She’s probably dodging Molly’s barrage of words, frankly, but even if she’s not, this is work, not a church social. She doesn’t need to indulge Molly’s extroversion.)

    2. Clay on my apron*

      Agree and if you had shut this down the first time, Molly probably wouldn’t still be looking for you to reinforce her views on Amelia.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        I’d be pissed if an overbearing, annoying coworker was watching me and badmouthing me to my boss, and my boss reacted by telling the coworker that I’m standoffish! Any crumb of agreement or validation the LW gives Molly only adds fuel to her fire. Poor Amelia – she’s the real flight risk here. Molly sounds miserable and LW isn’t reining her in.

      2. Mellow*


        I do not understand why people in leadership roles allow themselves to be sucked in to their employees’ bad behavior.

        Amelia should find another job.

    3. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

      Seriously. Is Amelia ACTUALLY standoffish, or is she just better than the OP at establishing boundaries with Molly? If Molly tried to run roughshod over Amelia the way she does over her own manager (!!!), I can imagine that Amelia had to shut her down fairly firmly. And now Molly’s trying to sabotage her…

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This is where I’m landing. I’m thinking either that Amelia has already had to set some firm boundaries with Molly, and Molly doesn’t like it, or that Amelia is simply naturally more reserved, and Molly isn’t responding well to that. As a person who is also a bit more quieter/reserved in a work context, my sympathies are admittedly firmly on Amelia’s side.

        1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

          As a person who’s more on the extraverted side, I live in fear of unintentionally being a Molly! If I’m isolated for too long (like, for the months I worked from home while finishing my dissertation…) I tend to get starved for interaction and start excitedly chit-chatting with anyone who crosses my path (baristas, grocery baggers, mail carriers… those poor captive audiences!). If someone started pulling away from me the way Amelia is from Molly, I would be MORTIFIED and give them as much space as possible. I cannot imagine doubling down, much less whining about them to our boss…

          1. Dust Bunny*

            OK, but Molly only works here, she doesn’t live here 24/7. She can do all this on her own time.

        1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

          “Quiet” and “reserved” and “focused on work instead of socializing” are all good things – “standoffish” as a term has pretty strongly negative connotations, and I would encourage OP to reframe how she’s thinking about Amelia (especially if she’s adopted that adjective from Molly!)

          1. Clisby*


            “Standoffish” does have a negative connotation, but when I think about what that might mean in a workplace, what I come up with is a person who wants to spend her time at work doing, you know, work. Not socializing. I’ve worked with plenty of people like that, and as long as they’re professional when it comes to work, I couldn’t care less what they want to do about socializing. I mean, if Molly arrives in the morning and says “Hi,” only to get a stony stare from Amelia, I think Amelia should figure out how to say “Hi” in return. No need for small talk.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              I’ve worked with a chatty coworker who would take a returned “hi” as an invitation to start babbling away. The only way to avoid the trap was to ignore him completely.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                I’ve started ignoring one of my coworkers when she tries to Skype call me because her “quick” chats turn into an hour long chat about everything under the sun, and I ain’t got time for that, lol.

                It’s a damn shame I almost have to duck and dodge coworkers at home, too! Lol

          2. I edit everything*

            “Standoffish” describes a man who lurks on the fringes of the ball and doesn’t ask anyone to dance, even when there are more ladies than men at the event.

            1. pancakes*

              That’s a pretty particular scenario & doesn’t have much if anything to do with what standoffish seems to mean in this context. I wouldn’t necessarily call the guy in your scenario standoffish, either, because lurking is something else. Not everyone who lurks is standoffish and not everyone standoffish is a lurker.

              1. Dara*

                That was a reference to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, wherein Mr. Darcy “danced only four dances, though gentleman were scarce and more than one lady was in want of a partner.”

            2. Princesa Zelda*

              There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome. ;)

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I read it as a bad thing because it tends to mean that they’re hard to approach.

          When someone says “she’s standoffish”, it reminds me of the person who snarls or sighs outwardly when you ask them a work question [not when you’re being a Molly even!] It’s the sort of vibe they give off when they just stare right through you when you are standing at the coffee machine waiting, while they’re waiting and sighing about how long it’s taking even though you’re not in charge of the stupid machine’s speed. It’s tone and it’s demeanor.

          If she’s just quiet and needs to be spoken to first, then yeah no that’s not what I would deem standoffish or bad. I’ve had plenty of people who you have to talk to first and they are warm, welcoming and responsive!

    4. ThatGuy*

      The letter writer says that she’s afraid Molly will quit. She should be even more worried that Amelia will quit. With an office mate like Molly, I expect Amelia is actively looking for anew job.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Ha! I probably would if I was under the impression that management wasn’t working to shut Molly’s antics down.

      2. emmelemm*

        Same here. I can roll with a certain level of social interaction and be genial, but if someone is really overbearing, I tend to compensate in the other direction (being “standoffish”), and I’d definitely be unhappy.

    5. fposte*

      I was hoping that OP maybe didn’t use that exact term and was just using this as shorthand here, though I agree she shouldn’t be discussing Amelia’s personality with Molly anyway.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I hope so as well because when I was reading and got to that part, I winced. Even without the word being used, I’m just generally leery of managers talking about employees to other employees behind their backs unless it’s to say something positive. It’s so easy for things to be misconstrued and taken out of context and then taken back to the employee being talked about – it can really make a workplace toxic.

      2. Alanna of Trebond*

        Yeah, I was hoping the conversation went something like:

        MOLLY: Amelia is so rude to me, I keep trying to have conversations and she gives me one-word answers

        OP: Well, people work in different ways, I’ve noticed Amelia doesn’t like to chat a lot while she’s working.

        But I agree, I’m getting a vibe that Molly doesn’t have great boundaries with her boss, and OP needs to reinforce them by shutting down inappropriate avenues of conversation (like this one)

    6. cuddleshark*

      If OP is tired of Molly’s behavior, imagine how Amelia feels being trapped in the same room with her all day.

    7. NW Mossy*

      Sometimes it does help to call a spade a spade (especially when someone’s behavior is so over-the-top that you’d look foolish for not acknowledging it), but it’s super-important to hit the right tone there. “Standoffish” is way too loaded a term to use with one direct about another, but a statement that acknowledges Amelia’s right to her own work style and boundaries in a positive way can go a long way. In the OP’s shoes, I’d probably aim for something like “Amelia really thrives when she gets sustained stretches of focused time, which means she may not be up for chatting or interruptions when she’s in that groove. It doesn’t sound like this is impacting your work and it’s helping her do hers well, so let’s treat this as a “different strokes” situation.”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That wording is really good, but OP just needs to refrain from speaking about Amelia to Molly in general going forward. Molly’s a gossip who’s way too concerned with what Amelia’s doing, and it’s all too easy for someone like her to hear that, take from it what she wants, and then go to Amelia with it. “Well, boss agrees with me that you’re unapproachable, so I’m just gonna leave you alone now.” Ugh – I can just hear her now, lol.

        No, it’s best to just shut all talk of Amelia down when Molly starts because she’s not someone who can be trusted not to make this A Thing just so she’ll have something to do (I genuinely think Molly’s bored and probably needs to find another job, particularly one in an office with people she can talk to all day).

        1. NW Mossy*

          To be clearer, this would be a one-time effort to get Molly to see that a different work style does not make Amelia wrong and that the OP has no interest in picking this up as something to harp on Amelia about. Molly could very well run back to Amelia with a bad interpretation of this, but I can see two ways that’s mitigated – one, that Amelia already knows that Molly’s not a reputable source, and two, the OP herself follows up with Amelia to reinforce that she’s fine with Amelia’s boundaries as drawn.

          I’m going to take the charitable read on Molly that she’s acting more out of insecurity of the Lisa Simpson “grade me rate me” star-pupil sort, rather than a direct desire to harm Amelia specifically. It’s annoying AF as the boss because holy Toledo is your boss not there to manage your feels. That said, I’ve found success with my own directs in pointing out where people are doing this kind of point-scoring comparison and explicitly stating that I don’t evaluate performance that way. It’s a “that dog won’t hunt, so stop” thing, that gets progressively stepped up if and when the ranking nonsense continues.

