my coworker is copying my look, I blasted a recruiter for not answering me, and more

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

1. My coworker is copying my clothes and hair

Imagine working in an office and having someone copying everything you wear. The person is my coworker who sits next to me. We are medical professionals seeing the same patients. She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in and that’s fine, but she has started aping me and it’s not flattering, it’s plain irritating that someone goes and buys everything you wear, even sweaters, shoes, and the same haircut from my hairdresser.

How do you deal with a coworker who imitates you to this extent? I’ve stopped sharing details of my clothes and stuff, but now she knows where I shop and what I buy and has everything that I own, even basics like cardigans, so some days we are literally twinning which feels sick. I love taking effort and putting a good look together but here I have a copycat next door! I’ve tried to maintain a distance as it’s draining me and I find her toxic. But that’s making her clingier and now she’s calling/texting desperately to keep this friendship. It sounds trivial but I have to work and deal with this person daily and I love my job.

FYI, we are both 35-plus women and this problem is more than a year old. I haven’t discussed it with her as yet but I’m pretty sure she knows she’s copying me.

Agggh, this might fall in the category of “annoying but there’s not much you can do about it.” You can’t really call dibs on haircuts or clothing or stores … but it’s still awfully unsettling to have someone modeling their whole look on you, especially to this extent and especially with someone who sits right next to you! I’d be tempted to make some very extreme changes — shave your head? Temporarily borrow a lot of neon pleather?

I do think you could try a one-time conversation and see it gets through to her — something like, “I like to have my own style, and it’s throwing me to have you buying the same clothes as me. I’d be grateful if you’d stop doing that.”

I know I just wrote in a January post that there’s no upside to addressing clothes copying at work, but the details of your situation are different than that letter (and fortunately you’re not dealing with the rest of that person’s situation).

As for the clinginess, your best bet may be to address it all together: “You are calling and texting me a lot and even buying the same clothes and getting the same haircut as me. It’s too much, and it’s making me uncomfortable. I’m happy to have a collegial relationship with you at work, but I don’t want to call or text outside of work or show up wearing the same clothes, and I need you to respect those boundaries.”

Read an update to this letter here

2. I blasted a recruitment agency for not responding to me

I am a job seeker who recently had a somewhat unpleasant experience with a recruitment agency. I wanted to ask about this agency’s services. I tried contacting them through the phone, but it was an automated voice message. Then I tried to email them, providing a bit about my background such as my name, education, and experiences, but I heard nothing for over 24 hours. I was getting impatient and quite irritated.

This isn’t very smart of me, but my nerves got the better of me and I left a negative Google review on this agency’s page mentioning that they are unreachable. They responded to me an hour or two after I left the review, and they told me to be more patient and that my actions wouldn’t take me very far in the recruiting process, rightfully so. I removed my review immediately afterwards. However, I am aware that this has left a bad mark on my relationships with this agency and possibly my reputation.

I was wondering if my actions may have caused me to end up in an employment blacklist, so to speak? If so, is there anything I can do to remediate the relationship and possibly be taken out of the blacklist?

You’re probably blacklisted with them, yes — in that they’re not going to consider future applications from you — but there’s no central blacklist you could be on. If you’re wondering if there’s a way to un-burn the bridge with them specifically, probably not. You should apologize and let them know you removed the review (if you haven’t already), but it’s unlikely that they’d be enthused about recommending you to clients, even post-apology.

For what it’s worth, leaving a bad review just because no one got back to you for 24 hours is … a lot! They aren’t really obligated to respond to cold calls at all, let alone so quickly. The best thing you can do with anything job-search-related is to put your feelers out there and then move on; let it be a pleasant surprise when people get back to you, but don’t stay on tenterhooks waiting for it or it can mess with your mind like this did.

3. Should I stay in my job until I’ve improved my work?

Is it wise to leave a job when your performance is not up to par? I’m currently working in a position and company that I desperately want to get out of. Unfortunately, my last two, and only, performance evaluations have had some critical feedback and I’ve been marked as performing below expectations.

I’m concerned that leaving this job in the near future with this current track record will hurt me in the future when I list the company as a reference. Is this a valid concern? I know my other references will give me great reviews but this is my first job since getting my graduate degree so I worry it will have more weight.

Is this a valid concern? While I feel I have the capability to do a much better job, the stress, anxiety, and general burnout I currently feel makes me doubt that I can turn things around.

It’s true that when you can swing it, it’s better to leave with good performance assessments — but if you’re struggling and desperately want to get out, it doesn’t make sense to stay just to try to improve your work, especially when you’re not confident you can.

Realistically, you could end up not turning things around, thus staying even longer in a job that isn’t working for you or even ending up getting fired. Plus, even if you did turn things around, you might need to stay for a pretty long time in order to fully overcome the impressions from earlier; two “below expectations” evaluations are significant enough that those issues still might come up in a reference, just accompanied by a mention that things improved.

But one thing to know is that you don’t need to offer this company as a reference in the future. Yes, ideally you would since it’s your first post-grad-school job, but you’re allowed to suggest other references instead. If someone asks to speak to this manager specifically, you can explain that the job wasn’t the right fit because of X or Y so they at least have that context if they do contact them.

4. Can I ask an interviewer how many women are on their team?

I just had a phone interview for a job in the same field I’m currently in. I’m a woman and it’s pretty male-dominated, to the point that my department is currently having a sexual harassment campaign. Part of the issue right now is that my small department has two women and four men (in addition to four to five male temps every day). Our broader umbrella department only has two other women! Last week, I heard a male coworker tell my female coworker, “It’s a man’s space, what do you expect?” in a common workspace.

I wish I’d asked about gender in this workplace — the three people interviewing me were men. Would a question like “How many women are on your team?” have been appropriate?

Yes! Very normal to ask, especially in male-dominated fields. You can word it just like that. You can also ask things like:

* How many women are on your senior leadership team? / How diverse is your executive team?
* Can you share any data about race and gender diversity in the company?
* What programs does the company have in place to support diversity?

5. Warding off crisis as a resume achievement

Your resume advice of listing “achievements” rather than “responsibilities” is so valuable, but I’m having trouble fitting it in to my current situation. I’ve been in a pretty dysfunctional, understaffed environment for a while, where I am responsible for too many things to be able to give any of them the attention they deserve. The main “achievement” I’ve had for a while is that a wide variety of important tasks gets completed at a baseline acceptable level and imminent crisis is continually avoided. I know how to translate this into relevant soft skills that are appropriate to mention in a cover letter or interview (i.e., I’m adaptable, good at juggling priorities, etc.) but I feel stumped when it comes to the resume.

That itself is an achievement! Here are some examples of how to talk about this kind of thing (the details will vary based on your own situation, of course):

* Juggled multiple priorities to keep a busy campaign running smoothly and without crises during a time of staffing and budget cuts.
* Met 100% of deadlines for high volume of projects on a fast-paced team where priorities frequently changed.
* Managed X during period of financial difficulty, successfully steering team through funding cuts with minimal disruption.

You should still talk about other specific work outcomes you achieved, but this kind of thing can be one of them.

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. LoV*

    Re: OP 3 – I would think that it would be better to leave before potentially getting fired. And from a personal perspective, it sounds like you’d be happier moving on….so…

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Yes. Without knowing the OP’s situation, it doesn’t sound like the job is teaching them much and staying long in a poor fit can wreck their self-esteem (“I can’t do anything right.”, “I make so many mistakes.”, “I’m just not good at X.”] when actually, they are more than capable of excelling under the right set of circumstance.

      1. LW #3*

        That’s unfortunately how I’ve been feeling. I’ve always received meets expectations or exceeds expectations before this job and I’m really struggling with performing poorly. I guess I’ve never failed at anything and it’s hard for me to accept that I’ve ended up in this place.

        I’ve had a pretty difficult year due to some chronic health issues that have been exacerbated by this job and the overall result has left me feeling incompetent. I oscillate most days between feeling like I can turn this around and feeling done with the whole thing.

        1. EPLawyer*

          If the job is making you sick — get out. Hanging in with the hope of turning it around is not worth your health.

        2. Beth Jacobs*

          I feel for you LW. Although it’s hard, please do keep in mind that just because this is not a good fit, doesn’t mean you’re a bad employee. Most people have a story of being absolutely terrible in a job – sometimes it’s a manager’s fault, sometimes it’s noone’s fault at all, just a bad fit. But since you’ve done well in jobs before, it’s probably not because you’re incompetent.
          Based on your elaboration, I wouldn’t try to stay in the job until things improve, because they may never improve and you’re wasting time in a situation where your weaknesses exacerbate and your strengths rust. A job hunt is probably the wisest course of action right now.

          1. LW #3*

            Thank you! I’ve lost a lot confidence in myself and my abilities so it helps to be reminded that the job itself may be the problem.

            1. It's not you*

              I understand how you feel. I took a new job about a year ago and it’s been awful. I feel like a failure every day, but I know that I was good – very good – at the jobs I had before this. I have never really failed at anything in my entire professional life, so it’s been hard and, frankly, soul crushing to deal with that on top of the challenges of a pandemic. This job is simply not a good fit and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not me; it’s the job. (Sometimes I read the nice emails that my former co-workers sent me when I left to remind myself that I am not the issue.)

            2. AskJeeves*

              Completely! Sometimes it doesn’t work out just due to poor fit – no one is at fault, no one has failed. If you’re able to move on to a job that’s better suited to you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to feel capable and confident again.

          2. LifeBeforeCorona*

            After I graduated I got a job that suited my skillset and on paper, it looked like a great fit. But, the physical layout was terrible. I was the front-facing person alone in the office. Everyone else had offices with windows and kept their doors closed. So I sat alone with no natural light. The only person I spoke to during the day was the mailman. The workload was light and I was well paid but I started making mistakes. Because of the nature of the job (research), attention to detail was very important but it was hard every day to stay motivated and after 2 years I left. It’s been long enough that I leave that job off my resume.

          3. JohannaCabal*

            Late to the game, but sometimes hiring managers also don’t hire the right person for a role. I had a three-month stint that resulted in a firing. Looking back, it was obvious on paper that I would not be a good fit for the role. Sometimes, I wonder if they only hired me because they didn’t have any better candidates at the time and just needed a body in a seat.

            Interestingly, they only fired me after hiring someone’s out-of-work journalist brother (it was 2009) as a sort of “catch-all person.” I think they waited until they had someone on hand better for the role because I later saw his LinkedIn profile and he’d taken on my role at the firm.

            Looking back, I just view this three month period as a bad-fit position where I should not have been hired.

        3. Lucette Kensack*

          I think the main thing you should do is reflect on what’s going on that’s making you less successful in this role than in others. Is it just your health issues (that is, would you be struggling in any role right now while your health is suffering)? Or there are specific things about this work or workplace? You’re going to want to be really clear about what made this role unsuccessful for you — both so you can make good choices about what kind of role to seek next, and so you can articulate to interviewers why you will be more successful in the role they are hiring for than the one you are leaving.

        4. ThatGirl*

          In high school and college, practically half of my identity was that I was going into journalism, and then more specifically, that I was going to be a copy editor. I spent 4 years in journalism, at two papers – and I wasn’t bad at it by any stretch; I even won a few awards. But toward the end of my second paper, I was struggling with a lot of personal stress that I wasn’t managing well, the environment itself was bad, and the writing was on the wall that journalism was changing. I ended up on a PIP, and actually got through it and had a good review, with my boss pleased that I had turned things around. Except then a few months later I made a mistake that was compounded by a few external factors making it seem even worse, and I ended up getting fired. I was super down for awhile and didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after that.

          That was 13 years ago, and now I’ve moved into marketing and guess what? I’m pretty awesome at it. I’ve had almost universally stellar reviews from every boss since. It’s hard to fail, it’s hard to accept that something we’ve been so sure we’re good at might not be the right thing anymore, but trust me when I say sometimes moving on is the best thing you can do for yourself. Failure is always an option, and it doesn’t mean you’re bad, or incompetent, it just means this job isn’t the right one anymore.

        5. Smithy*

          In addition to doing what you can to get out – I think it may also be helpful to consider seeking out a general mental health specialist or job coach for a few sessions so that you don’t let the heavier feelings about your current workplace impact your job search.

          There was a period of time where I was looking for jobs and getting very little traction. Ultimately, I decided to make the ‘big move’ of leaving my job and relocating because while the issues may have been my resume/applications, there were enough other factors at play where I thought the move would help. I had a huge amount of anxiety around my choice and how strong my candidacy was.

          In my case, I found a nonprofit job placement service where I did get paired with a job counselor – and I strongly credit that experience with getting the exact kind of job I wanted next. For me, it wasn’t so much that he said anything groundbreaking that you couldn’t find on AAM, but he helped me get through a number of my own job hunt anxieties, clarified what I wanted, and helped me practice interview questions that made me nervous.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            This is excellent advice. And OP, if your current company offers EAP you should look into utilizing it. It is 100% confidential and I know that using ours has helped me uncover a variety of issues that I wasn’t digging deep enough to find. Personal and professional.

            1. Smithy*

              Also a great idea. Our self-esteem and bad work situations, for whatever reason, I think can be huge blocks in our lives. Taking the time to untie those knots is really really helpful so that we neither undersell ourselves or leap to another bad situation out of desperation.

            2. Vidalia*

              I would very strongly recommend a private therapist over someone your employer pays to make you more productive for them, if financially feasible.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                I found my last therapist via EAP and was with her for almost 7 years. Work paid the first 6 sessions (I think) and then I stayed on with her as a client since she was in our network. And she was a private therapist.

                Who cares if I picked her out of the 40 available via EAP network or by Googling nearby therapists if she is good and she helped me?

        6. Firecat*

          Not work related but I hope this story helps you.

          I excelled at school and math in particular. Eventually my good grades opened doors to attend a specialized secondary school of science and mathematics. I continued to make good grades there until Senior year Calculus II. I just wasn’t getting it. I had never struggled with math before and my teacher didn’t help when I went to her open office hours.

          I managed to scrape by somehow and then found out my college major required Calculus II. I was devastated but resolved to start early so when I failed again I could retake the course.

          Class started and … It was really easy. It turns out I wasn’t terrible at calculus I just wasn’t learning from that teacher. A new setting and teacher and I breezed through the course.

          It will probably be the same for you.

          1. Self Employed*

            I bounced off Calculus I. Did just fine at community college with a better instructor. Turned out the prof I had first had a reputation for being a terrible teacher–which is acceptable at an R1 if you’re a good researcher. Community college faculty need to be able to TEACH.

        7. Tupac Coachella*

          “I guess I’ve never failed at anything and it’s hard for me to accept that I’ve ended up in this place.”

          You mentioned having finished grad school within the past few years, so I’m guessing you’re my age (late 30s) or younger. I work with undergrads in a major that tends to attract high achievers, and SO many of them struggle with this (and I’ve dealt with it myself). I frequently talk with students who have literally never failed at anything, so they assume that having a rough semester or failing a class means they’re incapable of succeeding. Usually that’s not true, and even for the ones where college isn’t a good fit at that time, it doesn’t mean they’ll never be successful in college or otherwise, just that they lack some skills. Accepting when you’re not able (or in some cases, willing) to improve a situation, figuring out what you can learn from it, and applying that knowledge is a new skill that you’re developing. That will serve you well, even though it’s hard right now. Failure is powerful. If you look at the situation and decide that the best option for you is to move on, accept defeat joyously by celebrating what you’ve learned about what you want, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and what skills you want to develop that would have been helpful here. I hope your health issues get better and that you can use the great advice from Alison and the commenters to make a decision that’s right for you.

          As a side note, I don’t think this is exclusive to millennials and younger by any means, but I do think that the below 40 set is especially vulnerable to it. We were educated in a climate where we were told that the stakes are so high, and as a result, a lot of us only took on “challenges” that we knew we could win. Parents of teenagers, I implore you: let them take the class they’re not quite ready for, apply to the stretch school, get the job, or try out for the sport they love but have never played. If it works out great-go your kid! If not, though, don’t blame them, make excuses, or encourage them to blame others-instead, show them how to cope with failure with grace and curiosity.

        8. Mid*

          It also might be beneficial to talk to a therapist or other mental health professional, at least while you’re job hunting and transitioning into a new job.

        9. Not So NewReader*

          Here’s a tidbit that I wish someone had showed me.
          You say, “I oscillate most days between feeling like I can turn this around and feeling done with the whole thing.”

          In order to turn something around, how we deal with the days we “feel done” is critical. Because it’s in those days that we lose the most ground and actually shoot ourselves in the foot. To conquer the seemingly insurmountable takes a continuous effort, not an on and off effort.
          I know. I have been where you are and the job was pure misery. Everything I touched turned to crap on my off days. Then I have one good day and my hopes would come back.
          Hopes lie. You have to have more than ONE good day ONCE in a while. (Why didn’t I get this part???)

          Looking back on that job I have clarity now that I did not have then. The place was toxic. There was also corruption going on. (Don’t stay with corrupt employers.) I was not suited for the work itself. (Hey anyone can do this job, why can’t I???) Icing on the cake, there was a toxic chemical in our work that left me half-stoned most days. I couldn’t think clearly. I think in years to come you will also be able to clearly identify what went wrong in your own setting.

          The one good thing that came out of it is that it is The Job that I compare all other jobs to when I have a bad day at work. “Is this like Old Place? NO? Then keep trying.”

          Yeah, it’s okay to need to nurse some wounds because it does hurt. So do that, do what you need to do to help yourself reknit. At the same time seek advice from well-chosen people as you go along. Choose people whose opinions you respect. And make a promise to yourself that if you ever see a situation like this again that you will get yourself out quicker. Making these promises to ourselves is really important.

          Last, I want to look at this sentence you have here:
          ” I guess I’ve never failed at anything and it’s hard for me to accept that I’ve ended up in this place.”

          … never failed at anything: If you are like me, you can probably think of times where you simply opted out of something that you knew you would not be good at. While it’s NOT a failure to opt out, it does show that you do know you have limits. Hey, you’re human. We all have limits. You’ve hit limits before, but in a softer manner.

          ….hard for me to accept: This one is shorter. Then DON’T accept it!

          …I’ve ended up in this place: Well this is simply not true, you have not “ended”. You landed in this place but it is not an ending in any way, shape or form. Your life and career can continue on and it does not have to be in this place.

          Now this sentence looks like, “I’ve never misjudged anything this much, but I cannot accept this place as my destiny, there is something better and I owe it to me to go find it.”

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      100% agree.

      I will note that if it comes to that, you can have that discussion during the “this is not working out, and we need to organize your departure” conversation. You can ask to resign instead of being fired, and you can ask to agree with your soon-to-be-former employer that all parties will say that you resigned (or they’ll just confirm dates of employment). You also can ask whether they’ll agree not to contest unemployment (this may depend on your state, IANAL).

