annoying coworker lurks near every conversation, am I over-dressing, and more

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

1. My annoying coworker lurks near every conversation

I work in a small office, nine employees total including my manager. One staff member has a hard time separating home and work life. She has a lot of personal phone calls, with complete disregard to everyone else in the room; sings or listens to music loudly; and brings in random objects from home, including a vegetable plant, which honestly has no place in the office. This is just a list of a few things that have happened in the past month alone.

But this doesn’t describe the actual issue I have with her. She has a huge fear of missing out, so much that it has made it completely uncomfortable or awkward to have both work-related or passing conversations with others. If she sees other coworkers talking, she will just stand there/linger in the back waiting to say something, even if it makes no sense to the conversation. Sometimes people just walk away, never finishing their conversion. Finally, the part that gets me the most, is when she interjects in the middle of when someone is talking to just add something, sometimes never allowing the person to finish their statement or story. It’s gotten to the point that when I see her coming, I just leave the room. How do I get her to stop, without it seeming like we are talking about her behind her back, which would be the only way to have a full conversation?

First, I think it’s awesome that she brought in a vegetable plant and I want to know what it is. I hope it’s something enormous like a corn stalk.

The other stuff … she does sound annoying, but I’m not sure that you’re focusing on the right stuff. The singing, loud music, personal calls, interruptions and general disregard for people around her are all legitimate issues to address, because she’s disrupting other people’s ability to focus and get work done. You get to say, “Could you please turn that down?” or even “Could you take that call in the hallway? It’s making it tough to focus.” And you get to raise it to her manager if that doesn’t work.

But the lurking around other people’s conversations isn’t as clear-cut. You can’t really exclude people from social conversations being held in common areas at work, even if they involve themselves in annoying ways. Sometimes having to deal with socially annoying people is just part of the deal at work. But work conversations are different; if you’re having a work-related conversation and she’s lurking, you can pause what you’re saying and say, “Did you need one of us?” or even “Can you give me and Jane a few minutes and then I’ll come find you if you need me?” And if she’s being disruptive, you can say, “Hey, could you leave this to me and Jane to hash through on our own, since we have all the context” or “Having more cooks in the kitchen will complicate this, so I want to keep this to me and Jane” or “We have an agenda to get through, so let’s talk later.”

If none of that works and she stays disruptive, you could speak with her manager about the work impacts it’s having. But try to really separate what annoys you about her as a person from what’s impacting your work.

2. Fellow intern has a perk I don’t

For a few months, I was the only intern on my team in a creative field. A few weeks ago, due to some internal restructuring, another intern, Kate, was moved from another team to ours.

I have noticed that this intern is never working on Mondays, and when I glanced at the team calendar, it turns out this intern has every Monday off. The topic came up once when we were having lunch, and she said she’d negotiated this perk so that she could “pursue other creative projects” on Mondays. I understand that this could be cover for a reason for these days off that isn’t my business, but it really does seem like she is telling the truth from the way she talks about these days. More than once, she has made comments to me like “wow, I really got nothing done this past Monday” and “I tried to do X project this past Monday but ended up napping.”

I do not have Mondays off and did not realize this was something I could even ask for as an intern. However, we are in the same profession and I also have personal creative projects that a three-day weekend would do wonders for. I also worry that this extra time off could benefit Kate’s performance, and we are in competition for very limited full-time roles at this company.

Am I wrong to feel weird about this, since we are both interns on the same team with otherwise the same duties? Is there a way I could try to get this perk for myself, or do I just need to accept that I’ve missed the boat on this? We’re just over 2.5 months into the internship and have about two months left, with the possibility of extending.

Yes, sometimes you can negotiate stuff like this before you accept an offer! And sometimes people do negotiate different perks for themselves; that isn’t inherently weird. Sometimes they get it because the employer really wants to hire them and this is a condition of their acceptance. Other times they get it just because they asked for it. You see this in non-intern work all the time — someone negotiates a different schedule for themselves, or extra time off, or a higher salary.

I wouldn’t try to negotiate it for yourself at this point; you accepted the initial set of terms, and it’s already pretty far into the internship. However, if you do get offered an extension, it’s definitely something you could try asking for at that point. (This assumes this is a paid internship; if it’s unpaid, there’s more leeway for saying now, “I spoke to Kate about her schedule and wondered if you’d be open to that for me too.)

Also, it’s something you could talk to your manager about in a mentor way — not asking to do what Kate’s doing, but saying, “Until talking to Kate, I hadn’t realized that was something interns could potentially negotiate for. If I wanted to do something like this in internships in the future, is there a way that’s effective to go about asking for it?” So you wouldn’t be asking for it now, but you’d be asking for guidance for future jobs, which is totally appropriate to lean on an internship boss for. (And who knows, there’s a chance it could lead to her telling you that you could do it now. Just don’t go in counting on that.)

3. Am I overdressing for work?

I know you just recently had a question on how to look pulled together in the workplace. As “women of a certain age,” my sister and I have been talking about what is most appropriate now. It seems that business attire is finally evolving. I think it has to do with the pandemic and people just feeling differently about work and clothing because of that. But she and I are both pretty old school and were taught to dress very conservatively. I mean, I only in the past couple years stopped wearing pantyhose all year! So for us, office attire is a suit, nice top or blouse, pumps (or other appropriate shoes, maybe sandals with a heel but never flip flops), and understated jewelry. Perhaps a scarf to pull it together.

My sister recently was in a meeting with a pharma rep who was much younger, and was wearing a lightweight summer dress and flip flops. Are we overdressing? Are others under-dressing?

I suspect we should dial back the formality a bit and maybe lose the scarf most of the time. Maybe even lose the jacket or go to a more casual blazer rather than a suit jacket. But I’m not sure. Also, we don’t want to revamp our entire wardrobes since we are both nearing retirement so hope to not be spending much money on these clothes in the near future. I don’t think we’d be comfortable in a sundress, but also don’t want to look like fuddy duddies.

Yeah, there’s been a real move toward significantly less formal clothes. It’s possible you’re seeing people who are under-dressing (that’s definitely a thing that happens!) but a lot of industries have embraced the sundress level of informality. Flip flops are more controversial, although “nicer” flip flops — ones that are more sandal-ish — are fine in a lot of offices.

What adjustments might be right for you depend on your industry, your office, and what you feel like doing. There are some fields where what you’re wearing is pretty typical. But if you notice that colleagues around you are dressing more casually than you are — especially people who are doing well in your company — then yep, there’s likely a lot of room for you to de-formalize too! What to change and how far to take it depends on your office, but aside from the things you mentioned (no scarf, less formal jackets or no jackets), you could consider more comfortable shoes (like flats!), a cardigan instead of a jacket, and more casual fabrics (like fabrics that are lighter weight than suiting material; there’s a whole range of pants that are more office-y than jeans but less formal than suit pants — more like khaki-weight fabric).

It’s hard to say for sure without knowing your office! But I’d look at whether other women in positions of responsibility are wearing and calibrate based on that. (Assuming that you want to. You don’t have to change anything if you’re happy with what you’re wearing.)

