update: how do I work with someone I can’t stand?

It’s the last week of “where are you now?” time at Ask a Manager, where I run updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who couldn’t stand her coworker and had stopped speaking to her? Here’s the update.

I wish I could say that I performed some soul-searching, identified the old wound that led to my intense irritation over Karen’s behavior, and that we are now best friends and enjoy the occasional happy hour together. That’s not reality. I did take your advice and the advice of the commentariat seriously and questioned myself about the root of my reactions.

The fact stands, however, that Karen and I are on the opposite ends of whatever scale you want to measure us on. No matter what topic arises, we have totally opposite beliefs, reactions, hobbies, priorities, and world views. The severity of our differences has reached a point where it is almost comical. It is as if the universe designed her as my shadow self, with every feature of my personality reflected in a fun-house mirror. Couple this with intense, nonstop giggling, and the irritation persists.

The positive, however, is that while I have not been able to adjust my feelings toward her, I have been able to adjust my behavior. In your response, you reminded me that part of my job is to foster a positive workplace. As someone with perfectionist tendencies, this weighed on me. How could I consider myself a good employee if I was detracting from the workplace culture? So I started to treat Karen like an item on my “to do” list. I now make a point of greeting her and telling her to have a nice night when I leave. When she says something I view as ridiculous, I bite my tongue (sometimes very hard!) And when the opportunity feels natural, I’ll engage her in brief, workplace-related conversation.

Time has also been in my corner. I’m two years further into my career than when I wrote you last and have since moved into senior management. The added responsibility has not only forced me to mature in ways I didn’t expect, but it also has reinforced the importance of being in control of my emotional reactions.

None of this is probably the “come-to-Jesus” resolution that some commenters hoped for, but it has alleviated a massive amount of the tension in the office and I think everyone is happier for it.

{ 229 comments… read them below }

  1. Sharrbe*

    Honestly, this is a great outcome. You are judged by your behavior in the workplace (not your feelings that no one else but you has access to), so it’s a win.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      Yes, I think its as good as you can expect. Honestly, better because you have realized that your actions do not have to equal your feelings. Which, is a really important and valuable lesson.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Honestly, better because you have realized that your actions do not have to equal your feelings. Which, is a really important and valuable lesson.

        Yes, I clicked on comments to share this sentiment. I learned in my childhood, “I don’t control my thoughts or feelings, I only control my actions.”

        Still got blamed a lot by friends and family for how I felt, of course, and that continues to this day with some folks. Oh well.

        1. Leisel*

          I had a teacher in high school who had a motto that’s stuck by me my whole life, which is similar to your saying –
          “You can think whatever you want, but you can’t say everything you think.”

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Exactly. Just because you work with someone doesn’t mean you need to be besties or even friendly, but you do need to be civil and professional. I have RBF and zero poker face, so I have a hard time hiding my true feelings. I’ve even been told in the last few years that I have no poker voice either. It’s difficult, but something I need to improve and I totally get where OP is coming from.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Right. I worked for 3 years with someone I couldn’t stand, but was still polite to him.

    3. LQ*

      I agree. This is also not about a miriacle of everything is now perfect and lovely, but I’ve learned how to manage this still fairly ugly thing in a way that is more professional. It’s a really great update.

    4. Kyrielle*

      Yes! I think this is a better update than if you were now besties or something, OP. Instead of having an easy epiphany moment, you continue to not like/agree with her – but have learned to work professionally with her. In terms of you being happy all the time, sure, “magic besties” would be awesome. But…this? This is durable and, as you noted, transfers to other settings/situations.

      This is a situation that improved because you took ownership and worked on it. That’s a lot more awesome long-term then a lucky about-face would have been.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    I have a coworker who believes that cats steal your breath and that surgery causes cancer to spread (because they open you up and find cancer. She seems to be unable to grasp that the cancer was there first and just wasn’t literally visible until the surgery, etc.).

    So . . . yeah, I stick to workplace-related topics and the most absolutely mundane and uninteresting small talk. If she persists in trying to get an opinion out of me about something that sounds absurd, I tell her I don’t know anything about it or have never really thought about it and then suddenly need to go check on the printer or some other thing that removes me from her immediate vicinity for a few minutes, which usually breaks the conversation.

    1. senatormeathooks*

      I had a coworker sincerely believe that doctors are less likely to care for you in an emergency if you were an organ or tissue donor. We worked in that industry.

      Also, at another position, another coworker actually believed cats were evil. Like, not jokingly stated, actually believed that all cats should be put down. That was extremely upsetting, as I worked in cat rescue at the time.

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Whoa whoa wait a minute. You mean your *coworker* at a *cat rescue place* believed that all cats should be put down because they’re evil? Takes a lot of energy to spend 40 hours a week working against yourself.

        1. senatormeathooks*

          I’m sorry, I was not very clear on that last one. I meant to say that I *personally* worked in cat rescue at the time, along with another, unrelated job in which I had this person as a co-worker.

          1. kittymommy*

            I’m going to be honest, I would have a very hard time working with that person. Don’t like cats? Fine. Don’t want any or even support (just in name only) anyone helping them? Fine. Actively think they should all be killed because they’re “evil”? We’re probably going to end up having a problem.

            1. senatormeathooks*

              I most certainly did have a problem working with that person. Good thing that was a short-lived position.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I have to agree with your coworker CATS ARE EVIL, but I still wouldn’t trade my cat for anything in the world.

                1. OhNo*

                  As a cat person myself, this is always the thing I find funniest about cat people. We can all agree that cats are pesky, evil little monsters, but they’re our pesky, evil little monsters, and that makes all the difference.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              yeah, my coworker is afraid of cats but is content to just not be around them. She doesn’t advocate killing them. Thank goodness.

            3. annakarina1*

              Yeah, even an FB friend of mine who hates cats made a special exception for Lil’ Bub, and would never hurt anyone’s cat.

            4. The Original K.*

              I don’t even like cats and I have a problem with this because … obviously. Good grief. My disliking them roughly translates to “I really don’t want them around me.” Like, I’d never own one, but I’d also never HURT one.

          2. techRando*

            Oh thank goodness. I had some awful worries about what someone like that working in cat rescue could be doing.

        2. techRando*

          If it was a kill shelter than uh… they may not have felt that they were working against themselves?

      2. RC Rascal*

        How your co-worker likes mice, rats, and plague? Because that’s what you get without cats.

        I am firmly on Team Feline. Me-owww.