      It’s not ideal to resign instead of being fired, and you should not hang around performing badly until you are faced with this choice. It’s way better to find a new job and THEN resign. But should it happen, you can ask to come to a departure agreement that doesn’t hurt them, but helps you.

      They can say no, but they generally don’t want you ruined and humiliated and unemployable and broke forever. They just don’t want you working THERE anymore. It’s best for everyone if you can gracefully move on to a better fit and they can find a better fit.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Yes! “Coaching out” is a great option; everyone will be happier. Ideally, you can agree on a date to leave (giving you some on-ramp to job searching), what you’ll focus on in the meantime (which could possibly include some leeway for job searching/interviews during work hours), what your reference will look like, and how they’ll treat you with regards to unemployment. In exchange, they get your best effort while you’re transitioning, more lead time in hiring your replacement, and they avoid a complicated termination and generate goodwill other employees.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yes 100% recommend negotiating a mutual departure. I’ve done it before and it worked out good for everyone – pretty much everyone was relieved to just have the situation be over, I got to leave a job that was making me physically ill, they avoided having to fire someone, and they agreed to not contest my unemployment claim (they offered this freely without me asking for it, so it doesn’t strike me as uncommon or outlandish). I was so overworked that there was no way I was going to be able to job hunt and find a job that was actually a good fit as opposed to just a lifeline – being on unemployment and focusing solely on job-searching and recovering mentally led me to find a much better job that I don’t think I would ever have found/got if I was still at my last place and struggling.

        “They can say no, but they generally don’t want you ruined and humiliated and unemployable and broke forever. They just don’t want you working THERE anymore. It’s best for everyone if you can gracefully move on to a better fit and they can find a better fit.” THIS so much. A company may suck to work for but for the most part they aren’t actually twiddling their mustaches trying to personally ruin you.

    3. Zulu*

      Also worth noting that it can be possible to turn things around – depending on the situation and support OP is getting of course. I was in a job that was a poor fit but managed to get through a PiP and keep the ptb at bay until I could leave.

  2. Language Lover*

    LW# 3

    The good news is that if you job search, companies will usually not expect a reference from your current employer. By the time you move on again, you will hopefully have other references established.

    But another thing to consider is your company might think more favorably toward you if you a) recognized that this job might not be the best fit in the long run for you and b) elected to move on as a result.

    It can be a relief when employees recognize their limitations on their own and avoid the unpleasantness that would come with firing. No one on either side really enjoys firing.

    I’m not saying that it’ll get you a good reference but you can perhaps neutralize it a bit should they get cold called.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Good point. OP can definitely talk to their manager when leaving about what kind of reference will be provided.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed — if your manager is someone with whom you have a good rapport, there might be an advantage to talking with him about how to transition away from the work.

      This is also an opportunity to reflect on where you struggled, why, and how to strengthen those areas or to avoid them in future work.

    3. Weekend Please*

      I did something similar at my last job. My manager was willing to give me a decent reference for jobs that were different enough from that job. While we disagreed about why that job was a bad fit, we both agreed that it was. She actually found the job posting for my current job and encouraged me to apply and this job is perfect for me.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree with this. It will depend a little on the personality of your current manager but knowing when to walk away can work out in your favor, especially if you handle it honestly with your current boss.

      I was doing reference checks on a prospective employee once and one of the former managers basically said exactly what you have above. That the job had not really been a great fit, but Fergus is really great and had a lot of good qualities, including being very self aware and knowing when something wasn’t working. It ended up overall being a decent reference, even though he hadn’t been the right person for one of his previous jobs.

      I probably wouldn’t ever put your current manager as your number one person to speak on your behalf, but if they do specifically ask for your former manager I wouldn’t panic. Especially since there will be a little time to let the situation cool between your next job and the one after that, this won’t have to be as big an issue as you might think it will.

    5. TardyTardis*

      And some companies will gladly supply glowing references to help you move on, too. It’s called Greyhound management, and sometimes it can work for you.

  3. pcake*

    LW2, why were you in such a rush to reach them? For all you knew, the agency owner’s mother had just passed away, their building could have been evacuated due to fire or they could have had termite tenting so took a day off. Or maybe one of their employees quit or got sick, and they were swamped and doing their best to get caught up. Maybe the owner was in the hospital or perhaps they celebrate a holiday that you don’t celebrate.

    I could keep going, but leaving a bad review after less than 48 hours seems like an over-the-top reaction. Perhaps waiting a business week at least before reacting so strongly would protect your professional relationships in the future, and waiting longer before a public response would protect you and maybe the company that had a good reason for not responding right away.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Yeah I think even theorizing all the unusual things that could have happened misses the point that a recruiter has zero obligation to respond to you. They prioritize their workload according to their business needs and cold calls just aren’t high on that list. On top of that, 24 hours is ridiculously short even for places where you expect an answer.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. Recruiters are not a service to those looking for a job; they provide services to employers. There is zero responsibility to them to respond to any job applicant that they have not themselves contacted. You might want to reflect on what other behaviors might damage you in the work world that flow from the sense of entitlement and the enthusiasm for wreaking revenge on anyone who displeases you.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        This is an odd experience I had once long ago: I called a number about a job I saw [a famous staffing agency but I’d never heard of it] and asked, “Hi, what is it your agency does?” — and the person refused to answer me! I was flabbergasted. I explained I wasn’t familiar w/them and saw a job they’d listed, and they still refused to tell me what they do.

        I can’t imagine what they thought I was up to, asking them what they do.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Right? I get being impatient, but LW misplaced their marbles after waiting ONE DAY!

      We’ve all wanted to get upset at slow responders, but LW was the unreasonable one here.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I don’t want to come down too hard on the LW. After a long time job searching, things can start to feel desperate, and it looks as though they know they messed up.

        I had a very hard time getting back into the workforce after an ill-advised adventure to grad school and a two-year break to raise an infant, plus going back in the shadow of the financial crash. Searching for work for months can wear you down and mess with your head more than you would think. I didn’t yell at any recruiters, but that experience cured me of the belief that just because I’m rational and reasonable NOW that this is a permanent setting. It’s my *default* setting, but it’s not the only one on the dial.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          This, so many times. Long term unemployment, financial stress, and dealing with inconsiderate interviewers and recruiters wears down your soul. The intense level of work it takes just to work is an irony of Kafkaesque proportions.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t want to come down too hard on the LW. After a long time job searching, things can start to feel desperate, and it looks as though they know they messed up.

          True. But that’s all the more reason to point out to the OP that their reaction is inappropriate and why. Not because they are a terrible person, but because their norms seem to have been bent out of shape.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I almost get the sense that the LW views the recruitment agency more like a retail business where, as a potential customer, you would expect to hear back pretty fast. But even then, it would be pretty extreme to jump right to leaving a bad review if a landscaper or hairdresser didn’t call back within 24 hours.

      I want to be generous to LW because they seem to realize their mistake and wrote in for advice. Maybe unemployment in a bad economy just made them desperate.

      1. Florp*

        I have a friend who is a recruiter, and she says a lot of job seekers confuse her with a career coach and don’t realize that they are not her customer. The hiring company pays her, and is therefore the customer. She’s happy to take resumes via email and file them away in case something comes up, but she’s a one person operation and just can’t respond to every cold caller.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Decades ago, much younger me went to a staffing agency. There was absolutely nothing in their advertising that let people know they worked for the employer not the job seeker. I did whatever they wanted me to do and they landed on, “We will call you when we find something.”
          They never called.
          From what I read in their materials, I sincerely believed they would help me find a job. That’s what it sounded like. After a short while without phone calls, I realized they were not going to help me.

          The place is still there. They have another business under the same person- let’s say it’s a screen door company. It’s something totally unrelated. When I went in there I did not know if I was going to come out with a screen door or a job, the signs were not well placed. For years I laughed at my own foolishness- “Yeah, I thought a place named Bob’s Employment Agency and Screen Door Company was actually going to help me find a good job.”

          I can see why people would be confused. If a person doesn’t know something, then they just don’t know.
          Some one either has to explain it to them or, you know, just leave them hanging.

      2. NYC Taxi*

        It’s the Amazonification of our expectations that we should get a response, item, interview, etc. instantly.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Love it. I see this with the students in higher education- some of them expect us to respond when they email at 3am or on the weekends. Of course when it is us trying to get ahold of them….

        2. Drago Cucina*

          I like that term! In library land I referred to it as changing from the Dominos expectation to Little Caesar’s. From expecting something to be ready in 20-30 minutes to expecting it hot and fresh *Right Now*. I could see a drastic shift over a decade.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Or they respond to cold calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or their average response time is 36 hours, or something else utterly mundane. No way to tell from the outside.

      Very probably the number of job seekers is way up do to Covid but the number of companies paying for recruiting is not, so they can’t afford to hire enough people to handle all the job seekers quickly.

    4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I get it. You, the candidate, wants to get a job ASAP. It’s your top priority. However, the recruiter is filling multiple jobs for paying customers, prospecting for new customers, managing their existing lists of resumes, and also doing the mundane daily tasks of running a business. Expecting them to treat you—one of many candidates—as a top priority shows a deep misunderstanding of how this process works and indicates a focus on your own needs, not the needs of others. It would be at least a yellow flag to potential employers. Please learn from this experience.

      1. Artemesia*

        the OP isn’t even a ‘candidate’ since the company did not contact them. Recruiters don’t work for job seekers.

    5. No Name #1*

      I agree with the other comments that are emphasizing the fact that recruitment companies are under no obligation to respond to you in the first place, let alone in 24 hours. In fact, I would be pretty surprised if I got a response in 24 hours.
      Also, during a pandemic, a lot of businesses are operating slower than usual… perhaps they had to lay people off or make budget cuts, or they are working from home and communication is more delayed than usual. Actually, considering how high the unemployment rates are right now, they are probably swamped with applicants. I get that it’s hard to cope with uncertainty but you also need to have realistic expectations in the first place, otherwise you will be in for a world of disappointment going forward.

  4. New Jack Karyn*

    I guess I don’t understand what’s so annoying about someone wearing similar clothes to you. And it makes you feel sick when she turns up in an outfit just like yours on some days? That seems a little over the top to me.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I’m guessing this is one of those things that might sound more harmless in writing than in real life. Photos would help show how close we’re talking! But if I really imagine a coworker seeking out my stylist for the same cut, intentionally buying duplicates of all my clothes, turning up every day wearing exactly what I would wear, that is creepy. It’s not a similar style, it’s the exact same stuff. It’s very “single white female”.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, I find that really weird. I genuinely don’t remember ever turning up wearing the exact same garment as a coworker, let alone entire identical outfits multiple times a week. That would make me so uncomfortable.

      2. Birdie*

        Yeah, I’ve had a few clothing items in common with colleagues in the past, and in those cases, we would laugh when we showed up in the same thing because it was truly a coincidence – we just happened to have similar tastes in clothes, no one was trying to copy anyone else, and it was at most a once-a-month occurrence. Having someone dress like you *every day* because they copied your entire wardrobe is something very different. I would definitely be unnerved.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Exactly. I’m in a super-casual location *and* occupation (think leggins/jeans, T-shirt and hoodie, lots of outdoors activewear from a small number of brands, and a significant number of co-workers would be in mukluks or XtraTuff boots depending on the season). And there’s fieldwork of a type that female colleagues who are of a similar build as myself (curvy, short, not-very-athletic) will exchange which brands make the best pants for hiking into and working in mildly uneven terrain. So ending up with the same clothes happens frequently by accident and is usually a welcome source of amusement …

          … but that’s very different from deliberate, sneaky copying. I can imagine engaging a coworker whose style I admire (being a near-complete style moron myself!) and ask whether she would share where and how she shops for clothes as I would like to expand my style range into the more polished and professional. And she might suggest some stores or brands. And then I would go there and find items to build *my own* style using these brands or stores. Similarly, I would never copy a hair style, but I might ask for recommendations of, say, a colorist and then get them to cut and dye my hair in a way that’s uniquely suitable for *me*.

      3. anonforthis*

        Exactly this. There is a difference between wearing the same H&M top every now and again, and someone going through the effort of copying every item of clothing you own. I know someone this happened to and it was eerie. I actually think it’s a form of stalking.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        Yes, and I think this is something where the extent and frequency would make it start to feel pretty unbearable. Wearing the same outfit as someone is not a big deal (at my office if two or more people wear a shirt of the same color by accident there is almost always some sort of “guess I missed the memo, haha!” joke made by another person) but when it happens every single day and seems to be accompanied by this person trying to force a friendship that isn’t there, it would certainly feel very grating in a way that builds and builds with each occurrence.

    2. allathian*

      It’s not just that she’s turning up in the same clothes some days, it’s *every day*. She has gone to the same hairdresser and asked for a similar cut (nothing was said, but possibly with a photo of the OP). Even if she doesn’t manage to twin every day, they have a similar style. For men in a business environment where everyone wears a suit this would probably pass by unnoticed, unless they did something really obvious like wore the same tie, but there’s a bit more variety for women, so when someone copies your style, it’s easier to see.

      Sure, if she’s from a rural area, the coworker may have been unsure about professional norms. But it sounds like she’s a bit too much of a fan of the OP, especially given the texts after work.

      This is giving me flashbacks to junior high. I wasn’t at all popular in my class, but when I was in 8th grade, a girl in 7th did the same to me and copied my style. Sure, in the mid-80s everyone wore pretty much the same kind of clothes, stone-washed jeans and colorful sweatshirts, but she really made an effort to copy my style. It was awkward and felt intrusive in my teens and I can imagine that it’d feel just as awkward as an adult.

      1. Fashionista*

        It’s not just that she’s turning up in the same clothes some days, it’s *every day*.

        Unless Office-Mate is telepathic, how does she know what LW1 is wearing that particular day? Sure, she might copy general styles…but she doesn’t know that Office-Mate is wearing a teal blazer that particular morning.

        1. Red*

          So i generally rotate 4 diff cardigans over tops as the office gets cold. The coworker has gone & brought all the exact same ones.
          So yes we are twinning at-least 4 days in a week. She has also purchased the identical tops to go with it. which is why it feels so awkward. :( Sounds trivial i know but i wish it felt as trivial. Obviously i wouldn’t want to continue the friendly conversations that we started as i no longer feel the same towards this person. Shes not letting go & thinks we are good buddies as we started off on a good note till she started aping & got super clingy during work hours. Maybe shes looking for an anchor /support. but i just cant be that person due to my own negative feelings towards her. :(

          1. Just an idea*

            Do you have anything nice that predates her you could add to your rotation? By doing it somewhat randomly you could at least break the pattern a bit.

          2. Miss V*

            Could you consider buying a few things from thrift stores/consignment shops/ThredUp? Or even vintage stores if that’s an option near you and you like more vintage styles. It might take a little more time for you to dig for items you like but it’d be much harder for her to copy you if you’re buying things from last season that’s there was only one of on the store.

            1. Cj*

              ThredUp is awesome? I started a new job in October 2019 that is business casual. I’d been working in a jeans environment for a couple years, had gained weight, and none of my business casual clothes fit anymore.

              I discovered ThredUp through this site, and can’t recall anything I’ve purchased elsewhere (other than underwear and PJ’s) since then. Basically all of the outfits I wear to work, including my shoes, have been purchased from them.

              There is not much chance of the co-working finding the same thing anywhere. There are sometimes duplicates of a top or something on ThredUp in different sizes if it was a popular item at a store like Penney’s or something, but the chances of the co-worker finding the same item in her size or slim. And certainly don’t let her know about ThredUp!

            2. DataGirl*

              I was going to recommend ThredUp too. You can get nice, brand-name like new or new with tag items for very cheap. You could grab a few new cardigans, maybe from a brand that you don’t have a local retailer for so she can’t easily go out and buy copies. It shouldn’t be on you to change- but it might make you feel more comfortable to at least not be twinning.

          3. EPLawyer*

            I would recommend letting this go. I think part of the driver here is you say you spend time working out your wardrobe and then she just … copies you so it easier for her.

            But she may not know HOW to dress professionally. So she picked the one person that she thinks epitomizes professional dress and went with it.

            Now the texting and clinging is another matter. That you need to use Alison’s script and let her know you are not interested in being friends outside of work. Then don’t respond to the texts or calls unless work related. But be careful you don’t let your irritation lead you to exclude her from work things. If you are going out to happy hour after work with everyone else, don’t leave her out of it just because she irritates you. Don’t have lunch with everyone but her. Etc.

          4. Batgirl*

            I don’t know if my cold office tip will help but I buy vintage silk scarves off eBay because real silk warms up as you wear it. They’re one of a kind and completely define the outfit. I can get away with wearing nothing but black wool dresses because the scarves change things up so much.

              1. Batgirl*

                Google silk scarf knots if you want to explore uncopyable knots! If you learn one it can be your signature look. Tell no one the name! Typically, for ease, though I just do a cowboy style (fold into a triangle, wrap and tie) or I make a basic bias fold (fold and refold into the centre until you have a rectangle) and wrap it under my sweater neckline like a shirt collar. Secure the ends in your bra or with a hair tie or scarf ring.

          5. AskJeeves*

            It’s creepy and weird. I don’t know why commenters are questioning that, honestly. I don’t think anyone wants to be observed and deliberately copied to the extent you’re describing. It’s not flattering, it’s not trivial; it’s disturbing, especially combined with the clinginess. It’s disturbing to have someone trying to force a closeness you don’t want and insinuate themselves into your life.

            1. PJ*

              I agree with the creepy and weird. When you wear plaid and your office mate is wearing plaid, – it’s a funny coincidence! But everyday? And someone going out and buying your identical wardrobe? That would feel very stalkish…like they’re paying too much attention to what you wear and personal details like your hair. It sounds more like they’re obsessed with the OP than it does that they just want to improve their own style.

            2. Clorinda*

              +1000! How about if someone says that they feel weirded out by something, we believe them? This sounds like exactly the kind of experience that is hard to put into words, because the reaction feels out of line with the describable reality. But we all know when someone is crowding us, and OP is being crowded.

            3. MCMonkeybean*

              Highly agree. There’s nothing wrong with shopping at the same places and taking some style cues from others around you (I have on a couple of occasions really liked a particular item a friend wore and ended up buying one for myself!), but making your entire wardrobe match exactly is extreme to a point where it would make me very uncomfortable.

              And if someone here feels they wouldn’t care about something like this then that’s fine for them, but the OP is bothered by it so the fact that other people might feel differently really just isn’t relevant to her situation.

