the office admin refuses to speak to me

A reader writes:

I began a job with a new organization in December, with a downgrade in responsibility but a moderate increase in salary. My supervisor was hired at the same time (from another department within the organization) and did not assume her new role until the new year. This left a few weeks where I was reporting to the person who would become my boss’s boss.

My first week was horrible — from not having a computer or phone to being welcomed by the department admin, Jane, with a terse, “There is your office, I leave at noon.” Any attempt to remedy any issues myself was met by Jane with, “That’s not how we do it here.” Eventually, when I felt I had to let my interim supervisor know that I was not able to do my job because of the lack of resources, she was incredibly supportive and fixed the situation immediately.

Every other person I have interacted within the organization has been more than collegial, but Jane has continued to be negative if not hostile: not responding to greetings, excluding me from office chats, refusing to allow me access to the office email, refusing to provide support functions, etc. My permanent manager has spoken to her about her responsibilities and since then she has provided administrative support … without speaking, if at all possible.

Having dealt with difficult coworkers and reports before I have always found that being consistently kind and remarking on their positive contributions brings them around. However, during my monthly meeting with my manager, she let me know that Jane finds this behavior overly familiar and has requested that I refrain from “trying to be friends.” I am supposed to refrain from the behavior she finds objectionable, such as asking how her day is or asking if she would like anything from cafeteria (as I do with all colleagues when they are in the office and seems to be the norm). My manager made a point of saying several times that this situation is not a reflection on me at all, and they are very pleased with my work and attitude.

I am at a loss as how to proceed. The current situation is incredibly stressful and has begun to impact my performance, as I worry about how every interaction with Jane or other colleagues will be perceived. It has also put other colleagues in a difficult position when there is information I should be included on but Jane excludes me (for example, the order deadline for office lunch or questions that I would answer but instead another staff member has to come to me). In hindsight, I should have documented every snide comment or small aggression, but I truly thought that it was just a case of an employee needing to adjust to a lot of rapid changes in the environment. Now I am wondering if I made a mistake leaving my previous position. If I am not able to “kill her with kindness,” do you have any suggestions for how I can manage this effectively? And what is the line between collegiality and familiarity?

I have so many questions about Jane! Is she like this with everyone or has she taken a special dislike to you? Why would she refuse you access to office email? What’s her objection to basic greetings? How does she expect to keep her job while so blatantly mistreating someone she’s supposed to support?

And to that last point, how is she keeping her job while so blatantly mistreating someone she’s supposed to support? That’s the real question here.

Does your manager know the full extent of Jane’s behavior? Have you updated her since the last time she spoke to Jane about the situation? And if so, why is this being allowed to continue?

Of course, there’s a bunch of possible explanations for that: Maybe Jane has been there forever and people consider her untouchable (longevity shouldn’t do that, but sometimes it does). Maybe she’s protected by a higher-up who loves her (or pities her, as sometimes is the case). Maybe this is an office that won’t hold anyone accountable in any real way, and Jane has figured out she can do whatever she wants without consequence. Who knows. But it’s a problem, regardless of the cause.

As for what to do …

Let the social stuff go completely, but address every single incident of work-related stuff.

On the social stuff: She doesn’t want you to ask how her day is or if she wants anything from the cafeteria, so don’t do that stuff anymore. You can continue greeting her or not, whichever you prefer, but assume she won’t answer*. Other than that, accept that she doesn’t want you saying anything not directly related to work to her, so okay.

* I’m putting the greetings in a different category because it risks looking weird to other people if they witness you walking by her with zero acknowledgement. Plus there might be a certain satisfaction in issuing a cheery and unimpeachable “good morning, Jane!” when you pass her.

But when something relates to work, address it every time, calmly and matter-of-factly. If she’s excluding you from a conversation you need to be in: “Jane, I wasn’t included on the message about the X meeting — what happened there? … Please add me to it now, and make sure I’m on things like that in the future.” If she sends a question that should go to you to someone else instead: “Cecil told me you contacted him about X. That’s actually my purview — what did you need there? … The answer is Y. Going forward, please send those questions directly to me.” Or in response to a snide comment: “Whoa, that sounded really adversarial. Can you explain what you meant?” Again, all said calmly and matter-of-factly.

And then if keeps happening, address the pattern: “We’ve talked before about how I need to be the one fielding questions on X, but you’re still sending them to others. Do you need something different from me in order to handle those correctly?”

It’s possible that if you do this consistently, Jane will realize she’s going to be forced to have these conversations with you every time and will eventually conclude she’d prefer not to have to.

But if the problem continues after that, you need to escalate it again to your/her manager (I think the same person manages both of you?). At that point your message is, “I’m not getting XYZ from Jane, which I need to do my job. I’ve spoken with her about it several times but she’s not changing anything. What’s the best way for me to handle this?” And at some point in that conversation you might also say, “It seems clear she’s systematically leaving me off things and refusing to communicate with me. She doesn’t need to be friendly, but I do need her to do her job. What’s the next step since that’s not happening?”

It sounds like your manager was willing to speak to her previously, so there’s a decent chance she’ll do it again — and you demonstrating that you’ve tried everything you can on your side might nudge her to do more this time. If not, then you have a manager problem just as much as a Jane problem.

Also, you asked where the line is between collegiality and familiarity, but there’s no indication that you’ve crossed it. Collegiality includes greeting your coworkers and returning their greetings, asking how their day is going or how their weekend was and generally making pleasant conversation (while also being alert to their cues that they’re harried, trying to focus on something else, etc.). Familiarity — or overfamiliarity, which is what I think you’re really asking about — would be stuff like asking personal questions about your coworkers’ romantic lives, health, religious beliefs, reproductive plans, or other personal topics. (There are work friendships that naturally evolve to include those things, but they aren’t topics you should go to without really solid evidence that it’s become that kind of friendship.) Overfamiliarity can also include volunteering your own info on those topics (to varying extents; sharing about a weird date you had over the weekend wouldn’t usually be an overstep, but talking about your sex life would be). But I don’t think that distinction is one that’s in play with Jane — there’s no indication that you’ve been overfamiliar; the issue seems to be that you’re interacting with her at all. You don’t need to worry about or cater to that kind of personal nastiness.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 422 comments… read them below }

  1. katertot*

    I’ve had this happen to me, and it was because the admin strongly believed I was a wrong fit for the job AND had someone else (I think a friend) apply for my job and not get it. She was super adversarial with me and it took ages for us to get to a better working relationship. Any chance there’s some hostility due to the hiring?
    Also curious about what Alison asked- is she like this with everyone once they start but warms up once she feels they’re there to stay?

    1. sofar*

      I was thinking along the same lines, and I had a similar experience with a coworker being hostile for seemingly no reason. Jane may have recommended someone else for the job and is feeling miffed that you got it instead.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was thinking that Jane might have wanted the job herself. But it definitely feels like she doesn’t think the OP “deserves” the job for some reason.

        1. NotJane*

          I got that feeling, too. Either Jane applied for OP’s position and didn’t get it, or she thought she’d be the natural choice to be promoted into OP’s role and the company instead went with an external hire.

          FWIW, because I have nothing concrete to back this up, I got the sense that Jane isn’t like this with everyone and she’s singled out OP, for some reason. And given that OP is brand new to the company, and unless she’s leaving out some majorly relevant info, I have to assume it’s somehow related OP being new. And Jane being jealous because she wanted OP’s job is the only thing I can think of that could explain Jane’s level of open hostility towards someone who’s a relative stranger (explain, not excuse, obviously Jane’s behavior is childish and unprofessional and needs to be dealt with).

      2. Joan Rivers*

        Document everything. And if you have a chance to meet w/boss and Jane, maybe take it. She sounds like she’d have a problem controlling herself if confronted w/a list of her acts. I’d ask her WHY she did those things, too. Get specific. That’s only if you think she might lose her composure, though.

        If she’s slick that might not work, so have a sense of whether she’d get upset and reveal too much or whether she’s good at sliding through. But I’d still pin her down on why she treated you this way and ask if she does these things w/anyone else.

        Do your research first. Asking others “Does Jane ever do X to you?” is a way of asking the question and also conveying that she does it to you. Even if they say “No” to protect her, because they like her, it still makes the point for you. And if they say “Yes” then that’s not good for Jane.

      3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Or Jane may have been given indications that she was in consideration for the job herself. Or possibly doing some of the work and hoping it would enhance her own position, only it didn’t.

    2. Bertha*

      Similarly.. I had a situation where a receptionist seemed to really dislike me, and it was because I had replaced someone who she was really good friends with. (In that case, that person had retired, so it still seemed strange.. but perhaps she felt “pushed out” and shared that with the receptionist.)

    3. NYC Taxi*

      Bingo. I think either she, a friend or family member applied for your job OP and is still salty that she/they didn’t get it. Stay vigilant. Jane will continue to try to undermine you. You’ll never be able to trust her even if she seems to improve. Treat Jane in a professional manner, all business and no small talk. Assiduously document her ongoing behavior and discuss with your boss that it hasn’t stopped.

      1. Amaranth*

        Yes, this. Document. Document. Document. Even the silly, petty stuff because it all goes to pattern and how much effort Jane makes to make *everything* a chore.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wondered below if Jane wanted the promotion for herself. All of the behavior described just seems so personal and sabotage directed at the OP.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      Was there anything in particular that you did that improved the relationship, or did it just happen over time?

      1. katertot*

        I think over time she realized I actually was qualified to have that job, I also realized I was trying to be overly nice and friendly with her and that wasn’t helping- I needed to just have a good collegial working relationship with her. I also was able to build up good relationships with the other admins who I think helped her come around to me.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I’ve definitely done the thing where I’m anxious about a tense relationship and so I act overly friendly and effusive to try to draw them out and assure them we’re on the same side. Definitely something I’m still working on – glad you were able to fix it in yourself!

          1. Cedarthea*

            My sister has commented on how much she hates my “customer service” persona that I can take on when I am super stressed out or anxious. It’s fine for retail type customer service, but it can be really fake in close interactions.

            I really try not to use it in interpersonal relationships, and save it for customer service interactions (either with me as customer or vendor), but I mess up sometimes. But it was good having her identify it as an issue because I at least know when and why it happens so I have a bit more control over it than before I was consciously aware of it.

    6. The Rural Juror*

      When I started my current job (about 7 years ago), the two women already working in the office were pretty cold towards me for about 6 months. It’s a tiny company, the majority of employees are men. One of the women was the office admin, the other was the controller/accountant. I was hired to be a project coordinator and “bridge the gap” between office work and site work (construction industry).

      I finally figured out that they were miffed because they didn’t think my role was warranted. They didn’t see any point in hiring someone to do that job, things had always been “fine” they way they were. But after a while they started to feel their jobs get easier and things being done faster and more efficiently…and they realized that my job WAS warranted and that I wasn’t bad at it! They were much more friendly to me after that.

      They should have been more amicable towards me from the beginning, so I always took their kindness with a grain of salt. It says a lot about a person who’s unkind or gruff towards someone just because they’re unhappy with the boss’s decisions or unhappy with change.

        1. Dinoweeds*

          Indigo – the name is from an awesome episode of 30 Rock, you should watch it! It’s one of my all time favorites lol.

          1. Marni*

            The 30 Rock joke is itself referencing actor vocal exercises. “Rural Juror” is one phrase actors use to practice enunciation. Like Red Leather Yellow Leather. Which would also make a good username!

    7. Anon and on an on*

      My first thought is Jane wanted the job herself. But she could have had a person in mind as well.

    8. twocents*

      My mind went there too. Years ago, there was a team lead position that opened up and everyone thought that the most senior TM should get that position. While I knew there was no chance in hell she would get it because she always pushed the boundaries for what was acceptable. She was always thisclose to being fired, so when somebody that was not her got hired, I was like “well duh.” But most of the team was so mean to him, because senior TM was well liked.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I was thinking same – that’s not OP but their place.

      I agree with the advice to drop the invite for lunch, etc. and focus on what impacts your job. Create a paper trail so by the next meeting with the boss you can say, “I’ve done as you asked, but these things remain. I am unable to effectively do my job (if true) due to x and y on Jane’s part. How do you suggest I proceed?” If this boss was not privy to you not even having a computer at first, then fill them in that this is a Day One pattern of behavior.

      1. Amaranth*

        Thats an excellent point, I agree OP needs to make sure boss knows it wasn’t just a personality clash, that Jane’s attitude was set before OP walked in the door. That might also help frame it as ‘what the heck happened before I showed up?’ and a company problem so they aren’t just looking at OP to play well with others.

    10. raincoaster*

      It’s happened to me as well, and it turned out that the “Jane” had not only applied for the job I’d gotten; the posting had been written specifically with her in mind. I had to put a corporate newsletter together for three months on a computer with no mouse and no track pad, because she was in charge of the supplies and equipment. It involved a lot of glue and photocopying, and when I got a commendation from the higher-ups and told them I’d had to do it all without a mouse, she got a talking-to and quit shortly after.

      1. Really Just a Cat*

        The good news is that some people are professional and don’t respond this way. I had a Jane who suggested the position I’m now in, and was told by a higher up (although not the hiring manager) that the job was created for them…and then I, an external hire, got it instead. My Jane though took it very professionally, was kind and welcoming, and later got into a similar position that was a better fit for her talents. I so wish OP’s Jane (if this is indeed what’s going on) could have responded similarly!

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I was in this situation from the other side. Due to some funding changes one of the three positions in our office that had previously been part time was going to be made full time. Three of us who were internal applied: the person who had held the position when it was full time several years ago who had left when it switched to part time; the person who worked it the 3ish years it was part time; and me, because even though it wasn’t in my wheelhouse I knew I would be a good fit for it and both of the others were also applying for another full time position I didn’t qualify for in another area.

          I was actually the best candidate of the three; the one who had been there years before basically came in acting as if it was hers again; the guy who had been doing it most recently just did not interview well unfortunately. However, there was one other person — her degree matched a little better than mine. It was entirely neck and neck, and they offered her the position because she had some connections with the community that the job would use.

          I won’t lie, it was REALLY hurtful especially since we are in poverty and I could have really used FT income. It was a hard blow to overcome. My best friend in the office was the one required to make the call since our former director was retiring, and I knew that the other person who applied was also a good friend of hers from childhood. But she was friends with all 4 of us who interviewed. It put her in a hard place and I have never faulted her for that. Logically I knew she made the call she had to, and the woman who they put in the position has been a great fit personality wise, but shit was it hard to get over myself. I never took it out on her, but in my head…I won’t say all my thoughts were charitable.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        If the posting was written wither Jane specifically in mind and then she didn’t get the job, she could h have been performing well above and beyond her admin role to show her stuff–which means her employer was getting a hell of a lot more out of her than they were paying for, and then yanked the rug out from under her, plus reminding her that she was really just an admin.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            You’re right. But it could be that something else is happening here other than the “grumpy admin” who takes an arbitrary dislike to someone.

    11. JSPA*

      It doesn’t have to be a work thing.

      There are all sorts of ways that dysfunctional mixing of the streams shows up in the workplace.

      I don’t want to derail, but 20-odd years ago (and they’ve been odd years, for sure!) I had a situation where assumptions were made (and shared) about my perceived gender (or inadequate presentation thereof) and likely sexuality. That was next compounded by presumptions about who I was likely to therefore be interested in, and mingled with a toxic belief system on which sorts of people were likely to be predatory or libertines. Add in politics that probably were out of sync with the office culture…and, well.

      That ignorance-derived, ginned-up pseudo-panic (which I was entirely unaware of) led one admin to be incredibly frosty and tense when we were sharing the same air space, let alone communicating directly. It was nothing but baffling to me for months. At some point (as the coworkers had concocted the persona in an act of spontaneous generation) the admin decided I was “none of the above” (not quite true, for the record, but nearly so) and became less tense. But by then, I was plenty tense. I was only clued in, in passing, to the past dynamic–and the rumors–as they were retiring (in a “you know, when you got here, we didn’t know what to make of you, and some people thought” way).

      Looking back, there had been hints. (I’m not great with hints.) But they were hints about something completely separate from the problem as I perceived it.

      Someone else got a similar cold shoulder for being a presumed “home wrecker,” another for not continuing to go out with a “nice guy” whom everyone was cheering for.

      Women’s health-related activism (euphemistically) is another thing that people can and will freeze others out for, while never naming it (and it goes both ways, each side treating the other as little better than felony-level, active criminals; depending where you are, you absolutely will and can and do find people to both sides of this divide in the same nonprofit).

      I’d expect that people with those attitudes are now gossipping and being frosty after hearing rumors about people’s dating app profiles or searching them on social media.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, really. It gets to the point where the boss needs to say, “You want the job or No? Then KNOCK IT OFF.” Because yelling is the only way to get out-of-control 5 year olds to pay attention.

    12. Flaxseed*

      How do you find this stuff out though? Is this something that you overheard or did someone tell you? (I’m going though something like this, but I honestly have no idea why the admin hates me, yet no one is saying anything.)

  2. Heather Chandler*

    Is there any chance Jane applied for the position you are currently in and is taking out bad feelings about not being promoted on you? Not sure that changes much about the situation, but could explain her general attitude.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      I came here to say exactly that. It is one thing to not be overly friendly in this situation or not go overboard in helping but sabotage is not acceptable.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This was exactly my thought.

      OP, I’d go back to your boss and say something like “I could use some advice on how to get X, Y, and Z from Jane” and see what she suggests. The situation as it stands now is untenable.

      1. Anon and on an on*

        Jane managed to deflect, turn it into “personality conflict” instead of work issue.
        OP unfortunately accepted manager’s position that “Jane doesn’t want to be friends so you have to change,” and attempted to adjust instead of saying, “no, I’m not trying to be her friend, I’m trying to communicate with her. She says that she does not want to make small talk. That does not explain why she will not give me work information. That does not explain why she will not reply to requests by email for XYZ.”

        1. Elbe*

          That struck me as a little odd, too. If Jane complained to me about a coworker being overly friendly, and the only examples she was able to give were morning greetings and the occasional question about her weekend… that would be a huge red flag.

          It’s possible that the manager just took it as a simple personality quirk because she didn’t know the extent of the work issues. But unless there’s a lot missing from the letter, it reflects poorly on Jane that she’s complaining about common workplace courtesy.

          1. TechWorker*

            The fact the manager reassured LW that there are no concerns about her work or her attitude makes me wonder if mgr is well aware Jane is a nightmare (and is maybe already managing that – she wouldn’t necessarily tell LW if she was?) and is passing on what Jane said because she feels obliged to pass on the feedback rather than because LW is expected to do much with the feedback.

        2. mf*

          This is a really good framing. Jane is trying to gaslight the OP’s boss (and probably everyone else) into thinking that the OP is the problem. But Jane is clearly the one who’s being hostile and picking a fight.

          1. KaciHall*

            When OP stops being over friendly, the boss will get complaints that she’s being too cold.

              1. snoopythedog*

                This is why ALison’s advice to continue greeting the Jane is a good one, otherwise it looks like the OP is ignoring her. A “good morning, Jane” without a pause or expectation for a response will suffice.