        1. Quill*

          Cats should be gently relocated out of areas where they pose a threat to local ecosystems (most of the outdoor areas in most of the world where they weren’t originally from) and into appropriate locations. (Human homes, grain warehouses where they can work as rodent removal…)

          1. The OG OOF*

            This would be a great solution in an ideal world, but it won’t work in the real world. There are millions of free-roaming cats in the country and no place to put that many. Many are unadoptable because they’re wild animals, not socialized to humans. And, we could never catch them all. A 129-sq-mile island once tried to eradicate all its free-roaming cats (so not just catching, also shooting and poisoning) and it took decades and tens of millions of dollars.

            1. Sharrbe*

              There really should be more of a movement to fix (and then release) free-roaming domestic cats, but in countries that can barely tend to human needss, that’s a tall order. I brought home a stray pregnant cat when I was young, and before it had finished weening the first litter, it was giving birth to a second. It was certainly a reality check.

              1. Quill*

                They’re a problem *because* they outcompete other small predators so well. Cat catching is understandably not a priority in places strapped for resources, but I’ve been to plenty of places where fix & release is a great big thing with a lot of drive behind it. The US might not be culturally down for it but in areas where it already goes on it does seem to be having an impact: the more cats that are sterilized mean that cats they haven’t managed to catch yet are in resource competition with the ones that have, and will hopefully find it harder to breed and have smaller litters overall.

                1. Res Admin*

                  TNR (trap-neuter-release) is very popular here (Florida). There is generally at least one free day a month where you can bring cats in. They clip the ears when they do it, so you don’t have to worry about taking them in more than once.

                  Releasing them back where they came from helps keep populations stable–fewer new cats joining a colony.

                  I am most certainly NOT ok with destroying living creatures just because you *think* they are evil…and I would have a difficult time being around someone so disrespectful of life.

                2. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I and several of my neighbors participate in TNR. In the past 5-7 years we’ve seen a *massive* decline in the number of ferals showing up at our feeding stations. And we’ve seen the old-timers stick around longer than they did before we started sterilizing every one we could catch. (As in, pre-TNR, the cat population turned over often enough that we barely had “regulars”. Post-TNR, we’ve got a dozen or so ferals who have been around long enough for us to name them).

                  Also, any cats who show up that are (a) not sexually mature yet or (b) halfway friendly get fostered and adopted to indoor-only homes. After being sterilized, of course.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I can handle a lot of opposing viewpoints in the workplace, but this one? I could not pretend to tolerate it, nor could I be more than cooly civil to the person saying such a thing.

        Seriously, this is beyond upsetting: it’s ignorant and cruel.

        1. Automated*

          Same. I had a bunch a coworkers who liked to joke about cat abuse and it was difficult not to engage. The first couple of times I spoke up kindly. “Aww what a terrible thing joke about. Cats are great pets and loving creatures. That only made the comments escalate. Eventually, after a concerted 6 weeks of effort ignoring them they finally quit.

          1. Observer*

            That’s at a different level.

            You don’t like cats? OK. Cats should be put down because they are evil? Not so ok, but we don’t need to talk about it and I don’t need to like you. Making jokes about abusing cats (or any other living creature)? Outside of some fairly narrow “black humor” exceptions, that makes you a pretty awful person. And in any case, you need to shut up.

            And if anyone has any doubt about the “awful human” piece, consider the fact that @Automated speaking up caused them to make more jokes – it’s all good fun to bother someone who doesn’t think just like you. NOT good people!

      4. Linzava*

        My mom told me that rumor about organ donors after I agreed on my license. It freaked me out at the time because I was young and still wanted to be an organ donor in case of the worst, but I believed her too. I didn’t feel comfortable calling the DMV and un-agreeing, it seemed like a terrible thing to do, so I just let it be.

        I clearly don’t believe that anymore as it makes no sense when you sit down and think about it. Also, cats and dogs are awesome!

      5. Sled dog mana*

        I work in cancer care, I once worked with a physician who firmly believed that smoking didn’t cause cancer, stopping smoking caused cancer because he had never had a patient with lung cancer who was still smoking. Never mind that some of the recently quit ones quit after diagnosis.
        People will believe whatever they want and sometimes all you can do is be happy you don’t have to be in their head, some of the mental gymnastics must be exhausting.

    2. Some clever pun*

      I’ve recently learned someone at my work is a moon landing denier. Never encountered one in the wild before, and I’m rapidly running out of subject changes.

      1. Commercial Property Manager*

        The best part of it is that it implies that the moon landing comes up in casual workplace conversation *so often* that you’ve had to pivot more than once! I’m sorry for laughing.

        Would you consider sharing more about this person and how these conversations come about? I have so many questions!

        1. PhyllisB*

          This reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon not too long ago. Wally stated that the moon landing was fake, other person challenged him and asked why he thought that. Wally said, “The flag was moving (waving.) in photos. I never thought of that.
          No, I don’t believe the moon landing is fake, but how could the flag wave? Does anyone know?

          1. Collette*

            It was wired because there’s no wind on the moon. If it hadn’t been wired to stick out, it would have just draped limply around the pole. When they pulled it out to hang it up, they didn’t bother to make it look pretty or flat. And if you look closely at the photographs, you can see the wrinkles in it, which you wouldn’t be able to see if the flag was blowing in the wind.

            Also, they can’t have it both ways: they can’t say that it was staged on a soundstage and ALSO that there was wind so it must be fake. Because there is also no wind on a soundstage unless you add it on purpose.

          2. Qwerty*

            There was an extendable arm at the top of the flag pole that was supposed to hold the flag out so it would look nice in pictures and so you could see that it was the American flag (otherwise it would have been limp and boring). The astronauts had trouble fully extending the arm, so it looks like it is rippling in the non existent wind.

            Google has more scientific explanations along with all the other things that didn’t go as planned.

          3. Emma the Strange*

            Mythbusters actually did an episode testing this, using a replica flag, synthetic moon dirt, and a vacuum chamber. IIRC, it came down to this: the astronauts had to twist the flag pole around to firmly plant it in the ground which caused the flag to move around in a manner that resembles waving. Since there’s no air on the moon to provide air resistance, the cloth actually moved more vigorously in vacuum than it would in atmosphere.

          4. Meghan*

            It was attached to a wavy crossbar at the top so that it wouldn’t dangle limply and disturb people. Like a curtain with a pocket for the rod instead of rings.

