my coworker hates me

A reader writes:

I started at a new position a few months ago, and mostly it’s going really well! I like the people, the work, and the hours. I have a good relationship with all of my other coworkers and superiors. I’ve received great feedback, and I have several years of experience in my field. I enjoy my job immensely, except for my coworker Nora.

Nora has been with the company a little under a year. She’s a few years younger than I am (she’s in her mid-twenties and I just turned 30), and we have very different personalities. She is in general more reserved while I am more outgoing. Our job requires us to interact with clients regularly, as well as to share a desk space. I have been regularly praised for my work with the clients; I go out of my way to ensure they have a good experience, and I am very friendly and personable. Nora is not necessarily. She is amazing at a large part of our job, particularly anything regarding scheduling and organization. She also knows everyone in our large company and remembers specifics about their preferences. I would love to learn more from her. However, her communication is not great. She regularly disappears for chunks of time (ranging from 15 minutes to an hour without telling me, leaving me unsure when she’ll be back and without help if things get busy with clients), she doesn’t always communicate if people pass on information that would be helpful to have, and she gets annoyed if I communicate such things to her. It is entirely possible I am over-communicating, so I am trying to temper my instinct to share.

I’ve tried to leave our conversation at a minimum, as that is what she seems to prefer. I ask to help with anything that might need to be done, but she seems to resent that I am asking. I’ve tried to leave her to her work, regardless of how busy she is and slow my work is. I’ll ask her questions about her weekend, and she’ll give me one-word answers. Then she’ll spend 20 minutes chatting with out other coworkers. If I make a mistake, she snaps and gets upset rather than working to fix the problem or help avoid it in the future.

Based on things others have said, it also seems she is badmouthing me to coworkers. I am of the mind that you do not have to like all of your coworkers (or any of them!), but you do have to be polite and professional. She isn’t my favorite coworker of all time either, but I stay professional and pleasant. I’ve talked to our boss, who seems focused on the idea that we are just different people with different personalities.

I am running out of ideas and steam. I’m happy to adjust how I work and interact! I’ve always been able to work with people in the past, even if we weren’t very compatible. But Nora is being rude and uncommunicative, disappears, and is now most likely badmouthing me to coworkers. I’m new so I don’t want to rock the boat. And I really enjoy the rest of my job. Also, I don’t want to put all of the blame on her, as I am absolutely imperfect, and I’m sure I could be doing things to make our work relationship better.

Well … it sure does sound like Nora doesn’t like you. And, as you point out, that’s okay! We don’t need to like everyone at work as long as we’re reasonably polite and professional with them. But Nora is currently failing at that; regularly responding to questions with one-word answers is rude, and snapping at you when you make a mistake isn’t okay.

That said, I think your boss might be mostly right when she says that this is a case of you and Nora having very different personalities. Normally I’m annoyed when a manager gives an answer like that, because it’s often a response to problems that aren’t personality conflicts at all — like when one coworker isn’t responding to work emails or is excluding the other from important meetings. In cases like that, “you have different personalities” is a conflict-avoidant cop-out. But in this case, most of what you’ve described sounds like it does come down to the two of you being very different and having conflicting preferences for how you interact.

From your letter, it sounds like you’re very extroverted while Nora is more introverted (or at least reserved, as you said). If you started the job expecting and initiating a level of interaction that felt uncomfortable to Nora and she tried to assert her own boundaries in response, a lot of this behavior makes sense.

And I do think you might have expectations of her that aren’t 100 percent reasonable. For example, leaving her desk for 15 minutes without telling you is pretty typical in most jobs! That’s a trip to the kitchen or bathroom and a chat with a colleague on the way back, and it’s normal not to give you advance notice of it. In fact, in a lot of jobs, there wouldn’t be an expectation that she’d inform you of her hour-long absences either.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have some reasonable concerns here. A lot of this sounds like you expected a certain type of work relationship with her — one with close, intertwined work and frequent communication — and she’s signaling pretty clearly that that’s not what she wants. (It’s possible the job requires that, but your letter doesn’t mention any serious problems her style has caused in the work you each do.)

To the extent that you can, I’d work on respecting Nora’s signals: She doesn’t like to chat while she works, so keep unnecessary conversation to a minimum. (To calibrate this, think of how much you’d chat with her if her desk were far away from yours. You might be talking to her more simply because you’re right next to each other — which is understandable, but it doesn’t sound like it’s working for either of you.) For whatever reason, she’s annoyed when you try to share information with her, so go ahead and stop unless something is truly crucial. (A good litmus test is, “Would my boss be alarmed that I didn’t share this with Nora?”) She doesn’t respond well when you offer to help, so assume she’s got a blanket “no thanks” in place and proceed accordingly.

If she’s badmouthing you to coworkers, that’s more concerning. Without knowing what she’s saying, it’s hard to know how to respond. If you hear that she’s said anything about you that’s untrue, it’s important to correct the record directly with her and with others. But if she’s complaining more generally about not getting along with you, that’s trickier to address. One thing that should help, though, is making a point of forming your own strong relationships with other people in your office. When they have positive experiences with you — and they know firsthand that you’re warm, friendly, kind, and competent — they’ll be less likely to be swayed by Nora’s complaining about you. You’ll also get more peace of mind from knowing you’re making your own impressions rather than Nora making them for you.

There is a risk that being so accommodating will embolden Nora to be more of a jerk, rather than smoothing things over. If that happens, though, you’ll be able to go back to your boss with bigger concerns than you took to her the first time – and you’ll be able to list a bunch of ways you’ve tried to be conciliatory.

I want to be clear that I don’t mean to imply Nora is fine and you are the weird one. These are fairly unusual steps to have to take to accommodate a coworker, and it’s not right that you’ll be making all the adjustments while she makes none. But you have to work with the situation you have, and you can only control your side of things. Since these aren’t extreme adjustments, you might as well give them a try and see if doing that brings more peace to both of you. And if a couple of months from now things still feel tense, try to orchestrate a change of desks!

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 330 comments… read them below }

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Aw man! First you say things got weird, then you say you removed the weird stuff so I can’t see it… now i’m curious!

      1. R.D.*

        There are still plenty of really rude comments trashing the letter writer based on assumptions not in the letter. You can certainly get the gist of what happened here.

    2. Elaine*

      Thank you. I felt absolutely sick to my stomach reading many of the comments that clearly had no relation to the details in the letter. This was not what I expect from AAM commenters.

  1. Horseshoe*

    Honestly, it sounds like these two people also sit too close together. As an introvert, that alone would drive me crazy and might explain the longish breaks away from her desk.

    It also sounds like these two work interchangeably on the same clients (from OP talking about needing her help if things get busy), but then also that Nora doesn’t want OP’s help when Nora is busy. So is OP asking for Nora’s help also seem like stepping over a boundary to Nora?

    I don’t think Nora’s behavior is appropriate, and I almost wonder if she’ll actually end up quitting because that doesn’t sound like an ideal set up for her. Hopefully once they have been there longer they get more separated work spaces.

    1. DataGirl*

      Yes, I would hate having to share a desk with someone, no matter how much I liked them. I wonder if she had the desk to herself before? If so, that resentment might be the biggest source of frustration.

        1. VeryAnon*

          Yes! I have to share a very small room with a more extroverted colleague. I’d had similar arrangements with a fellow introvert and it was lovely. This situation is turning me into a nervous wreck.

      1. I Will Therapize You*

        I was also wondering about underlying feelings of resentment. I wonder if she was the only one in this position and an additional person (letter writer) was added and Nora may be feeling resentful that the higher-ups think she needs some help when she disagrees. This could also be an age thing, if she’s feeling insecure about her age at all and wants to show you what she knows. Either one of these are attributed to insecurities on Nora’s part.

        1. Mama Bear*

          I was wondering how long Nora was there and under what circumstances OP was hired. Did Nora get to have any input or was she basically told “you’re sharing a desk and a job now”? That background may be relevant to Nora’s frosty behavior.

          Regarding the info-sharing, OP may just need to ask Nora or their boss about it. If this is something where an email with an FYI on it would be useful, leave it at that. Forward the email and FYI and move on. If Nora isn’t providing information that OP needs, OP needs to track that for a follow up. It’s one thing to say Nora isn’t communicating. It’s another to make the case that the lack of info is hurting the company.

    2. rainy day anon*

      I didn’t see OP talking about needing her help, but rather OP wanting to help Nora when Nora was busy: I ask to help with anything that might need to be done, but she seems to resent that I am asking. I’ve tried to leave her to her work, regardless of how busy she is and slow my work is.

      Which…if OP is constantly asking, I can see why Nora is annoyed. It can come across as pushing into someone’s work territory, trying to take work from them, or make Nora think OP is insinuating Nora doesn’t know how to do the work and needs OP’s help. OP sounds exhausting and I’m not even an introvert.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        While OP may be a bit much for Nora seeing as they are opposites, stating that OP sounds exhausting isn’t really fair. Nora needs to use her words. Instead of snapping and treating OP badly, explain how it makes her feel and ask her to tone it down a bit.

        1. Emily K*

          In fact, as an introvert, OP comes off very aware and considerate. It’s far more exhausting to be stuck with someone who can’t pick up any of the cues OP is not only having no trouble reading but is also changing her behavior in response. Yes, OP is calibrated for more interaction than we introverts, but it seems that she’s doing a good job modulating for the environment.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            Agreed. This seems really harsh toward the OP, and I’m super introverted.

            OP is offering to help when her work is slow. It seems like they share clients. That’s basically being a good team member 101. When you’re rude and snappy all the time in general, how Nora seems to be, it makes it REALLY hard to pick up on what behaviors actually annoy you for some legitimate reason and when you’re just being kind of an ass. Nora can’t expect OP to pick up on subtle cues (ie I don’t like being offered help) when her overwhelming message is “I wish you’d go away.”

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Yep. If OP’s work is slow when Nora’s is busy, OP needs to talk with her boss about things she could be working on. Since she’s only been there a few months, it may be that her work is not yet ramped up to Nora’s level of busy.

      3. Rose by another name*

        And explaining or supervising a task takes a nonzero amount of time. Maybe OP could try asking Nora for work during a slower period?

      4. sunny-dee*

        I wonder, too, if this is related to the OP’s mistakes that she was talking about. She said Nora snaps instead of “helping to fix it” or “to make sure it doesn’t happen again” — but neither of those is Nora’s job or responsibility. It’s the OP’s responsibility to do her own job well and to fix and avoid her own mistakes. If I were Nora and I felt like the OP was error-prone and incapable or unwilling to fix her own errors, I wouldn’t pass work off to her, either. It would just be creating more frustrations for me.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I see this point. Nora is pointing out an error, because it is an error and it needs fixing. She does not see this as a “teachable moment” for herself, or view herself in a training position. OP needs to stop viewing this senior (to her) employee as a teammate and instead as a coworker. There is a difference. The teammate will pass you the ball, lift you up, offer support and guidance. A coworker will say good morning, share information that is needed and get on with her day.
          I think the extrovert/introvert explanation clouds the real issue instead of answering it. Nora wants to do her job herself. OP wants to create synergy with her colleagues. Is this the kind of job where you can do that?

        2. Emily K*

          I think this can depend on how specialized and different the roles are. There are things I can mess up at work that I can’t and shouldn’t try to fix on my own, and things other people can mess up where my involvement in fixing the mistake is not optional. When I think about my most conscientious co-workers who I most enjoy working with, the ones who stand out are people who are proactive and collaborative in general and that extends to work when I’ve made an error – they suggest solutions or ways they might be able to help avoid a repeat of the mistake and take the opportunity to educate me where it makes sense. What they care most about is a good outcome, so they see it as in their own best interest to be proactive and collaborative even when someone has made a mistake – they wouldn’t withhold help out of spite or annoyance.

          But again, these are situations where we each do different specialized work and it would be inappropriate for either of us to swerve into the other’s lane, so helping out with other people’s mistakes really is a part of our jobs and not just a favor. I can’t quite tell from OP’s wording how much overlap there is in their work. She calls it “our job” but also mentions uneven workloads that suggest a division of labor that’s putting more work in the corker’s job domain than OP’s.

        3. Ted Mosby*

          Ehhhh on my team when a new person starts in my role, everyone with that role is expected to answer questions and help get them generally up to speed. It makes more sense than having our boss, who is three levels above us and very busy, spend her time explaining things that we all understand. Helping onboard people is very often a part of working on a team. If Nora doesn’t think she should have to help, or thinks OP is learning too slowly, she should be talking to their manager about this situation, not being rude.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          People are being really, really judgmental of this OP in ways that don’t usually happen outside of the particularly outlandish letters. I don’t get it at all.

          1. Zap R.*

            People take the introvert/extrovert dichotomy waaaaaaaaaay too seriously and I think that might be what’s happening here.

          2. MizShrew*

            Agreed, Librarian of SHIELD. I have found that often people judge self-described “extroverts” harshly and want to protect the “introverts” from them. And while these personality descriptions have their place, I don’t think they should be used to be a jerk to someone — which Nora is doing if she’s badmouthing the OP to others (which seems really catty for this “reserved” person.) Even if someone is an introvert, in a workplace you have a responsibility to be pleasant to colleagues and to speak up if someone’s behavior is crossing a line for you and be specific about why that is.

            That said, sharing a desk sounds really awful. I’m in an open workspace and as a writer who NEEDS to be in my own head a lot, it’s really distracting and frustrating. So I have sympathy for both the OP and Nora. I just don’t think it should be all laid down at the feet of “personality differences.” We all have to suck it up and rise about that stuff at work sometimes.

            1. 'Tis Me*

              We’re also talking about a “reserved introvert” who snaps one word answers at LW then goes off to chat to others for 20 minutes plus at a time. Then resents LW for offering to help with her work when she looks busy. She might be reserved and take a while to warm up to people – but I don’t think this is a case of an introvert whose need for quiet time away from trivia is being violated. (I say this as an introvert, BTW.)

              This is a coworker with poor communication skills who doesn’t want to talk to the LW even though it sounds like some of the work they do is for the same clients/on the same/overlapping tasks, doesn’t give the LW pertinent information, frequently deserts her work station leaving people unable to contact her, snaps when the LW makes mistakes (could this be caused by her missing useful info that hasn’t been passed on to her), etc. I think the manager is being a bit lax in treating it entirely as a difference in personalities.

              If the coworker has been doing her job for under a year, there may be written training material LW can reference instead of asking her for help. Otherwise I suggest the LW try to write out their SOPs during her downtime and review them with her manager (“I know that I have occasionally made errors whilst learning how to perform in this role; can I please check that I’ve correctly noted all of the steps I need to follow in order to succeed? I don’t want to have to bother Coworker by asking her what I’ve overlooked as she’s made it very clear she doesn’t see helping me to fix problems as part of her role.”)

              If some information needs to be available to both of them, LW could suggest to the manager that they set up a shared OneNote with pages for each client. That way there’s a written record and they both have it. Again, explain to the manager that as you two unfortunately started off on the wrong foot this would probably be better coming from them than yourself, but that you are sometimes not receiving information you need, and Coworker seems annoyed when you try to loop her in on these things (possibly because they have come up previously with the same client so she already knows about them – but at present you have no insight into that, and you don’t want to miss passing her any information she does need).

              Also talk to the manager about your workload and your capacity – this should be a regular anyway, but it will help you get on the same page about the rate to amp up your workload, and means if they decide that it makes sense for Coworker to give you some tasks, it clearly comes from the manager rather than you.

              Try to minimise your need to actually talk to this coworker. Still be polite and approachable, and make it very clear to the manager and others that there are a lot of things about your coworker that you really admire and know you could learn from, but make it very clear that you respect her personal boundaries and are taking these steps in order to give her the space she clearly needs.

              I mean, people won’t be able to fault your ability to cooperate and adjust your working style to accommodate others, your organisational abilities, your empathy, your professionalism… And since you’ll be getting everything you need in order to do your job, hopefully you’ll be a superstar :-) Also hopefully Coworker will take the stick out of her butt eventually when she realises that while you might prefer to work more collaboratively/have warmer working relationships than she does, you understand that people have different preferences and will respect her need for space.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I definitely see nothing wrong with asking the boss for more work during slow times. If pressed, OP, you could say, “I tried asking Nora but I think I have angered her again.”

                I had cohorts who would not train/help me because they wanted to get back at the boss for not doing their job. What was actually going on is that the boss needed to say, “It is YOUR job to help the new hires learn the job.”

                In the end, my cohorts were handling a neglectful boss poorly. While it was not truly his job to train, there were other parts of his job that he was shoving off onto people and that part was actually wrong of him.

          3. August*

            Agreed. I’m sorry every other AAM reader seems to have had a bad experience with an extroverted coworker, but introversion doesn’t make abandoning a reception post or snapping at your coworker okay– Nora’s just a bit of a jerk.

          4. CaliCali*

            Man, right? I’m an extrovert, and I’ve managed to build generally good relationships with my coworkers. I know social cues; I can sense if someone is busy or not in a mood to interpersonally engage. I still have friends from previous jobs — in relatively introverted fields, like IT, even. The OP just sounds like she’s trying to engage with her coworker as a fellow human, but you’d think she was blasting her personal life directly into her ear with a megaphone with the reactions here. Plus, even as an introvert, if you’re both sitting at a reception kind of desk all day, it’s pretty isolating to have someone freeze you out (which is completely different from someone being more quiet and reserved).

            The OP is taking a lot of ownership here and trying to accommodate her as best she can (“I’ve tried to leave our conversation at a minimum, as that is what she seems to prefer.”, “I’m happy to adjust how I work and interact! I’ve always been able to work with people in the past, even if we weren’t very compatible.”) We’re supposed to take OPs at their word. Why are so many people assuming the LW is an overbearing boor?

