my coworker hangs out with my boss all day in our shared office

A reader writes:

I work for a company of about 150 people but the department I work for consists of three people: Arya, who is my boss; Jon, who I supervise; and me. A separate coworker, Sansa, works for a different department, and there is no managerial overlap between departments.

My team shares one large, open office.  Jon is only occasionally in the office because of the way his job is structured. Arya and I are also semi-frequently out of the office but cannot work from home. Sansa is always in the office.

Sansa and Arya are, quite clearly, the best of friends. They hang out outside of the office fairly often and seem to text pretty consistently as well. I like them both very much and we all get along great the majority of the time.

The issue is that for as long as I have been in this position (about a year and a half), Sansa has spent the majority of her time in our office. She and Arya will hang out almost all day, every day. They are fairly loud, throw things at each other playfully, play cards, laugh almost constantly (frequently the “wheezing and clapping” kind of laugh, which I find incredibly irritating), and don’t seem to have any limits as to what they will discuss. There have been three occasions when Sansa has apologized to me after making me visibly uncomfortable by bringing up sexually charged topics. There was a time when they would actively try to engage me in their conversations while I was obviously busy. I guess they thought distracting me was a game of some sort. I had a private conversation with Arya and put an end to that quickly.

A few months ago, someone in Sansa’s department anonymously complained about Sansa never being at her desk. Arya and Sansa were verbally warned by upper level management to cut it back. For weeks, they were livid that whoever complained did not come to them directly.

At this point, Sansa is so accustomed to being in our office that if Arya is not here or is too busy to talk to her, she will try to engage me or Jon in conversation regardless of how obviously busy or focused we are. Sometimes, if no one is paying attention to her, she will sit in our office on her phone and interrupt us every few minutes to show us something irrelevant to our jobs. Usually, though, she will get visibly irritated if no one is engaging her and go into another office to chat instead. I know, because I can hear her chattering on from a mile away.

When I am not busy, I quite enjoy Sansa’s company. But I am rarely not busy, and she is always present. A few times I have returned to the office after spending the morning in the field to find her sitting in our office alone! She has her own private office — go sit in your own office!

Plus, semi-frequently, Arya will delegate tasks to me that I do not know how to do, with the understanding that she is literally 10 feet away from me and will answer any questions that come up. But she’ll generally be hanging out with Sansa when this happens and acts like I have interrupted and inconvenienced her when I do have questions to ask. Also, sometimes we’ll have large projects that we are supposed to be working on in tandem. They would take one person a whole day, but with two people they may only take a few hours. She will neglect to help me with these tasks because she is distracted by Sansa all day. Since she is my boss, I have no authority to tell her to help me.

It is getting to the point where just hearing Sansa’s voice is enough to put me on edge. I struggle tremendously to tune them out and focus. It takes all of my self control not to let out a huff of frustration or appear visibly irritated by them — though sometimes I slip up. When I do slip up, they take note and lower the volume or disperse to be considerate. Sansa and Arya will not hang out in Sansa’s office, because it is right across from upper management and they do not want to get in trouble again. I do not want any bad blood with either of them, which is what would happen if I went to upper management. Jon has also privately mentioned his frustrations surrounding this to me, and he is rarely even here!

I know that Sansa and Arya want to be considerate of me, and I know they do not want to frustrate or irritate me. They are nice people and understand that sometimes I’m just busy and it is not personal. The issue is it’s still constant, and it’s so far gone now that even if they are quiet, I am on edge and distracted.

So … what do I do?

Sansa and Arya both sound ridiculous.

And this shows such terrible judgment from Arya as your manager (trying to distract you from your work as a game! being livid that someone would complain about this! bringing up sexual topics that make you uncomfortable! not giving a rat’s crap about your working environment!) that I’m betting this isn’t the only way she’s bad at managing. She’s managing like 13-year-old me would have managed.

Anyway, here’s what you’ve got going for you:

* When you talked to Sansa about them intentionally trying to distract you, she was receptive and stopped the behavior you were objecting to.
* When you’re obviously irritated, they take note and lower their volume or separate.
* They know this is something they could get in trouble again with upper management over.
* You say, “I know that Sansa and Arya want to be considerate of me, and I know they do not want to frustrate or irritate me.”

Here’s what you don’t have going for you:

* Your boss is 13 and sees work is primarily a social outlet.

But given the first list, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get at least a decent outcome if you talk to her.

You could say, “I’m finding it really hard to focus when Sansa is in here so much of the day talking with you. It tends to get loud and it’s distracting. Could you ask her not to spend so much time in here?”

In theory, you could also say, “It makes it hard for me to get answers I need from you when she’s here” — but I worry that she’d just tell you not to worry about interrupting her when you need her and thus miss the point. So I’d actually just keep it very tightly focused on “it’s distracting and it’s harming my focus.”

If she says anything implying that it hasn’t seemed to have interfered with your work previously, you can say, “I’ve been hesitant to speak up because I like Sansa — and of course because you’re my boss! But it’s definitely a problem for my focus.”

You also should feel free to tell Sansa you can’t talk to her when she’s hanging out in your office when Ayra isn’t around: “Hey Sansa, sorry but I’m on deadline and can’t talk.” Or: “I need some quiet right now to focus on what I’m doing.”

When you return to your office to find Sansa sitting in there alone, feel free to say, “Oh, did you need something from us?” and then look surprised and confused when she says no.

If none of this works, you’re on very solid ground in talking discreetly to someone above them. Apparently the identity of the last complainer was kept confidential (since Arya doesn’t know who it was) and you could stress your need for that same discretion.

Failing that: earphones, a white noise machine, and angling your desk away from them may be your only remaining resort. But from what you’ve written, I bet talking to Arya will at least cut down on this.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    How on earth are these two still employed? It sounds like there’s never any time spent on actual work.

      1. valentine*

        It sounds like there’s never any time spent on actual work.
        Yeah. Their attitude is “Stop trying to make work happen.” And Arya is the real problem. She’s created an adolescent inferno for OP, especially when she experiences OP’s work questions (that she set them up for!) as a distraction and can’t be arsed to do her part of group projects. I do think there’s room there to suggest she get cracking because it will mean OP can also accomplish something else. I’d ask to switch offices with Sansa. Out of everything, the waste of an office (with a door? and a lock?) is what would most boil my blood.