          5. PhyllisB*

            Thanks for all the replies!! I knew I could count on someone knowing the right answer. I had just never really thought about it until that cartoon, and it made me go hmm…
            Now if I ever meet “Wally”, I can explain to him how the flag “waved.”

        2. Some clever pun*

          It’s more that whenever you change the subject he will change it right back, ad infinitum. I don’t get the sense that he’s trying to wind anyone up by doing this, just that he really wants to talk about the thing. The moon landing one only came up once but he will bring up whatever *totally true and groundbreaking* thing he’s read in the tabloid headlines recently. This was the most egregious example recently and it made my mind boggle hard enough that I needed to share.

      2. Janey-Jane*

        But…how often can the moon landing organically come up?? Clearly more than in my daily life.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I had a coworker who was a concave earther. It was surprising how many excuses he found to bring it up.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Concave Earther? That’s a new one on me, but I’m almost afraid to Google it in case increase some looney website traffic.

            1. Marmaduke*

              Basically, from what I understand, he believes the surface of the earth is a giant divot in an immense flat surface, and Antarctica is the empty space at the top.

      3. Marthooh*

        Them: “Well, of course they faked the moon la-”
        You: “Did you know cats are evil? It’s true — they steal your breath!”

      4. Door Guy*

        My favorite response to that would be to say it was faked. They hired Stanley Kubrick to film and direct everything. He demanded they work on location because the sound stage wasn’t giving him the right feel.

        1. Bear Shark*

          I have a relative who believes that we did land on the moon, but that the footage was faked because the “real” footage wasn’t good enough. I just have to “bean dip” every time.

          1. Beaded Librarian*

            Actually some of the footage really was “fake”. On I think it was the second moon landing because they accidentally pointed the camera at the sun and burnt out the lens

            1. Beaded Librarian*

              Of course now I can’t find the information saying that. It just stuck with me as an a ha that’s why moon hoaxers are able to get so much traction. It was a reputable book about the astronauts that had the information I’m sure though.

    3. Pipe Organ Guy*

      A former coworker has turned out to be anti-vaccination. When I encounter her now, I stick to harmless topics. However, I have unfriended her on Facebook. Given my family history, I don’t need antivax people in my life.

    4. Robin Ellacott*

      I have a colleague who posts all kinds of bizarre things about aliens (the outer space kind) on social media. Happily she doesn’t bring it up at work much but some people are Facebook friends of hers and unfortunately it’s been the cause of some gossip and hilarity.

      I had (but no longer do) another one who was a proponent of that BIRDS AREN’T REAL thing. In that case I hadn’t heard of it and thought she was joking until I googled it… Birds Arent Real merchandise followed me around the internet for months.

      I just had to look away and get really interested in something else. I have literal bald eagles visible from my work patio so heaven knows what she made of that.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Wait, what? How can birds not be real? I’ve never heard of this in any context! Heading off to Google in a moment, because I really don’t get it.

          I mean, birds aren’t something we’ve seen on TV, like the moon landing. They co-exist with us. We’ve all seen them flying and perching on branches and hopping on the ground mere feet away! People keep them as pets–I’ve had a couple of budgies myself. I’ve touched and held birds. I gathered the eggs from my grandmother’s hens as a child and helped feed them. I’ve watched birds eat. I’ve seen chicks hatch. I’ve watched robins pull worms out of the ground. I’ve been hissed at by geese when I accidentally got to close to their babies. I’ve scrubbed bird poop off my windshield. Wtf. I’ve got to go look this up!

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Okay, I googled and all I found was parody-type stuff. Thank goodness! I was really baffled for a while there!

      1. Temperance*

        One of the women who used to work in my office (before my time, sadly) was on one of those shows about alien abductions. She apparently regularly spoke about her abduction at work.

        She also had something like 50 birds.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I don’t know what QAnoners is, but the Birds Aren’t Real history on the website is a crackup. It’s the cause of JFK’s assassination and the Vietnam War (I stopped reading after that).

          People have a lot of time on their hands…

          1. Ariaflame*

            I think that it’s the people that believe that there is someone sending cryptic information from a certain political location which they have as a consequence of a Q security rating (which only applies in one department anyway). Basically it’s a load of nonsense believed by the same sort of people that believe any sort of cryptic predictions if they think it matches their biases.

      2. Clisby*

        I see people post all kinds of bizarre stuff about their religious beliefs – aliens aren’t really a stretch.

      3. TardyTardis*

        That reminds me of the girls in front of us in a line at Disneyland who were convinced all the birds were animatronic…

          1. George Kittle*

            That’s why it bugs me, it’s casually sexist. There’s no equivalent to Karen like Ken, is there?

              1. CanadianPublicServant*

                I’ve only seen “Chad” used generically in incel discussions. Would not see that as equivalent to mainstream “Karen” usage.

  3. Chrome*

    I’ve got a coworker who doesn’t believe outer space exists (not a flat-earther, but that literally there is no such thing as ‘outside of earth’– the entirety of existence stops at the stratosphere). He’s a good worker and otherwise easy to get along with so while I find his belief system bizarre, I just avoid the subject. I’m fortunate in that, unlike OP’s coworker, he doesn’t really bring it up himself and doesn’t have any other difficult mannerisms. I have sympathy with OP and am impressed that they’ve managed to overcome their reaction to their coworker’s various character quirks.

    1. Leela*

      My mother raised me telling me that outer space didn’t exist! (Very odd Christian ideas that put off most other Christians was the norm for that side of the family) I’ve never heard anyone else bring it up and didn’t know that it was A Thing outside of my mom

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I am very curious what the people who don’t believe in outer space think about why NASA exists.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          For the coverups, duh!

          Something something deep state illuminati blah blah jade helm blah blah FEMA blah blah

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            You forgot BIG PHARMA!!! The biggest coverup of all. They all just want us to be sick so we keep buying meds, DUH!

            1. Autumnheart*

              An ex of mine believed that junk. He tried to tell me that chemotherapy was just a scam and that you could cure cancer by eating certain combinations of fresh produce. He even gave me a URL about the whole theory, and wouldn’t listen to me patiently trying to explain how to vet a source for credibility. I wish I could say we were young, but no, this was only a few years ago and both of us are in our 40s. That was pretty much the beginning of the end of that relationship. I can put up with some things, but I can’t put up with stupid.

              1. PB*

                My mother-in-law claims that she cured her cancer with herbs. She also had a hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation, but she still believes it was the herbs…

                1. 'Tis Me*

                  So long as she took the herbs with her doctors’ knowledge (some can interact with conventional medicine) *and also received proper medical treatment, and would advise others to also get it in similar circumstances* then great: she feels that there was something she could actively do to take control of her health. That can legitimately help.