            1. Helena*

              I don’t even see any evidence that Nora IS an introvert! She is happy to chat to the other coworkers, it’s just OP that she’s blanking.

              Seems like a very selective type of introversion that only strikes when you’re in the company of a coworker you happen to dislike. Or perhaps Nora is not an introvert at all, but just rude and unprofessional.

          5. bolistoli*

            I agree that Nora’s responses have been rude and unprofessional, and I’m not defending her behaviour. But I’ve been there too, when a new employee starts, and immediately tries to insinuate herself into your life and be your best friend. It’s very off-putting. I started by trying to maintain/suggest boundaries, then pulling back. But when those didn’t work, I responded like Nora.

            It is not my proudest moment – I really kicked myself for a long time that I did not behave professionally. I did apologize to her and said I realized that we might just be very different people. And I committed to her that I would be nothing but professional from that point forward. And I was.
            Not that I know something like this pushes all my buttons, I know to interact when I have to, but keep my distance when I need to. It seems to have worked for me.

            Anyway, my main point to OP is just that maybe she came on way too strong, trying to connect, make a good impression, and contribute right away! A little self-reflection never hurts anyone. And if she realizes she did do that, she can temper her enthusiasm in similar future situations. This doesn’t do much to help her with Nora, who is being a jerk, but if she dials it back from now on, and Nora continues to be a jerk, as Alison said, she will have more for her manager to work with.

            Good luck, OP! Hope it works out for you.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              Ok but there is no real evidence am anywhere in the letter that OP tried to be Noras best friend or came on very strongly. If she’s getting along with everyone else and one person is being an ass then I don’t think she really needs to start reflecting on if asking how someone’s weekend was made her intolerable to work with. I’m confused as to why so many people are jumping in to suggest hypothetical ways OP might be at fault when that’s not the norm here.

      5. Amethystmoon*

        It could also mean that OP doesn’t have enough work to do but yes, I agree. The workload maybe needs to be distributed a bit more evenly.

    3. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Yup. I normally have my own private cubicle and thrive in it, but I sometimes have to cover reception, which is shared and obviously much more public facing anyway. Covering reception even for a few days in a row really takes its toll on my mental health because of constantly having to be “on”, even when it’s slow and I’m hoping for a nice stretch of peace and quiet, my colleagues will tend to want to chat and as nice as they are, I just find myself becoming super frustrated and annoyed and praying the phone will ring to interrupt them.

    4. frogs and turtles*

      Yes — as a fellow introvert, the idea of sharing a desk sounds like a nightmare. And if the person I shared it with was a talker it would drive me around the bend. Did Nora have to share a desk before OP arrived? If this is a new situation for her — something that was imposed on her — I can see how she might be resentful at management, and some of that might be rubbing off on OP.

      Still, Nora’s rudeness is not OK, though I would wonder if Nora is really being as rude as OP thinks. In my experience, extroverts can sometimes interpret the behavior of the introverts around them as deliberate insults/rudeness…when a lot of the time it’s just the other person being an introvert (or is the introvert trying to escape the sensory assault of the extrovert).

      1. Shadowbelle*

        +1 also.
        And sharing a desk? I once had to do that for a project that lasted about a year, and it was next door to unbearable. I don’t even like being in a car with another person.

      2. The Original K.*

        I honestly don’t know if I could function if I had to share a desk. My productivity would go WAY down, especially if I shared a desk with a talker. I might have to say, look, it’s nothing personal but we are very close together here and I need some quiet in order to have a shot at making this work – but I would also be angling to move, if possible. Again, nothing personal – this would just be literally too close for comfort for me.

      3. Avasarala*

        If you’re trying to “escape the sensory assault of the extrovert” then you’re probably being rude. Just say “hey I need a break” and communicate kindly, don’t assume they’ll read your mind.

      4. Helena*

        And the bitching about her to coworkers? Is OP imagining that as well?

        I can’t believe how many posters are queuing up to tell the OP she’s wrong about her own experience, and if she isn’t wrong it’s probably all her fault for being an extrovert anyway. What happened to taking letter writers at their word?

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I was just getting on here to ask how closely, as in physical space, they work.

      My department is currently sharing space with another department while Second Department’s normal space is being renovated, so I’m in a good-sized office space but am sharing it with two other people four out of five days a week. They are both fine people whom I like and neither of them is even remotely annoying, but there are days when I Just Cannot Even any more. They’re not even doing anything! Most of the time, we’re all busy and nobody is even interacting! It’s simply spending that much time in close proximity to that many people, and I’m an introvert to the bone.

    6. SRMJ*

      Is it possible that Nora is insecure about not being as outgoing and natural socially as you are? Maybe you started, a few years older than her, more experience (I assume), and she saw how well people respond to you and it activated some defensiveness. Maybe she’s worried people will like you more, or stop seeing her strengths and think you’re better at the job. Or maybe another facet is all of that, plus a rebellious streak that inclines her to dislike popular things (in this case, a new coworker people might be fawning over in her eyes)? These would all be very emotionally young responses to have, IMO.

      I say this as an introvert myself. I could see an introvert who’s very insecure about certain things (like sociability) responding in this way to a perceived threat, maybe even on a mostly unexamined, subconscious level. Not to excuse the damage she may be doing, just as another consideration for what could be motivating her to be the way she is.

  2. Jamie*

    she doesn’t always communicate if people pass on information that would be helpful to have, and she gets annoyed if I communicate such things to her. It is entirely possible I am over-communicating, so I am trying to temper my instinct to share.

    I hope the OP replies in the comments as I’m curious as to what type of information this is. Depending on the info it could be problematic or a huge issue.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I interpreted this as things like “oh, Meredith was telling me about a project that might impact us” or “I heard there was a systems outage that’s impacting a vendor” – the sort of non-urgent but contextually helpful information that can come up in passing conversation.

      If Nora already thinks the OP is a bit much, these kinds of things can land with the thud of “yeah, I know, chatterbox” or “why are you telling me this, I don’t care.”

  3. Data Miner*

    I don’t entirely agree with Alison’s advice. It sounds like Nora is freezing out OP which is especially weird when you sit! I had coworker who did this and it felt hostile – she would give one liner responses or not acknowledge my presence at all when we shared a very tight enclosed office. I’m especially concerned that Nora has been bad mouthing OP to others – no amount of internal networking is going to help fix this. OP, if it continues and you feel uncomfortable to the point where it distracts you from your work, then I’d have a direct conversation with Nora about fostering a professional work environment, and then go back to your boss.

    1. mf*

      Agree–Nora’s behavior sounds hostile, not introverted. The OP says Nora chats with other coworkers, just not with the OP, and that doesn’t sound like introversion at all.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s not the case. Introverts just recharge differently than extroverts and typically need less social stimulation and engagement than extroverts. We still chat, enjoy people’s company, and engage with others.

        I have co-workers with whom I enjoy a little small talk/banter and others with whom a one word answer is more effort than it deserves.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Actually she sounds both hostile and introverted. If Nora is uncomfortable with the level of extrovert of OP she needs to use her words and have an adult conversation, rather than act like a petty child. I consider myself an ambivert, but if I were in this situation, I would have no problem with talking to OP and asking that she tone it down a bit and explain what I need for us to work together successfully.

          1. Jamie*

            I was just replying to the comment that chatting with other co-workers doesn’t sound like introversion.

            The talking behind her back and snapping are hostile regardless of the reason for them.

        2. CheeryO*

          But part of working in an office is at least attempting to be warm and polite to everyone, even if they’re not someone you would choose to be around in your personal life. You don’t need to be BFFs with the entire office, and it’s definitely fine to draw boundaries, but if you’re routinely freezing certain people out just because it takes more energy to be friendly with them, that’s not okay. (If they’re not deserving of more than one word because they’re an ass, that’s different.) I say this as an extreme introvert who goes home very drained some days.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree with all of this. I’d save freezing for people who are toxic and whose behavior is truly egregious rather than just exhausting.

        3. Helena*

          But if you happily chat all day with everybody *except* the one co-worker you don’t like, who you are also badmouthing to your other colleagues, that sounds less like introversion and more like just bullying.

      2. McMonkeybean*

        I disagree! As an introvert, most of the things OP describes felt familiar to how I was with roommates in college. If I were sharing a desk with someone I honestly probably would be less likely to want social conversations with them. Partly because there wouldn’t be a clear cutoff–with other coworkers conversation is clearly over when one or both of us go back to our desks. But if you share a desk there’s a kind of openendedness that I would feel uncomfortable with.

        I also think OP is taking things too personally and that the boss is right that it’s mostly just different personalities. Her coworker definitely shouldn’t be rude (and badmouthing her to other coworkers is definitely not okay, but it sounds like that is unconfirmed secondhand information that could be a misunderstanding) but most of the things she describes have little to do with whether someone likes you. I once had a roommate get upset and tell me no one had ever disliked her before after I asked if she would try to check the shower for hair after she was done. I was like wooooaah man. First of all I honestly liked her just fine! Second of all, there’s no way it’s true that *no one* had ever disliked her, and that’s okay!

        1. Kaaaaaren*

          I’m also very introverted (working from home has been *AMAZING* for me for this reason) and I’ve also had this experience where someone I’m working with is very extroverted and expects a lot of interaction and socializing. It is deeply mentally exhausting but 1. I try to appreciate where it’s coming from 2. I would never be rude like Nora seems to be (according to OP, anyways) 3. To an extent, I have come to accept that it’s an extrovert’s world and I’m just living in it. The world is set up to cater to extroverted personalities and to some extent, we introverts have to conform and fall in line, but I have found actually telling people “I’m super introverted and need some time to myself to get some work done/think through this project/plan/whatever” is the best way to back out of nonstop chatting and socializing while not making extroverted types think I hate them. Nora should try it.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, I am an introvert and my Nora was an extrovert, and this sounds almost like that situation to a T: rudely cutting me off, badmouthing me, telling me to shut up, getting annoyed if I spoke to her, mocking how I spoke to her, mocking what I was wearing, especially when she didn’t realize that the person to whom she was mocking me would come and ask me why Nora is saying these weird things?

        It irreparably harmed my career advancement at that company. I got labeled a poor culture fit in my first six months and that was that…even though by the time Nora moved on, I had more positive customer/coworker relationships than her because everyone was tired of her nasty gossiping.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My take is that she might have become chilly to the point of reading as hostile because she’s bristled at what she perceives as Way Too Much from the OP. That’s not the right way to handle it, but it’s not uncommon for people to decide “if I give an inch, she’ll take a mile, so I’m not even giving that inch.”

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Exactly. This has a lot less to do with introversion than it does being able to perceive that you’re dealing with a person whose boundaries aren’t all that great so you make your lief easier by keeping them at arm’s length. The challenge is that people whose boundaries are like this often are lacking in the emotional intelligence department, so they interpret any lack of capitulation as being disliked.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think it’s that they’re often lacking in emotional intelligence; I think it’s that they often have a much more extroverted set of operating norms, one in which holding them at arm’s length does mean being disliked. It’s just a clash of styles and people not understanding the other’s language.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            You’re right, that could be it, but I’m thinking of the kinds of people who aren’t really extroverted except for when they’re interacting with other peoples’ work product, in which instance they become overbearing. Maybe that’s not the OP, but some of the people I know who are like this are introverted to the point that they don’t really build rapport with people in other ways yet expect exhaustive details about your work. That dichotomy is why I wonder about the emotional intelligence aspect.

        2. SimplyTheBest*

          The rudeness of introverts is not any more emotionally intelligent than the rudeness of extroverts.

      2. Dust Bunny*


        OMG I just caught that they were sharing desk space. I would have exactly Zero Nerves Left at this point, simply from having to be elbow-to-elbow all the time.

      3. ragazza*

        I think you hit the nail on the head here. I was Nora-like in a past job and it was because if I showed any sense of friendliness or openness, a coworker would zoom WAY past my boundaries. I know people tried to talk to her about it but she just was indifferent to any feedback (because she always thought she knew best, but that’s another story). I was just trying to survive and get my work done.

      4. Savannah*

        YES! There are absolutely people who I have completely stopped engaging with, because if I did even a little, they would just. never. stop. I like to thing I haven’t been quite as Noraish about it, especially at work, but it would not surprise me if some well-meaning but utterly insufferable extrovert wondered why I could have a friendly, *quiet* chat for several minutes with another coworker, but didn’t seem to have much more than a smile and a “Fine thanks,” for them.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      Nope, sounds to me like Nora is trying to set some boundaries with the OP, who describes herself as having an instinct to share. Should Nora just use her words and tell OP, “I need you to do X and Y and not do A and B and then we will work together better”? Yes, that would be optimal. As would OP asking Nora if she could talk (lol) with her for a few minutes about communication.

    4. BRR*

      Yeah I think while the LW has made some errors, I’m one notch less sympathetic to Nora than Alison’s answer. Admittedly, I am being influenced by a coworker who turned BEC at me because of something that was beyond my control and they refused to accept the facts. But I think there should be a little more focus on Nora not being professional enough to the LW (in addition to the LW adopting the advice Alison and readers have given).

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Unfortunately, OP can’t make Nora change, and none of this (except the badmouthing, maybe) rises to the level that warrants managerial action.

        1. EM*

          I think if OP has genuinely done everything in her power to mitigate the situation, and Nora doesn’t correct her behaviour, there is quite a lot here for a manager to respond to. One word answers and snapping is rude, badmouthing is hostile and potentially bullying. If I were Nora’s manager I would be addressing this.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            The badmouthing I agree would be, *if* it was verified. OP’s doubt about whether it’s happening is why I put in the ‘maybe.’

            Single word answers and snapping = rude is very much in the eye of the beholder / context dependent. If someone’s breaking into my interaction with a customer for the third time today to ask if they can help or what that last person preferred… I’d be pretty short with them too. Since OP’s already taken it to the manager and gotten ‘personality difference’ from them, I lean heavily towards Nora’s not being inappropriate.

          2. Susie Q*

            What constitutes bad mouthing?

            Nora could be legitimately complaining that OP is trying to track her every move, constantly talking to the point where she struggles to get work done, and expecting her to share every nonstop.

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              If that was the case then Nora shouldn’t be spreading the word around but talk to the OP directly. And if OP were to not understand it, then Nora should be talking to her manager. Not every one else. A workplace is not highschool (and even there it shouldn’t be tolerated).

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I don’t think it’s a weird reaction, I agree with the posters saying it’s likely to establish boundaries (if being done bluntly and clumsily). I don’t know if the OP meant they are literally sharing one desk, or sharing a general desk area that is relatively small, but either way that’s a lot of proximity all day every day. Add to that different comfort levels in amount of conversation/interaction, and Nora is probably shutting down as much as she can to preserve her sense of personal space and to be able to concentrate.

      I think at this point, it’s probably a lot easier for Nora to be pleasant and chatty with people she’s not seated Right Next To for the majority of the day. The potential badmouthing is not good though, no excuse for that.

      OP should take this up with the boss and see if a different seating arrangement is possible. Even if their work is intertwined, having a few desks to separate them physically would probably go a long way to repairing the working relationship.

    6. knead me seymour*

      This letter reminds me of a couple of interns my office had years ago, who both lived together and worked in the same office and were basically at each other’s throats by the end of the internship. They were at polar opposite ends of the introversion/extroversion and sociable/reserved spectra, and it created an unbridgeable divide between them. It sounds to me like Nora is being pretty rude, but it’s possible her nerves are frayed from being in such close proximity to a much more extroverted person, and she’s not being her best self. Hopefully there is room for some compromise, or barring that, a desk change.

    7. Bethany*

      It’s possible that LW doesn’t realise how extroverted he or she is.

      I am happy to chat with most of my colleagues, but there’s one I try to avoid chatting with because any interaction with her leads to her talking at me for half an hour while I try to work. Luckily we’re not in the same department, so it doesn’t come up very much.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Part of it can be that it takes some people time to warm up to you. So if you’re being overly friendly [in her POV] right out of the gate, she’s resisting that because she’s all “I don’t know you.” That would explain why she’s giving you one word answers and then giving others longer conversations about the same kind of minor chit-chat. Also if you’re so different, she may not feel comfortable giving you more information?

    I have coworkers that I respond with a “Good thanks.” when someone asks me how the day is going. Then others get the full “Let me tell you about this nonsense/funny thing that happened today actually.” because I’m comfortable with those other people and we have that setup in our office relationship.

    I’m kind of wondering if she’s pissy she’s finding herself in a “training” position, perhaps she wasn’t given a heads up that was part of her job? So she’s taking it out on you when you ask questions?

    Unless you are chained to your desk when she’s gone for 15-60 minutes, why do you need to know when she’s going to come back? Without coverage issues, it’s pretty abnormal to give people a heads up if you’ve got a meeting or need to use the restroom or get a coffee. That could be an office culture thing you’re not aware of, so again not personal.

    The bad talking? Yeah, that one is a problem for sure. But I also am wondering what you’ve heard and more details on that exactly. Since sometimes when we get this feeling someone hates us, it amplifies our emotions and worries. So it can feel like they’re talking about us but really, they’re not. Are people actually saying specific things? I would work on forging those relationships with those people first because most people as adults make their own decisions about each other. This isn’t high school, functional well adjusted adults don’t just go with the flow of “Nora says Nancy is awful so we all hate Nancy.” kind of stuff. They’ll get to know you and they all know Nora is a judgemental prickly pear or whatever she may be if that’s the case.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      OP said that at least part of their work is client/customer facing, which may explain the concern when Nora goes away without notice. About 30% of my job is working at the customer service desk, where there are usually two people stationed. If one of those people were to disappear for 45 minutes without telling their partner, I can see why that would feel like a really big deal to the person left behind. So if Nora’s disappearing acts are putting more of the customer interaction onus on OP, I can see why that’s a bigger deal than Alison’s response is addressing.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        We need more info about this part.