  3. PJs of Steven Tyler*

    This is great advice :) My only thought (as a possible Molly myself) is that “Well, that’s enough of that!” and “We don’t want to gossip!” sound very passive and if my boss said them to me, I wouldn’t take it as “Stop reporting Amelia’s whereabouts to me.” I have run into this issue recently as one of my colleagues isn’t keeping everyone looped in when she randomly leaves the office, and we were told this was expected of us. I am now trying to simply ignore it as my boss doesn’t want to hear about it, but again, if my boss used softer topic changes like that, I definitely would not take that as a hard stop. Something more explicit would be better in my opinion, as it immediately cuts off the flow of gossip/tattling.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I could be wrong, but I read Alison to say that she should address the comments about Amelia directly and to make the “that’s enough of that” comments regarding general office gossip aside from the Amelia stuff

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh good lord yes! You don’t want to reply to Molly’s reports on Amelia as “we don’t want to gossip”! The day I advise that is the day this website should be shuttered. That was for the part of the letter where Molly is just gossiping about other people. I’ll add something making sure that’s clear!

        1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

          Ah! Thanks everyone! It’s super interesting to read the other side of this, because I have been sitting here thinking, “My Amelia takes off literally moments after the boss leaves, and I should tell the boss because she said we were supposed to let folks know if we were leaving.” This is a GREAT learning experience for me because now I will mind my own business and let Amelia and Boss work out any possible issues with Amelia’s work ethic on their own. Thanks, Alison, for helping me avoid being the Molly and getting fired or otherwise suffering negative consequences for talking smack about “my” Amelia :) :) :) Appreciate you all so much!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            One thing that might be worth considering in your particular situation (IFF the behavior is ongoing and truly egregious)– find a valid reason to email them both, your boss and your Amelia.
            Invitations to an end of work happy hour are useful for this… it’s social so you’d ask them in person if they were there… let boss draw her own conclusions.

            1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

              That’s a good idea – thanks! I didn’t think of it but yeah, I may do that in the future.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I disagree with seeking second childhood don’t do this. This seems to me like a passive aggressive way to try and get your coworker in trouble/tattle. If you coworker leaving is truly impacting your work (I don’t mean being unable to get an instant awnser to a question that can wait and be done via email), then bring it up with the coworker and/or the boss. But if it does not impact you at all and you are just feeling annoyed let if be, you life will be a lot better.

    2. Snark*

      Seconded. I’d make that a lot more prescriptive and specific: “Molly, moving forward, I do not want to hear about Amelia’s comings and goings from you, and I will not be discussing your perception of her performance with you. I need your focus on your wok, not on gossip. If I come to be concerned about her work product or practices, that’s a discussion I will have with her as necessary; I do not want you to track her arrivals and departures or report them to me, and keeping an eye on her performance is my job.”

      1. Snark*

        Sorry, “focus on your work.” not “wok.” Though that might apply if OP runs a Chinese restaurant!

          1. Snark*

            Dear Alison, I can’t focus at work because my officemate’s cleaver makes loud banging noises. What do?

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              “She seems a little standoffish, especially when she looks me right in the eye as she chops her eggplant.”

              1. Johnny Tarr*

                Dying. I’m envisioning Molly saying this into the phone while nervously staring at Amelia, who is chopping eggplant and staring back.

        1. Eillah*

          Different strokes, I guess. A grown adult who still behaves this way, and *chooses* to stay this way? No thank you.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I understand being annoyed – believe me, I’m quiet enough that people outside my team joke that they can’t even tell when I’m in the building or not, Molly would be absolute torture for me to share space with and I’d find her extremely irritating.

            But there’s a difference between “this personality type is annoying and can be disrespectful of those around them” and calling them “rude pieces of trash”. That’s way disproportionate, and you’re being even more rude than you see those people as being, if that’s how you refer to them.

            1. Eillah*

              Sorry, completely disagree. Being soft on rude people helps create the little monsters in the first place.

              1. fposte*

                Nobody’s saying you have to coddle people; you’re just being asked to refrain from dehumanizing somebody, especially for such mild behavior.

              2. Jadelyn*

                This isn’t a matter of agreement or disagreement. You’re being incredibly rude and dehumanizing. Asking you not to crank your side of the rudeness up to 11 in an attempt to force the other side to back down is not asking you to “be soft on” anyone. It’s just asking you to be, y’know, civil to other people, which is something Alison explicitly calls out in the commenting rules.

              3. Kathleen_A*

                Also, being rude to (or about) rude people doesn’t exactly make the world a better place, might I add.

              4. Snark*

                So what interpersonal dynamic helps create people who think it’s defensible to stridently denigrate and dehumanize people for being rude in a particularly banal way, and then double down when called on it?

              5. Psyche*

                Being rude to rude people just makes us monsters as well. It’s possible to set firm boundaries without name calling.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            You’re so over the top here, you have no way of knowing that Molly is trash or a monster. There is nothing here to say that she’s taking up more space than she’s supposed to be…so the projection plus aggressive wording is out of place for the tone of this forum.

    1. The Starsong Princess*

      Molly and Amelia sound like two employees I used to have. I was a remote leader as well. My Molly was an extreme extrovert – she craved human interaction. My Amelia was an extreme introvert. They were like oil and water at first. Molly kept being more extroverted, trying to get Amelia to like her. This just made Amelia withdraw more as an introvert . So they had a lot of friction and arguments.

      I finally had them take one of those personality tests. It helped them understand each other better and how they wanted to be approached. Basically they became more empathetic about the other’s style. My Molly was also very receptive to feedback and a bit of a pleaser -her eagerness to connect with me was related to her desire to do well. Once I gave her the clear feedback and assured her she was meeting my expectations, she was more comfortable and was a great performer.

      1. Snark*

        I feel like this gets to their interpersonal friction, but there’s also Molly’s urge to narc out Amelia if she leaves early and question OP’s assessment of her work, and honestly that strikes me as the worse issue. Introverts and extroverts can learn to work together, but a busybody running to the boss when you peace out a little early for an errand when your work is done, that’s actively corrosive to a working relationship.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is a really good point. I can definitely see how a working relationship between a strong introvert and a strong extrovert can spiral into the situation the OP describes, but it doesn’t explain Molly’s attempts to get Amelia in trouble. I think this definitely warrants a conversation between OP and Molly in which OP very firmly explains that Amelia’s schedule and work product are very much not Molly’s beeswax and will no longer be an acceptable topic for discussion during their check-ins.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*

        100% this. People are trash-talking Molly in the comments, but it seems more like a conflict of personalities here, both with each other and with OP. Since this is remote work, Molly isn’t getting all the cues that she would normally get from in-person contact, such as body language and facial expressions. Perhaps the excessive rambling is her attempt to get that reassurance.

        As for the “ratting out” of Amelia leaving early, maybe it is actually ratting out. Maybe it’s more of “Hey, Amelia left early the other day; is it okay if I do that too on occasion?” but Molly doesn’t feel comfortable asking that.

        We just can never know the entire situation from a single email. Part of your job as a manager is to give people the benefit of the doubt.

        1. Mellow*

          >Maybe it’s more of “Hey, Amelia left early the other day; is it okay if I do that too on occasion?” but Molly doesn’t feel comfortable asking that.

          That doesn’t make sense in the larger context of things as described. Not an ounce of sense, in fact.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            My point is that we are seeing this strictly from OP’s slant (which is the only context we have), and without having further insight into the matter, there is a lot of uncalled-for Molly-bashing going on in the comments.

  4. Qwerty*

    It sounds like Molly is desperate for conversation. Are there other people on her team or at her location? If she’s only talking to you once a week and it sounds like her and Amelia don’t talk, then she might be feeling starved for human interaction during the work day. Since you only need to minimally interact with Molly, the time you are spending with Amelia can feel substantially different from her perspective, which might be why she’s asking about the disparity so much.

    I’m not excusing Molly’s behavior, just trying to build some context around it. I’ve noticed similar behavior out of people when they are used to interacting with people all day but suddenly find themselves working on what feels like an island without human contact. That Molly and Amelia have opposite needs for conversation is only exacerbating this situation. Is there any way to get Molly into a space where she’s interacting with people or other coworkers more?

