updates: the scream-yawns, the condescending coworker, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker scream-yawns (#2 at the link)

I am pleased to say that I have found the funny side of this situation. Not much has changed, but I was able to reframe it in my mind and find it ridiculous (and it is so, so, so ridiculous). I did find some courage and comment on the noise. One day, I audibly startled every time she scream-yawned and asked,”Are you okay?” I said it every time, and even went over to her to explain, “I’m sorry I keep asking, it just sounds like you’re in pain!” Her colleague started laughing, and when I did it again a few days later the colleague laughed and said, “You’re scaring LetterWriter again!” I try to do this consistently to remind her that I’m here and I have ears.

She is sometimes quieter now, at least with the scream-yawns. Sometimes. Right now, she’s loudly singing along with whatever is playing in her headphones. She microwaves fish. She has very loud phone conversations about ridiculous and inappropriate things. She leaves sticky, unexplained residues on the microwave buttons. I have found Office Satan. Headphones are my saving grace – though they don’t block her out, it dulls the noise so I don’t startle as much. I got approved to telework an additional day. I have many, many, many stories once dinner parties are a thing again.

Thank you for helping me come up with a script, and for your readership helping find the funny side of it. I’m sorry to everyone who yawns involuntarily at this update.

2. I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting

I ended up sending an email to Chad a few days after the meeting to express how uncomfortable I was by the way he used me as an example. I wrote out the email not fully intending to send it, but more as a way to find some catharsis for myself, but after sitting on it for a few days (and having some trusted colleagues review it), I decided to go ahead and send it. I felt confident that I wouldn’t be punished or use up any capital with him, and I figured that even if he didn’t take it to heart, it couldn’t hurt for him to at least have the feedback. The basic gist of what I said was that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but that that it had made me uncomfortable, and I thought that it could be more effective and comfortable for everybody in the future if he gave us his advice/instruction without specifically bringing any individual into it. His response was about what I expected: he thanked me for telling him, said that he was aware it wasn’t the best way to approach it, and would refrain in the future. Then he kind of backtracked and said that while he got what I was saying, sometimes it’s more effective to be specific and real rather than “dance around using somebody’s name,” which can make it worse. Ultimately I don’t have a lot of confidence that me saying something will have much effect on future meetings, but I do feel better knowing that I at least tried to bring the issue to his attention.

I wasn’t able to respond to the comments when the post went up, but I did read them all and was very grateful for the excellent insight from both you and the AAM community. A few things were mentioned both in your response and comments that I wanted to elaborate or comment on.

First off, the line about whether Chad has a history of not understanding how humans work and your theory he lacks emotional intelligence (seconded by many in the comments!) is so spot on that I laughed reading it, in an if you don’t laugh you might cry kind of way. That’s the most succinct way of describing him that I can possibly think of.

Regarding chain of command, it’s a little confusing. Chad is the head honcho, and I do have a direct manager (Susan), but two there are two other senior team members (Lydia and Polly) that we refer to as managers who have just as much a hand in reviewing my work and giving me feedback as Chad and Susan do (and sometimes more), though they’re not officially anybody’s manager and don’t have hiring/firing power (they manage specific projects, not specific people).

One other thing I wanted to explain better is that he didn’t actually show the team the document he was referring to when discussing the issues he noticed. It wasn’t the kind of thing where specific examples were necessary, and he was just talking about tone in a more general manner, which, again, was one of the reasons I took issue with him mentioning me and my document specifically. It’s true that mine was one of the most recent documents he’d reviewed, so it was fresh on the brain, I suppose, but it wouldn’t have changed the feedback or instruction at all if he’d just said that these were things he’d noticed in general and wanted to give everybody a refresher course on.

Thanks for all the advice and feedback!

