my coworker’s constant emails make me less productive

A reader writes:

I have a coworker who sends daily emails (often more than once a day) reminding me to complete work that is a normal part of my job and that I always complete on time. Two minutes after I receive a file to work on, she’s in my email asking me to send it to her when I’m done. I know this is her way of keeping herself on track, but the constant reminders are insulting and, frankly, keep me from doing my work because I’m spending time every day writing her back about projects that aren’t due for weeks.

I’ve tried to gently tell her, “Yes, I will get that done on time, as I do every month, because it is my job,” but she hasn’t taken the hint. I got nasty with her once when she interrupted urgent work several times to ask about non-urgent matters. I immediately felt bad and apologized but also said, “Please trust me to do my job.” The emails continued. If I ignore her email, she chats me. If I ignore that, she sends me a text or calls me. I’ve mentioned this behavior to our boss, but he won’t help because she’s just trying to do her job well. She does this to everyone on our team and I know it annoys others, but without the support of our boss it’s hard to know how to approach this topic.

I like this coworker otherwise. She’s good at her job and a nice person. But this behavior makes it more and more difficult to work with her. It’s gotten to the point where every interaction with her feels like a confrontation. Is there anything I can do?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today, along with a letter from someone whose boss expects her to work 11-hour days. Head over there to read them both.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

  1. Julia*

    I’ve learned from reading AAM that there exist people out there who behave in ways that I just can’t imagine ever encountering in real life. I mean, who DOES this? After being spoken to multiple times about it? Wow! Takes all kinds.

    1. Celeste*

      I had a coworker who while they didn’t do this particular thing, had very similar “quirks” that were entirely about making her job easier at the expense of everyone else’s productivity, and had zero ability to take a hint, blatant or otherwise. She would just laugh or say “okay!” or sometimes just outright deny she was doing the thing I was clearly telling her about whenever it was brought up, and then just…keep on doing it. Every bit of instruction or criticism or request to do things differently would just roll right off her back. It was almost impressive.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I have a co worker who treats email more or less like a live conversation. You’ll get two sentences of thinking, another email a minute later with the rest of the though. You respond. You’ll get more of Co worker’s thought, plus information you wish you knew before writing your response. And then, when you finally get the thing finalized, Co Worker sends a series of conventional conversation wrap up phrases, in multiple emails. It is maddening.

      Our boss is trying to get Co Worker to use interoffice chat program for these kinds of threads but Co Worker’s use of the chat program is inconsistent at best.

      1. LKW*

        Try responding to her via chat – as in “hey, saw you sent an email, what’s up?” and keep doing that.

        1. OyHiOh*

          This is exactly what I’ve started doing. I suspect they don’t keep their chat window open during work hours so it sometimes takes awhile to get a response. I assume the corresponding email is low priority in those cases.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Argh, I find myself doing that because I feel like I am texting. I have to really slow down and think before sending emails and remind myself it is not a chat convo. I am frustrating myself!

      3. Mockingjay*

        Try putting the emails in a dedicated folder as you get them. At the end of the day, read through the string.

        I actually do this for one person I work with.

      4. Amaranth*

        I have clients who do that, because for some reason they can’t answer three bullet point questions in a single email, and they’ll do the same bit of sending more context in bits and pieces. Often without quoting or explaining which question they are answering. God forbid we have context.

    3. HS Teacher*

      I had a coworker who would come over to ask me if I got an email, almost every time she sent me an email. No amount of asking her to trust the technology, asking the boss to intervene, or sending her read receipts would get her to stop doing it. She wasn’t the only reason I left that place, in fact her behavior paled compared to the stuff the boss was doing, but she absolutely drove me crazy.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Years ago, I had a project at a client where that would almost make sense. I joked is was decidedly “old economy”* because the intra-office (paper) mail distribution was faster than E-Mail!
        They had amazing internal mail carriers, everything arrived within at most 30 minutes, but there was something wrong with my email inbox delaying everything up to two hours.
        * Yes, it was around 1999 when “new economy” was actually A Thing.

      2. Sc@rlettNZ*

        One of the academic staff I support does this. He sends me an email and then immediately zaps down the hallway to my office to talk to me about it. I don’t get the feeling that he thinks I’m inept (certainly no-one else here does). I decided that rather than be annoyed by it (which was starting to happen), I’d make a conscious effort to find it amusing. I refer to it as ‘sending emails in person’ and joke about it with him.

        Mind you, I’m also leaving this role at the end of the year so I know it has a definite end date!!

      3. Lego Leia*

        Could you try read receipts or a rule that will reply to their emails with “Got it, thanks. Will contact you if I need help” or something?

    4. John Smith*

      My manager does this. Not only this, but his emails are extremely long winded. And he always has to have the last word on anything and everything (and is usually wrong so needs to be corrected, which leads to further strings of emails). There are days where I do literally nothing but play email ping-pong and he moans that he hasn’t got enough time in the day. It’s absolutely bonkers. And he won’t stop. We’ve asked, begged, pleaded, ignored him, gave short responses – everything. He just can’t help himself.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      If she does this just to keep track for her own stuff, then there are other ways to do so, such as software like Todoist or Trello, or even in outlook or gmail.

      1. SoloKid*

        every time I’ve seen someone use trello or Jira it turns into a clustermuck of out of date statuses or “I want to give this team ~visibility~” without any real rules about who owns moving the cards or what granularity they should be at to begin with.

      2. OyHiOh*

        The Co Worker I just wrote about in this same thread also has terrible organization skills. I’ve put in several long calls (they work in a different office location from me) coaching them how to use Outlook and OneNote to keep things filed, know what tasks are outstanding, and make sure they don’t over schedule themselves to the point of not being able to get critical work done.

        The number of times I’ve gotten a “just so you know, I have this sort of appointment between these hours” is ridiculous. Just block out the time on your calendar as a “personal appointment, call my cell if it’s an emergency” !!!

      3. BRR*

        Exactly. Someone’s way of keeping track of their stuff shouldn’t involve taking everyone down with them.

    6. Elbe*

      It boggles my mind that this person can get any work done at all. If READING these emails is a burden to the LW, how much work is it for this coworker to send all these emails to everyone and track responses? It seems incredibly inefficient.

      1. Suzanne*

        It’s not about her getting work done. It’s about her micromanaging everyone because she can’t/won’t trust that they will do their jobs.

  2. Seeking Second Childhood*

    So help me this person would get a custom filter going to a special folder, and a standard reply that states my standard work flow & delivery time frame.

    1. High Score!*

      Exactly. I had one job where I literally kept my phone off the hook bc of someone like this. And I assigned an email filter to throw all hers away. I told she was to hand deliver any assignments and any time she spent bothering me would be added to the project time. So every time she pestered me, that’s a half day later that it’s getting delivered.
      Mostly I’m a pleasant person but…

    2. Ashley*

      Yup and the text tone and ringtone is silence. I think you can also not even get the text notification at all so you get them but you aren’t blocking them.
      Whatever (half decent) email program you use they have rules you can set up for the filtering. It is awesome.