    3. Smithy*

      Whether it was Jane or someone Jane knows – I think that these ideas are often very common and also paint a context that Jane’s reasons may truly have nothing to do with the OP as a unique individual.

      I used to work somewhere that for years had hired temps to fill the receptionist role and some light admin. Eventually the majority of these temps would take on more and more work from other departments, and it was very common that within 3-6 months fully transition into a full-time position on another team. These temps were often recent graduates who had ambitions to enter the larger industry, not specifically HR.

      Eventually the HR team was afforded a full-time Administrative Assistant role to handle the front desk and other HR work. They hired a candidate with a very similar background to previous temps but were very aggressive in preventing her from taking on other side projects that might eventually evolve into a full-time job on their teams. The end result was a deeply negative dynamic, but centered on issues that had nothing to do personally with other newly hired junior staffers.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t think that is necessarily problematic what HR did. In the first situation you descried where the admin role was a temp position absolutely let people prove their worth and move on to another full time position. But once the admin position becomes permanent you do need someone who wants that specific role and is not just using it as a way to get their foot in the door. Being a good admin takes time and effort, that can’t happen if someone is only in the position for 3 to 6 months at time. Even an experienced admin will need time at least 3 months if not 6 to really get in a grove and excel with a new company because there are several little details of a specific company that you can only learn with time no matter how great you are. If other departments had gotten used to having the receptionist position be a testing ground for new candidates, HR was right to protect the person/position. Not saying the receptionist should never be allowed to move on to another role but 2/4 years is a more reasonable timeline.

        1. Smithy*

          HR’s intended approach was not problematic, however when they were hiring, they ended up hiring for a very similar type of candidate they had success with in the temp hires. The key problem being that those temp hires did not see the HR/Administration as their long term professional goal.

          A sensible HR decision at first, but tweaks weren’t made in how they were interviewing and the result was an unhappy administrative staff member who did not get along with other junior hires with similar backgrounds/experiences.

        2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          It is problematic if a qualified candidate is being systematically cut off from avenues for promotion, even if they are “just an admin.” HR wasn’t protecting them, they were pigeonholing the admin. In so many companies, once you’re stuck in the admin track, god help you to ever get anything better. And people wonder at admins who aren’t exactly sweetness and light? Not that I’m saying it’s OK, but in many situations it’s understandable.

          1. MBK*

            They weren’t protecting the admin; they were protecting their “ownership” of the admin.

          2. LJay*

            I mean to me it’s hard to tell in this situation if they were purposely cutting off avenues for promotion out of spite.

            If the HR team was afforded a full time admin, they probably needed a full time admin to do admin things. And someone can’t do admin things full time for the HR department and also be taking on more and more work and side projects from other departments at the same time. Being an admin is a legit position with legit necessary work in it’s own right and not just an audition to work in another department. If I hired an admin to complete specific work, and other departments kept on trying to side track them from the work they were hired for in order to get them to do work for their departments instead I would be pissed. (If I didn’t have enough work for them to do then of course I wouldn’t mind them helping out other departments. But I also probably wouldn’t be given a full time admin if I didn’t have a full 40 hours of work for them to do. And receptionist is a position sometimes where you’re just engaged to wait. If the company wants someone at the front desk greeting people as soon as they come in (and nowadays making sure immediately that they are wearing a mask, getting their temperature taken, etc) and answering the phone, then the person they hired to do that can’t be down in accounting doing data entry or whatever.

            And I think it’s absolutely unreasonable to expect to be able to move on from the position you’re hired for to a different department in the same company in 6 months to a year and be sour when you’re not permitted to do that.

            In my industry it is pretty standard that you need to be in your role for one year and generally not have any open disciplinary action before you are able to move to another department. It costs departments a lot of money and time to hire on and train and get a new employee up to speed and if they’re leaving prior to a year it’s likely they were a net drain on the department for more than half of the time they were in the department. (I don’t love this rule because sometimes a person will look to leave the company entirely if they’re not permitted to move up within the company, and I generally do waive it if an employee from my department wants to go elsewhere for that reason – I don’t want to keep someone trapped in a low earning position. However, I am also up-front in my interviews that even though my positions could be considered an entry-level/stepping stone position, I expect that they stick with my department for a year first and I do make them aware of the rule’s existence before they are hired). If they didn’t want to work the role they were hired for they shouldn’t have accepted the position to begin with.

    4. Automaton Artiste*

      Nailed it. I bet a Pay Day she thought this job was her ticket out of pink collar hell

    5. cncx*

      something similar happened to me when i was hired into a role someone’s friend got fired from. they were so mad their friend got fired they took it out on me, for almost 2 years until i quit

    6. Sabrina Spellman*

      This is what I came to say. I went through this exact scenario-still am, somewhat. Even after agreeing to start fresh, there’s still animosity and defensiveness when I have to speak to our administrative support.

  3. Anne Elliot*

    To me, this is an example of “We can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way” and Jane has picked the hard way. So no friendly interactions (although I too would insist upon a sunny greeting every day, just to cheese her off), but calm insistence that she do her job and permit you to do yours; checking her every time she does not; and escalation as appropriate. II can be really hard to realize that someone just doesn’t like you — especially with so little reason — but it maybe helpful to remind yourself that you are there to do your job and, just like any other obstacle, you will need to figure out how to go around her, over her, or through her. The key is to be both professional and immovable.

    1. Bluesboy*

      Agreed on the sunny greeting every day, but also because if you greet other people and not her, your colleagues (who are probably unaware that Jane specifically asked you to stop ‘trying to be friends’) will start to see you greet them and ignore her. Net result, those you don’t work directly with will start thinking that it’s a ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ situation, where you are both rude to each other. You need to make sure that it’s clear to everyone that she’s the one in the wrong here.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Exactly – don’t sink to Janes level of grumpy. Stay yourself and give her cheerful good mornings and good nights just as you do everyone else.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. It highlights her nonsense. (I used to have a Jane in my life and I took great pleasure in greeting her with a very cheerful “good morning, Jane!” when she was clearly trying to ignore me.)

        1. Courageous cat*

          Yep. Sometimes the more someone hates you, the more delightful it is to be cheerful.

      3. yala*

        Yeah. I remember my supervisor specifically bringing up that I didn’t greet her in the mornings at a meeting. It didn’t matter that back when I did, she would barely acknowledge me, so every interaction made me feel horrible. So…now I greet her in the morning. So at least it doesn’t look rude on my part.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Do you have my old boss? She would get surly if I didn’t specifically greet her every morning. She wanted me to go out of my way (her office was a few doors down) and first thing greet her. I think it was more tracking when I arrived/left than being friendly. She did not trust one staffer so she didn’t trust all of us by association.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Oh, FFS. Your supervisor isn’t your K-5 teacher whose job it is to familiarize you with basic manners. With adults they should lead by example.

      4. PartyOnGary*

        I agree. Keep up with the friendly greetings. But make sure they don’t require a response. Just “Good morning!” Not “How’s it going?”

        1. Momma Bear*

          This. I have a lot of people who pass by and simply wave or say, “Good morning!” as they walk on. Friendly without being invasive.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Yeah, I think smiling and waving is perfect — other people will see that the LW isn’t giving Jane the cut direct, but she clearly won’t be expecting a response.

            (Giving extra-cheery over-the-top “good mornings” is also a thing people do to tease, screw with, or otherwise get a rise out of people who are a little shy, or who just say they’re doing “good!” and not “great!”, so I’m less in favor of that.)

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I did this with my next-door neighbors. We had a property line conflict a year after I moved into my house. The conflict was resolved in my favor and the neighbors stopped talking to me. It’s been ten years since the conflict, and every day that I saw either of them on the street, I’d smile and wave. A couple of years ago, I started finally getting smiles and waves back. Mind you, my opinion of them as bullies whom I did not trust in the least never changed over the ten years, but I thought the optics would be better if I continued to say hi; never expecting to get a hi back. Honestly my concern was more about the overall environment on the street than about what these particular neighbors thought of me. I thought our street would be a happier place if we didn’t come across to everyone as that one pair of neighbors that are always freezing each other out. Note, at no point during these ten years did I try to initiate small talk. Just a hi and a wave with a smile.

        1. Forgot My Last Username*

          I love this. You acted as if there were collegiality, and that alone created it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Hard agree.

      Matter of fact, OP, you can tell the boss this. “I am living up to my end of the agreement. I do not say anything to Jane that is not work related. In exchange, I am still missing important messages and left out of the loop on conversations. It’s interfering with my ability to do my job.”

      OP, I know in the past these type of people made me want to crawl under a rock. Actually part of the remedy is the opposite. Get out there and develop good working relationships with your cohorts. Eventually they will think of you warmly and you will find life much easier. And Jane can do whatever agenda she wants to do.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Whatever it is Jane has decided that it’s not fixable. Unfortunately, over the long haul she has painted herself into a corner where she becomes less of a professional and becomes a less valuable employee. In many jobs, when I saw an attitude like this the person eventually quit. But they set themselves up so that was their only recourse.

  4. Antilles*

    But if the problem continues after that, you need to escalate it again to your/her manager (I think the same person manages both of you?). At that point your message is, “I’m not getting XYZ from Jane, which I need to do my job. I’ve spoken with her about it several times but she’s not changing anything. What’s the best way for me to handle this?”
    One key if you end up needing to go this far: Keep your message laser-focused on the work impact. Don’t even mention the fact she doesn’t say hello in the hall or leaves you out of office chitchat or anything social; stay purely discussing her work-related silences and the effects on your ability to do your job/keep clients happy/etc.

    1. Reba*

      Yes, it sounds like from the letter (which I realize may not contain everything!) that they have discussed the social/communication side of things, but maybe not made totally clear the work-related costs? Or just how severe Jane’s obstructionism is? Even the question to Alison in the letter is framed more about how to communicate or manage the relationship.

      Maybe it will help OP as well as the boss to frame the situation as being about work results rather than nebulous concepts like “getting along.”

      Even though you haven’t documented everything, it sounds like there is plenty to go on to describe to the boss a pervasive pattern of being kept in the dark and prevented from doing your work or working with others as needed!

      OP, I imagine this is seriously unnerving. Know that Jane is behaving strangely, most people there are probably reasonable, don’t hate you, and see what she is doing.

      1. Anon and on an on*

        but maybe not made totally clear the work-related costs? Or just how severe Jane’s obstructionism is?
        Jane managed damage control by turning it into a personality clash.
        OP to HR: Jane is not supporting my in my job. She is not communicating with me.”
        HR: “Jane, you need to communicate better with OP.”
        Jane: “OP wants to create a friendly relationship that is just too much for me. I just want to do my work.”
        HR to OP: We’ve spoken to Jane and this is what she needs from you…

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      But Jane is also preventing OP from forming normal, collegial relationships with her other colleagues (leaving her off lunch orders, for instance). Even if it seems petty, keep an eye on that, and when it’s clear that it’s a pattern, bring it up in a discussion about the resources you’re not getting. If the office thinks there’s a benefit to the company to provide lunch or have some other team-building perks, then Jane should get called out for withholding them.

      The Jane thing is stressful because she wants it to be–her goal is to make your job hard. If she really leaves at noon, then the afternoons must be a huge relief.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I do think this is worth bringing up in the larger context because office lunches are not only a perk, but they are of value professionally. It’s not just food. Jane is being very petty about this. If one of Jane’s duties is to order lunch for everyone, excluding OP is failing to do her job. I might go so far as to email her. “Jane, I’ve been left off the lunch order three times now. I thought this was one of your duties, but if it is not, please direct me to the new owner of that task. Thank you.” and CC the manager.

        The bigger problem is things like Jane not passing along questions that need to be answered by OP. If Jane is causing delays by her petty behavior, then that’s a full company problem, not just a Jane and OP problem.

      2. Antilles*

        The boss previously brought up that “Jane finds this behavior overly friendly and should refrain from behavior that Jane finds objectionable”…despite the fact that OP’s ‘behavior’ consisted of totally normal human actions like saying hello in the hallway. But the boss did talk to Jane about her work-related requirements to provide administrative support.
        Those are the actions of a boss who is far more concerned about the job related impacts than anything interpersonal. So OP should frame the argument accordingly – don’t bring up office lunches that might muddle the issue or give the boss an option to both-sides it; instead stay focused on the client/job argument that the boss cannot ignore.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      This is really important because LW has tangled up the issue that Jane is not particularly nice to her and the issue that Jane is standing in the way of important work.

      While those are both a problem, only the fact that Jane is impeding work is something that HAS to be dealt with. Jane doesn’t necessarily have to be nice to LW to be doing her job (obviously it would be better if she was behaving in a civil manner, but she could be including LW on emails and such without greeting LW pleasantly every time LW passes by or asking for an order of sweet potato fries from the cafeteria).

      LW’s hurt feelings over Jane’s rudeness are frankly a secondary issue to the bigger issue of the work.

    4. introverted af*

      Frankly, after 1 or 2 times of some issue, I would start that escalation by copying whoever manages her or handles her reviews or however that gets sorted there (I’m an admin that supports multiple people so I know that can get sticky) on your emails to her. And just acknowledge it as, “hey Jane, saw you emailed Cecil about teapot design – he manages pot size but I handle spouts so you can email me directly about this. This is the second or third time this has happened – is there anything you need from me to get these questions sorted quicker in the future?”

      And then after a couple of those kinds of things I would consider further escalation by talking to her manager in person to discuss that “there’s a pattern of Jane not including me on X, Y, and Z. I’ve copied you on some of my emails about that. Is there something I’m not aware of that I need to fix?”

      1. Lizzo*

        This is good, but OP should loop their manager in on the work problems first, then use the CC:ing as a way to raise awareness of any additional instances of Jane failing to do their job. This is a more effective way for OP to get their manager’s buy-in about the problem here being Jane, and not OP.

    5. Amaranth*

      I would keep the topic with management to the work and productivity issues, but it might be worth an offhand comment to a friendly staff member when a situation allows that OP must not be on the lunch list, or didn’t know something because they aren’t on the informal chat, etc., without pointing a finger at Jane. That’s just so as the new person, OP hasn’t been represented by Jane as not wanting to associate with other staff.

  5. ThatGirl*

    I’m wondering if the LW has asked her/their manager how to deal with Jane beyond “don’t make social small talk”. If it were me I’d probably say something like “I understand that Jane doesn’t want to be too friendly, which is fine, but do you have any advice on making working with her more productive and comfortable for both of us? I find that she’s still [ignoring me/excluding me/making my work difficult in specific ways]”.

    Even if the manager doesn’t have specific advice, it would lay the problem out a little better.

    1. Twitchy Cat Tail*

      Definitely talk to the supervisor again. The only thing that improved communication with my Jane was a new manager who consistently monitored what was going on in the department. Not micro-managing exactly but good oversight. Jane didn’t really change behavior but did leave the company after about a year of this.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, and also spell it out – e.g. “Of course if Jane doesn’t want o be friendly I am not trying to force her to be socialble, but are you saying specifically that I should not say ‘good morning;’ when I come in? It feels very isolating to me and I am concerned about how it appears to third parties if I appear to ignore her.

      Push back a bot and make this about what you are comfortable with, as well as what Jane is comfortable with.

      1. Yorick*

        I think OP should stop focusing on the social aspect entirely and focus on the fact that Jane is purposely ignoring them in her work-related tasks. If the boss keeps hearing stuff about “good morning,” they may get distracted from the work-related issues that need to be solved here.

        1. Anon and on an on*

          Yes, that is giving Jane control of the situation. She “needs” a professional relationship, not personal.
          OP needs to show how Jane is not professional at all.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Yes, this.

            You don’t need Jane to be friendly, LW. Jane even has the right not to be friendly. That means that, so long as the discussion stays on the subject of friendliness, Jane has an iron-clad excuse to keep doing what she’s doing.

            But you do need Jane to do her job, and Jane does NOT have the right to refuse to do her job. So that’s where you need to keep each and every discussion about this topic, no matter how much Jane tries to twist it into a friendliness thing.

            Alison’s suggestion to come down on every single work related issue while completely ignoring the social stuff is pure gold. Document the work-related things, even the small ones — you don’t have to bring them up if it doesn’t help in the moment, but having a record of the full pattern can help you see what’s going on, or demonstrate it to somebody else, like your boss. Ask your boss how you should be handling everything work-related she does that interferes with your ability to do your own job… you can’t afford to let your boss think that it’s on *you* that you haven’t been getting Z done.

            But keep it all about the work and steer the discussion back to the work every time Jane tries to make it about her being unfriendly. “Oh, of *course* Jane has every right to decide she’d prefer to keep our relationship focused on the work; that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about. You see, I can’t work any further on the Whitaker project until I hear back from Jane about the vendor she was supposed to call, but she hasn’t answered my last three inquiries. How do you want me to go about getting the information from her?”

            Keep bringing it back to the work stuff she is refusing you; that, you’re on absolutely solid ground about.

            1. onco fonco*

              Yes, yes, yes. Jane *is* being socially obnoxious, but unless she actually says something truly unpleasant and inappropriate, the social stuff is so nebulous and subjective that it’s almost impossible to deal with – and it’s far too easy for her to deflect by characterising it as a personality clash. But work stuff is concrete. Jane doesn’t include LW on something they needed to know about, that’s concrete. Jane goes to other people with requests when they should be directed to LW, that’s concrete. (The lunch order is concrete too – LW needs to be able to participate in things like that.) That’s a pattern Jane can’t shuffle her way out of by mumbling about not wanting an overly friendly relationship!

        2. Anononon*

          Yeah, also if OP digs into the social greetings type of stuff, the boss may just say “well, only communicate with Jane as to work and nothing else.” But, as discussed in above threads, OP being able to visibly still greet Jane is important for OP’s image throughout the office. You don’t want the gossip going around that “did you hear, OP isn’t even allowed to say hi to Jane anymore!”

          1. Amaranth*

            I think its also a concern that the boss thinks the problem is that OP is ‘too friendly’ (which can give an air of harassment in some cases), and might not be clear that this was an attempt by OP to improve the working relationship. OP really needs to make sure boss is clear that there has been a problem brewing before they even had their first day.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Agree. I seriously do not care if people like each other or not, they need to be professional and polite and get work done. Jane’s not doing that, and that needs to be addressed.

        4. Avi*

          This. The conversation OP needs to be having with their boss is about why Jane has been openly hostile and actively sabotaging their job from the moment they walked in the door, not ‘Jane doesn’t like you trying to be nice to her all the time.’ I’m honestly baffled that the OP is letting the situation be reframed like that.

  6. jessie j*

    My only response is the admin is a grump.
    I’ve dealt with this in the past when an admin doesn’t treat new people well. It’s very odd and unfortunate that they get away with this behaviour.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Some people don’t like “new people,” but usually someone will warn you that so-and-so has to warm up to new staff. Jane’s behavior goes beyond this. (Also, I’m reading it that the LW’s manager is also new & not getting this treatment.) Something else is going on here.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yes, but the manager was an internal candidate, where it reads to me that OP came from outside of the company. Both ways of hiring are equally valid.

        I do agree though that OP is getting all the crud, and the situation probably needs reframed from communication differences to job impacts that Jane’s blocking/refusing/sabotage is causing for the OP. That will seem more actionable and important to the company than “Jane doesn’t like me.”