                  I read a really sad story a month or two ago about a woman who had face cancer detected early, was given a good prognosis – and instead of taking up the doctor’s advice, found some wacky magical cure online that literally rotted through her face. She died, with her Internet search history showing that the day before her online “friends” from the forum she found were assuring her that it was working the way it was supposed to and she should keep on with the “treatment” – given that encouraging people to kill themselves can result in being prosecuted as murder/manslaughter, I really do think that that should be too.

              2. Impy*

                See I hate stuff like that. If you want to believe birds are a government conspiracy, fine. You aren’t hurting anyone. But these ‘juices cure cancer’ and ‘vaccinations are evil’ believers kill people.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Conspiracy theory? I know enough people who think the moon landing was faked and that vaccines cause diseases to think it’s not that big a leap to NASA being part of a big government hoodwink.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            See that was also my thought, I just can’t fathom what the purpose would be in deceiving people about outer space. At least the moon landing and vaccine conspiracies have some semblance of sense, however ludicrous (moon landing was faked so we could dominate Russia, Big Pharma wants us all sick so we keep giving them money).

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I can’t, either, but it’s not as thought absence of logic has ever stopped a conspiracy wonk.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            When dealing with conspiracy theorists, you just gotta go big. They tell you the moon landing was faked? You give them a condescending look and say, “Oh my god, you still believe in the moon?”

            1. Impy*

              A kid on Reddit was saying he used his technique on his dad, who kept saying wild political things to get a rise out of people.

              Dad: Do you know Obama invented climate change with huge Chinese?
              Kid: That’s nothing, the Dems have invented a tornado machine that they’re going to set on Republican voters.

            2. Kim*

              I read (not sure it was real, it was a screengrab from Reddit) a story a couple of months ago about a pediatrician/doctor who bullsh*tted an anti-vaxx mom into vaccinating by implying that the anti-vaxx sources are Russians trying to eradicate American children or something lunatic like that.
              As long as it protects the innocent child I’m down with it.

        3. Renata Ricotta*

          Probably like flat-earthers, they believe it is an expensive government conspiracy designed to trick the masses (I’ve never been super clear on what they think the motivation is for this massive conspiracy).

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            See I also thought it was probably conspiracy related but…what’s the point? Right? Seems like a lot of work for very little reward.

            1. une autre Cassandra*

              Not to be a huge bummer, but the weird (and actually sinister!) thread running through most of the zanier conspiracy theories is antisemitism. :(
              Scratch a flat earther and you’re alarmingly likely to find someone who also harbors unfortunate ideas about international “Zionist” conspiracies.

          2. Clisby*

            I’ve never been super-clear on why they think the government is efficient enough to have perpetuated this conspiracy for years. Surely the Illuminati must be the driving force.

      2. Chrome*

        Oh man, I’m glad you chimed in. I tried to look it up online and couldn’t find anything except flat-earther stuff, so I was wondering if my coworker was the only one!

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      …I can’t even process this. What does he think the sun is? Or the moon? Does he picture us living in side a sort of Truman Show like bubble? I’m so fascinated and want to know more, but I understand why you would prefer to know less lol

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Those are just decorations on the inside of the blanket hanging over Earth. Like glitter.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        The Aristotelian and/or Ptolemaic model of the cosmos, perhaps? It is kind of nifty (it involves the earth surrounded by various spheres, one containing the sun, one the moon, etc), but it does, shall we say, leave quite a few things unexplained.

        1. Chrome*

          Nope, he says that he thinks the idea of ‘balls floating in nothing’ is ridiculous. Ptolemaic model still allows for bodies outside of the earth.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Wow, just wow. I yearn to know more, but I understand why you’re reluctant to get deeper into Crazy Town.

      3. Chrome*

        Haha, I have the same questions but I very quickly excused myself from the conversation. Figured I was better off that way.

    3. Fikly*

      I know an otherwise reasonable person who thinks dinosaurs are made up. Not from a religious perspective, but because they are too ridiculous to be true.

      Not sure why dinosaurs are too ridiculous compared to many many other ridiculous things nature has produced.

      I do not understand it!

      1. Lilysparrow*

        I think a giant lizard is far more plausible than say, the platypus. A duck crossed with a beaver, with poison spikes on its feet?


          1. Impy*

            The jellyfish that light up have always struck me as so beautiful and exotic as to be almost impossible.

            1. Coffee*

              It is worth reading about the lifecycle of jellyfish because they are fascinatingly different to mammals.

              Also (although not an actual jellyfish) the Portugese Man O’ War, which is actually four creatures living together as one.

          1. Damien Gramaticus*

            Platypi is the correct formal term. Platypuses is a more informal Latin regularisation, though it has gained ground in recent years.

            Of course, it ought really to be platypodes.

            1. Coffee*

              Incorrect, platypuses is derived from pluralisation rules in English, not Latin.

              In truth, all three variants are “correct” in that people understand you mean “more than one platypus” when you say them. English is such a patchwork language that you get these kinds of shenanigans.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I just spent my holiday watching People’s series about cults and so I’m extra desensitized to the weird stuff people simply just don’t believe in or worse, the things people are tricked into believing.

        Damn, psychology is a beast and keeps me so thirsty.

    4. Sharrbe*

      So many many questions. I’m going to refrain though. Good for you for avoiding the subjec.

    5. Door Guy*

      I had to spend a brief but very uncomfortable time with someone who didn’t believe that satellite television involved actual satellites in orbit. He was adamant that it was like local off-air channels and bounced off relay towers. As my job at the time was installing satellite TV dishes, that (and his mocking attitude) really rubbed me the wrong way.

      1. Leisel*

        I once lived with a roommate who had weird things she believed or disbelieved. She wouldn’t listen to me when I told her how NOT to use the thermostat/air conditioning and how making it run all the time might freeze it up in the dead of summer (in Texas, when it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). I work in construction and deal with HVAC professionals often, but she still thought I was making stuff up. Lo and behold, she managed to kill our AC in August and it was very hot in our house to the point where it was difficult to sleep. She announced one night she was going to take a cold shower before bed to cool off. She came out of the bathroom afterward and was visibly pissed off, so I asked her what was wrong. She was mad that the water wasn’t cold, so I explained to her that the water coming from underground pipes in the summer won’t get cold like it does in the winter. She just stared blankly at me for a moment…then said she thought there was a water cooler in our house, kind of like the water heater but the opposite. I had to keep myself from laughing and tell her I don’t think that’s a thing we could afford, even if it was something that was available!