      1. Great Company you should trust*

        yes. I did this with my ex husband. We have a kid together so I need to actually get the message. But his all day abusive texts sit until I go to check them.

    3. BRR*

      If talking directly to the person didn’t work this is exactly what I would do. Email filter, block chat, block phone number. Sounds like the LW would be able to get away with it by saying they’re trying to do their job.

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Exactly this. Email from her are filtered, with a boilerplate “thank you for your email. It has been received and will be dealt with in due course.”

  3. PT*

    I worked somewhere where people would thank you for really basic parts of your job. Like, “Thanks for coming in today!” on a normal workday. And it drove me absolutely up the wall because it was so patronizing and almost snarky.

    After I worked there a couple of years, though, I realized I was being thanked because the place was full of bad employees, and “showing up as expected” was in fact an unusual thing that stood out as exemplary behavior.

    1. Spotted Kitty*

      When I was a third key at a retail place (basically an assistant assistant manager), I regularly thanked the part-time employees for doing things that were definitely part of their job, because I quickly learned that the two managers above me NEVER thanked them for ANYTHING, even when they went above and beyond. I quickly became the favorite manager, but I left after only a few months because of how terrible upper management was.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        I used to do this with students – I tried to give them praise for even routine tasks, because I knew several of the other staff either just never gave praise at all, or would just constantly berate them whatever they did (but they had tenure, so that was apparently fine).

      2. Mary Lynne*

        I went to drop something off to my sister once at her cosmetology class. Her teacher said, “we LOVE Laura! She gets here on time, she does her work, she doesn’t cause any drama, she’s polite! We LOVE Laura!” It became a family joke. “We LOVE Bob! He’s not a serial killer, he doesn’t catch our hair on fire, he’s never killed our dog! We LOVE Bob!”

    2. Filosofickle*

      Yeah, very early in my career I worked with a couple of people who constantly thanked and praised me. I found it annoying, in part because I didn’t think I needed to be thanked (daily) for “just doing my job” but also because if everything is praised then praise has no meaning. I felt the bar was too low.

      Many many years later, with far more wisdom and several terrible managers in my rearview, I look back on that and realized I was wrong. It was lovely that people went out of their way to create such kindness for me. And also, my performance was truly above and beyond what most people did. I am grateful for them now.

  4. Dust Bunny*

    Stop being so nice to this person. You don’t have a history of dropping the ball so tell her to quit emailing you about your own job that you do successfully all the time.

    1. HS Teacher*

      I agree. OP mentioned having snapped at the employee, but I think you can be firm without losing it. If OP plans to stay in this position, this coworker’s behavior needs to be shut down.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, precisely. LW says she’s a nice person, but she isn’t. Pestering people isn’t nice, especially when they are on top of things.

      1. Cedarthea*

        I know Brene Brown can be a real “your mileage may vary” situation, but one of her lines is “clear is kind” and that has really stuck with me.

        It has really changed how I operate (for the better) and find that the more I am clear, then others feel safe to be clear with me.

        1. LizM*

          The second half of that is “unclear is unkind.” I agree it’s changed how I operate. It’s unkind for me to avoid the awkwardness of a clear conversation if it means that I allow tension to continue to build and hold someone to a standard I have not made them aware of.

    3. DireRaven*

      I wonder if coworker has it in her head that her reminders to OP are the *reason* OP hasn’t dropped a ball (yet)…Has she been burned before by not following up on stuff and it causing a major kerfluffle that she ended up taking all the blame?

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Possibly, but a former colleague’s mistake doesn’t mean she needs to keep doing it now.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Canned responses. Filters. Think of something short and direct to say if she comes by or calls, like “I know this process. I have your email. It is in hand.” Rinse and repeat. Or “Your request and due date have been noted. I have other priorities so I will get to it in turn, but not today.” I would also slow roll my responses and not respond to every message she sends. Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct. She is not your only task.

      Something like Trello might be nice, but not all companies can use cloud-based tracking like that.

  5. Dinoweeds*

    I’d probably set an autoreply up just for this person – “Yes, I will get that done on time, as I do every month, because it is my job.” Ugh, I feel for you OP, this would drive me nuts.

  6. Bagpuss*

    The coworker sounds incredibly annoying. I like Alison’s advice to talk to her directly but I wonder whether it’s also worth LW having a standard response she sends (possibly even an autoreply, if it’s possible to tailor one to this particular co-worker) – something like;
    “I have received your e-mail. In order to avoid delays caused by disruption to my work-flow, please don’t send follow up messages or queries unless you need to provide additional information such as revised figures, or in the unlikely event that you have not received the material needed from me y the due date”

    Or if it’s mnot practical to set up a standard auto reply, maybe have a copy and paste response but tailor it each time she sends a piece of work to include the relevant date – maybe “thank you for your e-mail. I confirm that you / the teapot team will have this from me no later than the due date of [date].
    Please do not send requests for updates prior to that date, as this simply causes delay. In the unlikely event that I anticipate being unable to complete the work by the due date I will of course inform you”

    I’d also speak again to your boss and say to him that while you understand that she is trying todo her job well, she isn’t succeeding, as she is wasting her time sending excessive numbers of unnecessary chasers, and she is also disrupting your work flow and causing you to be less able to do your job well.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I like the autoresponder – our IT group did that when they were training people to use the ticket system vs emailing them directly. It was like the Great Wall of Electrons.

      I also like the suggestion to go back to the boss and say how this behavior is hindering OP’s work. The problem is not that she’s trying to do a good job but that her methods are harming OP’s ability to do theirs well. I don’t care if my coworkers put sticky notes everywhere, but don’t start putting them on my computer because it benefits you (while harming me).

  7. learnedthehardway*

    LW#2 – I would look at whether there are ways to better automate your process so that you can accomplish more in the given amount of time (meanwhile, don’t mention that you’ve figured out how). For me, doing this has meant that I can do more projects at a time than usual, and yet still perform at the same level.

    I’d also look at the requirements for each project and chunk them out in time periods. If you’re getting to at or beyond the time you’re comfortable with, start pushing back on the work load based on whether it is reasonable to get it done in the particular timeframe.

    If none of this is an option or you’re already doing it, it may be time to look for another role.

    1. High Score!*

      Automation has worked well for me. I always look for repetition and patterns, bc that means automation reduces my workload. Then, I put in my hours and leave. I mean, I’ll work over time occasionally but if I’m asked to do 11 hour days continually, then I put in 8 without apology and then go home and work on my resume. If I’m asked, I reply that 8 hours a day, 5 days per week is my limit. Here’s how I’ve prioritized my workload, let me know if I should change that.
      Really your time with your kids is so fleeting and they grow up so fast. Don’t let some slave driver manager rob you of those precious hours.