3. My condescending coworker tries to take over my work and is a disruptive know-it-all

I know it hasn’t been very long, but I have an update! Several of the commenters asked where my manager was in all this. They’ve been really supportive (they’ve had a lot of experience with dudes like this one) and in our last 1:1 they let me know more details from their meeting with Aloysius’s manager. It turns out (surprise!) that Aloysius had been giving the impression that his org either had official backing, or that such backing was imminent, and that its work was “strategic”. The manager was a bit surprised to learn that neither of those things were the case … and Aloysius has been very, very quiet recently. Whew!

Thanks to all the commenters for their support and helpful and/or entertaining suggestions. This is gone from being something to complain about to something to be amused by–always a great upgrade. :)

4. How open can I be about living with a coworker? (#2 at the link)

I wrote in previously about sharing an apartment with a coworker because I was worried that would seem unprofessional or otherwise reflect badly on me. This is my first job out of college so I’m still figuring out some of the norms, but your response as well as the comments from readers helped me realize that I was worrying over nothing. Some commenters were spot on that I come from a very religious background and went to a conservative, religious college. We didn’t even have co-ed dorms, so living with someone of the opposite gender was considered to be a bit scandalous, the kind of thing you do quietly and don’t advertise. It’s good to know that isn’t the attitude in most of the country (I’m American, just from a deeply Catholic part of the Midwest).

My fun update is that because I relaxed and didn’t guard the fact that John and I are planning on living together, we are now planning on moving in with 2 other coworkers! They were planning on moving in together sometime in the fall and when I mentioned to one of them that John and I would be getting a place together, she floated the idea of the 4 of us getting a house together and now that plan is in motion.

I’m very happy with how this turned out. We’re all young professionals in our first jobs moving to a city we’ve never lived in before where we don’t have much of a support system, so it’ll be nice to have a couple different people around to rely on in case of emergency.

{ 104 comments… read them below }

    1. anonymouse*

      Really, I would tell her it’s Amazon prime day so she can get a good deal on some chalkboards and fake fingernails for those spare minutes in her day.

  1. middle name danger*

    I hope you enjoy having a house, OP 4! I personally think having an extra roommate or two is well worth it to have a yard instead of thin apartment walls.

  2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Nnnnnot gonna lie, I have some eyebrows for #4 and the idea of living with a whole houseful of coworkers.

    1. Portial*

      Why, though? They’re adults, and the arrangement makes sense to them. And the “whole houseful” is four people. They don’t really have the numbers to start a movement, or a revolution, or whatever concern is raising those eyebrows.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I would assume that the eyebrow raising is more about living and working with the same people- which could be a bit suffocating, and could make it harder to maintain work/life balance!

        1. Tech Consultant*

          Depending on the work, they could be at the same company but only rarely working together.

          I’m a consultant, and historically, a LOT of fresh hires room with each other – they’re all required to move to Tier 1 HCOL cities fresh out of college and then expected to travel 4 days of the week. Living with a group of people on a similar schedule makes sense, and it’s very rare that more than one or two of each new hire class will end up on the same client account.

          1. OP #4*

            OP here – you’ve got it right, we work in a huge company (our division alone has 600 employees!) and don’t interact much at work! The nature of my work actually means I can’t ever talk about it, both because of confidentiality concerns and because it is so boring that I would never want to torture anyone I like with the details of my day to day tasks.

            We’ll be on similar work schedules and all work in the same building but on different floors, in different departments, and on completely different projects, so I don’t foresee any issues with bringing work home.

      2. anonymouse*

        I think it’s because there will be no break. Venting about work, or even talking happily about a project at work may carry into free time, leaving no break from thinking about work.

      3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        Can’t speak for the person you’re responding to, but having once shared an apartment with a colleague, it can be challenging for work/life balance and boundaries and in my case that got very suffocating very quickly. That’s why my eyebrows raised at that update. But, my situation is not their situation and I’m sure LW and co. will work it out, and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll adapt the plan accordingly.

      4. TiffIf*

        They don’t really have the numbers to start a movement, or a revolution, or whatever concern is raising those eyebrows.
        That seems a really odd conclusion to jump to with why someone would be concerned about the arrangement. The concern is about work/life balance and blending work dynamics and home dynamics. Any tensions about something going on in the shared home space that isn’t strictly work related can affect work. And vice versa–any tensions in the workplace get carried home.

