are my boots too loud for work, employee eavesdrops outside my door, and more

It’s three answers to three questions. Here we go…

1. Are my boots too loud for work?

I work in an open-floorplan office that has cement floors. My favorite shoes are boots, usually with a low heel. If you see me in the office, you can count on me wearing these boots. Because of the floor and possibly the layout of the office, I *think* my boots are loud as hell when I’m walking by peoples’ desks from the kitchen to my desk.

Is this something I should seriously consider as a distraction, or is this just one of those sounds that people have to learn to live with, like the creaky heater, the noisy fax machine, or the occasional elevator alarm? No one has said anything to me but people do look up when I walk by (which is probably true for people with quiet shoes too, but maybe my approach is still more distracting?)

Try wearing a quieter pair of shoes one day and see if people still look up when you pass their offices that day. If they don’t, then yeah, the boots are at least somewhat disruptive to people’s focus.

That doesn’t mean you need to stop wearing them entirely — the reality of working in an office with other people is that they’ll make noise. You don’t need to ensure that no sounds whatsoever emanate from you as you move about your office. But if your shoes are indeed unusually and spectacularly loud, your coworkers would probably appreciate it if they weren’t your sole choice of footwear.

2. My employee eavesdrops outside my office door

At first I thought I was too paranoid, but on three separate occasions, I’ve wrapped up a closed door conversation (I do HR and management) with C-suite individuals only to discover my direct report (an administrative assistant who processes financial paperwork) directly outside my door.

Our office set-up is odd; we’re essentially one huge office that was cut into thirds—one side is her office with a door, a hallway/narthex, and one side is my office with a door. There is a utility cabinet in the hallway, which she could be using, but she has never been in that cabinet when she’s been caught—she’s practically leaning against my door. How do I handle this? She’s been there 20+ years, and I’ve been there six months. My inclination is to have another employee catch her when I’m in a meeting, but I’m higher than all employees on the org chart, so I hesitate to get unaffected people involved and have the story spread. What should I do?

Do you have anyone in a senior role who you trust to be discreet? If so, it’s reasonable to discreetly tell them what you’re concerned about and ask if they can let you know what they observe (making it clear that it’s not something they should repeat to others). Alternately, during some of these meetings, can you occasionally walk quietly to the door and open it yourself?

But you could also just ask your employee about it directly: “A few times recently when I’ve opened my door at the end of a meeting, you’ve been waiting right outside it. Are you waiting for me to be finished or …?” It’s doubtful she’s going to say “no, I’m eavesdropping,” but it might put her on notice that she needs to cut it out. And if if happens again, address it right in the moment by saying “I didn’t realize you were out here” and looking at her expectantly.

Depending on her response, you might then have a longer conversation later, along these lines: “I often have confidential conversations in my office, so I’m concerned when I find you standing outside the closed door. If the door is closed, it’s for privacy so I wouldn’t want you or anyone else lingering there.”

Also, how’s her work and her judgment beyond this? If she is deliberately spying, there’s a decent chance there are other problems you’ll uncover if you look.

3. Can I ask my employee to connect me to her husband, who I want to network with?

I manage a small team at a nonprofit. I’m not totally unhappy in my position, but for a variety of reasons I’m very much ready for a change. A job opened up at a social justice organization I believe in, and I think I might be a good fit. I’m a bad and unpracticed networker, but I would like to try anything I can to gain a little leverage.

One of the people I supervise is married to someone who works at this organization. I don’t think there would be much contact with him in the position in question, but he represents a foot in the door for me, so to speak. What do you think about me reaching out to the person I supervise to ask her to put me in touch with him? I’m hesitating, in part because I don’t think it’s a great idea to get the word out among my team members and others at my organization that I’m looking at other jobs. The person I supervise is also friendly with my current supervisor, so there’s a chance the word will spread in that direction too. Anyway, any advice?

Don’t do it! You manage the person you’d be asking for this favor, which means there’s inherent pressure on her to say yes; the power dynamics there aren’t good ones. Plus, letting someone on your team know you’re looking before you’ve announced it publicly puts her in a bad position; now she has to wonder when your departure might be coming and what it might mean for her and the rest of your team. She’ll also be burdened with knowledge that you presumably don’t want her to share, without being able to truly agree to that first. And if it does get back to your manager, it won’t look great that you put one of your employees in that position.

{ 301 comments… read them below }

  1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    To OP 1, I would probably look up any time you walked past no matter what you’re wearing on your feet, as I just hear footsteps really well (unless I’m wearing noise canceling headphones). It’s possible that some of your coworkers are like this, and just naturally look up when they hear footsteps.

    It’s also possible the heal of your boot makes much more sound then is normal for the type of shoe and should become a sometimes shoe and not an all the time shoe like they are now. I think Alison’s suggestion is a good one to try and see what happens.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      I’ve also noticed that I tend to look up when I see movement out of the corner of my eye, which would mean that the LW *really* wouldn’t have to be loud…

      1. Kiwiii*

        I do this, too. Probably mostly from my time as an admin and a history of supervisors whose preferred method of drawing my attention is to quietly approach, stand in my periphery, and wait for me to notice that they’re there.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I do, too. I spent several years working security years ago, but the habit of wanting to know what’s moving in my peripheral version has stayed with me.

      3. Grapey*

        Same, I look up even if someone’s in sneakers on carpet.

        Unless it’s a warehouse sized floor and the clicking is heard for minutes on end, or you’re clicking back and forth between the coffee maker and the sink for example, the noise personally wouldn’t bother me more than anything else. (Repetitive noises don’t bother me nearly as much as ones I can’t anticipate.)

    2. Blue*

      Yeah, me too. It’s a bit of an ingrained habit (not a great one) that I look up when I think people are passing by, whether or not they make a lot of noise. But I also like Alison’s suggestion of switching out to different shoes to see if that changes things.

      1. BookishMiss*

        I picked up the same habit working retail, and I doubt I’ll ever lose it.

        If it’s every co-worker every time, OP, definitely try switching out your shoes for a couple of days to see if there’s a difference.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      I had a pair of cowboy boots that had a wooden heel. Though fine outdoors, those things were insanely loud on an uncarpeted floor. I retired them to outside-only after my first time wearing them to school. Some heels are just like that, depending on the material of their construction.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


        Wooden heels or heels with exposed nails = no.
        Rubber or leather heels = maybe.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, I have a pair of heels where the little rubber has broken off the stiletto and I need to get it replaced. Which I had forgotten about and I got sharply reminded when I wore them to the home office, which has cement and marble floors and the sharp clacking is SUPER OBVIOUS (unlike the carpeted office near my house or my church which is carpeted in the narthex and aisles).

      2. yala*

        My stepfather was a pediatrician and was known for (among other things) wearing cowboy boots. At his funeral, a few nurses and parents of former patients shared how comforting they found the very distinct sound of his boots while doing rounds in the wee hours.

        Which is really sweet. But probably not great in an office.

        I have some boots that I absolutely love, but I feel guilty when I’m wearing them on days I wind up on our “quiet floor.”

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I keep forgetting and wearing boots (my favorite footwear) to the local art museum, which ECHOES UNBELIEVABLY since of course it’s a series of galleries with high ceilings. Nobody has side-eyed me or anything but I cannot imagine that it isn’t distracting.

    4. lyonite*

      Possibly unrelated rant, but I really wish people designing workspaces would take shoes into account when they chose the flooring. At my current employer, the floors are part carpeted and part polished concrete, and for whatever reason there is a certain (common) type of rubber sole that is INSANELY squeaky on the concrete part. Like, we sound like a Marx Brothers routine walking around there.

      1. Allonge*

        It’s not at all unrelated. We are angry with coworkers who wear x-material-soled shoes, listen to music with leaking headphones and similar instead of the people making us work in open office environments with extra echo-ing and noise included, or the ones creating these spaces in the first place.

        I don’t like rants against The Man, as such, but LW1’s problem would not exist without the environment being bad in the first place. Concrete floors for office work?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. I grit my teeth every time some person, usually female, goes clop, clop, clopping by with noisy heels. The open plan hellscape I’m in is partially carpeted, partially polished concrete floors. The concrete floors are loud, and miserable to walk on when wet.

          All of the main traffic “corridors” are plain polished concrete – tacky as hell. We also have unfinished ceilings, leading to a ‘warehouse of drones’ atmosphere. Sure, we have lots of natural light glaring off of our screens, modified by bizarre automatic blinds.

          This place was deliberately build as a “modern open plan office”. As open plans go it’s one of the better ones, but that’s not saying much.

          I feel guilty if I walk by people with my cane, because it makes noise on the d*mned concrete.

        1. Aquawoman*

          My office is moving in a year or two and the department planning the move solicits input and then ignores it all because hotelling/glass walls/collaborative space is the trend. We told them how we wanted our offices laid out and they told us no because they want us to look exactly like all the other floors.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. That’s what happened with us. Management somehow convinced itself that people loved the open plan concept. Most of us hate it. But their mind was made up, don’;t confuse them with facts, or the data from dozens of scientific studies about the detriment to productivity that the open plan causes.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      OP might also have a heavy tread. I used to work with this girl, who was tiny and dainty in all ways, but man the back of her heel came down like the hoof of a Budweiser horse. I always knew exactly where she was when she was walking around. Oddly in my experience it is the tiny super lightweight girls who have the heaviest treads.