      1. ten-four*

        Hard agree with this. It’s one thing to be ambitious and climb that job ladder; it’s another to put in a lot of hours at a job because…the boss wants you to. I can speak from personal experience that it’s entirely possible to find senior roles/titles that pay 6 figures that let you work regular hours. It absolutely does NOT have to be an either/or when it comes to money/seniority vs. time. And OP: you miss your husband and kids! Time to strongly consider making a change.

        1. MEAM627*

          LW 2 here: Automating processes is great advice, and I’ll admit I have some room for improvement here. My processes could be cleaner, but I struggle to find the time to actually clean them up, even though I know it’d help me in the long run.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            I’ll second about the kids. Just remember… they can ALWAYS replace you at work. You can’t be replaced at home (at least not without serious heartbreak).

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            There’s an xkcd comic strip titled, “Is It Worth the Time?” showing a grid of how much time spent improving some process could be saved over various spans of time. Might be worth looking at to help your thoughts around doing some of this.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          The more senior you are, the more leverage you have, and you can use it to get what you want. Of course, you’re not going to get everything you want, but you can pick what’s important to you. Do you want to earn as much money as possible? Work on the most exciting projects? Get promoted ASAP? Work regular hours and then go home, leaving plenty of yourself for other things? If your current job isn’t willing to offer the set of trade-offs that you want, it’s likely time to look elsewhere.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Had a project once where I had automated away most of my job after two months or so. The client paid hourly (and very well) for being there “just in case”.
        After a year, I could not stand the boredom any more and explained to the client it really made not much sense to pay my employer over $1000 a day (in 2000’s dollars) to watch the clouds go by.

    2. Software Engineer*

      There’s a lot of times when making your work easier so you can be more productive doesn’t actually save you time because you’ll just end up with more work to do. Kind of like there was some stuff around the ‘time saving’ technologies in the home like dishwasher and microwave and washing machines didn’t save us time, people kept investing the same time in housework but got more done in that time. Which still has value for sure, it just may not actually accomplish what you hope

  8. It's All Elementary*

    In my limited experience, it seems that those who get away with this kind of behavior are really sweet people AND see themselves as mother like figures (regardless of age) and must have that feeling of control over everything and no one wants to hurt their feelings by putting a stop to it. I’ve worked with someone who’s refused to accept that I do things differently than her and still get the work done. She wants to make sure I did it right so she is constantly advising me and hovering. No matter what method I used to assure her that I could handle it, she refuses to submit control to me and management refuses to intervene. I’ve had my files taken and “fixed” to her way and she’s always able to get away with it because she is good at explaining how/why she took over and no one wants the fight because the fight will be time consuming and exhausting because she will “explain” forever how/why she did it. I just give up.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That’s unfair. Spiders serve a useful purpose & wouldn’t deserve that treatment.

        1. High Score!*

          I agree, I love spiders. Put an open can of tuna in the very back of her least used drawer.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have had some success with people like this by including in my report to the boss that this person thinks they are the boss. whoops.
      As far as her non-stop explaining a good boss can control that by shutting it down, “These are your instructions [A, B and C]. Are you able to do A, B and C as instructed?”

  9. Littorally*

    The part of me that deals with way too much of this is always tempted to reply with “every time you ask me adds an extra ten minutes to the ETA.”

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I once had to tell someone “I can give you hourly status updates, or I can do this as quickly as possible. Which do you want?”

    2. SweetestCin*

      My canned answer to a supervisor who couldn’t grasp that calling subcontractors wouldn’t make a bid get done faster:

      “This is not helping me get you my portion of this proposal in faster and is in fact hindering it….”

      (Our bids had drop-dead time deadlines. A month’s work could be absolutely wasted if a bid went in one second late – standard in the industry I’m in.)

  10. Snailing*

    Ugh, I have a coworker slightly similar to OP1, though honestly not as bad. She just chats/emails/comes and tells me at my desk about really irrelevant information about her work. Or I will ask her a simple yes/no question, and she will answer but them continue to read the entire email/text exchange she had would our boss to get that answer. I fully realize I am just inordinately annoyed by her, at least in part for reasons that I should not let cloud my work interactions with her, but dang is it hard!

  11. Spicy Tuna*

    I had a co-worker who would email something and then instant message and call at the same time to check on progress. Sometimes the IM and call would come before the email even arrived. The rest of us in the office just started ignoring him.

  12. Forgot My Last Username*

    I’d be tempted to reply each time telling her that her latest inquiry has caused you to move her project down in priority. Most likely the boss would not support this, but it would be satisfying.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      I would be tempted to say this even if I didn’t actually move her project down the priority list.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      It resets the clock. The three day task she sent yesterday gets pushed back a day.
      A variation on the a##hole surcharge on consulting rates.

  13. M_Lynn*

    Are there ways you can de-escalate this in your head and in your communications? It seems clear this isn’t about your work, but that she needs to be assured that this task is going to plan without her overt supervision. When she sends the file, can you reply with just “Received. I’m on it.”? Anything to lower the intensity of your feelings of frustration would help you. Allison often recommends a breezy quick response, and I’ve found that over time, I’ve been able to ignore the irritating subtext and just respond as if it were a simple factual question.

    I’m not sure how much you can push back against her incessant communications, but if you don’t have the power to stop it entirely, think about what other methods of affirmation you can give her that won’t drive you crazy. Maybe try setting up a monthly 15 min check in would help funnel her attention to a more manageable level? It would then require you to only spend a few min once a month to say “yes, I received the files. I am on track to complete them by X date. Is there anything unique about this month’s data I should know?”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I wouldn’t do this because it might suggest to her that OP is on it *because* she reminded the OP. The OP doesn’t want to encourage this by creating the impression that the coworker’s interference is useful.

    2. Kella*

      I agree that for any *necessary* communication, it would be good for OP to practice mentally de-escalating BUT I don’t think they should do that for every email. Answering the same question once or twice every single day is not simple and fact-based, it’s redundant and time-wasting. I don’t think it’s a good idea to frame this problem as if the OP just needs to stress less about unnecessary, repetitive, additional work. Their coworker is causing a *work* problem for multiple people and that shouldn’t just be dismissed as a weird quirky thing.

  14. AnotherAlison*

    Ugh. I had a similar life at my old company as the 11-hour day person. Very similar type of role (mission critical, but not executive). The culture was based on most people being stockholders (like my VP-boss) but people in my division usually were not offered stock, but we still had to work like we were. I was doing work that I had done for 6 years without promotion and not growing anymore. I quit at the end of last year (after 15 years there). My boss was blindsided. Honestly, I do not like my new job or company, but even 5 months later, I’m still so pissed about that place that I don’t regret leaving.

    My advice to the OP: Believe your boss and have that conversation about role and long-term fit. If she said you need 55 hrs/wk to advance, she means it. Remember that it is not a promise that you will advance, though. Then you know where you stand and how to focus your energy. Maybe you decide you do want to go for the brass ring and make other adjustments to manage the workload, or maybe you want a new job or career path.