        I agree that if coverage is at thing, that needs to be addressed differently. Also if it’s face to face client interaction like a public facing information desk!

        My experience is strictly in no walk-in, all phone/email clients. So nothing is “Answer this, right now or else.” So we can just take a number and call back if there’s research needed.

        I would also need to know that there’s no resources available to the OP. What if Nora is out sick? What does she do on those days? Who’s the backup? Why is Nora the only one who can answer questions when Nora hasn’t even been there a year?!

      2. a1*

        Exactly. If I don’t know how long they’re going to be gone, I don’t know when I can go to the bathroom, or get some water, or get some help with the 10 customers “in line” (either on the phone, on chat, or in person). For the latter, it makes it hard to even give an estimate when they will be helped.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        But since we don’t know why Nora is leaving, we don’t know that this is the problem that the OP thinks it is. If Nora is performing other duties, it may be a coverage issue that needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t mean Nora is in the wrong–it could just as easily mean the OP misunderstands how coverage was intended to work and is bristling at something that is expected to be a normal part of her job.

        1. Jess*

          But that should be communicated to the OP, she shouldn’t have to ask. I think it makes more sense that OP understands how her own situation is supposed to work than your hypothetical? It’s like you’re trying to shoehorn the situation into OP being the one who is wrong.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It could have been that she was wrong though.

            We know now this is a front desk coverage issue, so the OP is right to be concerned when Nora is away without knowing when she’s going to be back.

            But in reality, the OP is new and therefore is in a place where she may have a lot of wrong thought processes.

            Being wrong is a normal part of life, it’s not something that should bring shame to anyone.

            1. Jess*

              Right, but why is everyone jumping to OP being wrong when there’s no indication that is the case? That’s my point, we should stick to the information we have instead of inventing all sorts of reasons. The OP who would likely know if there was a whole other job Nora was doing, she’s been there several months now, not just a few days.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Because there’s no indication that she’s right, either? This is actually an information vacuum that should be handled by a manager/supervisor.

    2. Washi*

      This seems totally possible to me! I met one of my closest friends at work, and it was basically a platonic romcom where we had to share a destk, hated each other at first, and then grew on each other. (And I was the Nora!)

      Our interactions would be something like
      Friend: I’m so excited to work together!!!!!!! We’re going to be the best team!!!!
      Me: Sure, I’m looking forward to it.
      Friend: This is going to be so great!!!!! Wow, this new project seems really interesting!!! Can’t wait to get started, right?!!!!
      Me: Yeah, uh-huh *tries to escape*

      The more enthusiastic she was, the more I pulled back, which prompted her to shower me with more enthusiasm to try to pep me up. Luckily, after a week, she gave up on us ever being friends, and once she left me alone, I started to like her! OP, I hope I wasn’t as rude as Nora (I definitely didn’t badmouth my friend) but I do think you might want to just completely write off Nora liking you as a think that will happen, and continue giving her as much space as possible. Your coworkers will see that you are competent and pleasant, and who knows, maybe Nora will thaw a bit.

    3. CarolineChickadee*

      OP answered below- they’re at a front desk and need coverage. She’s leaving OP to cover her for unpredictable stretches of time, without letting her know. That’s rude AF.

  5. AMT*

    I would love to hear what Nora is actually getting upset about. What does she say when she “badmouths” OP? What “mistakes” cause her to snap? What apparent overcommunications on OP’s part annoy her?

    I don’t think Nora is being entirely reasonable here (don’t snap at your coworkers!) but I’m getting the sense that there’s useful info OP isn’t picking up on. It sounds like Nora is trying to communicate — directly or indirectly — that OP is doing something that impacts her comfort at work and/or ability to do her job. I hope that OP doesn’t ignore it just because it’s not fun to hear that you’re doing something wrong. Maybe it’s not as unreasonable as “Nora doesn’t like to be talked to at work” — it might be something reasonable and actionable like “please just give Nora the major updates on X project and not every tiny, insignificant one” or “let Nora listen to her podcast at lunch in peace.”

    1. Dust Bunny*


      My immediate coworker often asks me questions about a specific piece of software when she really needs to ask our immediate superior who is responsible for training us on it. It’s taken me far longer than I’d like and brought me far closer to being rude to her than I want to teach her not to run to me with problems I’m not supposed to solve for her. So if the OP is asking things of Nora that she should be seeking elsewhere, yeah, Nora’s gonna have her hackles up.

    2. cncx*

      i agree, i have a weird thing about being able to start my day in peace, have communicated this to a colleague, she thinks it doesn’t apply to her because we’re friends and she vists my desk for a chitchat right when i walk in. It’s really like “let her listen to her podcast at lunch” it’s not a biggie but it would help her get out of BEC territory SO MUCH. There isn’t enough information to know if Nora is just being weird or if there are reasonable changes/accomodations that could be made

  6. The Bean*

    The fact that OP is making a big deal about her leaving for 15 minutes makes me think OP might be the “weird one” here. Having to share a desk with someone who monitored by comings and goings like that would drive me crazy.

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Yes. I bet Nora is using to having more privacy and autonomy and it’s extremely frustrating to her to have a new colleague monitoring how she spends her time. I’ve been in that situation before and it makes me feel like I’m babysitting a child.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        The monitoring bit is key here. It’s as if the OP is trying to build rapport through constant patter about comings and going without realizing that it’s intrusive, unnecessary, sends a weird message about how they perceive their colleague’s ability to handle their job, and very likely not the way other people in their office effectively get to know new employees.

        1. we're basically gods*

          Ooh, I hadn’t even put that together, but I wonder if the monitoring of Nora’s time at the desk has had an impact on how willing Nora is to let LW help her! I would be pretty miffed with someone who studied my time at and away from the desk who then suggested I couldn’t handle my work– especially if that person was newer to the company and also older than me. That seems…exceptionally patronizing.

          1. Hummus*

            This all depends on the job. If they are handling client phone calls or walk-ins, then communication about coverage is very important. If I need to use the bathroom and think I can go in ten minutes when Nora comes back, I’m not going to feel good in an hour. There are just a lot of details we don’t know.

          2. Oh So Anon*

            Absolutely. If you’re getting officious and paternalistic with me and you. have. no. place. to do so, I’m going to be pretty darn disinclined to include you in things.

            I’m not dumb and I can see through performative “helpfulness” pretty easily. With me, people don’t come back from that kind of nonsense very easily.

    2. mf*

      OP says their jobs involve some customer service work and when Nora disappears for 15 minutes to an hour, the OP is left “without help if things get busy with clients.”

      So unless OP is expected (by her boss or the business) to be able this business without Nora’s help, then it’s safe to say it is a significant problem that Nora is disappearing. It’s affecting OP’s work.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Over here if someone has a question that cannot be answered right away, we track down the answer. Someone besides Nora has to know in the end, who trained Nora, who will be the person you go to if Nora is abducted by aliens?

        I have to wonder if Nora is tired of being the one who fields all the questions when there’s other resources that should be utilized first.

        And it will depend drastically on the setup of course. If this is in person interaction, that makes life really hard. But if someone is just calling in, you can take a message and call them back after you track down the information for them. I’ve often had to call someone back with more information and if I don’t know when the person with the information is going to be back, I don’t give a “I’ll call you back within the hour!” kind of promises since I cannot necessarily keep that promise.

        So it really depends on the setup, customer service isn’t always an excuse for this kind of tracking!

        1. Ginger*

          This is a great point. Being someone else’s constant source of info would be exhausting and super disruptive.

          Add the layer of extra conversations, extrovert sharing a desk with an introvert, yeah I might snap a little too.

        2. Smithy*

          Without knowing more about about the OP’s job and onboarding – I think there is just a lot of jumping to conclusion in this space. The OP has been at this job for a few months – depending on the exact job it’s unclear whether being fully onboarded or not is a reasonable expectation.?Additionally, when the OP was onboarded – was the direction to ask Nora these questions?

          I recently onboarded a new hire at a time where there were a lot of organizational changes and most of our onboarding materials were either out of date or didn’t exist. While I served as a primary source of information – the expectation was also made for her peers to be a source information. Going to a Nora with lots of questions a few months in would both be normal and what I as the manager would want.

          While adapting to the introvert/extrovert dynamic is very practical – I think there are a lot more assumptions being made than we have information for. I will say that during my adaptation to a more introverted colleague – I found emailing questions I might normally ask helpful. Since we shared an office, sending those q’s in email stopped me from talking as much but also let her control when she responded to me.

      2. Genny*

        I agree that the coverage thing is a problem, but I do wonder how much of a problem it really is. The OP says “if things get busy”, which leads me to believe that busy periods pop up randomly. Neither OP nor Nora should be chained to their desks on the off chance that maybe this next 30 minutes will get crazy (if busy periods are more predictable, LW should have a conversation with Nora about coverage during those times).

        I think OP is better off taking whatever breaks from her desk she needs to like Nora is doing. That might help relieve some of the resentment, give each other some much needed space, and balance out the chances that someone gets stuck handling a busy period on their own.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It would be interesting to figure out if there is a pattern to when the busy periods are and Nora’s ghosting.

          I think the one thing you can do, OP, is if you “get in trouble” for not working fast enough or missing someone’s request, etc, you can point out that Nora had left again and you had no idea when she would return, so you did your best.

      3. Andream*

        Yup, It sounds like they may be at like a front desk type of area, and/or do over the phone work. I know when the phones ringing and you have 3 people in line it can be really stressful. I wonder if Nora is constantly leaving at these times?
        Although I can see Nora’s point I dont really see what the problem would be if she just said to the OP that she was going to pop out for a few moments, or that she would be back after an hour. It’s not like she has to tell OP where she is going, just let her know she’s going to be more than a few minutes.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          I would be deeply resentful of having to tell my deskmate how long I’m going to be gone every time I get up and go do something. Unless there’s a work need for it (desk must be covered at all times, two people must be at the desk when it is especially busy and anyone who is away must be reachable to be called back). But that does not seem to be the case.

          Because she is new, OP may be anxious when it does get busy and she is alone to handle it, but unless there’s a work need, OP needs to be able to sort out what needs to be addressed right now, what can wait — if she needs help figuring this out, then she needs to talk to her boss. Maybe she needs training, maybe she needs info. And not in a “Nora is gone god knows where and I’m stuck here by myself” way — but rather, “When I’m the only one at the desk and X happens, I’m not sure how to prioritize/respond/whatever. Can you help me, boss, figure this out?”

          1. OP*

            We do work at “a front desk type of area, and/or do over the phone work”, you nailed it! I understand why you might resent having to tell a coworker how long you’ll be away, but when that coworker is unable to leave their desk because someone must be there at all times, it’s pretty disrespectful to disappear for large chunks of time.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Oh man, that puts a whole different spin on it. That would drive me nuts. Have you asked your boss what to do when this happens? I’m assuming there has to be some sort of protocol for what to do if you are alone at the desk, and if there isn’t there needs to be

            2. Senor Montoya*

              So that’s different. I suggest you have a sit down with Nora to discuss how you will handle being away from the desk. Work out a reasonable procedure (I worked at an office where we had a big “in-out-expected back” board, which everyone, from the head boss down to the janitor, had to mark — that might be too much!) If Nora doesn’t want to do this, that’s something you can ask your boss for help with.

              Are you able to leave your desk to use the restroom even if you are the only person there? Is there a problem with asking people/clients to wait on hold, or to ask to call them back later? If you’re the only person and it gets busy, are you expected by your boss to deal with everything asap? or can you prioritize? Have you spoken to your boss about this or are you assuming it all must be done fast? (that is, boss may have different expectations than you do and it’s worth clarifying that)

            3. Jamie*

              Needing coverage which means you can’t leave the desk does change things and is definitely a question for your boss. Ask them what you should do when Nora is gone for extended amounts of time and you need to step away.

              1. Veronica*

                Be aware that Nora’s extended absences might be without the boss’ knowledge. If so, she might be upset about bringing in the boss.
                You’ll have to bring him in anyway if you can’t work it out with her.

            4. Quinalla*

              Yes, this really clarifies things quite a bit! If you are going to be gone longer than 10-15 (bathroom break, get coffee, etc.), then yes for a coverage area like this it is common courtesy and just plain expected to let the other person know how long you will be gone. Since she isn’t letting you know when she will be gone longer, I understand why you wish she’d tell you how long for every absence as she is being unreasonable here, but hopefully you can get to the “Gone for the next hour, see you at 2pm!” eventually. Are you modeling how you want her to inform you?

              I’d clarify with your boss who the backup is for when both of you are away (there must be some contingency for this for vacations/sick time/etc.) and clarify with your boss how you should be handling scheduling of lunches, meetings, whatever with Nora to make sure at least one of you is there on a typical day. Maybe a shared calendar would be best so either of you can see at a glance how long the other will be gone. This isn’t a “I’m telling on Nora” conversation, its a what do I need to do to make sure we have coverage. Surely at least you need to coordinate lunch and any meetings you might have?

              You might try coordinating with Nora directly first. Say something like: “I’ve noticed it is difficult to coordinate coverage of the desk/phone, is there a shared calendar we can use? Or would you prefer verbal or email notification? Can we agree on scheduled lunch time for typical days?” That sort of thing. Then take it to your boss if she continues disappearing with no notification.

            5. Dust Bunny*

              Do you know for a fact that Nora isn’t being used to perform duties somewhere else? If one of your superiors thinks you two have enough time and flexibility to cover the work and is borrowing her for other things, then that’s a concern, but not necessarily Nora’s fault.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                But, see, if Nora *knows* she’s going to be leaving OP to cover the phones/customer intake alone, and she *knows* she’s going to be gone more than the standard 10-15 minutes for a bathroom/water/leg stretching break, and she’s not giving OP an ETA for when she’ll be back, that actually is Nora’s fault, whether she’s leaving to do work-related activities or not.

                OP, I’d recommend going back to your supervisor and asking how she’d like you to handle it if Nora’s away from the desk and you need to step away to use the restroom/refill your water/restock the printer/get new batteries for your keyboard/etc. Are you allowed to leave the area unmanned for 5-ish minutes if you’re not sure how long it will be until Nora’s back? If not, is there someone you can call to cover for you for a couple of minutes? You can’t make Nora change her behavior, so make the conversation with your supervisor more about what you can do to work through the situation. After that conversation, if your supervisor decides to talk to Nora about her time away from the desk, that’s between Nora and the supervisor.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  I agree! Having worked that sort of job before, it can make a big difference to know whether your coworker will be back in 5 minutes or 50, especially if the person you’re trying to help needs something Nora is more of an expert on.

                  It’s also incredibly annoying to then be the one who desperately needs to pee and not know whether you should wait it out until your coworker gets back or try to find someone else to cover for you.

              2. R.D.*

                Strong disagree.
                Nora needs to open her mouth and communicate so that OP isn’t trapped at the desk for an hour. It is not that hard to say “I’ll be back in 5” or “I’m running to the bank” or “I’m going to lunch”. It’s not a conversation.

                I wouldn’t expect that in a regular office environment, but when they are manning a desk together, that’s a basic requirement of the job. Honestly with this extra information, it seems like Nora isn’t a good fit for the job she has.

              3. SimplyTheBest*

                That’s not the issue, the issue is Nora not *telling OP* so OP can be aware of how long she’ll have to cover. So OP can say, actually I haven’t had lunch yet, or let me go pee before you do, or boss wanted me in a meeting in half an hour so you’ll need to be back by then.

              4. Thankful for AAM*

                That can happen at my workplace but if a supervisor asks me to do something I am supposed to let them know I am needed for desk/phone coverage.

      4. Aquawoman*

        OTOH, it’s possible Nora is leaving for that length of time so that she can go take the non-customer-facing work somewhere quiet and get it done without being distracted or interrupted by chit-chat, which in a way is then a trade-off–Nora is interfering with OP’s work but OP is interfering with Nora’s work.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The thing is, when you’ve got a job that’s got both customer facing and non-customer facing work, the customers come first. They have to. They are right there, either in person or on the phone, and you can’t just up and decide that you’re going to ignore them to work on another part of your job. You deal with the customer in front of you, and *then* you go back to your non-customer work. What Nora’s doing here isn’t okay, and if OP hasn’t discussed this particular behavior with her supervisor yet, I think it’s really important to do that.

    3. Myrin*

      The OP isn’t making a big deal over 15 minutes – that was the bottom of a range of fifteen minutes to one hour (!) she mentioned, so it seems a bit disingenuous to phrase it like that. (She actually doesn’t make “a big deal” about it at all; it’s one of six or seven examples she uses to illustrate the difficulties in their communication.)

      There is also nothing indicating that any “monitoring” is going on here – has anyone who appears aghast at this really never noticed the passage of time without actively clockwatching? (That sounds unpleasantly snarky, but I’m honestly at a loss regarding many commenters’ read on this.)
      Just yesterday evening, I was on a phone call and as I ended it, I glanced at the phone’s screen and saw that the call had been 41 minutes long. OP needs to only have been in such a situation and realise that Nora was already gone when the call came through and she still wasn’t back when it ended to conclude that Nora had been gone for at least 45 minutes at that point.