      1. Queen Anon*

        In one office where I worked, the person with the loudest tread had been – and still looked like – a gymnast. I couldn’t hear men three times her size walking down the carpeted hall, but always knew when it was Nadia. I bet her vault approach was flawless!

      2. Sparrow*

        That’s probably something they’re aware of and would be factoring into their calculations, though. I walk very firmly on my heels (I was diagnosed with arthritis during college – the joint damage was worst in the balls of my feet so I changed my gait to minimize pressure on that part of my foot) and I’ve very conscious about how loud my footsteps are because of that. It may bother me more than other people, but I still go out of my way to only buy shoes with rubber soles so as to not have my footsteps echo down the hall at work.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I dunno – most people aren’t that self-aware. It’s very understandable in your case – you were in pain and had to fix it! But I walk pigeon-toed on one foot and didn’t even know until I was 17 and a friend pointed it out.

          Most people in my office walk audibly. Obviously heels are loudest, but I can hear anyone coming from like 10 yards away (at least).

        2. Yorick*

          I think most loud walkers don’t realize it (although I think a subsection do it on purpose, it’s the same people who make a point to hustle and bustle around so everyone knows they’re sooo busy, so they stomp while doing it so you can’t miss them)

          1. Cassie*

            I’m inclined to agree. We have one faculty member who is tall but slim and he clomps around all the time. Hearing him walk makes me wonder if he is flat-footed and thus not able to “roll” through his feet (heel to toe) when he walks (he wears sneakers so I don’t think it’s an issue with the shoe). My issue with his walking is not just the noise of the whole foot hitting the ground at one time, but the vibration that we all feel as well.

            Then there’s another professor who is constantly rushing around – jogging from his office to a meeting, running to the copy room, etc. Nice guy, but he’s ALWAYS in a hurry to get somewhere. Again, the noise and vibration make it unpleasant for those of us in the cube farm.

            I wish these people would be a little more considerate of the other people around – they certainly don’t need to be as quiet as a mouse but just don’t make so much noise/vibration!

        3. TardyTardis*

          Speaking as a former office cleaner, those with rubber heels and no carpet might watch out for black heel marks (best illustrated when they dragged Eunice away in WHAT’S UP, DOC? Once seen, it cannot be unseen). When my husband and I were college students and working as cleaners, we almost bought one male VP a new pair of shoes since he left such a trail to and from the gents’.

      3. EPLawyer*

        I spent year perfecting my “authoritative” walk. So you can hear me coming from a ways away. Carpet, hard floor, whatever.

        1. Amy Sly*

          I have one of those walks. It was rather funny in high school to walk down a mostly empty hall and have fellow students look up guiltily because they though a teacher was coming. My husband is 100 lbs heavier, 4″ taller, but walks far more on the balls of feet and so has the reputation of being a ninja who sneaks up on people.

        2. SomebodyElse*

          Authority walk is such an underrated tool. I totally have one. So much so my stoned and injured husband could recognize my gait as I walked down the hall in the ER one day (I was going to meet him after he got injured at work). I think he won a bet with the nurse that it was me.

      4. FiveWheels*

        Counter anecdote… Small lightweight (but very athletic) woman here. I walk so quietly that colleagues will literally scream when they turn around and see me at my filing cabinet etc. Several have asked that I get a cat collar with bell :-D

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I manage to do both! I have my Authoritative EC’s Got Shit To Do Walk and the Normal EC Walk.

          I am pretty short and pretty average, so it’s easy to miss me if I’m just booping about, doing my normal thing. Some have commented that I need to wear my keys on me at all times for the jingle.

          And then something stupid will happen that I’ll need to investigate and report on and that’s when the Authority Walk appears.

          When I was teaching, I actually started to wear more clicky shoes at the start of semester, because I was only about 4 years older than my students and look quite young. It seemed to help the students pick out who the actual TA was. Except for the young woman who very loudly 5 minutes prior to the actual start of class, as I was placing packets out on the table up at the front of the room, complained that the TA wasn’t even here yet and how shitty is this class going to be (etc, etc). I tried really hard not to chuckle when another student interrupted her to ask her who she thought I was, standing at the front of the class with “clicky boots” and paperwork.

          1. Blue Horizon*

            I wonder if I could achieve the former by imagining the ‘Gangsta’ song from Office Space playing in my head while I walk.

        2. Emily*

          Same! I’m small with a relatively light step (although I’ve noticed I sound a little stompier when I’m carrying my heavy backpack).

          Even my version of the authoritative walk isn’t particularly loud, I don’t think – it’s more about posture and facial expression. (I take my inspiration from Charlize Theron’s “think murder” advice for walking like a queen.)

        3. we're basically gods*

          I’m a tall, plus sized woman, and I still manage to sneak up on people! I think it’s less how big you are and more how you move. I did ballet for years, and there’s a huge focus on landing softly when jumping and moving, and I think that impacts my quiet movements.

          1. Profane Pencils*

            I agree! I often wear heeled ankle boots, so I rarely sneak up on people, but with years of executive assistant work, I developed a habit of inserting myself into someone’s visual field and waiting without saying anything. I’ve accidentally done this while wearing ballet flats or my weirdly-silent wedges and startled people. Meanwhile, one of my coworkers who is only slightly bigger than me legitimately makes my desk shake when she walks past.

          2. Nic*

            Short plus-sized woman who did ballet for ten+ years here. Agreed – I’m pretty sure being quiet is one part landing each step on the ball of your foot like most mammals do, and one part using your knee/ankle joints as springs to push off the next movement (instead of relying on your cartilage for shock absorption). I routinely scare various people by walking too silently – even in block-heeled boots – to the point that with my mum, I’ve taken to deliberately scuffing the ground as I come into a room so that I don’t make her jump.

        4. TardyTardis*

          Admittedly, I have often thought about wearing one of those shopping cart poles (like Wally was forced to wear in Dilbert once)–I have gone around a cubicle taller than I am several times and nearly run into someone coming the other way.

      5. a heather*

        When I was a kid for a while my room was in the basement. The lightest sibling in the house was the LOUDEST walker. Not sure why, but it was definitely the case.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            My cat has learned how to stomp. I’m not sure where she picked this up, but I will be elsewhere in the house and hear her walking across the hardwood in the living room. This is independent of her full-out gallop, which sounds like a small child running around.

            1. Quill*

              My dog had an unmistakable gait because he didn’t walk so much as… stampede. Everywhere. Until he got quite old it was impossible to mistake the noises he made for literally anything else, and I learned to be a light sleeper in the morning because when you hear “go get them! go get the kids” and then the KaTHONKkathunkaTHONK of a labrador barreling up the stairs, hitting every post of the railing on either side with his wagging tail like he was playing the xylophone… your choice is immediately stand up out of bed or be jumped on and licked.

            2. EJane*

              My mother has two maine coons. They like to run laps upstairs, playing; I can hear them over the phone when I’m talking to her, just thumpthumpthumpthumpTHUDthumpthump.

              As someone with a dog who has MASTERED the art of sneaking around, this is deeply amusing to me.

      6. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        I worked with someone like that. She was maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. No matter what shoes she was wearing, you always heard her passing because she had a very strong gait.

      7. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

        I’m fat and have a pretty dang light tread, but part of it is probably being very aware of being fat and not wanting people to make unkind connections between my gait and my weight, even if unvoiced.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      I tend to feel the vibrations in the floor as people walk past me, so I’ll look up even if I don’t exactly *hear* anything. If OP walks heavy – and a lot of people do – it won’t matter what shoes they’re wearing, especially if the office is on an upper floor or made with laminate floating floors.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP1, Just ASK someone! They may say it’s the visual that makes them look up. If they say “well, yeah it’s kind of loud”, look into getting rubber sole pads. I did this when there was an actual shoe repair shop in my area, by now I’m sure it’s something they’ll sell on Amazon.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        +1 – just ask someone -so much easier that doing this experiment of checking if people look up since there are so many variables in play. But I do want to note that the rubber sole pads are not always perfect – I have one for my wooden soles and they do soften it a bit but they are still my loudest boots.

      2. Paulina*

        Asking someone for feedback can raise expectations that OP1 will change enough for that person’s wishes, though. Nobody has complained, so performing the suggested experiment allows OP1 to collect some data before she decides what to do ongoing.

    8. JessaB*

      Honestly, if your shoes make too much sound, you can always have the heel material changed to something less noisy. I mean I know finding a shoemacher isn’t as easy as it used to be but still. You can have your boots and walk quietly too.

      1. Chili*

        Yes! I did this with my shoes (both to make them quieter and give them better snow traction) and it’s been great. Worth the money.

      2. a heather*

        Not the OP, but part of what I love about wearing my boots is the sound. Dunno why, but I love the clomp clomp. (My workplace is about 90% carpeted so it’s not an issue here.)

        1. JessaB*

          OH yes, I’m not saying boot noises can’t be fun, but sometimes they’re just not right for the venue.

          Clomp on!

      3. George Fayne*

        You can order rubber heel plates and shoe bottoms / heel caps / new treads etc. on Amazon or wherever and apply them youself. I have a really loud pair of boots that this worked for. As a bonus they had better grip afterward.

        1. JustaTech*

          I did this with a pair of boot not for quietness (that was a bonus) but because I almost wiped out on the completely dry bathroom floor in leather soles.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh I do not understand places that make slippy shoes. Are they after people breaking ankles or falling on ice or anything? I mean I’ve had shoes I had to take sandpaper to the second I got em home because I couldn’t walk on linoleum that was 20 years old and not that slippy.