    1. Kella*

      This also brings up a good point: What does advancing actually look like for OP? Does it mean continuing to work 11-hour days but with slightly more pay? What is the advantage to growing in this field? Findng the specific, concrete answers to those questions might also help OP decide whether this job is right for them.

  15. The New Wanderer*

    It’s not clear to me if the boss of LW2 values the hours or the productivity. What is clear is that they essentially threatened LW2’s career progression by basically saying “Do whatever I assign or you’ll be taken off the career track.” I’m not sure that’s recoverable, even if LW2 finds industry working-hour norms are much lower. This particular boss has an image of what a successful employee can do and it requires unreasonable workloads.

    Generally speaking, cognitive psych research all points to working more than 10 hours results in greatly diminished returns (e.g. people are likely going to have to redo the crap work they were doing at the end of the day before, because of poor quality). I get that some industries require this, but they do it because historically they’ve gotten away with it and so can continue to get away with it because it’s become normalized. It’s not reasonable from a productivity standpoint and in many cases needlessly puts people at risk.

    I would suggest that if LW2 finds their competitors offer better work life balances in comparable positions, take them up on it and get out ASAP.

    1. Ashley*

      This is so true. On a good day I can get tons done and work 5 hours. Other days I put in my 8 and the output is ehh. But this could be a company where you find efficiencies and get good at things, so they just dump more because they prefer to overwork 3 people instead of hiring a 4th person.

    2. Smithy*

      I work in nonprofits – and a variety that I’d flag as a notorious bad actor in this space and admit that when I read “work 11 hour days”, my first response was how much time that was. Then when I read 55 hours a week and thought about it more, that’s completely standard for myself and my colleagues. Nothing to do with seniority or pay.

      I have nothing here to say about whether or not it’s appropriate or to defend that it’s more around like being “on call” for work that can happen anywhere between 6am-10pm, but the end result is the same.

      That being said there are jobs in my nonprofit sector that will have more set hours or more ability for someone to set boundaries on their own hours. And so again, networking would be a way to better learn what the larger sector expectations are and how to pursue those jobs within the sector with a better work/life balance.

    3. Kella*

      I also had the question about hours vs. productivity since OP mentioned adding on two large projects but only removing one medium project. Were these projects to maintain 11 hour days because that’s what’s expected? Or were they in *addition* to work that was resulting in 11-hour days? How much of the problem (for OP *or* the boss) is the number of hours vs. the amount of work you have to accomplish in those hours? “I can’t work 11 hours a day every day” and “I can’t get this much work done in 11 hours” are two separate things, though they may both be true here.

      1. MEAM627*

        LW 2 here: These are good questions. I don’t think my boss necessarily expects or demands that my workdays be 11 hours. If I could get the work done in 8 hours per day, she wouldn’t know, and likely wouldn’t care. I guess the issue is that the workload expected of me typically takes me 10-11 hours per day.

    4. serenity*

      I’ve mentioned this behavior to our boss, but he won’t help because she’s just trying to do her job well

      The thing is, these emails have nothing to do with hours or productivity and I’m really side-eyeing the boss here. This is patronizing behavior from OP’s co-worker and a good manager would step in to tell the co-worker “You need to knock this off”.

  16. Double A*

    Second letter: Is there a point where you hit a salary that kind of implies you’ve traded your life for money? I mean, I don’t think this should happen per se, but it seems to me that this is one of the trade offs with a six figure salary, especially when that sounds well above COL for your area.

    It’s one reason I hesitate to move up too much in terms of salary (though I’m definitely in a field when by the time you’re making any kind of money, the job is your life). I really like work-life balance; the more people pay you for your time, the more they feel entitled to it. And… maybe they are? This certainly seems to be where LW 2’s boss is coming from.

    1. MEAM627*

      LW2 here:

      You might be right about me having reached a level in title and pay where this is just—what it is. I’m very ambitious but also don’t want to miss out on important family moments due to work. This has definitely given me food for thought!

      1. Spearmint*

        I wouldn’t make assumptions though, definitely research it. I don’t know how common it is, but there are people who make six figures but usually work a standard 40-45 hours a week.

      2. Cat Tree*

        It really depends on the industry, but six figures doesn’t necessarily mean your job is your top priority. I make low six figures and work 40-ish hours per week, with a handful of weeks where it’s significantly more. There is theoretically some level of pay where I’d be willing to work 11 hour days on a regular basis, but just plain “six figures” isn’t anywhere close to that.

        Each person has to decide for themselves where that line is though.

      3. Beth*

        Do the research before assuming this is the case! It’s true that some high-pay jobs do expect a tradeoff in work-life balance, but some don’t. If this is a standard expectation of your manager, that’s one thing; if it’s a standard expectation at your company, that’s another; if it’s a standard expectation of your industry, that’s a third possibility. Figuring out where it falls will tell you if this is fixable (e.g. with a job or team change) or if you’ve simply maxed out your ambition in this field and further advancement isn’t worth it to you.

      4. MEAM627*

        This is all helpful context. I’m toward the middle of the $100-200k range and still have lots of room for growth. I’m lucky to be in a booming industry. I will say that many (not all, but many) folks in my company at or above my level are workhorses. There are some exceptions, but those people seem to be living on borrowed time. Those who are really valuable tend to work…a LOT.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I’ve wondered that too. So far I’ve managed to keep increasing my pay steadily but not expected to give my life up – but I’m still shy of 6 figures.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I think this can be very much a field dependent thing. It’s not uncommon in software development to make a much higher salary than average (into the low six figures even when you’re not in one of the big tech hubs), and it’s not uncommon to be expected to work long days, but as far as I can tell, the two aren’t directly related. I make just over six figures, and rarely have to work more than 8.5 hours a day/42.5 hours a week. I’ve also known people who make less than six figures but are expected to work 10-11 hour days (50-55 hours a week).

      Of course, software development is also a field where it’s pretty normal to move out to move up, so I’d take this with a large shaker of salt if this isn’t your field (and a small shaker of salt if it is your field.)

    4. BabyElephantWalk*

      Yeah. At 6 figure salary in a city where you describe the COL as “modest”, this doesn’t seem like an extreme workload to me, particularly reading that it’s more about getting things done than spending the actual hours.

      Definitely research around about industry norms, but I think that at your salary it’s not unlikely that high expectations and overtime are just par for the course.

  17. Public Sector Manager*

    The first manager makes me so annoyed as a manager. Dealing with an overly communicative employee is low hanging fruit on the managerial tree of issues. It takes a couple of minutes to step in and solve. If a manager won’t handle this type of easy issue, then they won’t tackle the difficult ones. This is 90% a manager problem and the rest is totally on the other employee.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Seriously, this. It should be solvable with a short “Coworker, we have no concerns about OP’s work and even if we did, it’s not your place to do anything about it. Stop emailing her.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep and let them know that any further conversations will include an actual write up. This is a person who believe their boss is not doing their job and is trying usurp the boss’ authority by micromanaging everyone.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      totally. There’s no reason the manager can’t say, you need to find a way to manage your work that doesn’t involve managing OP’s in this way, which is counterproductive anyway.