        1. Clisby*

          When I was in college in Charleston, SC, I used to turn off the water heater in the summer because even without heating, it was plenty warm enough to shower in. So I got used to just getting in the shower and turning on the cold water tap. Then I went to visit my nearby parents, who got water from a well. Without thinking, I got in the shower and turned on the cold water. That was quite the shock!

    6. Amethystmoon*

      I once had to share a cubical with a young-Earther. He wasn’t an outer-space denier, but was a dinosaur-denier. As in, literally thought all the bones they found were manufactured and were a conspiracy from Satan to tempt people, or something like that. So yeah. People exist who don’t believe in science, and somehow have normal day jobs, and lives. The problem was though every conversation with him, somehow he managed to bring religion into it. If you asked him how the weather was, he would put religion somehow into it. Drove me nuts enough to ask for another cube the moment one opened up. That was over 10 years ago and I’m no longer at the company, but yeah. Some people believe in bizarre stuff.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I remember decades ago making a joke about “Maybe they were put here by Satan to tempt us.” when discussing the people who were opting out of science classes among friends :| I was being facetious at the time of course but then I got older and heard that idea actually tossed out there and I just had to excuse myself to not laugh at such an inappropriate time.

  4. Sarah Simpson*

    This actually is the ideal outcome, as far as I’m concerned. It’s equally important to understand that there are some people you will never like (and those who will never like you) and that it is still important to treat them well and with respect so that it isn’t all horrible for everyone around you.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Exactly. You’ve learned a valuable strategy for dealing with all the Karens in your life – this is a great outcome!

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed, it is relatively easy to work with people you naturally get along with. Working with people you don’t like is a great skill to have because you are for sure going to have more you will need to work with. Hopefully not another one who seems to be built to be your opposite in every way though, yikes! But glad you are seeing it as somewhat comical, it kind of is honestly and that is how I would look at it (inside my head) to balance out the annoyance.

    3. Poppy the Flower*

      I agree! I think this is a good outcome. At my last job, I had a coworker who was aloof, incompetent and sometimes outright mean. I tried to avoid her as much as possible but be pleasant when I did have to interact with her (while still standing up for myself/setting boundaries). I don’t think she knew how I really felt about her which I consider a win!

  5. LegallyBrunette*

    Acknowledging to yourself that neither you nor your coworker are at fault here and treating her politely and professionally despite that your irritation is really the best-case scenario here.

    1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

      I disagree. Karen is a giggling, nose-blowing, sniffling (AAARGH) anti-dentite
      . Karen is at fault. Kudos to OP for finding a way to deal with her.

  6. Nina Bee*

    It’s probably been suggested already but I wonder if there’s some kind of misophonia at work here, and whether there’s any specific techniques that are used to mitigate it.

    1. Not All*

      No need to dig that deep…some people really are just that annoying. I worked with someone who was similarly my opposite in every way. Fortunately I didn’t have to work with her much and we had actual offices but I would start to grind my teeth the second I heard her voice because I *knew* something mind-boggling ignorant was about to come out of it. If she would have been a giggler I would have no doubt ground my teeth at that sound too just because it meant she was entering my space.

      Well done OP for learning to hide it! It’s harder than people who haven’t had the situation realize!

    2. AMT*

      I didn’t get that vibe at all. The original post about the near-constant giggling and sniffling had my ears up around my shoulders just reading it, and I’m not that sensitive to noise.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I went to college with a girl who had a very loud, very bubbly, very noise-carrying laugh. I am maybe more noise-sensitive than average but definitely not to the point of misophonia. Her laugh was just straight-up annoying. And she had a habit of using the hall phone late at night (because her roommate wouldn’t let her use their room phone. Because of her loud braying laugh), which meant she kept the whole dorm floor awake. It wasn’t us–it was her.

        1. pentamom*

          I had a friendly acquaintance once who had an habitual, nervous laugh. She would laugh a hahaha kind of laugh at the end of nearly every sentence. Since I only saw her once a week or so and not for long periods, and she was otherwise a really lovely person, it was an oddity that didn’t really bother me. But working with her would have been tough. I ran into her again a couple of years ago, and she’d lost the habit. I didn’t even realize it until I thought back over the encounter later. I don’t have misophonia, I’m very able to screen out noises that bother other people, but hearing that hahaha constantly would have sent me round the bend.

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I have a coworker with a cackle-laugh. And it carries, especially in the open-plan office.
        Then I had a shift in perspective – it was my own general dissatisfaction with my role that meant the cackle was nails on a chalkboard (I stopped talking to her for a while too because – look, picture Janice from Friends with the volume up to 11 and you get close to the point).
        But, like I said, I got a perspective shift, so while it can still be a bit annoying (you’ve been laughing for ten nonstop minutes Janice, nothing is THAT funny in this office), I took ownership for my reaction to it. I found ways to change my role, and thus my whole approach to work. And I even gave her some nonwork-related baking advice at the water cooler.

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I would probably find Karen annoying as well by the sounds of it. Random irritating sounds plus stupidity are annoying for the average person, though I don’t know much about misophonia.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    It can be useful to know someone who is your exact opposite. Considering seeing a movie? Ask her what she thought of it. If she hated it, you know to buy that ticket.

    1. Automated*

      Im sure your response was in jest, but as a manager OP needs to be careful not to be seen soliciting opinions then doing the opposite. That’s a great way to have your office clam up.

    2. FirstDayBackHurts*

      This made me laugh out loud. My husband’s best friend in the world has completely opposite taste in things from my husband and the movies are the example he points to most often. “Rutherford hated this movie. Let’s go see it!” This works almost universally for them for restaurants, books, music, politics, religion, and even shoe brands. I often wonder what the heck they talk about when they are together. They have been inseparable for more than 20 years.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        My opposite-tastes-friend isn’t that universal, it’s just music, but it’s kind of fun. He likes moody, atonal indie music. I like bubblegum pop. At this point though he can say “I heard this awful thing on the radio, you should check it out!” and I find it charming.

  8. Observer*

    This sounds like a good update. The “To do list item” is an excellent idea. I know some people will think it’s cold. But I think that it’s an excellent way to deal with a difficult situation.

    1. BethDH*

      Yeah, I actually love this idea. It helps you acknowledge that it takes time and effort to do, and emphasizes that it is worth doing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. It’s a way of incorporating it into “this is my normal”.