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Yeah, this all screams that Jane has some internal beef against LW.

        It’s not clear whether Jane is upset that someone else (or she herself) did not get the job, or whether LW is of some demographic against which Jane has an issue (I would be very interested to know whether LW is of a specific minority group or vice versa, or whether Jane is sensitive about her looks and LW is particularly young and pretty, or similar), or whether LW just reminds Jane of her high school bully.

        But whatever it is, Jane needs to keep it to herself.

    2. irene adler*

      Do we know that Jane has also requested that ALL employees refrain from “overly familiar” comments-or is this just for the LW? Maybe they’ve all learned not to do this (one way or another).
      (maybe I missed something?)

      I’ll be the first to agree that Jane’s behavior towards the LW is not okay. She has no cause for doing /not doing those things that impede LW’s work. And interactions should be professional- even pleasant- if at all possible. No reason for grumpiness towards the LW.

      I’m Jane in a sense. I’ll do my job and make sure any requests made of me are met in a timely and professional manner. No grumpiness either. But, I just cannot handle the small talk. Not now. Having some very serious personal issues that make it hard to do much beyond the obligatory ‘good morning!’ (long story). Boss knows this.

  7. corrierules*

    It could be OP got the job Jane wanted. Or, that Jane dislikes OP’s color, religion and/or sexuality. At any rate, Jane is a horrible person.

    1. irritable vowel*

      Yeah, I was thinking the second thing you mention is a possibility, too. (It could even be something as frivolous as Jane doesn’t approve of how OP dresses.) It’s more likely that the people guessing that OP got a job that Jane applied for are correct, but nevertheless, I think it’s worth the OP keeping an eye out for any of Jane’s mistreatment being attributable to bigotry or prejudice of some kind.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was wondering if bigotry played a role, but since the LW doesn’t mention anything, I think it might be something most people would never think could cause a bigoted response.

      2. Yellow Rose*

        Along the lines of that second thing; I had an experience very similar to the OPs, involving a ‘Jane.’
        I coordinated a very large department, part of my duties included prepping payroll for turn over to this Jane’s father, who was a director. He and I got along very well. For some reason, when my Jane was hired, I received much of the same behavior, exclusive of management speaking to me about her discomfort. Because she was HR, there were times I needed particular reporting from her, conference rooms scheduled, or access to secure areas of the building which she ignored.

        The only thing I could think of that could be driving her behavior is the fact that I and my DH had quit attending a church that practices hard shunning. As mentioned, it didn’t affect my professional dealings with her father, who was an elder at said church; I’m sure he liked his payroll on time and error free. When I left that job, however, the director/dad was unwilling to provide me a reference of any kind. I have no doubt my lack of thrice weekly meeting attendance had something to do with it.

        In retrospect, I wish I had spoken to her manager, before it escalated to being accused me of theft of company materials. I was able to weather that storm, and quit the company shortly after for a better opportunity, without having to worry about doging the ‘coven.’

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I had someone in my friend group treat me like Jane treats OP, for close to three years. Silent treatment, only grudgingly giving me relevant information (when he was the only person who could do so) due to peer pressure from mutual friends, the whole deal. It was blatant and limited to me, but tolerated by our mutual friends because “he’s not a bad person” and he didn’t bad-mouth me to anyone, just treated me like I was invisible. Turns out when he finally apologized to me, he said he had believed *I* was a bad person all those years and deserved to be shunned and he regretted being so immature.

      Ultimately it doesn’t matter the reason, like corrierules said, it’s horrible all on its own. In hindsight I can’t believe I put up with it myself at the time. At least in a work context, OP can and should have the discussions, document, and escalate as needed, until the situation resolves to OP’s satisfaction.

      1. Rebecca1*

        I’m just curious, and only if you’re comfortable sharing— was he misinformed about something you’d done? Or was he correctly informed, but interpreted it wrongly somehow?

    3. Rugelach*

      Yeah, I had an admin I had to work with who did this. It turned out she hated Jews. (It came out when she saw me eating a pastry associated with a Catholic festival in the break room and got really friendly all of a sudden.)

      1. Amaranth*

        That is terrible and hilarious. I’d probably be bringing in every ethnic and religious pastry in town for weeks. Eating all that sugar in protest of bigotry.

  8. PT*

    I was wondering what happened to my Toxic Boss after she got fired and where she ended up working, I guess she’s an admin LW’s company now.

    She’d gatekeep everyone’s job and software access so no one could do any of their work without asking her to please do it for them, ex: “Could you please order llama feed? You won’t give me access to the PO portal.” Then she wouldn’t do it and accuse you of trying to steal llama feed for personal use.

  9. SomebodyElse*

    Oh good grief… Jane sounds exhausting.

    Agree with the advice, I’d be tempted to add the following;

    Start making it obvious to others when she does stuff like this.

    -Sending questions to another person instead you. Ask them to forward the email or you email Jane with the other person in copy with the reply “Jane, I’ve asked you send these questions to me as they relate to my team. Betty cannot help you with them”
    – Everyone else getting lunch, and you didn’t get the email… when someone notices and asks “I’m not sure what happened. I never got an email from Jane asking for my order. Strange that’s the third time it’s happened. And sit there while everyone else eats or picks up their lunch.
    – Don’t allow her to not provide the support that is her job. This I would escalate if it’s not done or if there are problems with it. The same for things like access to tools and work related information.

    In other words, don’t own the awkward on this by yourself. Make sure you share that loud and clear with the air of “I’m not sure what’s going on it is very strange” whenever it comes up.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      With the lunch thing, I would show up – but with a brought from home lunch every time. And when asked about my “brown bag” just say for whatever reason I was never emailed about ordering lunch, no I’m not upset, just confused. Super polite and low key, still go to the lunch, eat and mingle, just with a total “let it go” attitude about why everyone else has catered and I don’t.

      My thought is if you make it so that Jane doesn’t get her petty win on this, either she gives up this aggression or someone else in the group (or even multiple someones) notice and call Jane on the stunt.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I don’t know that I would ask a coworker why they brown-bagged their lunch – too much chance that they have income or diet restrictions that they wouldn’t want to discuss (especially in a group setting). But your advice to have a “let it go” attitude (while still pointing out the imbalance) is spot-on.

        1. yala*

          I guess you could innocently ask something like “Oh, that looks good. Where did y’all order from?” or something.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Where I work if one person never had the catered lunch – especially if the company was paying for that lunch – it would be a low key why (but probably not immediately, more like after the sixth or seventh time).

          Course I work for a place that the company does pay for the food, takes allergies into account as best as possible, and rotates food places (also as a way of allergy accommodation – if they missed you this lunch, they will take care of you on the next one, etc). It would be really odd to have one person in that scenario always having a brown bag lunch, and questions would get asked.

        3. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Yeah, I’d probably not bring anything, give some, “Oh, I didn’t get an email saying this would be catered. So weird that this keeps happening, let me just order from X restaurant/delivery service really quickly! Jane, is there an expense code I should use?”

          Okay, maybe I wouldn’t ask about the expense code, but it’d be SO tempting.

      2. TastefullyFreckled*

        I’m also wondering if OP can rope in another colleague to pass on the lunch order email when it comes in. CC Jane and add a note that says “Jane, I noticed that you forgot to include OP. I’m tying her in now.” Take the attitude that of course it’s just an oversight. CC in the manager, too, and keep them CCed when OP sends in her order, so Jane can’t claim not to have received it.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is great. OP, if you’ve got non-Jane connections in the office, enlist their help.

          “Oh, Jane, I noticed OP wasn’t on the meeting invite for the oatmeal cookie meeting, and we’ll definitely need their input on that. I’m copying them here so they’ll know when the meeting is scheduled.”

          If you can get more than one person in on it, that would be even better. Jane will be less likely to keep up her bad behavior if she realizes the entire department has noticed.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            Yes, the more you ask others whether they get treated this way, w/specific questions, the more you’ll find out. “Why do you think I keep being left off the lunch list?” is a good example. If they roll their eyes, that’s an answer. If they say it’s not a problem for anyone else, you’ve made a point.

            It’s good to know who’s on Jane’s side or not, if that’s how it is.

          2. tangerineRose*

            Yeah, this would work great, and having more than 1 person in on it would be good because it lessens the chances that she’ll start doing this to them, too.

          3. Lizzo*

            Unrelated, but I’d be perfectly happy to be left out of meetings involving oatmeal cookies…especially if they include raisins.

            Now, chocolate chip cookie meetings? Don’t you dare leave me off the invite!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Innocent, “accidental” reply to all could be used to great effect here.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I like speculating about this kind of tactic, but in real life, unless you are very, very, very good at it, it will come off as playing games. It’s rarely worth it to get down in the mud to wrestle pigs.

        In my experience, someone like Jane who is spiteful, petty, and unprofessional is best dealt with in a calm, direct, professional way. By definition, direct/professional/unemotional is not her favored terrain. Not to be all Sun Tzu, but why fight her on her home turf?

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Having given both your comment and my original some more thought I want to alter mine a bit.

          OP can still easily participate with her brought from home lunch, make like Elsa and “let it go” or see if a coworker might be willing to every now and then put in an order for you or forward you the order email.

          But if this is an actual lunch meeting and the company is paying for lunch for all participants- then I think a perplexed “who do I email to get added to the lunch order list” is fair. I don’t think Jane gets to decide who to exclude from a company provided benefit because she doesn’t get along with that person.

      4. Tex*

        Pfft. I would sit down at lunch and exclaim in front of everyone “Why Jane, did you forgot to include me on the order from Fancy Deli?! I guess you’ll have to special order me a sandwich. I’d like the roast beef on an onion bagel. Please hold the mustard. And add a custard dessert. Thanks so much!”

      5. JSPA*

        Too passive; bring the lunch, but ask how to get on the lunch list. Email Jane. Two days later, ask if you misunderstood, or if there’s a time lag. Follow up on the prior email (including it in the chain) asking if there’s some other step in the process. The next day, when there’s still no lunch, forward the chain to your coworker, and ask, “is there something I’m missing, here? New hire hazing?”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I don’t know, maybe I just consider this a case of picking my battles at work – after all, most of us don’t have unlimited capital to spend, and if letting it go (and letting Jane think she won something) gets me everything else I need from her in exchange to do my job – honestly I don’t think in that situation I’m willing to make a lunch order my hill to die on (provided this isn’t an employer benefit Jane unilaterally decided I don’t get to participate in).

          But if I’m still not getting the support from Jane I need to be able to correctly do my job – then I am tempted at my next check in with boss to mention it in passing as just a part of a larger pattern of behavior from Jane towards me that I am seeing. I really don’t care all that much about being left out – but it just feels like a part of a petty isolation campaign against me.

    2. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      I would suggest not doing things that will be perceived as openly or unnecessarily chastising Jane for things that (to others) may look like one off mistakes. The Janes of this world will spin that into bullying in no time. Instead, you can do things like responding to the forwarded email with Jane cc’d and say “Thanks for sending this along, you’re right, it’s my domain and I’ll take care of it.” and then have the private communication with Jane to address the issue/correct her handling of something. Others will read between the lines and also receive the confirmation they need to push back the next time Jane tries to shop things out to the wrong people.

      1. Shan*

        I would suggest something in between… what I often do on emails that are sent to the wrong person before being forwarded to me is reply all and say “Thank you, Jenny! Bob, you can direct any future emails about the price of llama feed to me. Thanks!” It’s friendly and non-confrontational, but still a very clear instruction. I do it all the time at my job, because people genuinely don’t know where some stuff should go. Of course, I’m sure Jane will interpret it negatively, but who cares? No one else will.

        And yes, hopefully co-workers will start to do it on their end as well – “Actually, Jane, tax forms go to Sue, so you can send any more that come in to her. Thanks!”

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        It’s not chastising to correct people in a friendly manner. I would reply to both the person who passed on the question and Jane and say something like “Thanks for passing this on. Jane, going forward please send X straight to me. Coworker Y, if anything else like this comes your way, just forward it onto me.” That’s not chastising, it’s just giving people clear instructions and keeping everyone involved in the loop.

        Jane is sure to have an issue with it, but she’s sure to have issue with anything OP does.

        1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

          I actually think the phrasing in both of your replies to me looks really useful. The original comment suggested, “Jane, I’ve asked you send these questions to me as they relate to my team. Betty cannot help you with them,” which I do think will read as chastising. I think the different is that your suggested replies deal with present/future workflow whereas the original suggestion is backward looking and introduces the 3rd person to an ongoing issue, rather than the matter they are directly involved in. The original comment also suggested some other actions intended to sort of artificially highlight the awkwardness created by Jane’s behavior, which can be useful sometimes, but more often it’s better to be the cheery and matter-of-fact one, getting the work done and being unbristled than it is to try to get under someone’s skin.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      My Jane escalated by creating something she could complain about and then she’d go to my boss. For example: It was the admin’s job to stamp and mail everything. My Jane would do something such as removing legal notices I needed to mail from the “to be stamped” tray. I’d find them in the trash and go meter and mail them myself without saying anything to Jane, but Jane would go to my boss and say “Sparkles hasn’t mailed the notices.”

      After that went on for awhile, my boss asked me why Jane hated me so much. “You must be doing something to her.” Despite reams of documentation, I said “No idea what you’re talking about.” Boss escalated to Grandboss and the three of us met to discuss “How I was antagonizing Jane.” I repeated “No idea what you’re talking about” and Grandboss said “Well it seems to me that Jane is crazy so I don’t know what we’re doing here.”

      I quit a couple of months later when I found a less dysfunctional workplace. That place was crazytown.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I am always blown away that people do this kind of thing in real life. Throwing legal notices in the trash? That’s the sort of thing people do on a soap opera or in a young adult novel. What has to go wrong with an employable adult human that they would behave like this? The mind boggles.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I hate the assumption that if one person is behaving badly, the person they’re behaving badly toward must have done something to cause it.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          This! In my first office job, I had a coworker (the only guy in the team) who stood around helpless waiting for his female colleagues to do all the work, for him. Then, at the first sign of feedback from the supervisor (also a woman), he just up and abandoned his job.

          Cue grandboss: “What did you ladies do to scare [Cody] away?”

          Not enough, sir. Not. Enough.

          1. tangerineRose*

            For “What did you do to scare him away?”
            I’d want to answer “We asked him to do his job.”

        2. tangerineRose*

          “I hate the assumption that if one person is behaving badly, the person they’re behaving badly toward must have done something to cause it.” This!

          I got picked on some in school. Why? I don’t know. Because I was smallish and did well in class and looked like I wouldn’t fight back?

        3. Potatoes gonna potate*

          I’ve dealt with that in past jobs. At some point, I just internalized it that I’m the common denominator here so it must be me.
          I had one job, back in college, this guy would come in and say good morning and be cheerful with every single person working there. And ignored me. Like, ice cold, like I was invisible. To this day I don’t understand what I did to get that ice out.
          Now, I’m a little more self aware and can own it if I’m being an asshole or not.

      3. Observer*

        Your boss sounds like she was as much a problem as your Jane. But did you actually tell her that your Jane was actually throwing the notices in the garbage?

    4. Wintermute*

      With the lunches I’d go the IT route, “hey can you guys make sure I’m on the office distro list, I never get the emails meant for all of us about lunch,” And then when it comes back you ARE on the list, and Jane is intentionally not using the office distribution list but instead going about things the long way just to exclude you, it helps you draw a very clear picture for your boss.

      then you can go to your boss and say “Jane was avoiding using the email list she knew I would get and spending extra time adding everyone else but me to an email, specifically so she could exclude me from ever getting lunch, this is out of control and I won’t stand for it.”

      1. Green great dragon*

        I’d imagine she’d have a reason – maybe just using an old one ‘by accident’. I think enlisting co-workers to forward on is the best plan. It also means others will be noticing what she’s doing (I wouldn’t usually read the ‘to’ list on an email, but if I’m checking for someone’s name I’m going to be noticing every time).

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The only problem is at least in some places the distribution lists won’t populate individual names (at least at my job they don’t), but just the name of the list. Makes it harder to look at recipients and see someone has been left out.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Ask her out loud, at her desk, where everyone can hear you.
      “You already took the lunch order? You didn’t include me on it. Why not? I work here, Jane–you need to include me on the lunch order. This is the third time. That’s not cool.”

      Start making her look bad in front of everyone else.

    6. Amaranth*

      Even better if Betty forwards it to you and copies Jane with ‘I’m not sure why I’m still getting these, sorry that its now delayed a day.’ and then would be willing to copy a boss the next time. If OP isn’t able to fill Betty in on the passive aggressive crap Jane is pulling, then it could be framed as Jane having trouble remembering the roles, or wanting to make sure Betty has a record that she’s tried to correct it.

  10. Blackcat*

    You don’t mention this in your letter, but are there demographic differences (age, race/ethnicity, gender, etc) or appearance differences (visible tattoos/piercings) between yourself and your colleagues?
    If there’s anything at all that could be due to your membership in a protected class, I’d bring up those concerns to your manager/HR.
    This is really weird and extreme, and it makes me wonder what is going on. I’ve had a few friends in similar situations, and unfortunately in every case, it was a discrimination issue.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – I’m seriously wondering about this. Jane’s response just seems so over the top and completely out of proportion.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Oh, there are plenty of Janes in the world. I work with one. It has nothing to do with demographics, she doesn’t like ANYONE except her chosen few cronies (who she will turn on in a heartbeat). She loves being the very big fish in the teeny, tiny puddle. Withholding information and access is her number one tactic. Number two is complaints about perceived slights to Boss. (I’d swear the plot of “Mean Girls” was inspired by her.)

        What gets Jane upset? Competent people who she instinctively knows will hold her accountable and ensure information she previously hoarded is vetted and accessible when needed.

        We do what Alison recommends: always make it about the work. Act really puzzled when she leaves people off meeting invites (and invites herself). Keep every email exchange and list only facts. And so on. She’s exhausting. But she’s a client favorite for 20 years (big bucks government agency) and actually good at her own job (the access/info stuff are side tasks she’s picked up over the years and won’t let go), so we’ll never be rid of her.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I haven’t worked with that type of Jane, but spouse did at a prior job, she was head of HR. It was a mess – and eventually she was let go, after almost 30 years, because “her favorites” turned on her as a group to the CEO.

          Not a single person showed up to her company sponsored send off lunch. They all boycotted it.

          1. Lizzo*

            You have to be a special kind of terrible for nobody to show up to your goodbye luncheon after 30 years at the same company.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              She was one of a kind – in a bad way. I was cursed out by her for saying thank you for handling the allergy meals at a large company event that included spouses.