  18. Lilo*

    55 hour weeks can be the norm some places. As a mom myself though, I’d question if maybe you want to move on.

    1. MEAM627*

      LW2 here: Yes, juggling kids and career all with an overwhelming sense of “Mom Guilt” is no joke!

      1. Aerie*

        Reading your letter I was seriously wondering if I had wrote to Allison and forgotten about it! (Until the threat to career advancement, I’m lucky it never got to that point!)

        The Mom Guilt is so real. I realized I needed to move on when my kiddo started crying any time he saw me at my desk (even normal work hours) because he knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t pay attention to him. I’m so lucky I was able to find another company that was SHOCKED at the hours I was working and assured me no one sends after-hours emails (and so far they’ve held true to their word – the only emails I wake up to in the morning are ones sent from other time zones, who are also working standard hours!).

        Follow Alison’s advice, check around with others in the field but it’s quite likely you’ll be able to find a better work-life balance somewhere else!

        1. Carol*

          Second this–even a job with reasonable expectations is a LOT when kids are young. There are definitely jobs out there where you can set reasonable boundaries and and people understand there is more to life than work, and there are places that appreciate the quality of work you do over the sheer amount of hours you have available to grind at things.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not a mom myself but I had no desire to work more than 40 hours a week at Toxic Place. I got my work done in the 40 hours and there was no need to go in and “hang out”. So I didn’t. I was not popular of course. But I also did not waste hours of time and expect to get paid for just existing. In the end, it worked out. A few people were interested in lining their pockets but most were not. So the OT fizzled out after a bit. It’s a know your environment thing. I could clearly see that the need for OT was fake and driven by a couple people who wanted extra pay.

  19. EmmaX*

    As others have suggested an automated reply I will jump on that band wagon. I personally wouldn’t add in anything about workflow or disruptions or anything that gives her anything to think about , I would suggest wording such as:

    ” Dear Co-worker,

    The teapot file will be complete by the due date of February 30.


    Worker Bee”

    And send it every single time. No changes. No justification. Nothing. Just a status update.

    (If there is any additional information that she may need I might add something like:

    ” Dear Co-worker,

    The teapot file will be provided to you for review on Feb 28th for completion by the due date of February 30.


    Worker Bee”

    But the important thing would be that the response does not change. ever.

    1. 2Teas*

      My friend had a guy bugging her to marry him. Her reply, “June 31st any year”.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That is a tiny gamble… August didn’t always have 31 days.

  20. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    It’s not clear from OP1 if the problem employee reports to the same manager as OP or not.

    If so, then their mutual manager is failing badly.
    If not, then OP’s manager is still failing, and need to talk to the problem employee’s boss.

    It’s absurd that everyone just meekly submits to this dysfunctional work habit.

  21. irene adler*

    “She does this to everyone on our team and I know it annoys others”

    Good gravy! Where does she get the time to do this?

    “I’ve mentioned this behavior to our boss, but he won’t help because she’s just trying to do her job well”.
    Not seeing how constant contact with teammates equates with “doing her job well”. But points to the boss for deflecting the issue back to the LW.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, I would push back as a group both to her and to the non-managing boss. Her “trying to do her job well” makes us do our job less efficiently.

    2. Kella*

      And she can’t possibly be getting her *own* work done efficiently if she’s sending these emails out to everyone every day!

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is exactly what I came here to say. Unless her job description includes “badger everyone on your team every 15 minutes asking for the same ETA they already gave you 15 minutes ago” and “do that to the exclusion of everything else” (because when the heck would she do anything else?), she’s not “trying to do her job well”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        She’s actually trying to get everyone to do their jobs well, which is really not under her watch.

        I would be sorely tempted to say, “My boss knows my ETAs for tasks. I will be forwarding all your emails to my boss for answering.”

        I think it would also be interesting for IT to print out the times from her sent folder. This woman cannot possibly be getting much work done.

  22. Lemon Ginger Tea*

    Oof, this reminds me a bit of one of my coworkers. She’ll send me an email marked “High Importance” (with the little red exclamation point on it) for *really* mundane things. Like, ‘please add this deadline happening in 7 months to the calendar’. I do not have a history of dropping the ball, I’m on top of my inbox and reply to/take care of things promptly… it makes no sense to me that she does this.
    I really like her otherwise and knowing her, I just tell myself it’s her personality to be high strung and comes from years of a “cover your ass” mentality. But ugh, it drives me nuts.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Set up a rule to strip out the “High Importance” flag out of her emails :)

  23. Frenchie Too*

    Reply that you already know to do your job (in a respectful way) and CC your boss. Every single time. Maybe even get the rest of the staff to do the same thing, at least those that she bothers.
    Maybe boss will realize it’s annoying.

      1. Generic Name*

        Exactly. The boss probably doesn’t think it’s much of a problem because it doesn’t affect him. Work is done right, and on time? Everything’s golden! Maybe if he gets 300 cc emails a day he’ll decide to step in.

    1. Trek*

      I was going to suggest an automatic forward of her emails to the boss so he can see the volume. Then when he complains OP can state she’s just trying to do her job well. If everyone on the team does this all the better.

  24. Lacey*

    This would drive me insane. I get annoyed just because a coworker always tacks on “Please do [absolutely routine thing you do 10 times a day w/out being reminded] when you finish!” to her requests. But I would have to read the requests anyway, so it’s not extra and she would never follow up about it after!

  25. TWW*

    Having to deal with one or two extra emails per day makes OP less productive?

    It takes a few seconds to type, “Thanks for file, we’re still on target for the deadline.” Even a more detailed response wouldn’t take more than a few minutes out of the workday, would it?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      It’s this:

      Two minutes after I receive a file to work on, she’s in my email asking me to send it to her when I’m done.

      and also this:

      If I ignore her email, she chats me. If I ignore that, she sends me a text or calls me.

      And don’t forget this:

      She does this to everyone on our team

      This employee is spending more time writing and sending emails, chats, text messages, and phone calls than she actually is working.

      1. J.B.*

        And that leads me to suspect it’s a strategy for avoiding work and blaming everything on everyone else.

    2. Generic Name*

      Guess you’ve never worked on projects that require blocks of uninterrupted concentration to produce the work? Fielding one or two emails that require an instant response absolutely can hurt your productivity. You have to constantly scan incoming messages so you catch the ones you must reply to right away. Every time you do that, you break your focus. So even if coworker sends max two emails daily requiring instant response, say OP gets 10 emails a day (which is a really low number for most busy professionals), she still gets interrupted 10 times a day. Most productivity experts suggest turning off distractions such as email notifications and organize your work into chunks of time. Unless you are suggesting OP mute all incoming messages EXCEPT for annoying coworker’s, essentially giving her top priority on every minute of OP’s workday, which I’m assuming you are not, since it doesn’t sound like it’s OPs role to exclusively support this one person.