        I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I dislike blending work and home to that extent so it would not be for me.

      5. JSPA*

        Because of the drama if things don’t work out with even one of the four.

        Because finding a replacement 4th, when the other three work together, is harder, unless you’re looking only at workplace people, in which case, the pool is smaller and it’s more awkward to say “no.”

        Because if someone is fired, it can be extra awkward / no escape.

        Because if there’s any risk of one of you being considered for a promotion over any other of you, the living situation becomes a problem.

        I’d still do it, but “hey, this is a no brainer” isn’t ideal, unless it’s a really loose housing market (which is not currently true just about anywhere).

    2. Crystal*

      It could be amazing. Or it could crash and burn in a blaze of glory that will take out the city block.
      But good luck! :)

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I did think that more roommates have the potential for more roommate problems or a bad roommate when your friends of friends haven’t vouched for them, but the good will likely outweigh the bad. I feel like it make sense for participants in a “leadership development program with a big national company” to end up as roommates because there’s a cohort of young recent grads.

      1. Lightning*

        Yeah, as a graduate of a “leadership development program with a big national company” myself, if their program is like ours, this doesn’t strike me as a problem. My class in that program were pretty much all right of of college and we socialized together pretty much all the time (and had several sets of roommates). Very few of us actually worked on the same projects at work, so that angle of work problems invading life and vice versa didn’t really apply.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I had a roommate from my employer for the first several years after I bought a townhouse. It worked out great. We generally weren’t on the same projects, we could carpool in quite a bit, etc.

    5. Retired(but not really)*

      My first job after college I ended up in a household composed of coworkers. It worked out just fine. We initially had an apartment then found a house where we could each have our own room. Then moved to another house when the owners of the first house (military) were back. Even having one of the housemates as supervisor didn’t cause issues because we were all good workers and also dedicated to the mission of the organization. Only reason I moved out was because I got married. Incidentally it was to the brother of one of the housemates! I’ve lost track of the other two due to my frequent (military spouse) moves after leaving there. Wish Facebook had been around back then, maybe we would have kept in touch.

    6. Sandman*

      I think it makes a lot of sense in a first job scenario. That’s a phase of life when you’re used to living with a bunch of people that are a lot of times kind of random; there’s always the chance that it gets sticky, but it seems just as likely that they’ll turn out to be a great source of support. And in a year, who knows? Everyone is more comfortable in this new place and might decide to go their separate ways.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, I’ve been in that situation. You can’t afford your own place, you’re newly arrived in a city for work and don’t know anyone, so it’s a choice between sharing with coworkers, or random people found on Craigslist. I’ve done both, as well as sharing with classmates, and it’s always worked out fairly well. The OP’s original situations – friend of a friend moving at the same time – is one of the better options.

        What I do recommend is setting things out clearly before moving in. How will you handle money (rent, utilities, common household supplies), cleaning (hiring someone for weekly cleaning can go a long way), what are the policies on visitors (particularly overnight), what kind of roommate are you (schedule, cooking, tidiness, etc). Plus, how will you handle leaving – how much notice if you’re going to move out, who owns what of the commonly used items, how is the lease handled. In the case I had like the OP, we were both on the lease with the option of changing it if needed, we had a two months notice policy (it was a month-to-month lease), and we each purchased half of the common use items, so when we left, we could either take our own items, or sell them to the other at a reasonable used-goods price.

    7. Tau*

      Living with coworkers was unavoidable at my first job – we were employed by a… professional services company? who’d send us to other companies as contractors; the other companies were usually too far away to commute back and forth in a day and the company would rent flats for us to share. It worked out OK – I got on well with the guy I shared with, although I could have done without him also being the only other person on the same project as me, because it meant we interacted all day at work and then also lived together. That’s a bit much of anyone!