4. Is it okay to want to quit because my boss moved?

Before the pandemic, I worked fully on-site at a corporate library. I enjoy most of my coworkers, and my boss was fantastic and always available if I ever needed anything. We all went fully remote in March 2020 until September, when a handful of people were in office a few days a week. During this time, my boss moved multiple states away. He’s in the same time zone, but it’s basically moving from, say, Texas to North Dakota.

While he’s told me constantly that he’s still available for any questions or if I need anything, I feel uncomfortable now that he’s teleworking 100% from across the country. I feel more like I’m bothering him if I need to reach out, and I don’t feel like I have the support I need for my position anymore.

There are several factors at play that have made me consider moving to a different job/company, but I’m wondering if having your boss move counts as a good reason to quit, both for myself and as a reason to give others. I have a litany of reasons why I’m considering moving on, and I don’t know if I should bring this one up even though it feels like it’s becoming a bigger factor. I don’t want to go out in a blaze of “here are ALL the reasons I’m leaving,” but it frustrates me and as I said feels like it’s near the top of my growing list.

If it’s going to be a reason you leave, ideally first you’d talk to your boss about the problems you’re encountering, because there might be more he can do to solve it than you realize. You’re not obligated to do that — you can leave whenever you want and for any reason you want — but especially if it’s a reason you give others, people are likely to wonder if you raised the issue first or not. (That’s especially true if you mention it in future job interviews.) At least from the way you wrote the letter, it sounds like the issue might be less with your boss (who repeatedly encourages you to contact him) and more about your discomfort reaching out to him. If that’s the case, at a minimum I’d try making yourself contact him when needed for a few weeks and see how it goes … and maybe have a conversation with him about the problem and see if he can help (for example, maybe you need more regularly scheduled check-ins).

On the other hand, if you have plenty of other things driving you to leave, maybe it’s not worth tackling this — but in that case, I’d focus more on those other reasons and not this one.

One caveat: If I were your boss, I’d want to know if I were losing staff in part because someone felt my move had made it harder to access me, even if that person hadn’t tried any of the stuff above. I’d probably be a little exasperated that they hadn’t tried after I urged them to, but it would still be useful to know that they felt barriers to doing it. So it could be worth relaying that to him when you leave, just not as your primary/only reason. (You’re right that you don’t want to present a long litany of reasons, but I could see mentioning it in passing.)

5. Should I reference video appearances and media interviews on my resume?

I, like many others, have been feeling burned out, so I’m starting to wade into the pool of looking for a new job. I work in the healthcare industry so Covid, for all the huge amount of stress and negatives, provided me with an opportunity to be fairly prominent. There are several professionally-made videos of me discussing things like vaccine dispensing, COVID data, or disease investigation. Is it appropriate to mention those or link them on a resume? Is it better on LinkedIn? Does it even matter? Or is it just a bad idea in general?

Similarly, is it ever a good idea to mention media coverage? Again, because of COVID, I have several prominent interviews (think scale of NPR, NY Times) in the media. My thinking is that these things show not only my knowledge, but my ability to discuss complex topics in an easily digestible way. Please tell me, is this just a bad idea?

Nope, it’s a good idea. You can mention them and/or link to them from your resume. There are a lot of jobs where hiring managers will be interested to see how you present in those situations — do you make cogent arguments, are you engaging, or whatever it is that makes sense to assess for the position. (That said, you don’t want a ton of links on a resume, so if there are a lot of them, you could set up a web page that links to all of them and just include the link to that page.)

The same goes for media coverage. You could include a line like, “Quoted in the New York Times and on NPR’s Morning Edition about XYZ.” If you’re the one who generated those interviews, mention that too — “Successfully pitched stories to the New York Times and the Llama Sentinel, resulting in front-page coverage of our viewpoint on XYZ” or so forth.

{ 520 comments… read them below }

  1. The Rafters*

    Re: Annoying coworker. No advice, just a comment. A veggie plant would be welcomed in our office. At one point, we took on an employee – promoted from another office. It took NINE people to move his huge vined plant from his old office on another floor. Then we had to give it a very good home on our floor b/c our office was renovated and we no longer had room. We replaced it with a tree, which also had to go to another home during COVID. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Wow, nine people! I hope it didn’t take that many people because they kept getting eaten by the plant…
      I have a feeling that eventually your office will just morph into a botanic garden if they’re bringing in trees now!

      1. The Rafters*

        They actually had to put the plant moving on schedules like a meeting. On top of that, one of our few private offices was being used to hold interviews. They could hear the racket and everyone came out to see what the noise was. No one was annoyed when they realized why everyone outside of that interview was laughing. I am very lucky. I work with a very caring bunch of imperfect humans. They are the biggest reason I haven’t retired.

    2. a developer*

      There’s a sprawling behemoth of a vine in the office adjacent to mine. It’s glorious and well cared for by everyone.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Oh, that was a fun movie! I don’t often go for old movies, but my old boss got me to watch it.

        2. nozenfordaddy*

          Oooh that’s such a good movie.. and have now discovered that if I want to rent it via Amazon I totally can.

      1. OyHiOh*

        At the main branch of our library district, the back office people all have their offices on a level that is marked basement in the elevators but is street level at the back of the building with lovely partial shade windows, etc. Somebody down there has a lovely climbing ivy plant that’s been gradually covering more and more of the office window over the past five years. It will probably take several people to get that plant out when that person leaves or retires!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My husband used to have a pepper plant at work. It look just like the ones they sell for decorative use, only it was grown from seed and he used it on lunches.

    4. meyer lemon*

      I’m picturing the coworker with a full vegetable plot next to her cubicle, brussels sprouts, a pumpkin patch, sacks of potatoes, the whole experience. Maybe the LW should sneak in during the night and plant a row of fava beans next the coworker’s desk to muffle the singing and block her view of coworkers talking without her.

      1. TardyTardis*

        A row of hollyhocks would work very well for that, too (and once you have hollyhocks, you will *always* have hollyhocks).

    5. quill*

      I used to have a 15 foot pothos vine, until the dog got tangled in it.

      It’s cuttings have since been rehomed, but none have ever gotten that long again.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I trained one to go around the entire top of my cubicle. I still have it, but now it’s trimmed. Until I get another cubicle, that is. :)

      2. Adultiest Adult*

        I have a pothos at home that I rescued from work in a Dixie cup that grew across the kitchen window sill, completely in a circle around the microwave next to it (fortunately I trained it on top so that I can still open the microwave) and is coming back up and over the window. It’s probably about 10 feet if you could straighten the microwave circle somehow. Meanwhile its plastic pot is disintegrating on the windowsill, but I don’t dare try to replace it because I can’t figure out how!

        Yes, I am the office plant person, but hilariously to me, all of my office plants came from other people! (No vegetables, however, but I do have a 3 foot tall coleus called ‘Big Red.’)

    6. JustaTech*

      I had a chemistry professor who had some kind if vine plant in one of her labs. It had gotten so big, and grown over so much of the lab that you were at risk of getting clotheslined walking from one side of the room to the other!

      1. TardyTardis*

        I have a friend who is a plant person, and if a burglar ever approaches at night, her vines will take care of *that*.

        1. oh no*

          nothing to add except your username makes me happy. seeing another transmasc in the wild always cheers me up.

