my mother is tracking my comings and goings at work

A reader writes:

I work for a large and diverse organization, and I’ve been in my current role for a couple of years now.

Recently, my mother (who lives hundreds of miles away) got a job with her local branch. Our work doesn’t intersect at all, no conflicts of interest (my role is senior to hers and we fall under different VPs), no relationship between our roles, just a fun coincidence.

At least, it was fun until she started using the corporate messenger tool to track my comings and goings. She’ll send me emails and text messages if I’m away from my desk for too long (in her judgement), and this is compounded by a culture gap. She’s always worked in frontline face-to-face client service, while I have a back-office job. If I’m offline or away, I’m probably in a meeting, or on a call, or someone’s dropped by my desk for a chat — but she sees me away and just assumes I’m slacking off. I’ve tried to explain this to her, and I’ve gotten absolutely nowhere.

Things came to a head recently when, during a week when my whole team was having technical difficulties with the messenger tool, she got so frustrated at seeing me offline that she used the corporate directory to call a coworker of mine and have her check in on me. (I was fine! We were all fine! Nothing was happening!)

We had A Talk about that encounter, and the behavior stopped for awhile, but it’s back, and I have no clue where to go next.

The tool does have a Block function, but I’m worried that this would make things worse. And I’m afraid of reporting her, because I have to sit across from her at Thanksgiving.

This is highly unusual behaviour from her. She’s never been this controlling or this invested. And I just really wish she’d stop.

Oh noooooo.

I wrote and asked, “When you had The Talk with her, how did that go? Did she seem to understand your point? Say she wouldn’t do it again? Or was your sense that she thought you were overreacting?”

Reflecting upon it, she probably got it at the level of “I caused a problem in this specific instance” instead of “what I’m doing is inappropriate.” (Which also means you may have talked me around to an answer to my own letter!) Like when someone gets The Talk about making inappropriate jokes, and their response is “I made one (1) bad joke and hurt this one (1) person’s feelings” instead of “this pattern of behavior is inappropriate.”

Yep, I think that’s your answer! And interestingly, this exact same thing happens with managers trying to address employee problems — they have The Talk, think the message was received, and then the problem continues and they’re left thinking, “What the hell? We just had a big talk about this.” Almost always when that happens, they either (a) weren’t clear enough in the original conversation or (b) need to address the pattern rather than an individual incident.

And to be fair, it’s understandable to think that addressing a specific incident would be enough. It’s not unreasonable to expect someone to extrapolate beyond the immediate situation. Lots of people would understand that when you say “please don’t check up on me when you don’t see me online,” that doesn’t just mean “don’t call my coworkers to track me down” but also covers “don’t freak out and send me 10 texts about where I am” and “don’t send me increasingly frantic emails about my work ethic during a routine workday.”

But since the message clearly didn’t get through, it’s time to address it as a pattern. In this case, that probably means asking her to act as if you’re not related at work — maybe as if you don’t know each other at all. She’s shown she’s not going to do well if you try to build in nuance, so I would go for a blanket rule along the lines of “since our jobs don’t require us to talk at work, let’s not interact at work at all, at least for a while.” (That might seem draconian, but I think you’ll do better to keep this black and white — at least for now. Maybe at some point you’ll feel enough time has gone by that you can relax that and see what happens.)

Also, blocking her would be a good idea. Tell her you’re doing it, of course, so she doesn’t drawn her own conclusions (especially since otherwise you risk police being called when she hasn’t seen you online for days), and frame it as, “I can tell it’s just hard for you to see my comings and goings on Messenger and not know what’s going on, and I don’t want technology causing problems in our relationship like this. Since we don’t need to talk on Messenger during the day anyway, I’m going to set mine so you don’t have that window into my work day anymore. We’ll talk after work instead.”

And then make sure you’re talking with her outside of work, of course! Seeing you freely give her your time in a more appropriate setting may help reinforce your message, and it can help smooth over any bad feelings about the blocking that could otherwise result.

{ 384 comments… read them below }

  1. BradC*

    Yes, block block block. Have the conversation, but also avail yourself of the capabilities of the software so she can’t continue to monitor your status.

    1. Heidi*

      I agree to this. Your mom presumably was working at a time when she was not able to track every colleague’s whereabouts. You are simply restoring that state for her. It’s odd that she assumes that you’re slacking off. She doesn’t think that you have any activities away from your desk? That you might actually be too busy doing work? Also, where is she finding all this time to stalk you?

      This makes me appreciate my mother’s restraint.

      1. Messenger OP*

        She has a role where she has zero away-from-her-desk time unless she’s actually on a literal break or in a once-a-week team meeting. I’m in a role where, most weeks, fully half my time is spent away from my desk or in some variant of an “away” status. (Presenting my screen for a videoconference, attending a meeting, having a long conversation with someone who dropped in, doing something in another building, that sort of task.)

        1. Properlike*

          But that’s not quite relevant, is it? If she were calling you on the phone to chat several times an hour, that would not reflect well on her own work (I assume) — just because it’s an app you type with doesn’t make that okay. And it’s okay not to try to justify her behavior, which is not work-appropriate in any context.

          1. WellRed*

            I also feel like this is an inappropriate use of company resources. If this wasn’t OP’s mom, this would be something I’d kick up the ladder after the “knock it off” conversation.

          2. Jean*

            THIS. I used to work with a woman who took multiple cell phone calls from each of her 3 adult children every day during work hours. These were not emergencies or anything else that would have been necessary in my view. Just chitchat. It drove me up a wall, and her boss hated it too (but was of course too much of a coward to ask her to cut it out). Just one of many things horribly wrong with that job. I got the heck out of there.

          3. Vemasi*

            Some older people have a hard time using or interpreting technology appropriately, because they didn’t grow up with it. Especially when they first start using something. The same goes for anyone using new technology they aren’t used to, regardless of age. They don’t have the context of knowing that you might, in fact, still be at your desk when your IM is idle–it may just mean you haven’t clicked to it in a while. They see “away” and they take it literally.

            This is not something that she will ever realize she is using wrong unless OP tells her (since the only feedback she gets is OP’s reactions). If it were appropriate, I would say that OP’s mom can ask OP’s supervisor, but it’s not appropriate. OP needs to set this boundary herself, both technology-wise and work-wise (since mom is clearly having trouble treating OP as a colleague in a different office, and not as her kid whose behavior needs policing).

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          One thing that might help is that when you talk to her outside of work talk about what you do or what has been going on at work (e.g. “Ugh, 5 hours of back-to-back meetings on Wednesday”, “This week was nuts. I was so busy with X, Y, and Z I barely had 5 minutes to grab lunch or go to the bathroom”). I have a feeling she is stressing because her job is all the time available and at desk and she may not be making the connection that your job is totally different and that if you were on-line all the time THAT would be slacking

          1. WellRed*

            I actually think they could discuss once or twice what OP’s role is but otherwise, should not talk shop. Draw some boundaries.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Good point. I was thinking of a quick answer to, “How was your week?” over the phone when you talk to your folks a couple of times a month. If LW talks to mom/lives with mom then definitely don’t go this route

              1. EinJungerLudendorff*

                I dont think LW lives with mom, since she mentioned seeing her at Thanksgiving instead of during dinner every day.

            2. Fulano*

              Yes, clear boundaries. If OP addresses it by making it sound to mom like she’s overwhelmed, mom might call OP’s boss and ask him/her to lay off the workload. That seems silly and I can’t believe I wrote that last sentence, but that’s where we are in 2019.

            3. Ellen N.*

              I agree with you.

              The tactic of the original poster talking about how busy he/she is could backfire. As the mother doesn’t stay in her lane regarding work; I could envision her calling the original poster’s boss to complain about the workload.

          2. paxfelis*

            I’m honestly not sure that’s a good idea. The Mom might decide that complaining to OP’s boss about “working my baby too hard” would be appropriate (which it absolutely is NOT).

        3. Kiwiii*

          Does it seem to be that someone is watching her time carefully (maybe bc her role requires it, or otherwise I suppose. Maybe her manager is weirdly obsessed with break times) and she thinks she’s doing you a favor by watching your time for you?

        4. JSPA*

          Even if she’s twiddling her thumbs while holding down the front desk for the occasional customer who wanders through, seeing your name on messenger may be a distraction and an invitation to bad habits. I’d frame it as, “messenger is intrusive, and I’m doing us both the same favor.”

          That and, “My boss is good at drawing lines between essential messaging and using messenger for personal reasons. Your boss may be thinking the same thing, even if they haven’t said anything. Blocking each other on Messenger is the right way to be professional at work. I can’t make you block me, but I highly suggest it, and I’m doing the same for you.”

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I think it’s really important to name the behavior pattern as stalking. That alone may snap her out of it.
        “Mom, when someone constantly tracks someone else through the day that is known as stalking. That’s a behavior that could get you fired!
        I don’t want that for you and you need to stop. “

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I think that’s more likely to make Mom super-defensive and focused on the label, not the solution. If this was RandomPerson, that’s a good script, but for family probably not.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            That’s the whole point! She needs to see the behavior for what it is. Because anyone else would have been corrected by now.

            1. ampersand*

              She either thinks the behavior is reasonable and is going to balk at being called a stalker, or doesn’t realize the behavior is unreasonable and will snap out of it/have an aha! moment at the mention of stalker-ish activities. My vote is that she thinks the behavior is reasonable, or she wouldn’t be engaging in it.

            2. JSPA*

              Nah, that’s a total molotov cocktail. We don’t actually normally call the action of checking in too much “stalking” if it’s not creepy. Or if we do, we’re devaluing the term. At our peril. When someone says they’re being stalked, that’s scary, scary stuff, and my response is going to be proportionate.

            3. Mongrel*

              There’s a reasonable chance that she’d start playing the victim if you did point it out. “I’m only interested in your well-being”, “Why\How could you speak to your Mother like that”, the ever popular “*cries*” and a host of variations.

              Ask me how I know…

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Co-signed. Having the more direct conversation is important. But given that OP has tried to explain that their roles are different and being away from one’s messenger ≠ slacking to no avail, I worry that the talk will not be enough. I vote for blocking and explicitly telling her she is not allowed to call OP’s coworkers to “check in” on OP. Her access to technology is not a justification for behaving the way she is.

      Also, how is her behavior not affecting her productivity? I can’t imagine spending this much time monitoring another person and being able to do my job well.

      1. Heidi*

        And from the employer’s perspective, what would be the response to this if they weren’t related and the employer found out that one employee was constantly monitoring another?

        1. XtinaLyn*

          That’s what I was thinking, too. Mom could be creating her own HR-related issues with her behavior.

      2. SarahKay*

        Depending on the tool, you can set it to show status changes. I work on a different site from everyone else in my function (including my manager) so I have my manager and two co-workers who I interact with lot flagged like that. It makes it easy if I want to actually speak to them – an alert pops up showing them as free and I can then give them a quick call, rather than having to check the main contacts list regularly to see if they’re free yet.

      3. Lauren*

        I’d go a step further after telling her about blocking her. Tell mom that if you hear even one instance of her calling a coworker to check up on you, you are escalating her behavior as harassment and will get HR and her VP involved. These types of helicopter moms don’t think rules apply to them; therefore, use that extreme example to get through to her. Tell her point blank that you will give notice at that point and that to hammer in the point, you won’t be speaking to her during work hours from now on.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          This is a really salt the earth type of response and there is a lot of room between “Mom, I’m going to block you because it’s not productive for either of us to have you constantly checking my calendar when my boss is happy with how I use my time,” and “I’m going to report you for harassment.”

          1. Lauren*

            OP’s mom doesn’t follow boundaries well already even after the ‘talk’ so being extreme is usually the only way for the mom to hear it. Its not like OP will have to report her for harassment, its more for Mom to realize that there are no exceptions to this boundary. She won’t hear it otherwise.

          1. 5 Leaf Clover*

            I think it’s the harasser, not the person reporting the harassment, who would be ruining the family relationship.

            1. Alex*

              That may be accurate but it’s not helpful to the OP who expressed a desire not to ruin the relationship.

              It’s one of those things that sounds great online – look how strong and in control I am – but fails when you have to take into account that there are real people involved.

        2. Kella*

          I disagree. If there were an earthquake/shooting/other disaster in OP’s area and OP wasn’t answering her cell phone or however they normally talk, it would be reasonable for the mom to try to contact her through other means.

          That doesn’t mean that OP should say “sometimes it’s okay for you to have a coworker check up on me” but it means it would be unreasonable to have some serious consequences up front for doing it, especially when she hasn’t even tried the de-escalated version of this larger pattern conversation with her yet.

        3. JSPA*

          You’re missing or ignoring the part about wanting everyone to be happy together around the Thanksgiving table. OP presumably knows how to escalate to the point where that’s not possible. They’re looking for a script that preserves mutual goodwill.

          If you were in OP’s shoes, that might not be your priority–fair enough! You do you!–but it is OP’s stated priority.

          1. Lauren*

            The only way I see them maintaining any relationship is to completely break off the working one. They work at different locations in different departments and never have to interact at work. So by removing any communication at work or pretending they work in separate companies, is in my opinion the only way to get back to having a good mother / adult child relationship. The problem is that the mother doesn’t see the OP as an adult, and until OP starts setting boundaries then it will continue where the mom thinks its just one time or this special case vs. a pattern. Setting boundaries is not ruining a relationship. It is standing up for yourself and not letting someone throw the ‘mom’ card at you to make her feel bad for addressing their bad behavior. OP shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for having an adult conversation with mom and it shouldn’t ruin holidays. If Mom isn’t capable of hearing OP when she mentions the extremeness of my example, then nothing will work. But saying it in a calm manner and pointing out the extreme part to show how serious OP is about this – isn’t a bad thing. It’s just boundary setting in a way that Mom will be more likely to hear it. Wrapping it up in a niceties in the previous ‘talks’ didn’t work – this might.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I think that explaining all about how the OP’s job is structured sends the wrong message.
        The message it sends is, “you’re entitled to an explanation and justification for my work behavior.”

        the message should be:
        “Mom, you are not my boss. I have a boss, and if she has a problem with my work, she will tell me. You are not entitled to know where I am at any given point in my workday, and you are not entitled to an explanation for what I do with my work day. I’m going to block you on the messaging app, because you and I have no business need to communicate using it. If some business reason comes up that you need to contact me, there is email.”

        1. mf*

          This x 1000. This is bigger than just the issue of the messenger app. Mom needs to understand that at work, she’s not the OP’s parent—she’s her coworker and needs to behave as such.

        2. Kendra*

          This is the route I’d go with, too. Really emphasize that you already have a manager, and that person is not your mom. It’s not up to her how you spend your time at work, and since you’re senior to her and have totally different roles (no need to explain beyond that, and doing so sounds like you’re trying to justify something, when you aren’t and shouldn’t be), it’s not appropriate for her to be constantly monitoring you this way.