      That said, it’s a risk because if the flatmate/housemate relationship does go south it’s likely to impact your work relationship, and you can’t go to HR to sort out your living arrangement and potentially shift you around like we could. If you can afford it, and once pandemic allows, I’d actually honestly suggest OP sees if they can split a cleaning service – cleaning duties are a really classic point for friction to start in flatmate relationships and outsourcing them can stop a lot of problems before they start. I think the fact that my company back then immediately arranged cleaners for every one of their rented flats is a large part of the reason why the whole thing went as smoothly as it did.

      1. PollyQ*

        And vice versa — if there’s any strain in the work relationship, there won’t be any escape from it at home. But possibility of problems isn’t the same thing as a guarantee, or even a likelihood, so with a little luck, everything will work out fine.

    8. TiffIf*

      Ditto–I mean I have lived with co-workers before, but in every case it is I had a roommate who recommended me for a job so we were roommates and THEN co-workers; but I am wary of the reverse.

    9. Mango Is Not For You*

      Same. My company went through layoffs a while back, and there were a lot of people in our customer support team who were seriously impacted because every adult member of their household (roommates, couples, parent/adult child) was an employee of our company and lost their job. Be careful putting all your eggs in one basket, kids!

    10. Paris Geller*

      I think it depends on a lot of things. It certainly can be a bad idea, but it can also work out fine. I’ve done it before and didn’t really have issues, but here was the thing: we were “coworkers” in that we worked for the same company, but different sites. We maybe worked together 3-4 times a month at all-org meetings or for special projects. I think I would feel differently if I lived with people on my same team, which I’ve also done before while in college, and was a lot more stressful.

    11. ecnaseener*

      I don’t even want to ride the subway together with coworkers! Work time is OVER, I want to go home and forget all about you.

      But hey LW, if it works for you, more power to you!

    12. A Feast of Fools*

      When I was in my mid- to late-20’s, it was super common for people who worked at my [global software & hardware] company to share an apartment or a house. It wasn’t usually people who sat in adjacent cubes, but people from across our huge department who worked under different managers and who were focused on different markets.

    13. ToodlesTeaTops*

      I worked as a camp counselor for one summer as a college student. We lived in cabins with other coworkers. While I loved the experience I had and a ton of fun, I was never going to live with coworkers again. And I say that as an introvert who loves to socialize. It blurred the lines for me too much. I like to compartmentalize my life and leave work at work and home at home.

      Still, it might be a good experience for OP to have.

  3. Catalin*

    “I have found Office Satan.”

    This is why I read this site…
    Alison, if that’s not a tag line or sub header, I don’t know what else you’d use.

    1. Sariel*

      YES!!! I’m going to keep that tucked away for the next time I encounter someone like this (luckily, not for a while at my current workplace).

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      To be honest I misread it the first time as Office Santa and was very confused.

      Office Satan makes a lot more sense.

      1. Lizard*

        Easy to mistake Santa/Satan – that co-workers sounds like the gift that keeps on giving!

  4. Similar college*

    I must admit…I am curious as to #4 went to school. I went to a Catholic school that only had same sex dorms as well and the OP would have graduated around the same time as me. I’m so happy she got everything figured out!

    1. OP #4*

      OP here – if you understand the gravity of the question “What dorm were you in?” and also the memes about Daddy J embarrassing us on the national stage to attend a party in a rose garden, then we went to the same college!

  5. Bostonian*

    Wait. #2. He wanted the examples to be “specific and real,” but didn’t actually show the document when talking about it? Just used OP’s name? Got it.

    1. anonymouse*

      Did chad get whiplash between telling OP pretty much, “I wanted to point out general things that everyone does, because I’m seeing it across the board, so it wasn’t really about you.” To, “it’s still better to use your name and your work as a specific example of things I don’t want to see.”