      1. Gen*

        We accidentally started a trend for growing chilli plants in our office after mentioning how easy they were to grow. There was talk of a cooking contest, but due to concerns people would use shop bought chillies to cheat, there was just a taste trial. Two winners—hottest chilli grown and best taster endurance. Those south facing office windows might be the most missed thing after a year of WFH

        1. Coenobita*

          The chili tasting idea is brilliant!!! At my old job, I sat in what was basically a greenhouse – a former conference room turned into a shared office, in the southwest corner on the top floor of an old concrete-block building. The HVAC wasn’t great and it got up to 90 degrees on the regular. But it was GREAT for plants, including peppers. My coworker and I grew all sorts of chilis in there. It’s been several years and I still grow peppers from the descendants of those plants.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Not only did I not know there were 47 varieties to grow – but how do you remember which is which? Wow.

            1. Campfire Raccoon*

              With a spreadsheet! Excel makes a fantastic plotting map. I do a new tab for each season so I can click back and forth when I have volunteers.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Mini tomato plants are in our common areas because they are potted and easy to grow.

      3. Old Admin*

        Various teams in my office grew chili plants, to the point of of running little fans to simulate wind (prevents dropping of leaves) and swapping fertilizer tips.
        For two years, I grew tomatillos in a box on the low roof in front of the office window. However, it became too iffy if there would be fruit, as the summers here aren’t long enough. :-)

      4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I grew spicy peppers on the windowsill when I worked in local IT. Although spicy food doesn’t last long around techies as a rule….

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In addition to my badly nested comment about my husband’s Thai chili pepper plant, I just remembered he had a lemon-grass there as well. They get bigger than he could keep there though.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Lemon grass is insane. I’ve had to cut mine TWICE this year. I only planted it this spring.

          1. A Person*

            I bought some lemon grass at the farmer’s market recently, and the farmer pointed out that I could plant the bases of the plants and they would continue to grow. Since I already do this with green onions it made sense. So I got home, cut the “greens” of the lemon grass into 2″ chunks that went into the freezer, and planted their bases. I think I’m already seeing growth!

      6. No Name Today*

        Alison, I know you have the power to do this. Please change BEC to BGV. “Look at her over there, growing vegetables.” Thank you.

      7. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

        The science class next door started composting and accidentally grew a giant zucchini. It was marvelous.

        1. Clisby*

          This wasn’t in an office, but one year I bought a bunch of ornamental gourds to use in Thanksgiving decorations, and when they started to get old I threw them out on our small garden patch. That spring a lot of them started to grow. And grow. And grow. They grew out of the patch, across the yard, and started to vine up the side of the house. My inadvertent success gave me the (entirely wrongheaded) idea that I should be able to grow squash. Nope. Not a single squash plant fruited.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            I swear plants know when they are growing of their own volition vs because you want them to. Every plant I tried to add to my yard died within weeks but the ones that came with the house were IMPOSSIBLE to get rid of!

            1. Random commenter on Ask a Manager*

              I have 3 pots of aloe that are doing amazing. Last fall I brought them in from outside and decided not to water them for the winter just take them back outside when it got warm again. They look so nice still that I’ve not taken them back outside. And I’ve still not watered them. The leaves are still fat with water. I have another smaller baby aloe that I have watered and the darn thing keeps trying to die.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yup! Like, trees that are planted after a forest fire will just cling to the scorched earth, but then the trees that start growing because of bats spreading acorns and nuts and berries will start later but overtake very soon. Nature knows best.

          2. anonymouse*

            Please tell me you are the author of the McSweeney “It’s M-fing Decorative Gourd Season.”

          3. quill*

            Only volunteers work when it comes to squash.

            … I had horrible hybrid squashkins one year after composting the halloween pumpkins and then trying to grow summer squash. Never again.

          4. Run mad; don't faint*

            I have never been able to grow pumpkins except for the year we tossed a rotting pumpkin into the back of a flower bed. We had so many pumpkins from that we gave them away to the neighbors. I’ve forgotten how many bags of pumpkin puree and pumpkin piece we had in the freezer.

      8. High Score!*

        Once I brought a tomato plant to work and put it in a sunny window. Everyone thought it was cool. Unfortunately, there was not enough sun for the plant and it grew too tall and leggy. I rigged up some string to support it. Unfortunately, some tiny bugs found the struggling plant, infested the office and no one thought the plant was cool anymore :(

        1. DataGirl*

          Tomatoes can get huge. Mine are currently at about 6ft so wouldn’t work for an office, but now I have an idea what to do with all my chili plants in the fall that I don’t have room to bring into my house…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, I had to make a trellis out of yarn for mine on the back porch of my former home because they just went up and up and up. They also needed a lot of sun and water–I can’t see that working in an office.

            Off-topic, but I hope I find an apartment that has a sunny balcony or patio where I can grow some heirlooms again.

      9. Campfire Raccoon*

        I used to work next to a plant nursery that had been there for 50-ish years. They had greenhouses and most of it was shaded. They had mature show gardens and seating everywhere. It was extremely common for my coworkers and I to head down there for our lunch hour to walk or browse or stock up. Our main planting season begins October 1st when the weather is ~100 degrees. Cool enough to plant but not cool enough to leave hundreds of starts in the car in the afternoon. So the veggies come inside.

        My accounting department had ALL the veggies. For winter crops that means the brassicas like chard, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbages, turnips, beets, brussels sprouts, Asian cabbages. Mizuna, tatsoi, celery, flats of lettuces. Then all the herbs: sage, savory, all the varieties of thyme, cilantro, mint, parsley, dill, oregano, chives, rosemary. (Basil is easier to grow from seed)

        Maybe they’re would be pea starts if I was feeling lazy or behind on my planting schedule. Perhaps an adventurous set of tomatoes or peppers which can sometimes be over-wintered here. Short-season zukes or container cukes. Winter squashes. And then, because it’s cool enough to grow them in the winter, all the flowers.

        Now I do all my own starts at home. But I work from home, so does that make me unprofessional or just a crazy plant lady?

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          We did have an areogarden which would grow mini tomatoes and peppers but nothing spectacular like, I dunno, corn. Side note: my company would give every worker a poinsettia for the holidays. Inevitably I’d end up with all the struggling plants that were never taken home in my office. I wasn’t any sort of poinsettia whisperer – I just happened to have the coldest office in the building.

          1. quill*

            One of my professors had his (south facing) office window filled with pointsettia TREES because apparently if you give someone who has tenure and whose literal job is about dirt and rocks a large pointsettia yearly for 35 years, they grow from houseplants to shrubberies to a small forest.

            1. Adultiest Adult*

              And that’s how you end up the office plant person… “Look, they have plants, they must be good with/want plants!” And then you end up with an office literally called the greenhouse.

      10. Happy Habanero Plant Mom*

        I’m working remotely (just got the word it’ll be permanent!), but if I ever had to go back to an office I would absolutely bring my beloved office Habanero plant! I’ve always loved the plant and recently started hand-pollinating and have a solid half-dozen little peppers on it now.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        Honestly, this (and possibly a a basil plant) would be a bona fide reason for me to personally designate someone as the most awesome coworker in the office.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          A few of us grew some potted herbs on windowsills at our office for a while. I remember a basil plant, parsley, and possibly cilantro.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Try a potted mint plant – say, pineapple or apple mint. The leaves really DO have delicious pineapple or apple flavor, they’re easy to grow, and you can always snip off a few leaves to take home and tuck under the skin of roast chicken. Mmmm…!