        I love how the worst offenders want people to confront them (hopefully, by next Wednesday).

        1. Wednesday of this week*

          I see your reference, but in honor of my handle I need to confront you about it. It’s Wednesday of *this* week. (Incidentally, that’s today. Consider yourself confronted.)

    1. Windchime*

      We used to have someone like this in our office. He was a manager, and he spent all his time drifting from cubicle to cubicle, chatting with his employees. We are talking hours upon hours every day. When he wasn’t chatting, he was using his personal laptop to work on his side hustle. This went on for years, but when the big layoffs happened, this guy was in the first batch to go. But yeah, it was confusing how he kept his job for so long. I don’t think he ever had any actual work that he was responsible for producing.

      1. Gumby*

        Clearly, you just don’t understand his job. He’s a manager. That’s Management By Walking Around. (Done really, really poorly…)

    1. Trying a New Name*

      Exactly! Where is Sans’a manager in all this? How does she not notice/care that her employee is literally never where she’s supposed to be?!

      1. OP*

        Hi! OP here. Sansa’s job is very cyclical – she may have work to do nonstop for a week and then nothing to do for a month. It leads to us being overstaffed a lot of the time, but we can afford to keep an extra person on staff to reduce the workload on everyone in the busy season.

        Since I sent this in, Sansa made a careless mistake in the handling of a couple hundred thousand dollars … I suspect that she’s become very accustomed to having little on her plate and tends to rush through her work when her plate is full. I’m not sure.

        Sansa’s manager is who they suspect complained to upper management, though it isnt confirmed. That manager is a story all on her own…

        1. TootsNYC*

          and if it’s her manager–why isn’t her manager, you know, managing Sansa?
          Why isn’t her manager walking over to find Sansa when she’s away from her desk?

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is drawing me in even deeper…that her manager may have just complained to upper management instead of you know, did her job and told Sansa to stop wandering around and disrupting others, ffs.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          OP, your workplace sounds like and Escher painting made entirely out of ridiculousness. I’m so sorry you’re in the middle of this.

        4. LGC*

          That manager is a story all on her own…

          Well shoot, LW, you can’t leave us hanging like that. Tell us about Cersei.

          But also…holy cow how does Sansa still have a job? Like, is she literally the only person in a 100 mile radius that can do what she does? And is paying her a FT salary less expensive than just hiring a contractor to cover what sounds like a 1/4 time job?

        5. Quill*

          Hundred thousand… YIKES. I have a feeling this situation will resolve itself, with Sansa being sent to another um… castle? (Haven’t watched, probably won’t, nevermind the metaphor) because that was not a strategic move in the game of quarterly fiscal reports at all.

          Be prepared for Ayra to sulk, though.

  2. Buttons*

    What are their jobs? When are they doing work? Does Sansa just bring her laptop in there and work? They can’t be very efficient or productive! I have never seen anything like this. I really want to know what work they do or are supposed to be doing.

    1. Nyltiak*

      Sadly, there are a lot of organizations where someone can do almost no work and no one seems to notice. Also, it may be that her work is cyclical, and she has dead time, though the OP probably would have noted this.

      I’ve worked in some orgs with groups like this and it is incredibly irritating and frustrating.

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        When someone is BFFs with the boss, you cannot imagine how much the person can get away with. Unexcused absences, leaving 3 hours early, using foul language, watching the World Cup on their screen all day – I’ve seen it all.

        1. valentine*

          When someone is BFFs with the boss, you cannot imagine how much the person can get away with.
          But Arya isn’t Sansa’s boss and their sandbox routine doesn’t have the other bosses’ seal of approval.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Using foul language and watching World Cup just sounds like a Tuesday everywhere I have been. But we’re cussing and listening/watching to games while working is the difference.

          I used to “watch” Deadly Women while doing mind numbing reconciliations and scanning backup docs =X But I’m not a heathen, I used earphones.

      2. Artemesia*

        Someone complained in Sansa’s office and there was a lame attempt to affect this and it still goes on — so management knows but is either indifferent or incompetent. Par for the course.

        1. Mama Bear*

          If I were on Sansa’s team, I’d be documenting every time I really needed her and could not find her/her socializing impacted our team/my work and bring it up with our manager.

        2. New Job So Much Better*

          If nothing else, could you request to take over Sansa’s private office and she could move in with Arya?

    2. Beatrice*

      I always want to know where people like this work. And the people who don’t have enough work to fill their day. I have never in my life had a job where I could afford to goof off for long periods of time and not get fired, and I’ve always been kept busy. Working in one of those places would drive me nuts eventually, but I would welcome a month of it.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Genuine question – what type of work do you do? Do you have busy periods that do fill your days (seasonal or monthly), or is it always that way?

          I’m kind of with Beatrice where I don’t think that would work for me. I operate best at about 110% busy, but I would like to know what types of roles or industries work that way for future reference, when I don’t welcome the verge-of-burnout experience as much as I do now. : )

          1. JeanB in NC*

            Many of my accounting jobs also would not fill my day. The reason is generally because I work more efficiently than most (not boasting, just time-wise I’m faster) and I run out of things to do. It’s not always possible to find another project, and to tell the truth, I got sick of asking my managers for more to do because I always ended up with the shitty projects that no one ever wanted to do.

            1. CMart*

              I’m a corporate accountant, granted at a lower level of responsibility, and have had the same experience across the 4 different roles I’ve had so far.

              Not sure if I’m actually more efficient than most, or if everyone else is also just pretending to have 40 hours of work when they’re really only doing 30 and we all just keep our heads down and mouths shut, but I’m deeply appreciative of my workload.

              1. OP*

                Hi! OP here. I’d prefer not to share precisely what our company does of course, for the sake of anonymity, but Sansa is indeed in accounting.