      (Other examples, all taken from people in my life: OP needs to take medication at a certain time; OP needs to take medication and then needs to wait a certain definite amount of time before she can eat something; OP does a task which always takes her X amount of time; OP does a task and wants to know how long it’ll take her, so she times herself; OP has an appointment at Y o’clock; OP is waiting for Z o’clock to arrive because she needs to meet up with a coworker then; and so on. These are all reasons for OP to be at least vaguely aware of what time it is or how much time has passed and if any of that can be put in relation to when Nora leaves/arrives, OP can very easily get a sense of how long she’s been away without sitting there with her pocket watch in front of her counting the seconds.)

      1. Lissa*

        I think a lot of it is because many people here are viewing it from the lens of introvert vs. extrovert, and way more AAM readers identify as introverts. Therefore anything the LW does is not being given the benefit of the doubt they way it might be if things had been flipped around.
        The idea that nobody should ever notice or be affected by a coworker’s absence is also pretty foreign to me. I know it’s also very dependent – there are times when perhaps it would be cases of OP being overly involved or clockwatchy, but I think it’s far from the only read on this situation.

        People just tend to favour the point of view of the person they identify more with, and give the more charitable reading to that person.

    4. dealing with dragons*

      like lord what if she has IBS and is leaving to poop. I would not want to tell my desk mate every time I’m going to poop.

      1. LQ*

        What if OP has IBS and has to poop but can’t poop because Nora is pooping? Doesn’t OP deserve to poop too?

  7. River Song*

    I cant wait to hear everyone’s take on this. I am much more the Nora type, and when new people try to go from 0 to best friends instantly, it puts my shoulders up around my ears. Not to say that is what OP is trying to do, but that may be how it reads to Nora. Get to know you questions plus where are you going and how long will you be gone plus do you need any help with that type things would probably drive me crazy, just because of different personalities. Nora should be polite, though, and OP should give it time

    1. we're basically gods*

      I have a new coworker who has been on the receiving end of some Nora-ness from me, because he keeps trying to engage me in non-essential conversations when I’m trying to work– and seeing as we’re software engineers, those interruptions in my flow are hugely disruptive for me! I’m happy to be chatty when there’s nothing else going on, or when the team is out for lunch, but during work, if I’m interrupted for something non-essential… yes, I am going to be frosty.

      1. Caliente*

        This one is interesting to me too because who among us doesn’t have different things for different people? I have actually had someone (upset/confronting style) complain to me to my face that I was friendly with others but not to them and it happened with an inquiry about the weekend. Did you have a good weekend – Yes, thanks. To co-worker A who I’ve worked with for year – gets all the deets on sons football game and sleepover with ridiculous tween shenanigans because…we talk about our kids to each other and really like and have stood by each other all these years, at work. Well after that outburst I really didn’t have any more for this person other than work stuff, because I don’t even know you and you’re complaining about who I talk to and what I say…? Are you in love me or WTF? I’m sorry but that’s just weird to me.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          It’s like a work version of the Geek Social Fallacies: If you are all part of a group, you must all be equally friends and include everyone equally and…it doesn’t work with work friendships anymore than it does in normal social situations.
          And there’s no way faster to lose my interest in you as a friend than to complain that I’m not friends enough with you.

    2. Ann*

      I’m also a Nora type. I had a coworker whom I shared a cubicle wall with a few years ago. He was always peering over the wall, trying to start pointless conversations, looking over at my computer screen and asking me what I was working on, etc. He also made comments about what time I’d arrive/leave the office and how much work I had. It felt really invasive and was extremely annoying. He definitely thought I was “rude” at one point because I gave him one worded responses and didn’t acknowledge him much otherwise. Sorry to say the LW reminds me of him.

        1. Ann*

          Yep, and he always got defensive about it. People who behave like that in the first place generally don’t have the social awareness to realize they’re being annoying and tend to think that others are just being ‘rude’ or ‘mean’ to them.

      1. River Song*

        I don’t even think OP is necessarily wrong, just different and taking things personally. I had a coworker a few years ago that I found out was talking about how unfriendly I was. I found out because I had a good relationship with all my other coworkers, but not an overly friendly one. So maybe she was right? But I was perplexed because I always greeted her, I answered questions, I was never rude. I thought I WAS friendly. But…. I’m not the type to ask lots of how-was-your-weekend, do-you-have-a-significant-other type questions. And it read as cold to her. Sometimes people just look at the world very differently

        1. bleh*

          I am an introvert. I just never assumed the privilege to make that my excuse for snapping and rudeness. I can hide my need to get things done and my please-get-me-out-of-this-conversation feelings. It never occurred to me not to hide them.

  8. Engineer Girl*

    There’s a lot to unpack and I think Alison has nailed it.

    But Nora is being rude and uncommunicative, disappears, and is now most likely badmouthing me to coworkers

    OP, are you talking to Nora when you could be emailing?
    Are you asking questions to fill your own social needs?
    It’s hard to tell from here!

    The only indicator that there is an issue is that Nora is maybe saying things behind OPs back (and who knows what that is?)

    Your use of the word “rude” is a judgement.
    Your use of the word “uncommunicative” is a judgement
    Your saying she is “most likely” badmouthing you (without direct evidence) is a judgement.

    In short, you are making a lot of negative assumptions about Nora without solid evidence. Maybe it is you who don’t like her?

    Is is possible you are judging her because she isn’t meeting your needs?

    1. Lana Kane*

      Agreed. I’m wondering if the thought that Nora might not like OP is now causing the OP to look at everything through that lens.

    2. Witchy Human*

      I found the LW’s description of the situation pretty balanced–“reserved” is a fairly benevolent way to describe Nora, and she ends the letter by acknowledging that she’s imperfect herself and needs to adjust her style.

      I agree that some of the LW’s unhappiness is based on her preferences and not her needs, but snapping at a coworker is never not rude. Finding someone annoying doesn’t excuse it.

      If someone declines pass on work-related information that they know you would find helpful? Regardless of whether they would personally want it if your positions were reversed, that makes them uncommunicative.

      1. DS*

        But snapping is a judgement call. I heard people say so and so snapped at me, when I witnessed the original conversation and would not have described it as snapping. And she is already sensitive about their interactions so it could have felt harsher to her.

        1. LQ*

          But this isn’t a court of law and we should respect the OP and their judgement on things. They are the person who wrote in for help. It’s weird to try to expect that someone who writes into an advice column will immaculately describe things in a way that works for every single reader and would hold up in a way that most people don’t write. Most people don’t write “Nora raised her voice by an octave and spoke in a faster cadence and with a strong emphasis on the syllables, especially at the ends of the words”. (Which is how I’d describe snapping if I had to really be clear about it, but yeah, I’d be very hard-pressed to say that except in a “I think this might be a legal document” document.)

    3. a1*

      Why would you email someone who is sitting right next to you? How bizarre. Unless I’m on a conference call, or it’s just general “fyi” type info, I’d hate that. Got a question for me and you’re sitting inches away? Turn and talk to me.

      1. BRR*

        I’ve learned this is up to personal preference and office culture. While I think it can feel odd to hear someone typing a response to your email or IM, a lot of people would prefer to not be interrupted.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        Becaue they might be working on a project and don’t like getting their train of thought interrupted. Context switching is a thing.
        Emails allow the person to look and answer at their convenience. Questions demand attention Right Now.

        1. EH*


          There’s a whole spectrum of ways to communicate with a coworker, and it’s important to select based on how necessary their immediate attention is and how okay they are with being interrupted. Some folks prefer face-to-face for pretty much anything. Others (I am one) want to be left the hell alone unless it’s something really urgent.

          There’s a whole spectrum, and I suspect Nora is closer to my end of things. If she’s like me, having to deal with the public is the hardest part of the job and uses up all of her “communicating face to face while being helpful and polite” energy. She doesn’t have enough left over to deal with a coworker who’s right there in her personal space all the time.

        2. starsaphire*

          Disagree strongly. From the OP, it’s clear they are in a customer-facing position, and that interruptions are expected and constant. Because you can’t give the “wait a minute” hand to a customer who’s just walked up unless you’re on the phone or serving a different customer at the time.

          If Nora can’t handle an interruption, she is not in the right job.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Or when you constantly have interruptions from customers, maybe you are less likely to tolerate interruptions from coworkers who are perfectly capable of emailing you, for god’s sake, and you would think they would appreciate that, since they are in the same job, God, that Nancy, I’m at BEC with her already.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I have limited sympathy for this theory. I’m in a line of work where I’m interrupted pretty constantly by both customers and my coworkers, always for work-related reasons. Does it suck to have my concentration and my work flow interrupted? Yeah, a whole lot. Would I be more productive if I could hide in a quiet location and not tell my coworkers where I am and when I’ll be back? Probably. But is it my responsibility to be present and answer questions for my customers and my coworkers at their point of need? Absolutely. My employer has purchased 40 hours of my time every week, and I am obligated to spend that time interacting professionally with my coworkers, even when I’ve been working on this document for hours because I keep getting interrupted.

              If I am at BEC with a coworker, it is MY responsibility to say “Hey Nancy, I’m working on an intense project right now and I need some time and some quiet to focus.” It is NOT Nancy’s responsibility to become a mind reader and intuit my needs. OP was pretty clear in her letter that she’s trying not to interrupt Nora more than she has to, and I think she’s trying pretty freaking hard to make this situation work, so can we please give her the freaking benefit of the doubt like we’re supposed to do with all of our letter writers?

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Absolutely is a personal preference.

        I hate when people think because “I’m right there”, I’m available to speak to at any given time. This is why I don’t do well in an open office setup. If I’m reconciling accounts, you will ef me up and make me have to spend double time to get everything done!

        I have a door now so it doesn’t matter but yeah, sitting right next to someone, yuck. This is also why people need to preface their conversations with “Do you have a moment to talk?” and the other person can at least say “No I don’t” or “Can you email me?”

        You then set up a system when you’re in that close proximity. IM me, bro.

      4. McMonkeybean*

        Because if it’s not urgent then it would allow them to answer your question at a time that works best for them. Plus it’s often good to have answers documented so you can look it up later.

        1. Savannah*

          Both of these, exactly. Especially the latter portion. I really hate it when I ask a question in an email, and the person either “drops by” or calls me to respond. What about eight months from now, when I can’t remember what you said and need to ask again, instead of just being able to look it up? What if this question actually came from a superior or a customer, and now I need to try to perfectly transcribe your entire ten minute answer so it’s clear to the person who needs the info?

      5. Lana Kane*

        Because some people don’t want to be interrupted? Or the email isn’t time sensitive, or doesn’t need to be acted on right away.
        My staff is either on the phone or processing important information. I don’t go to their desks, that are right by my office, unless it’s time sensitive.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Also, Nora is gone chunks of time — If questions cone up and OPEN sends them by email, Nora won’t be met back at the desk by X # of questions.

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      Eh, I don’t think “uncommunicative” is a judgment–if Nora will hardly speak to her, gives one-word answers, and–importantly–does not pass along information that would be helpful to the OP for doing her job, that’s uncommunicative. We can debate whether or not Nora is behaving unprofessionally, but calling her uncommunicative doesn’t sound like a value judgment, it sounds like a description of the situation.

    5. Is It Performance Art*

      It sounds like Nora is really good at the kind of Things that require a lot of sustained concentration. If you are bringing these things up to her while she’s working on things that she needs to work on without interruption, that may be a part of it. Ideally, she’d communicate that to you clearly, but you can try communicating all the pieces of information she might need to know at one time of day, or in an email.

    6. MissNomer*

      This is baffling to me. The LW gave numerous concrete examples of issues that she sees with Nora so I don’t understand how you can say there isn’t “solid evidence” or frankly, what kind of “evidence” someone needs to conclude they have an issue with their coworker. Nora is making the LW uncomfortable by giving frosty one-word responses, refusing to give her a heads up that she will be gone in a constant-coverage type situation (per a comment from the LW), and snapping if a mistake is made. You are framing some of these descriptions as assumptions, but if Nora is consistently behaving in such a way that LW feels uncomfortable interacting with her, that is a problem. Of course, the LW should consider whether there are other factors at play, but it feels like the comment section is trying really hard to make this all LW’s fault today, and I just don’t see it.

      1. LQ*

        I don’t understand what “solid evidence” we need for website that specifically says in the commenting rules to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt and limit speculation. This isn’t court. This isn’t an investigation into if we should all collectively fire Nora. This is about helping the OP.

        I thought the OP did a nice job of laying it out pretty clearly and in a useful and understandable way, entirely workable for an advice column letter.

        1. Avasarala*

          Totally agree. I think OP laid out the situation clearly and people who identify as introverts feel called out for their rudeness–why? why identify with the rude coworker if you’re not rude?–and they’re bending over backwards trying to gaslight OP and make it out to be OP’s fault.

          At least all these responses may help enlighten OP what kind of person does this.

          I just feel bad that all these but-I-am-an-introverts aren’t doing the same and taking the message that this is how it can come across–as rude!

          1. Engineer Girl*

            why identify with the rude coworker if you’re not rude?

            Many introverts have been blindsided by accusations of rudeness. Many times it’s because they didn’t speak to the other person “enough”. Whatever “enough” is.

            Don’t talk? Rude.
            Quiet? Rude
            Didn’t spend 15 minutes chatting it up? Rude.

            That’s why people are saying it isn’t clear that Nora is being rude.

            1. KAZ2Y5*

              I consider myself an introvert and also work at a job where coverage is important. I think Nora is rude, rude, rude and I would totally complain if I had to work with someone like her.

            2. Helena*

              “Don’t talk? Rude.
              Quiet? Rude
              Didn’t spend 15 minutes chatting it up? Rude.”

              But that isn’t what OP is complaining about:

              Snapping at coworkers? Rude
              Disappearing for hours on end leaving your coworker unable to leave to front desk? Rude
              Badmouthing to other coworkers? Rude

              None of that has anything to do with introversion. And I say that as an introvert.

            3. R.D.*

              Maybe if so many people are telling you that you are rude, you need to look at your behavior more closely?

              I am an introvert. From everything I’ve read in the letter, Nora seems super rude. She also doesn’t seem like an introvert, just a jerk who doesn’t like the letter writer.

              Also I’m an introvert, but I”m not regularly told I’m rude. Shy, quiet, even forgettable, but not rude.

          2. Susie Q*

            Because there is a high chance that OP is to blame. And honestly from Nora’s perspective OP can be the rude one. Doing a little self reflection isn’t difficult and good piece of advice for all letter writers.

            1. MizShrew*

              The OP is to blame for Nora leaving her to cover the desk by herself with no explanation or timeframe? Yeah, no. That’s on Nora, whether she likes the OP or not, whether the OP has been too forward or not. I’m not saying the OP is perfect here (who is?) but it seems like she is doing some self-reflecting and making changes in her approach. I really hope that, and Allison’s advice, will serve her well in the future. I don’t think we need to keep throwing blame her way when it isn’t warranted or kind.

  9. Oh So Anon*

    It’s really difficult to get a read on this, but I wonder what the deal is with the OP really needing to know where Nora is at all times. It strikes me that the OP might be coming across as really officious without meaning to, which is why Nora is being chilly and stiff with keeping boundaries.

    1. Jamie*

      Yeah, that’s the weirdest part to me as well – tracking her time away from the desk.

      OP, if you get an influx of customers while she is away why not handle it as you would if she were out sick? And if it becomes a major issue ask your boss how she wants you to handle it when you get a rush and are at the desk alone.

      I think examining what’s giving you anxiety and finding ways to address it when those things happens can help a lot.

      1. Andream*

        I agree with you, however, I think it is rude for Nora to not mention if she’s going to be away for longer. What if she was working only half the day and OP needed something from her, and didn’t realize she wasn’t coming back?

      2. Someone Online*

        It sounds like the position requires coverage. So I can see OP thinking she’ll run tod the restroom after finishing a phone call, looking up to an empty cubicle, then having to hold it for an hour. I would be staring at the clock in circumstances like that.

      3. Binky*

        But isn’t that really normal? It sounds like they’re at a desk together dealing with the same clients, either on the phone or in person. Generally in those jobs you can’t have both people away without some sort of notice/pre-planning. If Nora regularly walks away without telling OP, leaving OP stuck at the desk until Nora decides to get back, then of course OP is going to notice. And maybe OP wouldn’t care if Nora consistently left for only 5-15 minutes, but if OP never knows whether she’s going to be solo (and won’t be able to take a break herself) for up to an hour at a time, that’s really stressful.

        Nora is entirely unreasonable to think that it’s ok to regularly leave her colleague stuck with their joint work for unspecified amounts of time without ever discussing the issue. Nor would she be justified in feeling monitored because OP is aware of how much time she spends chained to her desk because Nora is off without notice.

          1. Qwerty*

            OP, have you talked to Nora about this? It sounds like both of you having been digging in about your respective way of doing things and getting progressively more annoyed at each other. Were you replacing someone or did Nora previously run things on her own? Try having a big picture conversation that is non-judgmental and more focused on “how do we sync up our working styles”.

            For big picture things like being left to man the desk alone, focus more on the hour long disappearances. 15min could easily be the result of something that was supposed to take a moment, but ran into your boss who started a conversation. Or just having digestive distress, which she probably wouldn’t be comfortable mentioning to you. Bringing up the shorter breaks will likely detract from the point of the conversation.

            1. EH*

              “Were you replacing someone or did Nora previously run things on her own?”

              I didn’t even think of this in my comment above, but it’s an important piece of context!