          It may also help to frame this in your own mind as your mom coming from a place of caring: she’s trying to help you safeguard your reputation, as a good mom should. Unfortunately, she hasn’t paused to consider that she doesn’t know enough about your job to accurately do that, or that it’s inappropriate of her to try in a work (as opposed to social) context. You’re trying convey that, but also to reassure her that you (and your boss) have got this covered, so she doesn’t need to worry about it (note that this approach only applies to actual parents; virtually any other coworker doing this should get smacked down a whole lot harder, and reported if you suspect stalking).

        3. Roverandom*

          Agree. Also I would add, “Mom, you’ve never needed this level of checking in during work before. Why do you need it now?”

    3. Artemesia*

      And if this escalates reconsider sitting across from her at Thanksgiving. This whole thing shouts over controlling mother and sometimes booking a trip to visit friends at Thanksgiving or otherwise drawing a bright line between your childhood and adulthood can be helpful. I had a mother not this controlling but when we visited would need attention 24/7 which made me crazy; I was a zombie by the time the visit would be over. I noticed my brother didn’t have this problem and didn’t seem to get push back (being the only begotten son and all) and so I started scheduling things away from the family when I visited — would do things with friends or book a side trip for my family during a long visit. It transformed things after the first bumps — Your mother will get used to the fact that you are an adult and that it is 100% inappropriate for her to meddle in your job if you make it clear how inappropriate you find this (and that it is a danger to your professional reputation to have mommy calling and checking up on you — which is by the way true — imagine promoting someone with that reputation?), block her access and then if she continues to be meddling put some distance for a holiday or two to reset the ‘I am an adult’ clock with her.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        OP says this is very unusual for their mother. We should take them at their word & not diagnose more extensive issues than they themselves have seen.

        1. Andream*

          Yes, I agree. I think this may be coming from a place of concern. Mom seems to be in like a customer service roll, probably on the phone, where you don’t get chances to be in away status much. If this is the only type of job she has had she may not understand what daughters job actually entails.
          On the flip side, it sounds like daughter is on a higher level than mom. There could be some jealousy or something. Mom may be thinking that since she cant be in away status than why should her daughter? I think that OP needs to have an honest conversation with mom and ask her why she does this.

    4. Legal Beagle*

      Yes! It will help her, too, if she can’t see your status anymore, so there’s no temptation to track it (and then reach out to you even though she knows she shouldn’t).

      1. Sparrow*

        Yes, I think removing the temptation will help a lot since OP says this isn’t typical behavior for her. I know my own mom struggles more with boundaries when she has easy access to me, I think because I’m just more present in her mind and therefore she starts focusing on things that she otherwise wouldn’t think about? It sounds like this might be similar. OP should say she’s blocking her and then do it. Yes, she could have a Conversation about how it’s inappropriate and hope she fixes her behavior, but it sounds like there’s no business need for OP’s mom to be able to message her anyway, so I think blocking is the most effective solution.

    5. voyager1*

      To me the calling the coworker is much more of a problem then the Messenger thing. My only fear is if you block her then she will call someone. The Mom has boundary problems, unless that is dealt with her tracking is just going to be a game of “whack of mole”, block her on Messenger, she will call. Don’t answer the phone then you get emails or god forbid she calls the LW’s manager.

      This is a boundary problem (and what sounds like a nightmare).

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly. The phone call to a colleague is not ‘diagnosing a family problem that doesn’t exist’ — this is a screaming ‘you are not an adult’ moment visible to the known universe and alas to everyone at her company. I would be surprised if everyone she works with including her boss is not aware that ‘Op’s Mommy has her on a leash and is calling to check up on her’ with subsequent laughter and definitely a reputation she doesn’t deserve or need. Anyplace I have worked this would have been the gossip for a week. No subtly here. She needs to shut this down firmly and make clear how inappropriate and damaging it is to her career. Mom doesn’t need to understand or be handled with kid gloves; she needs to be stopped. She has already talked with her and that hasn’t worked.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The calling the coworker was an alarming overstep to me, too. I like Heidi’s advice to frame this as if this were another coworker, not OP’s mother—it helps make the problems more stark and clear.

      3. Jadelyn*

        This. If mommy dearest thought it was appropriate to look up a nearby coworker in the company directory, call them, and have them go check on OP, then it’s a bigger problem than just the messenger issue. This is someone who has a very poor sense of appropriate boundaries in the workplace/with family. That’s what needs to be addressed, or else mom is just going to find other outlets for her boundary-trampling urges and OP will wind up with the kind of whack-a-mole you’re talking about.

      4. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

        Cosigned. Mom needs to be told to step off *completely* in no uncertain terms.

        No messenger, no calls…to *anyone,* no email, no deliveries, no in person visits…nada.

        This is *work* not the ball pit at Mc Donald’s.

      5. Lurks @Work*

        Co-signed. I think in the process of setting these boundaries, the OP should also loop in her coworkers on her mothers behavior. That way if mom tries to reach out to another coworker in a panic, they’ll know what’s going on.

  2. awesome*

    What stands out to me is that this behavior is unusual for her. I wonder what it is about the online tool or circumstance that is really making this an issue for her. Best of luck! I also like the wording Allison uses for blocking her “I’m going to turn off that feature.”

    1. Mobius 1*

      Same. And I hate to catastrophize, but it’s worth asking: is this the only unusual recent change in OP’s mom?

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m guessing that for mom, if she isn’t online, she’d be considered slacking because that is a part of her role and she hasn’t twigged to the fact that this is not a relevant performance measure for the LW. She might be worrying that LW is going to get fired or something and is in the, “OMG, OMG! What is LW doing! She’s been offline for 3 hours! She’s going to get in trouble! I need to find her!”. Definitely not a professional reaction, but a very normal parental reaction. Hopefully mom can learn to leave her parent hat at home when she goes to work!

        1. Serin*

          > Definitely not a professional reaction, but a very normal parental reaction.

          I disagree. I’m a parent, and I don’t see that as a normal parental reaction at all.

          If I worked for Amalgamated Diversified, and I had a kid who got hired in a different location for their very first job, and I noticed that they were offline for 3 hours, I might send them a text or an email that said, “I added you to my contact list, but you’re offline a lot — is that the norm in your job, or is there something wrong with your chat program?”

          I certainly wouldn’t contact them AT WORK and tell them they were doing something wrong without asking any questions first.

          And that’s if the kid were completely new to the workplace! If they were well established at Amalgamated Diversified and I was the one who was a newcomer, I wouldn’t say anything at all — I’d assume they knew what they were doing.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I’ve known a lot of parents for whom this is normal behavior, and they’re not bad parents, just clueless.

            1. pancakes*

              Being clueless would make good parenting very difficult, if not impossible. It’s ok to acknowledge that people often fall between good and bad.

            2. PollyQ*

              First, “common” and “normal” are two different things, and second, I’ve never heard of a parent who treated their adult child this way in a professional setting.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                You haven’t been reading the archives of this site, then. It’s not good behavior, but it does happen with some parents, and it needs to be nipped in the bud.

        2. BigLo*

          Agreed. My partner’s mother (though not a coworker of his) recently Facebook messaged him while he was at work asking “Hey! Shouldn’t you be at work!?” when he had it popped up during a bathroom break. In the words of Will Smith “[some] parents just don’t understand”

        3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          I’d understand that… IF the LW hadn’t already said, apparently multiple times, that her work is very different from her mother’s and that she is doing important and relevant work when she’s away from her desk, to no avail.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I mostly agree, but we have seen a lot of instances on this site along the lines of:

            Parent-“X is how things work in the professional world”
            Child-“Actually, things have changed and Y is how thing work a lot of the time”
            Parent-“That can’t possibly be the case, X has been how things work forever”

            One example I’ve seen a lot is the type of situation where someone is job hunting and their parent keeps insisting that they need to go apply in person while the company says “please do not do that, apply through our online portal.” But all this just to say, I can imagine a scenario where mother is really stuck in her butts-in-seats world and no amount of explaining from her child will get through to her that that isn’t how it works for every job.

            1. whingedrinking*

              It’s true that sometimes people have trouble adjusting to ideas like “working from home is still work” or “email is a perfectly valid way to communicate with a business contact”. But the idea of a job where you don’t park your butt at a desk all day isn’t one of those. If the LW were a teacher or a doctor or an actress or an electrician or a long-haul trucker, the idea that she’d be reachable by email or IM constantly would be ridiculous – it’d be fully expected that she would *not* be sitting down in front of a computer for a good chunk of the day. It sounds like the mom just fundamentally doesn’t understand what LW’s job is, thinks it’s basically the same as her own, and is reacting on that basis.

              1. Lauren*

                Ha. My mom thinks WFH means I can do all her errands like go by the house and check if I left the hall light on or grab me some milk at the grocery store or call the pharmacy for me to see if my prescriptions are ready or do you want to go for a walk at 2:30 pm for like an hour.

                Even if I am at the office, I still get called at 11am or 2pm, with a ‘what are you doing? oh you’re at work”. Yes, mom – work. My favorite was when my dad didn’t have a car, and he got out at 330pm, and they wanted me to leave work early to get him every day. I told him to get a rental car or take a cab. My boss overheard the conversation about me saying I have to work, and he was flabbergasted that my parents thought I could just not treat my job like a real job where I have to be there.

                1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

                  My mom does this. Literally, I’ll be walking a dog (I’m a dogwalker/petsitter) and get three inane messages like, “Having fun with the doggies?” MOM. I’m not on a 5th grade field trip, I’M WORKING.

                  Or that time she texted me 5 times in 20 minutes while I was at my dog daycare job, “Hey, look at this cat picture. ” “Did you get my FB message?” “Are you having fun?” “Can you stop by the store for milk?” “Hey, why aren’t you answering me?”

                  Again, Mom, I’m working. I can’t answer texts from you and watch the dogs to make sure they aren’t either trying to kill each other or aggressively humping each other every 2 minutes.

                  Let’s just say I’ve resorted to leaving my phone off and locked in my locker. And she does NOT have the number to the job.

                  Some mothers just do not understand that their daughters (it’s usually the women who get this!) are not always available for chitchat.

        4. Librarian1*

          I don’t think this is a normal reaction at all. I’m trying to imagine my mom doing this if I were in the same situation and she wouldn’t because a) she would know that my job is different from hers and b) she’d be too focused on her own work to worry about mine.

        5. Beth*

          That’s…not a normal parental reaction for parents whose kids are old enough to be advanced to senior positions in the workforce. It might be a normal reaction for parents whose kids are four and likely to throw themselves headfirst down the slide if they’re not watching closely, but most parents cut back as their kids grow up. I consider my mom a bit of a worrywart (I come by my anxiety honestly, is all I’m saying), and I still can’t imagine her doing anything remotely like this.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      While I’m a bit worried by the newness of the behavior, I lean toward an explanation along the lines of “Never before have I had the technology to directly track OP and make sure she’s doing what she should be at school and work.” Rather than a medically concerning level of new paranoia, or newfound concern about how OP is blowing up her career and only via web monitoring can mom save her.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, that’s where I went too. My mother refuses to use Facebook, but I anticipate a time when circumstances will lead her to sign up. I would be surprised if I didn’t get all kinds of emails and messages and calls about my posts for at least the first few months. I see this LW’s situation as similar, albeit way more intrusive and annoying.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        I wouldn’t take it off the table, though. For instance, our son is on our phone plan and we could track is phone while he’s away at college, but it wouldn’t occur to us to ever do that. So, sure, mom suddenly has this new technology, but going straight to (1) constantly tracking the OP and (2) frequently *contacting* the OP about it when mom has not been a tracking/hassling kind of person suggests to me, pay attention. I’d be alert for other changes.

        1. AMT*

          I agree. I can understand mom having a passing moment of worry when she saw the LW’s status, but contacting her daughter *even once* (let alone constantly after being told to stop) is way over the top. However, my response to reading that was less “oh no dementia” and more “you say she hasn’t been controlling before, but are you aaaaabsolutely sure this isn’t a continuation of previous behavior that just didn’t bother you much because it was normalized for you?”

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Well, we do try to trust the LW here, and there’s 0 other examples. (but yeah, until LW gave that assurance, this is where my head was)

          2. WorkIsADarkComedy*

            Yes, yes, yes. I can’t believe there haven’t been plenty other examples within this realm.

            That being said, it’s not clear whether that realm is control or anxiety. If the latter, there might be some room to both explore the basis of the anxiety and reassure mom on that point.

            Whichever, a clear message should be conveyed to mom. It can be done without threats or dire predictions, but the three core messages are (1) this behavior is totally inappropriate between a mother and her adult daughter anywhere, but especially in a corporate environment, (2) this behavior can harm both you and me, and (3) it must stop immediately.

          3. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

            This. It might be “normal” in the personal realm but because it’s work red lights are flashing.

      3. Chili*

        Yeah, I was just thinking that a lot of corporate communication systems and Slack always show your most frequent contacts and their current status. Part of the issue might be that LW used to be out of sight, out of mind, but now their status is in Mom’s sight all the time.

        1. annony*

          Yep. Suddenly it is easy to see, possibly without even trying to. Blocking seems like the best option.

      4. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yes. Made a similar comment below. I feel like if OP’s mom were in the same office she wouldn’t be seeing this kind of behaviour, even if Mom didn’t always have insight into whether OP was working or not.

        I think it’s a weird cross of wanting to stay connected, feeling responsbility over her daughter, and having a little information but not a lot about how OP is spending her day.

      5. Doug Judy*

        This was my thought. Mom has a shiny new tool and hasn’t been able to self regulate using it. I think blocking is they way to go, but OP definitely needs to tell mom that’s what she’s going tot do first. Even frame it “I think being able to know when I am away from my desk has been causing you some stress, so to alleviate this, I’m going to turn off this feature. You can still get ahold of me of you need to as you did before we worked for the same organization.”

      6. Aurion*

        Yes, this. LINE Messenger and WhatsApp have read receipts and so many times my mother would be complaining to me “so and so hasn’t even read my text! You didn’t read my text!! It’s been ONE FULL DAY!!” and I’m just like…y’know, people miss things.

        (I admit to opening the text window so she gets that read receipt but never actually reading it sometimes. She forwards a lot of videos.)

      7. Smithy*

        Agree – also, this reminds a lot of other advice questions post-break up (ie I cant stop checking their social media and it’s breaking my heart). Even if the obvious answer to the LW, advise giver, reader is “stop checking”, clearly the impulse and ability to is too hard. And blocking/cold turkey is often far easier than “I will only use office messenger responsibly with my daughter”.

        1. JessaB*

          Yes and it comes down to, it’s not the checking in the long run, it’s the way Mom acts on the checking. It’d be awful if Mom was constantly monitoring, but OP wouldn’t even know it if Mom didn’t keep sticking her nose into things. Mom has to be told to stop, and also has to be blocked from being able to check because I don’t think she could stop getting involved if she had the information.