              Nobody was shocked she was leaving – there was apparently one department that scheduled a meeting at the same time as lunch to get together and sing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” instead of getting free food.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Ours retired a few years ago. She was just a pill. If she was asked to learn a new skill that didn’t interest her, if she didn’t like the way someone else was doing their job (even if they were doing it right and their actual supervisor was fine with it), if they brought something she considered declasse (or showy, or whatever) to the office potluck, whatever. She was just a fundamentally grouchy, dissatisfied, inflexible person. I always figured it was no accident all her kids lived at least four hours away.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            This. When I was much younger, I worked with a person who clearly did not like me and resented having to assist me, despite the fact that she was an admin and that was her job. I spent a lot of time feeling very distressed I could NOT make this (older) woman like me, and wondering what I was doing or had done to make her take against me. I was anxiously deconstructing the issue for the umpteenth time over wine one night and a friend said, “Maybe she’s just a [bleep].” And that was revelatory! Maybe she _was_, and maybe that was her problem and not mine! What would our interactions look like if I just gave up on her, but treated her with civility and insisted on what I needed in terms of her doing her job? It was so freeing to make the lateral move to not giving a sh!t what she thought of me, and considering her bad behavior to be her problem and not mine. Once I took back emotional control of the situation, I was able to calmly insist on the support I deserved.

            The world is wide, and not everyone in it is nice, and not everyone in it is going to like you, and they get to live here too. What we can control, is how we let those people make us feel.

          2. Global Cat Herder*

            Our Jane would actually take “unacceptable” potluck items off the table and throw them away! In front of the person who brought them – once including the whole Crock Pot, because it was kinda battered (like maybe it had been to a lot of potlucks).

            Jane was untouchable, so Management’s solution was to outlaw potlucks.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Holy cow – the entire crock pot? I’d be livid. I hate it when the solution is to take the ball away from everyone instead of making the one problem person stop pegging people in the head.

            2. Juneybug*

              Oh, if someone touched my crockpot with “I worked real hard on making a special dish the night before work”, I would be pissed.

            3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              That would cause me to present her or the company with a bill to replace my crockpot that Jane threw away (and you did nothing about). You do not trash my stuff.

              Of course this is also why at potlucks I sign up to bring drinks or paper products. (Gasp, even though I am female and supposed to be able to cook and am taking one of the “Guy Things” from the list.)

        3. Mrs. Hawiggins*

          “What gets Jane upset? Competent people who she instinctively knows will hold her accountable and ensure information she previously hoarded is vetted and accessible when needed.”

          There is your answer – at least for the question of so many Janes out there.
          I am the office admin, but I am NO Jane and would never dream of being, but the other Janes I worked with made sure to carve me out of being in the know, hoarding work, refusing to delegate and yes, one excluded me from a lunch outing because she “didn’t think I would like going to lunch with older ladies.” Ugh.

          In my case I had managers who were worth their weight who would agree to a sit down I proposed to hash things out and find out what’s the problem.

          No excuse for this behavior absolutely none. OP you likely trigger a personal insecurity with Jane and no matter how many “how are yous” or “what kind of sandwich”-es, she won’t change. Stick to business and business only. Me personally I’d walk past her without saying hello. It’d be my way of saying message received. Invariably she’ll probably turn around and say, “Why is OP so mean to me.”

          Good luck.

  11. Elementary Fan*

    OP, I’m annoyed on your behalf. Not sure why you were asked to stop being friendly to Jane when Jane isn’t doing her job! I wonder if your manager doesn’t realize the full extent of what’s happening? Definitely another conversation is in order after trying the scripts Alison provided. The issue is not you asking how her day was, but that she’s not doing her job.

    1. Observer*

      Not sure why you were asked to stop being friendly to Jane when Jane isn’t doing her job

      Because the two things don’t get linked. At least not in a healthy company. The supervisor DID insist that Jane do her job, so I believe that if the OP pushes on the areas where that’s still a problem their supervisor will back them.

      But regardless, if Jane doesn’t want to be friendly, the OP needs to respect that.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think that’s reasonable. Trying to melt the ice with blasts of warmth is a valid technique, but it doesn’t always work, and the target is allowed to ask for it to stop.

        1. irene adler*

          Agreed. Jane needs to do her job. Be at least civil or professional with LW. No grumpiness.

          Sometimes people just don’t want to partake in “friendly talk”. I don’t.

          Do we know if Jane is friendly with all the other employees there?

  12. Barbara Eyiuche*

    I had this kind of problem at my last job. The office admin had applied for the job I was hired for, didn’t get it, and took it out on me. I asked my boss about it, but he said she was really nice and wouldn’t do anything like that. Well, she wasn’t nice to me.

  13. Caroline Bowman*

    Document everything, every email, every interaction, times, dates, any witnesses (not that you want to drag others in, but just for verification if necessary). Do that for a week or maybe two, and of course, every. single. time. it. happens. you. address. it (much as one would with a particularly willful toddler, consistency is key!).

    Stay courteous, stay fairly pleasant, or cordial-neutral. No need for effusive thanks or anything of that sort, just politeness.

    At the end of the period, insist on a meeting with your manager and work through what is happening and how it is negatively impacting you and the business.

    If Jane does something particularly egregious, say to her – in writing- ”Jane, this is the 4th time you have not included me in X important information, something I’ve raised with you several times and it has led to Y. I will obviously have to take this further, which is unfortunate, but I cannot let this slide”. Put her on notice. Then follow through.

    There are people in life who perceive kindness and compromise and a general go-along-to-get-along demeanour as weakness. Whatever you give, they take more, however you try, they are awful. The only solution is to be entirely concrete-like in your boundaries and refusal to tolerate nonsense. It truly is the only way. Making nice doesn’t work.

    1. twocents*

      I wouldn’t threaten to escalate. It gives Jane time to create her own version of events. I’d just escalate.

  14. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I am wondering if Jane wanted but didn’t get the promotion to OP’s position, and is now taking that disappointment out on OP. If this is the case I would as Alison suggests stop every attempt at conversation not related to work except for one good morning (as it sounds like you would say to everyone else). Keep all work related conversations short, calm, and polite. Calmly call her on all the sabotage attempts (and from here forward document all of them), and when necessary escalate to the manager.

  15. blink14*

    I think it’s possible that Jane or someone Jane knows applied for the position and didn’t get it. I’ve been in this situation before – my current position was temporarily filled by a relative of a department admin that we used to be located with, and that department admin was very terse with me when I first started. I immediately got the sense that something was off, and that was confirmed later in my first week that the person’s relative had been the temporary hire. I gave the admin space, and slowly she started to warm up to me. It wasn’t about me, and she wasn’t doing anything to the level of Jane – completely professional and helpful, just distant.

    Well, turns out 5+ years later that this department admin and I get along fantastically, and they are now one of my closest work colleagues!

  16. Nia*

    Kind of baffled that the manager felt the need to address this with LW at all. I cannot even imagine how the manager could hear Jane’s complaint and come to the conclusion that its the LW whose behavior needs to change.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Not if the manager is trying to keep the piece and not rock the boat. What we don’t know (but I suspect it happened) was a discussion with manager and Jane. I assume it happened because Jane is now doing work related activities, so the ‘no familiar talk’ was likely a concession to get Jane to professional level.

    2. Properlike*

      Yeah. I hate being held accountable for other people’s feelings/unprofessionalism. I wonder how experienced this new manager is too, and if they subscribe to the “oh, it’s just a personality difference!” theory of management.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        In fairness yes, some of this stuff is personality. Jane does have something against the OP, and who knows what that could be. I have had to have the “you don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to be professional. Which means not openly hostile and work together as needed” speech.

        It generally works. I can imagine Jane saying “Fine I’ll interact for work purposes, but I don’t want her asking me about my family, trying to get me stuff from the cafeteria, or any thing besides work” Now typically that would mean the Jane doesn’t want a friendly working relationship. This Jane seems to be taking it to the extreme though so I would be in a wait and see mode for a short time to see if things got on ok. I think normal rules don’t apply with Jane so the manager would probably need to spell out more things that Jane has to do to fall into the professional bucket.

        On the same token, I wouldn’t expect the OP to manage Jane’s feelings either. Asking someone not to be friendly isn’t necessarily asking them to manage anything. I would put under the ‘don’t engage’ category.

        1. Properlike*

          Yes, there are personality differences. I’m talking about managers who use that as the excuse and taking to task *both* sides for “their behavior” when it’s one person engaging in bullying/underhanded/unprofessional behavior and the other trying to establish professional boundaries around that. Strangely, this is often a characterization by a male manager with two female employees.

      2. Observer*

        Yeah. I hate being held accountable for other people’s feelings/unprofessionalism.

        That doesn’t sound like what is going on here, though.

        The reality is that Jane does not like being friendly. The OP needs to respect that. It’s odd to me, but the manager was right to tell the OP to drop trying to be friendly. It’s not “kindness” to ask people questions or have conversations with them if they don’t like it.

        The reality is ALSO that Jane has a job to do, and part of that job is supporting the OP appropriately. The manager seems to recognize this, as she did talk to Jane and her level of support did go up. What the OP needs to do now is to document the WORK issues that are still happening and bring those to their manager.

        1. There's a baseline*

          Nope, sorry. If you work in a workplace that exists within a society, you have to be able to respond appropriately to social niceties. That means when someone says “good morning,” you say “good morning.” When someone says “how was your weekend?” you say “oh, fine, thanks; how was yours?” The reason we do this is that it forms the foundation of all relationships, including professional ones – signalling to other people “I know what the appropriate thing to do in this situation” is part of what builds trust and confidence within a work environment

          1. Guacamole Bob*


            We get plenty of questions here about nosy or overly friendly coworkers, but this is nowhere near that level. “Did you have a good weekend?” or “I can’t wait for this rain to stop” or “have you tried the new lunch place down the street yet?” or “want anything from the coffee stand?” or “enjoy your vacation” are the kinds of conversation that people just have to deal with as part of polite social interaction with other human beings. Learn to deflect if you don’t want to talk about anything not strictly work-related (it’s usually not that hard in an office with a healthy culture inhabited by reasonable people), but people should not have to tiptoe around their coworkers on this sort of thing.

          2. anonaccountant*

            Yeah, I agree. Observer’s comment makes it sounds like the OP is trying to rope Jane into long conversations or ask personal questions, but the letter doesn’t indicate that. “Would you like anything from the cafeteria” is in no way prying or overly-friendly. If this was reversed, and someone wrote in they were ignoring a colleague’s niceties, the advice would be that they need to be cordial. It’s bizarre to outright ignore coworkers in this context.

            I don’t like being friendly, but there is definitely a level that you have to maintain as a functional member of a team. It’s a job requirement- similar to wearing a certain level of professional dress. Sure, I prefer not wearing pants, but that doesn’t fly at work.

            1. Lance*

              That would indeed likely be the advice… but the admin isn’t the one writing in. Given that, the best advice that can be given would indeed, in my opinion, be for the OP to ease off and let the admin not want to be very social… so long as they do their job.

          3. BlackLodge*

            Hmm, to me this feels like “different strokes for different folks.” In the position I just left, I worked with a VERY difficult person. She was not a chit-chatter, she did not want to talk about her weekend or hear about mine etc. So I’d have to temper my approach when I needed something from her – to the point, no dithering and it worked fine. I think it just comes down to different social tools in your tool box.

        2. Letter Writer*

          If the behavior was consistent with everyone I might be more inclined to agree although, I truly don’t believe I was even being friendly. Interactions were typically “good mornning, how are you?” and “Have a great weekend!” The norm for the office is that if someone is running to the cafeteria for lunch is to stop by the different cubicles and ask if you can grab anything (there is a capacity limit on the cafeteria right now so lunch is eaten in offices.) I think excluding someone from those basic social niceties would be discriminatory and unprofessional. It also creates a very hostile environment and makes others uncomfortable as well.

          1. Observer*

            I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I don’t think that your behavior was out of line in the least bit. But these ARE extras that are not required, and thus if Jane doesn’t like them you should not do them. Not because they are essentially inappropriate, but because they really are optional for the recipient and she should not be forced to deal with it. Accommodating her, as opposed to your deciding to exclude her, is not “discriminatory” in the least bit.

            I do think that you have standing to let people know what the deal is, though. And given her other behavior that people can see, I would be willing to bet that people will believe you when you say “I’ve been asked to not ask her if I can grab something for her” or some other similarly factual and low key description of what’s going on (assuming that it’s visible.) I do agree that the morning greeting is a bit of an exception, because that’s too visible to too many people who can’t be expected to know what’s going on. That much she’s going to need to deal with.

            From what you say, your manager doesn’t seem to hold you responsible for how Jane feels. If she did – if she said or implied that you were in fact being “too familiar”, that would be different. But as long as long as it’s being seen as an accommodation that you are making, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Also, as long as Jane is also being held responsible for actually performing her job correctly!

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I highly disagree with you. I think there have been a number of discussions here where someone tries to be like “ugh, I hate when people try to say good morning to me” and the general consensus has been that they need to deal with basic politeness at work and that asking people to stop saying hello to you is not a reasonable request.

          2. JSPA*

            Well, all you need to do is not say Jane’s name and not message or email Jane directly about the “nice but non-essentials.”

            Assuming there’s more than one person in earshot, just ask the room at large if “anyone” needs anything. You’re not required to say, “does anyone not named Jane need anything?”!

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t think it’s helpful to think of these as two separate issues that can be treated differently – at this point, the work issues and the attitude sound pretty inextricable. And as you point out, she is in a support role – acting like this even on an interpersonal level hardly encourages people to approach her for assistance, which it is her job to provide.

        4. Jennifer Thneed*

          We don’t actually know that Jane doesn’t like being friendly. We only know that she is unfriendly to the Letter Writer.

          1. Observer*

            It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t like being friendly with Letter Writer. I think it’s very poor behavior, but it’s not the end of the world.

            Far more serious is the fact that she’s not doing her job. Serious enough that I really think that management needs to look at firing her. Also more serious (but probably not something I’d take to management) is the more active rudeness like trying to keep the OP from joining the lunch orders.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. That makes me wonder if Jane has some sort of tenure at the job and nobody wants to rock the boat. But it is still not okay that Jane is being allowed to sabotage OP’s ability to do their job. I think all those little sabotage attempts need to be calmly called out – and with documentation escalated to the manager. Jane is just so invested in this (at least that is my impression from the letter) that I don’t think Jane will stop without being called on it.

    4. Heidi*

      It’s possible that the manager is afraid of becoming the object of Jane’s wrath. It’s also easier to get reasonable people to change than to get unreasonable people to change. Not the right thing to do in this case, but people aren’t always good at managing people like Jane.

    5. twocents*

      I don’t see it as completely unreasonable to have a conversation to let OP know that their “kill Jane with kindness” approach is just making Jane dislike them more. Now OP knows to quit offering to do favors (that Jane doesn’t want) or trying to engage in small talk. I think Jane is totally out of line in general, but I share her aversion to being asked to make small talk about my life with people I hate.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        We don’t know anything about how Jane is with other coworkers. LW doesn’t address it at all. We *only* know how Jane is with LW and it’s pretty hostile, honestly.

    6. JSPA*

      We don’t know that the manager didn’t address Jane at great length. Quite possible that they did, and Jane is ignoring it because Jane is not professional, so professional feedback fails to impinge on her awareness.

      If any person says they feel overly-talked to or that someone’s being overly familiar, a good manager will draw that line, to make sure it’s been stated. After all, it’s no skin off OP’s nose not to chat with Jane. OP was doing it to mend bridges; it’s a relief to both of them, to shed that pretense.

      Picture some other situation (not this one!) where someone is being frozen out by the admin, but the admin also feels harassed or boundary-trampled in some indefinable way (even if it’s because they are delusional on the subject).

      “Talk only insofar as needed to get work tasks done, but do get all work tasks done” is absolutely the right message in that circumstance. And, by extension, even if a average, reasonable person would not feel as Jane does–so long as Jane’s reaction is not demonstrably based in some sort of bigotry–it’s also part of the answer, here.

    7. Amaranth*

      I’m a bit concerned the manager is reading it – or Jane is selling it – more like ‘OP is inappropriate and keeps hanging around me, asking personal questions, etc.’ OP needs to forget this idea that all would be fine if Jane just liked them more – Jane just needs to do her darn job.

  17. SomebodyElse*

    Am I the only one that wants to hear more about Jane? I feel like there is a great backstory here and potentially ongoing saga. I’m sorry that the OP has to deal with it though. Nobody needs this kind of negative in their life.

    1. redflagday701*

      YES. Everyone who’s saying it’s that Jane wanted OP’s job or wanted a friend to get it is probably right, but I really want it to be because, like, OP’s mother was in a blood feud with Jane’s mom, or that years ago, OP went on a single date with Jane’s crush. Just a completely bonkers grudge that Jane has been nursing for decades, unbeknownst to OP.

      1. Observer*

        Even if it’s as mundane as “My friend didn’t get the job” or “I don’t like people of >x group<", it's still completely bonkers.

    2. Louise*

      Having had a co-worker that stopped talking to me cold turkey for six months I don’t really wonder about Jane. I would be more focused on the company supporting the change to something reasonable. To this day I do not know what I did wrong to get the co-worker to dislike me to the point of not talking to me or to know what changed their mind that I had served my time.

    3. James*

      Agreed. I’ve worked with and managed Janes, and there’s always a backstory.

      In a few cases the person was neurodivergent–hard workers, diligent, thorough, just we had to figure out how to work with them. Someone who doesn’t understand social cues can come off as hostile and can have atypical work approaches (such as sending data to someone they’re used to dealing with, regardless of whether it should go there or not), and it’s not their fault, any more than it’s the fault of a paraplegic for not being able to walk.

      In a few others, the person in question had medical issues, and it was all they could do to get through the day. Which, all the sympathy in the world, but find a way to deal without driving off other people, you know?

      In a handful the person was just a jerk. And…well, that can be useful. Having someone a bit harsh on the team is a resource that can be utilized very effectively. Sucks for the team, and managing jerks is no treat, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the problems.

  18. blackcatlady*

    Jane is a poison pill. No access to office email – WTF?? Are you left off of important group emails? But most importantly document EVERYTHING work related. Keep a log of everything that is affecting your work productivity. Be ready to take this not only to your immediate boss but higher up. It must be very hard for Jane to sit in her chair with that big broomstick up her a**.

  19. Clorinda*

    I can’t help but speculate that Jane had some kind of close friendship or other relationship with the person OP replaced in the position and is taking it out on OP.
    Also, document all those conversations and reminders.

    1. Letter Writer*

      You would think that but actually, they also had a very confrontational relationship. To be totally fair, everyone had a negative relationship with my predecessor which why it was suggested she find a new position, but even then it had never escalated to where we are now.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That makes me even more confused about the situation.

        Just keep being professional and upbeat with everybody else, and professionally but firmly push back on the things where Jane isn’t doing her parts.

        Oh, and document, document, and document some more. Keep it all about the workflow impact when discussing Jane with your manager.

      2. Anon and on an on*

        I’m kinda thinking I might know why your predecessor had a negative experience…
        Let’s see, the pre-OP employee was never on top of things, never had all the information, was always playing catch up, always seemed out of the loop on general office goings on and long term projects. And not once did pre-Op employee join the group for catered lunch.
        Yeah, s/he was a really bad fit for the job.
        Check the notches on Jane’s desk.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think Jane simply likes to make a big deal of her own approval rating of others. Basically she thinks she’s the office big wig and that she gets to either show or withhold personal approval. That’s not really true in the workplace of course.. unless you’re a big deal like Jane! So, in order to showcase this, someone has to be disapproved of; why not the new guy? Particularly if they have replaced her former disapproved of person.