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, if that’s the root of the issue then OP being firmer about check-ins isn’t going to solve it. Maybe OP can name this explicitly for Molly and see if it resonates. I had a friend who was very social and worked in an isolated corner of the office; she ended up going to lunch meetups to break up the days.

    2. CaliCali*

      I agree with this. I’ve noticed similar (unpleasant) behavior in myself when I’m feeling a bit starved for connection — I’ll complain just to prolong the interaction; I’ll ramble on just to feel like I have someone to talk to. Work doesn’t need to meet ALL those needs, but I think 8 hours of effective isolation — exacerbated by your closest coworker not even wanting to talk to you, which worsens the situation — would really push someone more extroverted into the worst parts of their nature. It sounds counter-intuitive to loose her onto a larger group, but I actually think it would help.

      1. Alanna of Trebond*

        This might be the case — I’ve had a friendship damaged by an extraverted friend starting a remote job and offloading all of her need for social connection onto me; it’s a real thing! — but it’s really not OP’s problem. Some people aren’t really cut out for having a remote boss, but it’s not their boss’s job to figure out how to meet all their needs. If Molly is miserable working remotely with a non-talkative coworker, her options are to raise this with OP directly (maybe asking about opportunities to report to someone based in her office) or to find another job.

      2. Close Bracket*

        Eight hours of effective isolation while you watch someone else getting more contact is hurtful. There’s a big difference between working on your own when there is nobody around you and working on your own when people around you are interacting with each other and not with you.

        1. AngryAngryAlice*

          Yes it can be hurtful, but the contact that Amelia gets with LW that Molly craves is *work-related* and necessary for their shared projects. I’m an extrovert and I would NOT do well in an office where I’m starved of all communication, but I’m also able to understand that people in more frequent contact *for the purpose of their work* is not something that I should take personally. Molly sounds like a very difficult person to work with; I have been Molly before, and I cringe every time I remember how I used to act.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Yes, it can be hurtful to see other people get work related contact when you are not getting enough yourself. As someone noted below, it can send a message about the relative importance of your projects. It can also send a message about the relative importance of maintaining a good relationship with you vs. your more contact-heavy coworkers. I believe that we are once again seeing the divide between people who think everybody at work should be a robot (OP) and people who need the recognition that they are, in fact, not robots (Molly).

            1. valentine*

              Robot/not is a really stark divide. OP needs the person in Molly’s role to work independently and trusts Molly to do so. That’s what little contact means to me. This isn’t like the manager who didn’t want to take one employee out for lunch and hear her blather about the good ol’ days. That OP felt the relationship was worth it. This is a case where OP and Molly have different needs. I don’t think more, especially unnecessary, work talk will fill Molly’s well,not even if the tasks were switched so Molly got the phone calls Amelia’s getting.

        2. nonymous*

          Eh, I think this too can depend.

          If Amelia and OP are work together on tasks and there are a lot of social niceties mixed in, I agree that it’s hurtful. Likewise if Amelia and OP are brainstorming on work processes and then Molly gets to hear the decision second hand from Amelia. But if Amelia is coordinating the annual gala while Molly handles invoices and quarterly account summaries, that’s not the same thing. I personally like working in an office where there is activity around me that doesn’t involve me. It’s like a little bit of white noise.

          Having said that, Molly sounds like she could use a few good podcasts/audiobooks. Is that an option in their setup? OP could even be explicit about recommending it as a policy fyi, since many admin roles don’t allow for this option.

        3. Quiltrrr*

          I do this at work…I see all these people around me get interaction with others, while I (with the remote boss for medical reasons) get almost no interaction. I’m an extreme introvert, and it still hurts. I’d rather be able to work from home, since I’m not really needed in the office anyway…but butts-in-seats culture here.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        And while you’re* feeling starved for the attention, introverts are dying inside being bombarded with the constant barrage of words, words, words… Equally painful.

        *The general “you’re.”

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, that’s my thought too. If that “standoffish” means that Amelia only talks when there’s a work-related requirement (which apparently doesn’t happen between Amelia and Molly much?) and shows no interest in the normal human chitchat…well, that sounds absolutely miserable actually.
      No, we don’t need to be best friends or even real friends period, but the idea of having little to no human interaction most days at work? Sounds absolutely horrible. Frankly, I’d probably end up brainstorming ways specifically to increase my human interaction at the job (“saw your IM and figured I’d just give you a quick call instead”, “let’s do our discussion tomorrow via a conference call rather than trading emails back and forth”, etc).

      1. FairfieldJen*

        That doesn’t sound miserable to me at all — it sounds like a dream. When I’m at work, I’m there to work. Sure, I’m friendly with my colleagues, but I don’t require human interaction to get through my day. “Good for you, not for me” helps me avoid making a lot of snap judgments about other people’s preferences.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I agree – it’s pretty typical for me to have minimal interaction over the course of the day, and I love it. I can focus on my work. And, really, if I sent someone an IM or an email, and they called me in return…I’d likely let the call go to voicemail. Unless they first IM’d or emailed me back and said “hey, this is complex, might be easier to talk on the phone?”

          (And, really, if you call and get voicemail, leave a message..don’t just keep calling…(but that’s another rant).)

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Yes! I see all kinds if sympathy for Molly’s need to interact but none for Amelia’s need to…not.

      2. Mellow*

        >No, we don’t need to be best friends or even real friends period, but the idea of having little to no human interaction most days at work? Sounds absolutely horrible.

        …which is why people who feel that way shouldn’t take jobs where there is little to no interaction with other people.

        It really is that simple.

        1. Desperately seeking a cute kitty*

          Yup. When my class at university was given a career talk about the field I’m in now, the lecturer was very upfront about the solitary working conditions. Those who don’t like that self-selected out, and I was like “You mean, there are jobs where being introverted is an ASSET?! Where do I sign up?” Later on, after I began working in this field, I had a colleague who seemed to need more interaction. I chatted with her when I could, but there was a limit to how much I could do that because I had work to get done. It probably does suck to work in this kind of job when you need a certain amount of interaction, but there’s only so much interaction your colleagues can give you before their work starts to suffer, so if that’s not enough for you then yeah, you kind of do need to either find a way to be OK with it or go find a job that has enough interaction for you (which, in turn, is fairly likely to be a place where *I* would be unhappy!)

        2. Antilles*

          But would Molly have recognized that’s the way the job would be though? Because yeah, it’s remote but you’re literally spending 40 hours a week within 10 feet of another human being in a small office. “I will have little to no human interaction with my co-worker literally in the same room” seems like a really odd assumption to make.
          Obviously, because of the personality clash, the result is that yeah, Molly should probably either (a) figure out a way to get her needed human interaction or (b) find a new job…but it seems odd to say Molly “shouldn’t have taken the job” – if you know you’re going to share an office space with co-workers, it seems pretty reasonable to assume that there’ll be the typical light chit-chat about the ballgame or families or whatever rather than “we only discuss work-related items” .

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      This was my thought as well. I don’t talk much usually, but when I had a coworker who was into the same geeky, nerdy things I was, there was no shutting either of us up. It’s all about context.

    5. Mid*

      This was my thought as well. At a previous job, I could go for days without any human interaction (every other employee could work remotely, it was summer travel season, etc and it drove me slightly mad. And I’m a solid introvert. But spending 11 hours a day with zero interaction with another human was exhausting in its own way, and I could see Molly reacting to a similar situation. However, this doesn’t mean her conduct is appropriately. But there might be some middle ground, somehow, between Molly not talking to another human for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week, and daily, hour-long chats. Since they’re looking for a bigger space, maybe a coworking space could be beneficial. One that has quiet rooms for introverts and those who like to work in silence, the Amelias, and a more open/social area for the Mollys.

  5. Long Time Reader*

    The best part of this advice is putting a limit on the time for the call. “I’ve got a hard out at 11:15 so let’s use this time wisely” was the most useful phrase I’ve learned in managing chatty people.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Molly seems to be insecure and petty, she’s acting like you’re her Mom and Amelia is her sister. Instead of being boss and coworker, yikes!