          2. quill*

            See, I can’t have an office basil because I had a household basil last year, got attached, and I felt very bad when I moved cross-country and had to eat him.

      2. Lonely Aussie*

        We used to grow tomatoes at my old job as well, had a massive garden of them. It was Ag, but animal Ag so wasn’t really something we were supposed to be doing.
        Sadly the rats liked them too much for them to be safe for people to eat but we had pets among the production animals that loved a tomato snack or twenty.

    1. My dear Wormwood*

      I desperately want it to be a pumpkin vine. Preferably one of the ones for growing the kind of giant pumpkins you display at a state fair.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Yesssss. An out of control pumpkin vine weaving its way over and between cubicles, taking over in trays with its glorious bounty.

        1. KaciHall*

          So I started a garden this year and kind of lost control – I didn’t plant a ton and it is currently taken over by 3 foot tall weeds. I planted a few pumpkin seeds on one edge of the garden and didn’t see them until two weeks ago when it suddenly started trellising up the outside of the fence and over the gate.

          I did not realize pumpkins could do that. I’m slightly terrified that when the fruit starts growing it is going to pull my fence down.

          1. CarrieT*

            Yes! We had a pumpkin vine in our yard climb up a tree and out to the edge of a branch, and the pumpkin was hanging down like an ornament! We had to cut off the pumpkin so it wouldn’t damage the tree branch.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I discovered there was a climbing rosebush at the corner of my house when I looked out a second floor window and discovered that the hemlock pine was growing lovely red roses. We had to trim it back, but I’m slowly training the rosebush and the neighboring clematis to grow back up the tree.

            2. Frank Doyle*

              I’ve had hanging pumpkins as well, my husband thought they were cucumbers and planted them at the foot of a trellis. They keep such a great shape when they’re suspended — no flat spots!

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I am pretty impressed with the gumption of anyone who brings in a vegetable plant to the office. Just make sure that you share whatever it produces with your colleagues and you’ll be fine!

      1. WeddingGiftEttiquetteQ*

        LOL if it follows my own office plant experience that would involve me passing out a single basil leaf to each coworker at the end of the summer!
        I’ve never lucked out with plant friendly natural light in an office

    3. august*

      This is something I have never thought of but now question myself why shouldn’t I bring a vegetable plant at work…aside from the fact that I have no green thumb whatsoever and have had innocent succulents died on my watch T~T

      1. Pennyworth*

        Now I’m trying to think of plants that wouldn’t be suitable for an office. A triffid would be problematic. Also poison ivy.

          1. After 33 years ...*

            I can, unfortunately, based on my experience in my place:
            – anything with a scent or aroma (e.g. tulips, daffodils, mums, citrus) – allergies and sensitivities to aromas
            – anything with the “potential to cause injury” (e.g. cacti, roses) – health and safety
            – anything which can shed leaves, pollen, or airborne fibres (e.g. corn (silk), grasses, daisies) – allergies; cleaning issues including ventilation
            – anything which produces nectar or sugar – attracts insects; allergies
            – anything which is too large for 1 cleaner to move for cleaning – health and safety
            – anything which could be appetizing to mice, which do visit us in winters (all vegetables, most fruits) …
            I garden extensively at home…

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Do mice taste capsaicin? I wonder if chili/chilli pepper plants might be the exception to the no-vegetables rule if that were the case.

                1. PeanutButter*

                  I had a squirrel that visited our bird feeder as a child (my dad named him Steven Squirrelberg) who destroyed all my hot radishes one year. Ate a few bites out of the top of EVERY SINGLE ONE.

                2. NotRealAnonForThis*

                  Seconding. I roll my bulbs (at home) in a mix of cinnamon and cayenne powders before planting so that all the critters leave them alone. It seems like it works.

                1. LunaLena*

                  They are also repelled by mint! We have a sun deck that we share with our neighbor, and both of our households grow vegetables and herbs in pots during the summer. The neighbor gave us a pot of mint to keep squirrels away (they’ve been trying to get at her tomatoes), and so far it seems to be working. The squirrels ran rampant around our deck last year to the point that I was chasing them off with a broom regularly, but they haven’t been back since the mint appeared.

              1. RabidChild*

                Here to tell you that the mice that lived in my basement last winter absolutely loved spicy foods and would target them first (RIP Southern Heat BBQ Lays chips, I hardly knew ye)

              2. DyneinWalking*

                It’s mainly a mammal vs. bird difference. As in, mammals can taste it and thus (mostly) avoid the fruit, birds don’t and are therefore the main distributors of the seeds.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I had the sudden image of someone trying to grow peonies at work.
              (PSA for non-gardeners: They require ants to bloom.)

              1. Meh*

                I think I now know why my peonies have never bloomed. They grow stalks but don’t actually flower. Huh. Thank you

                1. Chauncy Gardener*

                  Your peonies might be planted to deep in the soil. They like to be planted quite shallow, so the crown is barely below the surface. 9 times out of 10 that is the reason for no blooms. Also, fertilize in the early spring. Good luck!

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                I’ve read that this is an old wives’ tale? (But also, bold of you to assume there are no ants in my office…)

              1. NotRealAnonForThis*

                Size dependent possibly? Small potted and on desk okay, chair sized one not so much?

                1. Forrest*

                  I had a colleague who sat next to another colleague who had the tendency to cover his desk with piles of paper which would gradually start tipping over onto her desk, so she started enforcing desk boundaries with cacti.

              2. PT*

                I’ve had several small cacti over the year and had a few run-ins brushing them accidentally, the most you get is an annoying tiny almost-invisible splinter on your knuckle that has to be pulled out very carefully with tweezers.

                If you can’t pull it out, it just hurts like a paper cut until it works its way out on its own, usually in the shower.

    4. WS*

      I grew a whole little soft herb garden because the back window got morning sun! Three kinds of basil and coriander! Everyone was welcome to take some home and many people did. They were a lot stronger than ones you can buy from the supermarket, so you only needed a small amount for a whole meal.

      1. Forrest*

        This is my dream! I am trying to grow herbs at the moment (just at home, which tbf is where I work), and oregano is going well, mint looks promising and basil is Not Having It. :(

        1. paxfelis*

          I’ve read in multiple places that mint wants to compete with kudzu in the Plants Eat The World Olympics.

          1. Rock Prof*

            I made the mistake of planting mint in a raised bed instead of a container (at my house, not work). Five years later, it still keeps showing up and taking over the bed.

            1. DataGirl*

              I stupidly threw some mint in the compost pile last year, now the entire space is overgrown with catmint. Mint is hella invasive.

              1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                Yes, mint is a great container plant but those runners will shoot off underground as long as there’s ground for them to grow in! Same for bamboo, by the way – lovely in a contained space, but it too will take over any plot of ground in which you plant it.

              2. quill*

                You’re going to have to let that compost cook for a while then… like, actively heat it.

                At last house, the mint and the wandering onions were having a war.

          2. Forrest*

            I have read this too, but last time we grew mint we managed to overgraze it and kill it. I am hoping it’s more resilient this time around!

            1. Exhausted Trope*

              Same here. Mint is supposed to be hardy but I and a current heatwave managed to kill one pot and half of the other. *sigh* Trying like heck to save it.