    3. cncx*

      that’s exactly what happened to me at my last job. i replaced someone who was fired for cause who happened to be social friends with my boss. It didn’t end well. it was also a job that required a lot of archiving and admin and when i tell you the friend who got fired could not do anything right, i was cleaning up after her until the day i quit two years AND to add insult to injury my boss acted like she was the best admin in the entire world and hiring me was a total mistake.

  20. RedinSC*

    I had a supervisor treat me this way. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to get what I needed to do my job, I actually started CCing her boss on every interaction that I needed her to do something. This way her boss knew I was trying to get something from her and she was savvy enough to respond to me.

    So I’d try the actions Allison mentions and if things don’t improve, just start CCing your/her boss on things where she’s supposed to do something. What an annoyance.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Did your supervisor’s boss ever step in and address the root issue of your supervisor not doing her job?

  21. sofar*

    I’ve worked at two places with a Case of the Grumpy Admin/Office Manager:

    1. The Office Manager had been promoted recently to being an executive assistant to several of the higher-ups, but the company was being really slow at hiring someone else to take on her day-to-day admin/onboarding tasks. To prove a point, the Office Manager did the bare minimum and was super cranky/slow with new hires to prove that she didn’t have time for her old onboarding-related tasks.

    2. The Office Manager was was sick of being treated badly by the young people hired at the tech company, and her way of teaching them manners was to ice them out and keep them on an indefinite sh*t-list. One guy left his coffee cup on her desk on his first day when she onboarded him, she stormed into the break room to announce this to everyone who was there, and he got relegated to the sh*t list. No amount of apologies or groveling would work, it was just time (and other new people ending up on the sh*t list) that would finally bump you off (or at least down the list).

    1. Ally McBeal*

      While I think Jane is much more likely to fall in Category #1, I’ve also been an admin in Category #2. I wasn’t the assistant to the sales team, but my boss worked with Sales frequently so I did too. This was in finance, so the sales team was largely populated by privileged young white men, and I quickly decided that I was absolutely not going to capitulate to their bad behavior. Granted, I always gave the newbies a chance, but once they started giving me attitude, I was politely cool and firm with them – they had to earn back the friendliness I offered everyone else. It took one dude literal MONTHS to stop sending me an email and immediately running over to my desk to ask “did you get my email, when can you get that done?” (1. I’m not YOUR admin; 2. omg CHILL OUT)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Ugh, I hate the email – instabounce in person did you get my email. I dealt with those in the past with “I’m in the middle of something right now, I will check when I finish, and you will get your task completed based on its priority in the work queue. No, sorry, pestering me doesn’t change the queue. If you have concerns please address your task priority to department head (who we all directly reported to).

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Oh, pestering *will* change the work queue. Just not in the way the pesterer wants.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Oh how I wish I had been able to do that – boss wouldn’t let me though. This was a past job, and everything was priority work as received unless it came from grandboss – then it was ASAP. Grandboss was awesome about trying to limit the priority rush jobs as much as possible – they felt rush jobs led to rushed work, and rushed work was more likely to contain mistakes.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      So, those sound like both people had poor responses to real problems. (#1 is called a “sit-down strike” & I’ve known people who’ve done it when they couldn’t strike for real but wanted management to know they were dissatisfied. #2 just sounds like someone got tired of not being respected & threw disrespect back. Not the best response, but one I can understand.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, No. 1 sounds pretty reasonable to me, honestly – she was probably worried that if she managed to pull off the extra work temporarily, the company might not bother to hire someone new at all.

        I feel like No. 2 is kind of a reverse B*tch Eating Crackers situation – instead of getting so annoyed with one individual that everything they do annoys you, you start seeing everyone who wrongs you as fully responsible for a pattern of behavior they’ve only contributed to once.

  22. LadyByTheLake*

    I think you got my old admin. She hated (hated, hated, hated) having to support a young woman — she did fine supporting men and in fact got glowing reviews from the men, but she went out of her way to undermine me at every turn doing things exactly like what you describe. Every six weeks or so HR would have to sit down with her and remind her of her duties and for a week or so she would be SICKLY sweet to me and do the basics of her job, then she would resume not talking to me (which I was fine with, just do the damn job) and slowly stop doing her job at which point HR would have to sit down with her . . . repeat. The other admins went to HR and reported that the admin was deliberately sabotaging my work, but still, nothing was done because the men who worked with her thought she was great. Until the day that she actually HIT a coworker! She was fired immediately when that happened, but it frustrated me to no end that we had two years of her treating me like dirt and sabotaging my work and the only thing that would happen was a talking to.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*


      I need to know more about this whole hitting a coworker thing please and thank you.

    2. LizM*

      Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the legal field. Young female attorneys have to fight hard for admin support in some firms.

    3. Anat*

      Oh wow. I think in that situation I’d be tempted to run some of my requests to her through my male colleagues. (But then, I’m not very nice.) “Hi John, could you please ask Jane to do X by tomorrow, it’s really important and she refuses to take directions from me. Thanks — you’re the best!”

      This is assuming you are all in the same department, and are reasonably cooperating rather than competing colleagues.

        1. Anat*

          Yes, it’d help with getting the work done.

          It would also spread around the pain of the admin’s sabotage to her male supporters, and give her a clear choice: either continue to be made to look bad in front of people on whom she depends to keep her job, or cut out the behavior.

          1. Amaranth*

            Its delicate though, because you can come across as too precious to talk to Jane yourself if they don’t recognize there is an existing problem.

    4. Observer*

      other admins went to HR and reported that the admin was deliberately sabotaging my work, but still, nothing was done because the men who worked with her thought she was great. Until the day that she actually HIT a coworker!

      Well that escalated fast!

      What on earth was that all about?

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I was not a witness to her striking the coworker, which happened after I left. All I know is that she hit one of the admin leads and that a lot of people (including at least one attorney) witnessed it. Bad Admin didn’t like any of the women in the office, but she generally tried to be underhanded about it. My friends at the firm reported that she got worse after I left, until the fateful day when she somehow decided that it was going to be okay if she hit a coworker. I did get some apologies afterwards that they should have taken my complaints more seriously.

      1. Chinook*

        The one thing this type of admin does is escalate when they realize they are untouchable. It may take years, but they will eventually bite the hand that feeds them and, when they do, that hand will realize they have been duped for years and that the complainers weren’t lieing or exaggerating. When it happens, justice is swift and merciless. I have seen it happen and it is glorious schadenfreude.

        Not worth the pain of surviving Jane’s wrath, but it does help one survhve it knowing that she will eventually hang herself woth the rope she has been given.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*


        Talk about too little too late on the apologies. I hope you ended up somewhere better.

      3. Yvette*

        Thank you. What goes through someone’s mind that this is acceptable? Was it the type of place that is so dysfunctional that people’s perceptions of normal and acceptable behavior become completely skewed??

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          No, it was a good firm, one of the most respected in the country, with good people. In fact, that was probably the problem. The good people of the firm were so convinced that Bad Admin just needed a little coaching and gave her the benefit of the doubt and took her at her word when she promised to do better when they should have just fired her.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This is one of those examples of women harassing women in the workplace. When I first started working I saw as much harassment from other women as I did from men, maybe more. why. why. why.

      I guess in suppressed groups they tend to eat their own out of sheer frustration and it’s the only way they can feel they have any power?
      Somehow it always left me even more discouraged.

  23. Letter Writer*

    Thanks for the great responses! It is definitely me she has taken a dislike to. She did not apply and is not remotely qualified for my position, I am a fairly specialized long-term consultant and there are not many in my field. I think one of the issues is that she is also relatively new and started just a few weeks before the pandemic. I have noticed that she gets most hostile when she feels like she is being asked to do something she doesn’t know how to do or if I do something she feels she should know how to do.
    Since I wrote the letter just a couple of weeks ago things escalated a bit, or maybe I lost patience, so I did have a more frank conversation with our manager. She was incredibly supportive and asked that I document every incident and let Jane know that as a manager she would be closely observing Jane’s professionalism. This has toned down the overt hostility quite a bit but I am still finding I need to be vigilant about “mistakes” or exclusions. At the request of our manager, I let document each of these occurrences and that has helped relieve some of my stress as I feel like the issue is being taken seriously. As a naturally friendly person, I still struggle with being cool with our interactions but as one commenter mentioned I am trying to view it as just another challenge of the job.

    1. serenity*

      Thanks for writing a follow-up, OP, but this just leaves me even more confused about what’s motivating Jane.

      From your letter, I assumed she was someone with many years of experience at your company who is either cranky or uncooperative with newer hires (for whatever reason). As Alison explained, sometimes folks in that position can have their unpleasantness either ignored or justified by higher-ups, due to their seniority. But someone new going out of their way to be nasty to you – and expending her capital to do this and request you not speak to her – is just incredible to me.

      1. WellRed*

        That’s what really gets me. She’s new and she has no problem letting management know she isn’t nice? At a time when we are all usually on our best behavior.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Sounds like Jane might just be one of those people who thrives on making other people’s lives a living hell.

    2. WellRed*

      LW, I wonder if you have enough of a position/value that you could push for permanent improvement (like replacing Jane). Highly specialized vs. grumpy office worker with no tenure?

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I was thinking this, too. But frame it as “Jane seems really overwhelmed with her work, she’s forgotten X, Y, and Z, and hasn’t completed [specific task]. Can we talk about hiring a new admin to work along side her, with the purpose of facilitating my work? That will leave Jane free to do [other responsibilities Jane handles].”

    3. Elbe*

      Thanks for the update! I’m glad things are better for you, now, even if they’re not perfect.

      I don’t understand people like Jane at all. She’s tanking her own job, her own performance, her own opportunities. Having serious concerns about an employee’s professionalism is something that will prevent her from moving up in this job, and having a negative reputation will likely follow her.

      She’s so intent on being mean to you that she’s… hurting her own career. I don’t get the logic on her part.

      1. JustaTech*

        There might not be any logic on Jane’s part. There are some people in the world who simply can’t get out of their own way, who manage to sabotage every job and most relationships. Often, in their view, it is someone else’s fault.
        Only time will tell if Jane realizes the damage she’s doing to her career and changes her behavior, or just goes out in a blaze of glory/infamy.

    4. the cat's ass*

      Thank you for the follow up! It’s just so weird that someone who’s been there 5 minutes longer than you has her panties in such a bunch about another new hire. Document, document, document, and I’m so sorry she’s such a pill. And extend your friendliness to everyone but her-the vast majority of your colleagues will appreciate a naturally friendly person.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m glad that you had a more frank conversation with your manager and that she is taking the appropriate course of action.

    6. Franz Kafkaesque*

      That’s good that there is at least some improvement. But, it is pretty baffling that someone this difficult (for no reason) is being kept employed there. She’s relatively new so it’s not like she has years of experience that will make it difficult for the organization to lose. Additionally, with all the unemployed people out there, I’m sure your organization could find someone with a MUCH better attitude. The work day is hard enough without having to deal with this type of absolute nonsense.

    7. Esmeralda*

      Why is Jane still there, then?

      I’m serious — does she have some specialized knowledge or skill that warrants dealing with all this crap –you on the receiving end of her unwillingness to DO HER JOB, your manager for having to reprimand, redirect, coach… She sounds exhausting. Why is all this time and energy being wasted on getting her to do her work? Aren’t there other people out there who could do the job and not be exhausting obnoxious jerks?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        (I’m not the OP): I wonder if Manager is building a case to fire Jane and is gathering evidence to avoid a lawsuit and/or unemployment claims?

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Probably a reasonable assumption. Having all your t’s crossed and i’s dotted doesn’t negate a lawsuit, but it makes them easier to defend.

    8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed, thanks for the follow up Letter Writer. Glad there is some improvement, and that you feel supported by the manager.

      Sounds like Jane is just one of those grumpy people who likes to stir the pot.

    9. Observer*

      Jane’s behavior is pretty bizarre. I would not push for her to get fired or anything like that. But, to be honest, if your company is smart and you keep documenting the behavior, someone should be looking at this and think about what it will take to fire her, at least once things get back to normal.

      I’m wondering, are you of a similar demographic to Jane – female, age, ethnicity? Where she might resent you because why are you in this high status position whereas she, who is “just like you” hasn’t managed to build that kind of career.

      Of course, it’s also possible that you are of the “wrong” demographic and that’s what’s setting her off. If you think that this is the case, it might be worth it to alert your boss at some point in a FYI, this seems to be a pattern I’m seeing and could present a problem for the company if it expands to more staff. So I though I’d give you a heads up so someone can monitor” kind of way. Because if it is bigotry at play, it really can be a problem for the company beyond specifically reducing the OP’s effectiveness.

    10. Rosie*

      Hi LW – I’m an admin person who has occasionally behaved similarly to Jane. Documenting it is the right way to go, not least because if Jane is being expected to do things she doesn’t know how to do, her feelings should be aimed at the managers who have put her into this no-win situation, instead of at you. But please try to frame it in your head that her frustration is justified, even if you as the target of her frustration is not. It sounds like she can’t do her job either! No wonder she’s upset about it.

      I also once had a work colleague who offered to buy me lunch or a coffee every time he popped out. To do this, he interrupted phone calls, he interrupted complex work conversations, sometimes he even interrupted closed-door meetings to ask if I wanted him to buy me a sandwich, at least three times a day, every single day. It was a transparent, patronising power play and the most irritating thing. I could not get him to stop, and our professional relationship was badly damaged as a result. So I excluded him from ordinary team stuff too because I just couldn’t bear dealing with him. So please consider: what you see as natural friendliness might be condescending to her. Respecting what Jane wants on this will go a very long way to improving your relationship.

      I wish you both luck

      1. Madame X*

        What you are describing still sounds like Jane is being unreasonable and unfair to the Letter Writer. If Jane is not getting the training she needs to complete her tasks then she needs to inform her manager instead of actively sabotaging the LW. I also really doubt that the LW was asking Jane what she wanted from the cafeteria as some weird power move. The most likely scenario is that the LW was being warm and friendly in a way that is quite common.

        1. Rosie*

          I agree that’s the most likely scenario, but in Jane’s head it’s not and LW needs to meet her where she’s at. I would have been a million times nicer to Sandwich Guy if he had just once gone an entire day without offering to buy me food, but he knew it put my hackles up and did it anyway.

          As for informing the manager, I could give literally dozens of examples of being told by my ‘management’ that training me was a waste of time, and since the stuff I was doing was so simple, I should know how to do it without a lick of guidance, advice, assistance, or coaching. Jane might not be great at her job, but based on LW’s comments it sounds like an office that’s letting her flounder instead of giving her help that’s actually helpful. When I’ve worked in places like that, you better believe my colleagues knew I wasn’t happy. My professionalism was a symptom, not a cause.

          1. Observer*

            Did you also kick up a fuss when someone actually tried to take care of stuff themselves? Did you actively try to keep people from being able to do their jobs?

            Also, you Sandwich Guy was being obnoxious. But what the OP describes is not close to what you are describing. They are not interrupting Jane’s meetings or conversations to ask about lunch, much less doing so multiple times a day!

            I do agree that the OP should just not engage with Jane more than a cheerful good morning / good night coming in and out of the office. But there is no reason to doubt the OP when they say that they are not being over the top in what they are saying as asking.

          2. Letter Writer*

            I might agree with you Rosie if she did anything to rectify the situation. And to be clear I don’t ask her if she would like something every day, maybe once every few weeks and it is the office standard that you make a brief trip around the office before heading down and no one else gets this kind of reaction. This organization is the best I have ever been at as far as opportunity for professional development and support, although I am sure that was challenged during the pandemic. Ultimately, I understand she might be frustrated but keeping me from the tools to do my job, and creating a hostile environment just perpetuates the problem.

            1. Rosie*

              I appreciate your answer LW and I’ll stop commenting after I say this, but I still think asking every couple of weeks is too much. Even if she doesn’t get upset by anyone else doing it, she gets upset at you doing it. So respect that. If you do, I suspect after a while some of other hostility will ease up.

              1. Delphine*

                I think looking for explanations for the coworker’s unprofessional behavior in the LW’s actions is unfair. The LW is being kind and professional towards a coworker. It is the coworker’s responsibility to be equally professional in return. She doesn’t get to say, “I don’t like LW saying good morning to me and I want her to stop, but I’m fine with everyone else saying it.” That is not okay.

              2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                It doesn’t sound like LW is asking her about the cafeteria runs anymore. But it is ridiculous to act that way, and yes, it does matter if she acts ok with everyone else in the office doing it, but not LW. That is overtly singling LW out and acting as though she is doing something wrong when she is doing the same things as all the colleagues do. It is extremely unprofessional to do that to someone, especially for no real reason. Saying that LW needs to respect being treated with hostility and disrespect is absurd.

                It’s completely different than your sandwich guy, because he was interrupting you and barging in on meetings and calls. But LW is not doing that to our knowledge, and she is actually doing what is the norm by the culture of the workplace. Also, if Jane is being expected to do things she does not know how to do, she should let LW know she does not know how to do that and ask her to delegate the task elsewhere or show her how to do it. Instead, she is behaving with hostility and unprofessional behavior. I think if you have ever acted like Jane (which I doubt, because your scenarios sound entirely different, but still, if you have acted that way), you should seriously reconsider that behavior in the future. It does not reflect well on anyone to behave the way Jane is behaving.

              3. Kella*

                The key difference between your situation and OP’s is that the guy bugging you didn’t stop even after you asked him to. When OP was following the general culture of their workplace and Jane had never expressed that her wish was to not be asked, then OP asking once every couple weeks or so was totally appropriate and considerate. It would be rude to offer that to everyone else and not to Jane, without the additional information that Jane didn’t want to be asked. And now that Jane has asked OP to stop, they have stopped. OP has done nothing wrong on this front. No boundary has been crossed.

                And if Jane is holding OP’s inability to mind-read that she didn’t want to be offered the thing everyone else *does* want to be offered, as a reason to exclude OP from *things OP needs to do their work* then that’s not okay, regardless of Jane’s feelings about OP. Hostility and passive-aggressive havior isn’t okay, even if the person is genuinely annoying.

              4. EventPlannerGal*

                I just don’t think this is the sort of behaviour that should be thought of as a negotiation, “oh well maybe if I do XYZ then maybe she will be less overtly hostile to me”. Getting obviously upset/hostile over someone asking you a question once every few weeks is simply not acceptable professional behaviour that should be respected. It just isn’t. It’s silly and strange and unpleasant.

                I mean, I do think OP should probably stop asking her because it seems pretty pointless. But that’s more to save the OP the bother, not as an attempt to pacify Jane into being less hostile. I don’t know if this is how you meant it but it kinda feels like you are framing Jane’s behaviour as something OP is provoking and therefore is somehow her fault, when it is Jane who is being really unprofessional and rude here.

              5. Not So NewReader*

                So OP asks what Jane wants for lunch once every three weeks and that makes it okay for Jane to sabotage OP’s job?

                Jane can use her words, “OP, please do not ask me for a lunch order ever. Just skip me.”

                So simple. NO need for some big head game. And most certainly NO need to sabotage OP’s job.