      8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        While a medical issue may not be the right conclusion to jump to, I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Maybe a back of your mind, keep an eye out type of thing.

        1. Chili*

          My grandpa’s anxiety got worse as he aged and according to his doctor that’s fairly common, so this is definitely something to keep in mind. And because LW is in the position where this is her mom and not just a coworker, it might be worthwhile to bring up therapy or seeing a doctor if her behavior keeps up after y’all have a talk about the concerning pattern of behavior.

      9. Dust Bunny*

        This. We recently added a tracking program to our cell phones for safety reasons when we travel, and now my mom will call me if I turn the locator off. She went 40-odd years without tracking my location but now it’s a problem if she can’t, because she’s gotten used to being able to do it. I finally told her I was only going to use it if I was on a long car trip or out somewhere late at night. She doesn’t need to know where I am on average work days.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I got annoyed once at my MIL because I was driving home from her place in the rain and she wanted me to call her when I got home. I hate that; it feels a little bit like a curse (“I expect danger to strike you”) and I hate to have that thought of “I could have an accident” in my head when I’m driving in tricky weather. Plus I don’t like the burden of other people’s worries.

          I pointed out to someone, when I was venting about it, that my own mom doesn’t expect me to call her when I drive home from somewhere in the rain, and they pointed out that my own mom can’t SEE that I’m driving in the rain.

          1. Lalaith*

            My MIL says “Get home safe” no matter what. Once we were having dinner with my in-laws about 5 minutes from my house, and she told us to get home safe. So my husband called her, 5 minutes later, from our driveway, to tell her we got home safe :-P

      10. LCH*

        same thought as well that mom needs to check in with her dr since this some extreme behavior if she has never before had boundary issues.

    3. Tuckerman*

      I wonder if she’s recently re-entered the workforce and doesn’t understand appropriate use of company messaging tools. In fact, it might be helpful to point to the company’s policy on appropriate use of technology, if it has one.

      When my mom returned to work after raising us, I could tell it took some time to adjust to work place norms. I rolled my eyes when she put a sign on the microwave at home reminding us to wipe up spills.

      1. Elise*

        Haha, I guess that kind of negates the “Your mother doesn’t work here” passive-aggressive signs.

        1. twig*

          When I was the office manager who was frequently stuck washing everyone elses dishes (it was part of the job description to clean up as needed — but folks were supposed to clean up after themselves) I was tempted to put up a “your mother doesn’t work here, and if she did she’d tell you to clean up after yourself” sign.

          1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

            I simply refuse to wash any dish that isn’t either A) The cup I used to drink water from, or B) a dish used by a dog. So all those cups in the employee kitchen that I didn’t use? Good luck finding a clean one, slobs. I may be old enough to be the parent of a good third of the group, but I am NOT anybody’s maid (bar the dogs, that is), and I am NOT cleaning up after grown ass men and women. Period.

    4. Witchy Human*

      If it’s so unusual, it’s probably worth asking her what’s up. She may just have a controlling, boundary-crossing side that’s never come to light before. But there’s a slim chance she’s just oblivious to how inappropriate or unwelcome this is.

      If LW has only addressed the outcomes of the tracking (don’t assume I’m slacking off, don’t freak out if you can’t see me online for a while) but not the actual behavior, then “do you understand that this is unusual for the working world, and unusual for you specifically, is something going on” should be step one.

      1. Artemesia*

        good point. The problem is not just that she is trying to meddle in her work life in this damaging way, but that the tracking is unprofessional and inappropriate regardless of what the tracking shows. Imagine her trying this on a colleague. I feel for the OP who now has the reputation at work of someone whose Mommy is managing her career.

    5. rinkydink*

      If this really is out of character, this also gives OP another angle to take on this conversation with mom: “Hey mom, you’ve been regularly tracking what I’m doing at work and seem fixated on it – that’s really inappropriate and strange behavior, and not like you at all! You’ve always been very respectful and trusting of me to handle my life as an adult [or whatever is true]. I’m really worried about you – what’s going on with you that’s making you act this way? Are you ok?”

      Even if mom is totally ok, this focuses on the behavior being strange and unacceptable while calling mom back to her better nature. And coming from a place of love may keep mom’s guard down to listen better.

    6. Diamond*

      I wonder if she doesn’t have any other forms of social media, in which case this ability to see into OP’s movements in real time would be a brand new thing. It’s like she thinks OP magically disappears from the office when she’s ‘offline’. I have a dear friend who can go a bit bananas when it comes to social media, so I can definitely see that happening!

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    So I’m curious, during The Talk, did you ask *why* she thinks it’s important for her to know your whereabouts?

    Before she joined the same organization, she didn’t have that insight into your day-to-day work life, and she apparently wasn’t freaking out about your work ethic or whatever.

    1. Abe Froman*

      Hmm, I think asking why might give her permission to treat it like a negotiation where she gets to make an argument for why her behavior is okay. The important point is that what she is doing is a problem for OP and needs to stop, so that’s where OP needs to focus their attention.

      1. EPLawyer*

        In a way it is a negotiation. This is her mom, not some overly nosy co-worker. Like LW said, she has to sit across the table from her at Thanksgiving. There is also no indication that their relationship is otherwise strained.

        Why can help both of them get to the bottom of what the heck is going on, and craft a reasonable solution. LW can still say “Mom, I need you to stop completely” if they can’t work something out.

      2. hbc*

        Eh, I ask my kid why they did [something unacceptable] so we can make sure they have a better alternative and/or appropriate consequence, and they understand that this doesn’t undercut the unacceptability of what they did. I would expect most adults to understand that too.

        If Mom is worried that OP’s manager is going to think they’re slacking, OP can say, “Mom, my manager would be concerned if I was always online, because I need to be at meetings and out on the floor, and right now the main thing undercutting my professionalism is how much my mommy is checking in on me.” But that’s not the right response if Mom is paranoid that OP is lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairwell or something.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I agree with you about not letting it seem like a negotiation.
        But it might also be instructive to the OP to say, “What is up with that, Mom?”

    2. Messenger OP*

      The thrust of her messages is that she’s terrified they’re going to fire me if I don’t pull my socks up.

      We just did performance evaluations and I got an award. She’s still convinced I’m slacking.

      1. Lizzy May*

        How is she doing at work? In a new job, it’s easy to feel insecure and it’s possible she’s projecting her own situation onto you.

        1. Zella*

          Yeah, this was my read as well. My mother does this sort of thing a lot – she seems to think along lines like, “well, this thing makes me nervous and I worry about doing it wrong, and my child is like me but less experienced, so clearly it’s also a problem for her that I must give her guidance about it (ie bother her incessantly) bc I have more experience! And then I don’t have to think about how I’m feeling, bc it’s clearly a problem with my daughter, not my feelings!” My mother has very poor boundaries, but I could see something like this happening even if OP’s mother generally had good boundaries and was just really anxious about her job.

          1. MsSolo*

            Yes, this is my first instinct, which is entirely based on my own mum’s behaviour (who generally has decent boundaries) – if there’s something she’s anxious and insecure about she assumes it’s a problem for other people (or invents a similar problem for other people) to give them advice about. She absolutely doesn’t see herself as an anxious person, just someone who helpfully shares tips and ideas when they occur to her, without the introspection to realise that when they occur to her it’s because she’s anxious about them. Like you said, it means she doesn’t have to think about her own feelings.

            (I mean, I comment on advice columns enough that I’m not oblivious to the fact I’m channeling some very similar behaviour! But only to people who’ve sought advice :P )

        2. Mama Bear*

          I was wondering the same. I would reiterate that you’re an adult and your bosses are happy with the work you are doing for *your* job. She needs to trust that you have this in hand.

          I would find the messages annoying, but calling your coworker is crossing a line. Honestly, that’s the behavior that could get your mom in trouble more than anything. You just don’t stalk your kids through their coworkers.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            You don’t stalk your coworkers. I think OPs mother has forgotten that OP is a coworker under these conditions. That’s how HR should treat it.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Well forget what I said. Mum is just not getting that y our job is different than what she is used to. She is only seeing it through her lense of “customer service” instead of “paper pusher” (no insult, I’m sure you do more than that just extremely highlighting the differences). You need to tell her that she needs to not contact you at work, that everything is fine until you tell her otherwise.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        No negotiating. The behavior is inappropriate as well as unprofessional and there is no scenario in which OP’s mom’s behavior is OK. Use Alison’s suggestions. If you get pushback, check out Captain Awkward’s blog…

      4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Aren’t all these messages stored in some way? No, nobody reads them, but yes, somebody can. Is this the record she wants of her conversations to a remote colleague? It makes her look like she’s more focused on her adult children when she’s at work.
        And no, I wouldn’t bring this up for a couple years, because again, this is not a negotiation. This is an explanation. “You need to stop doing this. You’ve shown that you won’t. I am going to do this in response. See you in November!”

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          This. “Mom, IT is going to read these and think you’re spending your time being a helicopter mom rather than doing your work!”

        2. Rachel Greep*

          I’m wondering what Mom’s career goals are. Is she still fairly young, with many years ahead of her in which she can move up in this company? Maybe Mom being overly concerned about her child’s performance is due to a concern about her own reputation. Is she thinking that her child being a slacker is a reflection on her and could hurt her chances of promotion? In the end, it doesn’t really matter, as her behavior is inappropriate and needs to stop. However, understanding her motivation might help OP with The Talk 2.0

      5. Chili*

        I think your letter brought up the really great point that she’s had a very different work experience than you (she being front-facing and you being in the back office). Is it possible her office is a little bit more strict than yours as well?
        It’s frustrating because you’ve offered her evidence that you’re fine and that your role involves being offline. If another talk about the pattern doesn’t take care of the issue, I would tell your mom that you can see that having access to your status is causing anxiety for her and that you’ll take away that capability for now. Then block her.

      6. Artemesia*

        Have you told her that your job is not her business including if you were slacking off? Treating you like a child is a family emergency — I’d use whatever option works. First you tell her it is unprofessional and inappropriate to track others in the organization. Then you tell her it is inappropriate for her to treat you like a child and micromanage your worklife. Then you tell her that her call has given you the reputation of having a helicopter parents and made you a laughingstock and THAT is going to hurt your career. Then you tell her you are blocking this feature. And if that doesn’t fix it, you go to Paris for Christmas and visit your friend in LA for Thanksgiving. This level of entitlement to run your life will not be changed by being subtle or explaining you got work awards. She is infantalizing you and putting your job at risk.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Sometimes, “harsh” is what is necessary, especially when the person doesn’t get the message when you try to be subtle.

            1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

              Agreed! My mother (and father for that matter) also have boundary issues, and someone who is oblivious to how their behavior impacts others needs to have it clearly explained to them. It’s possible I’m seeing this through my own personal lens of also working with my mother at a job (although we reported to the same director at one point…yikes!), and her boundaries blindness was terrible. Essentially, the OP is both 1) explaining why they are going to block their mom on the internal messaging app, and 2) helping them to but boundaries between family and work. A parent that calls their child’s coworker to find their child is likely someone that has other boundary issues in their personal life. It can be hard to pull away from family, but it’s only hard because other family members are choosing to do what is best for them REGARDLESS of what is actually best for their children.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                We’re supposed to take LW at their word, and LW’s ‘this is the only thing she’s weird about’ means this script is… a lot harsher than I would be in LW’s situation.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I am taking the OP at her word; she used words describing how her mother called a co-worker to check up on her at work when she didn’t know exactly where she was at that moment. This is cataclysmic behavior and very dangerous for the OP’s work reputation. She has already explained her work is different — her mother still did this totally unacceptable thing. Nothing short of being very very clear has a chance of changing the behavior. And pretty much nothing short of a complete wall of silence on her work life is going to work going forward.

                2. Roverandom*

                  I think a lot of people are reading this in the light of their own boundary-stomping experience. This situation requires a lighter hand than that.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yes, it is harsh. So is Helicopter Mom repeatedly telling OP that OP is a slacker who will get fired if she doesn’t fix her work ethic – except that is harsh, incorrect, and detrimental to both OP’s and mom’s work all at the same time. It needs to stop yesterday. OP tried reasoning and asking nicely, none of those messages are getting through, time for some come-to-Jesus talk.

          3. PollyQ*

            Not to me. Mom’s behavior is is not just a disrespectful boundary stomping, it’s behavior that will actively damage her professional standing if it continues, and milder requests to cut it out haven’t worked.

            I’m not going to tell OP what to feel or that she “has to” do anything, but this is something she has every right to be *furious* about, and if she chooses to go low- or no-contact over it, or even just skip 1 year’s Thanksgiving, she’s not overreacting.

            1. Roverandom*

              No contact?? Your mother who you love crossed one boundary, behaved inappropriately in a new way for the first time, you say stop and she doesn’t seem to get it, so you decide to never speak to her again??

              That’s such a zero tolerance nuclear option for something that really requires a more nuanced approach! There is room in between “lie down and take it” and “cut off all contact.” This calls for a jewelry mallet and you’re using a sledge hammer.

              1. PollyQ*

                “No contact” doesn’t have to mean forever, she didn’t do it one time, and even if we count all the actions as one boundary, it’s a really major boundary, and she trashed it.

          1. Autumnheart*

            If Mom ruined my reputation at my job because she couldn’t stop treating me like I was 6 years old, that relationship would be hella torpedoed already. Escalating the consequences for repeated oversteps is one of the only effective ways to get someone to quit it before serious problems arise.

          2. Blueberry*

            As opposed to putting up with this constant interference and letting her mother hassle her coworkers she can’t find OP? That might have an effect on both her relationship with her mother and her relationship with her coworkers, might it not?

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, if the first talk didn’t work, it’s possible that you need to be very clear and direct in the second talk. It’s very worrying that the mother calls her daughter’s co-workers in addition to messaging the daughter every day.

        2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*


          I mean she got out the corporate directory out to find a coworker to check up in OP!!! What even…?!

      7. 5 Leaf Clover*

        EVEN IF you were on the verge of being fired, this would be a horrifying overstep, so her explanation is really irrelevant. You really need to block her.

      8. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Ohh this sounds like my out-of-touch parents. My dad was annoyed I didn’t wear “business clothes” like slacks and a blouse to work and was concerned I’d get fired for being unprofessional. To my job in fitness. Managing a swimming pool. Where my office was in the pool area.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          My mom babysits for us twice a week. So she sees me come home from work. My job is very casual and I usually wear jeans, flip flops and a nice t-shirt or casual sweater. She came from a job where she wore a suit every day. I can always feel her cringing when she sees what I wear to work.
          My previous job before this was at small non-profit, where even our ED wore sweats. By small I mean 5 staff. So I constantly wore leggings, yoga pants etc. She died a little everytime.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          That makes no sense. When you work at a pool, you are literally required to wear a bathing suit! That would be like Rachel Maddow’s father watching her show and being concerned that she would get fired for talking politics at work!