              1. Qwerty*

                This dynamic sounds super similar to someone I know. Friend is super social person who can be not great about boundaries, brought in to help a very reserved, very quiet, very overworked person who was not equipped to train someone new nor did Existing Person have the time. Same exact complaint about no notice when Existing Person left her desk (though they were not a front desk, so a bit different than the OP). Fights ensued. Boss had a similar response of “it’s fine, just different personalities”

                It took a long time, but once Friend finally backed off a lot, Existing Person began to thaw. By thaw I mean start tolerating sharing an office – they still don’t socialize. But eventually they set up a dynamic where they were both able to view the other one as just “weird” instead of “complete and total dislike of this person” and split up the work a little more evenly. But it took Friend getting out of their supportive echo chamber of friends and learn a different set of social skills for people with more reserved personalities.

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          OP clarified above that that’s the case- they need to cover the desk. If I were OP, I’d be siting down with Boss to discuss how to handle this. It’s unreasonable for OP to never be able to step away to the bathroom when she wants to, or to never know when her lunch break will be because Nora’s not around and could be gone for an hour at a time.

    2. Sunflower*

      I could be wrong but it sounds like OP works at a reception or IT desk? I can’t think of any other reason why Nora being away from the desk would result in OP having to take on more work.

      1. Eirene*

        If you work the circulation or information desk at a library, long, frequent, unexplained absences absolutely have an impact on your coworkers. My mom works for a public library and occasionally helps out at the circ desk. There are certain people who will take advantage of this extra help and simply disappear to do whatever, whenever they feel like it, and that’s how you wind up with the phones ringing off the hook and a huge line of annoyed patrons.

  10. Hmmm*

    Depending on the nature of their duties, OP may want to set a 30 minute weekly cadence discussion with Nora where they can catch up and only communicate if critical aspects come up outside the meeting. This way both can continue working without disruption during the week and know that they will sync on important aspects of their job at the half hour session.

    My co-worker and I do this out of necessity because while our jobs are very intertwined we are extremely busy on our portions of the various projects. Though we sit near each other, we both have certain sections that need to get done. The half-hour is time to make sure we are aligned. Then we turn around and go back to our work. Occasionally a new issue crops up that needs to be dealt with right away and so we tackle it and move on.

    1. juliebulie*

      I like this idea. I get that Nora needs her space and all that – boy do I get that – but since there is overlap in the jobs, it’d be weird not to communicate at all. A regularly scheduled talk might be helpful.

      I think it might also be helpful for OP to acknowledge to Nora that they didn’t start off on the right foot, and give Nora a chance to air any grievances to OP’s face.

      Think of it not so much as a confrontation as a wish to clear the air.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our CSRs do this on a weekly basis as well. This way they can unpack the current events and problems that don’t always get to be discussed. They also involve their managers so everyone is you know, on the same page.

  11. Wing Leader*

    Is it bad that I sympathize with Nora? OP, you sound like the type of person who insists on having conversations when it’s clear the other person doesn’t want to. I’ve had people do this to me, and I’ve shut down on them too. Because it’s the only thing they understand! Now when it comes to you not getting the information you need, then sure, that’s not great and you need that. But otherwise, your coworker is not a Chatty Cathy. Trying to force her into being one is only going to push her farther away from you. (I speak from experience as the Nora of my office)

    1. g*

      Normally I sympathise with the introverts in these stories but Nora honestly sounds rude, not just introverted. Getting grumpy might be reasonable but not explaining the issue so that people can correct their behaviour isn’t on. OP shouldn’t have to conduct trial and error exercises to navigate simple work tasks.

      1. juliebulie*

        I agree. I am introverted, but I am still capable of speech; if I need to establish boundaries with someone who’s going to be at my elbow all day, I can do that instead of letting someone guess or feel miffed.

        I’ve had people call me out on perceived aloofness as well, and although it sometimes doesn’t feel good, it is helpful to me to know that I’m being seen that way. So I don’t think it would make things worse (knock on wood) for OP to gently inquire (at a designated meeting time) if she’s given Nora any reason to be offended.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This. I’m an introvert too, and Nora needs to be an adult and tell her coworkers what she needs, not just leave them to guess.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah. She sounds a bit like my former Stormy Little Rain Cloud, who was just cold/rude in most cases, nothing to do with interversion in the end.

        I too am an introvert, believe it or not. Even my own family and friends wear me out. I am not shy, I just have an on/off switch for social engagement.

      4. MizShrew*

        Exactly, g. I feel like lots of people are bending over backwards to make accommodations for Nora’s behavior. Introverted or not, leaving someone to cover the service desk alone without letting them know what’s up is just unprofessional. That’s not really about introversion vs. extroversion. If it’s Your Job to be client-facing and work with a teammate, just ghosting them for an hour with no communication (yes, even if it’s for another part of your job) is crappy. And if the OP needs training/information that Nora does not have the time/desire/skills to provide, then that’s something Boss should address. To be fair, it’s also not cool to dump that part on Nora and may go a long way to explaining the frustration.

          1. Wing Leader*

            Agreed. Yes, it would be better if Nora spoke up a little bit more. But you know what? Introverts aren’t great at that. When someone is pulling away from you and your response is to keep pushing and keep pushing, then I have no sympathy for you. Perhaps I’m a little sensitive about this right now because I have a coworker doing the same thing to me on a daily basis. I’ve asked to be left alone while I work, and he ignores every boundary I set.

            1. Another Sarah*

              Sorry I can’t agree with that.
              Talking too much – annoying exhausting and a pain, not unprofessional unless all she ever talks about is non-work activities, which OP has said is not the case (Nora is reacting to work-related info)

              Actively being rude – by which I mean abandoning your front desk coworker without coverage for unspecified lengths of time, not telling OP work-related information that OP needs and snapping at someone when they make a mistake instead of telling them – unprofessional

              I’m sure Nora feels like she has reason to be rude to OP. I’m sure she thinks OP is too chatty. But this is a workplace, and everyone needs to adjust.
              Social conventions are there for a reason. The bare minimum of politeness is that you talk to your coworker about work and treat them in a way you would like to be treated. Nora isn’t doing that.
              That means being over-familiar is wrong too, but tbh all the suggestions that OP is over-familiar seem to be coming from people who are projecting their own much worse experiences onto OP, not anything in the post – OP says she talks to Nora about work and asks how her weekend was. That is not over-familiar, it’s pretty standard social pleasantries that don’t require more than a “fine thanks and you?” to fulfil your part. A frosty one word response (taking the OP at her word as we are supposed to do) is not that.

              It’s probably less conversation than OP would like, but she’s admitting she is tempering her urge to talk too much. Now Nora has to meet her in the middle.

              It’s not the sole prerogative of introverts to be comfortable in the workplace; if someone consistently invades your boundaries after being told to back off they are the problem. If however you (general) ignore that an agreed acceptable halfway point (the social convention) exists and consistently treat one person below it without any explanation (as Nora is doing) they will think you’re being rude. Because you are.

              1. Another Sarah*

                ps. All yous are general – I didn’t mean you Wing Leader
                Also what I meant by explanation is not a dramatic showdown – something as simple as a “sorry I don’t talk much in the mornings” is all you need.

  12. g*

    Maybe some of this could be solved by asking Nora her preferences. Obviously you can’t ask someone “Why don’t you liiiike meee?”. But you can ask about how best to share information. Showing that you care about her way of doing things could improve her demeanor in other areas.

    I know personally if someone told me verbally some piece of important client info I’d find it annoying because that’s not a reliable way to communicate it. What if misheard or forget it? If it’s important put it in the client database or an email.

    Shame we can’t hear Nora’s side because there’s a lot of missing information here. What are the substance of her complaints to coworkers? You say she’s not as good at her job as you, so is this true or has this attitude made her resentful?

    1. Genny*

      Agree with you about the need to figure out how to share information. It sounds like Nora was used to working by herself. Now that there’s two of you, you need a new SOP.

      There are a lot of ways to share information that don’t require verbal briefings. Can you create an email distro so you both see incoming questions and outgoing answers? Can you create a tracker of some kind that gets updated with notes and developments? Can you do an end-of-day email (or end-of-week) that summarizes important information? Can you formalize who takes point on what so that there’s less of a need for you to jump in to handle each other’s portfolios?

  13. Ginger*

    I might be reading too much into OP’s words but s/he praises them self multiple times. Coming in as the newbie, s/he may very well be great at their job but projecting like you’re an expert when you’re brand new may create some friction.

    And citing the age difference is helpful to a small extent. There may be some immaturity playing in however OP may be coming in acting more senior without really understanding Nora’s performance history. She may be younger but just as, if not more, capable.

    If OP feels like they need to know where Nora is and when she’ll be back, they should probably clarify with their boss how their roles interact.

    1. El*

      Yeah, citing the age difference (esp. in combationation with the self-praise) stuck out to me, too, because in reality it sounds like they’re actually quite close in age (~5 years based on what LW said) and LW is maybe unconsciously making a thing of the fact that she’s older and Nora is younger.

    2. HM MM*

      To be honest – on my first read of the letter I thought the LW was speaking about someone who was junior to them or their official assistant (I think it was the emphasis on how good the LW is with clients vs Nora being good at scheduling/organizing – which could be consider more “support” type work than wth clients directly). When I got to the part about the LW offering to help Nora I got confused, went back, re-read and only then realized that they are peers.

      That’s not to say that I think the LW thinks that they are superior to Nora, but if there’s any chance that it’s coming across (unintentionally, I’m sure) that way to Nora, well it might not be helping the situation.

      If the LW is reading this – please take that with a grain of salt. I don’t mean it unkindly and maybe my personal experiences have made me a bit oversensitive to this sort of stuff. Just offering it up as my initial reaction/gut take.

  14. MuseumChick*

    There are so many things that could be going on here! It sounds to me like, for whatever reason, Nora might be at BEC levels with you. That no matter what you do, she will be annoyed. It *could* be that you are doing something objectively annoying. It *could* be that you and Nora just have very different personalities, it *could* be a hundred other things.

    I worked at a museum once were our event planner and curator just did not get along. It was bizarre to watch from that outside. And, frankly, the one that trashed talked the other was not looked on favorably by the rest of the staff.

    It might be worth it check in with Nora about things like what information should be shared with each other. So that you can be on the same page.

    1. El*

      What is BEC levels? (apologies for asking, I googled but only found results about Business English Certificates)

      1. Jamie*

        B*tch Eating Crackers. It’s a phrase for someone who irritates you to the point where everything they do annoys you.

        1. Anax*

          To elaborate – imagine someone giving you a long rant about alllll the annoying things someone was doing, “and to top it all off, that bitch was EATING CRACKERS!”

          The crackers would be a non-issue or at most mildly annoying, without the context of existing irritation.

          1. Umbra Lup*

            The phrase is “Look at that bitch eating crackers like she owns the place” and it makes me laugh every time.

  15. SFM*

    Is there a database or central information source for info about client interactions? It seems like you should have a way to communicate that effectively. Do you have to interrupt your coworker regularly to say “Client A told me X,” or could she get that info from Client A’s file? It definitely seems important that you’re able to share that info, but the constant interruptions would drive me batty. Can you work with her to agree on a better way of doing that? Maybe client notes that you can both access, or chat channel so there’s no disruption?

    I wonder if she’s ever had to share this job before. If she was working solo, she may need to develop a habit of sharing information collaboratively. We went through this when our startup grew. We couldn’t handle cases alone anymore — we had to learn to document conversations sufficiently so that anyone could pick up where we left off, and it was a little painful for the control freaks among us (me). But it was better than the pain of an annoyed client saying “I just spoke with someone about this yesterday!” and you have no record of it.

    Maybe this is an actionable thing you can bring up with your boss to smooth things over?

  16. Sparrow*

    I feel like we’re probably missing important information, but, regardless, it sounds like OP & Nora never had a conversation about how their partnership was going to work and they’ve both been approaching it in the way they prefer and getting frustrated that the other person isn’t on the same page.

    So I would actually sit down with her and say, “I’ve been defaulting to the way I’m used to doing things as I’ve settled in to the position, but I’ve gotten the sense that’s not what works best for you. I want to make this work as smoothly as possible for both of us, so can we talk about expectations and preferences for [sharing information or whatever] and get on the same page about how to handle these things moving forward?”

    Nora might still blow her off, but I think there’s a good chance they can come to some sort of compromise about how to handle tasks that impact each other. If nothing else, OP can probably get a clearer sense of what Nora is looking for instead of just blindly guessing and hoping she happens to strike on the behavior Nora prefers.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      I think this is a good idea. If she blows op off then OP can circle back with her boss to cya and follow Alison’s advice for Nora.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I like this suggestion a lot.

      I think it also makes a difference for how the OP needs to approach this if Nora used to have another partner or if TPTB decided Nora needed help. If it’s the former, OP can ask “how did you and Jane handle xyz” whereas if it’s the latter, part of the issue could be that Nora is resentful of having someone encroaching on her territory or something.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Typically when I see this is it because the boss did not set the stage. The boss probably gave Nora no or minimal guidance about expectations with the new hire. Resentment kicks in fast and usually it’s the fellow employee that gets hit with the resentment.

      Eh, Nora could be on a PIP for something else and is working her way toward the door. It could be that Boss said, “Now that we have hired OP we can and will replace you.” Sometimes, OP, we don’t find out what we have walked in on until much later. Then we find out big time.

  17. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I cannot read Alison’s response because ‘The Cut’ says I have reached my monthly limit.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s on a monthly rotation. So it’ll do this to you until December. You must frequent The Cut for more than AAM, which is great but that will get you running out of freebies quickly.

        I only use it for AAM and only last month did I reach a limit, I went back a couple of times to reread things, so that capped me out.

    1. Rugby*

      FYI, you can get around the paywall of most sites that do that by opening the page in incognito/private mode.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Or pay for the content that you value.

        I made this comment the last time someone complained about this, and someone else responded with something along the lines of “Not everybody’s budget has room for paying for websites.”

        Of course that’s true, but it’s also true that we don’t have a right to read NY Magazine for free. I can’t afford a new BMW, but that doesn’t mean that I can or should just go take one without paying for it.

        (I do think there’s an interesting conversation to be had about whether access to information that’s important for civic engagement should be a guaranteed right. But — no offense to Alison — I don’t think advice columns would fall into that category.)

        1. Clisby*

          No, it’s not a right. Just like storing cookies on my PC isn’t a right. Incognito/private windows are a standard feature of standard browsers. If websites don’t want to allow incognito browsing, they can prevent it. If they don’t prevent it, they must not care.

  18. we're basically gods*

    As a Nora type myself, I can sympathise. I really despise when I’ve gotten in the zone and am churning out work and someone interrupts me with something that’s either completely non-work-related, or with information that could just as easily come in an email, or to ask me for information that they could have found on their own with a tiny bit of effort. It’s also possible that she just… likes the other coworkers more than you? I’m a lot more likely to chitchat with my coworker who’s into the same video games as me than I am with the other guys in the office, because we have less to talk about. And at old!job, my boss and coworker frequently had chatty conversations I wasn’t part of, because they were talking about their kids and family stuff, which I, as a young single person, could not contribute to.
    It really sounds like the main issue here is with Nora not telling you important information– but I’d also like to know what type of information it is, and how important it is, and how easy or difficult it would be for you to get access to that information on your own. Everything else sounds like you’re not compatible as bosom buddies, but if you give her some space and stop tracking when she gets up from her desk (!!!), it seems likely that you’ll still be able to work together just fine.

    1. Leslie Knope*

      The OP made a comment earlier that makes it seem as if they share a reception desk or something along those lines. The desk is shared by two employees and must have constant coverage. If Nora is the type of person who can’t work very well with distractions, doesn’t like sharing a desk, withholds relevant information, doesn’t communicate to coordinate coverage – including leaving the OP to cover the desk alone, essentially chaining them there…it sounds like she’s not well-suited for the position! Even if Nora is great with organization and scheduling, she’s putting the OP in a difficult situation by not being a good coworker.

  19. Rachel the Writer*

    This reminds me of the relationship I have with one of my co-workers, except I’M the Nora! In my situation, my co-worker is incredibly chatty and will constantly send me emails all day, mostly articles he thinks “I might find interesting.” It’s quite annoying and distracting, and the emails are never useful to me, so I’ve started ignoring them/giving him one word answers when he wants to chat about non-work related things. I can see how that would come off as rude to him… but there’s always another side to the story. I have a sneaking suspicion OP may be very unaware of just how much he’s bugging Nora.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Have you tried saying “Generally, I don’t have time to read articles like this, so I end up being aggravated at receiving several of them a day. Would you mind not sending them or limiting yourself to 1 a week that you think I might be REALLY interested in if you can’t find it in you to just not do it at all?” or something along those lines? Telling him “I know you’re a chatty person, unfortunately, I have a hard time regaining focus once I’m distracted so it’s hard for me to chat about non-work things as often as you do. Would you mind finding someone else to talk to when you have a break?”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The problem with not being able to read social cues can cause this kind of stuff.

      So really, the key is being forward about them irritating you! I strongly second animaniactoo’s scripts.

      Then if after being straight forward he continues to push the limits, ignoring is fine but make sure they get at least a courtesy “I don’t like it when you do that!”

  20. animaniactoo*

    OP, have you tried talking to Nora, directly, herself? At all? Or are you just continually adjusting and coming up short?

    It’s very likely that Nora either doesn’t see as much of the adjustment you’ve been trying to do, OR quickly hit BEC and sees the adjustments from a very negative point of view.

    How about trying: “I think that we have very different work styles, and I get the sense that I’ve seriously annoyed you with mine. Can we take a few minutes to talk and layout what the biggest issues are for each of us and see if we can make this work better?”