          6. Pippa K*

            If it were just the clothes-copying problem, the obvious solution would be to wear a fake moustache and tell everyone you’re the evil twin. :)

          7. Change it up?*

            Why don’t you just change up your rotation? If she’s not literally stalking you, she’ll keep wearing the blue cardigan on Monday as usual, but you’ll be wearing the green cardigan instead. If she IS literally stalking you, your problem is not the clothes.

            If she wants to make your relationship more personal than professional and you don’t, you can fix that with firm boundaries and other social tools.

            1. drive-by commenter*

              Because Copy Cat can just keep all four cardigans in her car, office, wherever and go put on the one that LW is wearing.

          8. Batgirl*

            If the tops go with the cardigans are you talking about twinsets? Can you instead of wearing the set, mix and match them to throw her off? It’s unfair if you have matched sets which you like, but I think the only way to get enjoyment of them back is to get her unsure of the rotation by adding more pieces or mixing what you have. When she stops being sure of the way they are worn it a much less reliable scaffold for her.

        2. allathian*

          Many people have a work uniform. My office is casual, so I’m fine with wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt that doesn’t need ironing (in winter) or an elbow-sleeved shirt (in summer) and jeans, thin socks and open-toed sandals (indoor shoes are mandatory at the office, we aren’t allowed to wear the same shoes that we wear outdoors to keep the floors cleaner). Many others wear similar clothes, but I would feel weird if someone made sure to get shirts with the same patterns as mine, even if we didn’t wear them on the same day, or if they tried to copy my hair or get an identical pair of glasses. Sure, it sometimes happens that someone has the same shirt as I do, but they don’t copy my entire wardrobe, it’s completely accidental.

          I fully realize that some people would be flattered by this sort of attention and others might barely notice it, but it’s bothering the OP and it would bother me.

          1. allathian*

            Work uniform should be in quotes here. I just meant that many people wear very similar, if not identical, clothes to work every day. Makes the effort of choosing what to wear much simpler.

            I’m fat, and if I find a pair of jeans that really feel comfortable and look good on me, I’ll buy two or three pairs at the same time, usually in different colors, blue and black.

            1. Trombones Geants*

              Same. Old Navy ribbed tank tops (because they’re longer than most). Amazon Essentials cardigans. Three pairs of similar Levi’s tummy control jeans. All tanks and cardigans match or can be worn interchanged. This is what I wear Monday – Friday. I call it my grown up Granimals.

              1. Jerusha*

                Likewise. Pull-on pants (with pockets, thank you!), solid color polo shirt. Pants color may change, but they’re all the same style. And there are some differences from one brand to the next (including whether it was marketed as a men’s or women’s shirt – manufacturers who put dainty little useless cap sleeves on women’s polo shirts, I’m looking at you…) but in most ways a polo shirt is a polo shirt. Other than trying not to go accidentally monochromatic, all of the shirts go with all of the pants. The most effort I put into clothing most days is remembering what color shirts I’ve worn earlier in the week, to try not to come in wearing the same color shirt multiple times in a row or in close proximity.

                Would I be weirded out by someone who also had settled into a work uniform of polo-and-slacks? Probably not. Would I be weirded out by someone who bought _the same_ polo shirts and slacks I own, especially if it’s as pervasive and deliberate as it’s portrayed in the letter? You betcha. (One or two, sure – “Oh, you saw the polo shirts at Costco too?” – but every. single. shirt? Brrr.)

        3. Cj*

          She’s not copying a general style. She is buying the exact same clothes as the OP. So she’s wearing the exact same things the OP owned first everyday, not that they are wearing the exact same thing everyday.

          The OP says in this thread they that they are twinning 4 times a week. She doesn’t state this is the case specifically, but she says she rotates her cardigans. “Rotate” could mean she wears them in the same order. If that’s is the case, her co-worker could make a pretty good guess what OP will be wearing.

          Cardigans are one thing, but to purchase the same tops to wear under them? That is bizarre.

        4. Gray Lady*

          It’s not the same things on the same days, but it’s all the same clothing in rotation, every day, apparently.

        5. kt*

          The letter-writer says that the officemate knows what stores the LW shops at and what items she owns down to the style name. If you have the same wardrobe and it’s normal-sized rather than Hollywood-sized, you’ll show up with the same clothes some percentage of the time.

          1. Chinook*

            Exactly, especially if they are a more generic item like a cardigan or plain blouse, which I could totally see being a basic work uniform. Add to the mix that only a few colours are available in any given season, and the coworker may have just gone in with the mindset to buy the same thing in multiple colours. Plus, if she is from a place with few shopping choices, wearing what someone elsenis not that unusual. Heck, there was a time when I could tell where few lower budget Canadian 5v jows bought their wardrobe at Saans or Fields or Sears because I knew a few people with same outfits on tv.

            I am not discounting the OP’s gut at this being weird, but you also don’t gets dibs on clothing or styles or colours. If the haircut suits her face, it may have even be her hairdresser ‘s idea. Thr store may hve had a sale on when she bought her clothes. Or any number of coincidences that may feel freaky but are not about the OP at all.

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        Also a flashback to an episode of Reba, when Barbara Jean completely copied Reb’s look, red hair and all.

      3. Oldie Hawn*

        Guys, people from rural areas aren’t sitting around in pastures flinging mud at each other. They just drive a bit farther to get to work.

        1. Partly Cloudy*


          Yeah, I’m wondering what the rural area has to do with the copycat. Because people in rural areas also have access to fashion magazines and TV and stuff, so it’s not like she has No Idea what people wear to work in The City or whatever.

          1. madge*

            Right! And they have the “professional norms” mentioned – good lord, my husband’s hometown of 5k people has a ridiculous amount of accounting firms, banks, offices, etc., where proper business dress is expected. Friends there road trip the two hours to the nearest Nordstrom.

          2. Chinook*

            Those of use from “rural areas” know exactly what it means and how we will be treated by those who use it to describe us. It is always nice when urban snobs self-identify so that we “rural types” know to lead with our credentials, modify our accents and hide any experience that may hint at having accomplished anything outside the city limits. I started dealing with this in university (we rural students actually sniffed each other out to become friends and happily welcomed any city folks who didn’t care that living at home while going to school was never a logistical option)

          3. Red*

            not meant in that way at all. i have made some fantastic friendships from out of city gals. In-fact that’s the reason i gave in to the friendliness and gave the coworker so much info. I thought it would be useful for her to settle in didn’t realize it would backfire. I mentioned rural as a context to understand. Sorry should’ve said out of city. I thought this like my other out of city friends would work but i think that’s where I’m mistaken those were not same department coworkers who were this friendly at the start.

    3. Myrin*

      I think this is one of those situations where you either get it or you don’t and even someone explaining their thoughts and feelings won’t change your point of view because you intrinsically don’t feel the same way (I’ve had the same happen with several past letters.

    4. L6orac6*

      The question is why would you want to dress like someone else. Most of us by the age of 35 have a style of dressing and haircut that we developed over time and are happy with, whether or work or home. This is just creepy. Does this person lack imagination, of how to dress at work and has created a uniform by default by copying her colleague.

      1. Marny*

        Or she’s insecure about fitting in to a new environment and is emulating someone who she feels like fits in. As the target of her admiration, I can imagine it’s uncomfortable and annoying, but it’s easy to imagine it’s meant as a compliment— even if that doesn’t make it less uncomfortable ans annoying.

        1. MsClaw*

          Yeah, I was about to say something similar. Especially if previously coworker was in a much more casual (or more formal) environment, or wore scrubs day-to-day. It probably began as just wanting to emulate the norms of the office and then got…. weird.

          I had a coworker who had the same pair of earrings that I did. She got very weirded out if we happened to wear them on the same day. I thought that was a pretty wild over-reaction, but I pretty much stopped wearing them to work because rational or not, it clearly really upset her. If OP and Coworker are both just wearing the same style tops and cardigans, that’s not so odd. But if Coworker basically went on the store’s website and ordered the exact colors OP has and wears them in the same combos, that’s more peculiar.

          That said, there probably isn’t much OP can do about the clothes thing (other than not directly answering questions about her clothes. Like ‘oh I love your new top, where did you get it’ and dodging with ‘oh I don’t remember’ or ‘oh I just found this at the back of the closet’ or something like that). But OP is definitely not obligated to answer calls and texts or be more than reasonably collegial at work.

          1. Zweisatz*

            In addition I can imagine that the clothes thing gets less overwhelming when OP is able to draw some boundaries around interactions. It always helps to feel more in control.

        2. Llellayena*

          This. I (female) dated someone in college who suddenly started dressing like my best college friend (male). They bought t-shirts from the same store, picked up some of the same unusual hobbies, etc. It was creepy. But they were mostly trying to find themselves and testing out what might work for them. Eventually she ended up transitioning and then the copycat behavior stopped.

        3. Autumnheart*

          This isn’t emulating. This is stalking. Going to the same stylist and asking for the same haircut? Calling and texting? I’d be looking in my rear view mirror at this point wondering if I was going to be followed home.

        4. Myrin*

          I mean, OP herself seems to assume the same reasoning: she says “[copycat] comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in” and that’s a perfectly fine thing to do, but I also think a woman in her thirties should have the good sense of not buying the literal exact same clothing as a coworker, much less a coworker she sits right next to, if her only goal was to get a sense for what’s appropriate for her new work environment.

        5. meyer lemon*

          I think part of the reason it’s so uncomfortable is that it’s a clear violation of normal boundaries and social norms, so it’s hard to know what other boundaries the coworker may also break. I doubt it’s intended maliciously, exactly, but there is something a bit territorial about it.

        6. Simonthegreywarden*

          Why do we have to imagine it is a compliment? Can’t we just imagine that the coworker is really lazy? Saying it is a compliment feel s alittle to me like saying someone is ‘a nice guy’ because it invalidates OP’s experience and seems to imply that she should feel flattered. She doesn’t. She feels uncomfortable. So she doesn’t have to look at it as a compliment.

    5. Tuesday*

      I would agree if it were similar clothing, but she’s wearing the exact same items. I would feel ridiculous on days I was “twinning” with a coworker – not just wearing the same style or color scheme or whatever. It seems like she’s concerned about what the op thinks of her, so maybe she’ll be willing to change if the op lets her know she’s uncomfortable with it.

    6. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I don’t think it’s about the clothes per se. It’s a lack of boundaries and a hitching of her professional identity to OP’s professional identity, without having built up the relationship organically.

      That is weird and uncomfortable and I don’t blame OP for feeling unsettled.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, it’s about attempting to force their social identities at work to merge, which OP clearly does not want!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yes, I see how this may be seen by others in a way that is not great for OP. I had a roommate at my very first out-of-college job who for some reason (despite clearly not having a lot of respect for me), was seeking out my company a lot when we first moved in together and met each other. We worked at the same plant, on different teams. It was a 30 minute walk, and she always wanted to walk together there and back. I’d be chatting with my teammates after a work day and my roommate would appear in the doorway to tell me it was time to go. Same with lunch, I maybe wanted to have lunch with my teammates, but the roommate would appear in our office at exactly 12:00 to tell me it was time to head to the cafeteria together. She’d stop by my office in the middle of the day to grab me for a smoke break together (it was the 80s. Everyone smoked. I don’t anymore.) Not only was it suffocating as all get out, but everyone else decided we were BFFs since we always did everything together; just as I started to get to know her better and realized that she was a petty, gossipy, backstabby person that I absolutely did NOT want to be friends with. I put an end to this weird friendship (?) pretty fast, because it got to the point where I did not want to wake up in the morning because I knew I’d have to spend the day with that woman. Meanwhile everyone else believed we were close friends! Which I think may be what OP wants to stop from happening.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Sounds like my first college roommate, who got pretty horrible when I refused to skip class to go to lunch when she wanted to and even worse when I made friends and started doing meals, evenings, and weekends without her. She erased my messages off the phone and whitebboard, stole my mail, and told my significant other than I was cheating on them. (I didn’t know her well but was friends with her younger sister. Turns out Roommate was the oldest kid and had been given free rein at home to tell the four younger kids what to do and when to do it. She was just used to being the dominant person and had no idea what to do with someone who was not intimidated by her.)

          1. Batgirl*

            Yeah the last time I had a friend who wanted us to coordinate outfits it ended similarly. In other words, if someone doesn’t have the skills to buy their own clothes, choose their own haircut or realize when their friendship gestures are overstepping…that is not a mature person who will accept rejection gracefully.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I think the last time I had a friend who wanted to coordinate outfits and hairstyles, we were 11 and packing our suitcases for summer camp. :)

              The thing about it is, if this coworker had said, “Hey, OP, I’m new to this job and I’m nervous about dressing appropriately, do you have any ideas about what stores I should try?” OP probably would have been happy to help. But the idea of the coworker straight up buying every piece of clothing OP buys and copying everything so exactly makes me really uncomfortable, and I’m not even OP!

              1. EgyptMarge*

                I agree, but if Coworker was capable of that kind of honest self expression, I don’t think OP would be in this mess in the first place. Social awkwardness level: 100.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I had a group of co-workers like this at my first job, they instantly pulled me in their circle and I was very naïve at the time. We went to lunch together, and happy hour even. I really had a good time with them, they were a HOOT…until I realized they had quite the (accurate) reputation…liars/gossips/cheated on their husbands…and I was associated with it. It took me a long time to crawl out of the hole I fell into with them. Probably 2 years of really hard work and slowly distancing myself, but I was able to do it…but it was hard, and exhausting! I was very cautious over my next few roles when it came to friends at work. Friendly but not best friends if that makes sense.

        3. chi type*

          Similarly at some point people will forget who had the style first so OP will just be one of those weird twin dressers.

        4. Red*

          Absolutely ! Ive had to change my wardrobe to a large extent and felt sad about letting go of so many of my clothes. But yes at-least the twinning is not frequent because now shes wearing all my stuff but I’m wearing other things which was such an inconvenience for me. But yes the secondary issue here is the constant interference at work for stationary, meds, lunch, sanitary, chatting etc. That”s the challenging part dealing with someone who constantly needs your time and attention and wants to borrow things or thinks shes entitled to your time at work and its OK to keep asking for things ór chatting away. So the lesson here is to not really get friendly to anyone at work because that”s where i screwed up thinking this was a quick & easy friendship and shared so many details of where to get stuff in the city. Over friendliness and banter at work is my area of weakness to watch out for i guess.

      2. GothicBee*

        Yup. I’ve never been a target for someone directly copying my look, but I have had people try to attach themselves to me without building up a relationship (either professionally or friendly) beforehand. It always feels weird and boundary-crossing, and it feels like that’s what this person is trying to do with the LW. Plus if it goes on long enough it can mean that other people start assuming you’re close friends, and depending on how that plays off, it can end up kind of cutting you off from others. If I were the LW, I’d focus on making it clear to the coworker that they’re not friends. Which can feel harsh, but I think it may end up taking care of the other issues too.

      3. LunaLena*

        This is what I thought. Plus the fact that she’s buying the exact same clothes and getting the same haircut from OP’s stylist means that she’s studying the OP very carefully all the time, and living under that level of scrutiny is not comfortable for anyone.

    7. Not Australian*

      FWIW, one of the more minor causes of contention between me and my ex-sister was the fact that I rather naively bought a pair of glasses similar to hers. I hate choosing new frames and never know what suits me, so when I saw her in a new pair that really worked I rationalised that we were alike enough that something similar would work for me – and they did. We saw each other very infrequently at this stage – not at all, now! – and when we did meet up again about six months had passed and I’d got used to them, but she absolutely freaked out about me *copying her* and how dare I, despite the fact that only family members would ever actually see us together. Admittedly I thought it was pretty extreme as this was an isolated example, but I can see how – in the crucible of a workplace – continued emulation would be absolutely exhausting to have to deal with.

      1. allathian*

        Ex-sister sounds dramatic, but yeah, sometimes people just have to go no-contact with family members.

        A funny anecdote, when I was a kid, one of my mom’s friends had identical twins (my mom’s their godmother so I got to see them fairly often as a kid). She usually dressed them in identical clothes, to the point that people would get them mixed up. When they hit their teens, they absolutely refused to wear similar clothes, to the point that one of them refused to wear anything but black and the other wore very colorful clothes. The irony is that the colorful one ended up having identical twins of her own and she was determined not to make the same mistake. Her kids always wore different clothes and were encouraged to express their identities as individuals rather than one of two twins. They’re in their teens now, and more often than not seem to wear similar clothes, although rarely identical ones. My mom’s still in touch with her friend and goddaughters.

        1. OtherSide*

          It seems to me that this happens frequently with twins/triplets. Dress them the same and they hate it. Dress them differently and as teens they will look the same. Because kids are ornery little grubbers who need room to disagree with how their parents did things.

          I know a few sets of twins/triplets from highschool and college and in this I’ll include siblings born within a year of each other. The ones who were always dressed identical made strides to be extremely different. The ones who were forced to have their own “look” when they were young “because they were individuals” more often than not had clothes that were similar enough to be matching.

          In highschool the saddest one was two “identical” twin brothers. One had a mild in-utero stroke so he was always a bit delayed, struggled more, etc. He was leaner and shorter and had a bit of slack on his face. His parents went to great strides to differentiate the two. They dressed identically in high school thinking they could fool people. NO ONE was ever fooled. They needed to announce they were twins. It was….excruciating to deal with as a teen because we had no idea what to say.

      2. SophieJ*

        This. Being a younger sister, this was the most readily relatable analogy I could come up with for why this isn’t “wrong” in the grand scheme, but still isn’t entirely okay either.

        I had an older brother, so copying clothing styles wasn’t the way this manifested, but having an older sibling who got to do “older kid” things like stay up later, or go on certain field trips (aka, things that were age-appropriate for him) and man oh man did I want to do those things too. And since I couldn’t, I would do what I COULD – like hang around (annoy) him and his friends, or play on the NES when he wanted to. For me, at least, it wasn’t about being annoying for the sake of being annoying – I was *trying* in my head to be older and cooler. It didn’t make it any less obnoxious for my brother, though.

        I suspect that the theory that others have floated here about this woman being new to this kind of office environment and copying LW out of insecurity/ignorance about norms is spot on (at least on the surface, though other things could be at play here too. I think the similar letter from last month isn’t truly analogous because in that case the copier was someone much older and already well-established in both their sense of style, and their career, and something else was going on there.) I don’t think there’s much here for LW to do than to grin and bear it as best as possible, and “forget” where she gets certain articles of clothing she is asked about (I also like the ThredUp/thrift shop ideas too.) Whatever “capital” she has to spend should be spent on the other much more tangible issue of the texts/being outside of work friends thing.