      9. JustaTech*

        Oh, I understand. My mother -in-law has a similarly hard time understanding that for my husband there’s no such thing as being “done” at the end of the day. He’s a manager, he has giant, long-term projects. When my MIL worked she did things like daily bookkeeping and office-manager type stuff where you could write a to-do list and be genuinely done at the end of the day.

        It doesn’t help that my husband is a known procrastinator, so his mom periodically wants to “check in” that he’s staying on track. (She also occasionally forgets that I have a day job and can’t just go lamp shopping on a Tuesday, but that’s a different issue.)

        It can be very hard to explain to other people in a way that they will really *get* that your experience of work is very different from theirs, without either experience being “wrong”.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          ^ adding my agreement here.

          My parents luckily were in the same general career path as I ended up in, and while they don’t necessarily understand my field, they get the gist of the same norms. I actually call them on a regular basis about work things, because they are really fantastic resources for me. My dad walked me through my first salary negotiation. (I am incredibly lucky with this!!)

          However, my in laws, though they are very well meaning and I mostly love them to pieces, are….different. FIL isn’t too bad, he’ll give his opinion but also ask a lot of questions and try to understand the situation. He just might not be well versed on it because they have very different backgrounds. MIL is very pushy. Very. Pushy. I think the most recent one she got snitty with me because Hubs and I turned down a very sudden (as in, called the day before) vacation to….somewhere a few hours in a plane away. It would have required us to very suddenly drop a couple thousand on plane tickets, share a hotel room with them (LOL NO), and take 5 days off work with quite literally 4 business hours of notice. We could not get her to understand that it was a very big ask. I think she’s still a bit salty about it, tbh. She’s done that with other work topics (and personal topics) as well, so Hubs and I have her on a pretty strict information diet. Also why she has never been (and never will) be given any sort of contact information for either of our workplaces, because she has our personal cell phones and that’s plenty. She isn’t good at minding boundaries in general, and it works best for our sanity to put in very clear and easily enforced boundaries….like information diets.

          1. Batgirl*

            It really sounds like she was designing a hoop for you to jump through there. A nice favour sharking one….

      10. Jaydee*

        I think then that you have one chance to get her to realize the error of her ways by laying it out really clearly that the way your job performance is measured is totally different than what she’s used to and that her actions are actually harmful to your success and reputation. If that doesn’t work you should let her know that you’re blocking her on messenger and why. I think you can say something like:

        “Mom, I appreciate that you’re concerned about me and how I’m doing in my job. The fact is, my status on messenger isn’t a good indicator of that. My job involves a lot of meetings, screen sharing, and other work that means I’m on ‘away’ status much of the day. If anything, you should take my being on ‘away’ status as a *good* sign that I’m off in some meeting somewhere doing exactly what my boss wants me to be doing!

        When you spend time worrying about where I am, that disrupts both of our work days. I can’t imagine your boss wants you spending work time tracking me down. And mine doesn’t want me responding to questions about my whereabouts all day.

        Can we agree that you won’t contact me (or my coworkers…) during the work day to check in on where I am and what I’m doing? We can absolutely talk outside of work hours because you’re my mom and I love you and love talking to you! But during work we both need to be focused on our jobs.”

        Then give it maybe a couple weeks tops, and if it doesn’t work, let her know that you’re going to block her on messenger because her ability to monitor your status on there has become too much of a distraction (for both of you) and you need it to stop.

        1. Koala dreams*

          That’s a nice script, it’s very friendly and focus on mending the relationship while still being clear.

        2. Mockingjay*

          “If anything, you should take my being on ‘away’ status as a *good* sign that I’m off in some meeting somewhere doing exactly what my boss wants me to be doing!

          Oh I like this. You’ve flipped mom’s concern into a positive attribute.

      11. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My suspicion might be right. I bet for her job or in her area being offline that much would get someone fired and she isn’t getting that it is an irrelevant metric for your job. You might want to consider letting her know about the good evaluation and award?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ll bet money she was told about both the evaluation and the award, and blew it off. Maybe send her a picture of the award, OP? (kidding) (but also not kidding)

      12. Asenath*

        Have the talk, and block her, and keep up the out-of-work relationship with comparatively little information about your job. Really, you aren’t going to change the mind of a mother who is convinced that you doing X is going to cause you to lose your job. Mine was convinced that I should be giving presentations when I got back after a work trip. For my trips, for my employer, that was neither expected nor required. I just patiently said “No, it’s not required” when it came up, which wasn’t often because she didn’t get into online communication.

      13. animaniactoo*

        Hmmm. I wonder if you would get any traction with: “Mom, if they fire me I am an adult and I will find a way to handle it. I don’t need you to be on top of this and if you were any other co-worker, I would have reported you to HR by now.”

      14. Dagny*

        Just block her. Tell her that she needs to stay in her lane.

        FWIW, I blocked my family of origin from my company cell phone and email, because they were in the habit of sending me torrents of emotionally and verbally abusive messages there. The best was when I told one parent that it was not an appropriate thing for company email, which is maintained by law for 7 years and subject to government oversight and discovery, and the response I got back was: “How Christian of you.” (I work at a secular company with no religious affiliation whatsoever – but am the only one in my family who goes to church.)

        My manager is fully supportive of this, because she doesn’t want her employee being subjected to this while at work.

      15. Blarg*

        Congrats on the award!

        My head is exploding at this intrusion, but I’m estranged from my mother and she once sent her high school boyfriend to my apartment building to harass me. So, you know, my experience with this type of thing is kind of extreme.

      16. Shirley Keeldar*

        Maybe you could get a bit of traction out of, “Mom, you raised me to have a good work ethic. You need to trust that you did a good job and let me handle my own hours.” Praise her parenting while telling her to butt the heck out of your work life! Good luck (and put me on the “block” bandwagon as well. Block! Always be blocking!)

      17. Cookie Monster*

        I wonder if you’ve also mentioned how insulting this to you. If my mom continued to think I was slacking all day when I clearly explained otherwise, I’d be insulted and say so. And even switch it around back to her: “Do you really think you raised me to slack off at work all day? Is that what you think of me?” And if she says no, she doesn’t think that, she’s just worried is all, then you can rightly point out that she clearly DOES think that even if she can’t admit it.

        This might sound confrontational but it can be said in a calm way that still expresses how hurtful her behavior is to you.

      18. Observer*

        Point out that if you weren’t on the same messaging service she wouldn’t know if you’re “slacking”, and would not be able to “supervise” you. She needs to stop “supervising” you NOW.

        And then block her.

        Also, you may want to think about whether she’s always so doubtful about your competence and judgement.

      19. Rozefly*

        Man, this must be so exhausting for you OP – please can you give us a full update once you’ve taken action and set the boundaries with your Mom?

  4. Fibchopkin*

    Oh OP, This sucks so bad. I think the solution that you and Alison settled on is spot-on- hopefully having a specific talk with her about the whole pattern of behavior will get her to stop. I really just wanted to chime in and let you know that I understand exactly how bad this sucks. For the last several months of my time in the Army before I completed my final tour of duty, my husband was in the stationed in the same company as me, not in my direct chain of command, and we were only one rank apart (he was a SSG and I a SGT at the time), but he very, very weirdly and uncharacteristically started doing something very similar. It was pretty early in our marriage (the second year) and I finally just snapped and told him to cut it out or I’d clobber him. Obviously not the best response, and we both laugh about the weirdness of those few months when we look back on them now, nearly 13 years later, but oh boy, do I remember the frustration at the time!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t think the OP’s mom necessarily understands modern technology =X

      Her behavior screams “I’ve never had an IM system before and don’t understand how they work…”

      I can be sitting at my desk, taking calls and doing things that don’t mean I need to touch the keyboard and it goes idle *face palm*

  5. Marny*

    I can’t help but wonder if mom is always this anxious and (I can’t think of a less harsh-sounding word) neurotic? Has she always been the kind of mom who needs daily check-ins or is this completely out-of-norm behaviour?

    1. Marny*

      And I know OP says it’s “unusual” but it sounds more like the degree is unusual, not the behaviour altogether.

    2. Messenger OP*

      Totally, 100% out of the ordinary. We’re actually a pretty laid-back family on the whole. This is new and different.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        That is such an interesting comment. I wonder what the reason is behind her change in personality in this one instance.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          My MIL is one of the most laid back people I know. But when it comes to my husband and his job she thinks he is perpetual danger of losing his job when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. He drops off our kids to her in the morning. His job is pretty flexible and as long as he isn’t an hour late all the time its no biggie. If they are late, she’s convinced he will be fired. Some Moms just have their “hang ups”.

          1. TootsNYC*

            in our world today, when your job is your affordable health insurance, and when (despite the numbers) it feels like good jobs are scarce and hard to get, your kid not having a job is a major anxiety.

            1. valentine*

              your kid not having a job is a major anxiety.
              Sure, but stalking isn’t understandable. It’s insulting if she honestly believes (1) OP is incompetent (and, what, was hanging by a thread until Mom became a (distant, hallelujah) colleague?) and (2) she can save OP’s job (3) by stalking them. It’s a wonder she’s not harassing people in her actual building about their whereabouts.

              OP, in addition to corralling your mom, I’d ask to have the messenger restricted to one’s own team or other relevant, Mom-excluding group.

              1. TootsNYC*

                did you think I was making excuses for her? I was just expanding on the idea of where the anxiety could be coming from.

          2. Merci Dee*

            My mom has generally got her stuff together about what’s going on with her kids. But I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t talk much with her about when I’m planning to take leave for vacation trips or just to hang around the house. My company has a pretty generous leave policy (two weeks for your first year of employment, and then for 15 years afterward, you earn one extra day of leave on January 1 after your anniversary date has passed. For instance, I started work here in May 2010, and when January 1 rolls around, I’ll have 9 additional days of leave added in with my 2 standard weeks and 3 personal days). My bosses are great about approving leave requests, and I’ve never had a request for time off denied in the years I’ve been here. But my mom is . . . strange . . . about the idea of asking for leave. In her mind, I’m not using a benefit I’m entitled to as a part of my job, I’m just “laying out”, as she calls it. Like I just woke up one day and decided not to show up without letting anyone know what’s going on. And she gets nervous and jittery about it, like I’m going to be in trouble when I go back in the next day. All of my assurances that my time off was approved in advance don’t mean anything. My bosses will let me go if I “lay out” too much. I tried to tell her once that my bosses would prefer that I use all of my vacation and personal leave days during the year so that they don’t have to pay me for the unused time the following year, but it makes no difference.

            I think a lot of that has to do with her idea that people are “lucky” to have their jobs and they always have to be on their best behavior 100% of the time to keep from making their bosses mad enough to fire them. Yes, she comes from an earlier generation that looked at work differently than most people do today.

            1. TootsNYC*

              It may also be leftover from elementary school, and the whole stereotype that kids lie about feeling sick so they can skip school.

              1. Merci Dee*

                I think it’s also partly about the fact that mom always had clerical-type jobs before she retired. At her last position, she had a good deal of seniority and did some supervision for other clerical positions in the office. But that was her niche and she totally rocked it. Being there, on time, every day was a big part of the job.

                I’m an accountant in a manufacturing setting, and have more flexibility with my position that mom ever had with any of hers. My work is typically crammed into the first week and the last week of the month — the two weeks in the middle are generally more relaxed, and that’s when I typically aim for my time off requests.

                So, basically, some of it can be chalked up to different job expectations and work schedules. I will say, though, that in the past year or so, she’s gotten much better about the idea of actually using the vacation time that you’re allotted.

                1. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

                  I wonder if you could ever make it seem like a plus? The “I have to be off so they can check my work” or would that cause more anxiety and headache?

            2. Old and Don’t Care*

              My father worked thirty five years at the same company, and I’d be surprised if he ever took three weeks of vacation in a year. Two weeks and maybe a day or two here or there. So he has strong feelings about “why aren’t you ever at work” if he thinks I am taking “too much vacation”. But he was a workaholic and I am not, it was a different time and norms were different, and he was far more successful than I will ever be. It’s all good.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Anxiety can be triggered in a variety of ways, all very specific to each person experiencing it.

          I have to wonder if she’s usually less laid back than the OP knows, since you don’t always know that much of the intimate details of your parents until they start acting what seems out of place.

          So this is a new situation, with a new job and a new “tool” involved.

          It took my mom awhile to realize that I’m not dead just because I’m not answering every time she sends me a cat meme on facebook messenger. She’s not the nervous anxious type but it was because she didn’t fully grasp the purpose of FB messenger.

        3. Chili*

          I think even the chillest of people have some combination of circumstances that would be their anxious Achilles’ heel. It’s not really LW’s place to figure it out for their mom, but I would guess it has something to do with nervousness about their own job being funneled into her newfound ability to keep tabs on their kid during the workday.

          1. Artemesia*

            All this is true but it is so out of line to meddle in your own kids’ marriages or workplace. It is just not my job to micromanage the work of my adult children; both have asked me for advice in areas I am equipped to give advice and both have consulted my husband similarly but I would never offer the advice unsolicited. Honoring the adulthood of your adult children is fundamental to a healthy relationship in family. It doesn’t matter how anxious I get — it is not my business how my adult kids manage their work lives.

            1. Chili*

              I agree– I think it’s definitely out of line but it’s also definitely a semi-common for parents to flub in this arena a little bit. And in this case the mom is in the semi-unique and novel situation where she has been given access to keep tabs on her daughter in this way. I’m trusting the letter writer when she says this is really out of character, which leads me to believe there’s a high chance mom will be receptive to a stern talk about this pattern.

        4. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

          I’m wondering if it’s because they work for the same company and Mom thinks that OP’s actions/behavior (will) reflect in her somehow…

      2. hbc*

        Is she invested in being laid-back? You might not be able to convince her that your online presence is a bad measure of your performance, but maybe you can shame her a bit by likening her to a helicopter parent she looks down on, or contrasting her behavior with how she treated you when you were younger and presumably less competent.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I wonder if she’s just scared about job security, since she’s new to the company? Maybe she’s been reprimanded about getting out of her seat or being seen as idle? So she’s now transferring the stress to you, since she’s so unaware of the different job scope you have.

        1. Marny*

          This is what I was thinking too. She’s nervous about her own job and do thinks daughter should be too.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It springs to my mind because my mom and auntie are still confused by my schedule and flexibility.

            I took time off work to take my aunt to have eye surgery. And she was uncertain because “I don’t want to get you in trouble at work!” “I promise you that the last thing I’m going to do is get in trouble at work.”