            1. Quill*

              I haven’t worn anything without a rubber sole for about ten years because I can sprain my ankle on a crack in the sidewalk, but I’ve seen people wipe out on linoleum older than my mother with soft soled shoes.

    9. Dragoning*

      I look up when people walk by because sometimes they’re looking for me or my coworker next to me who I can occasionally answer questions for.

    10. Goliath Corp.*

      I also work in an office with concrete floors, and I think people can tell the difference between someone walking normally in loud shoes and someone stomping around angrily. (Many of us are still traumatized by a terrible former manager whose presence was always announced by her stomping heels.) I don’t think anyone is bothered by normal shoe noises.

      I bought a pair of rubber-soled loafers thinking they’d be quieter than my wooden-soled ones, but the squeak is so much worse!

    11. Adlib*

      Props to LW #1 for even thinking about this. I used to work in an office (not even open plan), and the second floor amplified footsteps. We had one lady who you wouldn’t think would make loud footsteps, but it sounded like she was stomping intentionally – it was so loud! I could modify my foot falls on that floor, but she was totally oblivious. (I think so anyway; she was either pretty oblivious to most things or downright rude.)

    12. RB*

      I don’t think loud boots would be annoying. Lots of people used to wear high-heeled pumps and a lot of those made a loud clackety-clack sound. I kind of like that sound because I associate it with being dressed up. Not all shoes can, or should be, rubber-heeled.
      But you know what I find incredibly annoying in the footwear department? It’s those slip-ons that are open at the heel (mules?) that make a slap-slap sound every time the person takes a step, because it’s hitting the sole of their foot. But I realize this is just a pet peeve and should not dictate other people’s footwear choices.

    13. Liz*

      I do this too; not because of noise, but because since we moved, my cube now opens onto a hallway vs. me being back in a dead end corner in our old building. I’m still not used to lots of traffic, and have to stop myself from acting like Pavlov’s dog whenever someone walks by!

  2. Observer*

    #3 – Do NOT do this!

    If I found out that you had tried to get some “leverage” to find a job by “asking” (because it really IS going to read as “pressuring”) one of your employees to connect you to a family member who works in the org you’re interested in, that would be a huge strike against you. I’d be wondering about your willingness to abuse your position, your understanding of the issues of conflict of interest – especially important in the non profit sector ESPECIALLY in social justice- and your overall budget. It I’m the person whose spouse got pressured to make the connection to give you an in, I’m heading straight to my ED / the hiring manager and telling them that I need to have nothing to do with the process because of the conflict of interest you have just created. Oops.

    1. Coffee maniac*

      Thankfully, we don’t know that LW3 is in social justice. And I think “‘I’d love to have coffee with your husband sometime” is an immaterial conflict of interest.

      1. Mookie*

        Well, she doesn’t want coffee, she wants a specific favor that will give her, in her words, “leverage” when it comes to applying for a job in the spouse’s organization. She will, of course, have to explain to her employee why she wants to contact the spouse. There’s no coyness there. And that’s not what Observer appears to worry would be a conflict of interest, but rather how the LW might gain an interview on the strength of an unequal supervisor/supervisee relationship in a different organization. Hopefully the current employer and the social justice one don’t do business together.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “I’d love to have coffee with your spouse” is a weird thing to ask, unless you all have a social friendship outside of work. In which case you don’t need to ask because you are already seeing each other in a social manner.

        Don’t do it. Especially don’t do it to your employee who can’t say no without harming their career–as Observer notes, this is not the sort of thing that makes you appealing in general, but especially to social justice groups.

    2. EPLawyer*

      the fact that LW 3 raised all these concerns in her letter except the biggest one is what bothered me the most. Do not ask favors of subordinates. If they work for you, it’s not a favor.

      If it were a peer or even someone above them, it might not be a bad idea to ask for an introduction. But not a subordinate.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          That’s why she wrote in. I don’t think it’s fair to whack at people who are asking for assistance. If she had all the reasons, she wouldn’t need to ask.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*


            I think it’s great she wrote in precisely because she was unknowingly missing important context (you don’t know what you don’t know, and all that).

          2. Mockingdragon*

            Agree…the most important piece is that something was nagging at her to write in and ask. When she reads the answer she might well smack her forehead from how obvious a thing she forgot.

          3. SomebodyElse*

            lol… I think this important point gets missed a lot :)

            We should be praising all the people that write in before they do something; weird, wrong, or downright stupid.

            Now if they do those things after getting advice, then they are fair game…

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        And to add the part two to EPLawyer’s comment, “and do not burden your subordinates with your secrets”. The power dynamic was already an automatic veto, but the willingness to involve an innocent party in keeping an important secret just adds more weight to the no.

    3. MissGirl*

      I had this same problem without the supervisor part. I wanted to apply for a job where a coworker had several contacts. I did not ask him for any kind of connection because I did not want to put him in an awkward position. He would’ve had to keep my applying a secret from our manager, which wouldn’t have been fair. I also didn’t want to risk it getting out.

    4. Observer*

      By the way, I made a typo – I wrote “budget” when I meant Judgement. I have no idea how that happened.

  3. Observer*

    #1 – what is the material of your heels? Also, do you have metal taps on your shoes? Because those will be more than normally loud on a concrete floor.

      1. Mrs B*

        I was thinking this too, they also make stick on versions usually sold as anti-slip shoe pads/heel protectors

      1. Goliath Corp.*

        I took a tap class for a while and I can’t help but practice the shim sham when I wear a particularly loud pair of shoes :)

  4. Observer*

    #2 – Some of the things I’d be looking out for with this admin is if she’s a pot stirrer, a gossip, or a snoop in other areas. Does she always seem to have the latest scoop on everyone and everything? Does she seem to know a surprising amount about people’s lives? And in general, does she seem like a snoop?

    1. OP2*

      Pot stirrer, gossip, and snoop are great ways to describe her. I can’t quite figure out if she gets joy in having the latest “scoop” or if she sees herself as an equal to our executives. For instance, while she gleefully shares personal information, she also openly questions why she wasn’t consulted, how poor the decision is, or she makes decisions beyond her pay grade, which usually need to be cleaned up because she does not have context in an industry that is highly-regulated (or she doesn’t have context even in less serious or industry-specific).

        1. Avasarala*

          Also she is getting the latest scoop by listening outside your door. And she is unapologetic/unrepentant! We know this because she was caught outside your door once, and instead of thinking “phew glad OP didn’t suspect me, I better cut that out.” She did it again, and again! She sounds nosy, self-important, vain (wants to be consulted on everything), and dishonest.

          This is not someone who should be handling financial paperwork, nor should she be stationed anywhere near someone who does closed-door meetings. She also probably needs a PIP or a new job, because the level of blatant dishonesty is not acceptable.

            1. Baja*

              This. I truly was baffled by the advice today. OP is a new top HR/management in confidential closed-door meetings with C suite executives and an employee is literally outside the door THREE TIMES? Please. No additional verification needed.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                When partnered with the other information, yeah, no additional verification needed. And I would fire her immediately. This is egregiously bad behavior for an HR admin, who need to understand how not to talk about what they know.

            2. Observer*

              Yes and no.

              Yes, the OP has enough information to know that this woman is a snoop and big trouble. But she may not have enough to deal with the problem. As others have noted, she’s been there 20 years.

              I think that the OP needs to build a case that is less susceptible to nitpicking, and also to find out who has been protecting the Admin.

              1. Quinalla*

                Agreed, you need a fairly solid case when someone has been there for 20 years. Sounds like this admin might be a “missing stair” at her company and that is always tricky to deal with.

                However, that doesn’t prevent the OP from reining this in immediately. Call it out in the moment, get someone else to verify, etc. This is SERIOUS and needs to stop.

      1. Coffee maniac*

        OP2, your employee has lasted 20 years in the company because she has compromising material on your senior leadership.

        1. I don't know who I am*

          Not necessarily, she could just have skated by because no-one wanted to confront her, or each individual thing didn’t add up to enough to prioritise action whereas the overall pattern should have, or many other things. We do not have enough information from the letter to make such wild speculations.

          Isn’t this what so many updates this year have complained about? People wildly speculating and then presenting their speculations as fact. That is unhelpful.

        2. Sylvan*

          It’s possible, but I’ve seen people last simply because a company or a single boss won’t fire anyone at all. Sometimes the reason seems to be that the person has been there X years and they’re just a fixture to be worked around instead of managed.

          1. Lance*

            Yup; she sounds like a massive missing stair that nobody’s bothered to do anything about, so now she feels free to believe she can get away with anything.

        3. your favorite person*

          You know how recent update OPs have said people are jumping to conclusions in the comments… This is why.

        4. Yorick*

          I’d normally say there’s no evidence of this in the letter (and I still don’t think we can assume it), but the fact that she eavesdrops at closed doors makes me think it’s possible.

      2. PollyQ*

        So, are you disciplining her for any of this behavior? The decisions outside her area of expertise sound like the most serious to me.

        1. EPLawyer*

          You need to address this behavior. Do not hold back because you are newish and she has been there forever. I honestly cannot imagine how someone how is a gossip can even be support staff for someone in HR. You want someone discrete and incredibly close mouthed in that job.

          Loop in your boss if necessary. Meet at the boss’s office to discuss, not yours.

          1. Observer*

            This is true. These issues are a problem in any position that is not isolated. In HR? They should be job ending.