        And actually when applied it goes easier with some people than with others, not all difficult people are equally difficult.
        I worked with someone who was my total opposite in every way you can think of. But she was a heck of a worker. And I focused on that. Together she and I could do the work of four people. I never worried about big work loads when I worked with her. I DID worry about conversation topics at break times. Eventually, that went away as we just accepted the fact that there was nothing to talk about. It was one of those rare times where there was no animosity, just reluctant acceptance.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          And that can work so long as there is no animosity and both people are happy to accept that other than work you just don’t have anything to talk about!

          So long as one of you isn’t an extroverted extrovert who doesn’t deal well with silence, and you always have to take your breaks together just the two of you, it gives you both a chance for a bit of a break with no worries about bad feelings on either side and that can be very healthy!

  9. Hiring Mgr*

    That’s really all you need to do, just be friendly and professional. No more to it than that. And I know this is all subjective, but who really cares if she doesn’t like dentists or pigeons?

    1. Eleven*

      A lot of people don’t like dentists; most people don’t think they deliberately cause cavities.

      1. Clisby*

        But why would anyone care if someone thinks dentists cause cavities? Or care if someone thinks the world is flat? This is a workplace. Things people think that have no impact whatsoever on co-workers are things to ignore, not things to get upset about.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, I mean, I do get upset with e.g. climate change deniers because it does cause damage. But… freezing them out at work or arguing with them at work is highly, highly unlikely to change their mind. “They’re wrong in a way that might potentially even be damaging!” is a justification for intervening, but often I think the feeling is more “I can’t let them get the last word on that stupid-ass opinion,” especially as workplace arguments so very very rarely change any minds. I totally get the feeling of “I can’t let them get the last word on that stupid-ass decision,” but if I’m honest with myself, it’s way more about me than the effectiveness of arguing.

          When I get mad at someone with a harmful opinion at work, I donate some money to a relevant charity, because that might do some good. Arguing about it in the breakroom does nothing particularly useful in my experience. And freezing them out, even less so.

        2. mta*

          I mean, I’d say that someone taking a staunchly anti-science worldview causes like, actual harm outside of the workplace in terms of influencing voting patterns, etc., so that’s just one reason someone might have an actual emotional reaction to a flat earther.

        3. Courageous cat*

          Well… because, we don’t live in a vacuum, we live in a society. People saying dumb/untrue things out loud is going to make other people not like you, that’s just how it is sometimes. Ideally no one would care what anyone thought or said in the workplace but that’s just not how it goes.

        4. Blueberry*

          If I know someone’s opinion on non-work issues like this it’s likely that they volunteered the opinion, and that they keep on talking about it. It’s silly and dismissable to hear once from someone, “the Earth is flat”. It gets more and more annoying the more they repeat the untruth, and the more I hear related anti-scientific opinions from them including ones that do actually affect other people.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I’d say you don’t even have to be that friendly, as long as you’re polite and professional.

      I always say, we’re not at work to make friends or buddies w/our coworkers. But you do have to at least tolerate one another.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I assume it’s not that she doesn’t like these things but how she presents her distaste.

      Being loud, screeching about it, going on for long periods of time about the Devil Birds, kind of stuff. That’s what grinds my gears.

      If someone was like “Eek bird, bye.” whatever but if someone stands there and starts telling you about how filthy, disgusting, unnecessary pigeons are and won’t stop, it starts pushing buttons in a lot of people who are forced to listen in that captive audience way.

      However, I agree that over all you just have to be kind/courteous at work, so that people can do their jobs in the end. Don’t ice people out, then you’re not approachable and you’re impeding their ability to comfortably do their work. Quirky people are just that, quirky. You have to work around it.

  10. Jennifer*

    You done good.

    I think I have met my shadow self too. Thankfully, she doesn’t work here. Usually I can just laugh it off (internally) when people voice completely ridiculous opinions but there are some that just REALLY get under my skin.

    1. AMT*

      I’m a bit like that, too. Outside: Suuuuper polite. Inside: What is WRONG with you of COURSE you don’t have the ability to psychically manifest a parking space on a crowded street during peak hours you DINGUS how do you even FUNCTION.

      Note: The parking space thing is an actual thing a coworker said to me. I think she had a law-of-attraction thing going on.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        I suspect my response would be more along the lines of “great – you can drive when we need to go places!” (and figure they can drop me off outside whilst looking for a space should their powers somehow inexplicably fail to pay off, but that if I have been polite I won’t need to struggle to find a parking space myself)… I hate parking!

        I joked my 5 year old has magic knees and can control traffic lights by rubbing them because I did this a few times and the lights changed. I think she genuinely believes that this is true currently, so she does it whenever we come up to red lights now… But, y’know, young child…

  11. Hills to Die on*

    Sometimes it’s all you can do. When Karen worked at my last job, I played Karen bingo and bought myself something every time I got bingo. I had to make it harder and add more lines because I was spending too much money. I started looking forward to Karen being her um, best self.

    Great update and I’m glad you are doing well!

    1. chi type*

      At my job, if you get all four of our biggest problem patrons in one desk shift, that’s a full house and you win the pot (a literal pot people throw candy in).

    2. Amethystmoon*

      Omg Karen bingo is awesome. I need to start a Florida bingo game. I think I literally work with Florida Man. Long story, can’t really tell because it would give too much away.

    3. Fish girl*

      Thank you for the wonderful idea! Fortunately, I’m not working with any terrible or annoying coworkers (for now at least), but I’m definitely keeping this in my back pocket.

      I also like the idea of doing this from a “How to appear friendly” perspective. You could get bingo for (example): explaining a work process, listening to them rant about dentists, biting your tongue (free space), complimenting them, and asking about their weekend.

  12. Fikly*

    Great update!

    You are allowed to feel whatever you feel! Your behavior does not have to reflect those feelings.

    I recently had to explain to a 25 year old that it is possible to do things you do not want to do, and vice versa, it is possible to not do things that you do want to do. This made me sad.

    1. BadWolf*

      I once told an Ex, “Just because it is true does not mean you should say it” after he said something that seemed pretty heartless to a mutual friend (and it was not a “tough love needed” sort of scenario).

      1. KTB*

        There’s a great line from The Big Lebowski where the Dude looks at Walter and says, “You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an a-hole.”

        Honestly, I have wanted to deliver that line to people in my life FAR too often.