          3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            The Texas freeze this year killed all my herbs but the mint still managed to come back, growing out the side of my raised herb bed. Then if popped up in my raised bed 15 feet away (and separated by a fence). Mint is insane.

          4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I am desperately hoping that mint can outdo the thistles in my backyard.

          5. Miller_Admin*

            Penny Royal is a mint that is a natural mosquito repellent with small purple blooms. In the past I’ve planted them outside my front and back doors.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I can’t even grow weeds, I’m so bad at gardening. Last year someone talked me into buying an Aero Garden and I failed with that, too. Mint, basil, and thyme just gave up. Maybe they knew it was easier and quicker than letting me have at them.

          What’s the secret to growing herbs?

          1. The Dogman*

            “What’s the secret to growing herbs?”

            I’m more a flowers sort of gardener but a few tips are

            South facing window to get them started, not too much water at a time (water daily in small amounts is a good idea for a few weeks when they are young) and do not let them dry out totally!!!

            Here are a couple of sites that will get you going, one is a BBC gardening show, the other is the Royal Horticultural Society’s guide to herbs, and they really know their stuff!



            Good luck, it’s not too late to get some herbs going indoors if you can get to a garden centre or other plant selling shops!

          2. Bagpuss*

            In my experience, neglect. (And having suitable conditions, I guess)

            A lot of them like dry, poor conditions – I get parsley growing like a weed in the gaps in my patio, and in the driveway, and a magnificent sage bush which started life as a little supermarket ‘living herb pot’ which I left outside after stripping it bare for a recipe needing lots of sage. I’d intended to compost it and re-use the pot, but dropped it in the garden and forgot it, and it rooted itself in the gap between the path and the fence.

            1. DataGirl*

              I must have spilled some catnip seeds or the wind blew them onto the patio because I have giant catnip plants growing in the cracks between pavers. Mints will grow anywhere.

          3. DataGirl*

            my herbs do way better in the ground or a raised bed than pots. I tried for years to have potted herbs and never succeeded- this year I put them in a bed and holy heck they got huge. I have a basil plant that’s about 4 ft high by 4 ft wide- I didn’t even know that was possible. Mine also like a lot of water- I water every day that it doesn’t rain.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Saturday there’s a regular gardening thread — see you there?
            I’ve had mixed results–currently trying sandier soil & way drier between waterings.

          5. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Rosemary, thyme and sage grow high when the soil’s drained and dry,
            Basil, mint, oregano love to feel that water flow!

          6. Koalafied*

            Not herb-specific, but the most common cause of houseplant death is overwatering. People really underestimate how strong the sun is and how much slower soil dries out indoors.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Just thought of something else after watering my plants outside. A lot of plants don’t do well in plastic pots or ceramic — unglazed terracotta. And water from the bottom.

        3. Artemesia*

          Mint is great — it takes a lot to make a mojito and mint will grow like crazy. At our high rise, it is planted in flower beds rather than the herb pots because it will take over.

          Basil either has to have lots of sunlight or a grow bulb. We always have a plant in the closet of our den in winter with a grow light.

        4. WantonSeedStitch*

          My basil has basically thrown up its hands and said “whatever” this year. I need to do some real work to refresh the soil of my herb garden next year. Of course, the sage, oregano, and thyme in there have gotten to the “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” stage, so…

          1. Run mad; don't faint*

            In my experience, most herbs aren’t. I’ve had much better luck with them outside in either pots or the ground than on any windowsill. I’m honestly impressed that so many here have had success growing them indoors.

      2. Marguerite*

        That is my dream right there!! Sadly my current office (once I go back in person) has no good windows or sunlight for that. Otherwise that would be amazing. Did the garden smell like basil, etc? I always wondered if herb gardens did!

      3. KaciHall*

        Deer stay away from my (hot) pepper plants! I have 6 pepper plants and two cucumber plants in five gallon buckets on my front walk. The cucumber plant that was not near the pepper plants had been eaten. The feminine one had been nibbled on the side that wasn’t by the pepper plants. It is now surrounded by the pepper plants and I’m hoping to actually get some cucumbers out of it this year.

        1. KaciHall*

          Currently trying to figure out how my phone corrected ‘other’ to feminine. Unless my phone knows something I don’t.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            I’m not a plant person so I just accepted it. “Huh, do you have to plant cucumbers in male/female pairs?”

            1. KateM*

              There are plants like that but at least squash&friends have both male and female flowers at same plant, I suppose the same’s true for cucumber.

    5. Green great dragon*

      We had a team chilli plant, after getting the seeds from our local Mexican restaurant. I was most annoyed when my maternity cover lost/killed it (I never found out which).

    6. Bagpuss*

      I grew tomatoes on my office windowsill a couple of years ago – I have no greenhouse at home, but I do have a big bay window with no blinds in my office.

      They did pretty well, although as it turns out, an over-ripe cherry tomato in the printer isn’t ideal.

      I may try again next year . I’m also thinking of moving my miscellaneous baby citrus trees to the office because I only have narrow windowsills at home .

      (Speaking of which, do citrus trees breed true? Or are they like apples where you need to graft to get actual edible fruit?)

      1. river*

        Meyer lemons and pomelos won’t, but most varieties you can grow from seed no problem! Might take a while.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I no longer know which plants are which, but I planted seeds from Seville Oranges (when I was making marmalade) Grapefruit (from breakfast) limes (Gin) and possibly rom satsumas and lemons as well.

          I currently have about a dozen plants, all about 6 ” tall .

          They haven’t produces any flowers yet but I tend to have windows open both in the office and at home so I expect if they do flower, flies and bees will find them, although whether I have two of everything to allow for cross pollination is of course another question .

      1. Artemesia*

        I used to have a very successful meyer lemon inside (outside in summer) till scale killed it — I always hand pollinated when it bloomed indoors. First year I got a dozen big fat lemons on this tiny plant at Christmas time. I have had a new one in a big eastern window during this COVID year and it has not put out a single blossom.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Honestly the LW mentioning the plant as something that makes their coworker unprofessional, makes me doubt their whole letter. Then when I reread I see she has “a lot of personal phone calls, with complete disregard to everyone else in the room; sings or listens to music loudly” so I guess yes that would be both extremely annoying and unprofessional but bringing in a small plant – even a vegetable one – is not odd and is a major distraction in the letter because many of us want to tell the LW that they are off base about that one thing.

      1. Myrin*

        To your last point: yes, this is one of those letters where I go “Dear god, if only this one minor parenthetical hadn’t been in the letter!” because now there are more than 70 comments arguing about the stupid plant which is really not what the letter is about. (Not that I would might a lighthearted discussion about this exact topic in the weekend thread, mind you.)

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think whoever made the comment that this is a BEC style complaint is onto something. There’s a lot about this coworker that seems really frustrating, and when you’re that frustrated with a coworker it’s really easy to lump in every quirky and not entirely mainstream thing this person does with the entire list of annoying things.

        I’ve only ever worked with people who have flowering or leafy green plants, so I can see meeting a coworker and realizing they’re growing actual food products at their desk and thinking “huh, that’s different.” But I can also see why the OP would be thinking “Here is this enormous list of things she does that don’t belong in offices!”