      3. No real name here*

        I think Alison’s advice is good, but if you find you’re not able to fire her even with evidence of eavesdropping, get a good therapist-quality white noise machine and plant it outside your office door. Be sure to turn it on before your closed-door meetings. They are really quite effective. Oh I’d love to see her face when THAT shows up.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, at this point, I would try to sneak up on the door and see if she falls into my office when I open it. Seriously. I don’t do well with this crap.

        OP, this is a person who can enhance a toxic workplace. Okay, this is a person who can single-handedly create a toxic workplace as everyone tiptoes around this problem.

        You don’t need to figure out why she does this, but you probably do need to fire her. Pot stirrers/gossips/snoops are detrimental to company operations and therefore NOT an asset to the company at all.

        Each one of these behaviors needs to be addressed firmly. “If you do X then Y will happen.” So if she is caught gossiping, snooping, badmouthing, then there should be a progression of warnings going on.
        Her job is to contribute to the work effort, her actions here only DETRACT from the work effort and can be considered dismissable offences.
        Heck, sharing personal information can stand alone as a dismissable offense in some settings.

        Barest minimum, I would excuse myself from a meeting at a random point and walk over to my door. If I opened the door and found her standing there, I would say, “Is there something I can help you with?” Of course, she will say no. Then I would inform her that there is no need for her to be directly outside my door during a confidential meeting and I don’t expect to see this again.

        Grr, I am so angry on your behalf, OP. I have worked with a few of the nightmares and they have been a large contributing factor to why I left the job.

        1. irene adler*

          Toxic workplace? Yeah. Bet the OP has no idea how the employee’s eavesdropping and gossiping have affected employee actions. Employees there probably know not to tell HR anything in confidence, as it will just get spread around.

          If I worked there and had a confidential issue that I needed to bring to HR, I would think long and hard before doing so. Just knowing my confidential issue would be overheard and then shared by this employee would be enough for me to dummy up.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            OP, this is something you really need to take into account. The staff at your workplace need to be able to rely on privacy and confidentiality. The last thing any HR department needs is a gossip manning the front desk. Even if she doesn’t manage to eavesdrop perfectly every time, she still gets to see all the comings and goings, and she’s shown you that she’s not afraid to share what she knows with other people. People need to be able to come to you with their concerns without worrying that the HR Admin is going to be holding court in the lunch room later telling everyone in hearing range that “Theresa from finance had a closed door meeting with the boss today, what do we all think that was about?”

      5. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        Yeah, she’s been eavesdropping outside your door. People who behave the way you described have poor boundaries and feel entitled to information that is truly none of their concern.

        Confront her directly regarding her “coincidental loitering” outside your door after confidential meetings and observe her immediate reaction. That will likely tell you all you need to know. Then tell her to cut it out. Period.

      6. Holy Moley*

        You could always get a white noise machine, place it near your door and turn it on whenever you have sensitive conversations.

      7. BRR*

        It sounds like you need to have a bigger conversation with her. It doesn’t sound like the ease dropping is the sole concern.

      8. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is key new information indicating that the person is a problem behind the eavesdropping: Just the sharing personal information could get her fired in many contexts.
        If she’s YOUR assistant, her bad behavior reflects badly on you. This needs to be addressed strongly and soon. It protects her job, her professional reputation, and your company’s obligations to protect employee privacy.

      9. Artemesia*

        I’d be a bit more assertive than Alison’s suggestion since this is the case. This is a ‘must stop now’ situation. I’d pull the door open while those in your meeting spoke and then have a CTJ meeting with her after the meeting in which you make it clear that she is not to be in that hallway when you are in confidential meetings and move to a PIP the first time you find her there again. A camera woldn’t be a bad idea.

      10. BrotherFlounder*

        Hoo boy. All that plus you’ve caught her three times? I think I agree with the other commenters that it’s time to go straight to discussing this with her.

      11. Free Meerkats*

        Pot stirrer, gossip, and snoop” is not someone you want having access to HR paperwork! If you’re not willing (or allowed) to fire her, the minimum is restricting her access to anything personal, confidential, or financial. She’s now a glorified phone answerer.

      12. Tisiphone*

        Like others have mentioned, you’ve got all the verification you need. If she has been passing along (or mentioning that she knows) specific info that could only come from one of your closed-door meetings, you have everything you need to write her up.

        Start the paper trail yesterday.

      13. Sunflower*

        So has she been spoken to about this? It seems like she thinks her position is much more senior than it actually is and it sounds like all of this is a way more serious issue than the eavesdropping. I’m not excusing the behavior by any means but is she eavesdropping because in some world, she thinks she needs to be involved in these conversations?

        I’d start with talking to her about her unnecessary involvement and comments with company decisions. She’s been there for 20 years- has she always been in the same position? Maybe she is dying for a promotion and thinks this is her way in. Start there and see what happens- you may end up resolving this without needing to take serious action.

      14. Curmudgeon in California*

        Passive-aggressive solution:

        Have a closed door meeting with your boss, in your office. Lay out for them your problems with her, including the fact that you’ve caught her listening outside your door, plus the tendency to gossip and shit-stir, etc. Give examples. Ask your boss what they think should go on her PIP, or if they think it’s an immediately fireable offense. While your boss is responding, quietly get up and open the door.

        She does not seem to be the type of person any HR admin would want “supporting” them.

  5. Ophelia*

    OP# 1 – you could also a grip to the bottom of your heel to see if that changes things. I have a particular pair of shoes that sound like I am slapping the ball of my foot on the floor when I walk. I make it a point to only wear those shoes when I know I’ll be on carpet all or most of the day. But the sound stands out to me and makes me self-conscious, so that is enough of a distraction for me to limit those shoes. If you are noticing the sound, it seems to be distracting you. As fabulous as the boots seem to be, I’d look into grips to muffle the noise.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m getting flashbacks to grade school — my mother loved corduroy pants. And they….weren’t worn by the popular kids. I could HEAR myself walk down the hallway, and it was a little voice telling me I was uncool. I still hate corduroy.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Parochial school kid here… corduroy pants were part of the uniform. Haven’t worn it since I got out of that school.

        I can understand the draw for parents though… that stuff wore like iron!

        *Swish swish swish swish*

      2. Alienor*

        Man, I remember that swish-swish-swish sound when I walked down the hallway! I was in grade school in the late 70s though, so everyone wore corduroy, cool and uncool alike.

  6. These Boots*

    Why as women are we constantly apologetically measuring how much space we take in the world? How loud am I? How big am I? Should I make adjustments to my loudness or my bigness? This is something women subconsciously think about all day long at work. It never crosses men’s minds. OP#1, live your life, wear yours boots.

    1. Fellow Boot Fancier*

      Umm, Op1 could be a gentleman. And boots can be extremely loud and distracting when on concrete, just like dragging a chair or popping gum. It’s not about guarding one’s space in this case, more about not being annoyingly disruptive to one’s coworkers.

      1. 6101*

        No disrespect to men who wear high heels, but point me to the last time a man distinguished their boots as being low heeled and worried about the noise they make in an office at AAM. You can see from the comments above, a few people have said it is more a peripheral vision thing out the corner of their eyes than the noise. OP didn’t say anyone had complained about the noise, just that OP was worried their colleagues might be finding the noise problematic. If no-one has complained OP, don’t worry, and even if they do, is there a particular reason your workplace *has* to have cement floors (which have little give and are noisy?)

        1. Amy Sly*

          I can’t point to the last time a man talked about his boots in a letter to AAM, but I will note that cowboy boots are often prescribed for men with plantar fasciitis because they are one of the few socially acceptable ways that men can wear heels. (Heels change the angle of the foot and reduce the strain on the plantar fascia.) So yes, noisy heels in a quiet workplace can be a man’s problem too.

        2. Fellow Boot Fancier*

          Lol! To your first sentence-That would be personal experience in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado & Texas. I worked as a ranch hand (work boots vs dress boots, and cowboy boots can be custom ordered and there’s low, medium & high heels, severely underslung in the back (fancy dress) to straight (work). Country singers have songs mentioning boots for work, including Dierks Bentley singing about ‘high riding heels’ for a man. I also worked in the service industry and The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas had to make a dress code exception to allow non-uniformed employees to wear dress boots because, well, Texas! Which meant I could, too in Half Moon Bay, CA. Awesome!

    2. 6101*

      Preach it sister! I was uncomfortable with the initial response but couldn’t work out why. You nailed it!

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      1) Men should be thinking about it more than they currently do.
      2) Just because you are thinking about it doesn’t mean the answer is necessarily yes.

      1. Stephen!*

        Yes! While I do agree that women overthink many things, men underthink quite a bit, and the world would be better if we all worried about how our actions impact others. The world needs more consideration, not less!

        1. Mookie*

          Yep. Women’s and conditioning aren’t always wrong. Sometimes we do, in fact, set positive standards other people should live up to.

          I agree, in theory, that women are heavily policed in many situations and are held to different standards of decorum, but sometimes it is the lax default that needs changing.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yes. More empathy is a good thing! Men should worry more about whether they’re disturbing their coworkers, not women worrying less!

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s nothing indicating the LW is a woman. But everyone should be considerate about possibly disrupting colleagues’ focus, regardless of gender.

      1. DipPlated*

        Yes – This!