    From your end, focus solely on stuff that is a *work problem* for you, in that it impacts your ability to do your job. Like disappearing for an hour with no notification, no idea when she’ll be back, and no ability to get help if you end up with too many clients. It might be that the answer is that she’d like you to contact your manager and get someone else to help with that, and so would your manager. Or it might be that she hasn’t cared that she’s leaving you in the lurch but she’s willing to “escape” less and be available more if you can tone down your end and not be as much of an ongoing irritant for her. Or something else. The point is – right now you’re doing a lot of assuming what changes might help and not going to the source when it’s become clear that your assumptions are not helping.

    If she brushes you off when you approach her, there’s not much you can do about that. But then at least you will have tried the route that is most likely to get you workable results before you give it up as a lost cause and start re-inforcing your other office relationships.

  21. Senor Montoya*

    OMG, OP, if I were Nora you’d be driving me bonkers. Alison’s advice is very good — please read Nora’s signals, which are telling you that you are radiating extroversion all over her. In particular, unless there’s a work reason for her to tell you she’s going to be away from her desk, it is absolutely none of your business how long she is gone or where she is. If you have asked her to tell you when she’s going to be gone and for how long and where is she going, then it’s no surprise she’s being short with you. (If you haven’t, that’s good.)

    For me, the telling example you gave is that she gives you one-word answers to your sociable questions, but then chats with someone else for 20 minutes. This suggests to me that you’re feeling hurt that she’s not friends (or even just friendly) with you, but even if you are not feeling hurt about it, the important point is that it suggests that Nora knows that if she gives you more than a one-word answer, you’re probably going to be chatting for awhile. Entirely possible that she is chatting with people when she has time for it (=on her timetable and not on yours) and with people who will stop when she needs to stop. I have colleagues I *like* but I almost never ask talk with them about non-work topics because I know that if I do, they will keep going.

    As for the bad-mouthing — I’d be careful about that. You’ve only been there a few months, so you may not yet be aware of the hidden social dynamics of your office, and you may not know who likes to stir the pot. Who’s been telling you what Nora is saying? why are they even telling you? have they told you exactly what Nora has said, or is it vague “she’s bad mouthing you” or “she complains about you” or “I don’t think she likes you”?

    In short, don’t impute motives and feelings to Nora unless you are very sure, stay away from the gossip, and give Nora her space.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      ” it suggests that Nora knows that if she gives you more than a one-word answer, you’re probably going to be chatting for awhile”
      Unfortunately, it is equally likely that Nora just doesn’t like the OP and doesn’t mind showing it. It’s hard to say from what we have, but if OP is correct that Nora has been badmouthing her, then it may well be the case that Nora is letting her feelings show. Alison’s advice works either way, though.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      OP has clarified that they’re in a ‘front desk / phone work’ situation (like hotel check in, car rental), which I think makes the answer a little different. Your desk partner in that job should check with you if they want to leave, and should give you a time frame. It could be once, eg ‘I like to take a break at 10:15 every day, does that work for you?’, or each time eg ‘quick break, ok?’ or ‘have to run TPS reports over to Michael Bolton and check with him on the copier repairs’, depending on personal style, but it is a basic function of the job to ensure the desk has fair coverage.

      Honestly, that’s the piece I would address in a sit-down with Nora. Possible script, ‘Hey Nora, can you give me a feel for your return time when you leave the desk?’ This very much affects OP’s work, and would be worth taking to a manager if it happens a lot.

      The rest of it, OP needs to back off, a lot. Nora doesn’t want to know, doesn’t feel up to sharing, isn’t interested in chit chat. Not OP’s problem. Nora leaves without setting expectations? OP’s problem.

      There’s a gazillion reasons Nora might not want to interact much – you could have ghosted her brother over xmas (2017); she could be worried that your age will give you an advantage at advancement; she could be introverted and overwhelmed; she could be waiting to hear the quack (2015); she could be wondering how to get you to be a liver donor (2016). Why doesn’t matter, and pushing would be intrusive. (Also probably not a good idea to speculate with people IRL, where it could influence interactions or get back to her)

  22. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I was the OP once. It started out okay and then as the weeks went by, it was very clear the senior assistant didn’t like me, kept communication with me to a minimum, was passive-aggressive towards me and I realized that despite the fact that I could handle the work assigned to me just fine and I did well in my performance review, this situation was not going to be fixed and I was a bad fit, culturally and personality-wise, for this team. It was hard because I had never been such a bad fit before.

    It would not be fixed because the senior assistant was handled with kid gloves, just *loved* by the team and was the Queen Bee. She had taken great pains to set up her work and schedule to suit her life just so.

    It was solved by me leaving for a better job. As the weeks wore on, I found myself increasingly unhappy about the situation and it was stressing me out.

    I’m not saying your solution, OP, is to quit but clearly, something is not working well between the two of you and it may not be easily fixable.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I once had a team member that I inherited who I thought was cold AF to put it bluntly.

      BUT twist, she was just overworked and stressed the heck out I eventually learned. After I took some bricks off her back, despite her fighting me about it a bit “But we did it this way! Are you sure…I don’t know…” “I’m the boss now, you don’t need to do these things in triplicate…I can help you…” Her eyes went bright and she was much softer, still very reserved though [military background can do that to someone!]

      When she eventually left for much happier pastures [that place…man.] she hugged me and told me I was the best thing to happen to the place.

      Her departure was what set things into unraveling up higher because they no longer had their primary workhorse and I was already stretching too thin.

      So I just share this as well because sometimes if you’re new, things can change if you find out that you’re secretly in a toxic den and you didn’t even know! Something to keep in mind to everyone who runs into one of these Nora’s.

      BUT I do not blame anyone for leaving instead of waiting it out. I am an advocate to always try to escape a situation that makes you uncomfortable and miserable, that stuff is hard to get out of your soul.

      1. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Oh, but my Nora was not overworked.

        Remember: She had taken great pains to set up her work and schedule to suit her life just so. Her work was somehow distributed and redistributed as needed for her to do the minimum or for her to do what she liked to do. Still not quite sure how she manged to pull that off.

  23. Batgirl*

    OP I can’t really tell if Nora is being rude for the sake of it or she’s just trying to get you to back off because this isnt how she works.
    I think a clarifier is your boss’ reaction; she was not horrified that Nora isn’t being more collaborative – shared desk space or no.
    You refer to it as ‘would be helpful’ and ‘I would love to’ – but that isn’t the same thing as the role needing your co-worker to weigh in as a part of the job.
    Some people work best when they share, brainstorm and draw on other people. For other people this approach is a huge energy drain they want no part of. The chatting with different co-workers could be isolated to work breaks or to a dynamic she’s more comfortable with.
    Unless you need her for your job, I would start treating her like a huge potted plant who just happens to be in your space. Say hi if you want to, but dont expect a lot of conversation back.

  24. Curiouser and Curiouser*

    I’m more of an introvert/Nora…but I was on OPs side until it got to Nora not telling her where she’s going when she gets up from her desk. It made me read the entire letter from a different lens and I’m honestly unsure where I land on it. If Nora is refusing to share pertinent information, leaving OP in a bind for hours, bad mouthing her to coworkers, and being rude when OP speaks to her…yes, that is all problematic, and something you might need to take seriously.

    However, I thought of my own situation, and another read could be that Nora only shares information that OP needs to act upon, she doesn’t feel she needs to share information about quick breaks or even manager meetings, she’s in the zone and startled when OP speaks to her, and she has said to coworkers “it’s just so hard to focus when I’m sitting next to her because of all the talking!”…well, that IS just a personality clash.

    None of that means that Nora is right and OP is wrong or vice versa…it’s possible they’re both acting completely appropriately (minus an overshare vent session or two) for their personality types, and it might be time for a CTJ about what you both need to do your jobs.

    1. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Eh – I think snapping at someone is a bit rude. We are getting one side of the story here, but if this were just a matter of “different personalities”, snapping at a coworker is not justified in that context. It also seems like Nora is deliberately withholding important information – not just small chit chat.

      1. El*

        I think there’s a difference between snapping and being defensive, and honestly it sounds kind of like LW has pushed Nora to be defensive and then reads her behavior as snappy.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          If Nora is being defensive, she’s not being professional. Besides, I’m not sure why people are assuming that the OP doesn’t know when she’s being snapped at, but there’s nothing here to suggest that she can’t read a person’s reactions correctly. People are projecting a lot onto this letter that I’m not seeing (and I say that as an introvert who would absolutely hate being stuck at the same desk with someone else and in my younger days would probably have started being unprofessionally snappish with that person if they were more chatty than I’d like)

      2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        I think that’s my point. It’s totally possible that Nora is actually snapping and withholding pertinent information – which is what I thought until I got to the away from the desk issue, and then I questioned her characterization of the snapping and just how pertinent the information is. It could definitely go either way – but I think the OP is hyper aware of Nora’s feelings on her at this point, and annoyance at being interrupted can become “snapping” very quickly in that circumstance.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          The OP clarified in this comments that they work at a front desk kind of situation, where coverage must be provided and OP can’t leave if Nora is gone. When you work in that kind of situation, it changes things. There, you really can’t be away from the desk for long periods of time without communicating with the other person about where you’re going or how long you’ll be gone. That person is just stuck there with no idea of when you’ll be back or what you’re doing, and heaven forbid the person left there needs to go to the bathroom.

          1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            Totally hadn’t seen that and you’re 100% right – that changes things completely.

  25. Another Nora*

    This hit home for me because I know I am being Nora to a coworker! The simple fact is that her personality type is one that grates on me immensely. I do have warm, extended conversations with other coworkers, but with my annoying coworker I keep things short and to the point. Every piece of information she gets from me she uses elsewhere (not negatively, but will drop into conversations with others about how she knows I was out of town this weekend, etc. to make it seem we are closer than we are) and that just drives me bonkers!! She and I have mutual friends outside of work and anytime we run into each other socially she is sure to bring it up in a meeting the following week that we were at an event together over the weekend. Just talking about it is raising the hair on my neck! Ha!

    1. Nora#3*

      Me, too. I actually had to ask Katy to stop putting my name in her mouth, because she didn’t seem to understand it was an issue when phrased any other way. She would repeat things incorrectly, that I had supposedly said, to clients – ie “Well, Nora said that the sky is always purple” in every other sentence. Well, Nora said, well, Nora said, well, Nora said. She still doesn’t understand boundaries. Ugh.

  26. workerbee2*

    OP says “our job” in multiple places, so it sounds like OP and Nora have the same title and at least some shared duties. Is it possible that they have different notions of how collaborative their roles are intended to be? OP seems to expect Nora to help when OP makes mistakes (“she snaps and gets upset rather than working to fix the problem or help avoid it in the future”) and OP seems to expect to help Nora with her work if OP’s workload is light. On the other hand, Nora seems protective of her workload and doesn’t seem to feel it’s her responsibility to help OP mitigate mistakes. OP might ask their manager to clarify how collaboratively they are supposed to be working together. It might turn out that OP has been overstepping, in which case Nora’s behavior is somewhat understandable.

    I’m curious how Nora’s time away from her desk impacts OP. Are they supposed to be handling clients together and Nora leaves OP to handle shared responsibilities alone for significant chunks of time? That would be a problem that would be worth raising up the flagpole to the manager. Or maybe OP feels some anxiety that a client situation will arise while Nora is away that OP will not know how to handle? That’s a totally different scenario.

    I also wonder if OP might be [inadvertently] giving off the vibe that she’s senior to Nora because of OP’s age and level of experience, and that makes Nora bristle because Nora’s been there longer? Perhaps OP’s “helpful” communications are things Nora already knows and OP says them in a condescending way?

    This letter should get some interesting comments. There’s enough information lacking that people will fill in the blanks with their own perceptions and experiences.

  27. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    I didn’t love the answer to this one? I’m an introvert and Nora just sounds like a jerk. From what it sounds like in the letter, the OP and Nora do collaborate on projects and need to share info about clients, which Nora is deliberately tripping up. Also, taking the OP at her word, she does seem like she tries to respect Nora’s boundaries by keeping conversation to a minimum, so it’s not like the issue is even that. To me, this doesn’t sound like a clash of boundaries. Nora seems to have something personal against the OP and is being unnecessarily nasty to her, which I feel like the manager should acknowledge.

    1. M.*

      Yes, I was also a bit taken aback at Alison’s response this time. Nora doesn’t share important information, is snappy with OP, leaves the front desk for up to an hour at a time letting the OP handle all the work alone… that’s not cool. I’m also an introvert but my eyebrows shot up really high just reading the letter.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, I agree. This felt like it’s a variation on “personality clash” that is used to minimize so many of women’s concerns.

        If I were Nora’s boss, I would let her know that part of what she is being paid for is her willingness to get along with others. “You don’t have to like them but you do have to coordinate your work effort with them.”
        Since they are sharing a work effort, then communicating is mandatory. “I will be back in 5 (or whatever) minutes.” It’s not optional. I have worked into many shared effort situations. I think that the boss can inform each person that they need to communicate how long they will be gone to each other.
        It slays me that Nora can’t even say, “I will be gone for 45 minutes, do you need anything before I go?”
        So simple, yet it does not happen. Nora is basically dumping the entire workload on OP at random times each day. And she walks away knowing full well that OP needs lunch/bathroom/coffee break/whatever.

        Nora’s one word answers show more unwillingness to work with another person. Since it is a front desk job talking is part of the job. Nora can say that she prefers to limit conversation to the work itself. Nora could chose to use her words, it seems unprofessional that Nora refuses to and tends toward child-like behaviors.

        Alison is right about building relationships with others, OP. That can help to some degree.
        But I really don’t see a lot of hope here. I could tell my Nora that the building was on fire and she would continue working while totally ignoring me. There were too many times when we had a serious issue and my Nora did not pitch in. I used to wonder if I had a moral obligation to drag her out of a burning building. (I figured I would probably drag her out and she could avoid thanking me later.) She did not carry her share of the workload and she tended to swear/tell dirty jokes a lot around the public. Of course, years later she got promoted.

        My suggestion is to keep look for jobs, OP. I don’t think there is a fix here. At some point it stops being a Nora problem and starts being a boss problem.

      2. Avasarala*

        I agree. And because of Alison’s framing of it, posters are doubting OP and siding with Nora, as if her behavior is justified. I’d be really frustrated if I was OP and my manager said “this is a personality clash” instead of talking to Nora. Having a personality/being introverted isn’t an excuse for being rude.

        1. M.*

          Yes, that bothered me – I think normally letter writers are given more benefit of the doubt or the answer includes caveats (if this is the way you have been acting then you are in the wrong but if this additional factor were true then that would change my answer). This time assumptions were made in the original answer as well.
          To be fair, OP did not say it was a front desk type situation from the start but even without this information the interpretation of her letter was uncharacteristically uncharitable (if that’s a word, I’m on my phone and can’t check).
          To be even fairer, Alison’s answers are typically very nuanced 99.9% of the time so maybe we’re a little spoiled here.

  28. Thankful for AAM*

    To all the Noras here, why does she not just say something to the OP about talking less? Or Nora could go to the supervisor and ask, how do I get OP to interrupt me less?

    Or even, why be so rude to the OP over different “styles?” Serious question, if you are shy and an introvert you likely know it and know it is hard to be around an extrovert. You need some tools in your toolbox to communicate this. Rudeness is not the way to achieve that, nor is passive-agressive quietness and bad mouthing coworkers.

    OP, I like Alison’s advice and I’d assume you are not the one behaving oddly here. There is some good advice about double checking that but it is weird to do some of the things Nora is doing.

    In my job, we don’t go away from our desks for much time at all without letting others know where we are so that they can call for help with customers as needed.

    (Also, from the earlier letter today, OP could try saying “I love you,” to Nora. O, dont do that!)

    1. Jamie*

      Just a small point: introversion =/= shyness.

      I don’t see anyone here defending the rudeness. To the contrary, lots of people who understand what may be Nora’s frustration are still pointing out that she’s crossed a line with the snapping and talking behind her back.

      Yes, people need to use their words and there have been some good scripts in here for that, but quietness =/= passive aggressive. It’s okay to be quiet and reserved, and it’s okay to discourage extraneous conversation as long as it’s done civilly.

    2. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Like I mentioned in my comment above, I do think Nora is being a jerk. I’m not wild about the fact that Alison and a lot of the commenters on here are framing her behavior as just everyday introversion, because I don’t think it is.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I agree it’s not (necessarily) introversion. It actually sounds more like being conflict-avoidant — which is what I am. It may be really difficult for Nora to express everything the OP is doing that frustrates her (e.g., please stop interrupting me when I’m working just because you’re bored; please fix your own mistakes and work processes so this doesn’t happen again), so she’s just gritting her teeth and well into BEC territory.

        1. MayLou*

          I have had a colleague who had habits that drove me completely bonkers, but were not things I felt I could ask them to stop doing. For instance (although these are not the real examples), wearing horribly clashing neon ties, whistling a merry tune as they walked into the office, and informing everyone when we had a new order of widgets being delivered, which was not information we all needed to have but also not exactly egregious behaviour? I just couldn’t find a way to say “Please stop being so spectacularly irritating!” which wasn’t rude and over the top compared to its impact on my work. But it definitely affected my willingness to have friendly chatty conversations about my colleague’s pet alpaca, when I’d happily have that sort of chat with other less annoying colleagues. And I’m someone who does call out bad behaviour when it feels warranted or affects work – I asked a longer-serving colleague not to make racist comments once, despite feeling panicked and afraid of how it would affect my standing in a relatively new job. So I’m not conflict averse, but sometimes the fact that something is not particularly bad can make it harder to speak up.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      In regards to why didn’t Nora go to the supervisor. It looks like the supervisor doesn’t bother with “personality conflicts”, given the response to the OP’s complaint. So Nora probably knows that’s not going to change anything OR perhaps she did try it and got the same “Deal with it.” response.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I can’t really say what would make me happy for OP to do in these circumstances. I do have some requests about work-related items – ie: only provide certain information by email because otherwise I might think I dreamed about it. Because I have had a lot of work-related dreams lately. But otherwise – read my mind or don’t do what I don’t want? Or just don’t take it personally when I’m not responding how you would expect.