            My parents and their siblings all worked hard AF and for many years but they have shift jobs. All shift work. So they’re mind blown by “Oh I can come over there right now to get you to the doctor, no, stop, no put your money away, I’m fine. No, my boss seriously doesn’t care. Yes, I’m in management myself, YES IM SURE!”

        2. Filosofickle*

          Perhaps she should be nervous, considering she spends so much time monitoring her kid on Messenger! If she’s required to be at her desk 100% of the time for customer service, she might want to focus on her own job performance.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I find it hilarious how frequently people around here think that being chained to a desk means you have a constant stream of work to do…it’s actually pretty common to be in a customer service role that has a lot of downtime. You’re just the warm body there, waiting. I say this as someone who’s frequently managed customer service representatives and can see their work being done in a timely fashion. So they don’t have to worry about what happens if they’re using their phones or on social media during their downtime because if there’s an issue with their actual work getting done, that’s what I’m focused on.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Of course you’re right, and I do know that from experience. I worked various front desks and got really good at minesweeper at one position. I was just being flip out of annoyance that Mom is so worried about her kid not working, and doesn’t seem to recognize her own not-working behaviors.

      4. Madeleine Matilda*

        My mother is also laid back but years ago when she first became a grandmother she was unable to reach my brother due to some odd circumstances and called the local sheriff to check on him, his wife, and the new baby. All were fine, just some phone glitches. I suspect that this new circumstance of immediate access to you is causing some latent mama bear instincts that weren’t present before your mom joined your company. Have a discussion with her and block away.

      5. Batgirl*

        Her misunderstanding about your job role explains it, I think. What she’s seeing doesn’t jive with what she knows about you and it’s creating a really puzzling disconnect for her, a mystery that she wants to get to the bottom of. I also think she probably comes of a culture of ‘co-workers notice and care’ and sees her actions in that light, rather than “horrifying overstep”.

  6. Liz*

    Blocking for sure. But an additional reason can be given of “we don’t want people thinking we’re spending our workdays talking to each other as mother/daughter as well since we have no other reason to interact in a workplace setting”. A mother who thinks her daughter shouldn’t step away for 30 minutes will likely latch on to that reason as also plausible.

    1. Semprini!*

      Building on this, since OP mentioned elsewhere in the thread that the mother’s concern is that OP is being seen as slacking, a possible script could be “We don’t want people thinking we’re spending our workdays slacking off by talking to each other as mother/daughter”.

  7. Observer*

    You may want to tell your mother that “It’s better for both of our reputations if we pretend that we’re not related at work.”

    1. Lizzy May*

      This. I have been in a similar situation in the past. When I was younger I worked at a bank as a teller. My mom worked for the same bank as a manager of a different branch on the other side of the city. There were people who knew we were related but we made a point of keeping our distance from each other. At the start people who knew my mom would ask me questions, but I kept my answers brief and factual and the interest died out. But I was fortunate that she was always really good with boundaries, though sometimes I did get volun-told onto charity committees because it would be “good for networking.”

  8. Mystery Bookworm*

    Is this the first time your Mom has really had the ability to see where you are and how you’re engaging with work?

    I wonder if some weird previously-latent parenting script is kicking in now that she suddenly has insight into your workday like she didn’t before and she feels almost obligated to check-in with you.

    Given that you say she’s not normally this boundary-pushing, I’m guessing the culprit is not fully understanding the etiquette and use cases for this kind of technology within the context of a mother/daughter relationship.

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

      “Given that you say she’s not normally this boundary-pushing, I’m guessing the culprit is not fully understanding the etiquette and use cases for this kind of technology”

      I admit, after reading the OP immediately wanted to suggest she pull rank on the mom (gently or more firmly depending on how their relationship is otherwise) and explain that a person the mother’s position doesn’t have standing to be tracking the work or whereabouts of a person in the OPs position. I’d also be worried that mom is doing this to her other coworkers if she thinks that this is what the technology is for.

    1. Blueberry*

      No you’re not. OP, if you see this, we also encourage you to ask Captain Awkward, not because there’s anything wrong with Allison’s awesome advice but because this is at the intersection of work and personal.

      *makes encouraging motions*

  9. CatCat*

    Reminds me of the time shortly after I started law school in my late 20s. My mom had called me in the morning and I hadn’t returned her call all day. She called the school and asked them to track me down, check the parking lots and the like. The school called me and it was a pretty awkward conversation. I was livid with her. We had the Talk and though she was defensive/downplaying it, the behavior did not repeat.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My parents would get so grouchy if I didn’t answer my phone immediately in college, I had to send them a copy of my class schedule (the visual chart with the time blocks.)

      I had to continue doing this for years after graduation, until I got a job with more flexible hours (so my schedule was less predictable in advance) and more flexible phone policies (so I could answer and say “If no one is in the hospital I will call you later when I get home.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Why facilitate their micromanaging rather than refuse to participate in it? Years after graduation you still had to provide a leash for your helicopter parents to manage your life? I am amazed your relationship survived this kind of somewhat abusive behavior.

        1. Blueberry*

          You are so right, but it can be so hard to see that when young and coming off a childhood where such invasiveness was presented as normal and a sign of love. I wish I could email all your comments in this discussion back to 21-year-old me to save myself from spending two years at my first job balancing my work and my parents’ frequent phone calls.

          1. Not Mommy Dearest*

            My mother called my boss (a senior partner at a nationally known law firm) to commission that “we are elderly” that and the firm was giving me too much work. She was subsequently harassed other work colleagues. In private, she would continually belittle my (very lucrative) job.

            Blocking her/ignoring her resulted in her orchestrating police welfare checks. Having “The Talk” resulted in retorts of “children don’t place boundaries on parents.”

            What more-or-less worked was explicitly telling her that she was jeopardizing our relationship, followed by (after she continued regardless) cutting off ALL contact for several months (more welfare checks ensued, but I had a preemptive conversation with my local police). She improved about 90% after that, when it hit home that I was serious about no contact, and even apologized for harassing my boss. I was however prepared to make the “no contact” permanent had she reacted differently.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Because I lived 250 miles away and I just wanted them to stop calling me during class. The rest of the time, I did whatever I wanted because, again, I was 250 miles away.

      2. Asenath*

        Mine just complained I didn’t write home often enough. I said “I answer every letter I get”. It worked, more or less.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Goodness yes! My stepmother gets upset that I don’t call more often. But how often have she and my dad called me? The balance is very far out of whack.

          I’ve actually lost some friends because I got tired of always being the first one to reach out, so I just stopped. And they never noticed. Shows how invested they were.

          1. Filosofickle*

            My grandmother used to complain to my Mom about me and my brother not calling. We called her more often than she called us! Annoying.

      3. Anonny*

        Mum did that if I were offline during non-class time when I was at uni, all the time. It stopped when she forgot my class schedule and called me during class, at which point I asked to leave, and then unleashed a Malcolm Tucker f-volley on her, threatening to throw my phone in the river and telling her to get back on her meds.

        I’m pretty sure Mum’s anxiety calling contributed to my phone phobia.

        (Mum was quite understanding that she’d driven me nuts, and I was studying Creative Writing and you don’t do that if you are a normal person with a normal relationship with your family. It was fine.)

      4. Alice's Rabbit*

        My dad had my class schedule, and would still only call while I was in class. And heaven forbid I didn’t answer. Not because he thought something had happened to me, but because he took it as an insult.
        I ended up getting rid of my cell phone altogether because of him, and didn’t get a new one for several years. Even then, I didn’t give him the number right away.

  10. Stephanie*

    Oh man, I wonder if your mom has trouble viewing you as a working adult and reverts back to parent mode? When I was job hunting, my dad sent a couple of less than professional emails to colleagues about my job hunt. Nothing terrible, but definitely a bit infantilizing.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      My Dad just came to visit me and my new baby (his first grandchild). I have a partner, a career, our own home, a happy dog, a healthy infant!

      Most of the time it’s great having him, but occasionally he seems to revert to treating me like I’m 14. I honestly think he can’t help it. On some level I will always be an angsty teenager who regularly sleeps through 5 alarm clocks and wears a dirty sweatshirt.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Speaking as a parent of newly adult-ish children who is going through that transition:

        It is a hard habit to break!
        And a great deal of the time, it is just a habit; it’s not an indicator of what your parent thinks of you.
        (though I admit, sometimes it is–usually at those times, though, I don’t say anything because I’m hyperaware of the criticial opinion. It’s when I’m relaxed and NOT having a critical opinion that I slip into “correcting parent” mode.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was just talking to my mom about how every time she’s in the car and I’m driving, she reverts to treating me like I’m 16 with a learner’s permit — “There’s a light coming up ahead!” “Watch out for that stop sign!” “Don’t hit that man crossing the street!” It’s so bizarre — she’s not normally a worrier or even particularly maternal in the stereotypical ways (and I am not a terrible driver). I finally asked her what was up and she said she doesn’t do it to anyone else and she doesn’t know where it’s coming from.

      1. Messenger OP*

        Clocked. I refuse to drive with her in the passenger seat because of exactly this behaviour. Hmm.

        1. 5 Leaf Clover*

          That’s really interesting! I wonder, then, if the fact that you see this as so unusual for her is not because it’s not her personality, but because you’ve been really successful in drawing boundaries in other areas. Now that she has this new access with a new technology, new boundaries will probably need to be renegotiated.

          1. CM*

            +1 — the “unusual behavior” part was the mystery for me here, not the “parent terrified that their kid is messing up” which happens all the time. It sounds it may not really be that unusual, this is just a new context — maybe the OP doesn’t think anything of it in the car (or when traveling, or whatever else makes their mom anxious) because it’s just normal mom stuff, but at work it feels new and different.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I told her that if she persists in doing it, I will require her to wear a blindfold while driving with me. Which actually is basically the same as you blocking yours on Messenger :)

          1. Yvette*

            When I used to catch my parents doing stuff like that and “breaking” with their own, totally non-existent passenger side break pedal, I would take my hands off the wheel, lift my feet from the pedals and say “OK, you drive”.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              My mom does the passenger braking thing! Even with my dad, who taught her how to drive. But she doesn’t mean anything by it, it’s just muscle memory plus being a very cautious driver.

          2. TooTiredToThink*

            I legit told my mom that she had to just close her eyes when I was driving (she was terrified of being in the car in the first place). She did, because she understood that she was more likely to cause an accident than prevent one.

          3. Campfire Raccoon*

            My mother in law used to do this thing where she’d *gasp* or *cry out* or BRACE herself in the car whenever normal traffic changes would occur. So if a car would pull into traffic 50 yards in front of us, she’d scream if we didn’t slam on our brakes. One of her many little ways to get attention and subtly act like a professional victim.

            So one trip, about .25 miles into a 600 mile journey, I turned around and asked her if she was OK back there. She got kinda huffy and asked why, so I said it seemed like she was having non-stop orgasms.

            My husband almost crashed laughing, but she didn’t do it again.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I said it seemed like she was having non-stop orgasms.

              You are my new hero.

              1. Campfire Raccoon*

                She lived with us for 10 years. I was DONE with this sorta crap. And on this particular trip, we hadn’t even hit the freeway yet.

                Maybe I shouldn’t have said it, but made for a pleasant drive after all was said and done.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          Hmm indeed. I think you need to revisit that “she’s not usually like this” statement…

          I think if she is more this way than you realized, it doesn’t change the advice much, but it means that you need to:
          1) Tell her very clearly that excessive contact through the app has negative professional implications for you
          2) Ditto for phone calls
          3) Super extra ditto for phone calls to your co-workers or boss – death in the immediate family only. Dismemberment can wait.
          4) Be prepared for her to push back against this more than you expect.
          5) Be prepared for her to go around the block – apologetic joke for co-workers & serious apology for boss – just so you’re not caught flat-footed in a worst case scenario.

          Explain you love her, you’re going to block to protect your career, block, and set up a regular check-in schedule that you can actually meet.

          1. Lilian*

            I agree with these points, I think it’s important to let her know that her excessive contact and especially contacting your colleagues would be the thing that can seriously jeopardise your position and harm your reputation.

          2. Carolyn Keene*

            “1) Tell her very clearly that excessive contact through the app has negative professional implications for you”
            Yes, THAT is what I think needs to emphasized; if Mom is so worried about OP’s job security, then she needs to understand that her own behavior is creating risk!

        4. Jaydee*

          I think sometimes parents who are totally great in other ways can act really out-of-character in these specific situations where their life and their child’s life overlaps in a weird way.

          A parent who is also a teacher might have higher expectations for their own child than they would for other kids because they are worried that their child’s teachers will judge them as both a parent and as a colleague/fellow educator.

          A parent who shares an interest (hobby, music/art, sport, etc.) with a child might become over-involved in their child’s pursuit of that interest because of their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the interest.

          A parent who has a particular fear or worry or dislike might project that onto a child who is similar to them in other ways.

        5. Kate*

          If this is the case – blocking her on Messenger might actually be a RELIEF for her. She may not want to be obsessing as much as she is.

      2. TurquoiseCow*

        I’m okay to drive with my mom in the car, but she refuses to let me drive her car. If I drive us somewhere, we take my car.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My parents do the same when I drive and I did the same thing. They didn’t know why they did it either. They also go”Full Parent Mode” every time I mention doing a road trip for work. Um, Mom, Dad, I do these drives all the dang time. I know what I am doing better than you do on these routes. Frustrating, but I have had to just let it go

        1. Choux*

          I moved from small-town Ohio to NYC 10 years ago. Earlier this year, I went to Las Vegas and it ended up becoming a bit of a family reunion – my parents and 2 sets of aunts and uncles also came out.

          At one point I decided to go hang out in a different hotel/casino and my mom, very nervously, said, “Are you gonna be okay by yourself?”

          And I had to laugh and say, “Mom, I live in New York City. I’m gonna be just fine.”

      4. Stephanie*

        Yeah, my dad does phantom braking…and even better…phantom clutching (because I drive a manual transmission).

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I do that with Mr. Jules, but mainly because I get pushed around in the seat uncomfortably if I don’t. He’s not an aggressive driver, I’ve just got a sensory processing disorder and have become more sensitive to side-to-side acceleration forces.

        2. Syfygeek*

          Phantom clutching! My dad used to do that to me, along with an Ack, Ack sound. Don’t ride the clutch, you give it too much gas, you didn’t give it enough gas, shift, dammit, shift! I was almost 30 and on my 2nd straight drive car. Good times!

      5. Jamie*

        I remember how annoying it was when my dad did it to me, but I still find this story adoreable!

        My kids are young adults and complain that when I’m driving and they are in the passenger’s seat I still put my arm out to protect them when I come to a stop. They’ve explained that my arm won’t be of more use than their seat belt and they are not infants…doesn’t matter. I may be reasonable and see them as adults but my right arm will always see them in cookie monster jammies smelling of baby shampoo.