              2. Horseshoe*

                Interesting. I am sort of exploring the right kind of accounting role for me, and just took over a senior accountant job where my predecessor was months behind. I got us caught up and on schedule my first month, and then very quickly did not have enough to do the last two weeks of the month. (I did ask for more work, but due to supervisors having to do steps to get the other projects rolling, I still find myself with days with nothing to do at all, followed by busy days once the manager has a chance to give me the stuff to work on.)

                I hate the anxiety of being “caught” not doing any work even though I don’t have any to do.My supervisor also got flack from their supervisor when I asked for more work (like my supervisor got in trouble for not keeping me busier), which makes me feel like actually asking for work isn’t seen as a positive either.

          2. Campfire Raccoon*

            Jean B is me.

            My accounting jobs NEVER fill my day. Especially once I’ve been in a position for a while and I’ve made all the “we’ve always done it that way!” malarkey automated. ONE macro can eliminate a week’s worth of busy work.

          3. ThatGirl*

            Most of my jobs haven’t totally filled my day, every day, all week, all year. I’ve worked in journalism, marketing, customer service and creative services. Some days I could truly stay busy for 8 full hours. Some days I barely have 4 hours of work. Some days I could work ahead but then I either wouldn’t have anything to do tomorrow or I’d be setting myself up for failure by providing unrealistic expectations.

          4. AnotherAlison*

            The accounting thing makes sense to me, and I suppose there are also some differences due to company size. My division office is about 1,000 people, but I can see if everyone in a say, 10-person company, had a unique position how you couldn’t scrounge up more work.

          5. PM*

            I’ve had both sides of this coin in project management. Sometimes, everything is on fire and you’re in fire and the product is on fire and…
            But if you’re fortunate to get a project with a strong team and reasonable deadline, there’s honestly not much for you to do except load up the Webex for the team meetings and wait for people to email you.

            Honestly, its the nothing-to-do jobs that made me have to get out of there, not the too-busy ones.

        2. peach*

          Same here. I’ve never had a job that kept me fully busy all the time, though I keep trying to find roles where I’m better utilized but keep failing.

          Just today, my boss emailed me asking me to do a thing. I did the thing in a timely manner, and she wrote back, “wow, that was fast!” and that’s literally the only work I’ve had today. I wanted to tell her,”that wasn’t fast. the task was exceedingly simple.”

      1. pleaset*

        Yeah, where are these places?

        I’d perhaps like to work at a place with that level of low-pressure, but I’d use the spare time for serious systems development, personal development, long-term strategy, etc. Space to learn and create.

        1. Horseshoe*

          In my experience, sitting at your desk in an office where you are *supposed* to be doing work but don’t have any to do is not the best space for being productive on accomplishing much else. I do think learning from reading or if you can watch videos, but videos are more obvious to passersby that you aren’t working on the office stuff. There’s a weird office dynamic where they are happy you get your work done efficiently, but don’t want to see you using the remaining free time for non-work stuff.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve been on both sides. Both worked until I had to throw in the towel after a few too many months at 60 hours a week. And scrambling to find things to fill my time half the time.

        It’s accounting and business/department management in the small business world in a nutshell.

        There are companies that expect you to do “it all” and then there are ones that want you to stay in your lane. My lane used to be the entire place. Now I’m somewhere that the customer service brick has been lifted off my back and moved into a consulting role. So I’m just the wizard that someone comes to visit when they need help when the system burbs up saying “Don’t wanna today.”

        But I’ll be dead in January with the annual reporting that’s required. Just leave me here to die trying to figure out remitting tax reports to various states that are really basking in the overturning of Quill Vs Whatever The Dakota tried first.

      3. Charamei*

        My first job out of university was 90%+ empty time. I worked for the delivery/QA team of a web agency, so in practice it was just data entry. Once you got the hang of the system new pages could be built extremely fast. That coupled with the cyclical nature of the work (wait 3 weeks for project to come down the pipeline, input priject in one day, wait for next project…) meant I spent most of my time doing fuck-all.

        I gave up asking for something else to do within my first month, because my boss was clearly not interested. The company’s owners tried to encourage me to become yet another of our army of project managers (who would all descend on the delivery team at once without sorting out our time between themselves first, but that’s another story)… I had no interest in doing that, so I asked for training for front-end development. They agreed, but I never got it. In the end I bought my own training for proofreading and left for self-employment, because I just couldn’t stand the boredom any more. Three years of my life wasted… well. At least I had the money to get on the property ladder. That was the only thing that kept me sane.

    3. TypityTypeType*

      Some offices just develop these weird dynamics, and inertia sets in. I spent a few months temping at an office where one employee was ridiculously coddled by co-workers — five or six other people had to be overloaded for him to even be turned to for anything. As far as I ever saw, he just chatted and played on his computer all day. The guy happened to be the lone, youngish male in an office with several “Mother hen” type women — and he took full advantage of it.

      This was years ago, and I have wondered sometimes how long he was finally able to get away with it. Maybe he’s still there.

      1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

        I very well quite literally might have been that lone youngish man. Seriously!! Would this job happened to have been in a Northeastern city other than NYC or Boston? #EnquiringMindWantToKnow

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Agree with this. I have to go waaayyy back to when I graduated from college and held my first job to remember what it was like to not have something to do. Seems that didn’t last long before I had in-the-background work I should do if not directly busy, and it has not stopped for the next 20 years. What are these industries where people have a lot of downtime and no one lays them off?

    5. SuperAnon*

      I’ve had a manager like this… she was in “middle management,” where a person is responsible for making sure the people under them get the work done, but don’t have structured responsibilities other than showing up for meetings.

      It’s real, and she was let go in the first wave of layoffs at this particular company, because she made a hefty salary with no real output.

  3. Narise*

    I would only have one conversation with your boss about the situation and then if it continues I would talk to her boss or to HR.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This 100%. It sounds as if OP has spoken to her boss when she and Sansa had sexual related conversations that made OP uncomfortable, but hasn’t had a bigger discussion of Sansa being in their office all the time in general. And that’ the first thing that needs to happen. If nothing changes then go over manager’s head. OP shouldn’t have to deal with this every day.