    8. MK*

      For me, it’s mostly the creepy vibe of being watched and copied. The fact is that dressing the exact same as your coworkers isn’t something that just happens: I have worked for 20+ years in a business-formal field, often in small towns where there weren’t that many shops around (and before buying online was common). We all sort-of have to dress similarly in suits and a top, but I can count on one hand the number of times a coworker just happen to buy the same item as me. So if someone kept coming to work wearing the same clothes I had worn the previous week, that means they were not only paying very close attention to my wardrobe, but more or less taking inventory of my clothes and intentionally going to the trouble of seeking them out to buy them. Even if you don’t care what your coworker is wearing, the feeling that someone is examining you as you go about your work day must be pretty uncomfrtable.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. There’s a difference between the odd ‘Oh wow! Same top!’ incident, or half the Accounts department turning up wearing stripes one day, and someone who goes out of their way to pinpoint one particular person’s style and copy it, right down to buying the exact same items. It’s generally accepted (among women, anyway) that it’s embarrassing when you show up somewhere wearing the same outfit as someone else, so the fact that someone is deliberately buying the same clothes as a colleague and wearing them to the same office definitely gives it a creepy vibe.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yes, this. And there’s lots of advice out there to look to what colleagues are wearing to help you develop your own sense of style, but starting to wear more blazers or scarves because you like how they look on others or no longer bothering with heels because plenty of other women in the office are wearing flats is really different than copying specific outfits and items.

        2. PT*

          I worked in fitness for awhile, where in the summer months the most sensible work bottoms for women were those dry-wicking running shorts, by Nike or New Balance or Fila, with the colored trim and the inset seam and the liner. A good number of the women on staff got them at the same few TJ Maxx/Nordstrom Racks closest to work.

          We *never* had twinning. And we were buying the same very limited item, in the same stores.

      2. Mel_05*

        Yeah, you really have to go out of your way. I have two coworkers around my age and we all have the same favorite clothing store. It’s not a massive store, so we could easily buy the same clothes or even whole outfits – but we never have! The closest is that two of us have a shirt in the same pattern, but the cut and color is different

      3. MagicUnicorn*

        Yes, this!

        I had a former coworker who would copy my style to the point that it felt creepy and almost like she was stalking me. Whatever I wore on Monday, she would wear a near exact copy of on Tuesday. I even went down the path Alison suggested above and started intentionally wearing more and more outrageous outfits just to see if she would go there, and she did. Other colleagues noticed and commented to me that they found her duplicate outfits odd. Eventually I asked someone I was close with to talk to her. They let her know that she would do better to get noticed for her work quality than for going to extremes to copy a colleague’s clothing choices. Thankfully, she listened to them and the whole thing fizzled.

      4. Amey*

        Yes, this is weird! I have a close colleague with very similar taste to me – most of our work appropriate attire is bought from the same few brands with limited ranges. We have a couple of the same pieces – there’s one dress that I don’t wear to work because I know it’s a favourite of hers (and I think it suits her better!) Even given that, it would take real dedication for us to match to this level. I would find it incredibly strange if she went out and bought and wore to work the same outfits I wore this week. It’s just incredibly unlikely to happen by accident.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        I literally stopped buying a brand I liked when I realized my grandboss got most of her clothes there, because I didn’t want to ever show up in the same outfit as her! So yeah, this person’s whole deal is bizarre to me.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          When my former coworker turned up at work in a sweater identical to one I owned, I knew it was a coincidence because it was quite an old sweater that we’d bought independently long before we’d even met, so there was no copying issue in play. While I didn’t particularly care and would have laughed it off if we’d turned up in it on the same day, I wasn’t sure how she felt.

          She ended up being seconded part time into a role that meant she was based out of another building the second half of the week, so I did find myself trying to only wear that one on days when she wouldn’t be there and so even if she did wear that one it would be a non issue.

    9. doreen*

      There’s a difference between someone wearing similar clothes and someone wearing the same clothes. I have at different times had different sorts of “work uniform” – at one point, docker-type pants, a t shirt or tank and an unbuttoned shirt. At another point, it was dress pants, a sleeveless blouse and a thin cardigan. At both times there were other women who were dressed similarly – but never the exactly the same. For instance, one woman only wore black docker-type pants with the first “uniform” and the other women who wore the second did not have the exact same styles and colors of blouses and cardigans that I did. It would have felt very strange if someone had gone out and gotten the exact same blouses and cardigans that I had , in a way that wouldn’t have felt strange if someone had the exact same basic black or beige pants.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, women can’t really call dibs on pants/shirt/cardigan or pants/shirt/blazer, given that in some offices it’d be like men calling dibs on slacks and a button down or khakis and polo shirts, but there are enough different styles and colors and cuts and brands that even people with similar body shapes and similar taste won’t end up looking like copies of each other.

    10. Colette*

      There’s a difference between “everyone is wearing jeans and a t-shirt” and “coworker is wearing the exact same jeans and the exact same t-shirt as me” – especially when it’s a deliberate choice and not a coincidence.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The creepy part is why would anyone want to put that much time into someone else’s clothes? What else are they spending too much time thinking about?

    11. Venus*

      In my experience it is a symptom of a bigger issue about the other person. In an extreme example, I have a misogynist coworker who has a shirt that has an identical and unique shade to one of my shirts. I like the color, but I only wear it when I know he’s out of the office because I can’t enjoy the color when it is associated with him.

      With LW1’s experience, the weirdness is that they sit next to each other, and the coworker wears identical clothes and other styles (why didn’t the coworker buy from the same store, but same colors with different style, or same style with different color). I’m guessing the coworker isn’t the perfect employee or coworker, and LW doesn’t want people conflating them because they sit next to each other and look alike.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’m guessing the coworker isn’t the perfect employee or coworker, and LW doesn’t want people conflating them because they sit next to each other and look alike.
        That’ll be my guess too.

    12. Sylvan*

      Yeah, I don’t know about this. People who have similar jobs tend to shop at the same places; they have the same income and they’re often near the same stores. The similar haircut gives me pretty creepy vibes, though.

      Not to say that the OP is like this, but: I had a coworker who thought another coworker was copying her clothes. Then, the first coworker had a baby, and then the second coworker had a baby. The first coworker claimed the other had a child to copy her.

      Truth is, both women wore pretty ordinary clothes. Both had kids in their mid-30s, as plenty of ordinary women do. The “copycat” wasn’t copying anything, in my opinion, and the one being “copied” was bonkers.

      1. Batgirl*

        Similar happens accidentally, sure, but the same? That would need to be a very small town, with tiny stores and miniscule ranges! Like..a village with two boutiques of very long running seasons is the only way that could happen. I work with women who love the same stores: we’re teachers of a certain age and we like delivery so we pretty much all shop at Next/Marks and Spencer’s/John Lewis. We all need pockets and warmth. In a team of eleven women, there’s one woman who has the same woolen dress and another with the same woolen blazer as me. A few people have those Popsy dresses, in different patterns with only one or two duplicated amongst us. Chosen by more than one of us because warmth + pockets. However I’ve never had anyone match my whole outfit because the probability is so unlikely. On multiple occasions? With my hairstyle? Nah. Has to be deliberate.

    13. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      There’s a line after which it gets too much in a creepy way. Someone wearing similar clothes to you by coincidence = no big deal. Someone making an effort to find out where you shop, buying exact same clothes, shoes, wearing these *same as yours* clothes and shoes to work every day, switching to the same hairdresser and getting the same haircut from them = literal plot of Single White Female.

      I would talk to the coworker though. I remember when I was starting out in the corporate world in the US, one very popular advice to people new to the corporate office environment was to find someone at work whose look you consider put-together and professional, then emulate that person. Maybe coworker tried to follow that advice and went a bit too far, not understanding that “emulate” does not mean “try to look exactly the same as”.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That would make a lot of sense if it weren’t for the way the coworker is also copying her hairstyle exactly, and just generally being clingy.

    14. Yorick*

      It sounds like this person is buying the exact same items, on purpose. I would find that creepy and pretty annoying even if I were certain the person wasn’t a creep.

    15. RagingADHD*

      I completely understand why this is annoying, but given the details OP has given in the comments, it sounds a lot less creepy.

      OP said she rotates the same 4 sets of tops and cardigans every week, and that they are matched sets.

      A capsule wardrobe is a great idea to simplify your life. And for a coworker to think, “hey, great idea!” and go to one store to purchase 4 sets, is annoying but not stalkerish.

      If she were hunting down an extensive wardrobe of diverse or discontinued pieces, it would be more creepy. This sounds like it was a convenience move, as much as anything.

      1. RagingADHD*

        And TBH, having read some more of LW1’s comments below, I kind of wonder what the “identical haircut” actually is?

        Are we talking about, I dunno, an undercut dyed teal?

        Or something extremely common like a shoulder-length bob?

        1. Gray Lady*

          Even the general concept of a shoulder length bob is normally going to be a little different on different people — slightly different length, different tapering, different framing of the face, possibly parted on the other side, different adaptation to hair type.

          If it’s exactly the same cut, that’s weird.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Not so weird for someone new in town to say, “Who does your hair? I need a stylist, and your hair always looks great.”

            And then the stylist tends to do basic cuts in the same way.

            1. OtherSide*

              There’s literally a stylist known for this in my town….if this truly is a small town, it’s not implausible.

            2. Chinook*

              Or the OP and coworker have similair shaped faces and the cut is flattering on both. I am clueless when it comes to hair styles and just tell my stylist to make mine look good and easy to style. I would not be shocked of others got the same cut even from different stylists.

    16. Artemesia*

      It is super annoying but not much you can actually do about it except to draw a bright line between work and your social life when it comes to this person. If she doesn’t want to say anything, the obvious thing to do is to keep a few things in a locked drawer at work — a jacket, a cardigan, a couple of scarves — so that if she show up in your blue suit, you can change out the jacket with spare jacket or cardigan and you can change the overall impact with a scarf.

    17. meyer lemon*

      Don’t you think it would look a bit weird to walk into a doctor’s office and see two identically dressed people with the same haircut sitting side by side at their desks? I’d be unnerved if I were the OP, although I think I would find the constant texting more annoying.

      I think this letter was re-posted from Dear Prudence, and one of the commenters there suggested keeping a few extra clothes at work to avoid extreme synchronicity moments.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        For a while, I was doing business with this one particular bank. One of their branches was kind of weird. Most of the women had the same hair style and they always wore black. Okay so the hair style was a fluke maybe? But why were they all in black day after day? NONE of the other branches did that. It was so weird, it was like they were all trying to look like each other. These women did not wear anything but black. Ever.

        Anyway this particular branch made mistake after mistake with my account. I tried not to go there because of the problems. But it just struck me that if they were not so much into looking alike, maybe they’d do a better job?

        1. Lurker*

          Maybe they were told they had to wear black as a type of uniform?

          In NYC, people wear black all year round. It goes with everything, doesn’t show dirt (or sweat). I have a friend who only wears black – and maybe – every once in a great while – she’ll wear a crisp white button up instead. Even her cats are black! (So that their hair doesn’t show on her clothes.)

          1. Simonthegreywarden*

            I don’t know, I have a black coat and trust me, if I brush against my car right now it shows every bit of dirt and grime.

    18. kt*

      I think the letter writer buried the lede a bit — it’s the last paragraph about clinginess, constants calls and texts, that really set of my red-flag-detector. It’s one thing to have someone silently wear the same clothes. It’s another to have someone forcing them into your life physically, at work, and electronically, via text and call during non-work hours. This is a real problem and it’s creepy. The Letter-writer may need to read some Captain Awkward. The officemate is pushing boundaries in a non-healthy way.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The clothes thing is an obvious symptom of a larger problem.

        The thing that strikes me is that of the very few times I have worn something similar to someone else, one of us has said, “Oh look we’re twins today!” or some other light joke to eliminate any tension or misunderstanding. It was a one-off situation and never happened again. This is the total opposite of what OP is experiencing.

        The whole reason people avoid the copying the same clothes is as OP shows here- it’s uncomfortable and awkward at best. Our clothes and style are a part of our identity. Typically people want to have their own style but still remain in keeping with the overall idea of what the rest of the group is doing. Alison was very generous in her script. I’d want to know if the person was trying to be me.

    19. Middle School Teacher*

      There are literally six female teachers here today wearing pretty much the me outfit (a big cardigan, scarf, slim-fit bottoms). One of them is a sub. It’s not some vast conspiracy OP. For us, it’s freezing here (-26 Celsius) and we want to be warm and comfy. I think maybe you’re making a bit too much of this.

      1. Nea*

        There is a vast difference between wearing similar styles of clothing and wearing exactly the same clothing – same brand, same colors, same materials.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This isn’t “ooh, we’re both wearing a big cardigan with a scarf!” This is “we’re both wearing the exact same big cardigan in the same color, with the exact same scarf, and the exact same bottoms, and also I went to your hairstylist and got your haircut.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I worked in a nursery for years. We all wore jeans and a tee shirt. We never once came close to even matching each other. There are general trends that a group of cohorts will tend to follow. OP has something else going on.

    20. Tired of Covid-and People*

      She said exactly the same, not similar. Your comment isn’t helping OP, and I don’t think her reaction is over the top at all. Imagine someone repeating everything you say verbatim. It’s very annoying! Stop it! Get your own personality!

      Way back in the before times, a woman at church had on my exact same dress. I didn’t know her and she sure wasn’t imitating me, so I found it amusing, and admired her sartorial skills as I dress well. Much different situation than this one.

      I immediately thought of the movie Single White Female while reading this post, especially the haircut part. Sometimes, imitation is not the highest form of flattery.

    21. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve occasionally seen other women I work with wearing the same blouse or sweater I have at work. But the difference is, I don’t even really know them well (and even so, it’s awkward if you’re both wearing it on the same day). But it’s an awkward you just laugh off. I can’t imagine someone copying me intentionally and exactly. That crosses to uncomfortable twinning.

    22. LMM*

      I think if someone writes that she’s uncomfortable, it’s best to take it at her word that she’s uncomfortable, and parse not her feelings but the situation created by her coworker that’s making her uncomfortable.

    23. Esmeralda*

      The part that’s more concerning, frankly, is the texting and calling and trying to maintain a friendship. And that’s the behavior I’d focus on if I were the OP.

      The clothes and hairstyle — I can see why that would be annoying, especially for someone who takes pride in their individual style.

      Then there’s this: “She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in.” If this co-worker weren’t texting and calling excessively, this would lead me to be kind instead of angry, frankly. OP may think, ok, now you know the standard so you don’t need to copy me and if you’re copying me you’re creepy. But possibly she hasn’t been able to generalize to “wear this type of thing”. If you don’t have the background and you don’t get it and you’re worried that you’ll wear the wrong thing and look unprofessional/people will laugh at/no one will take you seriously, then it’s easiest to just copy someone who knows the right thing to wear.

      I’d advise the OP to address the texting, calling, and wanting to be friends (not clear if that’s quite it…), and to leave the clothes-copying out of it. That’s just going to come off as unkind and if it gets around, is going to make the OP seem mean and full of herself (I’m not saying OP is mean or full of herself, just that it will appear that way0.

    24. SunriseRuby*

      This is one of those letters that makes the rounds of the advice columns. It was in Ask Amy a few days ago, but that letter didn’t include information about the copycat’s clinginess that the LW shared here. That’s what makes this situation go beyond annoying to creepy, in my opinion.

      1. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

        Per the thread below (where comments have been disabled), it’s been published in several columns. OP, are you trying to get it placed where your coworker will see it and deal with the problem that way…?

  5. Proofin’ Amy*

    Wow, LW1 is trying for EVERYONE’s advice. Not Alison’s fault, but I’ve already seen this question answered by Dear Prudence and Dear Amy.

    1. PollyQ*

      Probably more common among advice seekers than readers realize. We only see duplicates when it’s an extra-catchy letter/issue.

    2. Gingerblue*

      Given the chances of being answered by any one of them, I assume a lot of LWs do this. Unfortunate it got accepted everywhere, but I don’t blame the LW for hoping they might get one answer out of the bunch.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I quite like it – it’s interesting to see the differing takes people have on it, particularly where (as with this one) there is a work-related an a social element to the issue, and it’s sent to someone like Alison whose focus is the work side of it, and some of the others who tend to deal more with social / relationship issues.

    3. BHB*

      I think Alison’s addressed this previously – those seeking advice often write to several advice pages at once in the hope that at least one will get published. Occasionally, two or more outlets publish the same letter and due to the nature of it, they’ll likely be published at a similar time. It can’t really be helped; Alison can’t be expected to scour other advice columns to see if a letter has already been published, and she can’t exactly ban readers from emailing multiple advice columnists either.

      I do wonder if it has happened (to Alison or others) where the same letter has been published by multiple columns, with wildly different advice being given.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think Hax gave different advice to this one–just ignore it–but it’s not wildly different.

    4. Anonymato*

      No, the LW1 just sent to one advice column, but her coworker found out & copied her and send to more (JUST KIDDING – couldn’t resist)

    5. blackcatlady*

      Yes, previously posted on two other advice web sites. This is #3 – does that make it a hat trick?

  6. stephistication1*

    To LW1, I had a coworker attempt the same with me. I am known in the office to be very fashionable and unique with my wardrobe choices. It’s to the point that execs even ask me if I “approve” of their choices (lighthearted of course).

    When my coworker started to copy my look, I noticed and redirected her. I knew she was trying to find her style so I made a point to compliment her on what flattered her the most. It didn’t matter if it was something g she had copied from me. Eventually it built up her confidence in what worked for her and the one for one copying stopped. Sharing this because it may help.

      1. Red*

        Thats nice ! But,her nature now is more of a problem than the copying. the constant need for company and ‘support is putting off. To have someone at work who is constantly pining for attention rather than focusing on the job at hand is a red flag. She might be someone who is needy and may constantly want hand-holding/assurance. Her sense of self appears to be low that could explain the need to imitate a coworker. Plus i feel shes not very serious about work chores in comparison to the need to style herself. Because trust me copying someones entire wardrobe shoes, bags, pants takes a lot of time and effort. Lol!!

        1. MK*

          You are the OP, I assume? It sounds as if her neediness is the real problem here, so I would focus on addressing that with her. I get how creepy the clothes thing is, but it’s more difficult to complain about someone buying and wearing commercially available, mass-produced items, even if they are identical to yours, and it might confuse the issue. Focus on setting firm boundaries on your work relationship.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s why I like Alison’s suggested language in her last paragraph – it sneaks in the clothes/hairstyle issue but focuses on the clinginess and boundaries in general.
            (And this might just be me, but it would be really important to me to mention the clothes, even if just as an aside, because that makes it clear that I’m onto her – I’ve been an observer in a similar situation way back in school and the copycat was completely shocked at being called out like that and honestly seemed to have thought that no one had noticed her incredibly blatant copying.)