                Sorry, Jane is refusing to get along with others. To me this means Jane is not able do her job. Sabotaging another person’s job raises the problem. Jane is willing to cause damage to company operations to satisfy something inside herself? No, there is no reason ever for deliberately messing up a job or messing up someone else’s job.

          3. Marillenbaum*

            That’s fundamentally unreasonable. It isn’t OP’s fault if the office isn’t training Jane appropriately, any more than it is her fault that Jane sees “Hello” as some sort of personal attack. Jane is being unreasonable and unprofessional, just like you were being. Just because you feel justified because you didn’t like the guy doesn’t mean it was the right call. Being more understanding won’t fix this. It calls for accountability and consequences. Issues around training are separate from the bare minimum of “don’t sabotage colleagues”.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        You assume if you don’t know how to do something that must be someone else’s fault and not yours. Is it in your job description? If not, say so. If it is, learn it.
        And “I excluded him from ordinary team stuff too because I just couldn’t bear dealing with him” is not your decision to make.

        1. Kella*

          There are plenty of tasks that require the training and insider knowledge from another person that you simply cannot teach yourself independently. And I believe Rosie already talked about trying to go to management about it and getting nowhere, so it’s weird to judge her experience without listening to the information she’s given you about what’s happening.

      3. JSPA*

        He continued even after you asked him not to, in exactly so many words? And your manager didn’t deal with it, when you asked them to?

        If intentionally interfering with his job duties in a tit-for-tat for what you’re sure was a power play was your only realistic option, uh, your workplace was (in retrospect) WAAAAY more dysfunctional than that one dude.

    11. I’m screaming inside too!*

      I suspect Jane is one of those people who needs to have an enemy at work, and unfortunately, LW, you got picked for that role. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with Jane’s view of life at work. The only thing you can do is what your manager is having you do – document everything and keep her in the loop. It’s possible that Jane will get tired of being told to lay off you and pick someone else to be the enemy or, preferably, be fired for refusing to do her job.

    12. pretzelgirl*

      LW- my guess this has more to do about Jane than it is about you. Maybe she’s frustrated about her position, maybe she’s confused, bored , or overloaded. Perhaps she has something happening at home that is causing stress in her life. I know its not right for her to take it out on you. So def document, document, document.

      I had a co-worker who was sort of like Jane. She wasn’t very nice, had little patience for me and once told me “I have so many F***ing issues” when I spilled a drink at my desk. She was just an unhappy person. There wasn’t much I could do, but just try and avoid her (which was hard bc I sat next to her). I just wore headphones and didn’t interact with her at all. Luckily I was laid off from that job, bc she was just the tip of the iceburg at that position.

    13. Sara without an H*

      Curiouser and curiouser. Frankly, if I were Jane’s manager, I’d be thinking I’d made a bad hire. I can understand willingness to carry a marginal employee during the pandemic — nobody decent wants to cut off anybody’s access to health insurance — but an employee who requires this much oversight just to be civil to coworkers will be a long-term drag on the organization.

      But your manager didn’t write in for advice, alas. Continue to document actual performance issues and just ignore the attitude.

    14. JSPA*

      It’s not unheard of for someone who’s totally unqualified for a job–not merely in terms of training, but in perception and natural abilities–to not understand exactly how unqualified they are. I’ve had conversations that boiled down to, “you sit at your desk and type on a computer, I sit at my desk and type on a computer, why did you need a PhD to do that, when all I needed was a six week training course?” (The six week course was on using Word, and a calendar app.)

      The same person didn’t understand why a Phlebotomist’s assistant and a doctor were not “the same thing,” and opined that “Shari is actually better than the doctor, because the doctor said that she doesn’t do shots, that’s specialized.”

      Whatever’s bugging Jane probably makes sense inside Jane’s head, but that may be the only place where it makes sense. (Or maybe not even that; maybe you remind her of someone toxic in her life.)

    15. Elle Woods*

      Thanks for the update, OP. I’m glad to hear your manager is aware of this and is taking steps to ensure things change. FWIW, I completely empathize with you about being cool in your interactions. It’s a hard thing to do when it’s not your natural tendency.
      I hope things continue to improve for you!

    16. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I hope this isn’t endless documentation that goes on forever.
      How much documentation do they need?
      Jane is basically sabotaging company endeavors by limiting your effectiveness at your job. This isn’t okay.

      I hope Jane changes her attitude drastically or Jane gets replaced very soon. This is no way to have to work.

  24. DMouse*

    In addition to the possibility that Jane was friends with the previous person in that role and/or wanted to be promoted to that role, I think it’s interesting that their supervisor is also new at the same time. I’m wondering if something happened within the department that she’s angry about. Or maybe it was one of those situations where the old boss didn’t make her do her job, and she resents that now she’s actually going to be expected to work.

  25. Observer*

    OP, as Allison says, leave the social stuff alone. And realize that no one else is looking at your behavior this way.

    On the other hand, start documenting the WORK stuff she is doing / not doing. Put as much as you can in email. And perhaps start CC’ing your manager. You can tell her that you are doing this – you don’t need her to respond but you want her to have the context if things don’t change. And, who knows, perhaps Jane will realize that someone might be looking over her shoulder.

    You are not going to “kill her with kindness”. Don’t even try. You don’t need to be friends with every person in every work place. And you don’t even need to be liked by every person. All you need from her is that she supports you appropriately, provides you with access to whatever you need or would find helpful (insofar is it’s in her scope), and stops trying to sabotage your work.

    If this were an office wide problem, I would respond differently, but it’s ONE person. It’s stinks, but life is like that. There are going to be people who don’t like you and that’s all there is to it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Part of any job is to be approachable and interactive. Jane seems to be very limited in these two areas. OP, it’s okay to let Jane sink her own battleship if that is what she wants to do.

  26. California Typewriter*

    When I was a graduate intern I had a similar admin in the department we worked in. She was rude to students and to us. Saying “good morning” or “hello” would be met with a glare, she’d talk to other regular staff in Spanish so we didn’t know what she was saying (several of the other interns spoke Spanish so that didn’t work), and was just overall a rude person, and take 2 hour lunches. The kicker was she as also our age and a grad student as well (just a full-time employee) She was union so was untouchable, unfortunately (how it worked there, my actual boss wasn’t her supervisor and couldn’t do anything, her actual supervisor didn’t care or was too busy to care).

    Only advice I can offer is to document everything work related and cover your own ass. If you miss something because she never included you on an email, make sure that is known to the relevant people. Also, if you have friendly coworkers, it’s a good idea to ask them to forward you any emails like that, better to get something twice than not at all.

  27. J.E.*

    Like others have said, it sounds like Jane either wanted the job herself/had a friend apply and not get the job/was friends with the previous person in the position. Those are the only reasons I can think of for this type of behavior. Jane is resentful that either she or someone she wanted didn’t get the position, but this is no way to behave. Others will notice how she selectively treats OP differently and if no one else has a problem with OP, it reflects badly on Jane. This could cost Jane her job if she doesn’t let go of whatever is making her so resentful and behavior so negatively.

  28. Robert in SF*

    I am going to disagree with the various comments to continue to greet her against her expressed wishes. I feel like this admin may exploit that in future complaints that LW is harassing her!

    So I would carefully great the group as a whole, if she were present, “Morning everyone!”, and otherwise respect her preferences (obtained in *writing* from the boss) and not greet or otherwise ‘socialize’ with her at all. But I would do my best to make sure that everyone knew that was Admin’s preference, not yours. :) Catch yourself ‘almost greeting’ her, and reprimand yourself in front of witnesses saying “Oh, that right, Admin told me she would rather I not greet her, since she ‘considers it a distraction'”. Or something like that….

    I would maintain a pleasant professional tone in communications, again in writing, and only escalate to “colder” or more professionally confrontational tones when needed to address deficiencies.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      In office culture, why does ONE person get away with telling her supervisor, “I do NOT want OP to say hello to me.”? How is that even a reasonable ask in a collegial culture, where getting along with coworkers is a basic requirement?

      I mean really. There’s NOT a fine line between friendly greeting and over-enthusiasm; more like a chasm.

      1. Robert in SF*

        My perspective is that I agree it’s frustrating that the outlier in this case gets to be an outlier in this case. It’s not like they had some critical conflict that was resolved but left people feeling icy; the Admin is just unreasonable.

        I am not sure how big the org is, but I have heard that even in at-will employment states, it’s ‘tough’ to fire people without jumping through a lot of hoops. And often times Managers are not good at confrontation of poor performers; they just are not good at that kind of feedback.

        So outliers like this get away with it since Management sees the ‘cure’ more negatively than the ‘sickness’. They prefer others accommodate the behavior by having other people (who don’t object to the requests) perform differently, rather than confront the poor performer and insist they change.

        Ultimately, if the Manager isn’t willing to communicate to the admin, “Continued behavior like this will result in you being fired’ and mean it, then little will change [unless other motivation comes up from the admin herself]. The admin will need to want the reward from compliance (raises? development? perks? employment?) more than she wants to continue the behavior or can sustain any punishment.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          > I have heard that even in at-will employment states, it’s ‘tough’ to fire people without jumping through a lot of hoops

          You say you’re in SF. Is that San Francisco? The reason I ask is that all states are “at will employment states” (some with some exceptions). (Some lists exclude Montana as well.) Also that it is easy as pie to fire someone as anyone in retail or restaurant work will tell you. Larger companies make it harder for their own internal reasons but it’s not because of legal requirements.

          1. Beatrice*

            It’s not difficult to fire someone, legally speaking. Firing people well – without causing undue turnover and without creating a lot of legal liability – is more challenging (and hiring well and managing well are prerequisites). Some companies put red tape in place to manage that risk. Sometimes the red tape is done poorly.

        2. Amaranth*

          Its not usually difficult to fire someone, it just often takes a lot of documentation if you want to deny them unemployment.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            It also requires someone to pay attention and act on the documentation provided. If TPTB find reasons not to do so, then documenting doesn’t do much good.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I am having a hard time understanding how OP can ask for a lunch order once every three weeks and that is somehow a HUGE interruption in Jane’s work. Jane must be the pokey-est worker ever.

  29. ThisGirlIsTired*

    I have a similar situation here where I work and I’m the manager. I’m so out of my league and I don’t know what to do. This situation has definitely made me realize that I’m not cut out to be a manager and the next job I get (it’ll be a huge downgrade, but oh well, what can you do) will definitely not include management. In the meantime though, I don’t know what to do. I’m an enneagram 9 (the peacemaker!) and yet, I have no idea how to keep the peace. They don’t teach you this stuff in school, even in management courses. My biggest problem is that I’ve not witnessed the bad behavior. It’s all coming second hand from the person receiving the bad treatment. How to do you approach someone over second hand information? “Well I’ve heard….” just doesn’t cut it.

    1. LizM*

      I’ve had okay luck approaching it as, “I’ve been getting some feedback that…” and then asking “can you tell me any more?” or “what’s your take?” in our regular one-on-one meetings.

      If they are truly caught off-guard, I’ll ask them to think about it and talk to them later in the day or the next day.

    2. WellRed*

      You ask them to document it, specifically. You (whatever applies in your office/situation) make attempts to observe said behavior (quietly, from a distance). You inquire to others (maybe on your peer level? Her former manager) whether they’ve seen anything like this? If you have a manager or mentor, what have they said about this? But please start the process. If the person is truly receiving bad treatment, that’s far worse than worrying about it from the other side.

      1. ThisGirlIsTired*

        So true. I don’t want to be the previous manager in this department who ignored everything. I have to get over my fear of conflict and make someone else’s life at work better. Thank you for the reply.

        1. Observer*

          This is an extremely important point. Not addressing the issue is NOT “keeping the peace”. It’s just sweeping the problem under the rug, and making things LESS peaceful.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          Think about it as putting the responsibility for good behavior on the person who is doling out the bad treatment. They aren’t keeping the peace as it is. But right now the person receiving bad treatment is carrying the whole responsibility to deal with it and that’s not fair. It’s coming second-hand to you, probably because the perpetrator knows better than to act badly when you can witness it. That doesn’t make it invalid to act on, and in fact all the more important to put the badly acting person on notice that you DO know what’s up.

        3. SomebodyElse*

          Do you have someone you can work with on your level or above to discuss the situation? You sound like a new manager (apologies if this isn’t correct) and this is something I absolutely would expect a new manager to not readily know how to deal with. If you have a 1:1 with your manager this is absolutely a topic to bring up with them. If for whatever reason you aren’t keen to do that then look for a peer and ask them if they’ve dealt with something similar.

          Another place to try is linked in learning type courses for conflict management or resolution if you don’t have anyone available, this isn’t my first choice, but it may give you some tips.

          I would say that yes, you will have to work on your fear of conflict. Because a good manager knows that some conflict comes with the job. Maybe your EAP or some other resource can help you with that, as I’m sure it’s affecting other parts of your life.

    3. Observer*

      How to do you approach someone over second hand information? “Well I’ve heard….” just doesn’t cut it.

      If you are hearing this from the person who is being mistreated, they this is not “secondhand” information. And you don’t approach it as “something you heard”.

      So, if your employee can document stuff, especially emails that’s ideal. Ask them to get as much as they can in email. Also ask them if anyone has seen these interactions. Lastly, if there is a pattern, see if you can manage to be around when something like this is likely to happen.

      But even if you don’t have this kind of evidence, your first step is to approach Grumpy and tell her that Employee has told you that she did A, B and C. What does she have to say? If Grumpy denies it, you need to figure out a way to judge who is likely telling the truth or to create some sort of trail that will let you see what’s happening, going forward. On the other hand if they give you a different response, you then make it clear that the behavior needs to change. And again, you need to figure out a way that allows you to monitor the issue.

      1. PT*

        “If you are hearing this from the person who is being mistreated, they this is not “secondhand” information. And you don’t approach it as “something you heard”. ”

        THIS. If someone stabbed you and the police turned up to the ER while you’re getting stitched up and you said “Fergus Smith stabbed me,” would you want the police to say “Well this is just secondhand information we’re hearing *shruggy shoulders*?”

        If you were a teacher and a child told you that their daddy touches them inappropriately, would you report it to CPS or say, “Well that’s just secondary information I’m hearing, I didn’t SEE daddy touch the kid?”

    4. starsaphire*

      Another vote here for “get specific details.” It will help you to pinpoint whether this is:

      * A. badly treating B.
      * B. making up stories about A.
      * Some combination of the above
      * Some sort of misunderstanding that you can help solve.

      There’s absolutely no way of knowing from the info we have, but you can investigate further by asking B. for specific details (“I’ll talk to her, but in the meantime, please document any further incidents, and be specific”) and by making inquiries of third parties that have prior experience with A. and B. and might be able to zero in on the problem.

      (As another I-never-want-to-be-a-manager, I’m sending lots of hugs and sympathy!)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You are there to get a job done. Keeping the peace is a distant second.

      No they don’t teach this in school. As a returning student I really found college courses not to be that relevant to modern work places. Keep reading AAM. It’s a free education of everything that should have been taught in school.

      You don’t have to witness it. This isn’t a crime show. You don’t have to testify. As others have said, someone came to you with a complaint. That is all you need.
      If you approach the person and they deny it, all you have to do is say, “Just so you are aware that x is not tolerated here and this rule applies to everyone. Any further complaints will require a longer discussion.”

    6. Lizzo*

      There are courses out there that specifically focus on conflict management/resolution. Sometimes they pop up as electives in degree programs. In addition to all the excellent advice available in this thread/on this blog, you might gain some useful skills from a course like that. Seek out one that offers the opportunity to do roleplaying and has other elements of the course where you can practice–that’s the only way to get comfortable with this difficult stuff.

      I also highly recommend the book “Crucial Conversations”.

  30. LizM*

    For what it’s worth, if you do have to go back to your manager, you’ll likely feel like you’re tattling on Jane. You’re not. Part of your manager’s job is to help make sure you have the tools you need to do your job. Proper admin support is one of those tools. If you’re not getting that, your manager needs to know. Framing it that way also helps you keep focused on the work impact, and not the (truly bizarre) interpersonal stuff.

  31. hbc*

    OP, my reading (and I could be wrong) is that your focus is almost entirely on the social/emotional side–how people are perceiving your interactions, how you can be seen as nice while also not greeting someone, how your coworkers might feel when your lunch order hasn’t arrived, and whether you should have been documenting snide remarks. But it looks like every time you have spoken up about practical matters, it has been addressed.

    Jane is not going to like you. You can’t win her over. Keep your attention laser-focused on the ways she is getting in the way of work getting done. Make sure your boss knows that you have been left off the lunch list again, that Jane has misdirected four people who need info from you in this past week, and ask if it’s normal to have to wait seven weeks for an order of office supplies (or whatever.) Make clear that you’ve stopped the objectionable behavior such as offering to get her something at the cafeteria(!), yet you still have to [ask three times to get an urgent document printed and shipped.]

    I say all that despite the fact that it sounds like her social behavior is a problem that should be addressed even if she was flawlessly executing her job. It’s just, line-drawing on “collegiality versus familiarity” and “reserved versus rude” is a lot harder than line-drawing on “good work versus bad work.”

  32. Abogado Avocado*

    Something is really wrong with Jane. This is not your imagination. The interactions you are describing with her are not over-familiar; they’re the minimum grease that help all of us in office environments rub along together. Her reaction to you is rooted in something else that begins and ends with her, not you.

    I join Alison and the other commenters who recommend you document each one of her efforts to exclude you in ways that prevent you from doing your job. (An Excel spreadsheet might be easiest here, with date, her exclusionary effort, and effect in columns.) And then provide that to your manager in writing. The manager’s reaction, which seems to have been decent so far, will tell you whether it’s worth staying in this workplace or moving on.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Often times people with that Jane-attitude have one foot out the door. Either they quit or they get fired somehow.

  33. Lalala*

    It really bothers me how behavior like this is tolerated. The admin is making OP’s life a living hell, and it’s enabled. It’s messed up! OP we are all here for you!

  34. Coder von Frankenstein*

    “However, during my monthly meeting with my manager, she let me know that Jane finds this behavior overly familiar and has requested that I refrain from ‘trying to be friends.'”

    I’m giving the manager a bit of a side-eye here for passing along a comment like this, instead of pushing back (gently or not so gently) with Jane when she made it. This whole situation smells of management being unwilling to tackle problem players, and putting the burden on their colleagues to work around them instead.

    1. Observer*

      I disagree. The manager is, wisely, choosing her battles. Note that that the manager asked the OP to not greet Jane – but she also insisted that Jane give them the resources they need.

      Based on the update the OP posted, it looks like the manager is looking to take it further as well.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I agree. I think that the manager should have said, “Speaking with others is part of the job.” OP sounds like she already interacts with Jane very minimally. Now, OP, is trying to figure out how to avoid saying hi to Jane AND not look like a jerk to others? wth. Is this what the boss wants OP spending their time (wages) on, really?

    3. Paris Geller*

      I gave that a bit of side-eye too. Being polite and cordial with your co-workers is part of the job, and I feel like the manager should have pushed back a bit, but I eased up after someone in the comments pointed out that the manager is probably getting a very different story from Jane (more along the lines of “OP is being too talkative/prying/being too social and I don’t like it).