      1. Mama Bear*

        My old office made us all do sensitivity training after some of the guys had inappropriate conversations in the office. If there’s a policy like that on the books, then OP might bring it up to Arya and/or HR. What you can say in a private office is not the same as what you can discuss in an open arrangement. Which is not to say it was appropriate at work, but worse when you have an audience. They should hang out at lunch outside the building instead.

  4. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    There’s way more going on with Sansa if she’s going elsewhere for (loud) chatting when Arya isn’t there. Given that the anonymous complaint was that she’s never at her desk, I wonder if that’s a deliberate ploy on her part and there’s something else going on – lack of motivation to do her work, inability to do her work (Dunning-Kruger or Peter Principle, or possibly even Imposter syndrome). I wonder would it really solve the problem by asking Arya to help keep Sansa out if OP can still hear her chatting away in yet another department. Even if that does solve OP’s original problem, it’s sort of shifting it on to another area and we may expect a letter in a few months’ time (“Someone from another department keeps coming in and chatting because they’re not allowed to socialise with their best friend at work any more!”)
    It almost seems like the best case scenario is for higher management to get thoroughly fed up and remove one (or both) of the main culprits.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I mean, it would solve OP’s problem if Sansa’s not hanging out in their office all day. Whether Sansa then goes and hangs out in other people’s offices isn’t really OP’s problem to solve, and they really don’t have the authority to solve it.

      When someone complained that Sansa was never in her office, upper management appears to have told her to scale back the amount of time she spends in other people’s offices. They don’t appear to have told her to stay in her own office for the majority of her time, because if they had I would assume someone would have noticed that she’s not and given her another talking to. So if upper management isn’t going to address it head-on, all OP can reasonably do is mitigate the effect Sansa’s behavior has on their own ability to focus on work.

  5. naha*

    don’t *EITHER* of these people have anything to do all day????? do they not have performance reviews, goals, metrics, or any kind of targets????

  6. awesome*

    “She’s managing like 13-year-old me would have managed.” – Proof that it’s possible for people to change.

    Sorry you are dealing with this letter writer. The person who complained isn’t even being affected by it as much as you and Jon are. I agree with Allison’s tips. If you feel like you’ve already done that and it’s not working, you do have the standing to say something

  7. danibell*

    I would suggest that OP goes straight to the top. Let’s say you do the adult thing and give Arya your very valid feedback; the minute you or someone else lodges a complaint against the two, they will instantly assume it was you! I don’t know them, but would hate to see them retaliate against you.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      While normally I would agree with this, the OP states that when she has brought issues up to them they are very receptive and adjust accordingly. OP also said that a big reason they were upset was because the person didn’t talk to them first. If the OP talks to them like she already has and someone else complains I doubt they will point the finger at OP since she did in fact bring the issue up to them.
      And if OP then has to go above their head she can honestly say to everyone, yes I did talk to them directly and it is still a problem.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I agree, my feeling is OP would be better served going to whoever the previous complaint went to. The fact that Sansa and Arya are spending such a huge amount of time not working and are blatantly not working (who the hell works in most offices and can get away with playing cards???) I would not expect anything to come from talking to them. The fact that last time the issue stopped for a bit and then started up again makes me think they wouldn’t stick to anything anyway.

      And I agree that if they are informed of another complaint after OP is explicit with them about the problems, that they are likely to assume OP is the one who told which could cause problems. I don’t believe their assertion that they were upset that someone told on them anonymously instead of going to them. They are likely mad because they got in trouble. If the person had talked to them first and then gone to management when nothing changed they would still be livid.

      I also think it’s worth noting that Arya is supposed to be helping OP on tasks and is choosing not to do so because she would rather socialize. That would make me not inclined to go to her instead of upper management about this whole issue. She is knowingly making her employee’s job more difficult. Even if the rest of this wasn’t an issue, that is a sign of a poor manager and in my experience nothing an underling says to someone like that will help – if a warning/instructions don’t come from above they aren’t going to change what they’re doing.

  8. I don't recommend this but . .*

    I would be tempted to go sit in Sansa’s office every time she comes to my office.

    1. President Porpoise*

      I actually like this idea. You could ask your boss and Sansa if they’d be ok with it. It wouldn’t help you get answers on the tandem projects though, which sounds like the most frustrating piece.

      I also don’t see anything wrong with parroting the original anonymous complaint – if it’s about Sansa not being at her desk, they’re unlikely to trace it back to you.

      1. Blue*

        This was exactly my thought! She should obviously ask to use it first, but it sounds win-win for OP.

    2. Filosofickle*

      It seems like a swap would work out great! Or, why doesn’t Arya just go to Sansa’s office instead? What a weird choice to congregate in the shared space instead of the private space where you wouldn’t disrupt others.

    3. sunshyne84*

      Idk I feel like that’s what they want so they can get away with not doing anything all day. Even if OP just sat there from time to time the big bosses may not care or just figure you switched. Who knows?

    4. JSPA*

      Actually, yes! If OP doesn’t need Arya’s input that day, suggesting that she and Jon could work out of Sansa’s office, for some peace and quiet, neatly threads between being a perfectly reasonable plan, and a perfectly executed slap down of the “school chum” behavior that’s poisoning their office.

      If the desk heights or chairs are different, this can even be excused (if needed) as testing ergonomic changes. Or, “came to find Sansa, Sansa wasn’t here, but then pressing information came in so we stopped in our tracks and got on it.”

  9. Rainbow Roses*

    They just hang out all day, every day for at least one and a half years? Play cards and gossip all day? Where do I apply?

    Seriously though, I wouldn’t even bother talking to either of them. Go straight to HR or whoever the other person reported this to. One complaint obviously didn’t work. It just led to weeks of them griping and then back to usual. Put your complaint in too. Strength in numbers.

  10. Could you call me Cordelia*

    The petty side of me would make myself comfortable in Arya’s office since she isn’t using it. I know that is not helpful- sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. StaceyIzMe*

      This suggestion has merit! Too bad it’s unlikely to be implemented. If the office assignment were switched and the LW used 1-1 meetings to ask her questions (that were scheduled ahead of time instead of asking questions off the cuff)- that might smooth things over somewhat. Sadly, I don’t think it’s likely to work out that way…

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My reaction reading it was “Why don’t you ask if you can swap offices with Arya, since she looooooooooooves sharing that office, why not just make it official.”