            1. Esmeralda*

              I’d leave the clothes copying out entirely if I were the OP and focus on the calling/texting. It’s not really the problem and it’s hard to do it in a way that will not be hurtful.

              1. Myrin*

                Sure, that’s why I said that it would be important to me – OP (and everyone else who should find themselves in her predicament) can do what she thinks is best for her situation.

          2. Mockingdragon*

            Agree….Red, I think you buried the lede something fierce here. There’s a lot of anger in your letter and not a lot of context, which is why you’re not getting the advice it sounds like you were hoping for. All we can go on is your words!

            It definitely sounds like, although it seems to be, it’s not about the clothes at all. It’s about the clinginess, but your brain has latched onto the clothes as an exemplar. If she stopped copying your clothes, would the problem be solved? I doubt it.

          3. Lorine*

            Agreed, I would honestly leave the clothing/style aspect out of it. Mainly because if a coworker told me “Red told me to stop copying her style.” I would probably think “Well, Red needs to get over herself.”, whereas “Red told me to stop texting her on the weekends.” is a completely reasonable request, and one your coworker can’t really twist too much against you.

            YMMV, of course, depending on your particular office culture.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If she hasn’t had a corporate job before, she may be looking for a uniform to copy not realizing that it is your personal style. Someone could easily have said “just wear what she wears and you’ll know you’re all right”.
          The rest of it is a separate issue. The first I think is a simple conversation asking her to diversify when she buys more outfits, that it never made you comfortable even in school to have everybody wearing the same garments. Good luck keep us posted.

          1. Chinook*

            Exactly. You don’t get to control what other people wear but you do get to control how they interact with you and, more importantly, how you interact with them. If you don’t like her texting or if she is interfering with your work, speak up. Otherwise, it is not about you.

        3. hbc*

          I can’t tell, do you actually see her slacking off on her work, or is it that you can’t imagine being so needy and attentive and still getting work done?

          Whatever you think you need to tackle, don’t cross the streams. If her work is suffering, it doesn’t matter if it’s because she’s eyeballing you all day or staring off into space. If the copying is a problem, it doesn’t matter if she’s got a photographic memory or it takes her hours of effort to recreate your look.

        4. Ice and Indigo*

          I agree: if this is actually happening, the problem is an over-invested coworker who wants a closer personal relationship than the OP does. The clothes are a symptom, not the real issue – they’d signal both that the co-worker was getting a bit much and that she had a poor sense of how far is too far. That’s not really a clothes problem, it’s a boundaries problem. If anything, the clothes are the wrong place to start, because pushing for unwanted intimacy is a lot more serious than copycatting.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That’s a very empathetic and big-picture approach. I imagine it’s easier if you otherwise like your coworker.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      That’s very strategic and it sounds like it worked out well for you, but it’s also not hard for me to imagine that coming across as condescending, depending on the context.

      If OP is also known for her style or has a very distinctive fashion choices, this approach may work. Otherwise I think OP is better off focusing her efforts on the texting, etc.

    2. Paperdill*

      I think this is actually very sage and useful advice!
      I love looking at clothes and admiring fashionable choices on others but I am hopeless at dressing me. I would have appreciated such guidance and I bet OP’s colleague would too.
      This was very kind of you.

    3. Chinook*

      I like how you dealt with because it really feels like the coworker of OP#1 is in a lose/lose situation – she is aware that she needs to change her style and fit in but she is not allowed to change it enough to match someone else who could be offended. Where is the line? How is the coworker supposed to figure out the cultural norms of the workplace without matching those around here.

      And OP#1, you need to be aware that there is more than a hint of cultural snobbery when you say something like “She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in and that’s fine but…”.Would you say the same thjng if she was from another country? How about if she was from the inner city? I have encountered the attitudes of those who say something like you did and, trust me, nothing makes me hide my rural background faster because I can see that my type are not welcome in your world.

    4. Keyboard Jockey*

      This is what I was thinking, particularly when I hit the part about OP’s coworker being from a rural area and unsure of how to fit in! Some positive reinforcement about what works for her might go a long way.

  7. Laura*

    OP ED # 1
    Your coworker probably did this previsously. At best she has low EQ at worst she might be obsessed with you.
    I would talk to her about the copying and clingyness.
    I would loop my manager in and even ask to have my seating changed..
    You may not be able to curtail the copying. But you do not have to accept the bombardemnt of calls / texts. That is harrassment. Ignore them if not work related. Keep copies of all texts etc in case this escalates.
    I am sure everyone including clients noticed the creepy behavior.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Creepy, that’s the right word for it!
      With respect to submitting the same question to multiple sites, it’s not immoral or anything, but it’s already difficult to get a reply from Alison and probably these other columnists too. So, it’s a little greedy if the same question is submitted simultaneously and receives several responses while some people get none. If the question is submitted serially, after waiting a reasonable time for a response, no problem.

  8. Moira Rose*

    Is it just me or has LW1 blasted this question all over? I swear I’ve seen it on Slate and either Miss Manners or Amy Dickinson.

    1. Myrin*

      There’s another thread above talking about this.
      But I’d also guess that it’s not exactly unusual for people who seek advice on the internet to turn to different advisors on the internet in the hopes of one of them picking it up – it just so happens that this one was picked up by several of them.
      But I’m also not sure how it matters – Alison clearly found this question interesting enough to answer it and if other advisors did, too, that’s not a bad thing.

    2. Red*

      ha ha so the problem seems common to women in general.. I’m gonna try and hunt up those sites to see if i find any other answers / comments to this question.If possible please share the links here too . will be interesting to see how common this problem is .

        1. DieTrying*

          Not just the details, the language in which the OP narrates her story. Compare the “Dear Prudence” version here:

          AAM: “We are medical professionals seeing the same patients. She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in and that’s fine, but she has started aping me and it’s not flattering, it’s plain irritating that someone goes and buys everything you wear, even sweaters, shoes, and the same haircut from my hairdresser.”
          DP: “We are medical professionals and see the same patients. She comes from a rural area and wanted to fit in. That’s fine, but she has started to copy me. It’s not flattering, it’s plain irritating. She just goes and buys the same sweaters and shoes that I wear; she got the same haircut from my hairdresser too.”

          OP, I can understand a person writing to every advice columnist under the sun in the hopes of getting an answer. I can even understand a person reading someone else’s question and deciding “hey, I want to know what AAM has to say to that!” What puzzles me is why you would misrepresent your doing one or the other of these.

      1. CCSF*

        Dear Prudence on Feb 1. Dear Amy on Feb 14.

        AAM focuses more on the work aspect, and the other two are more focused on interpersonal aspects. It’s interesting to see the different takes.

    3. TwinningAtWork*

      I felt deja vu reading this column too! Apparently the writer sent in the same question to all three columnists, with almost exact (or closely worded) queries. It was actually really easy to google some of the text from the question and find the other two columns. No shade on AAM for answering it; it is remarkable when they come out within a few days, especially when the different advice columns probably have different lead times.
      Ask Amy:
      Dear Prudence:

      1. DieTrying*

        The site ate my reply, but I came here to say this: it’s the same question verbatim.

        OP, I can understand someone writing to every advice columnist under the sun in the hopes of getting reply. I can even understand someone reading another’s question and thinking: “Hey, I’d like to see AAM address this!” What I cannot understand is your not being willing to fess up to either of these options and pretending that this problem is “common to women.” What gives?

        1. Infiniteschrutebucks*

          I’ve read the other sites and it’s clearly the exact same letter writer with slightly different wording. Why the lie LW? Denying it makes it seem like something fishy is going on.

          1. WellRed*

            What is your problem? There’s no conspiracy here. And if there were, what is it you and dietrying think to be the end goal? To…get a letter answered?

            1. CCSF*

              I think it’s that the LW is acting as if they sent one letter, to AAM. Which is even more odd. If the original letter was sent multiple places, there’s nothing weird about that. It’s the fact that the LW is interested in seeing “how common this problem” is when it’s literally the same problem.

              1. The Other Dawn*

                Yes, that was my take on it. When looking at the Dear Prudence letter, it’s the same wording. So it’s weird that OP is implying she didn’t send the question to anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with sending it to different sites since some might not answer, but why not just say so?

                February 16, 2021 at 3:02 am
                ha ha so the problem seems common to women in general.. I’m gonna try and hunt up those sites to see if i find any other answers / comments to this question. If possible please share the links here too . will be interesting to see how common this problem is .

            2. Infiniteschrutebucks*

              We’re all internet strangers. The only things we know in this situation are:
              1. This exact letter has appeared on multiple sites, and the wording here is slightly different but the content is identical
              2. The person who posted the letter on this site now has a known integrity issue. Implying they were not even aware of the other letters’ existence, and passing this off as a “common problem” is absurd.

              I have years under my belt as a participant in this and other communities. This is often, though not always, a sign that this poster is either a copycat, a fake, or attention seeking. It’s not a conspiracy, but it may be wasting Alison’s and the commenters’ time. I hope it isn’t, and even if it is it doesn’t make the LW a bad person. But when all you know about someone is that they’re untruthful from the start about something big, it’s fair to flag that so people can decide whether to invest their time. Normally I wouldn’t even write this comment because it’s off topic. But this is a professional advice site, and we tell job candidates on here all the time to be scrupulous about first impressions and honesty, because even a small integrity question can eject you from a hiring process or affect your career years down the line.

              1. Emilia Bedelia*

                But regardless of whether this specific letter is fake or not, it’s not a waste of time because the purpose of this site is to be a resource to others who may be in similar situations, or other awkward and tough to navigate work situations.
                Even if it’s a completely fake letter, the response is not useless, which is why usually we don’t speculate on the veracity of letters.

                1. Infiniteschrutebucks*

                  Emilia, fair enough. And you make an eloquent point that speculating about the veracity of a letter isn’t productive and may deter advice seekers, which I certainly don’t want to do. Normally I’d do a silent write-off in my head and skip to other content; in this case I chimed in because we talk so often about how, when people are forming impressions of you like during the interview and early stages of a new job, even a small integrity issue can affect you and count against you in a big way for a long time. This is an example of that – if you tell an obvious lie about content you wrote then that’s all people who are meeting you for the first time have to go on to judge your character. But your point is well taken and that’s all I’ll say on the topic

                2. Myrin*


                  I very much liked the point someone made here on that same topic ages ago: it went along the lines of “if a letter is fake, what’s the worst outcome that could have? One person has a good chuckle by themselves about how they were able to fool an advice column writer and possibly their commentariat”. That’s it.

                  And that’s also why I generally don’t really care if a letter is fake or copied from somewhere or a situation someone else the OP only knows about is in or whatever – if I have something to comment, I will do so, and I don’t conside the time wasted because usually, there’s an interesting discussion in the mix and I like interesting discussions, even if they are about fake situations.

                  (Also, while I agree OP’s reaction/phrasing in that one comment is somewhat strange, there are possible innocuous explanations for that, too. After all, it’s a not-super-rare occurrence that an OP completely forgot they had even sent in a question until they got the email from Alison saying their question will be published. Or OP really did send her letter only to Alison and the other columnist who published it first and someone else sent it to the several other sites it was published on (also something that has happened numerous times in the past) and OP had no idea about that until reading the comments here. Or some other strange happenstance. Sure, it’s unlikely, but in the end maybe not all that important.)

    4. Pennyworth*

      This is the fourth time I have read it, so I have had time to mull it over. I think LW’s wardrobe mimic has low confidence when it comes to choosing work clothes and probably looks up to LW as someone whose style she admires. Encouraging her when she makes independent choices is probably the best way to go.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a thing that occasionally happens with advice columns. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. It’s not a big deal. I’m closing this sub-thread so we can focus on advice to the letter writers.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW2: You’ll burn bridges with any agency or potential employer you do this to. It’s likely that they’d appreciate an apology but still never want to hear from you again. That’s the bad news.

    The good (well, better) news is that there’s no industry wide blacklist for mistakes like this. Word of mouth will spread for an especially egregious person (like one who issues threats if they don’t get what they want) but the cost in time and effort for everyone who messes up to be on some constantly dispersed list is too high for very little reward.

    The even better news is that this is a behaviour that you can prevent happening again. Learning from one’s mistakes and ensuring that they don’t happen again is a heck of a valuable job skill.

    1. Ms_Meercat*

      Not to pile on or anything, but really want to just add how incredibly out of touch it feels to a) have high expectations for a recruitment agency to get back to you in the first place, b) especially when you didn’t respond to a specific job ad but cold called them, c) to respond to them at all when they don’t / leave a negative review, and d) to do so in 24 hours. It’s – as Allison usually says – very much not done normally.
      I would really suggest to keep browsing the letters that Allison has written in response to job seekers (there are many questions about people writing in at varying stages of the job search) because it will help you calibrate your overall sense of what is normal and what isn’t. I am having a sense that maybe you are not all too familiar with how job searching usually goes – because as Allison and some commenters have pointed out, there is also no “central blacklist” for future jobs, not even within specific locations like one city or not. Who knows, if this recruitment agency isn’t great with internal information sharing and your google review hasn’t made the rounds in the office of “can you BELIEVE this person!”, they may not even recognise you a few months down the line when / if you apply for a specific job that they put out. I mean, if they do have a blacklist, you’re probably on it, but some places aren’t super organised to have these kinds of things in a central place where their staff can go and look it up. Either way, I think this may be a good lesson to take away, but please do adjust your norms and expectations around the job search process, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for other disappointment.

      1. Magenta*

        I think a lot of people think that recruitment agencies work for the candidates and expect them to behave as such when in reality the people paying the bills are the potential employers and they will always take priority. I’ve worked with agencies before and the most important thing is to be a good candidate who is easy to work with, that way you are more likely to come to mind when they are thinking about who to send to interview for jobs. Building up relationships with recruiters is a really important skill to learn.

        1. Ms_Meercat*

          Seconding this – recrutiment agencies CAN be really useful for candidates, SO LONG as the candidate’s interests align with the ones of the agency. And the agency’s number one priority is to successfully place a candidate with a company, as that will get them their commission (which is paid by the company, not the candidate).
          So if you help them do that – by being a good candidate, especially for a hard to fill role, easy to work with, and a candidate the company likes and possibly hires – it will be in their interest to treat you well.

          But only really top talent is in a position to be actually catered to by a recruitment agency just on their standing alone (as in, getting immediate replies, being accommodated to even if not easy to work with etc), and only if that agency actually has somewhere they want to place them.

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          … the most important thing is to be a good candidate who is easy to work with…

          Great advice for job hunters in general. Hiring managers weed out people who appear difficult. It’s a sign of what they could be like as employees.

        3. Agency Recruiter*

          And also for future reference as someone who works at an agency, you’re going to have more luck finding the specific recruiter that works in your market and sending a polite intro email to their work address. My company’s info@…. address doesn’t even get read by a recruitment consultant it’s monitored by someone else in the business.

          Also make sure you really find the best person to reach out to. I’m never gonna be upset by getting cold calls or emails from someone within my sector even if they’re not good for any active roles. But I get a lot of emails from people who obviously haven’t read my LinkedIn profile or my company’s website and just spam everyone the same email (e.g I recruit in the finance sector and I got an email this morning asking for positions in hospitality).

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d certainly advise looking into why they felt so angry over what’s actually a commonplace occurrence.

        I was unemployed for over 18 months. I got desperate, I got anxious, I got to record breaking levels of stress. I didn’t take that anger out on any kind of job related contact because it’s just incredibly inappropriate. There were times it was tempting to blast the umpteenth firm that hadn’t got back to me but I’d at most draft an angry rant on the notes function of my phone. Then delete it later.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yeah. This is a recruitment agency. What happens when LW applies to a company for an actual job? Hiring companies often do not get back to you for weeks or even months. You have to be prepared for that. If you get so worked up after only 24 hours when there isn’t even a job on the line, the LW is likely to really lose it when there is a job.

          LW you need to lower your expectations on expecting to hear back from ANYBODY during your job search as Alison said. Reach out, file the application, whatever, then FORGET IT. Move on.

    2. Observer*

      Word of mouth will spread for an especially egregious person (like one who issues threats if they don’t get what they want) but the cost in time and effort for everyone who messes up to be on some constantly dispersed list is too high for very little reward

      Also, this is why an apology is a good idea. This reduces the likelihood of people carry it around. But that only works if you keep it brief and take responsibility. “I’m sorry but you did take too long” or “I’m sorry but you need understand that job hunting is stressful” etc. is going to make things worse. “I allowed the stress of job hunting to skew my judgement. I apologize for that and my intemperate response.” is more like what you want.

  10. code monkey*

    LW4, Alison suggests asking about senior leadership and company diversity numbers but if you’re applying to large companies, ask about your team level numbers as well. I’m also in a male dominated industry and been on teams within the same company with both high and low gender ratios. The company numbers are important but your team is who you deal with daily.

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      LW4 here! My company is not large but the office/salaried staff is more diverse than my department, so that’s a weird dynamic. Our overall numbers are good if not quite representative of the general regional population, but departments get lopsided.

      I think mine is the only one with a bad gender ratio though.

      1. New Mom*

        Another good reason to ask, if they have any issues with you asking that question, you probably would not want to work there. So in a sense, you ask one question and get two answers.

    2. TechWriter*

      Yeah, I’m sure whoever’s doing hiring in my department could spin a nice tale of our diversity goals and initiatives and point to our female CEO. Three of seven of us on my team are women, my manager’s a woman, and I interact with a decent number of female developers in my day-to-day. So from the immediate and overall vague “hooray for diversity” perspective, we look good!

      But it’s a huge company with lots of hierarchy levels and a ton of different business units. At our latest all-hands for our business unit, they announced a recent hire to our leadership team, and showed the org chart for our business unit. All seven people reporting to our director are men. Of their many direct reports, we have a grand total of two female managers (mine included). So yeah. Dig a bit. I wouldn’t say our representation is great, and if I had any aspirations to higher levels of management (NO THANK YOU), I’d be hard-pressed to see myself there.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yeah, similar with my company. There *are* female managers and directors (although still a minority) but my site is ~15% women and senior technical women are few and far between.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, absolutely — and sorry if that wasn’t clear in the reply (the LW asked if they can ask “How many women are on your team?” and the answer was YES, and…)

  11. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    Re: letter 4 — my partner is a white man in a field dominated by white men, and he always asks about diversity when interviewing.