    2. OhChad*

      Not OP but a colleague of OP here. To give some context:

      -these documents are long, usually upwards of 100 pages
      -this happened during a standing monthly meeting, which are usually quick and informal (20 minute or so)
      -Chad doesn’t really have agendas for these meetings. Instead he just seems to talk about whatever has come up recently
      -our company has grown tenfold since Chad first started it, but he wants to be just as involved in every department as he was when it began. It’s not sustainable and often results in meetings like this one, where the topic isn’t particularly well-thought-out or helpful

      1. Non non*

        My condolences to you all. “Sending Chad on vacation” would be one cause I would donate to if I worked with you.

  6. CoveredInBees*

    In addition to her scream yawns, she sings along with her own headphones on (no one sounds good like that) and MICROWAVES FISH?! She does sound awful.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP, if Office Screamer starts clipping her fingernails at her desk or selling Mary Kay or Amway at work, I think you’re allowed to the nearest church and blow out a candle in her name. Or I’ll do it for you, promise.

  7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 “I’m sorry to everyone who yawns involuntarily at this update”.
    But you’ll hate us if we scream-yawn, is that it?

    1. Magenta Sky*

      That line reminded me of an article I read once about how contagious yawning is. It started with

      “If you see someone yawn, you’ll probably yawn. If you hear someone yawn, you’ll probably yawn. If you read about someone yawning, you’ll probably yawn. You’re probably yawning right now.”

      It was correct.

      1. AKchic*

        Yes, but if someone yawns in the woods alone, does someone on the internet sympathetically yawn in return?

  8. Black Horse Dancing*

    #1 Love the term Office Satan. I kind of want to aspire to that title. :)

  9. Wisteria*

    I try to do this consistently to remind her that I’m here and I have ears.

    I think you should try the direct route. Try to find a moment when you can say thing privately, and try this: “Coworker, I don’t know if you realize how loud you are when you yawn. I startle easily, and colleague jokes about it, but your yawns do actually scare me. It would really help me if you could be try to be quieter when you yawn.”

    1. Xenia*

      Given what OP has mentioned about the rest of the shenanigans, I feel like the time for appealing to basic courtesy has long ago vanished as this person has no basic courtesy.

      1. Lizard*

        The level of self-absorption this co-worker has is high. No amount of civility will make a dent in that.

      2. allathian*

        She should be banished to WFH permanently. I suspect she’s one of those people who enjoy the office environment and having people around them, but don’t care in the least how their behavior impacts other people.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      She sings along to the music coming through her headphones. This woman probably thinks people who don’t like her are “haters,” that she is a rockstar ray of sunshine, and I will bet money that shares memes on social media about how you don’t deserve her at her best if you can’t handle her at her worst.

  10. Aquawoman*

    I can see my autistic stepson doing some things like LW#1 describes, because he doesn’t always know that he’s making noises out loud, eg. If someone made a direct request not to microwave fish, he would never microwave fish again. So, I feel a little sad seeing that kind of stuff being described as “Office Satan.”

      1. Wisteria*

        I notice you assign lack of consideration to Screamyawner but not to Aquawoman’s son. Is that just because you know Aquawoman’s son is autistic? How do you know Screamyawner isn’t similarly oblivious?

        1. Let's Just Say*

          LW has commented on the scream-yawning multiple times and it’s still happening, so I don’t think “obliviousness” is an excuse anymore. Also, having loud and inappropriate phone conversations at work is another sign that LW’s coworker is simply inconsiderate.

          1. Wisteria*

            She has commented, yes. But she has never asked Screamyawner to stop (and never asked if it is something SY could stop).

            All the distracting things that SY does occupy a different space in everybody’s social contract. When the same actions by different people are assigned different values, it’s a good time to examine your underlying beliefs both about the social contract and about the different people in question.

            1. Princess Deviant*

              I’m basing my assumption on the fact that LW reports that the scream-yawner is able to modify her behaviour sometimes. I inferred that she knows that it’s annoying and can stop herself when she thinks about it.
              I don’t feel that I need to re-examination my underlying beliefs. Thanks, though.

              1. Wisteria*

                I inferred that she knows that it’s annoying and can stop herself when she thinks about it.