  11. Elbe*

    The LW says that she’s not able to work from home, but is there another place within the office she could work if all else fails? It may be a short term solution, though it wouldn’t help when she needs her boss’s attention.

  12. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I do not want any bad blood with either of them, which is what would happen if I went to upper management.

    Why do you think this, OP? If upper management has already been clued in to their bad behavior, presumably there would be serious consequences for them if it was discovered that they are continuing said bad behavior. Is there away for you to tip off upper management anonymously? Or somehow arrange for it to be discovered?

    I find it baffling that their respective bosses haven’t noticed or don’t seem to care that these two are getting nothing done on a daily basis. There has to be some way for you to kick this upstairs without blowback.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I know right? You have a complaint that an employee is never at their desk working and you don’t monitor it for more than a week or 2? I’d have a lot of random questions I would decide to just drop by to ask.

      1. Melissa*

        That’s what we had to resort to when our office visitor started overstaying her welcome and was visiting too loudly. One of us would either email or call her supervisor to come and fetch her. Didn’t take long after that before she was gone. Make it Sansa’s boss’s problem, and keep a record of how many times you have to ask them.

  13. X. Trapnel.*

    I come in from morning milking and the first thing I do is have a coffee and, read AAM to see the latest batshit bonkers thing from the corporate world. My job is a dirty, physical, split shift gig, but cows are cows and even the worst farmer I’ve worked for has nothing on corporate bosses. LW, you have my deepest sympathy.

      1. Quill*

        Cows are cows except that I grew up only interacting with petting zoo wisconsin dairy type cows and I once tried to pet a brahma calf.

        Guernseys are friendly like extremely large dogs, or relatively patient ponies. Brahma cows are NOT. Fortunately I learned this lesson before the other people on yet another college trip drunkenly decided to take a short cut through a paddock with a bull.

        I slept right through the commotion but when I woke up in the morning it was revealed that several of the culprits discovered that you can pee your pants and climb a fence at the same time.

    1. What the What*

      Ha! Love your comment. I sometimes think cows would be more enjoyable to work with than people. And batshit is one of my favorite words in the English language btw.

  14. AKchic*

    I think that if you do talk to Arya, and things either get better for a bit and go back to “normal”, or if nothing changes and you have to go over Arya and Sansa’s heads; they will rightfully lay the “blame” for the complaint at your feet, and might even retaliate. Because they have not left middle school yet.

    Talk to Jon. Document the problems as a highlights reel if at all possible, and send a complaint to HR and/or Arya and Sansa’s supervisor(s) (depending on how your company is structured) and ask for discretion and help. Something has to give. And start documenting all of Sansa’s visits. When she comes in, when she leaves. A quick topic review (or a list of all the subjects that they discussed). It might help down the road when HR / upper management need to follow up.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I agree with this advice. I’ll add that when you go to HR or your grandboss, tell them how Sansa and Arya reacted after the last person complained. Tell the person you’re reporting this to that you’re worried that they will retaliate against you for making a complaint and ask what they can do to protect you and Jon from any fallout that may come.

      OP, I’m sorry you work for the mean girls from my middle school.

  15. StaceyIzMe*

    I don’t think that you need to try to moderate their behavior by issuing individual complaints. It feels uncomfortable to you because adults are not SUPPOSED to have to instruct others on how to behave on a regular basis. Your boss is ridiculous and your inference that they don’t want to interfere with your work is belied by their continued gab-fests AFTER being warned by upper management. I think you have 2 basic options that strike me as sane- 1) go over their heads to upper management again and continue to do so until something breaks/ gives/ changes or 2) begin looking for an internal transfer (because who really needs to expend THAT much freaking energy monitoring their own reactions to an almost constant provocation?) or external job, quietly but with focus and serious purpose.
    I think that there’s a third option- ignore it. Interrupt with impunity, politely, as often as needed, wear headphones when trying to work in office and be proactive about dividing up the work when there’s a large task that both of you should be working on. I’d go for option three if your boss was a sane and reasonable soul. She has shown you that she ISN”T and you should act in the assurance of the truth of that conviction!

  16. MissGirl*

    I get so tired of people justifying bad behavior because the person is nice. So what?

    Niceness does not negate bad behavior?

    Is Sansa friendly? Sure. Is she also inconsiderate, lazy, entitled, and most importantly making your job harder? Hell yeah.

    And guess what, she’s probably not that nice. She would turn on you in a second if she thought you were the one who complained. DO NOT support her and your boss’s (who is way more so to blame) anymore.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      If she were actually nice, she would be a whole lot more considerate of how her actions affect the people around her.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I’m a lawyer. At one point I had a couple cases with an opposing lawyer who is just about the nicest guy you ever want to meet. Very polite, very decent, very nice to be around. Generally speaking, I like him. But he didn’t do any work on the cases, held everything back from deadlines, and essentially made more work for everyone involved. I started to get frustrated and vented to coworkers. People would always say, “but Fergus is so Niiiiiiice!” At one point I snapped back at someone who said this and said, “but nice doesn’t replace WORK, which he just isn’t doing!”

      Just commiserating, that’s all.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I’ve been in the same situation. “But he’s so nice!”
        Of course he is. If I didn’t have this project looming over my head, I’d have time for pleasantries, too. But instead, I’m running around to meet a deadline without the information I need from him. So yeah, I’m not smiling and asking about your day.

      2. Holly*

        To be fair, having an opposing counsel who is nice goes a long way in quality of life as a lawyer!

    3. Fikly*

      This goes hand and hand with people saying you should put up with abusive behavior because “they love you.”

    4. NW Mossy*

      Whether Sansa’s “nice” or not doesn’t objectively matter, but it’s likely good for the OP if she’s mentally stashing Sansa in the “nice” category while she’s trying to get this issue resolved.