        My office set up is open plan, and my seat faces an open hallway with tile flooring that runs the length of the side of the building. It is the main walkway to go between departments. I am *extremely* noise sensitive, and I really struggle hard with the constant CLOP CLOP-ing of loud shoes, the loud hallway phone talkers (just because you are taking it away from your cube does not mean you should take it directly in front of MY cube), the guy screaming into his conference call on speakerphone from the office 40 feet away, people leaning over my cube as they pass by to say hello, etc. I have tried blocking my line of sight into this hallway (but again, open cubes). I have noise cancelling headphones. I actively do not look around at passersby unless they completely wreck my focus.

        OP 1, if you think you may be distracting your coworkers, think about all the possible distractions they may be facing. Maybe loud shoes aren’t the worst offender (Yelly phone man, I’m lookin’ at you!), but if everyone took just a few minutes to think about how they could help make the work environment better for those around them, we’d all be better off. I thank you and respect you for thinking of the impact your noise may have on others.

        Those boots sound cute, and it seems you like to wear them at work. Maybe there’s a way to get the soles softened so that everyone wins in this scenario :)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Am giggling. My mother was all about keeping your clothes quiet. It was kind of funny to younger me to hear her say, “Your clothing should not announce your arrival.” But I did take it to heart and avoided clanky jewelry, noisy chains etc. I always wondered about corduroy swishing noises.

        Over the years, the advice seems to have served me well, as I have noticed that a good number of people do not make additional noise when they walk. Younger me tried to observe people (men and women) who seemed really put-together and I noticed they did not make noise when they moved about. So this has been oddly reinforced over the years.

        OP, if you think this doesn’t seem right to you then just check out some of the fixes mentioned here. There are several good ideas already this morning. Where I land is if I am concerned about X then I should do something so I can stop thinking about it. You may decide that making a repair is easier than to continue thinking about it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I am totes imagining your mom is a ninja warrior who took pains to conceal her trade from her young child, but forever instilled in her the warning: “Your clothing should not announce your arrival.”

          Clearly it worked, as you have not been assassinated by any rival businesspeople! :)

      3. MicroManagered*

        Specifying the boots have a “low heel” made me think/assume OP1 is a woman. (Because, by contrast, there are high-heeled boots, which men typically don’t wear in an office environment?)

    5. Allonge*

      Thank you. I was thinking along these lines, too, although yes, LW1 could be a man. In any case: humans make noise. I work in carpeted office environment and I look up every time someone passes by my office – kind of the point of the open door policy we have.
      LW1, comfortable shoes are very important. Shoes are also a considerable expense for most of us, in that replacing a pair – just because it may be 10% more distracting to colleagues who are noticing us otherwise as well – is not really an option for a lot of people.
      And as These Boots is saying, a lot of people don’t think about this stuff at all and navigate life quite ok. As long as you are not stepping on people’s feet (or, you know, work in soundproof recording places), your boots are ok.

    6. wordswords*

      In many contexts, I agree with you. However, I think monitoring and making adjustments to one’s loudness at work — or in any shared space where people are probably concentrating and don’t have much control over who they’re sharing space with — is an important part of courteously sharing that space, no matter what your gender. (And we don’t know what OP1’s gender is.)

      It’s true that this awareness of space taken up is something that’s ingrained in many women (and non-women who were raised or socialized with those same expectations) and frequently much less ingrained in men. But I don’t think the solution is “no matter what, wear your loud boots to work and talk at whatever volume you want, and if it bothers other people, screw ’em!” (I’m not saying this is what you’re saying — it’s a deliberate exaggeration to contrast against my next sentence — but… as a woman who is also fairly prone to distraction from certain kinds of sounds, it is sort of what I hear, if we’re talking about co-worker interactions.) To be clear, the solution is also not “apologize for all space, walk as silently as possible in rubber-soled shoes, try to never bother people with your existence.” That’s an awful state that I never want anyone to be living in, even though I know some people unfortunately do. But running the experiment Alison suggests and, if it does indeed make a difference to the number of people who look up when OP1 walks by, considering putting a few other work-wear shoes into the rotation, is a reasonable tactic for making sure one is staying in the middle ground of “we all have to ignore some amount of noise and distraction at work, but we can all do our part to keep that amount from being too excessive.”

    7. Avasarala*

      Until a dude walks by your cube in squeaky shoes every day. And another person starts wearing headphones that leak so bad you can hear their music from your seat. And two coworkers start dating and using your hallway as their meetup point. And then you start thinking maybe this isn’t just an issue of women and men, it’s about all of us modifying our behavior so it’s acceptable to others in this bizarroworld where we stare at a screen all day in order to afford food and shelter.

      1. DipPlated*

        Yes! I posted above, but echo your statements with this — OP 1, if you think you may be distracting your coworkers, think about all the possible distractions they may be facing. Maybe loud shoes aren’t the worst offender (Yelly phone man, I’m lookin’ at you!), but if everyone took just a few minutes to think about how they could help make the work environment better for those around them, we’d all be better off. I thank you and respect you for thinking of the impact your noise may have on others.

    8. Roscoe*

      That isn’t great advice for the workplace. If you are doing something that is possibly bothering or distracting co-workers, you should be considerate of them.

    9. PB & Mayo*

      I’m a guy and I definitely have thought about how loud my nice dress shoes are. They have a hard heal and click click click when I’m walking on other than carpet. That’s why I have another pair of less fancy dress shoes with rubber soles that I wear most of the time. So yeah, I have thought about it but just never posted a letter to an advice site about it. Glad you know what crosses men’s minds though!

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        YES! Some men’s dress shoes are super loud.
        My mom told me about living in a small apartment complex when she and my dad were first married and how the neighbors would get mad at both of them for wearing clogs and it being so loud. “But what were we to do, it was the style?” I just loved her explanation.

    10. CheeryO*

      Yeah, I have to imagine that LW is a woman worrying about the clack of the heel on her booties. Those are normal office sounds, just like the clack of high heels would be a normal sound in a more formal office. People look up because they hear noise and see movement – it’s a natural instinct. As long as you’re just walking by and not elaborately tap-dancing in front of them, there’s really nothing to worry about.

    11. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While we don’t know for sure if the letter writer is female, I thought something similar. When working in an office, you’re going to come into contact with people who do small annoying things. And sometimes you need to just let things go and figure out how to deal with it to get your work done. Wear the damn shoes! As long as you’re not tap dancing down the hallway, there’s no reason to change your wardrobe.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For what it’s worth, cowboy boots have a low heel, and are definitely worn by men.

      1. Amy Sly*

        They’re also (as I mentioned above) often prescribed for men suffering from plantar fasciitis and as such may be the most comfortable footwear a man owns.

      2. Yorick*

        But would they describe them as having a low heel? The letter sounded like a woman to me too, although I do think men and women should consider whether they’re unnecessarily bothering coworkers.

        1. Clorinda*

          Sure–if a guy has two pairs of boots with different heels, there’s the low heel and the higher heel.

        2. wordswords*

          Also, if they’re not specifying gender, either deliberately or just because it doesn’t seem relevant to the question for them, then it’s a useful descriptor. They’re boots and they have a heel, but it’s not a very high one — that’s useful knowledge for picturing the shoes in question without the need for a lot of specifics.

    13. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I did think something similar, yes.

      Also, it’s not even all women who think that. Don’t know if there’s a correlation, but we had several who made it to leadership positions and who seemed permanently unaware of other people existing and trying to work in the office. I’m talking loud impromptu hallway meetings in a space where a dozen people is sitting and trying to concentrate on their work or to listen to the phone meetings they are on, this kind of thing. I’ve never even been able to pay attention to how loud people’s heels sound when they walk, because you can barely hear that with all the other disruptive stuff going on. And it does appear like, the less considerate these people are of others, the easier it is for them to move up the ladder. Also, honestly, I suspect that the smaller and quieter and less noticeable the conscientious coworkers like OP make themselves, the lower the odds of *them* moving up the ladder. Not saying that OP should start having loud, important-sounding conversations where everyone can hear them, but I’m definitely on the team “wear the damn boots”.

    14. Dragoning*

      Or, well, men could think about it more. “How loud am I in this workplace and am I distracting people” is something more people could do to think abut, imo. It’s not always “women are doing something wrong” here.

      1. Cookie Captain*

        It wasn’t shoes, but a male coworker (at a very informal job) sometimes wore those nylon/polyester exercise pants, which can be surprisingly noisy depending on how you walk.

        He did ask if they were too loud, probably because someone greeted him with “what’s up, Swishpants?”

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

      I’ve met quite a few very large men who have strived their entire lives to be less obtrusive. They probably are less apt to talk about though since women seem to be socialized to share their feelings more.

  7. Fellow Boot Fancier*

    OP#1: As another person who owns more pairs of boots than any other footwear, I have found that a good shoe repair artesian can tack on a very thin rubber layer to the soles of your boots, so it would decrease noise and also offer you some safety on that concrete with extra grip. I get my favorite boots (including my beloved leather stilettos) resoled rather than trying to find new ones that fit right. The stilettos have had the part under the ball of the foot redone twice and the heels four times, my oldest work boots have had the soles completely redone four times and hopefully going for a fifth by spring if I can keep the leather happy. Ask around for a good artesian and see what they say & suggest. You may even find that the rubber makes your boots even more comfortable due to the reduced concussion on that hard concrete. Good luck!