    I would encourage you to rethink your thinking of “they’re both great” idea because yeah, they do their jobs well and don’t make mistakes. However Amelia is going to leave if Molly doesn’t leave first, they’re not going to coexist forever, since they hate each other. It’s a lose-lose situation and do not bury your head in the sand there.

    So use that insight to communicate with Molly effectively that her behavior is what needs to change in order to work well and in the long-term if she decides to stay around for it.

    You can’t really just shrug off the glaring personalities conflicts here and you have to be aware it’s not usually sustainable in a small team! You need to nip the gossiping in the butt and you have to stop talking about Amelia to her. Don’t acknowledge that she’s standoffish, don’t acknowledge that yes, she’s doing a great job. It’s not Molly’s information to have, she is getting way too much information from her boss about her colleague.

    1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

      Yes – your observation that “she’s acting like you’re her Mom and Amelia is her sister” is spot on, and gets at the heart of the weird dynamic OP is allowing to develop here. Molly isn’t just gossiping – she’s trying to snitch on Amelia to OP, which is weird and needs to be shut down, especially bc it’s clear she sees Amelia as a rival for OP’s attention and praise.

      On an unrelated note, “nip [it] in the butt” cracked me up. The idiom is “nip it in the bud,” like when you pinch the bud off a plant to prevent it from flowering. I like your version, though… made me picture a small dog biting a butt, like the Coppertone girl!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In the hills we say “butt” due to dialect. I know subconsciously it’s bud but yeah that’s the thing.

    2. Jamie*

      Idk if they hate each other. I know plenty of people who didn’t like me because I’m fairly quiet and reserved and they wanted more interaction, and I didn’t hate them. Annoyed by them at times, yeah, but my lack of unnecessary interaction bothered them way more than their yammering did me.

      I get why the OP is prioritizing their lack of mistakes as her time is so limited she likely dreads getting someone else in the role which will force her into more needed task management.

      Molly just seems to be one of those people who needs social interaction at work and this is an unusual enough set up that she’s probably still getting used to the hands off management and lack of chatter.

      Or I’m just in a good mood and reading things with a super optimistic bent today!

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Molly doesn’t hate her. She just wants her to be replaced with Molly’s new work best friend. Nothing personal, Amelia!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I only use the word hate because the OP did.

        I agree, I’m pretty reserved IRL until I know someone and then I take my cue from them, if they’re also generally reserved, I stay that way if they’re louder, I turn it up a bit.

        There are tons of people that have conflicting personalities with me and I just stay in my zone and ignore them most of the time. Since that’s the adult thing to do. So I think that Amelia may be in that same boat here and I agree that it may not be “hate”.

        But if someone is that loud and grating, that I’m actively ignoring them and letting them “do them”, I will still be leaving pretty soon, since it’s exhausting on me emotionally to have to detach for 8 hours a day.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree – if the neediness were directed at me I’d be looking soon, too.

          But if she were just silently pouting and complaining elsewhere, not trying to draw me in…I won’t notice that for a while. People hate that about me.

          Atm up to my neck in audit findings I’d love an office like that where I could work in peace.

  7. Fiddlesticks*

    As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert…. could we please stop using the word “standoffish” to describe everyone who is simply quiet??

    It’s such a negative term! My thesaurus says that “standoffish” is equivalent to words like: aloof, antisocial, haughty, misanthropic, reclusive, unapproachable, unsociable and withdrawn – none of which are remotely positive traits in a workplace (or any other) environment. Unless there’s something truly negative and unpleasant about Amelia other than just being “quiet”, which may simply be her instinctive reaction to Molly constantly being “loud and overbearing” (I know I would tend to shut down around someone like her), LW may not want to feed into Molly’s behavior by agreeing with Molly that Amelia is indeed “standoffish”.

    1. Jamie*

      You don’t know that she isn’t.

      I’m reserved and quiet and I know that =/= standoffish. But I can also definitely be standoffish. The OP said she is so I’m taking her at her word.

      1. Snark*

        She might be. It’s also not relevant. The issue is Molly gossiping and paying too much attention to Amelia’s comings and goings, not whether Molly is reserved or standoffish or something in between.

    2. Oh So Anon*

      I agree with you, yet (and I’m saying this as an introvert) sometimes quiet people are standoffish for reasons other than simply being quiet. Some people stand out as being so task-oriented to the point that they don’t build much rapport with others and do in fact come across as unapproachable. There are definitely quiet and reserved people I don’t get a “standoffish” vibe from, and then there are others who are standoffish enough that I wouldn’t enjoy working alongside them at all.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I wonder if she’s quiet compared to Molly. Molly wants work to be her social center. Molly may well want that, too. But five months with a grown ass woman telling me about every email she sent and competing with me for phone time with our boss would push me pretty far away.

      Also, I think extroverts would take umbrage at Molly being called an extrovert. Extroverts don’t need hand holding, they can be self directed. They are typically looking to make everyone welcome and comfortable, not in constant need of validation.

      1. cuddleshark*

        Yeah, it could be a case of Amelia sticking her earbuds in so she can get some work done and Molly being offended by this. We’ve seen that before on this blog for sure!

        I sometimes have to close my office door when one of my particularly extroverted coworkers is being loud and telling a story, and it feels so rude! But it’s only because I’m trying to write and I can’t think. And thank god I have my own office. If I had to share an office with someone like that, I’d probably start to dislike them, too, and vice-versa.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I didn’t read it as her being introverted, I read it as her being unapproachable. Maybe the OP is interchanging them but maybe she’s not. We just don’t know and that’s a conclusion that’s been jumped to as far as I can tell.

      I’m reserved and shy in a lot of situations but nobody has ever said I was standoffish, unless I’m being short tempered and snap at someone.

      1. Fiddlesticks*

        I’m probably taking it a little personally, because in my 30-odd years in the workforce I HAVE been called “standoffish”, “snobby”, and other things all the way up to the b-word, just because I’m generally a quiet person who doesn’t need or want to get my social needs met at work, and I don’t expect to serve that role for others either. I’m happy to partake in the general office pleasantries, I’m always helpful and pleasant to my coworkers and clients with work-related matters, I don’t bring my personal problems to work, and so forth. But I do not want to have lengthy or personal conversations, socialize outside of work, gossip about other coworkers, etc. In our culture, at least – and probably way more for women than men – this attitude can be perceived as a cardinal sin.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yuck, I’m sorry people have nitpicked you like that, I can see why it’s turned into such a personal thing. I dealt with that back in school but once I got around adults, it was always better. However I’ve had the luck that I tend to find myself around kind, well adjusted adults who aren’t so insecure and weirded out by “quiet” people and decide that they’re snobs or whatever else.

          It also helps that I’m always in some kind of accounting/highly organizational function, so people just assume I’m antisocial because I’m deep in numbers and spreadsheets all the GD time. I imagine that kind of thing triple-stinks when you’re in the open office/creative world =(

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            It happens a lot. Apparently I give everyone “dirty looks,” and have since childhood, by simply existing.

            1. Fiddlesticks*

              I’m sorry, RUKM. I think I’ve had a bit of “resting bitch face” since childhood, too. I used to be sitting around reading a book, or daydreaming, or playing with the cat, and some adult would say “What’s the matter with you? What are you frowning about?” and as far as I know, I never was actually frowning. It was just my normal relaxed expression. But they would persist, saying “Then you should get that look off your face!” until I WAS actually frowning because of being repeatedly accused of having angry or negative emotions I didn’t actually feel, until that point….it was kind of a vicious cycle.

              In my work life I eventually learned that I should always look up with a small, ready smile whenever anyone speaks to me. It’s totally automatic now. “Fake it till you make it”, and all that. It’s a philosophy that’s served me well.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Yeah as a kid/young person it was kinda tough. Fortunately now I’m at a point in life that others’ opinions of me don’t, and haven’t for decades mattered to me for the most part. Don’t like my expression? Don’t look. Don’t like my attitude? Go away from me. And so forth…

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              My response to anyone bringing up my RBF is “If you think this is a dirty look, you’ve never gotten a real dirty look in your life, dude.” And then I actually glare at them and they don’t try me again.

              But I’m also like a teddy bear that will turn into a grizzly when provoked. Bring up my face, that’s provoking. I also take for granted that I’m naturally intimidating because I’m so much bigger than people, so after school and kids with the nerves of steel, most just don’t bother.