      If the OP comes in hot with a lot of frustration and anger, it’s highly likely that Sansa and Arya will both be on the defensive immediately. Defensive people are rarely effective partners in solving a problem, so strategically, it’s in the OP’s best interest to approach the issue more softly. Striking a tone of “of course you are a reasonable and nice person who wants to help me solve my issue” tends to work better in getting the desired outcome, even if it is somewhat unsatisfying emotionally.

  17. juliebulie*

    I know that Sansa and Arya want to be considerate of me, and I know they do not want to frustrate or irritate me.

    We are supposed to take LWs at their word… but… I have to question this. I don’t think it’s at all considerate to spend the entire day farting around right in front of a colleague who is busting her butt. (I say this as someone who used to have to work under high pressure and tight deadlines while coworkers were watching Family Guy clips on YouTube. That’s not how to be considerate!)

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This. 100% this.

      OP, if they wanted to be considerate of you, they would just, you know, be considerate. The fact that they are not actually *being* considerate is a pretty high indicator that they really don’t want to be.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        To clarify: I think there’s a difference between “wanting” and “willing.” I think Arya and Sansa are *willing* to be considerate of OP’s needs when they’re asked to. They don’t especially want to, which is why they’re not doing it of their own accord.

        1. I'd Rather Not Say*

          I suspect they’re trying to do enough to stay on OP’s good side to not get reported, but really don’t care about how this is affecting OP.

    2. juliebulie*

      Also, if they were hanging out in Sansa’s office all day instead of in OP’s and Arya’s, “being considerate” wouldn’t be a problem.

      If they were doing some actual work, “being considerate” wouldn’t be a problem.

      I can’t believe Sansa got in trouble for not being at her desk, but hasn’t changed her behavior much.

      I can’t believe Arya delegated some work to OP and then OP had to listen to their yackity yackity yack while trying to do Arya’s work.

      There’s no consideration or apparent concern for it. They are doing as much as they think they can get away with.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is what I came here to say. They do not want to be considerate of you. They will do so, when you make a request, but if they *wanted* to be considerate, they’d just be considerate.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re self centered and self centered people never “mean” to hurt others, they just do it because they’re so detached from the world around them being full of functioning humans who have to share space together.

      I don’t handle people like these women well.

      They are the people who let doors slam on someone right behind them with a full arm load of books. They’re the people who take the last creamer package and don’t restock the bin afterwards. They’re the sort of person who speaks about sexual nonsense in front of strangers who may have been abused or assaulted. They’re the ones who say things like “Smile! Nothing is that bad!!!” when they don’t have a clue about what’s going on in someone’s personal life and who’s ant farm just got busted into pieces and they lost all their ants to the great beyond. Etc.

      But yeah, in their minds they are considerate and doing no harm.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s a glass case with ants in them. Kids keep them as “pets” sometimes. If it breaks, the ants will get loose and scatter because they’re ants, lol.

          1. juliebulie*

            Yeah, I know that. It just sounded as though you were describing a specific incident.

            In my entire lifetime, the number of firsthand ant farm anecdotes I have ever heard is zero, and I would like to change that. But first I need to find someone who will admit to having had an ant farm.

            1. Sarra*

              I had one! As an adult, even. It had a weird translucent gel in it, instead of sand/dirt, and came with a blue light in the base of the stand, so that it looked all futuristic and weird.

            2. Daisy Avalin*

              My dad has a large old-fashioned tv cabinet in the corner of his living room, which he’s glassed in and now he keeps beetles* in there! He’s waiting for the tv licencing people to visit accusing him of watching a tv without a licence, so he can point to the beetles and claim he’s watching tv!

              *In case you all thinks he’s mad, he is but he’s also a naturalist, so he’s currently rearing some beetle or other in there from egg to adult. He did tell me about it, but couldn’t remember either the common or latin name for the beetle so I have no idea what he was on a bout!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I took it as a metaphor for something important in another person’s life that hss big problems I know nothing about.

  18. Lol, no*

    Ugh. Reminds me of living in the dorms at university, which is annoying enough. If I had a squatter in my office though, I’d be livid. You have my sympathies, OP.

  19. Why isn’t it Friday?*

    OP, what if you went and sat in Sanaa’s empty office to actually get work done where it’s quiet? Then when upper management notices and asks why you’re there, you can innocently say, “Sansa’s in my office discussing something with Arya, so I thought I would get some work done here!”

    1. juliebulie*

      I wish OP could go a step further and actually swap all their stuff so that OP gets Sansa’s office full time. If anyone questions the move, it’s fair to say “It was hard for Sansa to get her work done when she was away from her office so often, so I thought I’d fix it for her!”

      I kid. Sort of. Not entirely. I’d like to see this in a movie.

  20. Buttons*

    I work remotely, but occasionally I have to go into the office. Since I work remotely 99.5% of the time I have to work a hotel cubicle space in my department when I am there. 9 times out of 10 I end up booking a conference room for myself because there is so much chitchat and noise I can’t get anything done. I wonder if LW can grab her laptop and head off to a conference room, heck, even Sansa’s private office since she isn’t using it.

  21. CBH*

    What the…… first for the anonymous complaint. Your office seems small enough that I would think it should be easy to narrow down, but that’s another post for guess who.

    How are these two still employed? Is it possible to “innocently” ask a higher up to get paperwork from you while all this is going on so they can see it all first hand? I’m surprised this has gone on as long as it as. This is really unprofessional.

    All I know is keep your paper trail and document on your end how your work is affected by this.

    1. OP*

      hi, OP here! They are almost positive they know who it was (and I am also fairly sure they are correct in their assumption). They acted coldly towards that person and were pretty hostile behind her back for… well, they still are. To be fair, that person isn’t really my cup of tea either, and she is also Sansa’s manager so she should have spoken to her directly – but they dont actually *know*.

      1. pamela voorhees*

        I can’t believe Sansa was hostile and cold to her own manager. Who also didn’t just discipline her report. Sansa is totally running the show right now. It makes sense that she hasn’t changed — her own manager won’t speak to her about issues, and pouting lets her get her way.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Are you sure you aren’t working at Sweet Valley High?