  35. Anon Today*

    OP, I would bet anything this has nothing to do with you. My guess, based on long experience with Admin Wars: she has been assigned to do something she does not want to do (support your position) or didn’t get to do something she does want to do (transfer departments, get a promotion, really anything) and is making it difficult on purpose. For you, obviously, but I doubt you’re really the target. She is squeezing someone above you, probably your direct supervisor. You’ll just have to work around her until she gets her way or gets gone.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Ah yes, the cut off my own nose to spite my face approach. Always baffles me when I see/hear about it.

  36. Jessica Fletcher*

    Did LW fill a newly created role, or are they a new hire for a role that someone left? Maybe Jane had a connection to the person who used to have the role, and she’s unhappy about how that person left.

    1. Letter Writer*

      It was a semi-new role, I was replacing a previous staff person with added responsibilities. My understanding is that the previous occupant of my office was not particularly friendly to anyone and this also translated into her interactions with Jane.

  37. CatPerson*

    Since it seems as though Jane hated you from day 1, I wonder whether you replaced someone who was a friend of hers, and maybe had even been let go. It would be immature that she would hold that against you, but I can see that as a scenario.

  38. SwampWitch*

    This is a hill I will die on: receptionists, executive assistants, and administrative assistants are underpaid, overloaded, overlooked, and then expected to be Miss America levels of friendly, accommodating, and polite when they’re usually treated like garbage by clients, customers, and their colleagues. While I definitely think Jane’s being a little extra here, in my experience, I’d get new hires dumped on me all the time. Their offices or workspace wouldn’t be ready (buildings and maintenance) despite the priority work order I’d put in two weeks in advance, they wouldn’t have a computer or access (IT) despite the new computer ticket I had submitted in a timely manner, and they’d have a million questions about payroll, insurance, their schedule, our policies (HR), who didn’t schedule them for orientation until a month after their hire date. So it would fall to me, making less then 25k$ a year, to do the work of three other departments to set up their office or find space and materials, follow up on all the previous requests, and do some basic orientation while babysitting a new staff member, and do the rest of my job. But at least everybody made it a point to tell me to smile more and I got wilted flowers and a dismissive card on administrative professionals day.

    I’m also going to posit that some stuff isn’t about the OP. Maybe Jane has problems regaining focus after an interruption (even a kind one) and has to set some boundaries to preserve her focus.

    And my final point: it’s a good indicator of a company is toxic if their Admin is a sourpuss. It’s weird being the department cant-function-without-you person while also being the department scapegoat. Someone from my office called me during my brother’s funeral because they couldn’t find batteries. The next day I was written up for petty cash going missing when my boss was the one who emptied the safe (on camera) for a catered staff lunch. While it sounds a little weird, I’m pro-Jane.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Jane does not have to be friends, or even friendly.
      But she’s not doing her own actual job, which is to support the OP rather than, you know, going out of her way to make it hard for OP to do their own work. She’s ON PURPOSE leaving OP out of meetings, she’s ON PURPOSE not following through on required tasks, she’s ON PURPOSE sending questions to other people when OP is the one who Jane knows is supposed to answer them.
      Jane is doing EXTRA WORK in order to make life hard for the OP.

      OP is not asking for anything extra.

      And yes, I’ve worked as an admin and people can treat you like shit. Those people, I did the work but I did the minimum (I would never have dreamed of not doing required work nor of being actively obstructionist, which is what Jane is doing). People who treated me well, I was actively helpful.

    2. AllTheBirds*

      “when they’re usually treated like garbage ”

      I’m sorry that’s been your experience. I’ve had plenty of jobs with admins who are respected and, yes, leave at 5 on the dot.

      It’s certainly not the fault of a new hire that your company was unprepared for them and you were forced to help them find somewhere to sit…

    3. Reluctant Manager*

      But that wasn’t the fault of the new hires, and if you took it out on them, then no wonder they didn’t go out of their way to make you feel appreciated. There’s a difference between boundaries and rudeness, and a difference between the company treating you poorly and people you’d never met before doing so.

    4. WellRed*

      At a bare minimum, though, Jane can at least not be openly exclusionary and hostile, to the point where she asked not to be “ADDRESSED WITH BASIC PLEASANTRIES” and intentionally makes OP’s job harder.

      I mean, Jane must be exhausted being so hostile and obstructionist. If she’s overworked and underpaid, it’s on her to discuss it with TPTB, accept the job under the current conditions or leave.

    5. Malika*

      Receptionists, executive assistants, and administrative assistants are underpaid, overloaded, overlooked, and then expected to be Miss America levels of friendly, accommodating, and polite when they’re usually treated like garbage by clients, customers, and their colleagues.

      AND… Must be exceptionally assertive because any bad behaviour is their fault BUT musn’t be too firm because that can come off as agressive. Yes. it is an exceptionally undervalued position and i thank my stars every day i moved to another position. Your post really rang a bell with me. How could i in my past life have been I be the can’t function without you colleague yet at the same time i can’t even be trusted to tie my own shoelaces level of dumbass? Why am i ‘the most important person in the office!’ yet not be invited to the informal team dinner? During my tenure in support i thought the drawbacks were the equivalent of being a downtrodden 50’s housewife.

      Having said that, I find that Jane has overstepped by being incredibly unprofessional. Part of the deal is to be polite to your fellow colleagues, regardless of your job description. It is not the OP’s fault that the office admin has been afflicted and the attitude is hampering her work. Being left out of important missives and e-mails is detrimental to her job and that does need to be addressed.

      1. pope suburban*

        “How could i in my past life have been I be the can’t function without you colleague yet at the same time i can’t even be trusted to tie my own shoelaces level of dumbass? Why am i ‘the most important person in the office!’ yet not be invited to the informal team dinner?”

        You’ve summed up the bulk of my working life, and today this hits me square in the soul. You’re totally right. But I also agree that that doesn’t sound like something our LW is making Jane live with, and so it is incredibly inappropriate for Jane to act as if it is. If the rest of the team treats Jane like a dimwitted widget from the secretarial pool, well, that’s shitty but it’s also not something the LW caused- and it may even be something LW can try to correct as someone with more clout. I hate these kids of job and I understand how Jane feels, but at the end of the day, you can’t just select someone as a trash can to dump your emotional sludge into (You know, the way every random person feel entitled to do to you when you’re stuck in a miserable dead-end support job).

        1. Malika*

          I am sad that this has been the bulk of your working life, it surely shouldn’t have to be this way. Escaping support roles was in the end the only solution for me. Even in the most benign and well paid of workplaces I felt so under-valued that it hurt.

          I have seen with some support staff that they use the little power they have to be almost despotically bitchtastic in order to at least feel some kind of worthy. Got chewed out by the boss for a calendar re-schedule gone awry, travel request that wasn’t five star at a bargain basement price, etc? Take it out on the new hire who needs your help around the office, the intern who can’t figure out how to get his laptop up and running, etc. The OP is at the receiving end of a lot of frustration that unfortunately she is not in a position to resolve, nor is it in her scope of responsibility.

    6. Letter Writer*

      I firmly believe a good admin is completely irreplaceable, and in my former role as a manager fought to get my admin pay equal to many of my “professionals.” This is not Jane. She had 6 weeks to get my office set up and had not put in a request for keys or IT until the day before I started. And to be clear, I am fairly high level so every department was very responsive once they knew the issue (not the way it should be but it is the way the world works) . After a week on the job, I ended up stepping in and getting the office set up for the new director as she literally had mouse droppings on her desk 4 days before she was scheduled to start despite numerous requests to admin to put in a maintenance request. She is also definitely not the department can’t function without you type, that is actually why there is an office email so that everyone can monitor and make sure things are moving along. Even the most basic requests for information (like where are the highlighters) get passed along to the interns because she doesn’t know. The only thing she was asked to do was give me a tour of the office (which was a unique COVID situation as we were limted to 2 people who could be in the office) and make sure I had office equipment. NEither of those things happened.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Does Jane just… not know how to do her job? It almost sounds like she is in way over her head and is lashing out in a desperate attempt to cover it up.

        1. SwampWitch*

          That sounds right, or she’s overwhelmed and can’t focus/get a handle on the too much.

      2. Batgirl*

        Crappy job skills and crappy people skills are common bedfellows. If Jane is even a little bit aware that she’s dropping the ball, she could either choose to take responsibility or she could get defensively aggressive at the person who had to step in. Guess which route crappy people skills folk tend to make? If she’s new and failing, I don’t think this person will be troubling you too long.

    7. Observer*

      None of what you describe is the fault of new hires, so dumping on them is a ridiculous and utterly inappropriate response. It’s just as abusive as what you describe, in fact.

      In addition, none of that is relevant to the situation described here. Jane is refusing to do her job and is deliberately keeping the OP from doing their job. This is deliberate and not an issue of things slipping through the cracks. And, furthermore, when the OP actually tried to just take care of stuff themselves, which would have relieved Jane of the burden, Jane pushed back on that too.

    8. Rosie*

      I’m with you, SwampWitch. A colleague once told the interns in front of me that I was so incompetent an admin the only reason I got my job was by sleeping with the line manager. Things escalated and long story short my line manager and HR not only made me apologise to him, but expected me to continue to organise his meetings and process his expenses with a smile.

      1. SwampWitch*

        Yep. I got reminded to be “more hygienic” (basically I became required to wear makeup) after my boss and his cronies made fun of my employee photo and that if I didn’t want to be made fun of I’d be more “hygienic” (wear makeup). But yes, the problem was always my attitude and not being made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe at work.

        1. Malika*

          The problem with support is that these jobs are seen as money drainers and the people we take the flack for as money makers. It is easier to get angry at support than the cash cow, and that is why it is always always always your fault. No matter what it is.

          My boss would routinely not extend contracts and i would have a trail of evidence with countless written reminders that he needed to extend or fire the employees. I still got a rant from HR and an investigation on whether i had falsified my written evidence. The boss got the sound of crickets and employees kept coming to work without a contract. Whose fault was that? Mine for not being assertive enough and only reminding him regularly. Any job after that was going to be heaven on earth.

          I will insist thought that in this case the office admin needs to get a grip as being this s-itty towards your colleagues is inexcusable.

          1. Batgirl*

            That attitude drives me nuts; I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve ever worked. Like reporters getting shafted over the ‘more lucrative’ advertising department and teaching assistants being disrespected as ‘not part of the real staff’. I heard a union rep say once “So, if they all walk out how long until you feel the impact where it hurts?” No one hires out of charity.

        2. Sanity Lost*

          I am so sorry you had to deal with that!

          I don’t wear make-up at all and had 1 person comment on it in all my years in business. This was back in my 1st ever office job. He was not my boss, but was higher level than I. I told him blusher and foundation neither help nor hinder with my phone skills or abilities to edit documents. Did he have an issue with those skills? He said as I worked the front desk, I needed to be prettier. This is where I was in the wrong… I asked how would he notice as he never lifted his eyes up that far. My boss was in the meeting and almost snarfed his coffee. My boss did stand up for me and dressed the guy down and told him that “HE” was my boss and he had no problems with my adhering to dress code…so basically butt out.

          The next week, my boss had a mini seminar for me and the other office staff on how to stand up for ourselves professionally and what was and was not appropriate to be asked or treated by other professionals. He was seriously the best boss ever (and still is in my book). Now when I get new hires, I try to do the same thing for them.

          1. Lizzo*

            Fantastic comeback! Had I been in the meeting where this happened, I probably would have audibly cheered for you. Well done.

      2. BC Lower Mainlander*

        Oh my good lord. I can’t even… I hope you have left that $hitbowl behind you.

    9. Courageous cat*

      Well this isn’t biased at all.

      Your anecdotal experiences at bad companies do not excuse Jane’s behavior, and I can’t imagine on what planet they would. If she has a problem, it sounds like she’s taking it out on VERY much the wrong person.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As sad as this all is, it does not explain why Jane has singled the OP out of everyone in the office. If her and yours were the same situations, she’d be grumpy with everyone, she’d be leaving everyone off the company chats and lunch orders in equal measure. Not just one specific person.

  39. Secretary*

    Hi OP, I just want to say I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. One of the worst feelings is when you have to interact with someone who openly dislikes you, and no matter what you say or do they continue to be awful. That just sucks!
    The good news is that if you’re polite to her and good at your job she doesn’t have any real power over you. What matters is that your boss and other coworkers get along well with you and respect the work you’re doing.

    Jane’s going to have to deal and I think Alison’s advice is great!

  40. animaniactoo*

    My manager made a point of saying several times that this situation is not a reflection on me at all, and they are very pleased with my work and attitude.

    Based on this, I would say that you have not been remotely overstepping the line and they are aware of it. This is more in the category of someone has asked for accommodation and you are being asked to provide it.

    What I would do at this point is say “The request caught me off guard because I have been going a little out of my way to make sure that I remain friendly towards Jane, and hoping that not getting frustrated over these ongoing issues will resolve them. I didn’t want to treat her different and potentially start a cold war in the office. Other than directly asking her for the things that I need, and escalating to you if not provided, is there a way that you would like me to handle this? I don’t need her to say hello back when I say hello necessarily, but I do need to not be left off of the people notified about the deadline for the office lunch order (as regularly happens), and excluded from office chats”

    1. Letter Writer*

      This is exactly what I said when I escalated it to my boss. Her response was very supportive and she has been taking a much more active role in monitoring the situation!

      1. Sara without an H*

        It’s good that your manager is supporting you. But at some point, she needs to ask herself whether Jane is a good fit for the position.

      2. Observer*

        I’m glad to hear that your manager is being more active with this. In terms of social interactions, I think that the commenter who mentioned that they started imagining their Jane as a potted plant, had a good idea.

  41. Bookworm*

    No advice OP, beyond what others have said. It seems like there’s something else going on that you are not aware of (Jane wanted your job, Jane recommended someone else for the job, Jane has some personal bias towards you for some reason) and I am sorry she chose to be so difficult.

    Good luck. It can be hard when a co-worker is hostile towards you and you have no idea how to redress the situation because they’re being so difficult.

  42. gamesgamesgames*

    There’s already a lot of good advice in the comments, esp regarding letting the personal stuff go and focus on the professional stuff…
    I also have a semi-petty suggestion.
    When she excludes you from a work email and you find out, document it.
    Once there is a strong patter of this and she leaves you out of an important work email… let it drop. At some point she will have shot herself in the foot due to a deadline or something that was missed because she excludes you.
    Then the business will face real consequences for her bull, and you can point to a history of being excluded from emails by her.
    You shouldn’t have to spend your time paranoid that she has left you off of some email. Don’t make her bull into your stress.

  43. Malika*

    – Receptionists, executive assistants, and administrative assistants are underpaid, overloaded, overlooked, and then expected to be Miss America levels of friendly, accommodating, and polite when they’re usually treated like garbage by clients, customers, and their colleagues.

    AND… Must be exceptionally assertive because any bad behaviour is their fault BUT musn’t be too firm because that can come off as agressive. Yes. it is an exceptionally undervalued position and i thank my stars every day i moved to another position. Your post really rang a bell with me. How could i in my past life have been I be the can’t function without you colleague yet at the same time i can’t even be trusted to tie my own shoelaces level of dumbass? Why am i ‘the most important person in the office!’ yet not be invited to the informal team dinner? During my tenure in support i thought the drawbacks were the equivalent of being a downtrodden 50’s housewife.

    Having said that, I find that Jane has overstepped by being incredibly unprofessional. Part of the deal is to be polite to your fellow colleagues, regardless of your job description. It is not the OP’s fault that the office admin has been afflicted and the attitude is hampering her work. Being left out of important missives and e-mails is detrimental to her job and that does need to be addressed.

    1. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Agree with your first paragraph, I’m a UK based admin assistant. Plenty of jobs going but really good salaries are rare. You need to specialise to stand a chance at a good salary.

    2. cncx*

      Yup, i’m dealing with that now- if i’m too asserting i’m overstepping, if i mind my business then it’s my fault for not following up or chasing harder.

  44. Meg Danger*

    Oooooooooh Jane! So my old admin clearly moved to your company. I had to walk by my “Jane’s” desk to go to the restroom, and every time she would physically hide behind her computer screen. I would cheerily bid her good morning each day with zero expectation of a response. If I tried to speak to her, even about work-related topics, she would reply “I’m too busy to talk” (she was not too busy to talk to most other people in the office, often for extended periods of time, it was clear she did not like me, though there was no event that precipitated her year-long silent treatment). If she saw me in the hall she would pointedly change direction or look at the ceiling to avoid eye contact. It was incredibly rude and alienating behavior. I’m ashamed to say her treatment made me anxious to go to work at all, and I even contemplated quitting. I was fortunate in that I very rarely relied on her for information or support required to do my job. I eventually settled on the tactic of treating her like an house-plant. I would not necessarily need to interact with a house-plant, nor would I expect a response to a “good morning Jane.” A house-plant is a totally normal, and inoffensive thing to imagine sitting at an admin’s desk. I could certainly conduct myself professionally and pleasantly in the presence of a house-plant – even a particularly thorny plant – provided I was not responsible for watering it.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I love this! And it is so good to have someone else understand that it does make you anxious. Not because everyone has to like me but because the hostility is so obvious and overwhelming you feel like you need to constantly be watching over your shoulder. I am going to try the houseplant approach and see how it goes!

    2. Rarz*

      Dispiriting that you had to literally dehumanize her to lay your anxiety to rest, but it sounds like it was the best you could do with someone who couldn’t manage a bear minimum of civility in a professional setting.

  45. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW, I really hope you send us another update as this situation unfolds (I read the one in the comments, and I am pleased your manager is watching the situation closely now). You may never know why she is targeting you, but we are all interested in hearing how this turns out. I have had coworkers with whom I have personality clashes before, but we stay professional (and usually I am pretty friendly, but I can keep things cool and professional when I read it to be better for the other person or to ensure my own boundaries do not get crossed), but I have never had anyone just seem to hate me from the second they meet me! So if you do gain any insight on why she is targeting you, we would love to hear it. And even if now, we still want to hear all about it!

  46. Heffalump*

    It’s a sad commentary on the business world the Jane feels free to behave this way in the first place.

  47. I Love Llamas*

    LW’s follow up comments are the most interesting — the admin doesn’t know how to do many of her job-related tasks so she projects anger instead taking ownership of the problem. She isn’t doing simple ones such as placing work orders to have other departments addressed needs. To me this seems like an insecure person.

    My suggestion is that you need to ignore/forget about her as much as possible. Address everything with her in writing. Just be neutral with her — a greeting if appropriate, but ignore her. She has asked to be ignored, so do it. Something else is going on with her and somehow she is projecting all her crap onto you. She doesn’t understand her job and isn’t doing it well, so clearly she is having other issues unrelated to her. Just keep documenting everything. Everything.

  48. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I have forgotten to include people as an admin, not deliberately maliciously excluded. I think OP is best off treating it as the former including when telling the manager.

  49. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    “Eventually, when I felt I had to let my interim supervisor know that I was not able to do my job because of the lack of resources, she was incredibly supportive and fixed the situation immediately.”

    My immediate assumption was that Jane feels that OP “tattled” on her by escalating the problem with her computer and other resources, and Jane is now bitter and resentful. Did anyone else read it this way?