    I know he thinks it’s valuable to underscore that diversity efforts don’t only matter to under-represented groups in the field and from a more selfish standpoint, companies that proritize inclusive environments tend to be better places to work at across the board. He only had one recruiter really balk at the question — and, surprise, surprise, we heard later that company was a really demoralizing place to work.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I work at a place now that values diversity and inclusion, and wow, the difference is night and day! There’s still plenty of work to do be done and it’s not some diverse utopia yet. But it’s part of a broader management perspective that employees are actually an investment and it’s worth the effort to keep good ones around.

    2. High Score!*

      In some fields it is hard to diversify. For decades, I was not only the only woman in my group, I was the only one in the office. My current company is trying their best to diversify but don’t get many female applicants. Even non-caucasions have been rough to attract – everyone in my area wants to diversity making women and minorites a hot commodity in a field that they are rare in. They’ve created a culture of inclusiveness but the applicants are not there – even with active recruiting, nice benefits and good pay.
      Rather than ask about current diversity, ask about inclusiveness.
      The issue starts in education. My employer does donate quite a bit to local universities who do their best to attract women and minorites as well.

      1. Colette*

        I think current diversity is more relevant (and “inclusiveness” is irrelevant if the company isn’t made up of a diverse group of people).

        I’m in an IT field. I’m sure you could find people in this field who talk about how there aren’t enough women but never connect it to the culture of working long hours or the expectation that programmers do similar stuff outside of work, for example.

        1. Tinker*

          Or who talk about how there aren’t enough women and also don’t notice that they find the women they actually have just a little… less… convincing… than a man in an equivalent position. Over time the result is promotion and then retention issues, such that underrepresented groups are even more disproportionately represented in lower-level positions than the pipeline issue would suggest.

          There are still issues in the early stages, but I can remember the concept of “we just need to wait for the women we’re bringing in now to get experience” being around for at least twenty years. There’s been time.

          1. High Score!*

            As a woman in a very male dominated field, I have to disagree. Female engineers in my area are a hot commodity bc so many companies are assuming for diversity. For the first time in my life, I’m not afraid of being unemployed. But there are so few women who are applying, it’s tough to diversify. Companies cannot do anything about the lack of applicants. Also, for the first time in decades, it is far easier for females and minorites to get jobs. My company is willing to train if they can find applicants.
            We just had 2 of our female minority engineers decide to go into management. Our company helped them get the training they needed and promoted them when positions opened. And now I’m the only female engineer again. And there are no female applicants at all for the open positions. Recruiters contact me frequently just as our recruiters are looking for females.

            1. Tinker*

              As a trans man and an engineer, the impression I get from a combination of personal experience and industry dialogue is that it’s still more complicated than merely an intake problem.

              Companies are making explicit attempts to correct their diversity issues and have for a long time — “women engineers are a hot commodity now because companies have to meet their diversity quotas yet lack qualified female applicants” was something people were telling me and I believed as an engineering student twenty years ago.

              However, making overt statements of intent doesn’t always mean that everyone is aligned enough to be successful — that isn’t just a diversity thing, that’s work life and also just the human condition. My organization has been saying they urgently want a particular technical thing for as long as I’ve been with them, but they have also urgently wanted ten other things at the same time, and the particular thing is in an area that tends to be consistently neglected and worked on by people who are consistently undervalued — so they don’t quite have it, despite that with unambiguous focus they could probably have ten of it by now. Such is life — malice is not required, although sometimes it helps.

              It’s still the case — data points up until very recently — that there are still people out there who think that women are just naturally unsuited for engineering and that expecting a tech firm to not be a sausage fest is unfair. There was, infamously, a manifesto on the subject. Even with the people whose conscious beliefs are that women are comparable to men in natural talent, they are not immune to implicit bias from the context that they are immersed in. Almost everyone I know who has worked in tech while read as female can speak to experiences of being treated as if they lack credibility in something where most objective evidence would support their capacity, and while individual cases are generally deniable they align with various statistical evidence that the problem on a population level is gender.

              These things are part of the current industry dialogue around me — it’s not just me and my idiosyncratic conclusions, although I certainly don’t lack for quirks.

            2. Observer*

              Yes, there is a pipeline problem. But what is your company doing to retain diverse talent? What is your company doing to make the industry as a whole more welcoming to under-represented groups?

              In most cases, even when there is a pipeline problem that’s really not the fundamental problem. Retention is the issue – it’s a direct issue and it’s a cause of the pipeline problem. Because if you’re a young woman making some decisions about what to do next, where are you more likely to go? The field where you know you are going to be unwelcome, hit a glass ceiling, be expected to work twice as hard to get half the credit, be held to very different standards and / or be eventually driven out? Or a field where those things are not true the case?

              I’m not blaming your company per se. But I get so tired of hearing that “we can’t help it! >Pick your gruop< just doesn't go into this field!" Maybe it's time for companies and industry groups to start looking at WHY that is!

            3. Tinker*

              Oh yeah also, side comment:

              With the disclaimer that I wasn’t there to see it happen and saying that an individual person’s experience is definitely tied to a common trend always has some peril: in engineering particularly, especially software engineering, there’s an unconscious bias factor with regard to women *being technical*, and a result of that can be: We’re hiring a bunch of women! As QA! Not that QA isn’t technical but uhhhhhh it’s different but equally loved! We’re promoting women! To low-level management roles, not to high-level IC roles!

              That latter case is a promotion, so it’s not all bad — especially for a person who has distinct aspirations to be a manager and who wants to leave engineering for it. It’s a bit awkward if your dream job is really more in the line of “senior fellow” than “VP (the female one!)”.

              It’s also a form of the sort of bias, in a field where “being technical” is highly valued, that puts a thumb on the scale when that engineer is or isn’t hired, or when that level-one manager is looking for level two. Yeah, this person is a good manager, they relate to people so well, but once you get into strategy there’s y’know more to it than just being a people person who is good at feelings and ehhhhhhh we don’t knooooow…

              teal deer: there are a LOT of intersecting cycles in this thing, and I haven’t even gotten to how the desire to be an engineer and not some other thing is affected by feedback from one’s environment.

              1. TechWorker*


                As a female engineer now in a technical management role (which I enjoy) this is closer to my experience. Yes, companies want to hire women but a) we don’t actually lower the bar to do so and b) historically retention has been a huge issue, meaning that more senior women are few and far between. (I’m the oldest woman out of 70 employees and I’m 30..?)

      2. Cat Tree*

        No, I don’t but that as an excuse. If the company gets to “oh, women just aren’t applying”, shrugs their shoulders and gives up, they are not serious about diversity.

        Many companies that care more about results than lip service will look into *why* women and minorities aren’t applying, then look to address that. It often takes multiple steps to address the issue, but plenty of companies actually do it. If your company goes exactly one step further but still gives up, they don’t get back-pats for making a token effort.

        Your company is absolutely not “doing their best”, and I know this because other companies do more. It’s not impossible or unreasonable to expect more from your company. Expect better, demand better.

        1. High Score!*

          So for companies who are very inclusive, offer very nice benefits and pay and have fair hiring practices, and are still not getting female applicants, what do you recommend??? I’m a female. I’ve been an engineer for decades. So I’m not an old white man saying “welp we tried”. If you look at the number of graduating men to women ratios, it’s not anywhere near equal. And I’ve mentoring young girls and women and then they go into some non engineering more female orientated field anyway. If you want diversity, you have to convince women to embrace traditionally make dominated fields

          1. kt*

            I’m a mathematician and now a data scientist. I’m still watching my female colleagues with PhDs and amazing analytical skills take much longer to be hired that my guy friends with BAs and a dashboard visualization. With the women, the interviews go like this: “Oh, I see you have a PhD in applied math… but it’s in differential equations… we’re not sure you have a track record in numerical optimization and that’s what we’re looking for…. rejected! Please get more experience.” Then for the guy it’s like, “Look, this young man taught himself to make a Dash visualization while finishing his bachelor’s! He has no modeling experience at all but I’m sure he can learn numerical optimization — he’s got such potential. Hired!”

            I know the pipeline is broken, but that’s because it’s leaking. Women go into management or non-engineering fields because they experience less friction in getting hired and less friction with retention. That’s the point, that is the problem.

            1. a sound engineer*

              This was 100% my experience when looking jobs in tech (I’m electrical engineering / DSP) – less qualified male friends were snapped up right away, but myself and my other female friends weren’t hireable because we were always missing some skill or didn’t have enough work experience or this or that (despite my male friends who were easily finding jobs also lacking those things or having no work experience at all).

              I’m now retraining in something else completely.

          2. Cat Tree*

            I recommend doing exactly the same things *that other companies are already doing* to successfully recruit a diverse workforce. Yes, it’s hard. No, it’s not impossible as shown *by other companies already doing it*. I don’t know how I can make it more clear that some companies already do this, so it’s a poor excuse for other companies to pretend that they’re doing the best they can, when in reality they’re doing exactly as much as is easy for them. If they don’t want to do as much as other companies, that is their choice. But I’m not gonna pretend that they really truly care about inclusion and are doing the best they can, but the poor dears just can’t help it. Hold them to the same standard as other companies.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Your company needs to start earlier than college. Are they investing in local high schools? Middle schools? Also, this is stuff that gets studied by people who study things — is your company seeking out their expertise in creating change?

          4. OyHiOh*

            What Jennifer says above.

            The problem in so many traditionally male dominated fields is that the focus is placed on post college graduation.

            The pipeline starts in 6th grade. This is the year in which young women, and people of color, decide that certain things are either available to them, or not. You get a woman of color in front of 6th graders talking about civil engineering with enthusiasm and passion and fifteen years later, you’ll have women and people of color graduating with engineering degrees saying “So and So spoke to my class and I decided I could be good at math and science too.”

          5. a sound engineer*

            I am a woman (and minority) with a background in engineering and other male-dominated fields who decided to go into non-engineering after graduating in 2019 exactly because I couldn’t find a job, and spent my year of job-searching watching male friends with less work experience easily pick things up. In my experience, a lot of tech companies pay slip service to diversifying but are uninterested in making the cultural changes and actually investing in the hiring and training of women/minority candidates.

          6. a sound engineer*

            Also, how can they be very inclusive companies if their attempts to be inclusive and diversify their talent pool aren’t working?

          7. Observer*

            If you want diversity, you have to convince women to embrace traditionally make dominated fields

            True. And you start by looking VERY hard at why these young women keep on choosing not to go into your field.

            Think about – you yourself note that “for the first time” you are not worried about being unemployed. Why is that? Is it not reasonable for a woman to decide to go into a field where she is not as likely to be the first to be fired in the case of a restructuring or downsizing? Where she doesn’t have to worry about unemployment at a level that no man in the field needs to worry about?

            Ask yourself this: WHY is it that it’s only now, decades into your career, that you no longer have to worry about unemployment? Engineering has never been a field with high unemployment, at least not if you are any good. So why did you have to worry about it?

            So for companies who are very inclusive, offer very nice benefits and pay and have fair hiring practices, and are still not getting female applicants, what do you recommend???

            Look at your recruitment practices.

            Make sure that your hiring practices really ARE fair (maybe start by doing a statistical analysis of resumes and hiring decisions, or a re-evaluation of resumes by people who don’t know the genders of the people applying).

            Look at your company culture. That and recruitment are the two big ones. Are women take as seriously as men? Are they judged on a different (unmentioned) standard? Are they penalized for having children? For the possibility that they MIGHT have children? Do assumptions get made about competence, willingness commitment etc. when it comes to women vs men? Are perks male focused? I could go on, but there is so much about the culture of a company that could make it inhospitable to women (or other under-represented groups.)

            1. UKDancer*

              Look also at the benefits. Look at what maternity leave you offer. Do you do shared parental leave? Do you allow for part time and people wanting to work in a job share arrangement in a way that doesn’t disadvantage them? Do you have policies about bullying and harassment which are actually enforced properly?

              How do you manage progression? A lot of the time women come in but can’t get promoted. A lot of women leave at this point. Are your progression /promotion processes fair and inclusive?

              Do you train and develop staff equally? Do female staff have mentors and support networks to help them develop and get on?

              It’s no good trying to get them through the door if they can’t stay and progress when they get there.

          8. MCMonkeybean*

            No–if you want diversity, you have to convince the traditionally male dominated fields to embrace women. If the rate of graduating women is so much lower than the rate of graduating men then the problem needs to be addressed before that point. Obviously that’s not the fault of your company specifically but if diversity is something they are really seeking then there are things they can do to get involved in the community to promote those goals.

      3. JohannaCabal*

        There’s many factors that can go into this. Companies that are having trouble attracting diverse candidates really need to look at the issue from multiple facets. Are they only accepting resumes showing certain schools? What about hours? Progression within the company (i.e., managers are all white cisgender men compared to the rest of staff)?

        I’m particularly thinking of a non-profit I’m aware of that can’t figure out why they can only attract employees from a certain background. Well, the pay is so low that the only employees willing to work there are recent college graduates supported by their upper middle class families or individuals with spouses who make considerately more income.

    3. Mimi*

      I work in IT, and added “How many women and people of color do you have in technical roles?” to my last round of screening questions. People didn’t always have answers for me (or like the answers they had), but nobody balked at it, and so far I’m pretty pleased with the job I got through that process. I’ve only worked remotely so far and don’t know if my now-boss’s “uh… maybe 40%?” was accurate or not, but the numbers are definitely better than they were at my last job, although my actual team doesn’t have anything like parity.

      I will admit that I’m chuffed to see Alison’s answer, because about a year ago I had an argument with my uncle (white middle-aged software developer) about whether it was an appropriate question or would be off-putting to potential employers. My argument was basically “If it’s off-putting, I probably don’t want to work there anyway (and given your stance, I think I’m just as glad I don’t work on your team)” but he thought it would be too much of a liability.

    4. kt*

      THANK YOU! I was going to suggest that dudes ask this question re: gender diversity too, and that white people ask about ethnic/racial diversity, because it’s useful for everyone to know and it’s annoying that it doesn’t matter to everyone.

    5. Retail Not Retail*

      These are all important debates, but I don’t work in a “sexy” or degreed male dominated industry, if that makes sense. These aren’t aspirational jobs, although our managers do have degrees in the field.

      I worry the entry level/manual labor nature of the job makes a difference – oh, she’s like that? Well… (one of my coworkers applied to a firm that straight up said IN WRITING they don’t hire women! We said giiiiiiirl call the DoL… she didn’t)

      1. GS*

        Manual labour specifically is a field where it’s hugely beneficial to screen the employer by seeing how they respond to this question. Though – ha – I once was called by a potential employer, I’d sent them my resume. The conversation went like: “Hello, I’d like to speak to GS” “Is this about the landscaping job?” “Yes, can I speak to GS?” “This is she” “Oh, we were looking for someone strong *click*”. I guess my voice wasn’t strong. But can you imagine working for that guy?

  12. Rue*

    LW3 – If the feedback are something you can work on short term, maybe you can stretch it a bit. But if the work itself is causing the environment why there’s such a hard time performing better, it might be good to move on. For your next job, do think if the environment is norm to the work and find a suitable one that you can be okay in.

  13. Fried Eggs*

    OP 5 – I’m kind of proud of a bullet point I came up with for a past job a chronically understaffed non-profit, so I’ll share in case it helps you:

    * Created successful PR strategies to maximize reach with limited resources.

    Like you, my actual achievements would not seem that impressive without context, but they were a freakin’ miracle considering I was doing the jobs of 4 people.

    I felt it would not have been a good look to say that my employer had financial difficulties, and it wasn’t really a staffing cut. Just the way they always ran things.

    So I felt “limited resources” was a more diplomatic way of putting it.

    1. Grim*

      Your bullet point is missing a key ingredient – you listed the ‘what’, but you also need to list the ‘how’ you achieved it.

      1. Still*

        Eh, none of Alison’s examples list the “how” either. And they are all broad enough that I don’t see a way one could fit the “how” into a single sentence. I think it gets the point across and the hiring committee can always ask for details later on in the process.

        Plenty of achievements are very impressive and speak to somebody’s abilities without the “how” (“increased the sales by 40%”, “cut the number of complaints in half”, “won three Olympic gold medals”).

      2. Fried Eggs*

        In this case (I was applying for a copywriting job, not PR), that space was better taken up with other achievements.

    2. Smithy*

      I also think that listing duties like that helps paint a unique picture of your own work history, as well as focusing on where you thrive or what you’re looking to leave.

      I’m also in nonprofits, and have been in small places where I was a department of one as well as places staffed by thousands. In one interview that I ultimately didn’t get, they felt that given my more recent time on larger teams with more resources, that I wasn’t going to be happy to be in more of a start-up environment.

      All things being equal, I think that may be a fair assessment – but also a heads up for how my resume currently reads, how I interviewed and how long ago my time in a small place was. So when I had a former coworker with a similar resume to me was interested in applying there, I mentioned that it was worth stressing her time at a small shop and what she thought should could bring back to a smaller operation having spent time with large organizations.

  14. Ludo*

    If someone said that last paragraph to me in letter #1 I would be mortified and try and distance myself as much as possible from them, which sounds ideal for the op in this situation, but I feel like the catch is if you’re the type of person to NEED someone to say that to you it probably wouldn’t have the same effect on you

    1. Liz*

      I’m not so sure about the last part – in my experience, people like this are often acting from a place of admiration and a need for approval and are MORE likely to feel hurt when told to back off because they honestly don’t realise the effect of their actions. That doesn’t mean LW1 should not have the conversation, but just that it’s wise to be kind but firm, and prepare for the possibility of some hurt feelings in the aftermath.

  15. Phoenix from the ashes*

    LW1, some years ago, I worked with a coworker who forbade me from wearing black and red, because they were “her” colours. Alas, most of my work wardrobe was black or red, so I ignored her; she switched to black and purple and didn’t speak to me again for 2 years. Then, at my leaving do (I was relocating to a very nice location) she invited herself to come and stay with me on holiday! So, um, no actual advice from me, but I’m guessing you’ll have some great stories to tell about how this one plays out. Keep your sense of humour :-)

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Oh, please tell us you laughed quite audibly when the coworker said that, and maybe added “Good one!” as you kept chuckling.

      1. Phoenix from the ashes*

        I think her intent was to make me look like I was the problem in front of everyone, because she jumped in right at the point where my manager had finished his thank-you-for-your-work speech and everyone was looking at me waiting for my thank-you-for-the-gifts speech. So I gave her my biggest grin, and said, “Of course” in the most syrupy, least sincere voice possible. It gave her nothing she could use to complain about me afterwards and she’d just admitted in front of everyone how envious she was of me. And then I left with my gifts and never saw any of those colleagues again. :-D

    2. Amey*

      Ha, black and red were the accidental colours of choice for most of my team for a few years. We had one slightly embarrassing team photo where 3 out of 4 of us wore black and red. We did occasionally contact each other to coordinate after that!