    8. ES*

      LOL in my first post-college job I had a cube with a sunny south-facing window, and my house did not have good natural light, so one late winter I brought in a couple trays of tomato and pepper plants I was starting from seed to transfer to the garden when it got warmer. Didn’t cause any problems but I didn’t realize the extent to which I would be known as the “tomato guy” from then on. (And I’m not even a very good gardener!)

    9. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Corn isn’t a good choice. It’s wind pollinated and you won’t get any corn without a bunch of plants close together to pollinate each other. You will have sad empty husks.

      Citrus (dwarf varieties) can be quite happy indoors – they have beautiful glossy leaves and fragrant flowers and cute little fruits. Plus they will make you feel like Renaissance European royalty. But finicky a bit to take care of and not a vegetable per se.

      For veggies, lettuce and herbs are easy to grow.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        You can hand pollinate them, if you carefully take off the tassels and dust them carefully over the silks as they are emerging. It’s a labor of love, though, and on second thought I don’t think you’d want to do it in an office because the pollen gets everywhere.

        Man, I am really trying to make this office corn stalk work, LOL!

  2. MissGirl*

    OP 2: I would think you being in the office every Monday would actually make you more attractive for an extension, not less. I’m not sure why you think this would help Kate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, I meant to mention that and didn’t. I mean, I could see either possibility coming to pass, depending on the details, but if I had to guess I’d say being there five days a week would be more likely to work in your favor.

    2. Mouse*

      Agree. I manage interns and if I could only recommend one to a full time role, assuming all else is equal, it would likely be the one who seemed more fully committed to the work. I think work/life balance is super important, but the bias is there nonetheless.

      1. Healthcare Worker*

        Acknowledging our biases towards presenteeism is important, as is challenging them and ensuring they don’t impact on our decision making when it comes to promotions or job offers.

        A person being in the office 20% more shouldn’t matter if it’s agreed hours and not impacting on their quality of expected work.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I think what might get me about this intern is that she says she wanted the time to work on personal projects, but she’s also repeatedly saying they’re not getting done. I would try very hard not to let that skew my opinions of her overall, but it would make me wonder if she’s a person who struggles with keeping on top of tasks without supervision. That could have real work impacts if I was considering her for a full time position, so I’d be watching for that in her work for me (assuming our line of work required being on top of your own projects/deadlines.)

          1. andy*

            I don’t think what she said implies what you said. People who have free projects at home have normally ups and downs. And it is normal for them to feel like they did not done much despite the projects actually moving on.

            I was at positions with low supervision and had colleagues like that. The comments like that were not related to performance. Pretty often they are said by people who are more productive and they are ways to reflect and deal with self.

            And it is not like the other people would be in same situation and produced more. It is really something that requires much adjustment against “I have a boss” situation.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes. There’s also the mock boasting effect: like all the top students boasting that they haven’t started revising yet.
              Another thing is that it’s kind of hard to boast about the times you did manage to get going on your artwork, because then people want to see it: no I made some headway but it’s gonna need a lot more work before I can let anyone look at it!!! And people can be jealous when you get tons done (look at OP there!). People are always jealous of you having more time off than them, even when you’re being paid less PER HOUR because of not working full time as well as being paid for fewer hours. So if you mention that the extra day didn’t actually help, they feel a bit better about it, than if you managed to be hugely productive.

              However, if you think the person is not as engaged because they asked for more time off, well that’s obviously true, they asked for time off to pursue other creative projects. If the interns are equally good (which will rarely be the case), I’m going for the one who works a full week.

              Time spent at the office should not be the most important factor though. Yes I’m looking at you, nasty former boss whose golden employee was the doormat who stayed late every night even though I, the less-paid part-timer, managed to be more productive on all counts, even without taking into account that I worked fewer hours. I basically produced twice as much work in four fifths of the time.

          2. Allypopx*

            Ehhh I’m hesitant to judge anyone on what they’re doing outside of work, especially since you don’t have full context for those projects

          3. Dust Bunny*

            I mean . . . welcome to everyone with a job or school? I have a zillion personal projects that are not getting done, because I also have a full-time job. It’s not that I’m not committed to them, it’s that there just aren’t that many hours in a day.

            1. ratatatcat*

              Seems to me that that’s specifically different from a situation in which you have a dedicated day off in order to get that personal project done, since the point of the 3-day weekend is to create enough hours in the day

          4. Artemesia*

            yup impression management. If someone negotiated it because they were ‘taking a class’ or doing some other productive thing, it would not affect my decision to choose them for a job, but it might in the circumstances described here.

        2. andy*

          Yeah, I always find it surprising when managers here seem to be like “yup, I totally have that bias and stand by having it” as if that was something good.

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Beyond that, this is an internship. An intern might be juggling other work or school. Judge them by quality of work, and eagerness to learn. Using availability of one extra day a week might help perpetuate the inequalities that internships already promote.

          Now an intern who’s online in one day a week versus four or five – very different even in terms of the type of work/training you can offer. But one day difference – no, do not judge please.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            When I did my internship, my school had a max number of hours they could credit me with – which was less than 40 a week, so we negotiated me working 4 days a week because some complicated thing where because it was through the school for credit I couldn’t go over those hours. It was long ago so I don’t remember the details, but it could depend on the school program the internship goes though. I generally used that day to write all the papers about the internship that were required to get credit.

            1. Bagpuss*

              I wonder if it was to do with trying to avoid exploitation, especially if it was an unpaid internship?

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                I’ve done internships of as little as 15 hours/week and as much as full time (40ish).

            2. The Rural Juror*

              My internship for school credit had a minimum of 320 hours that needed to be completed. The guidelines said 8 weeks of 40 hours per week, but when I asked they said it was fine to work outside of those parameters, as long as I met the minimum. I worked 10 weeks at 32 hours per week so I could have Fridays off to work my weekend job. The internship was unpaid and I couldn’t afford to be without another job.

              However, it doesn’t sound like that’s what the LW’s fellow intern is doing. If I had every Monday off for a specific purpose, but wasn’t fulfilling that purpose because I was being lazy, I would definitely NOT talk about it. Know your audience! Geez!

        4. Red Swedish Fish*

          If we were talking about a regular employee then yes but being an intern you are learning by being there having the experience, you are going to loose out in some way if you are there 20% less than the others. In the beginning of any job a lot of it is face time, because your likely not coming up with something new and innovative to set you apart.

          In my experience being an intern long ago, I got the upper edge on things because I was around when someone needed extra help. I got hired on full time because I was the only intern to work the Friday before Christmas and that was the day the $%*^ hit the fan and I got pulled and taught how to do something new.

        5. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

          On paper, yes, but there is also the cost of opportunities that come by being in the office every day. The conversations and impromptu meetings you are part of. There is also the case of someone needing an intern to take care of a task and only one intern is present to do it. If you are not there 20% of the time, that’s 20% of those opportunities you miss out on. And those opportunities go toward your total body of work as an intern, the impressions you made, and so on.

        6. Observer*

          This isn’t presentism, though. It’s not that she’s just not in the office on Mondays – she’s actually not working the hours.

          So, yes. She’s going to be less attractive in most cases.