    1. Letter Writer*

      I have wondered about this as well but honestly wasn’t sure what else to do. At the end of day 2 I had no phone, the computer she had me take from another office, that I had to connect, had melted the carpet and couldn’t access the internet, and the desk chair was held together by duct tape. This was obviously not the norm for the office or organization as a whole. I couldn’t access email or file storage because I didn’t have a computer. When I asked about it I was told there was nothing Jane could do. As tasks were accomplished (without much problem once I took initiative to make the calls and explain the situation) I made sure to sympathize with her about how much work a new person was and offered to use my newness to address any issues she might have been having trouble getting addressed. That was not well received.

      1. Observer*

        You did the only thing you could do. If Jane feels like you “tattled” that is totally on her. You acted perfectly appropriately and you don’t need to make yourself crazy to manage her very unreasonable feelings.

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        Maybe by using the word “tattle” I gave the impression that I think Jane’s behaviour is justified. I don’t! I guess the quotation marks didn’t make that clear.

        OP, I can’t see any other way for you to have handled the situation. In a senior role especially, you cannot sit around waiting for things to resolve themselves – especially after being told that Jane couldn’t do anything to fix the problem.

        Basically you called her bluff and she looked bad, because she wasn’t doing her job. I can’t see anything else that would account for her nastiness towards you.

      3. Rosie*

        Yikes. There’s incompetence for whatever reason and then there’s this. There’s no excuse for it. Disengage, document, and save your friendliness for people who deserve it!

    2. Observer*

      My immediate assumption was that Jane feels that OP “tattled” on her by escalating the problem with her computer and other resources, and Jane is now bitter and resentful.

      I’m sure she did feel that way. So? It’s no more reasonable than her initial behavior and the ongoing refusal to behave with minimal courtesy is even more childish than the original problems.

      We generally don’t take a kid seriously when they come and complain that “OP hit me back”. And we don’t let a kid get away with ridiculous behavior because their victim “tattled”. (At least not in reasonably healthy environments, we don’t.) Why would we expect any less from a supposedly competent adult?

      The OP couldn’t get their work done because Jane was refusing to do her job and refusing to allow the OP to fill in the gaps! Acting as though the OP “tattled” when they went to their supervisor just compounds the problem in a big way. So much so that if one of my staff reacted that way, I would be questioning their judgement and fitness for the job.

  50. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

    I had something very similar happen to me. A coworker I thought was a work-friend turned on me, decided that I was the most hateful person ever born (I hadn’t changed, was still the same). She would not talk to me at all, or look at me, or interact with me. Boss was useless, wrote both of us up. The general stress of work, and the additional pressure from rabid co worker, caused me to have a mental break (dissociative episode). Took ages to recover.

  51. Trombones Geants*

    My Jane hated me because I got the assigned parking spot she wanted. She had mentioned it in passing to the HR Admin who assigned the parking spots. Instead, I got it. If I had known she wanted that specific spot (which was one row and five cars closer to the employee entrance than the one she was assigned), I would have happily swapped. Instead, I got fourteen months of passive aggressive behaviors. She finally quit, and I found out from her office friends that she really hated me because I had that parking spot.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That is ridiculous, but totally the kind of thing you see in real life!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      So sad, but something I have seen so many times.

      Parking wars make me glad I take the train (fully masked and as distanced as possible) to work.

  52. Former HR Staffer*

    we had a “jane” in our office who was hostile to a new building services hire, because her husband had applied for the same job and didn’t get it. this is a very physical job in a large office building that required climbing into ceilings and subfloors to do wiring and occassionally lifting heavy equipment. her husband had been unemployed for four years so his skills weren’t fresh, and he was extremely large and would be winded walking from one end of the building to another. she delighted in denying his admin requests. that poor guy had no clue. chances are either she or someone she knows wanted that job and didn’t get it. document everything and bring it to management’s attention.

  53. Anony*

    OMG! I am in academia, and this is exactly how my Department Chair acts with me! It is actually kind of freeing to hear there are other people out there like this. We used to have a normal working relationship, and this fall the behavior became EXACTLY as you describe your admin’s. I have no idea what changed, what I did, or….what? It does make you question everything that you do with others in your department. However, the plant idea is a pretty good strategy.

  54. Enn Pee*

    I (still) work with someone who essentially refused to acknowledge my existence for the first 6-7 years we worked together. Funnily enough she treated my boss the same way. (She doesn’t report to my boss.)

    She’d treated the person who’d previously held my position in the same way, also for YEARS. It seems that she didn’t think my (eminently qualified) colleague was good enough for the job. My colleague recommended that I just compliment the heck out of my (not terribly competent) coworker until she got friendly with me – hey, it worked for her!

    Well, I wasn’t going to compliment someone who treated me like crap. She didn’t treat everyone this way – only my boss and me – so she essentially made it look as if I was making things up and acting in a hostile manner towards HER. Her then-supervisor, who definitely did NOT want to be a manager, told me that her whole life revolved around work, that she didn’t have any friends outside of work, and that was essentially the excuse for her behavior.

    So I just documented and followed up on every meeting or mostly-one-sided conversation with an email. When my mean coworker would say that I hadn’t gotten her the information she’d requested…well, it was in an email I’d sent her two days ago.

    Eventually she got a new supervisor and that seemed to resolve things. I wish I could say WHAT the new supervisor did, but I’d definitely let the supervisor know how this person treated me and that I wanted it to stop.

    1. Left of Center*

      I’m so sorry that you went through this, but I’m going through something similar and it is a relief to know someone else who went through the same thing. My other coworkers think I’m being “mean” for not kissing up to the person, but I refuse because she treats me like dirt. She is assistant for the whole department, yet makes a HUGE production if she has to do any work for me. (Even though it’s her job and even our boss told her this.)

      1. Enn Pee*

        Oh man, I feel for you.

        FYI – my wonderful colleague had ANOTHER work friend who refused to speak to Wonderful Colleague for MONTHS because Wonderful Colleague got a promotion and her friend didn’t (!!!). They would have lunch every day (with the other mean coworker) and the friend would refuse to acknowledge her!

        (I’m not sure if it was something in the water in our workplace…that would certainly explain all of this!)

        I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. If she’s doing stuff that makes your job difficult/impossible, document it and explain to your boss the ways it impacts what needs to get done.

  55. identifying remarks removed*

    I think there’s a Jane in more offices than you’d believe. I have one who will literally walk down the corridor staring at the wall rather than make eye contact with me and say hello. She’s done this to quite a few people. At first it was upsetting but I realised it’s her problem. So now I cheerily say good morning to her every single time I see her. Return the awkward back to her.

    1. HardlyLovelace*

      Oh my, I once worked with an office full of starers-at-the-floor.

      After six weeks, I was having… how shall I put this… worrisome mental illness symptoms. I’m still upset about it even though it’s been five years.

  56. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Oh, man. I had one of these. I was a temp hired in to a front desk/receptionist job, with the understanding that the reason they needed someone was that the person who had that job was being promoted to a higher level admin/back office (I think there were a couple other shifts that had happened, so this was a dominos-falling-upward type situation.) So I was essentially reporting to and assisting this previous receptionist (I’ll call her Doris) along with whoever else in the company needed me.

    From the very beginning, Doris was chilly toward me, and sabotaged any work effectiveness or efficiencies having me in the role afforded. For example, I was responsible for stuffing and sending outbound mail, and receiving and distributing inbound mail. I also was responsible for answering the phone, and taking messages when the person wasn’t around, which was often as this was a sales-based organization. This was circa 1996, so we were using those triplicate carbon message pads with the white, yellow and pink copy. I was always very tidy at my desk and when I left it things were either neatly stowed in drawers or neatly aligned (message pad next to phone, outgoing envelopes squared up, etc).

    Doris, whose job no longer included handling mail, insisted on keeping control of the roll of stamps. Every time someone handed me a letter, I would have to get up, go all the way to her desk in the back, and ask for a stamp to be dispensed. I finally said “Wouldn’t you like me to keep these up front so I don’t have to keep bothering you for them?” “NO. I will give them to you.” One. at. a. time. All. day. long. (Eventually I think a salesweezl noticed and asked WTF to which I was just like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

    When issuing instructions to me, she would deliberately speak so softly that I was continually having to ask her to repeat herself. She did not do this with anyone else. I finally told her I have some hearing loss from working in a machine shop and would she please speak a little louder. She did not respond to this at all and did not change the behavior.

    When I came in to my (left neatly) desk in the mornings or after lunch, I would continually find that all of my tools had been put away. As in, she would take my message pad from my desk and *put it back into the office supplies cabinet*. Not into the desk drawer, where I eventually started stowing it in self-defense. This did not work–I’d find the damn thing taken from the drawer and put back into storage. Complicating matters was the fact that I had a lot of down time and so the manager of the place gave me a back-office spreadsheet job to do, while also still taking messages. This meant I had 2 message pads at 2 phones in 2 separate rooms of the building–which would vanish as soon as I went to lunch. It was BANANACRACKERS.

    Eventually, after a particularly passive-aggressive interaction, I finally broke down and said “Doris, WHAT is the problem? why do you treat me this way? I am here to HELP you.” and Doris replied in the snottiest tone imaginable, “Just don’t talk to me.” WTF??

    So at this point I finally went to the Office Manager and described what was happening and said “I am at a loss. I do not know what I’ve done to offend her, I am here to support her in her new role, and she’s actively stopping me from being able to do that. I’m at a complete loss how to handle this.” And the OM says “I’ll take care of it.”

    So the next morning I get called into the CEO’s office. I’m a temp, right, so I’m fully expecting a “You’re not fitting in here and I’m sorry we’ll have to let you go” talk. INSTEAD, the CEO says “I owe you an apology for the way my staff has been treating you.” I said “Doris?” he says “And a couple of others, a little bit. You are here to support them in their new roles and if they are unwilling to appreciate that support then they won’t get it anymore. Instead you will support me directly. Doris can go back to answering the phones herself and doing the mail, and you’ll be here in this room working exclusively on the invoicing.” (they had a monster backlog of invoices that needed to go out, it was a solid 2-3 weeks work for me.)

    I have a feeling that everybody’s promotions got slowed down behind this because if you’re going to mistreat your underlings you don’t get to have any, in this guy’s world. WHAT A BOSS.

    I was gratified to google him a few months ago and found that his company had flourished, and he had recently retired and transferred it to the next person in line and they’re doing really well. (It’s a neat business niche, too.) I will always remember him.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        It’s a shame that a good boss who handles things like this well is so rare in the world that I remember the one instance from a quarter century ago. I also remember his full name and the Good Office Manager’s, but not Doris’.

    1. tangerineRose*

      “if you’re going to mistreat your underlings you don’t get to have any, in this guy’s world.” Good for him!

    2. Batgirl*

      My dad warned me about deliberate soft talkers! We had an in law who spoke at a secret decibel when one on one, but at other times could do a perfectly fine volume. I expressed my bafflement that when you asked him to speak up, he got QUIETER. My dad told me to not fall for it; it was a control move because you had to scooch closer to hear anything, and over time I noticed that he had other manipulative ‘come over here to me’ patterns that made no sense at all. How well that fits with the bizarre stamp thing! Great boss btw.

      1. Amaranth*

        To be fair, stamps are money, so in some jobs they won’t allow anyone in a probationary status to handle them, along with a cash box, etc. However, this was obviously just part of Doris’ power play. I would have stacked up the letters all day and if anyone asked I’d say “well, Doris has the stamps so I’ll take them to her at the end of the day so I don’t take up her time.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I worked on place with a postage printer – and only a few people were authorized to have the unlock code for it. I would make sure before morning mail run anything I got was “stamped” and in the mailbin, after mail pickup – nope, I will do the whole pile at the end of the day.

        2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          Oh, totally! And if it had been explained to me that way I’d have been fine with it. I’ve been the person with the petty cash box and the stamps under lock and key and the code for the postage printer and I do get it.

          But as you say, it was 100% obviously a power play. I tried the “bring the whole stack” technique and it didn’t work. She’d look up at me slowly and with great disdain ask “how many do you need?” Then instead of simply counting them off and ripping off the appropriately-sized strip the way a normal person would, she would slowly and daintily peel off each individual stamp and (this part I’m foggy on) either hand it to me individually and make me wait or else wait expectantly for me to hand her the envelope to stamp herself and hand it back. “Taking up her time” was 100% the entire point of the exercise–for DORIS.

  57. DarthVelma*

    This happened to me years ago and I still don’t know exactly what the heck was going on. At a previous job, the admin took an immediate dislike to me when I came to apply for an internship. And all I did was ask if I was in the right place and drop off paperwork. I didn’t have much interaction with her during that summer, but when I came back on full-time after I finished school, it got pretty bad.

    No one told me she had applied for the job I got. She wasn’t remotely qualified, but refused to believe that. Later on, she tried to convince HR that I didn’t meet the minimum job requirements, never should have been hired, and should be immediately terminated. Of course, no one told me she was behind it at the time or even how bad it got…only that I needed to re-provide proof of all of the education and work experience I used in my application.

    When that didn’t work, she decided just to not provide any admin support for me. My supervisor for a project found out at the last minute that she hadn’t bothered to book a hotel room for me for a multi-day business trip starting the next day. He blew a gasket. And yet somehow, instead of forcing her to do her damn job, the big boss just started having everyone do their own travel arrangements. It was like that with everything. She’d refuse to do something totally normal for an admin, get no pushback, and then we all had to do it ourselves. I chose to mostly ignore her because nothing I said or did made a difference…and because it pissed her off even more if I didn’t react to her nonsense.

    She did eventually leave and our next admin was fantastic. Best part – the new admin was qualified and did eventually move up into the type of position the previous admin had always wanted and never got.

  58. Anon for this here post*

    This is happening to me at work right now. She will walk right past me in the morning. (I always say good morning.) She is fine with all of the men. She will go out of her way to talk to others and make sure that I’m not included or if she does include me, she makes fun of me and/or singles me out. She’s even gone so far as to ask everyone else for office supplies, but not me. I’ve also had her slam a door on my face. Some people just never grow up…

  59. RB*

    Sometimes there is just an office bully and there is nothing you can do about it. I’ve been on the receiving end of Jane-like behavior a couple of times. It went on for months and I just tried to work around it and not let on that it was bothering me. In one case I could see that nobody was going to do anything about it, and it wasn’t directly impacting my ability to do my job. In the other case it was my manager doing it, and she wasn’t doing it just to me, so a few of us went to HR and the union, and she was eventually let go, but this took a long time of documenting, etc.

    Good luck!

  60. Skeeder Jones*

    What I’m wondering is why are Jane’s requests to not be greeted being addressed but the OP’s actual business need to interact with Jane are not? I can’t imagine an employee of any place I’ve worked being able to sabotage someone they are supposed to support. This is insane! And I definitely want an update!

  61. MaryAnne Spier*

    Ugh, I had a school secretary once who hated me. She literally spoke to me like the secretary in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. She was sweet to everyone else. She just decided she hated me. She acted like I reported to her. I have no idea what I did to make her hate me but it was pretty clear that she did.

  62. BronzeFire*

    I’m wondering if OP took over a role that was previously held by someone Jane held in high regard. Obviously her behavior is still rude, but I’m trying to figure out why she’d single out OP like this. Like Alison said, so many questions!

  63. Amethystmoon*

    This sounds messed up. I have to wonder if the office admin maybe wanted that job and interviewed for it, but didn’t get it? Even so, they are still in their role as office admin and need to do it, until or unless they get and start another position. I think of all the jobs I ever had and absolutely would have gotten in huge trouble for something like that.

  64. Mark*

    This happened to me 20 years ago, and it was because of a really silly misunderstanding. I started a job as an assistant manager of a call center, and shared an office with the other assistant manager. She was really standoffish when I started. I was walking on glass. One day, I tried to add my thoughts to a conversation, and she gave me this really disgusted, “Fine! You’re the boss, I suppose!” I replied with something like, “Woah, what did I do?” and she said, “Well, you’re my boss, so if that’s what you think, I guess I have to do it.” It turned out that she had been a shift supervisor, one level down, and had been asked to temporarily take over assistant manager duties. She had applied for the job, and was upset when they hired me instead. Except, they hadn’t! They had decided to hire an additional assistant manager, and promoted her when they hired me. But they never told her. All she knew was that she had worked in this place for years, interviewed for a promotion, and they didn’t even give her the courtesy of letting her know they were hiring someone else. We were fast friends afterwards.

    1. Polly Hedron*

      And she thought it was OK to be that rude to her boss? I wouldn’t have wanted such a foolish friend.

  65. College Costumer*

    I have a “Jane” at my work too, she sort of an admin/office manager. She is openly hostile towards me, has lied about supplies, refused to set up my phone’s voicemail and things I could or couldn’t do. I try to avoid her like the plague and do everything on my own.
    A while back we had an anonymous questionnaire about her, so I could finally vent.
    My coworker finally figured her out- she is jealous and hostile towards all women who are younger or skinnier than she is.

  66. RB*

    Ok, so I haven’t read every single comment but I’ve read a bunch of them and it feels like this kind of Jane-like behavior comes from women more often than from men. I’d love to believe that’s not true, that it’s an equal-opportunity bullying style, but it does match my own experiences.

    1. Malika*

      The very indirect icing-out is preferable for female bullies, because it’s socially acceptable. Having an attitude is even sometimes celebrated. Rageathons and shouting are more obvious forms of bullying and can be easier to spot as bullying behaviour. Men can feel stronger so they don’t worry as much about being perceived as a bully. Women need to take the roundabout way, otherwise they will be seen as overstepping. Icing out, excessive nitpicking, and bitchy demeanour are therefore their weapons of choice.

  67. 00Lisa00*

    Is it possible the admin wanted to be promoted to this job? Regardless yes point it out every time she leaves you off and I would BCC your boss every time you have to point something out.

  68. MCMonkeybean*

    It definitely seems like you are underutilizing your manager here! I don’t know if you feel like you need to solve this yourself but that’s definitely not the case and this has been going on for far too long. From your letter it sounds like management has been approached twice–once by you, and once by Jane–and that they have responded both times.

    I’m very curious to know more about the conversation they had with you about Jane basically asking that you stop being nice to her. Did you bring up at all that you were trying to be nice as a way to get her to actually do her job? I’m assuming you are not Jane’s manager, right? Do you guys share a manager or does she report to someone else? If she reports to a separate person they should probably be involved in this discussion as well. But you need to make it clear to your boss that you are still unable to do some parts of your job because Jane is constantly trying to block you out!

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I see in the comments that you have already reached out to your manager and that she seems on top of it!

  69. sorryyoufeelthatway*

    This happened to me. I worked for nine months in a place (a prison, so very dysfunctional to start with) where the admin decided she hated my guts … for no reason, and apparently this was not only her general MO with whomever she wanted whenever she wanted, but her own boss wouldn’t even confront her on it. I think he was terrified of her. I ended up leaving that job for several reasons but she definitely had a huge part in it. I couldn’t stand to be there, as she badmouthed me to other people and treated me like hot garbage. I reported her to HR on my last day. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve told her off and put her in her place. Professional, no. Worthwhile? Absolutely. Someone needs to do it.

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