    5. Rachel the Writer*

      I in no way condone Nora withholding important info/leaving OP in the lurch/speaking behind his back. But the cold shoulder (to me) seems like a kinder way to let OP know she doesn’t want to talk. If someone came right out and said to me “Please don’t talk to me as much,” I’d be way more upset over that. I’d rather someone give me clear cues to adjust my behavior.

      1. Avasarala*

        I really disagree. You say you’d rather clear cues to adjust your behavior… so how is the cold shoulder clearer than a kind and direct message? As someone who identifies with neither introversion nor extroversion, if someone just straight up ignored me I would feel so hurt. I’d rather someone say, “Hey, I’m not super chatty during the workday, so if you could email me instead/stick to breaktimes for chatting I’d really appreciate it!”

    6. Aquawoman*

      One reason introverts hesitate to assert their needs is because so many people assume that constant chattiness is not “behaving oddly” but that quiet is “passive aggressive.” A lot of times if an introvert says they need quiet to get work done, they get labelled standoffish or unfriendly.

      1. Susie Q*

        Agreed. The emotional burden is always placed on the introvert and the extrovert is never asked to be self aware.

    7. VeryAnon*

      Because saying “Hey, I’d like to talk less,” often gets taken by extroverts as though you’d ripped off your glove to slap them and it turned out you had six fingers (Princess Bride reference).

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      What I hear is, introverted people get responded to with some version of, “extroverted is normal, so we are not going to stop the thing you don’t like.” So that makes introverted people not say anything. And then we stay on the hampster wheel with extroverts irritating introverts.

      I still think an introvert can say, I’m not much of a talker, I need to focus on this, instead of giving the cold shoulder and talking about the OP to others.

      Also, I’m an introvert (I recharge better on my own, extroverts recharge better with others). I think Nora sounds more like a grump than an introvert.

      I do know that shy is not the same as introverted; I’m introverted but not shy. I got the sense that others upthread called Nora shy so I said introverted and shy.

      1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        I’m also skeptical as to whether Nora as as shy or introverted as is claimed, since she obviously socializes with other people in the office. It furthers my argument that Nora is not just being herself, but she is actively being a jerk to the OP.

        1. Drag0nfly*

          Introverted =/= not socializing. It means socializing can be exhausting, particularly if it’s pointless stuff you don’t even care about. It means you lose energy, and you need to go off alone to recharge. You’re not under the impression that all of the introverts here never socialize, are you? That we don’t have friends?

          Try and picture it this way: You’re dealing with a three year-old who thinks the most interesting conversation in the world is all about “Octonauts” (my niece’s obsession). You have to feign interest and try and hold up your end of the conversation, even though you don’t know exactly what those creatures are, nor do you really care. That’s doable with a child. But the equivalent of that kind of conversation with an adult you barely know can drain your energy level to zero if you’re an introvert. And I want to be clear that I’m not assuming the OP is forcing insipid topics onto Nora or anything like that. I am specifically talking about the work involved in having conversations where there is no chemistry, no common interest, and the other person has a propensity for chattiness.

          Conversations with people you like, about topics you care about, can actually be stimulating, so that at that the end maybe your energy level is 80% out of what it was before. You only need a little while to recharge, and you look forward to seeing those people again. They gave you something back for whatever they “took” of your energy.

          Lack of chemistry with a person can mean that conversations with them require more energy than it’s worth. It can be doable for short interactions, but would you want to pretend to love Octonauts eight hours a day, five days a week? I’d ration conversations with an adult who put me in that position (my niece is very lovable). I don’t know if OP is doing that, but clearly those others Nora is chatting with are in the second category for her.

          I’m an assertive introvert, so I would have spelled out how things should be in Nora’s position: here’s where everything is, here is where you can find the answers to most questions, and email me / Slack / message me if you need anything more when I’m working on X. It’s not clear if Nora really is badmouthing the OP, but if so, OP needs to talk with her about that. It’s not clear why Nora is vanishing, but OP needs to find out what she can do when Nora’s gone.

          1. Avasarala*

            Introversion/needing to recharge doesn’t mean you get to talk to your coworkers because you like them, but you can ignore the coworker you don’t. You have to be professional. You can either speak up and try to change things, or be silent and give up the right to complain–and either way you can’t be rude to your coworkers.

        2. Susie Q*

          I’m an introvert with excellent social skills. Most people don’t know I am, I just go home exhausted almost every day.

  29. Amethyst*

    Not passing on information on a client is a red flag for me, but that might be because of a situation I had with a coworker in the fairly recent past coloring my perspective (couple years ago; my job has changed so we don’t butt heads as much, but it was rough). “Jane” has positioned herself as Person Through Which ALL Things Are Communicated. She communicates this information on a need to know basis…when SHE decides you need to know, not you yourself. The only people she freely communicates this knowledge onto are Big Boss 1, Big Boss 2, & our direct boss. Everyone else can DIAF as far as she’s concerned. I got bit in the ass quite a bit by her, in which she came out smelling like roses & I smelled like poo. Upper management LOVES her because she’s “efficient”, but they are aware that she’s an information hoarder & will burn you, which she has–not only to me, but to every single person who came before me for the 11 years she’s been working there. Repeatedly. & then blames it on her OCD. (I have several friends who have this & none of them deliberately keep information about the company’s clients from coworkers who work directly with these clients. I actually think she doesn’t have it; she’s all about control.)

    So I’d be extremely careful. Knowing what I know now, I’d be documenting each and every incident in which she withholds information from you & bring it to your boss’ attention. This is serious.

    But for everything else… I understand you are extroverted, which is cool, but try toning down the personality just a little. You might be a little too ZOMG DIDJA SEE THIS AWESOME THING THAT JUST WENT BY?!?! for her. Chill out a little on the energy. Quit keeping track of her comings and goings. She might have a bathroom trip that lasts for an hour due to a medical condition she has & hasn’t told you about…because it’s not your business. She might warm up to you after a little bit of time.

  30. singularity*

    I’ve dealt with being forced to work with someone who hated me before. I’m not sure what she didn’t like about me, but it made every day a slog to get through.

    I’m in education, and my coworker was supposed to be helping students in my class who need extra support due to learning disabilities and various other issues that effect them. She was specifically assigned as a ‘co-teacher’ to certain classes. For whatever reason she refused to communicate with me about anything. She would leave for half the class period without telling me where she was going, so she wasn’t there to provide the help she was legally bound to provide. She would stare at her phone instead of help students. Some days she did absolutely nothing and no one did anything about her.

    Principals and other staff would show up and ask where she was (for something important, like a meeting or another issue) and I would have to tell them that she left without telling me where she was going. She actually got angry at a supervisor (!) for giving me her cell number so I could let her know that I was running late one day. Thankfully I work with someone else now, but I have no idea what I did to get on her bad side because she seems just fine with who she’s assigned to now.

    If that’s what’s happening to OP, I feel your pain, especially when it makes your own job more difficult!

  31. Daisy-dog*

    I can be such a Nora. It is so hard for me to chat at work. One time, I was getting ready to ask my manager some important work-related question and she had the audacity to ASK HOW I WAS DOING! I was just so thrown off and I couldn’t think of anything other than work in that moment.

    It’s hard to say from the letter – and it sounds like OP is trying so hard to figure it out – but it might just be random cases of the wrong type of interactions at the wrong moments. Is OP at fault? Hard to say, but probably not.

  32. Not Today Satan*

    I have a coworker who I essentially had to stop speaking to. I tried to be nice to her for months and months, but she’s one of those people who does NOT stop talking if prompted. I don’t even ask her how her weekend or a special event was–I say hello without slowing down and book it to my desk. It kills me because I actually really value social niceties but I can’t lose 20 minutes a day to her anecdotes.

    Granted, I don’t work on the same projects as her often. But when I do, I admit I often have a kind of irritated tone because I’m always bracing myself for her 20 minute monologue and cutting her off to keep things on track.

    I’m not sure if this is the dynamic here–there’s a good chance it’s not, since LW seems pretty self-aware.

  33. Lucette Kensack*

    It sounds like the LW and Nora are assistants (and potentially staff a front desk). With that context, a lot of what the LW is saying about how she works (and what concerns her about Nora’s behavior) makes sense, and I’m surprised by the negativity toward the OP coming from several commenters.

    Needing to know when Nora is gone for 15+ minutes makes sense if they’ve providing coverage for a front desk or are otherwise responsible for receiving guests. Not passing along information about (as an example) how an upcoming meeting has an extra attendee who needs a special food order is a big deal.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      This is where I am. The OP has commented here that you are exactly right about your estimation of the situation, but just from reading the letter it was pretty clear to me that that was the situation. Maybe it wasn’t clear to the others because they’ve never worked in that kind of situation before?

      1. Myrin*

        FWIW, I’ve never worked in that kind of situation before and I still read the letter the same way you two did. It seems to me much more like people are simply projecting their own experiences with talkative coworkers onto the OP and as such are viewing the letter through that lens.

        Frankly, I’m surprised and, to be honest, even a bit shocked about the reactions in most of the comments on this. Reading the letter, OP seems realistic and down-to-earth in how she views the situation and in fact, I feel like she is being almost overly accommodating towards Nora. I’m actually seeing a lot of restriction on OP’s part in the letter and I think it’s very insightful of her to ask this question to a neutral party because she seems almost walking-on-eggshells-y.

        Now obviously, none of us are there to observe Nora and OP’s interactions, so what she tells us could be interpreted in a variety of ways and every one of us could view the situation very differently if we actually saw what’s happening day-to-day. But the crux is that we (probably) don’t. So I imagine it must be quite disheartening for OP to jump into the comment section and have basically every other comment say “wow, OP, I would hate working with you”.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          Totally agree. Like, what more could this LW have done to convince folks that she’s handling the situation like a thoughtful, competent colleague?

          She acknowledges that they have different styles and that she can see the ways in which she might be causing difficulty; she’s willing to try new approaches; she’s reflective about what she’s been trying; and in the end she’s willing to be the one to make all the compromises.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      See, that wasn’t clear from the letter. If they had mentioned it in the letter, there would be less confusion and “Why are you tracking her time, tho?” kind of responses!

      Lots of us have never dealt with that kind of required coverage setup, so it doesn’t leap to the front of our minds.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Honestly, I think this thread is an example of some of the problems with the commenter community here. Folks identified with someone in the story (based on their guesses about her personality, “an introvert”) and made unpleasant judgments about the LW as a result.

        I made my comment before seeing that the LW had clarified that their shared job is a front desk/coverage job (and I’ve never had a job like that myself, so I wasn’t drawing on my own experience). I just read some context in the letter (the LW is good at the part of their job focused on making sure clients have a good experience; Nora is good at that part of their job focused on scheduling and remembering the details of their colleagues preferences; it’s a problem when Nora is gone and can’t help when it gets busy with clients; etc.).

        I happened to be right this time, so that’s nice for me, but more to the point is that other commenters made up stories based on their misread of the LW’s situation and used them to draw and post negative conclusions about her. Yuck.

        1. Jess*

          Yep, I agree with all of that. I know it’s human nature to shape responses to things based on personal experiences but it goes really overboard sometimes. People have been making some extremely unkind assumptions toward the OP in a lot of these comments.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It wasn’t clear to me that they were at a front desk and I do think that changes the situation! But I agree with your larger point and in fact saw it happen yesterday with the letter writer who hadn’t invited their dog-sitting coworker to their wedding. When the OP added more details in the comments, it made it clear that people’s take was really off-base. Some of that is the nature of advice columns — you’re never going to have all the details and details can really matter, but some of it is people’s tendency to assume their assumptions are absolute fact without acknowledging there are other possibilities.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The point of an advice column is to draw on other people’s very specific experiences.

          We’re commenters with a variety of knowledge and expertise.

          If you want very specific consulting, you need to give one of us a call in the end, not just write a generalized letter to a general work place column writer.

          The real issue is that we’re on the internet. In an open forum and that people are rightfully worried about staying anonymous. They are also trying to, again rightfully so, condense their very broad spectrum, very specific problems at times. So yes, the advice is going to be tinted and skewed into a lot of different visions.

          Which is fine. The OP gets to read Alison’s response and maybe read the comments. A lot of times the OP doesn’t read the comments, so it doesn’t even matter. Then they get to form their own action plan depending on all the information they can absorb.

          It’s what public sourcing of information really is. Instead of going to a specialist and paying for the services rendered to get a very tailored response.

          1. Avasarala*

            The point is that this commentariat has a real bias towards introversion, to the point that people are not taking OP at their word. Every time “introversion” comes up people jump up to complain about small talk, friendly coworkers, and a warm environment. It’s to an extent that is REALLY out of touch with the rest of the working world. So if we know that we’re that much of an outlier, we should not weigh in/temper our comments.

            1. Susie Q*

              So because individuals have a different experience, we’re not supposed to share our thoughts and situations because it’s “not normal”. Sounds really inclusive on your part.

              You know how you change normal by listening to those you consider not to be normal.

              1. Eirene*

                Why are you taking this so personally? You’re all over these comments bending over backwards to justify rudeness because of “introversion.” I’m introverted. I cannot function without some quiet alone time every day because I need it to recharge, which is the actual definition of an introvert. This was especially the case when I worked in hotels and call centers and had to talk to a lot of people all day long, every day. I still didn’t dip out on my coworkers without giving them a heads-up or withhold important information from them just because I found them annoying, and I have always done my best to be pleasant and professional as often as possible. I deal with an annoying, nosy, overly chatty coworker in my current job and I still manage to behave professionally. It wouldn’t occur to me to behave like Nora does, because it never has.

                1. Susie Q*

                  I’m not taking this personally. I am merely trying to explain a different point of view. Just because someone is an introvert one way doesn’t mean that another introvert reacts and responds in the same manner. I also dislike anyone being told that they should not share their thoughts, opinions, etc because they happen to be an outlier. As referenced by Avasarala above “So if we know that we’re that much of an outlier, we should not weigh in/temper our comments.”

        4. LizzE*

          Agree with everything you said. And as someone who would normally identify with Nora’s personality and having a similar skillset, I still empathize greatly with the OP — it sucks to have to work closely with a coworker who freezes you out. Additionally, if they are both admins, they need to have a good stream of communication between them to be efficient, setting aside any personality differences. Nora’s behavior reeks of someone unwilling to be collaborative or helpful.

    3. we're basically gods*

      The only thing that sticks with me about the coverage thing is that Nora did this job alone for almost a year– so, how did she handle it before then? It seems like she’s taking advantage of the fact that she’s no longer alone at the desk, but that she did this job alone for a while, which suggests to me that this work is, in fact, doable as a single person.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        I don’t see anything in the letter that suggests that Nora ever did the job alone. (I’m missing it, please do let me know!)

        The LW says that Nora has worked there for a year, but doesn’t say anything about what job Nora has done during that time (perhaps it was a different job entirely); whether the LW replaced someone that Nora used to work with; or what might have changed (more clients? a new line of business? etc.) that may have changed the job from one that someone could handle on their own to one that needs two people.

        This is a good example of what I’m getting at, actually. Folks create stories about the letters without even realizing it, and then react based on those fictions.

        1. we're basically gods*

          That’s why I’m asking– because it’s important information about how reasonable Nora’s absences are.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Nora’s absences might be 100% work related and reasonable. Her failure to tell her partner about how long those absences will be is not. OP doesn’t seem mad that Nora leaves their shared work area, only worried that Nora never says how long she’ll be gone and OP doesn’t know what to expect or plan for.

      2. VeryAnon*

        Or else that she’s feeling some (correct) feeling that her year of covering these duties on her own when it was a two person job has earned her some ‘pee as long as I want’ time.

  34. Binky*

    I think your best bet is to sit down with Nora and say something along the lines of “I realize that when I started we never discussed how we can best work together on our shared tasks. Can we lay out some ground rules now to make this easier on both of us?” Then raise whatever concrete work issues you have. So maybe “When I get info on x, y, and z topics, I want to make sure you’re aware of it. Do you have a preference as to how I let you know? If you don’t need info on one of those topics, let me know. I’d appreciate if you could reciprocate with information on those topics to me, I’m happy to be updated as it comes up, or in an email.” And “I know you sometimes have meetings or tasks that take you away from our shared desk for and hour or so, I’d appreciate if you could give me a heads up on those before you go, so I can run to the bathroom/get some coffee/prepare to helm the desk solo for that time.”

    Once you’ve tried to get the work stuff figured out you can just ignore her as she’s ignoring you. But if she won’t even have a conversation about that, then I’d go back to your boss. And then the issue isn’t the general “she’s rude” (which she totally is), it’s she’s refusing to share information important to your work, or failing to uphold her end of coverage, and you need help getting that information/getting your breaks.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t have a good read on this situation to say whether this is Nora being bitcheatingcrackers or OP being ingratiatingly annoying, or maybe a little of both!
      But this is the best advice I’ve seen. If they have to cover work for each other and customers, they’ll need to communicate that at they very minimum. They don’t need to like each other to do so.

    2. Sparrow*

      I commented something similar elsewhere and very much agree. I’m really puzzled as to why the larger commentariat (and Alison, to a certain extent) didn’t give OP the benefit of the doubt that their work does interact to the extent that it’s hard to do well if someone isn’t sharing information or is disappearing without warning. Assuming that is the case, they need to have a conversation about how their shared work is going to function. OP’s been there long enough that she has a feel for what needs to be done, so it’s time to hammer that out. Perhaps OP should also be cutting back on any chatter, but I think that’s *in addition to* the central work problem, not the problem itself.