    5. Nope.*

      Yep – I’m not actively ignoring or pretending people don’t exist or intentionally snubbing anyone or choosing to be antisocial or rude. I don’t hate you, or other people, I just don’t want to talk. It’s not personal.

    6. Close Bracket*

      Yeah, there’s judgement in “standoffish.” I’m quiet bc I’m autistic. I’ve been called things worse than “standoffish” bc of it.

  8. TootsNYC*

    OMG, check in on Amelia!

    I have a feeling that it’s really hard on her to work in the same office as Molly!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Yeah, I’m suddenly wondering about whether Molly’s talking about Amelia while they’re both in the room!

  9. Mama Bear*

    I wonder if the OP ever considered a “scrum” or daily standup. Make it 10 minutes FIRM but give the shakedown of things on the plate, projects people are working on and take 1 or 2 max of concerns from the team. Maybe schedule it every other day. If there’s not much to say, note that upfront. “I don’t have a lot different to mention today and I have a lot on my schedule otherwise. If you don’t have any blockers, let’s sign off and focus on our day.” Alternately, if the space is small and they don’t get along, what about some teleworking time for them if they can handle it? Give Amelia a break (if she wants it) from Molly. Sounds to me like OP has an introvert and an extrovert for a team and as an introvert, open offices can be rough.

    1. Alanna of Trebond*

      A daily standup would be a great idea if OP felt like she needed more updates from her team, or if Molly’s questions and interruptions were about time-sensitive things that it made sense to address as a group, but it sounds like this doesn’t actually meet any kind of office need other than Molly’s desire for human interaction.

      I’ve found when my office puts standing meetings on the calendar for personality reasons (“Jim just likes to feel in the loop”) rather than workflow ones (“Mark has to be up to speed on the projects or they stall out”), the meetings quickly become a waste of time that are resented by everyone else. OP shouldn’t change her schedule, or anyone else’s, just to address Molly’s need for interpersonal interaction — it’s understandable, but it’s not her boss’s problem to solve.

      1. nonymous*

        I think what Mama Bear is describing is a way to teach Molly the discernment necessary to keep her work questions concise. How many times to we hear “I’m going to do better” is an inadequate plan for improvement? How is Molly going to improve unless she observes and practices? Enforcing limits is good, but enforcing limits + modeling appropriate behavior is better.

        A biweekly scrum + deferring Molly’s requests until the next scrum does that. It also formalizes OP’s availability over the period (working with Amelia on projects X&Y, and with Molly on Z). One of benefits of choosing the scrum model is that there is a lot of literature on the topic (not just how, but why) so OP can identify it as an area for improvement for Molly without OP having to do significant hand-holding.

  10. Clay on my apron*

    Hey OP.

    I agree with the general sentiments so far, but here are a couple more things that have occurred to me.

    * Molly sounds like a bad fit a remote role in a 2 person office – was she expecting a different environment when she took the job? Some people struggle without a lot of human interaction, and she might just be happier somewhere else

    * If you are in any case looking for different office space, consider shared space where she will have contact with staff of other companies, and can stop annoying you and Amelia

    * I’d also explain to Molly that her performance (of tasks) is excellent, and that you value the fact that she’s competent enough to work with minimal supervision; and that in fact your expectation for this role is that she *does* work with minimal supervision. Emphasise that you don’t feel the need to keep tabs on her and that this is a Good Thing, and that you expect her to show better judgement about what requires lengthy discussion and/or immediate response from you

    * Check in with Amelia. Molly’s back-biting and attention seeking behaviour might be creating an unpleasant work environment for her and she sounds like someone who might just find another job, rather than express her unhappiness

    I hope this helps!

    1. fposte*

      I think these are really good points, especially the notion that Amelia needs to get some attention here even if she’s not the squeaky wheel.

      1. Knon*

        I agree fposte.

        A bit off topic fposte, but I’m a long time AMA reader and your perspectives/ comments are usually spot on. I’m a fan. Thank you!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      These are great additions.

      Especially the fact that Amelia, given her described demeanor will most likely not complain, she will just leave. I’m exactly like that, if I’m over it, I’m not going to ask anyone to change, I’m going to just get out instead of trying to catch a wave that is caused when you bring up this kind of personal conflict with a supervisor.

      I have a feeling Molly may have thought it was going to be a fine situation, with just the two of them. But then realized that the person she was working with wasn’t interested in being her BFF or wasn’t wired the same way as she is, so it brought out her sour side of trying to compete with her colleague when there’s no competition to be had.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This is a really good point. I probably wouldn’t bring this kind of relationship tension to my boss, especially if the tension is with another woman. I’ve had too many bosses treat these kinds of issues between female employees like “girl drama” rather than actual workplace issues, so I’d be much more likely to keep my head down and power through until I found another job.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I see it with dudes too, believe me! I know it’s our own personal lens that we see it through as women, who also do deal with so much sexism, so I’m not trying to diminish that either.

          I’ve had two conflicting men more than a few times. A lot of times it’s two alphas trying to flex on each other and try to prove who the “big dog” really is. Other times it’s the “bro” and the “not-bro” with their conflicting characteristics.

          It reminds me of when schools don’t want to step in between kids who show the exact same issues. “Oh boys will be boys” and such when it presents itself.

          Lots of “authority” figures, either bosses, teachers, parents don’t want to get involved with the interpersonal stuff!

    3. Sunflower*

      I really agree with your first point. It sounds like this environment just isn’t right for Molly. She’s got some other things going on too it seems but I wonder if she was in a larger/more social office, if a lot of this would stop. I’m wondering if Molly is closer to entry-level and isn’t yet sure what kind of office environment works for her. I could see her accepting this job thinking it would be cool to be on her own and have a remote boss and then realize she needs more interaction than she realized. I am definitely one of those types who didn’t realize until I was working alone in an office that I need socialization with my team at work.

      If this is the case, you and Molly might both be better off with Molly looking for a new job. If this is what’s going on, I’d imagine Molly isn’t very happy anyway and may be looking for a new job.

    4. Sara without an H*

      These are very good points. OP, I know you said you wanted to retain Molly, but you have to consider whether she’s really cut out for the kind of work setup you have going here.

    5. Alanna of Trebond*

      These are all really great. I like point 3 as a positive way to frame what you need from Molly that emphasizes her strengths and might help reframe the situation. One of my favorite bosses used “I trust you to handle this” a lot (with a follow up “I don’t need to hear these interim updates; I trust you to make this decision” if the message wasn’t getting through).

    6. Chewy Mints*

      I’m the hypothetical Amelia in my office, and Molly has literally pushed me to search for another job. That, and a boss who is passive about Molly because her technical work is great. I have lost track of how many times I have been micromanaged and asked to update Molly on my projects (yes, we are peers. No, we are not o. the same projects with rare exceptions). To the point that I don’t respond to her emails anymore, unless necessary, and she hates that. Yes, we can’t work together and I am looking for a way out. OP, Molly is not affecting only Amelia. Take a closer look at interactions with other staff members. The Molly on my team has alienated half of the staff already and people dread working with her.

  11. OperaArt*

    You’re worried about losing Molly, but I’d be worried about losing Amelia. If I were her, I’d be heading out the door by this point. You need to actively manage the situation.

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      Speaking as a former Amelia in this scenario I can say job searching is a definite possibility. Fortunately for me I didn’t find anything and my Molly went on to other things. It is SO miserable to be trapped in a room with someone you know hates you and runs off to gossip with other coworkers about you.

  12. Oh So Anon*

    Molly’s capable of doing good work with minimal oversight and I need her to be okay with that and not ask for hand-holding she doesn’t need.

    Right there, I think you pinpointed one of the challenges you may have with building rapport with Molly. She can work well independently and takes direction well, so you may not naturally get as much face time with her as you would with someone who needs more coaching. It also sounds like you assign her tasks that are more procedural rather than collaborative, so there are fewer natural opportunities to interact with her. You are completely right about not wanting to provide more hand-holding that is necessary for her work, but it might be a good idea to find other ways of connecting with Molly that would naturally happen if you worked in the same office.