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        It was teal and black in my last job. We were all librarians and cardigans are basically the uniform of the library. Three of the women who worked on the main floor had wardrobes full of teal, black with lots of cardigans and pretty shawls. We fortunately all had a slightly different sense of style when it came to cut and design, so it was mostly just really funny when we’d all coordinate. Both of the ladies are still my good friends today and we still occasionally show up for social occasions in the same colors (we don’t work together any longer).

      2. Phoenix from the ashes*

        I know, right? The crazy thing was, her clothes were so much nicer than mine – all stylish hippy/goth blacks and reds, whereas mine were cheap nylons and poly-cottons that only happened to be red and black because that was what Primark happened to be selling a lot of at the time. There’s no way anyone would think I was trying to steal her look just because of the colours!

    3. Lil*

      How can she think she has dibs on black? That’s the most style neutral color for any gender. Like, it’s probable that 90% of an office at any given time is wearing SOMETHING black.

      1. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

        anyone in my orbit who wants to have dibs on black gets to buy me a 100% new wardrobe

  16. Forrest*

    LW 3, I think you should apply for new jobs straight away. BUT– do some serious reflection on why this job hasn’t worked out, and what you have learned about yourself! You may be able to dodge talking about this employment entirely and get references from elsewhere, but if you can’t, the story you want to be able to tell is, “My current role isn’t really working out. It’s very focussed on client interaction and I think is more front-of-house than really suits me. What I’ve learned is that I do my best work when I’m uninterrupted and can really focussed on analysing the data and converting that into meaningful stories for other people to present to clients. So I’m really excited about this role, because it plays to my strengths much more…”

    If they do go to your current employer for a reference, you’ve already told them what isn’t working out, so a reference that says, “We’ve no complaints about LW1’s work ethic or she obviously has strong data analysis skills, but this role required much better client handling skills so…” That reference is much less damaging if you’ve already applied for a role which better matches your strengths.

    It’s also much, much better for your own mental health when you can shift the internal narrative from, “I am terrible and failing at this job” to “this job is the wrong match for me, there is something better out there.”

    1. Annika*

      This is perfect. It shows why you want a new job, why the current job isn’t working, and can help avoid getting a job that has the same issue.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Excellent points.

      LW, please consider why you are struggling at this role/company. My hunch is you are probably in a job that isn’t a great fit, more than this being an employer thing (caveat–unless your boss hates you).

      I really struggled at my first job out of college. It was an office/computer job at a major employer and it aligned with my undergraduate degree. I was miserable, hated it, and they didn’t like me. I quit before I could be fired & it did a number on my confidence. A year later I got a sales job with a different major employer. I was awesome at it and it set me off on a good career path, even though on paper it was less of a fit that the first job.

  17. Amy*

    My husband runs a recruiting division. The way his company works (like many) is that his clients are the companies he recruits for. They pay him to find qualified candidates.

    He receives hundreds of unsolicited emails a week from job searchers. But his role is fundamentally to support the companies that have retained him. He contacts people that would be a good match for roles he currently has or expects to see.

    This may be more of a headhunter, hence the expectation of a quick turnaround but for many recruiters, their model is not one where you are a potential client.

  18. Tara*

    LW2 reminds me of a friend of a friend, who always screenshots messages to/from LinkedIn recruiters complaining that they haven’t responded to her or aren’t at her beck and call constantly, posting scathing messages about it on her profile. Our mutual friend reports that she’s now been complaining to her friendship group that no recruiters want to speak to her, and doesn’t understand why…

    LW2, learn from your letter and don’t become this person!

  19. Jo*

    LW1, I’d be tempted to wear one of those caps that gives you the appearance of a shaved head and some fake facial piercings to see if she thinks they are real and follows suit…but realistically I’d maybe focus on being positive when she tries an new style of her own and concentrate on keeping a polite but distanced work relationship. I’m not sure whether this is creepy or whether your coworker just lacks confidence and looks up to you and is trying to emulate you and taking it too far…but yeah it would make me feel uncomfortable too if someone was copying me to this extent.

  20. Moi*

    LW#1 read Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch. It may not change anything but it will make you laugh! (But don’t watch SWF).

    1. Harper the Other One*

      LOL I’m glad I’m not the only huge fan of that book! Robert Munsch in general is a treasure.

    2. Llama face!*

      I came here specifically to suggest LW#1 use the Stephanie’s Ponytail strategy. Lol.
      LW, it isn’t really good advice but if talking to them like a reasonable human being fails…

  21. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    Writing a bad review after only 24 hours have passed since you contacted them is pretty extreme. If I was the hiring manager and you left a bad review about the company because I didn’t jump right on the phone (or email) and answer right away, I’d be thinking, “Bullet dodged!” It would make me wonder what you’re like to work with, and it doesn’t paint a good picture at all. Also, you’re rightly worried about your reputation after doing this, but what about the reputation of the recruiter and/or agency? Sure, most people would see your review and just dismiss it as extreme and like you have an ax to grind, which is how it comes off, but some people–those with a mindset similar to yours–will take it seriously and avoid that agency/recruiter or maybe they’ll tell other people to avoid them. I realize you said you took it down quickly, but there was time for at least some people to see it.

    If you haven’t already done so, I think you need to apologize sincerely and move on. Yes, you’re very likely blacklisted at this agency, but probably not with other agencies (unless they happened to have seen the review before you took it down and they connect the dots).

  22. Bookworm*

    LW2: 24 hours is too soon but I get it. Working with staffing agencies can be enormously frustrating and I’ve definitely had similar experiences (although longer than 24 hours). I do think you were a little too quick to jump the gun, though and that overall using agencies may not be the best strategy for you.

    LW4: Thanks for asking and thanks to Alison for providing suggestions for how to ask. :)

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      LW4 here! I actually had 2 interviews last week and asked in both. I sent this in at the end of December (did not get that job probably due to being out of the region – sorry, not going from hotspot A to hotspot B during that spike for a second interview). A few weeks ago, I had a sort of interview/introduction to last year’s summer job that didn’t happen and the manager there brought up how many women had been on his teams at other sites!

  23. EventPlannerGal*

    OP2 – I agree with Alison’s advice, but I also just wanted to add that it may be worth you taking some time to think a bit about the job search process. It sounds like maybe you don’t have much experience or this is your first job search, because there’s a couple of pretty unrealistic ideas in your letter – it’s VERY normal for companies not to respond within 24 hours, leaving a bad Google review for an agency you are trying to get work through isn’t going to get good results and there’s no such thing as a general employment blacklist (if that’s what you meant). AAM’s archives are a great resource; you could also ask around people you know to get an idea of norms in your area, or see if the agencies themselves have any kind of online info about their process (the last time I got a job through an agency they had an FAQ on their site). Good luck!

  24. Retail Not Retail*

    LW4 here! I’ve asked in a few of the interviews I’ve had since sending this question in. (My advice strategy is unfortunately ask, wait five minutes for a reply text, do it anyway.)

    Last week I had two, and in the first one I did not ask, but I asked what the seasonal crew was like. (“You and I would be the only permanent staff on the island,” said one of the men interviewing me.) The other, I explicitly asked. They said no women at the moment, but I was the second woman they’ve interviewed for the position!

    I think their reaction is as telling as the answer and no one has balked, which is encouraging.

  25. LW #3*

    LW #3 here. Thanks so much to everyone chiming in! I have a pretty significant update – I’ve been put on a PIP. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I wasn’t told that I would be fired if I don’t meet expectations, just that we would discuss the options if that ended up being the case. Is this just another way of saying I’m about to be fired?

    If I am able to leave before the end of my PIP, how can I assure that I’ll receive a neutral reference? Is this something I should get in writing?

    1. Infiniteschrutebucks*

      A lot of this varies by company. When I have had to put employees on PIPs the PIP paperwork had very clear language that firing is on the table – but whether that language is there or not definitely assume it’s a possibility. Improvement and retention was always my goal, but some companies use PIPS as a rubber stamp for firings. If I were you I would be actively and aggressively looking for other employment, and do your very best to address the issues raised in the PIP while at work.

      Unfortunately you can’t guarantee a good or neutral reference. Many companies have formal policies or a section of the employee handbook that covers what information they give in a reference situation, so I’d start by checking those. You can also ask HR and/or your boss when you leave what the company discloses during a reference check. A lot of companies shy away from giving explicitly negative feedback for fear of legal repercussions, but there are other ways of communicating: declining to give a reference at all, or using more subtle language. The only way to avoid having them give a negative reference is to avoid using them as a reference. If there are any leaders there for whom you did good work you could direct a reference check their way, but as Alison said above the best option is to simply avoid them as a reference whenever possible and put things in the best light when you can’t. Alison has given advice before on how to talk about being fired/ if you’ve left on bad terms from a prior position.

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      The HR department at my last job had a policy of only verifying employment dates and title. They STRONGLY recommended that all managers do the same in order to avoid any legal liability.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The HR department at my last job had a policy of only verifying employment dates and title.

        I wish that were the global defacto standard.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That’s the point; if no one is providing references, then there’s references use to discriminate between potential employees. While the reference system can inject some useful information into a hiring decision, it also brings a lot of ugly baggage with that information, which may or may not be reliable.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Which, of course, should read *there are no references to use…*.

              Apparently, this week’s commandment of the week is “thou shalt not type before noon.”

            2. Colette*

              HR may have a policy of only verifying employment dates and titles; I’d be willing to bet that people leaving there can still get references.

              And references are valuable – some people interview well but are not good employees; others are the opposite (and a small number of people are good at both). I’m not sure what “ugly baggage” you see with that system – why do you see references as a problem?

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Just off the top of my head:
                The same problems with hiring diversity can appear in references, but where you can audit a company’s personnel and see they’re only hiring Straight, Cis, Protestant White Males, that’s much harder to audit with references.

                Whom a company even chooses to provide a reference for can be discriminatory.

                There’s no auditing of the truthfulness of a reference–are the lies, half truths and slants being applied impartially? There’s not much that prevents a petty employer from using them for retaliation, either, or to sabotage a competitor.

                References favor job-hoppers; an employee who holds a position with one company for a decade won’t have the reference roster that an employee who leaves their position every 18-24 months will.

              2. Tinker*

                “His work is so much better than his sister’s” comes to mind, regarding a system that has such a significant component of individual subjectivity without systematic attention to bias.

              3. TechWriter*

                Yeah at my company we aren’t allowed to officially give references, just direct to HR to verify dates and titles. Which was not communicated to me and my fellow intern until the end of our four-month (paid) internship. It wasn’t intentionally misleading on behalf of the team, they just weren’t aware of the policy, I guess. My rather more pessimistic fellow intern (who honestly probably wouldn’t have been getting a great reference anyway) was SO MAD.

                But several coworkers reached out to me privately to say they’d definitely give a reference, policy be damned. I ended up getting hired on there, and you BET I made them add that particular point to the recruitment presentation we gave at the local college.

                1. JohannaCabal*

                  My last company also said to send reference checkers to HR.

                  You can bet I still told our interns to use me as a reference anyway.

    3. Jenny*

      I would start job searching. It does depend 9n the location. I have supervised both successful and unsuccessful PIPs myself but in some places they are more of a formality before firing.

      If you like your job and you think you can comply there’s no harm in working hard on the PIP.

      Regarding the reference, there’s really nothing you can do to make them give you a neutral reference. A lot of places give them as a CYA but as long as they are truthful they can give negative references. The best way to assure a neutral reference is to be pleasant during this process. People who like you won’t be harsh.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      I’m sorry to hear this. I think at this point as others have said it’s safe to assume that being fired is a possibility. At this point, I wouldn’t worry a whole lot about the reference, instead focus on finding another job. It sounds like even if you successfully navigate the PIP (which is a real option in a lot of workplaces) you aren’t really thriving in your current role.

      If I’m honest, in my experience bouncing back successfully after a PIP in the same role/company is not common. Even if your management uses it for it’s intended purpose to get you back on track and successful there is a lot of baggage that comes with being on one. Both from the employee’s perspective and the company’s.

      So, definitely work to fulfill the terms of the PIP, try to keep as positive of an attitude as you can, and start looking in earnest for a new position.

      Oh, and yeah, this is a perfect reason to use the “Not a good fit” answer for why you are looking for a new job. Spin the positive, “I find my current role doesn’t play to my strengths; I enjoy and am good at getting into a detail heavy activity and my current role is jumping from one thing to the next” “I prefer to have a lot of variety in my day and varied activities, my current role is very centered on one activity” In other words, whatever is contributing to the not a good fit, look for the opposite in your job search/interviews. No sense in jumping from one bad fit to another. Yes you may end up not being offered positions if you aren’t the right fit, but you have some time to be a little choosy.

      Good luck

    5. RC Rascal*

      I’m sorry to hear this. In my experience PIPs are always a paperwork formality so they can fire you. I have never seen them used any other way in a 20 year career.

      Job search as aggressively as you can while meeting your PIP terms to the degree you can. Evaluate the PIP and see how much of it is based on objective output (i.e. order entry accuracy in Widget Customer Service) and how much of it is subjective (LW has terrible soft skills). If half of more of the PIP is subjective that guarantees it is a formality prior to firing. If the majority of the PIP is based on objective outcome then you might be able to stay in this role long enough to find another.

      1. Natalie*

        Yeah, not to be too much of a downer but I actually know 2 people who met/exceeded the terms of a PIP and were still fired. The boss wanted to push them out, so they were pushed out.

        1. RC Rascal*

          My boss who hated me and his girlfriend in HR put me on a PIP they didn’t tell me about. I found out about it when I filed a discrimination complaint through an attorney and company attorney told my attorney (By the way, RC is on a PIP. My attorney: Really? RC isn’t aware of that). I refer to this as the Mystery PIP.

          Based on my personal experience and what I have observed around me, I don’t see a PIP as an actual management tool. In THEORY it is, in practice, it’s a way to document the firing of an employee someone doesn’t like.

    6. janet snakehole*

      Hi LW #3! I was in almost your exact same position a couple years ago – right down to the chronic illness that put me in a terrible cycle (felt sick, so my work got worse, which caused intense anxiety, which aggravated my illness). I ended up on a PIP as well, and it gave me the push I needed to completely change career paths (from nonprofit admin to education). I’m so much happier now, and while I still struggle with feeling confident about my work, I have wonderful mentors now who have shown me that I am NOT a failure…and in fact have talent in my new field. My old job was my first “real” job, and it really messed with my head. But getting out was the right decision, and even though it took the stress of a PIP, I’m grateful that it ultimately directed me to a much better place. You will find your way too, I’m sure of it! Sending a hug to you :)

    7. Observer*

      If I am able to leave before the end of my PIP, how can I assure that I’ll receive a neutral reference?

      You can’t. Even if you get it in writing. Your best bet is to leave under your own power. That will leave the best impression, and at minimum, will leave you without a firing on your record.

      Of course, you can also try to talk to your management / HR about getting a reasonably good or at least neutral reference. If they are decent people and you approach it right (ie professionally) they may be happy enough that you are leaving without them needing to fire you that they will work with you on that.

  26. Roscoe*

    #1. This may sound mean, and I don’t mean it to. BUT, is is possible that your look just isn’t as unique as you think? There is a reason for those “Karen Starter Pack” memes. If you are a 35 plus white woman, in my experience, they tend to dress pretty similarly. Down to the “practical” haircut. Maybe its more than that, but your style may just be the general style for your demographic, and maybe you just notice it because of her being clingy with you and you just not liking her? I know its not “exactly” the same, but if (during normal times) I looked around at other guys my age, especially at work, our “style” is basically the same

    1. SunnySideUp*

      “If you are a 35 plus white woman, in my experience, they tend to dress pretty similarly.”

      Seriously? I don’t think so. And you’re missing the bigger points.

      1. Roscoe*

        I have a lot of kids in my neighborhood. During little league season, these moms almost all are dressed the same. Hell, walking down the street in my neighborhood, most mom’s look pretty similar. The amount of them with the same haircut is actually insane

        1. PollyQ*

          “Little league moms in my neighborhood” is a MUCH narrower demographic than “all white women over 35.” I also think we can trust the LW to make a distinction between sharing a similar style and copying.

        2. Shan*

          Well, I’m a 38 year old white woman who probably isn’t dressed anything like the little league moms in your neighbourhood, so there you go. And the point isn’t that LW 1’s co-worker is wearing *similar* items, it’s that she’s wearing the *same* items. I’m sure even the women you’re describing don’t all have the exact same t-shirt.

    2. Tinker*

      I too basically wear fabric covering the more central bits of my body, and put a more substantial enclosure around the ends of my lower appendages. Humans, amirite, teehee, really we all just dress the same, who can tell the difference?

      1. Tinker*

        Somewhat more seriously though — people care more or less about these things, and people are able to appreciate finer distinctions within genres that they’re familiar with than ones that they don’t pay attention to. I’m guessing that there’s some connection between that latter point and how you’re sure that you’re not seeing the same person multiple times, and yet every woman between age 35 and death dresses identically.

        If I can look at a coworker and go “he and I are both wearing Red Wing Iron Rangers in Amber Harness, but he is wearing a T-shirt from a recent technical conference for a particular programming language and light-colored chinos and I am wearing five-pocket medium brown pants and a hoodie-shirt with an assertive slogan and the branding of a moderately prominent local gym” and recognize meaningful similarities and differences in our clothing where some other people would look at us and say “lol techies all dress alike amirite”, I can trust that there probably are “moms” who can say “these things may be similar in a way that is common, but THOSE things are actually identical to a degree that is notable” in the same way about clothing within their target genre.

        If I can’t personally tell the difference, I can also consider that even considering I have a lot more personal experience in selecting and wearing women’s clothing than most men — I was trained to be a “Karen” growing up and I can probably still costume myself as one with unsettling accuracy — it is still possible that other people hereabouts, possibly including the OP, are actually more expert in the matter than I am.

        You might consider a similar possibility.

  27. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    In response to OP #4, I think it’s legit that she ask about women and diversity, but I’d love it if men started asking about it as well. I think that if men started demonstrating that they actually cared about that stuff, it would carry more weight for some companies, unfortunately. But also, EVERYONE SHOULD care about this, but no one will assume you do, you have to actually SAY it. Like, I feel like this should go without saying, but … I am, saying it!

  28. TT*

    #1 Buy a pink wig in a very short bob, and rave how great it is and easy to maintain etc.. After she copies it and chops all her hair off and dyes it pink.. reveal the wig..