        1. TootsNYC*

          This normally comes from the time before shoulder belts. If you never really drove in that timeframe, then maybe it comes because YOUR mother did it in the time before shoulder belts.

          Not that it would have helped in an accident, but in a quick deceleration, it might have kept the passenger a little more comfortable.

          1. Jamie*

            That makes sense! The lap only belts pre-date my driving but both my parents did the arm brake with us so just one of those bits of parenting picked up by rote.

          2. Artemesia*

            I don’t do that anymore — but I did it for years — I drove before seat belts were in cars and certainly long before shoulder belts and it is an instinct to protect the kid in the seat next to you. (back then kids also rode in the front seat)

        2. Amy Sly*

          My sister and I do the arm brake to each other and our spouses without even thinking about it on a quick stop. When you put your purse in the passenger’s seat, it’s either grab the purse or spend 5 minutes at the end of the trip cleaning up the avalanche in the footwell.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        OMG, I used to hate driving my mom because she did it all the time. I drive her very little now, so cannot tell if she’s stopped.

        I lived on a fairly busy street at the time. One time, I was backing out of my driveway, looking in both directions but clearly not at my mom who was in the passenger seat. All of a sudden mom gasped loudly like the car was on fire. Scared the crap out of me. Is she having a heart attack? is the car actually on fire? I stopped cold in the driveway “what is it?” and she informed me: “There’s a car coming!” Like, I know? I can see the car? I never had an accident in my life? I asked her to please never do that again, and that behavior has definitely stopped since I asked.

      7. Aiani*

        My mom is like this too! Although with her, she is a very nervous driver which translates to her being a nervous passenger as well. I don’t like to drive her places very much. Her anxiety ramps up my driving anxiety.

      8. Old and Don’t Care*

        My father does the same thing. I asked him if he thought I ran through stop signs and mowed down pedestrians at home (we don’t live in the same city). He replied “I worry about that all the time now!” It’s tough, but I must admit I’m not great in the passenger seat myself, even with people I know are better drivers than I am. I’m just better at hiding my reactions.

    3. Vicky Austin*

      My parents actually used to schedule appointments for me to meet with people they knew who might be prospective employers. They even did this without asking me first if I was okay with it. Then they couldn’t understand why I was so upset and ungrateful!

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      Ugh my dad has a bad habit of treating me like a child. When we go to visit him and my stepmother, we stay with them so they get extra granddaughter time. During these visits he’s tried to do a practice drive out to my friends’ wedding venue so my husband and I wouldn’t get lost when we attended the wedding, tried to convince me to not go for a run in the heat and humidity even though I am an experienced runner and know the precautions to take, and questioned a majority of our parenting decisions. I am 30 years old.

      The solution may be to get an AirBnB every time we visit, but man I’d hate to give up the easy trail access and morning deer herd.

  11. Autumnheart*

    Looping HR in on this one: Overreaction or timely intervention? Not in an enforcing capacity per se, more like a heads-up, like “I’m dealing with this, and may need you to step in and act as an authority if she won’t listen to me”.

    1. Ophelia*

      Total overreaction. It’s not needed when there are still tools at OP’s disposal that they haven’t used yet. If The Next Talk about the pattern of behavior rather than that singular instance doesn’t change things and blocking on Messenger (“disabling that feature” is such a brilliant way to phrase this) doesn’t help, then I would push OP to see if there’s a medical reason for this sudden out-of-character behavior in mom. But this is not an HR issue yet.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        And if it were to get to the level of an HR issue, it will be mom’s reputation/capabilities at stake, not OP.

    2. Artemesia*

      This trashes both reputations. And cements your reputation here. Nope. The OP handles it. And she handles it firmly and blocking comes first not after 3 more ‘discussions’. She tells her it is inappropriate and why and that she is blocking and that she is NEVER to call colleagues at work again to track her down.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Not at this point, no.

      It’s a large multi divisional entity as well, they may have separate HR for each place and it’s a frigging mess to go that route when it’s so spread out.

    4. designbot*

      Too soon. However, I would absolutely *mention* HR to mom at this time. I’d say something like, “you should realize that if any other colleague was treating me this way I’d be getting HR involved to put a stop to it and I’ve been giving you a lot of slack because you’re my mother.”

  12. Rey*

    I think Captain Awkward talks about this, and if I remember correctly, she basically says that when you’re dealing with someone who’s a worrier about a particular topic or person, we assume that giving them more information will calm their worries. In reality, it does exactly the opposite! So, just like Alison, her recommendation is an information diet. If OP’s mom is worried about work ethic, she needs to work through that on her own or with a therapist, instead of externally pushing it onto OP, who is apparently doing just fine at work.

  13. StarKitty*

    Hi OP, your comment above about your mom being convinced you will get fired for slacking – despite glowing reviews and an award – make me think she’s projecting her own insecurities. My mom does this a lot. I recently buzzed my head, and my mom was legitimately worried they would fire me – I have been working at this university for 10 years, have excellent reviews, my boss loves me and has given me two promotions. And yet she was still freaking out about this. The root of it was that she’s very insecure about her appearance, and in turn the appearance of her daughters, and it freaked her out to think that one of her daughters would be judged for not looking traditionally feminine, and in turn, she would be judged.

    Do you think it would help to ask her about her fears, and explain them in more detail? Especially if this is a new thing for her, it might help to talk it through.

    1. littlelizard*

      I think this is a strong possibility. Almost everything my mother panics at me over is something that she herself struggles with. It’s very exhausting. Honestly though, trying to talk it through with her about what she’s afraid of doesn’t help at all. OP might have more luck if mom has usually been chill, though.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I agree this is probably the root cause, but I don’t think talking more to mom is the answer. OP’s given mom the information you describe, mom’s not been able to absorb it into her worldview. Mom needs to do the work to absorb it on her own time, not OP’s.

  14. Snarkus Aurelius*

    My dad did this to me once. Before cell phones, he called my direct line a zillion times one morning. I thought someone was dead. When I called him, he accused me of playing hooky and “not being at work when [I] said [I was].” When I told him I was in a three hour staff meeting, he said I was being lazy because I wasn’t at my desk working. Hell, I’d rather be at my desk than stuck in a meeting!

    Similarly, when I worked at a restaurant job in high school, my parents lost it on me because I went out to lunch somewhere else. They accused me of lying about being at work. I mean I was! And then I wanted to eat food that I didn’t serve?

    This anxiety is more about parents who believe the worst in their kids – maybe not intentionally but nonetheless.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I love the logic. You should be at your desk working, so he’s going to call you to have a conversation during which… you will not be working.

      At my first job out of college, I gave my mother and my grandparents my direct line number. NEVER AGAIN. “Are you busy?” “Yes, I am, I’ll have to–” “Did you hear that SoandSo’s daughter got engaged?” Never again. Now, I call them when it’s convenient for me, and if they don’t pick up, I call back later. Boundaries are beautiful.

      Another favorite, from when I had a landline: “What are you doing at home, it’s Friday night!” “Why did you call me if you thought I shouldn’t be at home?”

      1. AKchic*

        “I left a message”
        “You broke up with my machine?!”

        I loved the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie just for the time capsule-ness that it is.

    2. AKchic*

      My grandpa used to show up with food he bought during his near-daily shopping trips because “it was a good deal” for my kids (I had three under 6 at the time). It was mostly cartons of ice cream and mac & cheese and bread. Now, all of that is wonderful in theory, except it was 11am, he usually had 3-6 gallons of ice cream, I had a chest freezer full of ice cream already (not to mention enough frozen bread to last me a month, and more than enough boxed mac and cheese thanks to him), not asked for, I was at work with no way to store any of this, and I’d already told him to stop buying ice cream. He really expected me to dish out ice cream for three kids nightly for desserts. Even the kids were sick of ice cream. We couldn’t eat it all. I was giving it away. Yet he’d still buy up to 10 gallons a week for us (not including himself). All because “it was a good deal” (that man never met a sale he didn’t like).

      If I had a day off, or was out sick (because three small children in daycare, one in kindergarten) – I would get calls. Home, cell, my mom would get calls (we didn’t live together). My then-husband would then get calls (because apparently my mom would know more than the man living with me?). Why am I not at work? All because he had ice cream to deliver. I am obviously slacking and am going to get F I R E D. What do you mean it’s a holiday? What holiday? Oh. OH! So that’s why there was a sale this week. Okay. Can I drop this ice cream off at your house then?

        1. AKchic*

          He never did.
          After he died, it took us a few years to fully clean out the <1000 square foot house (3 bed, 1 bath, 1 story ranch-style). One closet in the spare bedroom I grew up in (used to be my mom's room) was used partially for food storage (overflow from the kitchen pantry). 17 jars of caramel ice cream sauce. I also found a can of soup that expired in 1984. How it hadn't exploded was beyond me (we purged the house between 2008-2010).
          So much excess food was donated because none of us were ever going to eat it. I don't think he had ever planned on eating it. He just saw a "good deal" and figured someone would eat it eventually.

    3. Sighhhh*

      +1 to your last sentence. Like other comments have suggested, it most often has to do with projection of their own personal behavioral fears.

    4. Choux*

      OMG, is your dad also my dad?

      My parents both worked very labor-intensive blue collar jobs. They have zero concept of what “office work” entails.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My parents still ask me about “what exactly do you do…” and I’ve been doing the same type jobs for 17 years LOL.

        They are also the people who thought that “management” was evil and all just sitting up there in big chairs, drinking whiskey and figuring out how to make the line workers jobs harder than necessary. Thankfully I was able to finally shine light on “HR” and “Management” for them so they’re less crotchety but it’s still a lot of “But what do you do?” [Despite using an accountant for their taxes, they still don’t know what it entails.]

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          My sister kept saying this over and over again in front of other people in a very mocking tone. Finally I said, “I don’t have a mystery job. You can find the definition of my job in every eighth grade civics class in this country. Either your perfect 4.0 throughout middle and high school is unwarranted or you’re pretending to not know because you think it’s funny. Either way, I don’t care.” From that point on, she magically knew what I did for a living.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            None of my family is very well educated, my parents both graduated high school but then went into labor jobs. They rarely had any interaction with management or an office setting unless it’s to pick up a paycheck or drop off required paperwork they were given. My dad worked a job that the only thing management seemed to do was hire/fire and layoff people in huge waves, so he wanted to keep his distance and go under the radar whenever possible. Typical blue collar job mentality back then.

            I had to explain to my mother what a controller and CFO is just a few days ago. It all sounds like gibberish to her.

            However, she blatantly refused to let me do labor jobs when I graduated and was looking to get into work, I asked her if I could apply to work with her and she lost her mind on me. She made it clear that I was to get a desk job, despite not being certain what that even meant doing. She did have a vague idea of say front desk/receptionist work from years of doctors offices and car repair shops. So she was thinking more in line with that kind of “desk job” than being put into an office somewhere doing mysterious things, lol.

            My brother gets it though. Even though he flunked out of school. But we both climbed ranks and had more ambition to towards working than our parents. Parents worked to live, they focused on their kids. Then their kids grew up to be “meh, families, meh.” and more of the sort to live to work since it keeps us busy.

          2. Artemesia*

            my Dad was literally a rocket scientist designing systems that contributed to the success of the moon shot — he was an aeronautical engineer. My uncles who were all laborers of various sorts — fishermen, carpenters, farmers etc all ridiculed him because he just sat around at a desk all day doing nothing and getting paid big bucks for it. It didn’t help that they were all GIs in WWII and he was exempted because he was designing the B47 and B52 bombers and later early missiles.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yessssssssssss, this rings so true in my ears.

              My former boss and mentor had those brothers. While he went off to build his own business, they were laying pipe and doing construction. However they weren’t rude about it, they did give him a lot of heck in some ways. It helped that his business was something they understood, since he was creating shelving/cabinetry kind of things.

              I got to talk to them on the phone when they’d call to shoot the breeze with him mid-day in the weeks [they were east coast, boss man had escaped to the west coast in his late 20’s], they got a kick out of it that they could call him up, at his place of business, talk to his “assistant” and get to chat it up during his work day.

    5. Mockingjay*

      My parents – especially my dad – have spent their entire lives waiting for the apocalypse. I don’t know where their pessimism comes from.

      In high school, my dad had the telephone operator break into the house line I had tied up. He and mom were out for the evening; I was watching my younger sisters (teen and tween). So I spent the evening chatting with my best friend on the phone. (it was the late 70s/early 80s – that’s what you did.) Of course Dad tried to call home to check on us (because the apocalypse might have happened while they were out *throws hands up*) and got a busy signal.

      I mean, I was an honors student who didn’t drink, smoke, or drive (latter not my choice). Talking on the phone was my ONLY outlet. Sheesh.

      1. Autumnheart*

        To be fair, chatting with friends on the phone is STILL what you do, just with text messages and cellular service.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I don’t know where their pessimism comes from.

        My dad is an old hippie who can tell you all about the paranoia that he readily rejected growing up as a boomer. It was bred into them, from all the Cuba/Russia/Communism shenanigans. And Vietnam.

        My folks now live near an elderly couple of doomsdayers who have a bomb shelter and entire bunkers full of canned goods.

        My dad’s response was ‘If we’re all gonna die, why don’t we live our best lives? Why waste your life if it’s just going to end in flames or whatever?” =X

        1. Roverandom*

          “If we’re all gonna die, why don’t we live our best lives? Why waste your life if it’s just going to end in flames or whatever?”

          This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

    6. Auntie Social*

      My dad was a lawyer, but handled trusts/estates for a bank. It was “gentlemanly”—no emergencies and at his level, no one ever ran out of money. It was like dancing underwater it was so slow, and the only drama was occasionally some Buffy would be told she’d have to drive last year’s BMW, boo hoo. I went into family law litigation, which was a dead run a lot of the time. He would get furious that I didn’t have time to talk during the day—took it very personally. I asked him once if he saw the Amber Alert on the news with the children returned to their mom after their dad had kidnapped them. Well, that lady is our client, that was my work, aren’t you proud? No, the police did that, what did you have to do with it? I didn’t see you on the news. Aaagh! He made our receptionist cry when he told her to tell him what I was doing because he didn’t think I was working. Boss came out looking for us and found half his staff in the ladies room crying. My boss called him back, and he quit calling. Partner never would tell me what he said. I’m still embarrassed.

  15. Elenia*

    Oh god, how annoying! My sympathies as I could exactly expect my mom to do this, were she working with me (and still alive, that’s important too).

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Shut me down if this comes across as too insenstive, but you are potentially describing the premise for a great supernatural family comedy.

      1. Elenia*

        Not at all, but my mom was one of those moms that I used to cringe whenever her name came up on the caller ID. If she started calling from the afterlife, WTF.