    Molly sounds like a problematic employee, but given that she’s in a two-person office with a remote manager, highly individual tasks, and a sole colleague who she doesn’t interact with much, she may be trying to get what most people would consider a *normal* amount of office social interaction in ways that are not okay at all. Rather than thinking of her as needy, maybe consider that she is trying to get typical human needs met albeit in very damaging ways.

  13. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Honest to God, this sounds like it could be and another co-worker. I’m very much the Amelia in this type of role. And I work, closely, with a Molly. She asks nonstop questions about everyone and everything. In her case, it is because she can’t stand silence. (She’s told me as much.) I just tune it out. Make non-committal noises every now and again. I’m a quiet person and always have been so I’m used to being talked at.

    As far as advice for Molly, I’ve heard our boss stop conversations or redirect when need be. She’s shared with me when he’s made her mad by saying “x, y, or z”. But…..she’s still here so it hasn’t driven her to quit.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I find it difficult to focus in silence so I listen to podcasts/audio books all day. It works great.

      1. Snark*

        Climb down off the cross. We need the wood. It’s not paternalistic to demand a basic standard of respect for people’s humanity in the discourse around here. If it’s condescending to point out that you fail to clear even that very low bar, well, maybe so, but if I have to pick out an attitude to condescend to, you’ll do nicely.

        1. Jadelyn*

          …you know, at this point I’m choosing to believe that this is some kind of bizarre performance art. I just can’t imagine that anyone would actually feel that strongly about calling people “trash” and “monsters” (over something as minor as being overly/irritatingly outgoing!) that they would…what are we up to now? Quintuple? Septuple?…down on it this aggressively.

        2. Eillah*

          I can’t imagine a group of strangers going against a different stranger to defend a THIRD stranger (who seems like a colossally irritating asshole) over an ultimately harmless comment on the internet, so I guess that makes two of us? Like me you’re also choosing to respond, FYI :)

      2. Snark*

        Oh, and by the by? That entire thread, which you started by explicitly admitting that you had nothing but rage to contribute, was deleted – not just my posts. Wonder why that is.

        1. Snark*

          Yes, just as your entire thread, which you started pointlessly calling people trash, was deleted. Do you wonder why, if I’m the “colossally irritating asshole” here, she didn’t just delete my posts and leave yours visible? Could it be that you’ve got the roles reversed here?

    1. Snark*

      Wow. Quadrupling down on calling people trash, then going on the offense by arrogating to yourself the role of oppressed victim once you get called out. Great look! Yes, my position is ethically superior to yours, and no, demanding that you and others use language that at least respects others’ basic humanity is not paternalistic. Your conduct here is unacceptable.

      1. Eillah*

        I don’t think I’m a victim; I thought it was hypocritical and amusing.

        And FYI, sweetie, the “your conduct here is unacceptable” when it’s not your blog to moderate doesn’t make you look like a peach, either. At least I’m not hiding.

        1. Snark*

          No, you’re not amused. And “sweetie” is just overdoing it. Don’t try to pull the “not even mad bro” card, I been on the internet too long.

  14. azvlr*

    I’ve been the employee in a similar situation, but the roles were somewhat reversed: My manager was seldom available to discuss the real topics, but once you had her on the phone, she would go on for days about details of her personal life. I usually opted not to interrrupt/redirect her, since she was my boss.
    I wanted (and needed, in order to be successful) more input from her, but she was always over-the-top busy. I would have LOVED a short daily scrum as another reader mentioned above, just so I could get a day-in-the-life glimpse at what her schedule might be like on a given day to know when it was appropriate to reach out.

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Alison deleted your comment and the chain of comments it had created, it’s not because of anything the other commenters did.

    Own your sh*t bro.

    1. Eillah*

      I’ll be sure not to respond to something right as Allison is deleting it, then, so that I won’t upset you.

      I believe saying “and I’d do it again” is owning it but whatever you want to throw out to look tough on the internet, I guess?

  16. Me*

    I’m not sure I have much input here other to say it kind of jumps out to me that OP described both their employees personalities in pretty negative terms. Please ensure you are addressing issues and behavior as pertains to work and not based on what you think your employees personalities are (especially because it’s negative). You really seem to have very limited interaction with them so you are seeing but a smidge of who they are. Just an observation that our biases often cloud how we deal with a situation.

  17. FairfieldJen*

    That doesn’t sound miserable to me at all — it sounds like a dream. When I’m at work, I’m there to work. Sure, I’m friendly with my colleagues, but I don’t require human interaction to get through my day. “Good for you, not for me” helps me avoid making a lot of snap judgments about other people’s preferences.

    1. FairfieldJen*

      I somehow submitted this twice and it unthreaded from the comment I was replying to. Technology is not my friend today!

  18. OP*

    1. The only people in the remote office are Molly, Amelia and the owner of the company who often travels and is fairly hands off with their work. He is aware of this though and tries to address it when he is there.
    2. We were 100% clear about the office set up during interviews. Molly was told she would often be alone in the office and would need to work independently. I agree she may need to reevaluate whether this is working for her – the comments about her using me as her social interaction are spot on
    3. I’m introverted like Amelia is and I do think she’s standoffish/unfriendly based on my own interactions with her (though I agree I don’t love that term and didn’t say it like that to Molly). I don’t blame her for being cold to Molly given the circumstances but it goes beyond that. She poses some other challenges I didn’t touch on here. She’s also part time and does less essential work. If one of them needs to leave, I would rather it be her. That being said, I and the owner of the company have checked in with her several times and listened to her issues with Molly. Our hands are a little tied as there’s not tons we can offer – she wants to work from home and the owner refuses to OK that. He’s looking for a larger office space with separate rooms for them but has had no luck thus far. I won’t be shocked if Amelia doesn’t last too much longer.
    4. Since this letter I did firmly shut down Molly tracking Amelia’s time and it seemed to be heard. I tried cutting our conversations short a couple of times last week when she veered into projects I wasn’t ready to talk about at that time. She just asked if I was OK because I seemed upset. Hopefully some of the phrasing Alison suggests will work for me.

        1. valentine*

          Pushing Amelia out is a dangerous precedent to set with Molly, especially if you replace her with someone who’s essentially a companion for Molly. Can Amelia use the owner’s office when they’re out? Is there no non-office space she can be in? (Though Molly will, of course, still hate being alone in her office.)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thanks for checking in with us and giving more details!

      It actually makes a lot more sense now knowing that Amelia is only part-time and isn’t getting what she wants in terms of remote authorization. She is most likely a foot out the door at this point with that information.

      I kind of understand why Molly is jealous then, in terms of Amelia getting so much more of your time. Since she’s part time and Molly is a full time essential function employee. It is probably rubbing a weird way making her scared you’re going to swap them out for each other and her job security may feel shaky. Even though that’s not the case, since she’s the one you prefer to keep in the long run! It’s all about the “perceptions” in that case.

      Which then leads me to the only other piece of advice I’ll have in that case. When you replace Amelia, look more into the culture fit aspect of the person, look for someone who Molly will get along with better in terms of socialization aspect! This will help both of you! She’ll have someone to have chit-chat with and you’ll be able to get her off the phone quicker. The only issue would be if they ended up chatting more than working but since she’s good at her work, I wouldn’t worry that much about it in those terms and really focus on getting her someone who is more of talker.

      1. pcake*

        But having a second very social worker with Molly could also lead to them talking all the time and getting less work done.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      The owner refuses to OK WFH because her work can’t be done well from home, or refuses to OK WFH just because? Because if it’s the latter, he could offer more, he just isn’t, and I wouldn’t be super warm-fuzzy about that, either. I have to be honest: If I were Amelia I would feel like you and the owner don’t really think Molly is that bad because you have the option of not being in a room with her all the time.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I read it as they just don’t want to be that flexible with a part-time, non-essential role, so they’ve already showed where their loyalty lies.

        Stinks to be Amelia but in the end, it’s pretty clear that she’s not that important to the owner or the OP but does serve her purpose enough to keep her around as long as she chooses to stay. They prefer to keep Molly in the end after all.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yup. So Amelia will be gone soon, and Becky was spot on when she said OP should try to hire a replacement that matches Molly’s energy – or can at least tolerate it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She literally just said that Amelia is the one she’d prefer to lose if it comes down to it. So I don’t know why you’re fighting her it.