                Wait, so you took the report that SY is quieter sometimes and inferred that it is because she is able to modify her behavior, and from that you conclude that she is inconsiderate? That is definitely a belief that warrants reexamination. Modifying an annoying behavior is considerate, not inconsiderate.

                1. WellRed*

                  Why are you so invested in litigating this? Not everyone has a diagnosis but from this site you’d never know it. Sometimes people really are just rude and inconsiderate.

                2. Tree Hill Grass*

                  Good grief
                  Yes, you can reasonably conclude she’s being inconsiderate according to all the info in the letter

    1. Myrin*

      I mean, it’s a fact of life that all kinds of things all of use do, whether autistic or not, whether intentional or not, whether objectively bad or not, might be cause for someone else to give us a negative nickname in their mind.

      If your underlying point is that Scream Yawner might actually stop some of her annoying behaviours if OP actually asked her to – which Alison advised re: the yawning and which OP doesn’t seem to have done at all – then I fully agree and I seriously think OP is doing herself a disservice by not being direct.
      If your underlying point is that maybe Scream Yawner is autistic/has some other medical reason for how obnoxiously she behaves, well, it really doesn’t matter, and it’s against site rules to try and diagnose something like that.

      1. Wisteria*

        has some other medical [me: or non-medical but not also not intentionally annoying] reason for how obnoxiously she behaves, well, it really doesn’t matter,

        The actual reason might not matter, but how one frames annoying people in one’s mind does make a difference in how easy they are to tolerate. So suggesting a non-malicious reason for the behavior is helpful in framing it with grace rather than judgement.

        1. ToodlesTeaTops*

          I’m neurodivergent. I find it a very odd angle that OP must reframe her coworker as Autistic because of her rude behaviors. She’s already reframed it in the way she is comfortable with and has been handling it. Her coworker is choosing to ignore it.

    2. Liz*

      I must admit, I get a little startled at some of the things that get labelled rude on this website. I was raised by a rather conservative mother who was fixated with manners, but some of the things that come up here would not have registered in our house at all (licking your own fingers while eating a sandwich, apparently?).

      My father is a scream-yawner, my mother a scream-sneezer, and I often burst into song without realising I’m doing it. If someone were to directly say “it actually makes me jump when you yawn like that, could you try and do it a little quieter?” then it may be possible to try and curtail it. But from the letter, all anyone has done is make jokes and hope the colleague gets the message. It isn’t “rude” to fail to interpret a passive aggressive joke as a genuine request.

      1. Nela*

        Licking your fingers in public has been labeled rude by every etiquette source I’ve ever seen. It’s not made up by people on this site.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, absolutely. Some families don’t make an issue of it at home, but it’s definitely rude to lick your fingers while eating in front of anyone who isn’t a family member.

        2. Liz*

          Quite possibly, but it’s not one I’ve come across before. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I’m very used to seeing people lick their fingers in all sorts of public settings when eating finger food and I think I would struggle not to do it.

          1. Liz*

            Just to clarify, I don’t mean bathing your hand in saliva, but discreetly removing a few crumbs or a blob of mayo. Our usual office lunch is sandwiches and crisps, and the generally accepted way to get the last bits of crisp off a plate is to lick the pad of your finger and dab it around to pick up all the bits. I wouldn’t do it in a posh restaurant, but if I was in a posh restaurant, I wouldn’t be eating sandwiches and crisps either.

            1. Le Sigh*

              For what it’s worth, I think this conversation (and a looot of others on this site) is evidence that there isn’t one clear set of etiquette rules for the whole world, even for those who consider themselves an authority on these matters. Something that’s rude in one part of America might not be rude or even typical in another part of America, or the UK or Germany or Japan or Russia, etc. But also just because you weren’t raised with a rule that licking fingers is rude doesn’t mean others don’t find it rude. For example — seeing you do the chips/crumbs thing in a communal office would gross me out, because to me that’s what a napkin is for. (My spouse does something similar and it’s also gross then, but we’re at home so I shrug it off because hey, we’re at home and I do some less than appealing stuff at home, too.)