      1. TWW*

        I guess not. My Google Hangouts window is full of “Thanks, got it” and “Will do” messages that I dashed off without losing focus. I’m grateful to have an easy job.

  26. Mental Lentil*

    People like this really set off my passive-agressiveness. I would be tempted to send her an email every three minutes.

    “Florinda, I just read your last email.”

    “Florinda, I’m opening the Jones account right now.”

    “Florinda, I just updated cell G24 on the Jones order spreadsheet.”

    “Florinda, I just closed the Jones account right now.”

    Not professional, but damn would her behavior really piss me off. (I highly doubt that I would create a blog about it, though.)

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I would SO want to do this. Perhaps after I’d accepted a position elsewhere and hadn’t told anyone yet.

    2. irene adler*

      “Moving curser to cell A2, verifying format. ”
      “now to cell A3”
      “approaching cell A4. Cell color value and chroma conform.”

      As I was informed when I suggested this one time, “That just wastes everyone’s time and doesn’t address the issue.”

      But I’d sure be inclined to do this myself!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I think the real risk is that Mother Hen misses the sarcasm, enjoys that level of reporting detail, and tries to make it your standard.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Live stream it.

      Call her up and say “I’m about to go live! You watching? I’m about to go live!”

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Now I’m imagining a TikTok account that’s nothing but editing spreadsheets.

  27. BlackLodge*

    I’d consider asking in a neutral tone, “Have I given you cause to doubt my timeliness?” If her response is something like, “mumble mumble well no but I…” I would say, “I appreciate that you’re on top of your work but you are making YOUR tracking part of MY workload, which I can’t accommodate any more. If I run into delays that will you, you can trust me to keep you in the loop.”

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This really is the best approach for coworkers like this.

      With a follow up the next time it happens (and it will!)
      “Remember, I told you last time that if there will be any delays I will let you know that hasn’t changed, now I need to get back to work”

      Again neutrally said…

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      you are making YOUR tracking part of MY workload, which I can’t accommodate any more.

      That’s perfect!

  28. Paisley*

    I have a co-worker that sends me an email, then 2 minutes later shows up in my office to tell me about the email he just sent me. I tell him, “yes, got it”, then he’ll tell me everything in it, “yep, I see that right here.” In the last two weeks (I started tracking this), this happened 5 times. Sometimes they have a request, sometimes they are just informational. And like the LW, I always get my work done on time. He just gets jumpy and feels like he needs to give the full background on everything in the email. It gets pretty frustrating when I’m busy :/

    1. Mental Lentil*

      “Did you get my email?”

      “Yes, but I deleted it because I knew you would come in here and spend ten minutes telling me everything that was already in it.”

      [Good lord, this letter really has my P-A amped up!]

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I kind of like this response :)

        I will admit to IM’ing someone I just emailed. It’s standard where I work to send an IM that says something like “Incoming email about the Paper Clip report that is crashing and burning!” This is mostly because we’re all buried in email and it’s a heads up to look for something in particular. It’s also judiciously used.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. We’re on a ticketing system that I check first thing in the morning, before lunch and sometime in the afternoon when it’s my turn to keep an eye on incoming assignments. If something’s urgent that truly merits immediate action, I’ve basically trained most of our customers to give me or my coworker a heads-up on IM.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “I have a co-worker that sends me an email, then 2 minutes later shows up in my office to tell me about the email he just sent me. I tell him, “yes, got it”, then he’ll tell me everything in it, “”

      I’ve had people do this to me and sometimes I take great pleasure in responding with “No, I haven’t read it but will later. I’m working on X right now” then turning away.

      1. SMH*

        I took over a team and had an employee do this and they were doing it to other people. I finally told them they could go discuss the topic with someone or send an email but not both. Took a bit of pushing back but he finally stopped showing up in my office after an email was sent.

    3. Cat Tree*

      What I really hate is when I’m talking with someone over chat and they need to email me a document. So they email it to me, and then tell me in chat that they emailed it. Yes, I’m aware of that because I can literally see it in my email.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        To be fair, I’ve had to do that in chats when people were on the road and their internet wasn’t the greatest. I would usually just say, “I sent the nanotech version 2 spec report. Let me know if you don’t get it.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, rural America. Do not take for granted I got your email or your voice mail or your text. Take nothing for granted.

  29. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I think this is another situation where “I have to track the time I spend holding your hand and bill the hours back to your team/department/overhead” is a solution.

  30. Spearmint*

    It continues to blow my mind that there are jobs that expect 55-60 hour weeks as the norm. Not only does it sound miserable, I just don’t believe people can maintain normal levels of productivity for that many hours a week. I’m often mentally fried after 8 hours! I can put in longer hours and be predictive for two or three weeks a year, but after a week or two of 50+ hour weeks I’m usually a bit burnt out and need a few slower weeks to get back to normal.

    I recognize some fields require long hours like that, but I’m honestly not sure it’s rational. It’s certainly not good for the employees and their families.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Depends how much you are paid and what expectations are.

      I know friends who did that for 10-20 years, making 150K the first year, 200K second, and more later on. I couldn’t handle it, but they have and they have tons of money.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Adding, where I live that level of money also allows very short commutes in some cases. Which has value.

      2. Spearmint*

        I know they make it work, but I wonder how much more work they actually get done? I would think your per hour productivity must be lower if you’re working that mich.

        1. Carol*

          Some of my coworkers who kept those long hours were doing it because they did a lot of “visiting” time during the day with teammates and less actual work time, so they always needed to catch up.

          When I have had those long hours (can’t sustain it for more than a few months) I would try to make it work by doing checklist/follow ups/small emails/minor tasks later in the day. Or do anything tedious where I could check out a little bit and go into autopilot, do tasks that ran slow on my computer, etc. But can’t do it forever by any means. I need brain space and down time to be good at solving particular problems.

          Managers I know who keep these hours do it because they’re in meetings/discussions all day and can only get real work done at night. So maybe some switching tracks from day to night helps them?

      3. allathian*

        They may have the money, but honestly what’s the point in earning that much when never have the time to enjoy it?

    2. sequined histories*

      Teachers do this for a lot less than 6 figures. Yes, we have summers off, etcetera, but that only goes so far in trying to maintain productivity week after week. I’m acclimated to 60 hours per week week for the 5-day weeks during the school year, and I can sustain that, but there are often forces pushing for me to do more, and this year, with remote learning, I often can only take 1 full day away from work in a 2-week span. At least in the US, wringing every possible hour of labor from people is far too normalized.

  31. Boof*

    LW1, depending how often you interact with this person, possibly you could have a standing meeting to review all the projects to redirect any of these querries to. If that’s still too much then, yes, just tell them you are going to ignore these check ins if the deadline’s not overdue, and then ignore. Ignore. IGNORE AND DO NOT BREAK OR THEY WILL JUST BE REINFORCED BY INTERMITTENT REWARD. If they call or get to you in person then say “I will update you after the deadline” and hang up. It’s at the point then that awkwardness must be answered by akwardness.