      Amelia is replaceable. Molly is replaceable. All employees are replaceable. Even the worst jobs get filled at some point by someone willing to take it. Someone will deal with Molly and may even like her.

      1. Eillah*

        Not fighting, emphasizing. She’s already started to change course and needs to keep going HARD in that same direction. Not sure where you’re seeing otherwise! :)

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Exactly. OP would rather keep the full-time employee, which makes a lot of sense, and that doesn’t happen to be Amelia.

        1. Eillah*

          It’s so blatantly penny wise, pound foolish to me that I can’t understand how anyone could see it differently.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      I’m introverted like Amelia is and I do think she’s standoffish/unfriendly based on my own interactions with her (though I agree I don’t love that term and didn’t say it like that to Molly). I don’t blame her for being cold to Molly given the circumstances but it goes beyond that.

      I almost forgot to address this. It doesn’t matter if Amelia is in fact standoffish – you, as the manager, should still not be reinforcing Molly’s negative opinions about Amelia. It’s egging her on, which is why she keeps running to tell you everything Amelia is and isn’t doing, which is not her job and is contributing to your own annoyance with Molly. If you have an issue with Amelia and how she does it doesn’t interact with people in the office, including how she interacts with you remotely, then you take that up with her privately.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        +1. It’s really important for the OP to be diplomatic and have good boundaries, and that includes hearing Molly’s judgments without reinforcing them.

        I mean, I have someone on my team whose interpersonal skills create issues for me at times. Due to a long history of conflicts involving other staff and departments, I know I am not the only person who finds them difficult, and it’s entirely possible, if not likely that our manager finds them difficult too. When I’ve discussed those issues with him, though, he knows well enough to not respond to me with agreement. Maybe he takes this stuff up with the difficult person, maybe he doesn’t – but whatever happens happens discreetly.

    5. LGC*


      So, I’m glad you checked in with an update! Honestly, as pointed out…it seems pretty clear that you have Molly’s back way more than Amelia’s here. (And I’d like to know whether she requested to work from home before or after the Molly issues started.) At this point, I think the best strategy is to help make Amelia’s probable exit as smooth as possible, since I think you owe her that much.

      Like Dust Bunny asked, what are the obstacles to WFH for Amelia? (Or for Molly, for that matter?) Are they practical…or is it just because Amelia is very demanding?

    6. JT*

      This is one of the saddest updates I’ve read. I feel so badly for Amelia, as someone who has been judged many a time based on my introversion/Aspergers, and I wonder if this could have been handled better before it got out of hand. I also wonder how Amelia acted in her interview? Was she “cold” then, or only after being stuck in a shared space with Molly? If her work overlaps much more with OPs, how is it not as valuable?

  19. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP —
    I’m coming in late here, so it’s possible some of these points have already been made, but here goes: You need to talk with Molly before your own irritation with her behavior makes it impossible to hear anything she says. Look at your choice of adjectives to describe her: “loud,” “overbearing,” “needy,” “gossipy.” You are obviously losing patience with her and you need to address Molly’s behavior while you still have some.

    What’s driving Molly’s behavior? Is it just lack of social contact, as some earlier commenters have suggested, or does she feel she needs more feedback and isn’t sure how to get it from you? She’s only been with your firm for five months after all — is she really ready to go solo? Try asking something like this: “Molly, you’ve called me three times this week about things that really weren’t that urgent and could have easily waited until our weekly check-in. Is something going on I need to know about?” Then listen carefully.

    My sense of the situation, based on your post, is that Molly needs more contact with her manager and isn’t really cut out for working remotely. In that case, although you say you want to keep her, it may not be in anybody’s best interests for her to stay. But you need to talk with her about it before she turns into your BEC.

    You should also check in with Amelia, who is probably looking for work even as we speak.

  20. Geheim*

    I’m a strong introvert and just sat at my desk reading this thread while listening to my manager speak with someone who is not his report at the time he was supposed to meet with me. The conversation lasted long enough that my manager now has no time to meet with me.

    Not a huge deal, I guess, and since he’s the one who has to talk to the client, he’ll be the one in an awkward situation.

    But this happens a lot and the message I take away from it is that my work is not a priority for him. I get good evaluations and raises and can certainly work independently but his blowing me off doesn’t foster trust or a sense that what I do matters to anyone.

    As a result, I feel disengaged and like it’s time to move on. That is making me feel a little bit like I think Molly must feel at this moment.

    Molly needs something from you, OP. Not sure what, and it definitely can’t be gossip or a lot of socializing, but she probably does need more of your attention than she’s getting. Or a job at a place where she will get the interaction she needs.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      It’s really valuable to hear this perspective from an introvert. There’s an engagement element to this type of situation that isn’t purely about socializing, and it sounds like that may be the underlying issue to deal with, OP.

      1. Mellow*

        Never mind that Mollie tattles on her colleague, inquires about her colleague’s performance, and acts like a giant baby when the OP spends more time on the phone with Amelia.

        Honestly, the blind sympathy troublemakers like Molly get is nearly as infuriating as the troublemakers themselves.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          I’m not about to give Molly blind sympathy! I do, though, think it’s possible that she’s both being kinda shortchanged as well as being a serious troublemaker. Her drama llama crap needs to be dealt with immediately, but OP needs to makes sure that they’re providing enough constructive, work-appropriate ways for their team to engage with them.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re throwing a person away simply based on a short letter and description of their poor behaviors. Before even having someone speak to her frankly about the issues at hand. Calling her names makes you no better than her in the end.

          I have sympathy for every human and their circumstances until they give me a solid reason not to. That’s why I have seen a lot of people others have thrown away like this retrained, taught and made into amazing workers.

          1. Mellow*

            >Calling her names makes you no better than her in the end.

            Sorry – who did I call a name?

            >I have sympathy for every human…

            That’s good, but I don’t recall responding to you about that. Why take personally a comment that wasn’t directed at you?

  21. Exhausted Trope*

    Sounds to me that Molly wants Amelia gone. She’s trying to dig up dirt on her. Why else ask about the quality of her work and tattle on her to the boss?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It sounds to me like Molly is coming in from a very different office, one where a toxic micro-manager encourages people to report on each other and does not reward independent work.
      Might be worth looking into her past work history to draw a clear distinction.

  22. Mellow*

    Most people do good work. Most people also don’t make themselves handfuls the way Molly apparently does.

    As such, I’m not sure why there is such angst and over-analyzing here, especially about Molly, when Amelia also does good work but who doesn’t make herself a handful.

    Why is it so difficult to be bold with Molly? Why are you allowing her to lead you around?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m not being snarky here but have you hired a lot of admins in your career? I’m seriously wondering.

      It’s hard to find good ones, it’s hard to find ones that work well in small offices, it’s even harder to train them when you’re that small, so you need ones who can self start and self lead.

      Sure everyone is replaceable but it’s seriously not as easy as “Most people do good work”, no they really don’t! Not in a wide net like that.

      I say this as someone who has gone through a lot of people who tried and failed over the years. They’re not bad people, they’re not worthless by any means but they are not good at every job tossed at them, including administrative work especially.

      1. Mellow*

        Okay, well, we’ve had different experiences, and, as such, we hold different philosophies.

        Meanwhile, I still don’t understand why Molly is the tail that gets to wag the dog.

  23. StaceyIzMe*

    Molly sounds kind of exhausting! She’s triangulating both with you and with Amelia- dragging both of you into a Role that she’s got scripted in her head. She’s apparently the Good Employee. Amelia has been cast as the Problem Employee and you’ve been cast as the Boss-Fairy-Godmother, who is supposed to praise, affirm and solve all problems, real or imagined. Don’t be afraid of her leaving. It might save you some inconvenience down the road. You want to set limits with her that work for you and give her just a little wiggle room. You’l like five minutes, but she takes an hour? Okay, seven minutes… She wants praise for every thing? Okay, randomly timed and delivered praise via email… She wants to gossip? One “uh-huh”, followed immediately by getting back to work. She wants to know about Amelia? You want to know about project “x”, never mind Amelia… And so forth.