  29. Infiniteschrutebucks*

    Also, you can ask if they’d give you a promise in writing to decline a reference check, or give a neutral one, but a company has no incentive to give that to you. Opening themselves up to potential liability by making written promises to an underperforming employee isn’t something a company is likely to do. Asking for that at all will likely make you look out of touch. Your best bet is to see if they have written policy related to reference checks, take home a copy of that, and at most have an honest discussion with your boss or HR on your way out.

  30. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#1 – from the way she is describing it, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but there may be other context we aren’t getting. Just taking the other person’s perspective for a second… “fashion” can be really hard! I personally have been talked to at two separate employers about my office attire after wearing items to work that I thought were completely appropriate (in both cases, it wasn’t a situation where things were sloppy and ill fitting, not like wearing athleisure to a formal office). I am completely disinterested in fashion and I really loathe shopping, so if I see someone at the office who looks especially professional and put together, I absolutely ask them where they shop!

    LW#3 – It can be good to stay in order to get over the performance issue “hump”, especially if you think it’s something that could cause an issue at a future job. But, if the issue is something that is related more to a poor fit with this particular job – a personality or work style clash with a manager, a skill that it turns out you really don’t have and don’t want to continue attempting to develop – then I think it’s fine to move on. You can frame your departure in any job interviews as “it was a bad fit at this job for x,y and z reasons”. Most future employers understand you cannot give a reference from your current job as that would tip their hand that you are leaving.

    1. Liz*

      Thank you for this, fellow accidental sloppy person! I have a horrendous time with clothes myself, and I’ve been pulled up for my appearance in the past. Clothes just… don’t seem to fit me, and migrate over my body in a slow, imperceptible creep.

      I also have real trouble making sense of the “how to dress for work” images as I can’t seem to extrapolate their examples to the clothes I see in the shops, nor translate them to something I would feel comfortable wearing. What I do instead is look out for outfits on other people that I might wear myself and then get something in as similar style as possible. I try not to model the outfits on any one person (I do not have “a look/style” whatever that is, so much as a random collection of clothing that can go together into respectable combinations, if I can remember what they are) but yes, I do have maybe 3 shirts that my former colleague also owns. We never ended up twinning, but had a system where one would text the other and say “I’ve got the shirt with the foxes on today!” so the other would know not to wear that one. (We actually didn’t care if we matched, but people around us commented and found it slightly odd, so we didn’t want to draw attention.)

      I wonder if LWs colleague has done the same thing but only used ONE person as example, as well as misjudging the dynamic. I don’t think it’s coming from a mean place though.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I feel you on not finding anything in stores. I like a classic, comfortable style and can’t remember the last time I found something like that in a mainstream store.
        When will the 70’s retro era end??? I didn’t like it the first time and they’re trying to force it on me again. Cardigans that come down past my hips, the absolutely least flattering on anyone. Shapeless blouses in flimsy material that will wear out quickly. Horrible colors. I used to rely on LL Bean but they jumped on the bandwagon and discontinued their classic, cable-knit hip-length buttoned sweater.
        I end up relying on thrift and resale stores and it took months to find a cable knit sweater. I’ve found a few good things at the Gap. Most of my clothes are from resale.

  31. agnes*

    LW #2 Important piece of information You are not the recruitment agency’s client. A recruitment agency is not there to help you find a job. They are there to help their client find an employee. and if you don’t match what they are looking for, you won’t have much interaction with them. They are the opposite of your state’s employment services, which focus on you as a job seeker.

    Recruitment firms focus on what their client needs, not what you need. Good agencies will treat every candidate with respect, but they aren’t going to spend time talking to you about your job search, or your career path, or how to improve your resume or interview skills–unless they are prepping you for an interview with their client.

  32. Jenny*

    The recruiting agency likely did LW2 a favor by asking them to remove the review, particularly if their name was attached to it. Food for thought there.

    One day? You have to be more patient.

  33. AthenaC*

    LW1 – With people like your coworker, there is a decent chance that she doesn’t really know that her actions are Not Cool. Which means that you may get more mileage out of –

    – “Hey, just so you know, it looks really odd when two grown women are dressed this similarly”
    – “I’m flattered you like my style, and I was happy to give you some direction, but it’s a bit unnerving seeing you wear this many of exactly the same pieces I wear. You really need to develop your own style. Why not mix up your look with (insert item here)?”
    – “I’m sorry but I’m not able to do more than a friendly coworker relationship right now. I look forward to working with you, but outside of that I have a full schedule.”

    Hopefully some combo of the above will clue her in and y’all can resume a cordial professional relationship.

  34. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I live in an area that has somewhat limited shopping choices. One day I was in a courthouse, waiting for a hearing to begin. The prosecutor was wearing a nice dress with a green and purple flower print. Various defendants filed in and out and in came Debbie Defendant wearing…. the same nice dress with a green and purple flower print. Debbie Defendant was over the moon they wore the same dress. Prosecutor, not so much. (They both got the dresses at the same store – Macy’s or Kohl’s I think? Debbie then spent part of her hearing explaining to all assembled how she shops for sales, uses coupons, etc and honestly, we all learned a heck of a lot about chain retail bargain shopping) This was more funny than anything else, and was obviously not on purpose. I share because this is a funny story. If I were in LW1’s shoes, I think I might start looking for unique pieces to wear that she can’t readily copy and not reveal where I got them.

    #4 – What does “this is a man’s space” even mean?

    1. Mimi*

      I would interpret “this is a man’s space” to mean “we are unwilling to conform to the standards of behavior generally considered acceptable for mixed company; you can either put up with it or leave.”

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Yeah, I walked in on the tail end of a conversation where the other men were trying to shut up the worst offender who loves to needle one of the few other women… that was definitely the gist. Like what can you expect?

        I do not know what was being said and I don’t want to know – she usually doesn’t react so it must have been bad.

    2. Tidewater 4-1009*

      As I posted above, I get most of my clothes in resale or thrift stores because they have the styles I like while mainstream stores don’t.
      Maybe OP could suggest her coworker shop at resale stores for unique pieces, or OP could shop at them herself for unique pieces.
      In case she’s not familiar with resale shopping, thrift stores vary. Some put everything out without sorting it and the customer has to go through and eliminate items that are stained, torn, etc.
      The best thrift stores sort their items and only offer pieces in good condition. Look for these stores, and of course there are always consignment stores too.

      1. Chinook*

        Don’t do that! Are you seriously advising that OP#1 tell her coworker she needs to go buy used clothes so that they don’t look alike? Do you not see how tone deaf this is? If the coworker wanted to go to thrift stores, she would have already done so on her own. But, if she didn’t, telling her to go to one and figure out her own style is a slap to the face and, if made after making comments about her being from a rural area, definitely comes across as if the coworker is not good enough for the clothes she bought and could definitely come across as bullying.

        If you think my reaction is too harsh, how would you see this conversation play out positively?

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I didn’t intend it that way! I’ve been a resale shopper for a long time and found wonderful things this way, things I never would have found in retail stores. Better quality than many stores have now.
          If OP doesn’t want to suggest it for her coworker, she could do it herself. That might lead to coworker asking her for instruction in resale shopping – but at least she’s not likely to find identical items in resale.

  35. RussianInTexas*

    Ha! I knew I’ve read this exact closing copying letter recently – and I have!
    Google Dear Prudence My Coworker Copying me for 02/01/2.
    I very rarely agree with Daniel’s advice, but this time he was very much in sync with Alyson.

  36. rural_not_dumb*

    @ OP #1 – It seems like you’re making some really serious judgements about her intellect and ability to dress herself when you say, “She’s from a rural area and wanted to fit in”. Do folks in rural areas not know how to dress themselves?

    We do, actually. Ditch the stereotype.

    1. LTL*

      It’s not about not knowing how to dress. It’s about trying to dress in a way that fits in better with your current environment. LW didn’t imply that rural dress was inferior to urban dress.

      1. rural_not_dumb*

        I’d buy that, but OP didn’t say “She moved from a ranch job to a job selling widgets and had to buy a whole new wardrobe so I understand she picked up some of the same things as me BUT”, OP just said, “She’s from a rural area and wanted to fit in”. Not all rural folks are 20 years behind the fashion curve and need a new wardrobe, not all rural jobs are overalls and boots, and most rural folks know how to dress ourselves just fine, for whatever work we’re doing at the time :)

        Just nicely asking that non rural folks consider how they stereotype and marginalize rural people as being out of touch, poorly prepared, or just plain dumb.

  37. Khatul Madame*

    #4 – I usually check the company website before I interview and sometimes before I even apply for a job. Looking at the executive team is part of my initial survey. More often than not there is a token woman/minority in the HR leadership role, and CxOs are all men. This is just a data point and asking about diversity on the department or team level is still a good idea.

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      I found a from a commercial real estate company and I was doubtful because I’m a housing rights activist.
      I looked at their site and decided not to apply because all their contact people are young, hotshot 30-something white men. At least they put it out there so no one is fooled…

  38. learnedthehardway*

    LW#2 – Your reaction was way out of line, and yes, you’re likely blacklisted with that agency. It’s completely unreasonable to expect a reply, let alone one within 48 hours. The agency would have gotten back to you if they had a role open for which you were suitable / qualified. But even if they had a role that you were perfect for, it easily could have taken a couple days, depending on how many other candidates they had applying for it, how many other projects the recruiter was working on, and how high a priority that particular opening was (eg. if they already had 5 candidates in front of the client, and had other roles with none, those other roles would be getting the attention).

    Recruitment agencies’ clients are the EMPLOYER, not the candidate. That’s who pays their bills.

  39. MCMonkeybean*

    Yesss, asking about diversity is a great interview question especially if that’s something that is important to you! I didn’t even know how important it was to me until I got pretty spoiled at my first job. Especially with regards to women in leadership positions. I work in finance/accounting and have had more female managers than male ones and our CAO is a woman as well. It’s definitely a priority for me now to make sure to look for that at any future company. I worked at one other company and also reported to two women there and a female CFO.

  40. LTL*

    LW1, a year is a really long time to be annoyed at something and not address it. You need to say something. This doesn’t sound like it’s on your coworker. To be clear, if anyone tried to copycat be, it would drive me crazy. So I do understand why you feel the way you do. But you coworker probably has no idea that it bothers you. If I was friends with someone and doing something for over a year with no comment, my assumption would be that they’re 100% on board.

    1. pancakes*

      No, I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption, particularly when the other party is doing something a bit creepy or stalker-ish – talking to someone about creepy behavior carries the risk of antagonizing or provoking them. And it doesn’t sound like these two are on equal footing with regard to friendship: “I’ve tried to maintain a distance as it’s draining me and I find her toxic.” I do think the LW should talk to their colleague about the copying, but I don’t at all agree that not commenting on irritating behavior should be taken as a pass to continue doing it.

      1. LTL*

        We don’t really have details on whether LW ever considered her to be a friend. But regardless, it sounds like LW hasn’t conveyed any disapproval of anything coworker has done or is doing during their working relationship. So I’m not sure why we should assume that coworker knows that they are doing something problematic when LW hasn’t confirmed. I can absolutely see someone who’s not very socially adept believe that this sort of copycat behavior is flattering.

        It may very well be the case that coworker knows and does not care, but my point is that we have no way of knowing that given that there’s been no communication.

        The level of creepy behavior you’re talking about, where it becomes dangerous or risky to say something, isn’t reflected in the letter. Given that LW doesn’t mention feeling that way, I’m not going to make that assumption.

        1. pancakes*

          I think you misunderstand what I meant by “antagonizing.” I wasn’t trying to suggest that I think the coworker is likely to become violent; I was trying to say that confronting someone who is being a bit creepy about the ways they’re being a bit creepy is a deeply unpleasant task many people would want to put off, and if the person takes it badly they may behave worse rather than better.

  41. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    LW2, you have to remember that with recruiting agencies, you are not the client. You are basically the product. The people paying them to find a hire are the client.

  42. B Wayne*

    LW 1: I have to call you out on the “comes from a rural area” dig you made on the copycat coworker. The person’s background is not relevant, only the issue at hand. Over the years I have seen more than a dozen of this type letter in columns, including this blog but never have I read a “comes from a rural area” qualifier about the copying party as it is not necessary. Perhaps there can be a case for better backgrounds but not superior as I took the comment.

      1. B Wayne*

        Sorry I missed it, I’ll scroll back through to read it. At the time I think there were 173 comments and I was inspired to put something down. I am from a rural type area (big city not 50 minutes away) with cows or hayfields on the left and right of my little strip of homes. I’m from the south also so it is a double whammy sometimes!

  43. RagingADHD*

    LW#2, it’s easy for aggravation + internet to wind up in a very bad combination with lots of embarrassment and reputation damage. A lot of people get caught up that way.

    I’d advise you to take a look at your expectations and your overall pattern of email/internet usage. It would be good to set a hard limit for yourself — Don’t post mad.

    Or if you do, use a throwaway. That’s what they’re for.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I posted a similar comment (caught up in moderation or probably eaten by a grue? I have been having tech issues all day…) urging OP2 to look inward and see/check if this is part of a pattern of something like anxiety (“nerves”) taking more of a role than it deserves to. Not necessarily just “don’t post mad” although that’s part of it, but also a deeper “is there something bigger going on to address”.

  44. OyHiOh*

    RE LW 1: How many times have blogs like this advised a human struggling with the dress code of their office to look at what other humans presenting as the same gender are wearing and copy/mimic/imitate those looks until the struggling human gets the hang of how to be in this office? I can easily see how a person who is maybe not particularly fashion conscious, who possibly doesn’t understand the nuances of Office Language the way LW assumes they do, hearing “fit into this office by copying/mimicking/imitating the looks of others of your gender” and just doing that, to infinity.

    It could be purposeful, weird, creepy, and/or stalker-ish. It could be that this person has good intentions and somehow doesn’t have the awareness to realize how weird/stalker-ish she comes off.

    1. pancakes*

      It seems like it should and generally can go without saying that advice to emulate someone who seems well put-together isn’t meant to taken as, “buy all of the exact same pieces that make up their entire wardrobe, and get the same haircut too.” People who know or have reason to suspect they’re excessively literal should probably try to check in with a friend who may have a different perspective before proceeding with something as extensive as copying someone’s look.

  45. Safely Retired*

    Regarding #4, asking about how many women or other categories are on the team…
    It would be great if the men out there interviewing started asking the same question. For one thing they might get a just-among-us-guys response about how great it is that there are so few to cause problems. Or, ideally, it might give a clue to the interviewer that it isn’t only an issue for women. And wouldn’t you like to know what sort of workplace you are interviewing for?

    1. Roquefort*

      Yep, this is a great way to use privilege for good. Not to mention that if the company culture is misogynist, it’s probably also exclusionary in other ways, and you don’t want to get into a situation where you have to pretend to be a completely different person just to be accepted at work.

  46. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2 (negative Google review when recruiter didn’t get back to them in a ‘timely’ manner): I agree with the official answer in that there is no ’employment blacklist’ as such, although I expect you have blacklisted yourself with this particular recruiter for a while at least!, and that you ought to apologize for the sake of salvaging the relationship as much as it can be (which may not be much, and you need to be realistic about that, but still needs to be done).

    However… I think you also need to look inside yourself as to what motivated you to do this. I understand the frustration, yes. I understand that you may be in a desperate sort of situation e.g. urgently needing a job (not clear if you already have one, and of course I know a lot of people are out of work due to the pandemic and general economic conditions) or employed but needing to get out of a toxic situation pronto, needing to make more money, or even ‘just’ having an ok job situation at the moment but wanting to reach out to the recruiter for opportunities that are more in your field, or more suited to you in some other ways, and feeling like they ought to be able to help you but were unresponsive to your email.

    Putting myself in the position of the recruiter receiving a response / course of action like that, I can see that I’d potentially extrapolate that to “if I put OP2 forward for my role at Acme Corp, would they ‘overreact’ to every little thing so easily?” etc. Would they write a negative review on Glassdoor in response to a mildly negative interaction with a manager for example?

    Things to think about (not necessarily answer here!):

    -Do you think it was a genuine one-off misjudgement borne out of a one-off combination of circumstances, or is it possible that you are in a place right now where things lead to frustration and despair more easily than they used to (or more readily than they seem to with other people)? Do you understand, internally, what led you to write that review? (Not just “I was pissed that they were unresponsive” but something deeper than that. e.g. I’m pissed at companies being unresponsive or doing other shitty stuff often, sometimes more than once in a day, but generally I’d just stew and move on rather than think “I need to make other people aware of this”). I’m inferring that you didn’t think the Google Review in itself would prompt a response from the company.

    -Have you had a similar “I snapped and…” response to anything else in recent history or do you feel you may be on the edge of a response like that? (I say this because you characterised it as “my nerves got the better of me” to which I can easily understand, especially as a person with anxiety myself, the weird things that ‘nerves’ can drive one to do! My anxiety is well controlled now, but before it was, I had a history of ‘volatile’ behaviour like this, and worse than just writing a Google Review!)

  47. Des*

    OP2: “I heard nothing for over 24 hours.”

    That’s a really short time to get impatient over enough to retaliate.

  48. You only dye twice*

    LW #1 I doubt you can buy all new clothes, but a few boxes of dye might make her copying less obvious, and more difficult to do.

  49. Petunia*

    I can sympathise with a complete lack of style but I also get why it bothers you being copied so closely.

    Personally, I would say “I noticed you have been copying my style and you might not intend it to be odd, but it is too much. The best resource I have ever found for style is a book called “Colour Me Beautiful*”. It was really helpful to work out what styles and colours suited me. I really recommend reading it and developing your own personal flair.” Also recommend a good hair dresser and tell her to ask them for style suggestions that suit her rather than just ool doing exactly what you do. The problem with just letting her loose is most hair dressers are not very good and you want her to love the result than have her first attempt at not copying you turn out badly.

    *replace with a resource that you have found helpful. I have no affiliation with this book and bought it 20+ years ago but it helped me move beyond a wardrobe soley of jeans and striped shirts to a stylish range of outfits. There is probably more modern resources out there but if you go the route of suggesting a resource, make sure it covers body shapes, styles etc. Fashion magazines are useless. Maybe other AAM readers can suggest newer books on dressing well?

    1. Petunia*

      I am assuming she copies you out of a combination of socially awkward, admiring your style and not knowing how to put together a style of her own. If you just tell her to stop, she is not going to know what to do instead. The advantage to giving her resources is it gives her a starting point or template that isn’t you.

  50. Andi*

    Re: asking about diversity / team makeup – If you’re applying at a large company you do want to ask about current team makeup for the people you’ll be interacting with. Many large companies get awards / reviews / etc. saying they get great diversity scores but those are largely based on overall employee make up. There can be sizeable pockets that don’t reflect that.

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