    2. Anonymous Celebrity*

      Did the person believe you? Did their subsequent behavior indicate that they’d actually taken to heart what you told them?

      I’ve found that sometimes it takes several iterations of that idea to get the point truly across to the clueless, including iterations where the non-believer suffers adverse consequences for not getting that message.

      Wut, ya mean the world doesn’t revolve around me and my feelings? Nonsense! LOL

      1. Observer*

        No, but it’s not AUTHENTIC. What do you mean “no one cares”!? You’re SUPPOSED to bring your whole self to work!


        1. Fikly*

          Ugh, employers who want passionate employees. Passion is not needed to carry out ones duties.

          Do not expect me to care as much about your company as the person making millions and millions of dollars from it.

      2. Fikly*

        No, they continued to insist I wasn’t doing something because I didn’t want to, rather than because I wasn’t physically capable of doing it, or possibly that the fact that I wasn’t physically capable of doing it didn’t matter, because I didn’t want to?

        But he is not someone who typically listens to anything I’ve said to him.

    3. Impy*

      Yeah but on the flip side, it’s taken me years to figure out that it’s okay to *not* do things you don’t want to do. It’s sad you had to explain basic self regulation to an adult but the opposite isn’t great either.

    4. Emelle*

      I tell my kids all the time, “you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.” I hope some day they will take that advice…

  13. the corner ficus*

    Hey, it’s good enough. You don’t make her feel like an outcast and you have had extensive practice in navigating interactions with people you wouldn’t interact with by choice- a necessity for any manager. I say several pats on the back are in order.

  14. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    I too have a coworker I absolutely cannot stand and they can’t stand me. I say hello in the mornings and bye at the need of the day, and if necessary, we have short work-related discussions only. But that’s it. I make sure my work gets done in a timely and quality manner. No one is obligated to be friends or friendly with people who treat them badly. Good job OP of taking care of yourself.

  15. Third or Nothing!*

    You know, I’m a little sad the irritation is still there because it isn’t easy working with someone who despises you (trust me I know), but I am glad you were able to modify your behavior toward her. I think from your original letter you had reached BEC level with Karen, and it’s heartening to see you’ve been able to put that aside and interact with her civilly.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      At my workplace none of us particularly like one person or feel like we are teammates with them while the rest of us do create a sense of teamwork and support. We are all professional with them but no one really interacts warmly with this person and it shows. I have never talked about this with others but I notice it. If I do, I am sure the person does as well. I do feel badly but you never know when a hand extended in friendship to them will get bitten off so people just don’t try.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        The issue at my workplace is more that there is a Mean Girls style clique, with a ringleader who treats everyone with scorn but especially focuses her disdain at a few people, one of them me. I’m not entirely sure what her beef is…it seems to be triggered by my requests for accommodation for food allergies? I don’t know. I just know I’m tired.

  16. Librarian of SHIELD*

    I think you’ve shown some real growth here. Accepting that you can have a non-confrontational coexistence with a person you don’t like is something a lot of people struggle with, and I’m glad you’ve made it, OP.

  17. staceyizme*

    I don’t know- it’s progress but not resolution. The thing is that the issue isn’t your coworker. If it were, you’d just avoid her and it’d be over with. The whole judgy ball of negative energy is a sucking black hole that spends down your focus, resilience and emotional equilibrium. Control is a start, definitely. But unless you do your due diligence and find out why this is a “thing” for you? You’re always going to be at risk of losing your cool, your focus and maybe even a modicum of your reputation.

    1. Anon for this*

      There’s always going to be people that annoy you at work. Provided everyone’s doing their work competently, the only important goal is to be able to to work with those people professionally. The OP-coworker’s working relationship has been established and seems on solid ground; it’s not really necessary to dig that deep.

      1. Fikly*


        No one likes everyone. No one should like everyone, and no one should ever be required to like everyone!

        You just have to act professionally.

        To say someone is always at risk of losing their cool is a little ridiculous. People are responsible for being in control of their behavior. If they are not, and cannot control their behavior for something as minor as disliking someone, frankly they shouldn’t be around other people.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, why are some people making it such a demonized thing to… not like someone… at a place where you spend a ton of time? It’s a part of life, it doesn’t need psychiatric evaluation.

    2. Ele4phant*

      Oh…sometimes people truly behave and think so radically different than us, we just don’t understand them or like being around them.

      That’s really all there is to it, sometimes. There’s no changing or tricking yourself into changing how you feel about that person (unless you change your whole self). The best you can do is control how you behave and respond outwardly.

      LWs done that. This is a successful resolution.

  18. Chronic Overthinker*

    I do agree that you don’t have to get along with everyone or be “buddy-buddy” with everyone in your workplace. Be polite, be kind and be professional. I am a firm believer that what you project is what you will get in return. It’s called empathy. It’s funny, I actually have an office mate who I don’t get along with. They got me a little something for the holidays so I did too. I gave them a thank you card. I never got anything back from them acknowledging the gift. At first I was miffed, but at the end of the day I gave them something they could use. I don’t expect to be work buds, but at least they’ve softened towards me in the workplace overall.

    This is a rational update and I like that.

    1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I bet the kid will grow up to complain to their friends about the latest thing their crazy mother said/did.

    2. Asenath*

      If being annoying to someone disqualified a person from being a mother the human race would end! It’s perfectly possible for an annoying person to be a good or even great mother. One thing that helps me is realizing that someone I find annoying might well have perfectly good relationships with other people – it can be that our personalities clash, or, more annoyingly, that my irritation at the annoying person’s behaviour reflected my difficulties with seeing some of my own characteristics that I dislike reflected in her, although it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. I must congratulate OP on finding a better way to deal with her irritating co-worker!

      I also eventually realized that “my mother is annoying me” often meant “my mother is an entire human being with her own individual personality, not just a “perfect” mother who must always act in a way that suits me.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, it’s not as much the annoying part (who isn’t on a bad day?), but the fact that Karen’s values and opinions seem to be utterly out of whack. Imagine this kid growing up thinking, as kids do, that mom is perfect and can never do anything wrong, and then one day, rude awakening. Or worse, the kid waking up one day wondering what is wrong with them because, try as they can, they cannot agree with anything their mother says.

      I worked with a guy Karen (Karl?) who had two young children. One time at a work party, I had to turn around and walk away from Karl before I said anything I’d later regret. You see, Karl (6 ft tall, weight fluctuating between 250-300 lbs) *bragged* to me about how his three-year-old daughter would get afraid whenever Karl yelled at her. In Karl’s deranged brain, that meant the three-year-old was respecting him as her father. I have two children of my own and I just… couldn’t. The kids should be in their late teens by now, so hopefully Karl is getting some well-deserved pushback.