  24. Saltylady*

    I would prefer to work by myself , than work in a small confined place with some one who does not talk to me . Years ago in college i did a summer job doing research and was the only one in the building for several hours per day. No problem , but if another worker came in and did not acknowlege me ,it put me in a bad mood .I enjoyed my solitude , but this was one of 3 part time jobs i had that summer . The other two were retail and in a summer program for disadvantaged pre teens . So plenty of human interaction there and i was an extremely shy and introverted person . I think you should separate Molly and Amelia as soon as possible , and they both will be happier.. Or maybe stagger the part timers hours so they are there at different times?

    1. Filosofickle*

      I agree that being alone is fine — I’ve mostly worked at home alone for a decade and love it — but *feeling* alone or ignored when you’re actually with other people is miserable. It’s different.

  25. Marie*

    * spell out criteria for what is “critical” vs “can wait”. In my role, P1 is only things that directly impact the customer. P2 is things that prevent multiple people from being effective or prevents 1 person from getting anything at all done. P3 is everything else, which is almost everything.

    * insist on agendas for every call, 1-3 bullet points only, each 1-2 sentences at most. Stick to the agenda. Don’t take calls that don’t have an agenda.

    Agendas are great for both of you for performance reviews too because then outlook has a weekly high level summary of what she’s working on.

  26. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Molly sounds as if she’s bright enough to do a good job on her assignments, but extremely immature; she has the mentality of a middle-school mean girl. The OP needs to set clear, explicit boundaries and limits. This includes slamming down the lid on the gossip about Amelia and making it clear that this not only won’t advance Molly’s career, it may very well backfire and give HER a reputation for being a manipulative backstabber. If this doesn’t stop the childish and spiteful behavior, she may need to think seriously about whether Molly is really irreplaceable or whether she’s rapidly becoming more trouble than she’s worth to the company.
    I get the sense that the OP is rather conflict-averse; she herself hasn’t yet realized that she can and should take a firm approach to Molly. Unfortunately, Molly herself knows this too and is taking full advantage of it. This will go on as long as OP allows it – which hopefully won’t be long. Molly’s behavior could easily damage morale throughout the office, and result in the loss of Amelia as well. Frankly, she doesn’t sound as if she’s really worth the trouble she’s doing her very best to stir up.

  27. Fikly*

    I’m really bothered by the fact that OP is discussing Amelia’s work performance with her direct co-worker when it seems like their job duties do not have much to do with each other. How is that in any way appropriate? At the most, they should say “I’m the one who worries about that,” or something similar.

  28. EM*

    Hi there OP, I’ve been thinking about this letter all day as it’s something I have struggled with a bit when I had a large remote team. I’m quite reserved and (especially when busy or stressed) I found it hard not to default to bring quiet – but I found that I did need to adjust my style when managing people as being so introverted didn’t necessarily gel with people management responsibilities.

    What I found helpful was having clear routines and processes –
    1. When I had a new starter I would go and visit them, or bring them to my office. The whole point of the trip was explicitly to help us get to know each other, both professionally and personally, and help them integrate into the company. I did social and team activities, as well as 1:1 time, and focused on getting to now their work style- I found they were much more forgiving of me when they knew me and could say “oh, E is shy” or I could say “x needs chit chat”
    2. I had structured routine meetings for work that I never missed. I allowed enough time at the appointment for chit chat/how are you going. I found people were more willing to take feedback, or tell me if they are upset, if I let them warm up a bit
    3. I never engaged in gossip myself and was extremely uninterested in anything gossipy they said. I changed topic immediately. But, sometimes I took it as a sign they were trying to bond with me, so I gave them other outlets for bonding – cat memes, chit chat about sport, their kids. I tried to find at least one thing with everyone
    4. I used WhatsApp a lot for “out-of-cycle” chit chat. I didn’t respond right away, but I would always respond (articles that referred to something they said, something that made me think of them, cat memes again, pictures of my own life). I found the amount of this communication became quite natural – people who hate chit chat didn’t take me up on the offer, but many many (more than 50%) did. They wanted to feel connected , and also important to me.

    My experience is that a lot of people need small talk to build up closeness and they are often motivated by interpersonal relationships as much as the work.

    I had to accept that giving my employees what the need to be successful was my responsibility – even if that thing was hard for me. Once I did that, ironically, it was MUCH easier to manage. An employee who felt I trusted and cared about her was much more willing to attribute my silence to me being busy, once we had a solid foundation between us.

    1. EM*

      I should add, once I was confident I was doing everything I could – then I was also much more confident moving into performance management or role fit conversation too. Which may or may not be the case here.

  29. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I worked with a Molly and I was Amelia. Molly’s need for attention and affirmation was bottomless. She was exhausting. She also gossiped and I know she went running to the exec secretary, who loosely managed us, to complain about me. If the exec sec forgot to say hi one day, it meant there was something critically wrong and she’d fret. She was jealous of my easy rapport with the project managers. At the same time, she needed me around to get work done.

    Longest sixteen months of my life. Our director and exec sec handled it so poorly.

    I like Alison’s advice but if Molly is anything like my Drama Llama, setting boundaries will at first only set off her anxiety and make it worse. But do set them and brace yourself.

  30. just trying to help*

    It sounds like Molly might have self esteem issues or lack of experience with this work environment and running and managing her own schedule.

  31. YoungTen*

    Classic Extrovert/Introvert Personality clash. Molly wants a vibrant and chatty work BFF in Amilia and Amilia just wants to get her work done in peace and quiet. Both temperaments can have weaknesses if left unchecked. The quieter Amilia is, the more the louder Molly gets. They need a third person to intervene and work on a compromise. For example, Amilia should be cordial, especially first thing in the morning since that tends to set the tone for the day. A simple “Good Morning!” followed by a “how was your weekend? can go a long way with most coworkers since it shows genuine interest in the individual being asked. It’s okay to invest 5 to 10 minutes chatting about non-work-related things. Next, Molly needs to learn that its best not to look to work to get the brunt of her talkative tendencies met and that is true especially with interacting with her BOSS! That at the end of the day, everyone shows up to that office to WORK! And as long as Amilia isnt completely ignoring her, then shes needs to respect that thats how some people need to work.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Another way to look at this is functional vs relationship building. Lots of introverts have a relationship building interaction style and can feel neglected and insulted when their functional interactions are not proceeded by a few minutes of relationship building. Amelia might be very functional. We don’t have enough information to say whether she is introverted or functional in her interactions. We do know that she is quiet, that’s about it. OP is for sure a functional person:

      I can’t and won’t talk to her on the phone daily (it’s totally unnecessary — weekly phone check-ins seem fine to me)

      Molly’s capable of doing good work with minimal oversight and I need her to be okay with that and not ask for hand-holding she doesn’t need.

      OP thinks Molly doesn’t need hand holding, but I suspect that Molly is looking for relationship building. It would not kill either OP or Amelia to engage in a few minutes of relationship building here and there, just as it would not kill Molly to dial back the relationship building. Just as Molly should learn that some people need to work by being functional, OP needs to learn that some people need to work by being relationship building.

  32. DinoGirl*

    In my experience with employees like this they generally can’t prioritize without input so everything kind of trips them up until they get input right away. That’s a really aggravating issue.

  33. TG*

    I’m an Amelia. I am extremely introverted and love to quietly get my work done without a lot of interruption and drama. However, even I enjoy the company of a more extraverted coworker, as long as I don’t perceive them as gossipy and untrustworthy. Given the fact that Molly has been tattling on Amelia to the boss and inappropriately asking about her work abilities, Amelia has probably picked up on the fact that Molly isn’t someone she can trust and is withdrawing. I am very quick to put up strong boundaries when I encounter someone who makes me anxious.

  34. charo*

    “Amelia is standoffish and quiet.
    Molly is loud and overbearing . . . She’s very needy and gossipy.”
    I’d talk to each of them about how it’s going. Molly sounds like she could be causing Amelia to withdraw. Is M’s work really so good that you want all that drama?
    Why not tell M. she’s good at x but needs improvement in her behaviors? Explain it as a path to a raise or advancement. Ask her if she CAN do it.
    Ask A. if she’s “standoffish” [use a better word] because of M. Give her a path too.
    What you DON’T know is happening could be a lot.

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