        7. Mouse*

          Yeah, I’ve been thinking more about this since I wrote the comment last night. I think it’s not exactly presenteeism, it’s more like, if one intern is taking a day per week to work on other creative projects, I’d think they’d be more likely to leave to pursue those things full-time. And again, this is assuming all else is equal. I may also be thinking about this differently as my company has excellent work-life balance to begin with.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        To be fair we don’t know if Kate is working at 4/5 our OP’s pay.
        OP I’d also suggest you look if she’s working longer days–four 10-hour days are growing more common.

        1. Mitzii*

          It’s my understanding that paid interns are usually hourly, so I would assume that Mondays off means no pay for that day.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Really? Every internship I’ve ever had paid a flat fee either weekly or monthly.

            1. Safely Retired*

              Which doesn’t mean one intern’s flat fee can’t be 4/5 of the one working Mondays.

            2. RabidChild*

              Depends on the company/internship. When I worked for a nonprofit, the interns’ stipends were provided by a grant to us from their university, so we could only pay them a set number of hours per week. For most of them (typically undergrads) that meant a 4-day week over the course of the summer.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                My internships were all W-2 hourly and I received a (smaller) paycheque alongside the regular employees on the same schedule.

            3. Aitch Arr*

              That’s a stipend, usually paid in conjunction with a university or non-profit/grant.

              If the company is for-profit and it’s a non-academic internship, interns should be paid hourly.

        2. PeanutButter*

          We also don’t know if maybe she’s working 4 days x 10 hours. I’ve worked jobs like that for longer weekends, it’s nice.

        3. Koalafied*

          That was my assumption as well. I’m sure their pay/stipend is correlated with the number of hours they’ve committed to.

      3. Public Sector Manager*

        In my office, we have about 8 summer interns a year. Some interns have asked for a less than full-time schedule (our internship is paid), and those interns are behind the 8-ball when it comes to an offer for a full-time job. It call comes down to the availability to shine. If a project comes in that Intern A can excel at and it’s due in 3 weeks, no issues with Intern A being off every Monday to meet that deadline. But we get a lot of rush work, and if a rush project comes in on a Friday or Monday and it’s due Tuesday, it’s going to go to another intern because of Intern A’s less than full-time status. And if that other intern shines, they are more likely to get an offer out of it.

    3. Vanilla Bean*

      Yes, and not just in the intern phase, and not just for this perk. If the perk is unusual for your office, the person is probably spending some career capital on it, which means they might have less to spend on other things or on moving up. An extra day off that most others don’t have is kind of a double edged sword, in that it’s (I assume) an unusual perk, and also leaves her less opportunity to set herself apart. That might be okay in her specific situation, but it’s probably not for everyone.

    4. MassMatt*

      I think LW #2 has been given a great opportunity to outshine the other intern. You get a WHOLE DAY a each week to network, learn the business, build relationships, and show value, all while she is literally napping!

      You will get to learn, and accomplish, TWENTY PERCENT more than her! This on top of her probably not being seen as very committed to the job compared to you. If this is a long distance race, you are being given the chance to run LAPS around her before she even gets started.

      Stop feeling jealous about her time to sleep in or work on other projects, and realize she is probably sabotaging herself. Go forth and conquer!

    5. MK*

      Yes, the only conceivable way this could help her is if she pulls off a really impressive project on her own time. And even then it would be something outside her work for the company.

    6. Forrest*

      I think this is a good thing for OP to discuss with her mentor, but not something she should make assumptions about. Assuming that more hours automatically equals Better, More Committed, More Likely To Get Promoted without calibrating for your industry (and your own personal choices) is the way to get into not-great habits and perpetuate an unhealthy work culture.

      Especially in this case, it sounds like OP and Kate are in a profession where having their own creative portfolio is a bonus, and Kate has more time to work on it than OP. Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all “more hours is better” if that’s not actually the case.

    7. Bostonian*

      The way it’s worded isn’t great, but I thought op meant they were worried about Kate not getting consideration (out of a larger pool: it’s not just op and Kate).

      1. Bostonian*

        Nevermind. Just reread “benefit Kate’s performance” and take that back.

        Alternate interpretation: Kate is more rested after long weekends so might do better when she’s there?

        1. Forrest*

          I read “we are in the same profession and I also have personal creative projects which could benefit from time off” as meaning the creative projects are related to the profession (writing, art, games design, film making, composition)– that to get professional jobs they’ll need a strong portfolio and OP is worried that that extra time will mean Kate’s is stronger.

    8. Heidi*

      So the way I ended up interpreting this is that since they’re in a creative field, Kate’s extra time would allow her to build up her portfolio more. If she’s a graphic designer, for instance, she might end up having more examples of her work to show if the employer was looking to hire someone.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I’m curious about the statement that the extra time to pursue personal projects might improve Kate’s performance, and that LW is in the same creative field. It makes me wonder if the internship and the personal projects are actually related, so that Kate might be building a portfolio or practicing work skills that would make her a stronger candidate.

      It’s a shame that the company sets up interns to compete with each other. That’s terrible for the work culture, and I can’t imagine that there’s good teamwork going on if even an internship is so cutthroat.

  3. Llewe*

    OP 3– I can understand not wanting to completely overhead your wardrobe that may only be useful until you retire.
    Try vintage stores and thrift/resale stores. Especially ones in upscale communities can have great clothes in great shape.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      Seconding secondhand stores! My first professional wardrobe was built almost entirely from the racks of the Goodwill in the most expensive suburb near my university. It’s also where I got a very nice $20 couch for my first apartment.

      1. Golden*

        Mine too! I had great luck at a secondhand shop close to an expensive university. A ton of the attendees were international students for whom I imagine it made more sense to get rid of clothing/furniture at the end of the year, rather than move it abroad.

    2. foolofgrace*

      Thrift and secondhand shops are great, especially in upscale neighborhoods. But whatever clothing you buy, wash it twice in the hottest water you can get, because … bedbugs. I’m just saying.

    3. Tech editor by day*

      My only problem with thrift store clothes is getting the smell of disinfectant out. Any success stories there?

      1. Yvette*

        I have found white vinegar in a spray bottle very effective. I have also heard that cheap vodka works well also.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        I use very cheap vodka in a spray bottle mixed with essentials oils and distilled water to make a lavender linen spray, and it also works better than Febreeze for me in removing smells on clothing. Maybe give that a try. I mix them as 6 tablespoons distilled water, two tablespoons vodka, 20 drops lavender oil. Put it in a 4 ounce bottle and I’m set for a few weeks.

    4. Smithy*

      I think another piece of creating a more business casual wardrobe vs business formal is integrating items of clothing from your non-work life into your work clothing. That can be mixing in casual “hard pants” with a more traditional work blouse or a more casual cotton t-shirt with a more business style skirt/blazer/etc.

      I know that some people enjoy having distinct work clothing from non-work clothing to separate different parts of their lives, but I think a large part of the “casualization” of work clothing has been from people no longer investing into having two sets of clothing. Rather it’s about having separate pieces that depending on how you match them can go from very casual to business casual.

      1. Annony*

        I agree. I think if you feel overdressed, you can easily dress down your current wardrobe without having to completely overhaul it. I also think that it may be a good idea to look around at other women at a similar age and position to see what they are wearing. I have noticed that people who are a little older (both men and women) that I work with tend to dress a little more formally than those that are younger. It does not stand out. If you are happy with what you are wearing, I don’t think you necessarily need to change it. If you are the only person in a suit, then maybe it is time to tone it down a tad, but ditching the jacket is probably enough. There is no need to go out and buy sundresses and flip flops unless you actually want to.