              I don’t have a specific point, other than it probably behooves us all to not get overly declarative about what proper etiquette is, to keep an open mind, and be mindful of how our behavior impacts others. I see etiquette less about what polite society dictates and more as a useful tool to be considerate of those around me.

              1. Liz*

                Yes, there’s a whole lot of subjectivity to it. I’m actually quite fascinated by the variations in etiquette around the world, and fell down something of a research hole trying to see if this was one of them. I’m in the UK, and despite our reputation for prim and properness, the variation in etiquette is vast and highly idiosyncratic.

                I get a lot of anxiety in social situations and tend to try and read what the people around me are doing to identify whether something is acceptable or not in that particular group or setting. My workplace is pretty informal, while being highly considerate in other ways. A loud yawner would probably inspire warm laughter or a “good yawn!” comment rather than irritation, but if someone said “are you able to stifle your yawns, they’re so loud they’re actually making me jump!” I imagine that person would try.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  I do the same in group settings. It can be tricky to navigate. And it is fascinating and like everything, tied up in our own biases and experiences. Things you grew up with are normalized and then when we encounter something different, we feel like it’s rude. And that doesn’t even touch on how it gets tied up in race, class, etc.

                  And FWIW, I don’t think informal is necessarily inconsiderate. If it’s a welcoming and gracious place where people are considerate of their effect on others, that always feels so much more important than which fork you use. Manners are important, but you have to balance that alongside being welcoming and open-minded.

                  Also yes, this is something I always look into when traveling! There’s so much variation in tipping, table manners, restaurant etiquette, ask v. guess culture. I don’t think it’s possible to be perfect but I do at least try to figure it out ahead of time. And when people visit my city, I try my best to be gracious because we’re all just human. (Except for the American woman who was standing in a restricted area of a historic monument when I was vising another country — she kept feigning like she couldn’t understand the guard, who was speaking sternly in Spanish and waving his arms, and I yelled at her to get out of there and quit embarrassing her people.)

      2. Koala dreams*

        Often it’s more rude to communicate with your co-workers in passive aggressive jokes, actually. (That being said, those comments doesn’t sound like jokes to me, more like indirect requests that might or might not register with a less indirect person.)

  11. Panhandlerann*

    On #2: I’ve had a similar experience, only with–can you believe it–a job candidate! I was writing center director at my university. During a job talk by a candidate for a dean position–an event that anyone and everyone on our small campus could attend and that in this case had attracted a large roomful of attendees–he, in response to some kind of question from the audience about student services–thought it proper to ask if the writing center director was there. I raised my hand to indicate I was the one. Really, in the context of what he’d been talking about, I thought I was about to be praised for our kick-ass service or something! Imagine my surprise when he proceeded with criticism of how the writing center was publicizing its services (based on nothing more than his single interview day on campus, during which, apparently, a student showing him around had said something about the writing center). Just wow.

  12. Cherries on top*

    #1 Why just not talk to her and ask her directly to stop some of her more inconsiderate habits ?

  13. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    #3 is a deeply satisfying update. I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Aloysius got a talking to about misleading his manager!

  14. Julia*

    LW 1, you thanked Alison for helping you come up with a script, but I wanted to point out that you actually did not use Alison’s script. Her recommendation was to just ask your coworker to keep it down, and you went with a more subtle approach. That’s your prerogative, of course, and sometimes we decide preserving the relationship is more important than being explicit.

    But it’s also true that you are still having some problems with this coworker. So I think it’s worth thinking about whether it might make sense to be as explicit as Alison suggests about some of these issues. “Would you mind trying not to microwave fish in the future? Sorry about the inconvenience, but the smell really bothers me…”

    1. Tree Hill Grass*

      I agree OP needs to be more direct
      They might have to space out their requests as that coworker is a doozy

  15. CouldntPickAUsername*

    minor tangent: I remember when I was a kid I used to yawn burp. Whenever I yawned something about stretching the airways or whatever a small belch would come out. People acted like it was the weirdest thing ever. Thankfully I grew out of that.