        While I agree with Allison’s advice, I would also say dust off your LinkedIn profile and see what else is out there. This sounds tedious to the point of crazy making and while it might not be bad enough (yet) to prompt a full scale job hunt, seeing what else is out there might be good for your sanity.

  22. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’ve seen a few people suggest using Sansa’s office or moving to a different spot. While that may resolve the situation in the moment, it doesn’t fix the problem. OP you’ve spoken to your boss once about a conversation topic that made you uncomfortable and it stopped. I would talk to her first and if it doesn’t change, or she makes your work life miserable because of it, go over her head. They are not “nice” or “considerate” because if they were, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Stop worrying about bad blood – you’ve done nothing wrong and you’re unable to get your work done. You shouldn’t have to use headphones or move to another desk because your boss is a child.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Oh and I’d start documenting how much time Sansa spends in your office for about a week. Maybe if someone sees it on paper it will make them realize how bad it really is…

  23. MamaSarah*

    This may seem rash, but I’d dust off the old resume and start job searching in earnest. A company that can “afford” this kind of behavior is bound to collapse. Something else is off.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yes, I was going to say this.

      The sort of work environments where this went on, were typically places that were dysfunctional, and people like Sansa and Arya were doing it either to make coming to work tolerable because they’d quit otherwise, or because the company was not compensating them fairly and they were taking it back as payment, or because the company wasn’t giving them work/adequate resources to do work and they were about to lose their minds with boredom.

      Having been at one point a boss wandering around with nothing to do, it was because my boss wouldn’t let me do huge chunks of my job and when I did do anything he’d undermine it and basically throw out my work because “I don’t like working with women, they’re not trustworthy.” So it probably looked hugely unprofessional that I was bobbing around for six hours a day with nothing to do, but I wasn’t the one who created that situation either, so…

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      LOL. If having at least one person who did little or no work would make a company collapse, there would be very few businesses operating today.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, as I am thinking about this, her office is across the one of the big bosses and they do not know she is not there? And that is because they are not there either? Well, this happens. Isn’t there anyone evaluating her work?

      I am kind of curious that no one said anything until there was a complaint. Bosses who are present and active usually pick up on stuff like this. It sounds like checks and balances are missing here.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t think there’s any fiscal issues or collapsing in their future. You don’t keep this kind of position around and pay people to chit chat and play cards all day if there isn’t money for it somewhere.

      But I do agree that I’d be looking for a new job. At best they would have these women in their own offices to avoid this kind of interruption to the people with full workloads. It’s not a healthy environment to be in and the OP is already internalizing so much that the sound of someone’s voice sets her on edge. That’s huge and is a sign of mental distress! It has to be addressed or it gets worse and can manifest in panic attacks in the future.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That’s a pretty big assumption. I’eve worked with plenty of people who screw around all day and it has little to no effect on the company – it mainly affects the poor schmoes doing all of the work. They just need better management.

  24. Sansaraly Yours*

    If Arya isn’t there, start asking Sansa to help you. “Since you’re here…”. Coffee, collate, google something. Specious is fine. Errand even better.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      This. If Sansa gets up for a moment, “Oh, are you going for coffee? Would you bring some back for me? I’m going flat-out on this and hardly have enough time to breathe, it’s so nice of you to do this.”

  25. Anya the Demon*

    Major kudos to you for being so patient for so long. I would have snapped long ago. I agree with Allison, to a point. Since they’ve already been reprimanded and continued to do it and just be slightly more secretive about it, I don’t expect you’d get a good result from talking to either of them. I see why Allison says to try it, but if you talk to them, it doesn’t work, and then you go to the big boss, they will know it’s you. I would probably join forces with your co-worker and report them together.

  26. Tyche*

    I suggest two or three things:
    1) Document, document, document every instance. So for example:
    “Date X – Sansa was in our office from 9 am to 5 pm talking with Arya”
    detailing everything when they disturb you, or Sansa show you things on her phone or they have sexually charged conversations, or they throw things etc.
    You should be as much detailed as possible, and if Jon is in the office you should add to your notes.
    2) Tell Sansa every time she disturb you, even with a simple “Sorry, I can’t talk I’m busy”
    3) Have a talk with Arya and please use the documentation you have to talk to her!
    Be precise “For example this week Sansa was here all day on date X, Y, Z”
    Say clearly “It’s difficult for me to work with so much distraction”, and you can soften you language as Allison suggested.
    If nothing works think about HR or escalating to Arya’s boss.

  27. Vicky Austin*

    Yikes! That was my work situation several years ago. I shared a corner office with two co-workers about my age (which was late 20’s/early 30’s at the time). I’ll call them Brenda and Kelly. They were good friends and spent lots of time socializing with each other in and out of the office. Whenever I tried to join their conversation (because I feel that it’s important to be able to socialize with one’s co-workers) they always said, “Vicky, this conversation has nothing to do with you. Unless I specifically say your name, just assume I’m not talking to you.” I felt like I was in middle school again and being bullied by mean girls! They often brought up topics that made me uncomfortable, such as the time that Brenda asked Kelly for advice on how to handle her boyfriend who wanted a foursome with another couple, and other things that I felt were inappropriate for the office.
    As if that weren’t bad enough, Brenda and Kelly were also good friends with Donna and Andrea, two other 20-30 something women who worked for the organization, but in a different department. They had open-air cubicles (as did most of the staff), and they seemed to treat our corner office as a social lounge or a break room. Donna and Andrea would frequently drop in to socialize with Brenda and Kelly, and the four of them would chat endlessly to the point that it was impossible for me to concentrate. It was like I wasn’t even there. When I finally complained to management, I was reprimanded for not being a team player! Rather than insist that Donna and Andrea not use our office for a social hangout and that Brenda and Kelly save the sexual talk for outside work, I was told to get a set of headphones.
    So I can sympathize.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If anyone ever brings sex conversations into your office space again and management brushes you off. Talk to a lawyer. I’m not kidding, that’s a hostile work environment you were dealing with.