      2. Help Desk Peon*

        There IS a book series where a woman is haunted by her (former) mother in law. Highly entertaining. It’s the “Ghost-in-law” series by Jana DeLeon

    2. Ginger Baker*

      …it would be VERY worrisome indeed if your dead parent started messaging you on the work IM. Or…anywhere, really!

      1. Elenia*

        I do dream about her about once a year. In it she’s always asking for her watch back (she gave me her watch, obvs.) I’m like HERE! STOP BOTHERING ME! TAKE IT WITH YOU! AND WHY DO YOU NEED A WATCH IN THE AFTERLIFE ANYWAY?????

  16. Hermione*

    I agree with addressing the pattern and/or blocking.

    Regarding motivation, I also wonder – because your roles, locations, and supervisors are different – if she’s been told by her boss that she and/or her co-workers must be available as much as possible, and so is assuming that this is also true for your role?

  17. Ophelia*

    While I believe that OP’s mom’s change in behavior is likely due to new access, generational gap, and perhaps office culture differences, I think it would also be wise to consider medical issues. OP, just keep it in mind that there is a sudden change in behavior. Did it happen as soon as she started this new job? Did it start a while later? If you can remember, just make a mental note.

  18. Donkey Hotey*

    New and improved: Boomer Gumption, now with added tracking technology!
    – Away from your desk is slacking!
    – Not immediately answering messages is job in jeopardy!

    1. Auntie Social*

      Any bets about a lecture on slacking over the Thanksgiving turkey? “Please pass the rolls.” “SPEAKING of rolls, I notice you roll in whenever you feel like it. . . .”

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

        That’s the time to just deflate their attempts to inflate a minor thing into a Major Thing — “Yes, I come and go as I please.” “Yes, you’re right, I return messages when it’s convenient.” “Yes, I step away from my desk as I see fit.” The more you lean into what their accusing you of, the sillier they sound. Getting defensive makes them feel justified that you are obviously doing Something Wrong.

    2. Blarg*

      We used Slack.

      Why are you slacking at work?? Your boss is going to find out.

      The software. It’s called Slack.

      You’re going to get fired.

  19. That Lady in HR*

    It might help to remind your mother that you are very successful in your job, and working the way that you do is what got you there. She wasn’t able to track you before, and you’ve done quite well in your career on your own. And also, “turn off that feature”. :-)

  20. Bunny*

    I can’t even imagine if my father had access to that kind of information on me. I work in administration for a non-profit that very much values work/life balance, we have generous PTO, my manager really respects my judgement, work and time management…

    And yet my father seems to think I’m doing like shift work at Wal-Mart and every time I mention taking time off or my general work environment he has it in his head that I am some lazy slacker for using my PTO or not “being the first one into the office and the last one out.”. And the thing is, I come from a white collar well off family so I don’t know where he is getting this from.

  21. SS*

    I would also sit her down and tell her that even if you WERE slacking off at work, your work performance is 100% not her business. She needs to pretend you work at a different company. I would flat out tell her that if she keeps inserting herself into your work (especially calling coworkers to track you down without an actual emergency reason to contact you), then you will have no choice but to raise it to your supervisor because she is hurting your professional image at work.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Exactly this! I’m surprised nobody has mentioned it yet. You’re a grown adult living on your own and paying your own bills. Mom needs to calm down.

  22. AKchic*

    Oh, LW. I feel for you. I work with my mother. Like, work in the same office, carpool, and live in the same neighborhood (living in the same neighborhood wasn’t planned, she moved into an available apartment that was close to my grandma, I moved into an available house close to my grandma a few years later and it just happened to be within two streets of her; then she moved within the last year into a new house a street away from her old apartment but it’s still within the same neighborhood… all within the same mile of the Family Home and within a mile of the assisted living home of my grandma).

    To say that being in each other’s pockets is irritating is an understatement. At first, it was easy to pretend we weren’t related. Sure, we look and sound alike, but we are *not* the same people. She isn’t my manager, even if she is my senior. Unfortunately, family dysfunctional family dynamics on my mother’s behalf keep bleeding out and I am constantly having to put up hard boundaries, and my mother hates boundaries.

    You will have to put up the boundaries and be extremely clear if you want anything to change. You might also need to loop in your supervisor, especially if your mother is already trying to loop in other coworkers to try to keep tabs on you (thank goodness my mother limits herself to just trying to manage my outfits, personal style, sense of self, and language).

    Block her. Tell her (and your manager) you are blocking her. If it is a work-related matter, she can email you. If it is a family emergency, she can text you; but otherwise, she can wait until after hours.

    1. Elenia*

      Oh no. She doesn’t hate boundaries, She only hates YOUR boundaries. In my experience with this kind of thing, THEIR boundaries are always to be respected because THEY are the parent and THEY know better.

      1. AKchic*

        She does it with others, too; just in a more passive-aggressive “maternally warm” way. She knows I’ll call her out for her faux maternalism with me because we aren’t a close mother-daughter pair. To be perfectly honest, if we didn’t work together, we’d never speak.

  23. CBH*

    Just speculating, but I wonder if Mom is re-entering the workforce. It seems like Mom is not aware of office norms. At work Mom is a colleague, in her personal life she can be Mom. In addition it almost seems like there are some issues Mom not being able to constantly communicate with her daughter. Again with speculation, but almost like she used to be able to call at anytime to say hi; now this “new technology” allos monitoring daughter’s actions is her way of staying in touch. Daughter and Mom definitely need to set some boundaries. To me this sounds like a transition thing for Mom.

    1. Mockingjay*

      At one job, a mother and daughter set the gold standard for professionalism. At work, they called each other by first name. They only interacted on work-related items, whether meetings or emails. They took separate lunches. They never discussed family matters at work. For absences, they notified their supervisors, not the relative. And so on.

      They were so professional, I didn’t find out they were related for months.

      1. AKchic*

        That is how my mother and I were for the first year.
        Then we got a new boss that found out we were related and started treating me like my mother’s daughter. And my mother enjoyed it, and it completely eroded any sense of professionalism with *that* boundary I had put up when I started here. We still have people outside of the office who don’t know, but everyone in the company knows.

  24. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I have always been close to my parents, but my mom and I butted heads big time when I was a teenager/young adult. When I moved out we became best friends. She told me that it was hard for her to back off sometimes when I still lived at home and she was more aware of when I was and wasn’t home. She didn’t WANT to be in my business because I was getting older, but she couldn’t help it because I was still under their roof. Maybe it’s a similar situation? Even though you aren’t in the same location, you work for the same company and have access to each other online. Not that it makes the situation okay, but could be an explanation since it’s unusual behavior. Definitely have the talk, and maybe add that even if you were slacking off and about to get fired, it’s not her place to fix it.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      That’s a good point. My mom definitely freaked out if I stayed out late, even when I was just visiting years after moving out. But she was fine with me doing the exact same thing when I was sleeping elsewhere. Because she knew I was an adult, but it was easier to remember when I wasn’t there.

  25. Nicole*

    I wonder how mom’s boss would feel if they knew she spent a good chunk of her day stalking a senior employee instead of working?

    1. AKchic*

      That is a very good point for LW to bring up to her mother when she discusses boundaries and *why* she is blocking her mother. She is doing it partially to save her mother from herself. This function / feature is a privilege that Mommy Dearest is incapable of using wisely, therefore, LW is ensuring that boundaries are enforced, and that Mommy Dearest doesn’t get in trouble, because right now, if it were anyone else, they’d already have been reported, written up, and possibly managed out of the company. It is only the fact that they *are* family that this hasn’t gone to management yet. And emphasize the “yet” in that statement. Because if mom doesn’t stop, or tries to find workarounds to continue keeping tabs on LW, then LW will have no choice but to call management in.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      See, I was wondering if her boss is a “stay sat there, even when you have nothing to do.” kind of setup. Since she’s customer facing and needing to be ready for whatever pops up whenever it pops up.

      So her disconnect is seeing her daughter away from the messenger and it’s a “yikes, you’re gonna get in trouble! I’d get in trouble!” kind of thing. Since she doesn’t understand the OP’s job at all.

      Having had a “sit there just in case” job before, they didn’t care what I did as long as I was present for if that ghost of a phone rings.

    3. Auntie Social*

      Yes, stalking is what came up for me, too. Blocking mom saves her from herself, until she goes to another computer to do the same thing.

  26. lost academic*

    I think blocking IS the right step BUT I am concerned that OP’s mom has already shown a willingness to vastly overstep boundaries to go outside the 1:1 relationship with OP to other coworkers with whom (we can assume) OP’s mom does not have a professional relationship. Blocking has the very likely possibility of this happening more and so the discussion about blocking needs to directly address this.

    At some point I also think it’s relevant to consider how to react and handle the potential escalation if this were NOT a family member – if this were an unrelated front office person keeping weird tabs on your IM status and a direct intervention didn’t work, what would you do next?

    1. Jennifer*

      Nah. I think she’s behaving this way because it’s her child.

      If she is overstepping boundaries elsewhere at work, that’s for her boss to handle.

      1. lost academic*

        Well , of course she’s doing it for that reason :) But she also needs to be told and really understand that it doesn’t matter, that she’s behaving completely inappropriately towards a senior colleague.

  27. mark132*

    I would be tempted to block her “for her own protection” as well. If anyone audits the IM logs ever she could possibly get in trouble for it. I don’t think this is a huge risk, but still a consideration.

  28. Joielle*

    Oh noooooooo. My mom would 100% do this too. I have so much sympathy, OP. The only thing that’s worked for me is actually getting mad at her – like, I’m sorry, are you saying you think I’m bad at my job? Do you think I’m lazy? Do you think I’m lying to you? And then I would block her without compunction.

    I’ve done this a few times over things like choosing an apartment and buying a car, where she will not stop essentially telling me I’m doing it wrong (under the guise of “concern”), and the message is always “Do you think I’m a complete moron? No? Well that’s how it sounds.”

    This may be a lot more aggressive than you need to get, but for me, I’m past the point of niceness on this particular interaction. I hope you don’t have to take this route, but it might work if necessary!

  29. Retail Therapist*

    Tell her you are blocking her from work, then block her. This is not a problem you are creating, this is a boundary you are acknowledging.

    If she’s got personal stuff to discuss, she can text you or call you on your personal phone after work hours.

  30. Jennifer*

    Please block her. Tell her that you want your relationship to stay fun mom and daughter instead of contentious coworkers so you are going to make it so she can’t see your status online. There are many other ways she can reach you – cell phone, email, work phone, etc. Maybe in past places she worked she didn’t have the capability to see whether or not her coworkers were online or not and she’s kind of gotten too attached to it. She survived all this time since you’ve moved out of the family home without knowing where you were every second of the day and having to wait for you to call her back. She’ll be okay.

    This reminds me why I keep my status “inactive” or “busy.”

  31. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I would have a discussion with her about how you’re going to block her to relieve the stress she is experiencing from not seeing you online. I always lean towards the “I’m not doing this for my own sanity, it’s for yours.” so it sounds like you’re helping her from getting that itch that comes with wanting to figure out why you’re idle.

    What an awkward situation to be in, especially since you’re going home for Thanksgiving, could you have this conversation face to face with her?

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      That’s still nearly a month away. A little too long, I think, to let this go on. It needs to be resolved ASAP.

  32. Cheesehead*

    That must be really maddening….and embarrassing! My mother once called my boyfriend’s house (he lived with two roommates) wondering where I was; we’d gone away together for the weekend to a friend’s wedding AND SHE KNEW THIS! And I’d specifically told her that we’d be gone, and don’t call to check up on me, and she did it anyway! We had another TALK and my version was at a high volume.

    One thing I thought of (if you think it would work with her) is to ask very pointed questions to get her to really THINK about her actions. “How old am I? How many years have I been on my own? Do you know me as a slacker, or someone who can’t take care of myself?” And maybe put it back on her a bit. “You raised me to be independent. You raised me with a good work ethic. So why are you now thinking that I’m not doing my job? Do you honestly think I’m 15 again and can’t handle the job I’ve been in for X years? Would you rather that I be seen as an independent worker, or someone who needs her mommy to check up on her when she’s been away from her desk for an hour in a meeting? Do you REALLY want me to be perceived that way by my bosses? Are you trying to make me appear so inept that I need to check in with my mommy all the time? Great way to get me demoted or fired because people think I can’t handle the job.” Paint the picture as pathetic as you can. It might be harsh, but sometimes that’s the only thing that will get through to someone who goes to those lengths. And she may not know why she’s doing it or like you said, doesn’t understand the nature of the job or those consequences. But some hard questions might at least make her think twice about it in the future.

    And I do like the idea about reminding her that there likely IS a history of all of the IMing, and that it doesn’t look good for her to be spending so much time at it or using company resources that way.

    1. TimeTravelR*

      We can’t maintain a history on our updated version, but there are some that can. Mom needs to know that anything done on a company computer is company property. I think being direct with Mom is the first step, of course.

    2. AKchic*

      Also a “and who do you think you are that you, a new hire, has the right to manage a senior staffer hundreds of miles away in another department who has no relevance to your own job like that? Take away the fact that we’re related. You are keeping tabs on a senior staffer and when they aren’t at your beck and call for non-work reasons, you called someone else in the department to find them. That is a misuse of company resources and by company standards, stalking and harassment. If we weren’t family, you would already be reported and on a PIP right now. If we weren’t family, you would have HR and legal looking at the possibility of the senior staffer looking at potential restraining orders. This is so inappropriate. You wouldn’t keep tabs on the VP of IT, would you? The lead janitor in Iowa? Why me? Because I’m your offspring? That has to stop immediately.”

      Make it abundantly clear that not only is she making you, LW, look weak, but she is making her own behavior look peculiar.

  33. !*

    How does your Mom have all this time keeping track of you? Sounds like she needs to focus more on her own work than on your whereabouts. You should block her from messaging you after you talk to her about her behavior and letting her know that you are doing so. If you feel this is out of the ordinary for her, perhaps you need to get to root cause, there has to be something driving this so the sooner you can find out, the better.

  34. Laurelma01*

    Yes, have the talk again. Block her. Remind her that the employer might notice the volume of messaging she does while working, that isn’t work related. They could question her mother’s focus on the job, etc. That might be something to mention to her.

  35. Laurelma01*

    Another route you should consider, if she starts calling after you block her is: Have OP’s supervisor call her mother, inform the mother that the constant contact is a distraction for her daughter (assumption) and an interruption to others in the office and to please stop. This can be on the down low, but it might be needed to get the message across.

  36. Eliza*

    Wow, just wow. My MIL and I work for the same company (different offices/states, different divisions, no overlap where we would ever work together) and she will occasionally IM me at work when she can’t get a hold of my husband, mostly trying to make plans for holidays and various family events. That grated on me enough but I would lose my mind if she was tracking me like this! (Who knows, maybe she is)

  37. Flash Bristow*

    I can strongly recommend the Reddit subsection “JustNoMIL”. It’s not just about mothers in law but your own mother too, and I’ve found it incredibly supporting. I know a lot of Reddit can be trollish or trivial, but do try this particular sub if you haven’t before now.