    1. Jas*

      Grew out of like your body just stopped doing that of its own accord, or you found a way to control it? I have the same problem and have yet to find a solution beyond ‘never yawn if another human is present’ :(

  16. Insomniac*

    For LW1, I laughed so hard. I am a 100% scream sneezer. It drives me up a wall when people insist that is controllable. Some of us truly do have that amount of sneeze force and trust me it’s super embarrassing. I wish it didn’t happen. I sneeze every day and it’s always multiple times in a row. Super embarrassing with how loud it is. I’ve even seen an allergist and they said I’m not allergic to anything they treated and no meds , over-the-counter or prescription, helped control it. So I promise I tried.

    But scream yawning?!? How is that even a thing???? I feel like such a hypocrite here but scream yawning sounds incredibly self-indulgent! That does not have the same type of uncontrollable erupting force!!!! …. Right?

    1. Snailing*

      Not doubting your scream-sneezing here at all – my mother is also one and she truly cannot help it! It’s just a thing with some folks, and is what it is.

      But I think it’s more about the other signals you send while/after a scream-sneeze that makes it inconsiderate/bothersome or not. If you feel a scream-sneeze or scream-yawn coming and try to angle it toward your inner elbow to muffle what noise you can and say “Excuse me!” afterword, that’s very different than, for example, not moving your face away from whomever you’re talk to while doing it so they get the full brunt force of the noise (and maybe even some spittle) and acting like it’s not a big deal.

      It does sound like OP’s coworker is really just too aloof to realize she’s stepping on toes and not actively malicious, which does make me wonder if she’d put more effort into minimizing the effect if she was directly asked to.

    2. Magenta*

      My mum used to constantly moan at me that my sneezing was too loud and wasn’t “ladylike” I learned to stifle my sneezes and now it is a habit. It is really uncomfortable and sometimes it actually hurts but it is automatic for me to do this weird squeaky stifled sneeze.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      It’s not every time, but sometimes my husband’s yawns are very loud–I am assuming similar to what OP is hearing but obviously I can’t be sure. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say there’s like the big intake of breath, and then a sudden expulsion of air that comes with a loud sort of yell. He definitely doesn’t do it on purpose, but I’m not sure he’s ever tried to prevent it either so I suppose it’s possible it could be made quieter…

  17. Pikachu*

    #4 – The idea that early-career colleagues should not live together because “drama” reeks of privilege. Young people (and middle-aged, and old people) simply can’t afford rent on their own. That’s just a fact of life for far too many of us.

    Might it blur the lines between work and home? Yep.

    But what is the alternative if you cannot afford to pay rent by yourself? Ask your parents for money so that you can avoid an awkward situation should someone happen to get fired? Take on a second job just in case you get promoted and your roommate doesn’t because it might be awkward? Move to a cheaper area with an hour and a half commute where you can live alone but avoid some other potential awkward scenario that may not even happen?

    It’s just bananas.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      This is an oddly defensive response. I think it’s pretty clear that no one is saying they shouldn’t have roommates, just that they might be better off finding roommates they don’t work with. If they’re all happy with the arrangement I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but they definitely need to go into it with eyes wide open around how things at work might cause issues at home or how things at home might cause issues at work.

      1. Pikachu*

        The original letter said they are all moving to the same Expensive City for this job, making finding non-coworker roommates that you don’t already know somehow even more unreasonable. At least a coworker has been vetted to some degree. Who wants to be new in town in NYC/DC/wherever with the added stress of moving in with a total stranger? It just doesn’t make sense.

  18. MangoAngel*

    I wonder if you could get away with setting up a recorder in your workspace to get Office Satan’s scream-yawn’s for a day or two.

    Then edit them together into one clip, and play them back at random intervals so SHE can see what it feels like to be startled by a baying banshee a dozen times a day!

    Imagine her face when she realizes it’s her own beautiful chords caressing her ears…

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