    1. Fellow Boot Fancier*

      Forgot to add, my dance boots however do not get rubber soles as I need them slippery and sometimes use the noise they make to accent the music! (I have a friend who plays a mean Devil Went Down to Georgia on the fiddle and we have a blast with our ‘duet’ ;-) )

      1. yala*

        That sounds awesome!

        lol, also needing slippery soles reminds me of Swing Dance club in college. All most of us had were our converse, and half the time the only room we had had either a carpet floor or a kind of sticky linoleum, so club usually started with us putting masking tape along the soles of our shoes–we used the tape as part of our logo one year!

    2. Mary*

      I get rubber soles put on a lot of my nice leather-soled/hard-heeled boots because it makes them warmer too. An extra layer of insulation on cold damp days!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I did a quick google search and this seems to be the advice that comes up a lot. If you can’t find a cobbler/shoe repair person in your area, OP, you might ask at a dry cleaner if they can recommend someone. People who repair shoes often do handbags, briefcases and what not, so the dry cleaner might be well aware of where to send folks.

      Oddly, another good idea I saw was shoe inserts. I am thinking the idea must be that the shoe is very, very slightly loose on the foot which causes it to click while walking. If this makes sense from what you see this would definitely be cheaper than a repair person.

  8. university minion*

    #2 – Many departments at my university that deal with any sort of privileged info (Psychology research labs, Title IX, Dean of Students, Counseling Center, etc, etc) have white noise machines just outside the door of any space where conversations might be sensitive. They’re ubiquitous around campus and as far as I can tell, effective.

    1. No Name Yet*

      Yes, I’ve done therapy in a dozen different settings, and unless it was a medical inpatient ward (where it just wouldn’t be realistic), every room I was in had a white noise machine. I mean, from OP#2’s description above, there are a LOT more problems than just this, but it may be a cheap/easy place to start.

    2. Yvette*

      “…white noise machines just outside the door…” She would probably “trip” over the cord and unplug it. :) I vote for inside the door. Great idea BTW.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          My previous therapist had a cordless one that was… I guess alarmed is the best word? It would make a about-conversation-loudness tone that ramped up into a deafening tone if knocked over, picked up, or otherwise moved. It was also put right outside the door and I tripped over it a lot. Oops.

    3. Oryx*

      My therapist’s office is set up where the rooms all feed directly into the narrow waiting area and they use the white noise machines, too.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Yep, my husband works at a college counseling center and they all have white noise machines for exactly this reason.

  9. Language Lover*

    OP #2

    I can’t be the only one who watched too much Murder She Wrote or Colombo and jumped to a “gotchya” trap solution, right?

    1) Make a recording of yourself talking, presenting or perhaps even a conversation with someone else, not necessarily from work.. Make it a decent length.
    2) Tell the admin that a senior manager might be dropping by later in the day so if they see your door closed, they should not interrupt.
    3) Wait until your admin goes to lunch or the bathroom, press play on your recorded conversation or presentation and leave your office. Close your door.
    4) After you’re sure they’re back, walk up quietly to see if you catch them lingering at your door. If they’re there, you’ve caught them. If not, you can simply tell them that you’re reviewing a presentation you gave.

    So probably not professional but if it’s good enough for Jessica Fletcher…

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Oh, absolutely my mind went there as well! If the employee is eavesdropping when the OP returns, the only acceptable course of action is to come up very quietly behind her and startle her with, “Can I help you?!”

      1. valentine*

        There’s no need for theatrics. No one needs to catch her doing it during a meeting. OP2 could have said something as early as the first incident.

      2. hermit crab*

        Ha! Definitely don’t do this in real life, but I’m picturing a David S. Pumpkins scenario: ANY QUESTIONS? :)

    2. Betty*

      Or, to let her know that you have a high-level super-secret phone conversation at a certain time and loudly discuss some false but juicy gossip (something innocuous but spreadable, like that they’re having the office interior redesigned by Karl Lagerfeld and you have to organise his secret recce next week). If the gossip spreads? She’s eavesdropping, you obviously act confused about why anyone would think that was happening while looking pointedly at her. SUCH FUN.

      I think the real solution is first just to let her know you know she’s there and it’s weird. It MAY be that she wants something but doesn’t know if she can interrupt, so asking “Did you need me…?” and giving her guidance on what to do if she feels she does need to interrupt a closed door meeting (and when that would and wouldn’t be appropriate) will sort out the problem if it is innocuous and give her the opportunity to save face if it isn’t and stop by herself.

      But the gossiping described in OP2’s comment above sounds like it would potentially be enough to have a Serious Talk anyway, which may also have the side effect of stopping the hovering.

  10. Batgirl*

    OP1, I have an insanely comfortable pair of low block heels which my neighbouring teacher says makes me “sound like an Ofsted inspector”. I hadn’t realised I was making her feel hunted.

    OP2, I would be unable to resist messing with a rogue spy by dropping some false intel on her. Good job resisting the urge.

    1. Auntie Social*

      A nanny cam in a fake plant or picture frame would be worth doing, too. I’d like to see her face when she’s presented with video after she has denied it.

    2. embertine*

      As someone dating a teacher, I am amused by the idea that Ofsted inspectors clip-clop their way around schools like some kind of booted Dementors – instead of an unearthly chill, you may be warned of their approach by the sound of their footwear.

  11. Allonge*

    LW2 – beyond Alison’s advice for the longer talk, I would maybe also mention that this is one of those situations where the possible look of improper behavior is sufficient to trigger all kinds of alarms – it’s not enough to act right, you (she) have to be seen to act right. In other words, don’t look like you are eavesdropping, even if you are not.

    From your comments, it seems that there is probably something going on with her for reals, but this is also a way to give her a face-saving opportunity while delivering the actual message.

    That said, if you feel this would weaken the actual message, just go with Alison’s text.

  12. raincoaster*

    A decent shoe repair shop can add Cats Paws to the soles of the boots. They’re meant to add traction, but they cut down on clacking as well.

  13. BonnieVoyage*

    I’m kind of wondering if OP1 is someone I work with, lol. I have a colleague who wears the same pair of block high heels every day and the noise they make is unbelievable. It doesn’t help that we work in Annoying Noise Ground Zero (huge echoey space, hard floors, high ceilings, zero soft surfaces), and it’s so loud and clattery that when she’s walking by it can be hard to hear other people talk. I know that it’s not just me who has this problem because I’ve heard my colleagues joke about her “stomping around” and say things like “sorry, can you say that again, I couldn’t hear you over Jane’s shoes” (genuine quote). This is mostly an issue with our incredibly noise-amplifying shared workspace rather than her, but her shoes really do make the most noise by far of anyone in the building and it’s super distracting. Do I have the right to say anything about this?

    1. valentine*

      Do I have the right to say anything about this?
      Yes. Please lead by example and tell her the space just isn’t compatible and would she quiet her shoes or wear different ones.

      1. Ms annoyed with this thread*

        I’m sorry for where you work, my end, the employer would be asked questions about a workplace environment that wasn’t conducive to all employees there. (ie. they wouldn’t expect employees to change their footwear, they’d be looking at the acoustics in the workplace as that is the responsibility of the employer not the employees)

        If you want to lead by example, ask why your employers are making you work in acoustically challenging places and ask why they aren’t providing an environment that works for all. Workplace noise is totally annoying. But asking the people who work there to fix it rather than the employers who provide the environment is bizarre. Sure, if it’s a small business that can’t afford proper acoustic baffling that’s one thing. But even so, it’s incumbent on the employer to find a good path, not on employees. In a good workplace, they will totally work with the employees to fix it, but this really doesn’t seem to be the case here.

        I’ve worked in laboratories and none of them were cement (mostly some sort of lino or lino substitute actually cos if you have a chemical spill on straight cement, you have to rip up the cement instead of just ripping up the lino or pretend wood floor. )

        1. PB*

          It’s often easier for an employee to change their shoes than for an employer to redesign an office. If the entire office is so live that every noise is amplified, then maybe it would make sense for the employer to look into solutions, but if the problem is that one person sometimes wears shoes with a loud heal, then the solution isn’t to ask the employer to install baffling.

        2. Sylvan*

          Trying to work with the space you have by being slightly quieter instead of asking for new floors and a new layout makes more sense to me.

        3. JSPA*

          It’s a “both / and” not an “either / or.” There’s no given right to wear your favorite ANYTHING at work, if it’s not compatible with the current workplace.

        4. Mel_05*

          Really? Where do you work that would *change the office* so people can wear whatever shoes they want?

          I’ve never worked anywhere that had that kind of budget.

        5. Jules the 3rd*

          Concrete / hard floors in open working spaces is a really unwise choice, and the company should look into fixing that, yes. If you’re going to skimp by going open plan, then you need to spend some of that money mitigating the problems of open plan. It won’t help with just one set of hard heels, it will help reduce ambient noise and stress for everyone.

          I haven’t sold my employers on tapestries for the call center pillars and walls yet, but I’m still trying. I mean, posters are pretty, sure, but why not combine form and function?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My workspace is an echo chamber. We covered the floor with wall-to-wall carpet and we hung up too many drapes. Two panels, one on each side of the windows would have been enough for looks, but we went with two panels on each side (four panels per window) and stretched the curtain pole out so the panels could be stretched out.

      I would guess, just by ear alone, we reduced the echo and room noise by about 60% with those two actions. I can say the echo is not driving us nuts any more. People who are in the room for shorter periods of time (an hour or so) do not notice the echoing at all.