      There’s no “oh just stop listening to it”, there’s “Tell them to stop or I’m going to sue the living hell out of this place.”

      1. Vicky Austin*

        Actually, now that you mention it, I’m not sure that I told HR or management about the sex conversations. I think I was too embarrassed or something.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I totally understand why you’d leave that out of it! Also what we’re comfortable speaking about at like 28 is different than what we’re comfortable at 38. But just something to keep in your back pocket if you’re ever in that kind of ugly situation again. I kind of want to fight those two mean girls even though it’s been years for you…I don’t do “I wasn’t talking to you.” “Then don’t sit around gabbing within in my ef’ing ear shot, Brenda.”

          1. Vicky Austin*

            I do remember that the HR person said to Kelly, “How would you feel if Becky and Brenda were always chatting and leaving you out of every conversation?” Kelly just mumbled something and looked at the floor.

    2. Luna*

      “Oh, I am so sorry. You conversation was taking place at such a loud volume, I just assumed you *wanted* everyone else to pitch in with their opinion!”

  28. Rusty Shackelford*

    I suppose you could suggest to John that you and Sansa switch places, since Sansa and Arya seem to need to collaborate almost constantly. I mean, of course they’re collaborating; what else would they be doing. All day long. ;-)

  29. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    OMG…this gave me a shiver down my spine. I have the “sit and wait for things to happen and to be needed” job in the company. [Hence why I’m here…so very much…].

    We have another manager who is in a similar position, so sometimes we hangout and chat. But the thing is, we both have our own offices and if someone walks in, we shut up and do our jobs!

    He was telling me the person before me was the sort of person who would float around and just chat chat chat. But was also super dramatic and was also a gossip hound. He was like “Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to you like this but man, I’m glad you stay to yourself more than the last person. Yuck [Insert stories here].”

    So I get it if these two are struggling to keep busy but FFS be self aware and understand your setting, argh.

    It doesn’t sound like they’re totally struggling for work since the OP keeps getting “projects” pitched at her that are supposed to be done by this chatty Cathy boss. *deep sigh* That reminds me of my first supervisor ever. She was busy dealing with her “show dogs” and personal stuff, so I ended up doing 95% of her job. Only good news for me, it helped my career in the end. Still didn’t make it less obnoxiously difficult during the whole thing.

  30. AnonAndFrustrated*

    Why are people so horrible? Why is there no work ethic or sense of integrity out there anymore? I have a coworker like these two, they do as little work as humanly possible while annoying everyone around them, but are all too glad to take a full-time paycheck with all the benefits. Job hunt as your second job. Take the next best thing that comes along. Life is too short to deal forever with annoying shitheads.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Uhh. There’s always been an issue with those who lack work ethic and integrity, this isn’t a new thing. I’ve worked with so many slackers over the years and cut people loose for so many outrageous things. My dad has stories from throughout life of running into the same characters.

      It’s not a “what’s wrong with people these days” situation, nothing has changed, they’ve always been out there. Sometimes you just seem to run into more at some places than others since they are given so much leeway by their superiors.

  31. Remote Worker and Dog Lover*

    I’ve worked in an office that was really social and had people regularly coming in for long conversations. The behavior was rarely challenged, though, and I think that’s a helpful distinction in the LW’s favor. Someone complained, management took notice, and Arya/Sansa were told to change. Hopefully, talking to Arya again directly will help! If not, I agree with Alison that talking to someone higher up is a good idea.

  32. TootsNYC*

    Plus, semi-frequently, Arya will delegate tasks to me that I do not know how to do, with the understanding that she is literally 10 feet away from me and will answer any questions that come up. But she’ll generally be hanging out with Sansa when this happens and acts like I have interrupted and inconvenienced her when I do have questions to ask. Also, sometimes we’ll have large projects that we are supposed to be working on in tandem. They would take one person a whole day, but with two people they may only take a few hours. She will neglect to help me with these tasks because she is distracted by Sansa all day. Since she is my boss, I have no authority to tell her to help me.

    But I think our OP has “authority” to ASK her boss to help her.

    Just blithely ignore any and all dirty looks or exasperated sighs. And say, “Arya, could I ask you to help me with this? I want to get it off my plate by tomorrow, so I’d like to tackle it now. Could you help?”

    Don’t ask “are you free?”

    Think of all the “blithely ignorant,” “cheery smile,” “bland expression” stuff as a manifestation of your annoyance and even your hostility, and not as “selling out” or “letting them get away with it.”

    Think of yourself as the most manipulative person ever, and it will be easier. These expressions and attitudes and words aren’t accurate–they’re a deliberate falsification.

  33. Pomona Sprout*

    “I know that Sansa and Arya want to be considerate of me, and I know they do not want to frustrate or irritate me. ”

    Are you really sure of this, O? Their actions definitely seem to say otherwise.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      That was supposed to be “OP,” not just “O,” of course.

      P.S. Sorry for the nesting fail below this!

  34. pcake*

    If you talk to Arya, seems to me you’re less likely to get push back if you complain about the noise and interruptions rather than complaining about her bestie.

  35. Luna*

    If Sansa (I am playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so I actually really wanna write Zanza) apologizes again for making you uncomfortable because they are talking about sexual topics, I think you should speak up. “Sansa, this is the fourth time that you have apologized for this very same thing. Please, stop discussing this stuff in my workplace — I am surprised that you didn’t figure this out the last two times you apologized for it.” Perhaps too blunt and confrontational, but perhaps that is exactly what Sansa needs.

    Or you look for a new job, be as confrontational as you want because you are leaving for a (hopefully) better place, and don’t care that you might be annoying Arya by indirectly telling her to stop letting her highschool girl talk flow into work.

  36. Dusty Bunny*

    OP, can you take your computer and go do your work in Sansa’s office? This might lead to a logical conclusion on behalf of the executive team: “If OP is working in Sansa’s office, then Sansa must be….”

    It’s low key passive/aggressive, but then again, I am from the Midwest.

  37. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    “I know that Sansa and Arya want to be considerate of me.” This is not true. If they wanted to be considerate of you, they could easily do that.

Comments are closed.