  35. Important Moi*

    Alison, is having fun today. First “love” at work letter and now “hate” at work letter.

    I think both words are too strong for either situation.

  36. Not All*

    Nora did the job successfully for the better part of a year before the OP started and knows both the job & the office. The manager has clearly stated he has no issues with her or how she’s handling things. But OP wants to be told every update about when she’s away from her desk, wants to communicate more information than is necessary, AND wants to social chit-chat? In Nora’s shoes, I’d be complaining to coworkers about the new person trying to monitor my movements too!

    Genuine question…what is it with the bubbly, over-exuberant, over-sharing officemates who think that anyone who is quietly professional with clients & coworkers must not be providing good customer service? Especially when they also note that the more reserved people note & remember what is important to specific individuals?

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      The opposite question could also be asked: What is it with the cold, reserved, stone-faced officemates who think that anyone who says more than the bare minimum must not be serious about their work and are just using their job as a place to socialize?

      Folks are different. It’s ok. You don’t have to hate your coworkers because they are more or less outgoing than you.

  37. Rainbow Roses*

    I’m wondering if she’s frustrated by the attention the OP gets from clients. From my experience, the outgoing person gets to be well known, while the quiet ones fade into the background even if they work just as hard or harder. Oh the clients know she’s *there* but they chat with the outgoing ones, and not just about work.

    It’s just the way it is with human nature. We like those who are friendly and make us feel welcome and comfortable. It sounds like she’s taking it out on you though.

    1. RoseBud*

      I have to respectfully disagree. I’d much prefer a quiet, efficient customer service person, actually. Both shine in their own ways for different crowds. Diff’rent strokes.

      1. Susie Q*

        100% Over the top customer service people are insanely annoying. Often they are just fluff and can’t actually accomplish anything. I’d much prefer someone quiet and serious about their work.

  38. Lana Kane*

    There is a lot of speculation about who is right and who is wrong, and whom we sympathize with, but this is the kind of situation where you can only know what is going on by asking the other person. OP could be misreading cues, Nora could be passive aggressive. Maybe both parties are annoying the other in ways they don’t know about. If OP doesn’t know, we don’t either.

    OP, I think it’s time to decide whether or not you’re up for asking her, with genuine curiosity and an open mind, for a moment of her time to ask if there is something bothering her. If you’re not, I’d suggest stepping back and focusing on the ways her actions are impacting your ability to work. If walking away from her desk for 15 min or more impacts you, talk to her about that specifically. If she isn’t sharing important information, ask her if she’d work with you on a communication plan. If you hear specific feedback that she is talking negatively about you, bring that to your supervisor, as that goes beyond just a personality difference. Or, tell her you have been hearing things and would like to clear the air with her. In general, this all boils down to…talking to her. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, but otherwise all of this speculation is a story you are telling yourself about her motives. Good luck, and please consider updating us if you work this out!

  39. Michelle*

    If you are still reading comments OP, I feel you on this. I am an introvert but I worked with an extrovert. We had the same title and basic duties, one of which was answering the phone. My Nora would just leave her desk without saying when she would be back and sometimes it could be up to an hour. I didn’t need to know where she was going, but I did need to know how long she would be gone. When she went wherever it was she went I would have to cover the phones and, depending on the day, it could be very busy with 5 incoming lines. Some days when she went on her walkabout, all 5 would start ringing. We were supposed to let each other know if we were out sick and discuss vacation plans to make sure there would be coverage but she never did. She would not show at work, I would ask her supervisor if he knew where she was and he would say “Oh, she’s not coming in, she’s sick. Didn’t she call you”. We had that conversation multiple times per year. He was conflict-avoidant and never reprimanded her.

    She was also super competitive and she would be upset if someone complimented my work or me. Once a coworker said that they liked my hair cut and she got mad. She left her desk and I didn’t see her again until the end of the day.

    She ended up applying for a job with a university, tried to leverage it to get more money from our employer and the CFO told her she should take the other job. She’s gone, I got a better coworker and things are much nicer.

  40. Amethystmoon*

    #1 We’re only getting one side of the story here. Had Nora been the one who had written in, it may have been the “I have a coworker who won’t stop bugging me at work and I need to focus on my job” kind of letter. Is the work very detail-oriented? I would say though Nora should definitely not snap at letter writer for making mistakes, but in many places where the work is like that, there is often an unrealistic pressure for workers to be perfect, and sometimes bad managers will snap at them.

    Also as someone who had to set very clear boundaries with someone who seemed intent upon violating all of them repeatedly for several years, I will say that if it’s not affecting what you are actually doing, perhaps just try leaving Nora alone and do your job. Is there someone else who you can ask questions to? Is there any printed documentation that you can look at that would have some of the answers? Not all companies have manuals, but many do. Perhaps try using other resources before contacting Nora.

    1. Mae*

      The work together at a front desk so I don’t think just leaving Nora alone is going to work. They don’t have to best buds, but Nora needs to be professional with OP. She is supposed to be helping cover the front desk and just leaves for large periods of time and snaps when the new coworker (OP) makes a mistake. Nora is likely supposed to be training, or at least helping train, OP.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I agree that Nora should make an effort to be professional, at least polite, and not snap. But I wonder if she was told that she was supposed to help train or is OP just assuming she is. If I were OP, I would ask if there were other resources available for getting the answers from, and also start making a cheat sheet in Word of the questions and answers, so the cheat sheet could at least be used as a printed reference.

  41. Justin*

    Based on OP’s update (shared desk/front desk scenario), it does seem like Nora should be more communicative regardless of everything else, so that affects work and is a concrete issue.

    As for the personalities…. yeesh, we cannot go into “protect the possible introvert” mode at all times (and the stated-above “extroverts jus’t don’t have any emotional intelligence” stuff). Nora might not be, she might be, we should be taking an OP at their word or else there’s little point in people writing in.

    OP should talk to Nora, indeed. Send an email (I guess), ask if they can talk briefly to clear the air.

    And Nora seems to be unnecessarilly chilly to OP, and she should stop. They don’t have to be friends.

    I sympathize here – I tend to want to connect at work, so I would prefer to be as expressive as OP, but I know it makes people think the way some have, so I keep to myself and end up feeling isolated. So, OP, good luck to you.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Well said:
      “we cannot go into “protect the possible introvert” mode at all times (and the stated-above “extroverts jus’t don’t have any emotional intelligence” stuff”

      1. Oh So Anon*

        I’m not sure that anyone said that extroverts don’t have emotional intelligence. My particular point upthread was really about people who try to build rapport mainly through being tapped in to every little detail of someone’s comings and goings. That can have an air of surveillance over someone else’s work involved, and relatively little to do with extroversion. To the extent that some of those details cross a line between what you need to know to get your job done as a peer and coming across as inappropriately managerial, that’s the part where I have to question someone’s emotional intelligence.

        None of this behaviour is the same as other ways of being chatty and making small talk and getting to know your colleagues that don’t raise concerns about respecting someone’s autonomy to carry out their job duties.

  42. The New AO*

    It could be one of three things. I didn’t see this in any of the other posts, but was this always a two person job? It could be that her job was recently split in two, and she had no input and wouldn’t dare complain to management, is taking it out on you; Or, she’s been there almost a year and hasn’t received as much praise as you have; Or, she just doesn’t like you, in which case, work with her on her terms, minimal communication, don’t ask personal questions (yes, some people consider “how are you doing?” or “how was your weekend?” personal), just keep it civil and stick to work.

  43. Matt*

    Allison, I just want to point this out. If the OP is complaining about Nora leaving her “alone to cover clients” and they are both meant to be working at a receptionist (or something like it) or in a role where they are covering for clients, than it would make sense for Nora to be communicative about her breaks, when she’ll be back, etc… Every job I’ve worked at that was client facing and I have just one co worker to cover or act as back up I always had to tell them when my breaks were, etc… so from that stand point it might make sense that the OP should expect Nora to be communicative about her breaks.

  44. YoungTen*

    I’m an introvert but have learned that to have a comfortable work environment, you have be cordial with everyone. As an introvert at work, I often have to make sure I’m not being too introverted if that makes sense. I make it a point to not go too far into my shell as to alienate coworkers. I think this is important for extroverts as well, don’t be too extroverted where the whole world is a social club with no boundaries. Both types of temperaments need to accommodate. What you should expect OP, is to be respected in the workplace (not necessarily friendship) but respect. A respectful working relationship may not look warm but will be cordial.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My wise friend used to say copy the pacing and the energy level of the person you are talking with and that is how you will be more effective in talking with them.
      Fast speakers need to hear a fast response. Deliberative speakers need to hear a slower more thoughtful/more constructed response.
      This may or may not help you, OP.

  45. Carbovore*

    I had a coworker like Nora in my old office with a bit of a twist–she was completely surly, one-word answers, basically had an invisible “fuck off” sign right on her forehead…. until…. she needed something from YOU. THEN she was all rainbows and sunshine and oh, could you help me, please???? But boy, god forbid you asked her ANYTHING. The majority of us were always walking on eggshells around her. I found it all very one-way and rude.

    My solution to it was that I walled myself off from her entirely. I had had expectations when she started that she would be assisting me with certain work (I trained her for my old role which was a support role serving the entire office while I stepped into a promotion–not supervising her though). But I soon learned her expectations were VERY different and seeing as her actual supervisor (who was also head of the office) wouldn’t reinforce any rules/territories/priorities, it became clear to me that that part of it wasn’t going to change. Walling myself off meant me having to do more work than I expected but I had much better mental peace of mind. I fortunately had the luck and fortune of not needing her assistance and my work didn’t overlap with hers. Not sure how I could have coped otherwise. Truthfully, I probably would have left that job much sooner.

    Similarly, this old coworker would badmouth me to others–mostly when she needed a scapegoat to blame her own failings on. (I was the go-to for awhile in terms of “Well, Carbovore didn’t train me on/tell me that.” This was always a lie. I spent 6 months teaching her everything, several times over and in different ways–in person, visually, in writing–I officially walled her off when she blamed me for something she didn’t complete IN MY PRESENCE to our boss.)

    Not only did I no longer have to worry about her feelings or emotions, worry that I wasn’t being kind enough, but it also solved the badmouthing problem…. when you have NO interactions with anyone, they are pretty much going to struggle to find anything to say. (Though, I left that office 4 months ago, my previous direct supervisor–who had a similar strategy of treating her like a landmine–tells me that she flipped the script and starting complaining that direct supervisor is “distant and unfriendly” with her! Sometimes you just can’t win!)

    But like Alison says… the more you create other relationships in the office, the more people will be able to form their own opinions and not feel swayed by someone else’s.

  46. StaceyIzMe*

    Nora is a standard issue in almost any office. Some offices have more than one! Somehow, they make a mighty effort to make their problems your problem and their preferences your priority. You should be the smoothest of Zen masters and should engage only strategically with her. (If she weren’t actually hostile to the point of badmouthing, then “ignore” would be fine.) You want to step right up to the edge, go over it and then back off. She should never know exactly when you’re going to be more boundary conscious, or to what extent. Stand up for yourself. With a bit of exaggeration. When she leaves and returns after a long absence, be a bit bewildered. Play the part somewhat broadly. When she intrudes into your space literally or metaphorically, push back. Alternate these instances with ignoring. It may shift her a bit off balance and that may allow you to reset your work relationship. In any case, these bits of active agency on your part will feel good and fall well within the bounds of acceptable conduct, if engaged in strategically, prudently and sparingly. It will also remind you that SHE is NOT the client, and that’s a point to keep firmly in view.

  47. CountryLass*

    OP, would it help if you actually tried to arrange a time to sit down with Nora, and explain that you are obviously both very different personalities, which is fine, but that you need to find a way to work together. Ask if there is anything particular that you do that causes a problem for her, and if she is resistant to sharing, you could say “for example, I notice that you only give short, one word answers when I make a friendly enquiry about how your weekend was. I find this a bit unusual and abrupt, so I am wondering if you like to keep your work and home life separate. If that is the case, I know that it is simply how you are with everyone, and I will not take it personally.”
    Maybe you replaced her friend, or she had a preferred person to take over the role but it was given to you, and she is just reacting badly and childishly.

    I think until you can find out the root of the problem it won’t go away. It might end up with both of you having to make small adjustments to the way you work in order to rub along better. And at least this way, if it doesn’t work you can tell your manager that you have sat down and tried to find a way to work together and tried to change to fit in with her personality but it didn’t work. And if others see you doing this then it will show you as the bigger person.

  48. Sapphire*

    It’s entirely possible Nora is just a horrible person, and the leaving without telling you how long she’ll be is totally unacceptable regardless of any justification.

    Some advice on the other points though, on the assumption that she’s not a bitch.

    Not communicating stuff to you and getting annoyed at you letting her know stuff. It could be that she already knows this stuff and is annoyed at you for not knowing it yet / not realising that of course she knows it already. If you’re talking about news, e.g. client a now wants b, it could be that there’s an official place to keep that info (on a file somewhere) and you should just be reading / updating that file and you wanting to discuss it falls into the category of she doesn’t like interruptions when working.

    On asking to help her with work because you’re got a smaller workload. Is it possible that you’ve deliberately got a smaller workload cos you’re still learning? As in, task A would take Nora half a day but you’re expected to take a full day because you should be taking notes about the process / making sure you fully understand it. And instead you’re zooming through work without taking your time and possibly not getting it quite right? I could see why she gets annoyed at you making mistakes because you’re not being thorough enough and then you’re trying to insist you’ve got time to do more. Especially if she didn’t want to have to train a new person in the first place or doesn’t have time.

    Also, I like the girl who sits next to me a lot but we do NOT chat when at our desks because I do not like long interruptions and don’t want to encourage conversation. We’ll talk at social things / in the kitchen though. Also I’ll talk to a passing colleague cos they’re only temporarily there so there’s no chance the conversation will drag on and on. So just because she won’t chat doesn’t mean there isn’t hope about you getting on in the future.

    1. Mae*

      Re: Especially if she didn’t want to train a new person in the first place , Helping train new employees is something almost all us has had to do, even if we do not want to. That doesn’t make it ok for Nora to be rude or snippy with OP. I don’t want to help new employees with the paperwork or teach them about the payroll software but I still have to do it and make sure they are clear on it, and still complete my work. Sometimes I’m fielding questions about the software or paperwork (policies, etc.) for weeks afterward, but I don’t snap at people. HR should be helping these new people but instead they made it part of my “additional duties as assigned” so I have to do it, even if I don’t want to .

  49. Ladybug*

    OP, your story could be my story! I had a very similar situation and we worked together for a few years, ultimately. What I eventually boiled it down to was her self-esteem and feeling threatened. It’s crazy to me because she had strengths I would have loved to be as skilled at, as you said. I don’t know if this is the same issue with your Nora, but I did want to mention it just in case.

    Your approach of remaining professional and respectful is best. If you continue to act with integrity and do good work, people will know you for that and no amount of badmouthing from Nora will hurt it. In fact, I could tell my Nora was losing trust with people because of her badmouthing and negativity. Keep track of the adjustments you’ve made so you can provide specific examples to her and your manager of what you’ve tried to do when you do have direct conversations about this issue. The fact that you are open to more adjustments shows me that you’re conscientious, and saying so to Nora and your manager will show that. If they don’t seem to appreciate it, then that sucks, but you know you’ve tried and sometimes that’s all you can get.

    I spoke directly to my Nora a handful of times and to our manager twice when her actions affected something work-related. Sometimes those direct conversations made her more hostile; other times, she seemed to loosen up. My manager acknowledged what I was observing, but it never got to the point where I wanted my manager to step in. Throughout the five years, this was the most improvement our relationship had.

    All of the other hostile behavior, I chose to live with. I didn’t have to share a desk with my Nora, so I feel for you. I sat at a desk across from her and that was bad enough. I kept my distance from her and focused on my other teammates and doing excellent work. After a little while, people knew us both well enough to know the truth. Nora’s self-esteem issue is hers to fix. What stinks is that you do have to deal with it, but by showing her professionalism, who knows? Maybe she’ll eventually learn!

  50. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    Did OP replace Nora’s favourite colleague, maybe? I’ve observed more than once that sometimes the new person becomes the target of frustration with the larger organisation just because they happen to be filling a role that someone else has left for whatever reason.

  51. Cookie Monster*

    I don’t know. The response kind of surprised me because of this:

    “she doesn’t always communicate if people pass on information that would be helpful to have, and she gets annoyed if I communicate such things to her.”

    That seems to be directly affecting her job, no? To me, that takes it beyond just a personality mismatch (that and the snapping over mistakes – totally unprofessional and Not Okay). I think that’s worth checking in with the boss like “how do you want me to handle this when this happens?”

  52. post-traumatic micromanagement disorder*

    Hey OP- I know it’s a few days late, and maybe you won’t see this, but I’ll leave it here anyway.

    I started a job and my largest client HATED me. She would regularly just walk away while I was speaking about anything, and generally just being horrible and very rude. This woman represented the majority of my income, and everything I tried, failed.

    My VP gave me the best advice- stop trying to make her like you, just do your job, show her that you’re competent, and she’ll come around. And that’s exactly what happened. Turns out that my company had been throwing half-assed sales reps at her for a year, and she was pissed because here was (potentially) another one.

    So stop trying to get Nora to like you- put your head down, do your job, be neutral and leave it at that. Maybe she’ll defrost, maybe not, because you can’t make her change, you can only change what you do.

    Good luck.

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