    1. SMH*

      I would take the long way around approach. They email asking to meet the deadline and then IM and call my response would be:
      “Why are you asking?”
      “Because I want to make sure we meet the deadline.”
      “Have we ever not hit a deadline?”
      “Well no but..”
      “Did you learn something from someone else that makes you think we won’t hit the deadline?”
      “Well no but I wanted to check in with you on the deadline.”
      “I’m not understanding why you are asking.”
      Keep going around and around without answering the question but state you are trying to get to the root of their concern. If she goes to boss state that the conversation was very confusing and it seemed that coworker had information regarding a potential delay but couldn’t share it clearly.
      If you make it more work for her to engage with you and still give her little to know information she may stop or quit in frustration.

      1. Boof*

        But that sounds like even more work and more emails, which is what the LW wants to stop. Which is why either ignore or say “I will update by [hard, already established date, like the deadline or standing meeting]” if they confront in a way that can’t be ignored. And give zero other responses or joy to pestering.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*


      This, so much. If you ignore 4 emails and respond to the 5th, you’re not telling her to stop emailing. You’re telling her that it takes 5 emails to get through to you.

  32. Elbe*

    Related to the job that expects a lot of hours, I think that it may be worthwhile for the LW to think about how much time tasks are taking them. Could the issue be that, on average, they take longer to complete tasks than others in their role?

    If the role is to complete XYZ amount of work, the boss may be insisting on receiving the same output even though it takes the LW longer. This would be something that the boss should explain upfront, but it could be that the boss is not communicating properly.

    It’s possible that the boss has a mindset of “for $X, I should be receiving about Y number of tasks. In order to get the company their money’s worth, the LW will just have to work until Y tasks are complete, even if it takes 55 hrs/week.”

  33. Suz*

    I have a coworker like OP1’s. We have a ticketing system for customers to submit questions/requests. Every time some adds a comment to a ticket, I get 2 emails about it. This coworker is helping me triage a subset of tickets. Every time a customer comments, she’ll comment in the ticket to ask if I saw the customer’s comment. Then she’ll email directly to ask again. So I get 5 emails for every comment. Thankfully she did back off after I told her how many notifications I was getting.

  34. CW*

    I had this happen, except it was with my boss. Every morning I would get 6-7 consecutive emails from her and she demands immediate reply. And throughout the day she would demand immediate reply each and every time she sends me an email. I wasn’t allowed to wait even 5 minutes. Any delays, from a minute to an hour, would cause a fit from her. It didn’t even matter if I was on a tight deadline. It didn’t matter if I was trying to find the appropriate answer which would take some time to research. It was ridiculous.

    And in case you are wondering, she was very abusive, but that’s a story for another day.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I guess using the bathroom or taking a lunch break wasn’t allowed. Ugh.

  35. Workfromhome*

    LW1 I think its time to be blunt and firm “proactively” that way you are less inclined to snap (which BTW I totally understand when someone is being so obstinate it almost seems like the only way to get their attention.

    Set a meeting with the co worker and tell her that you are committed to being as efficient as possible and getting her requests to her on time as you have been doing. Maybe show some data if you have it that you get your stuff done.

    I’ve determined that the following things are hurting my productivity and my ability to serve the people I serve. Reminders 2 minutes after sending me an email, calls when I dont reply to non urgent emails within 5 minutes etc etc.
    I’m asking anyone doing these things to stop. Here are several examples of you doing these things. Going forward I will be ignoring these things. If a project is due in a month I will follow up after 2 weeks with an update confirming the completion date. I want to be clear I will not deal with or respond to these things.

    Then send her an email reviewing your meeting.
    Use some of the things people have suggested email rules etc. Send things to a folder and for the first week or two review the folder regularly to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
    Let calls go to voicemail .

    If she comes to your desk and its one of these badgering things remind her of the email and the meeting the first time.
    If she does it again say loudly enough for those around you to hear (politely but firmly) “We have discussed this process in our meeting and in my email. These interruptions are impacting my ability to provide service to everyone including you. You need to stop “IS THAT CLEAR?” and then say nothing. If she says anything other than Yes we are clear just repeat are we clear until she says yes or walks away.

  36. Andie*

    MEAM627 (LW2) – I don’t have any advice for you other than what’s been previously said, but just wanted to make my first ever comment to show support. I am a breadwinner mom of 2 young kids who regularly works 10-11 days (in a field where that is the norm) and it is so hard. I am well-paid, but I regularly have the internal debate of “at what cost” and am constantly rebalancing the scales in my head to make sure I haven’t tipped over too far. I know that every parent has to go through this calculus, but “mom guilt” is a special breed. I hope you make the right decision for you and your family and move forward guilt free.

    1. MEAM627*

      Thank you for the support! Hugs to you. It is…EXHAUSTING. I do most of my extra work after my kids are in bed so that they don’t feel the repercussions of it as much. And when I’m not working, I’m with my kids, pretty much 100% of the time. It’s rare that we do a date night or girls’ night out or anything of that sort, because I try to give my whole attention to my kids when I’m with them. So I think the quality of time you spend with your kids is often more important than the quantity. But that’s hard to remember when your mom guilt is keeping you awake at night!

  37. MissDisplaced*

    Ugh! One of my managers gets like this sometimes. Like, if you don’t respond to the email in something like 10 minutes, he starts emailing a bunch of other people to ask about the work: where it is, when it will be done, etc. Sometimes he doesn’t even see other emails where I’ve responded. It is SO ANNOYING when people do this.

  38. Carol*

    Definitely had a boss that expected 9 hours of onsite work time (with 1-hour lunch intermittent and working lunch more common), plus working at home for 1-2 hours, as a default expectation for everyone, even people making entry-level salary. There was a similar lack of boundaries about types of work being done, with the expectation that everyone be available on demand at the drop of a hat and still complete all normal work, take on work totally outside of job description, work nights and weekends, work while sick, etc., etc.

    I found this to absolutely be a boss problem, with some added pressure in particular careers/areas–but if the boss wants you to be a workaholic, it’s going to be hard to ever change that and still be seen as a great performer. You can set boundaries but you might sacrifice some opportunities. For me, that’s worth leaving over (particularly because it’s difficult to impossible for anyone to do 11 hours of great work day in/day out, month after month…so not only is it personally unsustainable, it also just seems inefficient, unproductive, and performative, etc.)