    3. CheeryO*

      You can always say something, but you don’t have much standing as you would if you were her boss. Do you have the same urge to push back on all annoying sounds, though? I’m sure you have an office That Guy who’s super loud on the phone – I’d be rolling my eyes if someone complained about my shoes and not about stuff like that. Sounds like your employer needs to do some improvements to the office sound dampening.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes. You’re going to come into contact with people who do things that annoy you, and sometimes you just have to learn to deal with it in your own way. I was a temp once and it was an open space. The girl next to me told me I was typing too loud. The problem wasn’t me, it was the keyboard. So instead of getting me a different keyboard, they let me go.

        If Joe is having loud conversations outside of your cube, and you can’t concentrate that’s a problem. If Jane is playing music in her cube without using headphones that’s a problem. But this is not a problem.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Since other people have definitely noticed it, I would first test the water by asking someone whether anyone has ever asked her about her shoes already and how that went. If you do decide to say something, I would say something along the lines of “Jane, have you ever thought about putting one of those sole pads on your shoes so they aren’t as noisy?”

      It might also be a combination of her shoes and the way she walks. I stride. Even rubber soled shoes on carpet make noise bc of how I walk. I don’t notice it until I walk into a hard floored place with hard soled shoes and everybody looks up as I walk in. You can’t really ask her to walk differently, though. If she is a strider, it could be that her shoes aren’t as noisy as you think, and changing them won’t help much.

  14. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Rubber soles, OP1! In the UK you can buy self-stick ones from shoe repair shops like Timpson – I’m sure they’re similarly on sale where you are, or any shoe repair shop will be able to affix them.

  15. TimeTravlR*

    IDK…. are loud boot heels worse than flip flops, which are considerably quieter? I think I’d take the boot noise over the flip flop flip flop flip flop of sandals…

      1. TimeTravlR*

        People wear I work do it all summer! I personally *rarely* wear flip flops and the noise they make is the biggest reason. I never ever wear them to work though.

      2. ellex42*

        A surprising number of people wear flipflops to work – even to white collar offices. You get the same sound with “slides” – shoes that look formal but have no heel, so wearers end up making a “thwap thwap” noise everywhere they walk.

        It’s excruciating for some misophonia sufferers.

        1. a heather*

          I bought a pair of platform sandals once that only had something wrapped around the foot at the front. I wore them to work and it wasn’t until I did that I noticed that they made a “thwump thwump” noise, flip flops x 1000, every time I walked around. I never wore them again.

      3. Mel_05*

        I used to ALL the time. We were super casual. Then my flip flops got banned so we could be more professional. But, I would sometimes forget and wear them and now one said anything.

        I don’t think I would do it now, even though I’m working for another very casual company, but my coworkers do. It’s how I knew I would be happy hear. I saw a girl in flip flops and jeans and sighed with relief that my days of dressing up were done!

      4. Arts Akimbo*

        In the early 2000s they were extremely fashionable and people would wear them at my workplace a lot. Pretty bejeweled leather ones, I thought they were very pretty. Hate them on my feet and would never wear them, but didn’t mind other people doing it. My workplace was carpeted, though.

      5. Robin*

        I worked with people who wore strapless slip on shoes (I see from the comment below those are slides. I prefer a good tie on shoe myself.) They make the same flapity, flap sound against their feet that flip-flops make. Used to drive me nuts to hear them wonder around the office.

      1. ellex42*

        Ha! Don’t complain that you get shocked every time you touch the filing cabinets if you won’t stop shuffling your feet! Another great reason not to wear slides.

    1. DontBlameTheFlops*

      I am constantly in flip flops — I live in the desert and work from home — and I walk as soundlessly as a kitty cat, or at least as soundlessly as my clompy adolescent cats :) Decent-quality flip flops that fit don’t need to make noise.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      The sound that annoys me most is thankfully imaginary, but it can be best described as “spider wearing flip flops.”

  16. No Mercy Percy*

    “your coworkers would probably appreciate it if they weren’t your *sole* choice of footwear.”

    Well played, Alison!

  17. Broomhilde*

    OP1 – I feel you, I usually wear heels and my walk is crisp, so it’s somewhat loud. However, it works to my advantage – I work in an office, but in a workplace in which disabled people are cared for. It is necessary for me to move around a lot in this building, so people hear me coming. The general reaction by colleagues is ‘Great, I can ask Broomhilde stuff/give her stuff’, while blind and heavily austitic clients actually get agitated if I wear more silent shoes, as they are used to the clicking sound.

    But that’s just my workplace. You know best if your shoes are a distraction or are actually a servicable announcement of your imminent arrival. Perhaps this is a good thing, as they know they can catch you right now, but perhaps it is a distraction. Only your colleagues know.

    1. M*

      I appreciate that you notice when your shoes help out clients! But, as an autistic adult I would encourage you to not call people “heavily autistic” since, what is “lightly autistic”? For whatever reason (only the folks for who this is true could tell you what that reason is) they prefer your loud shoes. Maybe it’s the routine of it maybe it’s a sensory thing. Maybe something else. But it isn’t a universal autistic trait and it isn’t because they are some “level” of autistic. Especially if you’re working with people who might not speak or might not speak all the time, for example, I hope you are always thinking about what it might feel like to hear the things you say. For all kinds of reasons I’ve been in situations where people talk about me as if I cannot understand. I can understand, and, when others assume incompetence it is always a dehumanizing experience. Check out the blog of the Autistic Women’s and Nonbinary Network to get some names of autistic authors/bloggers.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Seconding M here! I don’t describe myself as “mildly autistic,” “lightly autistic,” “high-functioning,” or god forbid “person afflicted with autism.” I’m just autistic. I can’t think of a single one of those labels that would be genuinely useful in helping me get around in life. For example, I can go to college and graduate on time with A’s and B’s taking 17 credits a semester (don’t do this), so that’s high-functioning, right? But I have automatic meltdowns if I hear microphone feedback and even after years of social skills therapy I still can’t make friends, and no one would call that light or mild autism. Autism is one path that the human brain can develop along, and comes with an assortment of traits that autistic people can have. Neither being autistic nor those specific traits are any indicator of the functioning or the value of the person.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          A clarification, since I re-read this and realized that “can’t make friends” sounds really awful and I don’t want people commenting on it. I do not have the social capacity to perform on a level that is conducive to the creation and maintenance of in-person friendships. I have lots of online friends that I do not have to make eye contact with or eat food with or go to public spaces with, and that fulfills my personal needs for companionship and social interaction.

        2. Close Bracket*

          The variety of ways that spectrum people describe themselves is as great as the variety of traits that spectrum people exhibit! I describe myself as mildly autistic. Tbh, even though I have been diagnosed, I question whether I actually meet the diagnostic criteria or might be sub-clinical (I was there during the diagnosis, nobody reading this was, take my word for it). I’d call that mild! Any reading into that of presumed value of my person is entirely on the reader.

          1. M*

            Oh definitely people describe themselves in multiple ways and I’m never going to say that you should not use language that feels comfortable and true for you, and I agree that if somebody has described the language they like for themselves, that language should be respected.

            I do think that it is important for non-autistic people to be cognizant of how they are speaking about autistics and how the words they use (might) be reinforcing unhelpful ideas about presumed competence or incompetence.

      2. Broomhilde*

        English is not my native language. Usually, I would say something like ‘on the spectrum’, and I should have done it in this case as well. Sorry, this was a slip of the tongue and it was insensitive.

        The clients I am referring to communicate in their own way and I stop in my tracks to say hello when I can. I am only hired and schooled in administrative work, so I keep out of the social care/medical aspect of the work and just try to treat the clients with humanity and politeness, which I think is my duty. There were specific instances in which clients in one way or the other expressed their preferrence to loud shoes in regards to my person or were annoyed/agitated when it was not the case, which I found curious.

        It goes without saying that every person on the spectrum is unique. I don’t assume otherwise and went with the experiences I have made.

  18. NerdyPrettyThings*

    One thought and one story for #2:
    This person can’t be getting too much valuable info from these conversations if she can’t hear well enough to be able to tell when your meeting is wrapping up and she needs to scoot.
    The story: My first job out of college was as the office manager at a small dental office. The dentist’s wife, who was an accountant, visited once a month to do the books. My predecessor while training me mentioned that during the November visit, it was expected that the person in my role would eavesdrop, because they would be discussing Christmas bonuses. She implied that to keep peace with the other two employees, I would be expected to get and share this info, and failure to do so would be enough of a letdown that those relationships would be in jeopardy. I only worked there one year, but needless to say, Christmas bonuses were a surprise that year!

    1. Lily*

      That story sounds like such a waste of eavesdropping. Knowing earlier about christmas bonuses isn’t even actionable knowledge. In case of, say, impending layoffs I’d understand wanting to know earlier. It wouldn’t exactly be advisable but somewhat understandable to eavesdrop in that case. But christmas bonuses? Way to waste time, energy and potential.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Just like Clark Griswold, people will spend their bonuses before they actually have them…

        1. NerdyPrettyThings*

          That is exactly what it was. The dentist didn’t give bonuses out until December 23, so the employees would do their Christmas shopping on credit cards and pay it off with the bonus.

          1. WellRed*

            Fortunately, last year I waited for my token $100 cash bonus to do the little bit of shopping I have. We…got pasta sauce. And pasta.

            1. Blue Eagle*

              Just received this year’s Christmas bonus. Took it to Whole Foods for their 50% off “12 days of cheese” promotion. It’s a great deal to receive 50% off 12 different expensive cheeses. Yesterday was the excellent goat cheese and today is a very nice gruyere. The bonus is allowing us to buy cheese that would otherwise not be in our budget. JOY!