    Other than that I totally agree with Alison, but maybe just as starting places… Get support as you need it, and don’t let your mother’s interference affect the quality of your work or the capacity of your mind while you’re there.

    Best of luck, and please keep us posted with updates as and when you’re able. As someone who had an overbearing mother (we are now no contact) I’ll be thinking of you.

    Stay safe, stay happy, enjoy Thanksgiving, and don’t let your mother derail you.

  38. Why isn't it Friday?*

    Oh man, OP. As someone with an over-involved mother this got my hackles up like no other. I would go nuts. Stay strong and block!

  39. 867-5309*

    OP, It might be worth exploring if your mom is also becoming anxious/controlling in other areas of her life. This kind of drastic behavioral change can sometimes have a medical cause.

  40. Bekx*

    I have a mother like OP. Ironically, she is interviewing for my company soon and we could easily be in the exact same situation as OP and her mother.

    With my mother, and I can’t speak to OP’s mother, it would absolutely be because she has never held a job where meetings were a thing. She’s always worked in customer facing roles, retail…customer service…etc. So being at your desk or helping customers is what she is used to doing. My role is 100% on a computer, but also involves meetings. I could absolutely see where my mom thinks ‘Well, Bekx’s role is on a computer, but she’s been away from her computer for 2 hours! What is going on??’

    My mother also has some cognitive issues (I have to tell her things like 5 times before she finally gets it…kinda) so I should probably prepare for this in advance if she does work for my company. This article was super timely, for me, and definitely something I need to discuss with her if she gets the job.

  41. Bananatiel*

    One thing that occurs to me– is your mom… bored at work? You’ve mentioned that she’s otherwise pretty chill– makes me wonder if she’s bored looking for things to do and monitoring your every move just became a thing to fill the time. I speak from personal experience with my own mom who has always worked similar jobs, she needs constant stimulation and when she doesn’t get it from her job she’s filled the time (and gotten in trouble with) with crocheting, texting, etc. Just thought I’d throw that out there, might be helpful to gently broach in the conversation if you think that sounds like your mom (in addition to what Alison advised!)

  42. Andream*

    Just a thought but I wonder if there is a way to change status so it’s not just away? I’m not to sure about the messenger they use but could there be an option like in meeting, unavailable, etc instead of just away? Even if the writer just puts it to meeting when she’s talking with someone, it may be easier.
    I also wonder what mom’s co-workers think of this behaviour. If she’s checking in on the LW so much, is she saying things to her co-workers like ” where is my daughter now? She’s going to get fired.” This is so concerning f for both mom and lq

    I totally agree that this behaviour needs to stop, but just thinking of other things she can do in the meantime until she can talk with mom.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Yes, just change status to busy or do not disturb — presenting, or do not disturb — in a meeting, something. Leave it on for most of the day. Is there a way you can make a custom status just for her eyes only?

      1. TimeTravelR*

        I can do that on my Skype for Business, but at some point if I am away from my computer, it goes to sleep (20 minutes is the setting and I can’t change it) and so then it goes to “AWAY,” regardless of the setting, which is possibly what Mom is seeing.
        Either way, though, she doesn’t work for MOm and Mom doesn’t work for her, so Mom needs to mind her own business.

  43. Secret Identity*

    I admit I’m completely taken aback by some of the responses here. I mean, someone suggested threatening OP’s mom with charges of harassment, for pete’s sake!
    So, yes, it’s inappropriate and boundary crossing, but can we not agree that Mom is not some pervy creeper watching OP for nefarious purposes? I get that when you replace “Mom” with “coworker Bob whom I barely know”, the situation reads as a stalker/stalkee situation. But, come on! Mom is not some nutjob stalker obsessed with OP, she’s a mom who’s gone a bit over the top and allowed her personal relationship and feelings to affect how she’s interacting with OP at work.
    So, if Bob in accounting were doing this to me, I’d skip the talk, block him and immediately fill in HR on Bob’s behavior. And, probably, without a second thought. But I would never do that to my mom unless I knew my mom to be a controlling, boundary-stomping jerk, but OP says this is unusual for Mom, so I’d cut her some slack.

    Mom works in a desk job that requires her to be at her desk at all times and client-facing. That’s her day to day life. If she were away from her desk for large parts of her day, she’d probably be sitting in her manager’s office having A Conversation about that. Maybe she can’t imagine a job in which she could just get up, walk over to Joe’s office and engage him in conversation even if it were work-related. So, she projects that onto OP and thinks, “Oh no, OP is away from her desk again! She’s going to get in trouble!” And moms worry. So, maybe she allowed that to creep over her better judgment and treated OP as her child rather than her coworker. That’s not the best thing to do, but I’d love to know everyone on here’s track record when it comes to behaving professionally. Have you always? Will you always? If you have and you will, I’d love to meet you and get some tips because I certainly haven’t always and I probably won’t always, though I will try.
    So, OP, I would say definitely talk to your mom. Be explicit about the behavior that needs to stop, but in a kind way, and if this behavior is unusual for your mom, as you say, then I think being direct and clear will have the desired effect. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t threaten her with HR and accusations of harassment! That’s ridiculous.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Wow. Talk about gas lighting.
      Have you considered that some mothers are controlling? Some are so bad that people go low or no contact.

      The real issue is that mom is not treating the daughter as an adult. Mom is not treating daughter as a coworker when at work. She needs to be held to the standards of a coworker, not a mom.

      Mom needs to let go. Her behavior is inappropriate for an adult relationship. And if mom wants the richness and depth of an adult relationship then she needs to stop these behaviors. Otherwise she gets the shallowness of a child relationship. And that means she’s locked out of a lot of OPs life.

      Moms need to let go.

      1. Jamie*

        How is Secret Identity gaslighting? She acknowledged that it’s inappropriate and boundary crossing, which it is. But as the letter writer clearly said this is new behavior and not typical for her mom I also think it’s way out of scope to talk about charges of harassment or involving HR. Yes, they are coworkers at work, but you can’t take the much more important element of their relationship out of the equation.

        They’re just saying to address it, but without involving external authority which isn’t gaslighting at all.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, this is clearly not acceptable and OP should block her mom and shut it down. But it also seems overboard to call this “stalking” as many people are doing and looping in HR at this point seems likely to cause irreparable damage to the relationship. If my dad went into my house when I wasn’t home I might be annoyed or mad about it, but if we otherwise had a good relationship then I wouldn’t call the cops and say he was breaking and entering. Yes, the mother needs to learn to behave like a standard coworker when they are at work. But she objectively is not just another coworker and it wouldn’t be reasonable to respond as if she were.

  44. TimeTravelR*

    My iPhone recently upgraded and the Locator app is now on my homescreen. I suppose I always had it but never looked for it. My daughter (almost 30) and I share a phone bill ( we each pay our share… girl has a job, she can pay! LOL). I opened the app recently and discovered that I can see where daughter is. She’s usually at work so it’s not very exciting, and I can’t see if she’s actually working (OP’s mom, you need to back off). I just wonder if I should tell her, “unlocate” her or keep it there for emergencies?

    1. LCH*

      maybe tell her, but also ask if you can keep it for emergencies. just make sure you aren’t constantly checking up on it or using it for any other reason. and if she says no, she says no.

  45. Lime Lehmer*

    Looking at this in the most positive light, this may really be a culture difference, Mom not understanding that you can be working while away from you desk. You need to reiterate this again.

    Alison said it nicely: “Since we don’t need to talk on Messenger during the day anyway, I’m going to set mine so you don’t have that window into my work day anymore. We’ll talk after work instead.”

    That said, you need to make sure that your mom:
    1. to stops it
    2. knows not to every call a coworker again because you are off line
    3. If she does not stop the behavior, you will block her on the office email.

    Emphasize that she still can contact you by email and text, but you may not be able to respond immediately.

  46. Seeking Second Childhood*

    One thing that could get through to Mom is pointing out that if mom interrupts OP and her team too often, it could get OP in trouble with some managers!

  47. nnn*

    Alongside any other strategy you opt for, another thing you could do is, when a conversation involving you and your mother turns to work, you could emphasize the non-desk aspects of your role, and/or present it as though the “real work” is done away from your desk and desk work is trivial.

    For example: “Really productive week! Tons of meetings, got lots of stuff done!” Or “Not being stuck at a desk all day is so much better for my mental health!” (This is said not in a tone that’s judgmental of people who are stuck at their desk all day, but rather that you’ve realized something about your temperament, and you’re grateful that your job aligns with your temperament.)

    This might help reinforce the idea that your being away from your desk is not a problem.

  48. Cat Lady*

    Small typo: “Tell her you’re doing it, of course, so she doesn’t *drawn* her own conclusions”

  49. Sophie1*

    the articulation of that problem of the miscommunication of whether something is a one off or ongoing is probably something that is going to be useful to a lot of us, I reckon, whether in future we are goi g to hear it or have to say it.

  50. Oh My Beloved Family*

    Oh lord.

    I always let my retirement-age parents, and my elderly beloved grandmother, have my work number, just because it was quite possible they’d need to get hold of me during work hours when there was an emergency situation involving one of the three of them and I was in a meeting or another situation where I had to have my cellphone switched off.

    My elderly beloved grandmother never used my work number that I can remember, but always said it was good to know she had it just in case. My aged and beloved dad hardly ever used my work number, and the occasions when he did, were clearly justified even if not an actual emergency. My aged and beloved mom used to use my work number all the time to leave long rambling messages on my voice mail, which I used to dismiss as a harmless eccentricity and MUCH better than taking her calls on my cellphone during work hours. (I loved her, I did, but she could take five minutes to tell me “on your way home, pick up a carton of milk”.)

    I moved to a new job in a small non-profit office with ONE landline and an admin worker who saved himself time and effort by having the landline phone on speaker most of the time so that we all heard all messages to the communal voicemail.

    Cue the day when my elderly and beloved mom phoned in to let me know in her long and rambling way that she wanted me to pick up X, Y, and Z at the local produce store for A, B, and C reasons and at least two extended anecdotes about why I needed to purchase Y-2 and not Y-1 but X-3 and not X-1 or X-2 but any kind of Z was Okay and she loved me and was looking forward to seeing me that evening.

    We all listened. My boss said, in a restrained way, that perhaps I would like to answer that.

    I explained to my mom that evening that her entire message had been heard by every single one of my co-workers and in future could she leave voicemail on my cellphone or leave texts.

    I don’t recall that she ever used my work number again until an awful day when she had to because my dad had a medical emergency and by that time the admin worker who had the phone on speaker all the time had left.

    (I remember, wistfully, that she took so long telling me what had happened that I had to interrupt her to confirm my dad was still alive, since she was slowly breaking it to me what had happened.) (He was, and he lived for years after that call, but oh my beloved mom, her phone calls took forever.)

    1. Oh My Beloved Family*

      Sorry – the relevance of this long rambling comment is (aside from, I am my mom’s daughter, no doubt about that):

      My grandmother worked for 40+ years in an office at a level where you used your work phone for personal calls only in bona fide emergencies and genuinely time-urgent situations.

      My dad worked for 40+ years in an office at a level where you set a good example to those under you by not using your work phone for personal calls unless briefly and for important/urgent reasons.

      My mom worked outside the home only sporadically and not at all for the last forty years of her life. As far as I can tell, she took my dad’s polite shut-downs when she called him at work as “just his way” – and one reason why I never answered the phone to her in person at work after the first couple of times she called, was that no matter how polite I tried to be in shutting her down, the “just his way” she allowed for my dad, she didn’t allow for her daughter.

      OP should block mom completely from all work channels, and explain – outside work – she is doing so because she – the daughter – might get into trouble if a junior employee kept contacting her for non-work-related reasons on a work channel. Mom is being mom and will not stop being mom and this is not a bad thing at all, just not at work.

      If mom says she doesn’t see why daughter would get in trouble, just sigh, shrug, and say “That’s what I’ve been told. Let’s not discuss it. You’ve still got all my personal contacts if you need them.”

  51. Batgirl*

    I’d focus my talk with her on the three heads of ‘I’m worried because’: “This behaviour will damage me at work”, “This behaviour will damage our relationship” and “Your behaviour to me has never been like this before; what’s up?”
    It’s time to get very, very serious with her and I’d really bang the drum on the third point because this is a situational problem, not a ‘you are a bad person problem’.
    Underlining that will help her avoid defensiveness and make her grateful for the flag that a situational quirk is risking one of her most important relationships.
    Wouldn’t you want your daughter to tell you that you’re generally great, and that she’s comfortable and invested enough to set you straight?
    Good luck.

    1. QuinleyThorne*

      OP, you mentioned above that this is “100% out of the ordinary” for your mother. Is there a chance that there’s something else going on with her? Allison’s advice re: blocking her access to you at work is spot on, but that said, if you have a good relationship with her otherwise (and it sounds like you do), it might be worth it to have another, more personal conversation, about her behavior–preferably outside of work to remove that context. Come from a place of kindness and concern: “Hey mom, I feel like our relationship has changed since you started this job–I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this anxious or worried about me before. Is everything okay?”

      I’ll be honest, I thought about my mom when I read this, because while she’s generally pretty down-to-earth, she gets *really* anxious about anything related to her kid’s employment (it even strained out relationship at some points). We had a conversation about it, and she shared some experiences her family had with both parents working, subsisting on government assistance programs growing up, and her own struggles with employment post-college. She meant well, but she was kind of re-living that time of her life when she saw how much trouble I had getting a job post-college (in the midst of the recession no less).

  52. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    I’m late to this and didn’t read all the comments so apologies if I’m repeating. I’d try (if you haven’t), walking her through a typical week in a meaningful way. Something like, “Mom, I really want you to understand why I’m away from my desk. On Monday, I spend X hours in meetings where I provide input on Z process. On Tuesday, I lead a presentation for X, Y, Z.” I’d go as in depth as you can and really break it down for her to get the full grasp of your work day. Of course you shouldn’t *have* to do this, but it might work if she can remind herself that you are performing real work and has an idea what that work is.

    And if that doesn’t work, I’d totally try seeing if you can set your messenger to show you as always available to her. I do think blocking is your best option, but the available message might work (and be less upsetting) unless you’d run into her being upset that you are ignoring her if she messages you and you don’t respond for a couple of hours.

  53. Heffalump*

    Not that it makes a lot of difference, but I noticed that the OP said “behaviour.” I wonder if the OP is in, or originally from, the UK or the British Commonwealth.

  54. Kerry*

    I work for a national company with a similar IM system where you can see if people are away, and my mother also works for said company, and my best advice I can give you is to block her immediately. If you feel that will cause her to go off the deep end, be prepared to visit HR because the issue will get worse before it gets better.

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