  39. Marie*

    We are kindred spirits and I feel like we work with exactly the same person!
    Because I’m a Petty Polly, every time she asks, she gets bumped further down my to-do list. I actually make more mistakes with her clients than anyone else because she puts so much pressure on me to get it done as fast as possible and the multiple emails is so overwhelming.
    I tried to talk to her last year when half our staff was laid off because of Covid. I was doing two jobs and she still wanted everything back same-day. Someone else in my department told her off and she reported it to me. I said nicely ‘he’s not wrong. You do send excessive emails.’ I’m talking 4 emails and 2 chat messages in 10 minutes and one email is relevant. Or I’ll fire up my email in the morning and she’s emailed me multiple times overnight because she’s up all night stressing about everything.
    She got really upset, like I’d insulted her. She said she’d work on it, but it hasn’t changed.
    Everyone has their quirks; I’m a pretty laid back person – her polar opposite, so it drives her crazy that I’m a manager and I don’t sweat the small stuff.
    I wish there was a good answer, but she’s 60ish, so I’m just holding out for her retirement. lol
    It can’t hurt to talk to her, but in my case, this is her coping mechanism – if she didn’t send all those emails she’d explode from stress. Someone suggested CCing her boss; he gets a million emails too. We’ve actually joked about it in management meetings.

    1. allathian*

      Sounds like she needs to be put on a PIP. That might scare her into changing her behavior. You can’t be responsible for managing her anxiety. If she’s 60, given the way things are going, she could easily be there another 20 years.

  40. ErinWV*

    The first letter makes me think of my boss, who loves to ask me to follow up with people. “Did we get such-and-such report yet? Follow up today if not.” Even if they said they’d have it in by Tuesday last time I followed up, and it is not Tuesday yet. Makes me feel like a pest, but I am just the messenger.

    (But this treatment is also only reserved for people who routinely miss deadlines, which does not seem to be the case with OP1. So…)

  41. bopper*

    “Cow-irker: I just wanted to talk to you about the way we interact. My job is to process the TPS files. That is what I do. I keep up with them daily. So what I would like you to do is just send me the TPS file and that is it. You do not need to email me or chat me that you have sent it. I see it in my inbox. By me having to read your emails and chats it actually slows me down. So to speed my processing for you, I am requesting that you stop following up so often via email. I also have to prioritize other files so if yours is due in 2 weeks and another is due tomorrow, I will do them in priority order. I always send them back to you when I am done so you also do not need to spend your time telling me that as that is part of our process. Is this something that you can do? I know you do not intend to slow me down.”

  42. bananab*

    I occasionally get clients like this, and it’s doubly awkward because I have to find polite ways to remind them that I’m not working on their project every day, so constant check-ins aren’t terribly productive.

    Worse, it drives email thread length through the roof, making it easier to miss or forget important details, and that no doubt wrongly reinforces their notion that they have to stay on top of things in this manner.

  43. Nancy Hammond*

    LW 1: Depending on the tools at your disposal, you may also be able to block out focus time during which everyone:
    a) gets an auto-reply to their email
    b) sees you have focus time blocked on your calendar
    c) sees a “busy” sign on your office door
    d) sees a “do not disturb” icon in Teams (or whatever)
    e) has their call go straight to voicemail
    f) some or all of the above as needed

    This would get you some peace and quiet without making it all about Annoying Co-Worker.

    The problem with the auto-reply directed at Annoying Co-Worker is that one time where she emails you, “My cat died”.

    LW 2: This is actually better than when your employer says they value “work-life balance” but they really don’t. You know where your boss stands and you can decide if you want to live like that or get another job. FWIW I work for a non-profit and I make six figures and I work 40-ish hours a week–but I live in a high-cost area and I have a LOT of experience. If I had little kids I’d be in the National Enquirer.

  44. NotThatOne*

    To LW2:

    My brother-in-law works 11–12-hour days regularly. He’s a CFO at an international corporation and makes seven figures.

    Just in case you need a data point. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. MEAM627*

      When you’re pulling in $1 million+ in salary, I’d expect 11-hour days would be the norm!

  45. LizM*

    I wonder if OP1 has asked her coworker why she needs immediate confirmation. It may be her own personal quirks. But at that point, maybe there are ways to meet her needs without interrupting your workflow.

    My boss has a habit of assigning things with a due date of, say, Friday, but will start asking if it’s done on Tuesday. I’ve found that he does this when his boss has made it clear that the deadline is critical and my boss’s anxiety starts to racket up. Realizing that means that I respond to his questions with an explanation of how it’ll be done on time, vs. just “not yet” which is what I’d normally say 3 days before a deadline.

    It may be that you agree to send an acknowledgement to her at the end of the day.

    I suspect that her need for acknowledgment is more about her than it is about you. Maybe she has been burned in the past, maybe her client is breathing down her neck. But assuming it’s about her, not a question of your competence, it may make you more open to trying to find a compromise.

    1. Workfromhome*

      Disagree. If the person was your boss then yes you need to accommodate their work style. If they are a peer or below and they need something from you then as long as its regularly delivered as needed and on time your issues are not my issues. These are not her NEEDS. She needs the report done right and on time. She WANTS to have contant confirmations for her own personal satisfaction. There is no requirement to accommodate someone’s quirks if it has any negative impact on you or your pefromance. Her desire for confirmation do not override your duty to provide what’s needed to everyone else in the company. Jane is not interested in compromise.

  46. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    Same here.
    I have weeks with an insane workload, then I have weeks with a 35-40 hour workload plus two days of travel (often on weekends) to get to/from the site – and then there are weeks where I have way less to do.
    I’m at an age (mid fifties) where I value interesting work and work-life balance more than money, partly because I can afford to. I’m not rich by any means but have little obligations and a somewhat frugal lifestyle, so if my company should demand unsustainable workloads for too long I could just say no, quit and semi-retire as a freelancer.

  47. In defense of coworker*

    So I’m a few days late in responding to this story, but I am going to share my story anyway. I’m actually going to come in defense of this coworker. I’m going to share my story.
    The client called me to ask a question about my job, which I answered. She said, “While I have you on the phone, can you give me a status of a ticket which is not your job?” I looked up the ticket and saw which employee was working it and sent an e-mail to that employee, “Hey, client asked about this ticket. can you please get it done this week.” That employee responded in e-mail, “Yes I can.” This employee had service level agreements, which they had to adhere to, I was not asking them to do anything that was “not their job.”
    Two weeks later, same client calls me back. Yells at me because other employee didn’t do his job. I sent an e-mail to employee, “I thought you were doing this? I just got yelled at.” Other employee complains to boss. “I’m busy doing a project and had to push my daily work aside, which is all missing service level agreements, but the project needs to be worked on.” That boss complains to my boss about me.
    I get written up, because “I didn’t monitor to make sure the employee was getting the job done.” So yes, I was told that I needed to pretend to be other employee’s supervisor to keep abreast of this work, so that I could know if it was completed.

    So now let’s look at “Jane” in the letter. She follows up to make sure work is getting done. Did she get reprimanded once by the boss because the work wasn’t done because she didn’t keep tabs on it? Is she dealing with the client? She may not be communicating timelines well. “When I did this job, the client got the report by 9 am, and now they expect it by that time, so at 9:01 they start asking me, “where is the report?” This is why I am sending you e-mails. There was a discussion of, “what is end of day?” 3 pm, 4 pm, 5pm. Could it be that she can’t do her job until you’ve done your job? There is potentially lots of reasons why she might be doing this, and you may need to figure out what the reason is.

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