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I mean, I’d rather have 50% cheese than my current workplace’s end-of-year bonus, which is nothing. Except for that one time they let us wear jeans on New Year’s Eve…

                1. Free Meerkats*


                  I’ve heard of that mythical creature. Never seen one in person, though. Of course, I’ve worked in government since graduating from high school.

  19. Engi-nerd*

    Hey OP#1, I had this same concern when I bought new boots! I had a local cobbler/shoe repairman add a rubber layer to the sole of the shoe. It was only $15, but it made my boots significantly quieter, and will extend the life of the shoes in general. Maybe that’s an option for you?

  20. Tinker Angel*

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned but OP1 could just have a distinctive foot fall. We had a CFO that had that and I could tell it was her coming virtually every time. Our office is fully carpeted.

  21. Roscoe*

    #1 Let me just say if you think they MIGHT be too loud, they probably definitely ARE too loud. Its like if you are living in an apartment and having a party. Once you have to question your volume, you are probably already annoying your neighbors.

    I have 2 people in my office who wear the loudest shoes possible. One is the CEO, the other just someone on my level. Of course I can’t say anything since the CEO is the worst offender. By my god is it annoying. I guess the only good thing is that I know if she is coming lol. But, this isn’t just a thing like a creaky heater, because you are making the conscious choice to be distracting, its not some random old building noise. Please consider different shoes

  22. CupcakeCounter*

    I have many pairs of loud shoes due to some serious foot issues. All are low, chunky heel or flat but many have wooden heels which are very loud but made for my foot issues. The majority of my current office is carpet but there is a stretch of tile from the bottom of the stairs to the break room. I have a straight line view from the stairs to the receptionist and any people waiting for meeting rooms or guests. All look up at my second step. I smile and wave since I am not going to cause further damage to my feet by wearing the wrong shoes and the loud shoes are what my podiatrist recommended.

  23. Bopper*

    Boots: Humans have evolved to look for motion (predators!) so most likely it is you walking by that causes them to look up. I would try the quieter shoe experiment though to see what happens.

    Eavesdropper: It could be spying, but does your employee have a hard time tracking you down/getting to talk to you/getting you to sign things? I had a boss who would not sign documents emailed to him, so we resorted to watching his Skype for Business to see if his status showed him free or getting a nearby colleague to alert us when he was at his desk so we could run over with a PAPER copy and get it signed.

  24. ellex42*

    Coworker who is around 6′ (without the heels) probably weighs about 50 lbs less than me. She has very heavy stride and likes to wear chunky heels. I can hear her coming from 50+ feet away with a wall between us. One day she wore lightweight canvas sneakers, and I could still hear her coming down the hallway.

    While I prefer flat shoes with rubber soles, I used to wear chunky heels on occasion, and at one workplace, realized that even though I have a very light step (thanks for the ballet lessons, mom and dad), I was actually shaking the floor – not due to my weight (I, too, was around 50 lbs lighter then!), but because I was walking on thin industrial carpet over old, uneven flooring.

    So it could be the shoes, it could be the floors, and it could be the way OP walks. A heavy stride can cause foot and joint problems later on, so OP might want to exercise some observation about how she walks, as well as pondering a change of footwear.

  25. Mainely Professional*

    LW 3: When you’re applying for a job at a place where your employee’s spouse works the letter you write to Alison is how to prevent people at your current position from finding out you’re looking/what to do if you see this guy there, etc.
    Not how to pressure your employee into helping you get a new job.

    Also a word about feet and getting them in doors when they are not-the-hiring-manager-but-work-there type: it’s never, ever gotten me anywhere, and it’s never gotten anyone anywhere with me when I’m doing the hiring. Nothing below “I know this person and we’ve worked together before and they’re qualified” gets you much of anywhere in terms of feet in doors. And in that case, you’re usually a shoo-in. So just apply, and good luck.

    1. Smithy*

      In nonprofits – I do think it’s wildly varies on the size of the organization as well as what department someone works in. Having connections with someone on the HR team can certainly go further than if you someone in Finance are looking at Advocacy jobs.

      That being said – definitely don’t do this. There’s no way for it to not be pressuring the employee, sharing your job hunting news with your subordinates, as well as potentially having a very weak foot in the door.

      Had the OP wrote in going, one of my direct report’s husband works for an org I think is awesome – is there a way for me to grow that relationship to learn more about what it’s really like to work there and whether jobs might open? Depending on the office and kind of relationships people have with coworkers spouses – I don’t think it’s impossible. But it’d be far more fact finding around whether a place is an overall good workplace and if it looks like the org is growing/hiring a lot.

  26. Lily Rowan*

    #3, I’d think you’d want the exact opposite approach — you apply for the job, if it goes well and you run across your employee’s husband during the process, you should ask him not to mention anything to his spouse! It’s a terrible idea for a job search to be public in early stages, for so many reasons.

  27. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Are my boots too loud for work?
    FYI, a cobbler may be able to help, by putting on a softer sole.

  28. Schnapps*

    OP1, it’s often the heels that clack. Even if the front part of the sole has rubber on it, the backs are often plastic. You can take them to a cobbler and get lifts on the heels replaced with rubber – this reduces the chance of slipping as well.

  29. QuinleyThorne*

    OP #1 – Fellow boot-lover here! I have a similar pair of boots (low, chunky heel) that I wear almost every day, and I noticed the same thing, and our floor is carpet! No one ever said anything to me about it being loud or disruptive, but the office I work in has a lot of ambient noise in general (people on the phone with customers, customers being assisted in the office, loud copier, etc), but when the office is slow, the sound of my boots seemed way more noticeable. I switched to a pair of heels (still chunky, but a much lighter shoe), and while it wasn’t the STOMP STOMP STOMP noise, it was still a little loud, so I switched to flats.

    Same noise.

    Turns out, I just have a gait that’s conducive to uh…”making my presence known,” regardless of footwear, I guess. That said, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I imagine if the noise is that much of a distraction (if it is at all) someone would say something.

  30. Proud and Loud Shoed*

    This is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with a response. OP1 – wear your boots! My office floor is also cement, and my boots, heels, and even wooden heeled loafers always make noise. But, I look extremely professional and represent my company well. I’m not amending my shoe choices because of the floor choice. I guarantee most other people who wear “loud” shoes would not even notice people looking up, nor consider that they should change their footwear because of it. I’ll go even further out on a limb with this rant and assume you are a woman. We have been trying to make ourselves smaller and quieter for decades. For this one thing, these shoes you love, please do not worry or try to make yourself quieter. Keep being a wonderful employee, do great work, and wear those shoes with your head held high.

    1. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

      You took the words right out of my mouth! When I first started my office job right out of college, I was also self-conscious about making any noise –shoes clacking, eating crunchy foods at my desk, etc. But then I had a similar epiphany — I shouldn’t feel bad for existing in an office space and making natural noise doing so. OP 1, keep wearing the shoes you like!

  31. Audrey Puffins*

    OP1, I WISH my co-workers wore noisy boots. Since my office moved to the ground floor, I simply cannot hear certain of my co-workers approach, and it scares the life out of me every time I notice they’ve silently appeared mere inches away.

  32. JJJJBBB*

    Get a white noise machine to thwart the eavesdropper. Place it just inside the door during meetings.

    I agree that she needs to be caught, but this will eliminate the problem of her hearing anything and force her to stop.

  33. Three owls in a trench coat*

    I was going to suggest one of those motion-activated singing/dancing holiday decorations placed outside OP#2’s door, but the white noise machine is more office appropriate.

    1. we're basically gods*

      I am delighted by how many zany Home Alone style traps the comments have been coming up with today! All horribly impractical, many illegal, but all fun for idle daydreaming…

      1. Three owls in a trench coat*

        ’tis the season! And with the day I’m having I need all the laughs and imaginary hijinks I can get.

    2. university minion*

      *Orders parts to wire together a Big Mouth Billy Bass, a motion detector and a white noise machine. *

  34. CaptainCaveMan*

    @OP2- I’d be so tempted to place a tiny spy cam outside your office to see if it’s happening. It’s probably illegal in some way shape or form but a former colleague did it to see if someone was stealing her pens (shes a graphic artist so they were $20 pens in a $150 set). She didn’t show anyone the video, just used it to confirm that she wasn’t going nuts and began locking up her materials every night. FYI- Every project had specific supplies that were only used for that project so it was a bit of a pain to do this, just in case anyone was thinking that she could just shove everything in a drawer from the get-go.

    You might want to do this just so you know that it’s really happening and not your imagination and then, when a meeting has started, get up, open the door and directly ask that person if they need anything. And since eavesdropping is actually a definite action that puts their integrity to question, you might ask your building facilities to aim security cams at your door for a while and see if you can spot that person at your door right when an important meeting is ongoing versus, say, when it’s lower level colleagues.

  35. casinoLF*

    I am an admin and it is so normal for me to hover when I know a meeting is wrapping up and I need to relay a message or hurry someone away, just saying.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Sure — but it sounds like the OP, who manages her, is not expecting her to be there, and she’s not producing an explanation for what she’s doing there. I think Alison’s advice to ask something like “Were you waiting for me, or…?” is good for this reason — it allows for the answer to be “Actually, yes, I need to ask you about X/tell you that Y called/make sure you’re on time for Z,” if that’s the case and it’s just a matter of weird miscommunication, but also conveys that she shouldn’t be hovering there unless there is a good reason.

Comments are closed.