      Oddly enough, I once earned the ire of my whole team after I stood up for Karl. My team was about a half-dozen brogrammers in their 20s and early 30s, and at one point, I started overhearing them planning a really cruel prank they wanted to play on Karl in an all-hands meeting in front of the whole department. I talked to my boss, who talked to his boss, who got it shut down. My teammates were like “Who got X shut down?” and I was like “ME!” somehow they did not retaliate – guess I had enough clout or something? If it were a Hollywood movie, Karl and i would then have become best friends and Karl would’ve gone on being his best self. Obviously, none of it happened. I went on being barely able to tolerate Karl.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        While I get what Asenath wrote in the post above , you are more realistic about what Karen’s children could wind up experiencing as they get older and will undoubtedly encounter very different personalities throughout their lives.

      2. 'Tis Me*

        I would have found it very hard not to get really cross with him over that – scaring toddlers means they won’t feel secure and safe with you. They may try to avoid your ire but that’s not respecting you – that’s being scared of you.

        Yes, sometimes you have to be stern and performatively angry to make it very clear to children that a Serious Line Has Been Crossed – but if your default interaction is to terrify somebody many times smaller than you, who is reliant on you for their basic needs as well as emotional security and comfort – that’s messed up.

  19. Robin Ellacott*

    She does sound very annoying, so congratulations on your handling of the situation! Civil distance is the best possible.outcome, I think.

  20. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I come from a family of conspiracy theorists, you’d think this would give me much more tolerance for things, sadly not in my case. It still digs at me inside.

    I’m talking like “The government controls the rain” kind of conspiracy and major moments in history being “staged”. Do not ask them if Elvis is really dead or who shoot Kennedy…

    So I feel this so hard! And I’ve managed to work out the same scenario with myself in the long run. It’s all about doing what is within your control, which is how you outwardly react in the moment. I’ve had to learn to swallow eye rolls for decades now to say the least.

    So I like this update, you can’t change others in the end. But you can always change yourself.

    1. Mockingjay*

      People like this remind me of my Gram. She was a batshit crazy conspirator. We didn’t land on the moon, the Russians did, and they now control the weather along with the Chinese. She read the National Enquirer religiously and believed every word. How she gave birth to my father I’ll never know; he loves science and used to stop by the Goddard Space Center back in the 60s and 70s to bring me all kinds of stuff when I was a kid. (Goddard used to give away all kinds of stuff – moon maps, big glossy color pics of the Apollo astronauts. It was so cool.)

      *Now that I think about it, Dad is rather devout and has spent his life waiting for the Apocalypse (it was supposed to arrive with Y2K – boy was he disappointed), so I guess he does take after her in some respects.

  21. Batgirl*

    I don’t know why, but general well meaning annoyingness can be harder to deal with than a bad person. Perhaps it’s because an evil nemesis can be somewhat predictable (they are going to do the bad, selfish option in any given situation). This predictability means they can often be avoided too.

    An irritating person is tough. You feel like a bad person for disliking them. Others don’t feel the same way. You never really know what the next annoyance will be. You can’t escape a bad laugh that carries or that inner reaction that comes over you when they say irritating things.

    This is why it’s so great that the OP is stepping up here. Precisely because it’s not easy but it really is the right thing to do.

    1. Agnes*

      I have long had the theory that not liking people can occur on two axes, disrespect for someone with poor values, and annoyance at someone’s manner, etc. Only rarely have I found the two together, honestly. (I also find that people are much more critical and ostracizing of someone annoying but harmless than someone fun but lazy/lying/etc., but that’s a rant for a different day.)

      1. Mobuy*

        That’s a good way of putting it. I think if someone has poor values you don’t have to justify not liking them. If they just rub you the wrong way, there’s more incentive to explain (probably meanly) why you don’t like them.

      2. Blueberry*

        (I also find that people are much more critical and ostracizing of someone annoying but harmless than someone fun but lazy/lying/etc., but that’s a rant for a different day.)

        Oh truth, truth.

  22. BethRA*

    I agree with folks who’ve said this is a really good outcome, so kudos to you, OP.

    Thank you, too, for the update. Well-timed for me, as I’ve been struggling with my own “Karen” – as an added bonus, she’s not just a coworker, she’s my office-mate – so I appreciate revisiting Allison’s suggestions, hearing about your success (loved the “to do list” approach!) and the reminder to be professional. And kind (not proud of needing a reminder there)

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m dealing with a Mean Girls style clique at my office, and I sometimes find it helpful to imagine them as putting on a play while I watch and go “y’all are nuts.” Dissociation is not a recommended method for dealing with problems, but distancing yourself by adding an extra mental layer can help reduce knee jerk reactions I’ve found.

  23. Happy Pineapple*

    I wonder which is easier: working with someone who annoys the absolute fluffernutter out of you but is well intentioned, or someone you despise to the core but is competent? For me personally I think I’d take the annoying coworker. I’ve worked with some truly ridiculous people and eventually learned to internally roll my eyes and savor the weirdness as story-telling material among friends. Working with someone you HATE, as in cannot stand who they are as a human being to almost a cartoon villain level, is absolutely exhausting.

    I spent several years with a fiery ball of rage towards the existence of a coworker and would never wish that on anyone (except maybe her). She was excellent at her job, but was truly one of the most selfish, demeaning, mean-spirited people I’ve ever met. A shining example [trigger warning: pregnancy and child loss]: A coworker’s first grandchild was stillborn, and mean coworker lightheartedly and loudly said it was “probably for the best” because it’s better than having a baby born with a disability. She then went on about a “friend” who’s child was born with a terminal defect, and about what a drag it was that the kid managed to live for several years instead of dying soon after birth. …That still makes my skin crawl.

    1. BethRA*

      I might suggest that someone that toxic really isn’t that excellent at their job. Even if you’re good at core functions, if you make it harder for everyone else to be good at theirs – you are very much not excellent.

  24. Retail not Retail*

    My work enemy came back from vacation and we’re actually all struggling a smidge. I’m the one most annoyed bc I work with him every single day, we’re partnered no say in the matter. (And nothing happened when I said his sexist comments made work hard)

    I’m being polite and professional but I can’t engage him in small talk – this is a man who came back from thanksgiving at a friend’s place complaining about family. Not his, just the idea of holidays with family.

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