      2. Joielle*

        Agreed! I wear a lot of the same clothes in and out of work, except I’ll wear a blazer for work and a cardigan otherwise. Or a pencil skirt at work and black jeans otherwise. Lots of ways to dress down a bit without buying a whole new wardrobe.

      3. AnonaLlama*

        I love blending formal and informal pieces. Some of my favorite combos are blazer and jeans, sweater and wool slacks, a dress and more casual shoes with no hose. I wear these combos to work and on weekends. I started dressing like this years ago to elevate my weekend clothes for dinners out and other social things then once we starting working full time from home all boundaries disappeared. I only have one full suit in my closet now. It is black and is there for funerals and interviews. I remember when I was a child hearing men who didn’t work in a formal office environment saying the same thing. :-)

      4. Koalafied*

        TBH like 50% of my consideration when I’m shopping for shoes these days is whether they’re versatile enough that I can wear them when I’m working in the garden AND when I’m at work AND when I go out in the evening. Like good shoes are so expensive, I can’t be blowing money on shoes that only work in one specific place!

      5. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. And everyone’s idea of “business casual” is different. Here I can wear nice jeans and a polo, but that would be frowned on at a previous client’s office. No jeans allowed. I’ve never thought that flip flops were appropriate in the office. Flats or sandals, yes. I wouldn’t dress that far down. I also don’t generally wear a sundress with thin straps to the office – sleeveless, sure. A fun pattern might be the way to go for a casual dress without being too casual.

        Insofar as purchases, I thrift or troll the sites of brands I like and wait for end of season sales and buy staple pieces like a pencil skirt or button up blouse.

    5. Observer*

      Also “give / get” groups in your area. You give / sell at a low cost items that are in good condition that you don’t want anymore and can often find good bargains on things that others don’t want anymore.

      The other thing is that you’re in a position where you don’t need to update your wardrobe RIGHT NOW. So, it pays to keep an eye out for sales. There are also vendors that regularly discount pieces that are either not selling so well (but would work well for you) or that are ending life so they don’t have all colors and sizes any more.

      A number of vendors do stuff like this. It’s easiest to do this with on-line places, if you are comfortable clothes shopping on line. This would enable you to reconfigure your wardrobe over time at a reasonable cost. And some these folks do sell clothes of good quality.

    6. RagingADHD*

      And consignment stores! There’s one in a wealthier neighborhood near me where you can get barely-worn or new with tags designer clothes for the same price as discount-store merchandise.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I have a go-to shop like that for dresses to wear to weddings. I’ve sold some of them back to the same shop after wearing them. It’s nice way to feel lovely for a special event without breaking the bank!

    7. Sharon*

      How does a person have no business casual clothes in their wardrobe already? What do they wear to go to a restaurant, or to church, or any other place where they might want to look nicer than jeans/athletic wear and a t-shirt? I suspect LW#3 already has a blouse and a pair of slacks that would be completely work-appropriate and not a suit.

      1. Koalafied*

        I wouldn’t consider what I wear to fancy restaurants or the ballet or other classy places business casual – it’s much more “cocktail attire” that would be, if not actually crossing the line into inappropriate, still far more sex appeal than I would really want to be showing up to work with on a daily basis.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Also, look for stores that sell department store remainders. You have to look for irregularities or stains, but you can often find great work clothes and accessories there for a lot less. And check back frequently, as stock rotates often. There was one of these stores in my old city. I found three Chadwicks blazers there for $12 each–black, grey, and brown.

      I’m still sad about missing out on the $100 Louboutins, though. I should have gone for them even though I didn’t have the money; they were my size and so cute. :'(

  4. august*

    It seems like the manager moving is the straw that broke the camel’s back for LW#4 but I’d just note it as one of the reasons but not /the/ reason for resigning. It feels unfair for the manager’s part if you’ve never taken this up to their attention before.

    And if you do discuss it and a solution comes to hand, would you be willing to stay then? Or would the other reasons still hold your decision?

    1. Loz*

      I also think the LW is not helping herself. ” I feel more like I’m bothering him if I need to reach out, and I don’t feel like I have the support I need for my position anymore”. He’s still her manager and his job is still to manage and provide support when asked. Zoom, phone or email might not be LW’s preferred way of interacting, but the remote working is a done deal so she needs to adapt. Inability to work with a remote manager is not something I’d bring up as a reason for leaving a job, certainly not for a few years if at all.

      1. MK*

        I don’t know, the push for wfh seems to be an employee thing, with many companies pushing back. There is a lot of talk about companies not being able to find good workers if they don’t offer wfh, but the other side of that is candidates who prefer office work finding themselves in demand. If all these people who say they never want to work in an office again take themselves out of the running, that would lessen the competition considerably.

        1. Daisy*

          But even before COVID increased remote work in general, it wasn’t uncommon to have a manager on a different site or in a different part of the country. I agree with Loz, citing a remote manager as the reason is going to make OP look a bit difficult and inflexible. ‘My manager is inaccessible day-to-day’ is a different thing, which sounds reasonable (although not clear if it’s true, from the letter).

          1. alienor*

            I thought the same thing. I’ve had fully remote managers off and on for at least the last 10 years, not to mention teammates who were located at offices in other states or countries. I’m a little baffled at why this is a big problem for OP especially because the manager is still in the same time zone (though even when I’m working with people multiple time zones away, I just send them messages when I need to and they respond when they can, and vice versa). Maybe it’s the idea that the manager is working at home specifically, and it would help to think of them as being in another office?

          2. Observer*

            I agree with Loz, citing a remote manager as the reason is going to make OP look a bit difficult and inflexible. ‘My manager is inaccessible day-to-day’ is a different thing, which sounds reasonable

            Yes, the two things are very different. The first is not something I would want to hear from an employee – even pre-pandemic some level of remote work had been becoming more common especially as a way to accommodate either top notch employees or legal needs (eg ADA). And that’s the kind of thing that you often don’t know you are going to need till you need it.

            On the other hand, wanting reasonable access to your manager is, well, REASONABLE. So *IF* the manager really is not reasonably available, that’s a real and legitimate issue to bring up.

            I wonder about it though. The OP says that their boss keep saying that they are still available, but that THE OP is uncomfortable. They give no reasons for that, nor do they indicate that they have even TRIED to reach out as needed or discuss the best way to manage with their boss. That’s on them.

        1. Loz*

          You’re right, she does not *have* to adapt of course, only that this aspect is not going to change back so yes – adapt or move on. I guess what bugs me* is that she’s saying she “feels like” she’s bothering him even though he’s adamant that’s not the case. As far as I can tell she’s conflating “this isn’t how I like things” with “my management and support has been taken away” which from her own words doesn’t seem to be the case.
          If she’s got other reasons they might be an easier sell.

          *Yeah I know, not my problem but for some reason I do find this irritating.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            As far as I can tell she’s conflating “this isn’t how I like things” with “my management and support has been taken away” which from her own words doesn’t seem to be the case.

            I think you’re being a little hard on OP! This is a very short letter, we can’t tell much about the work situation and there are definitely scenarios where this would be really valuable info for the manager. For example, I think we’ve all experienced a dynamic where someone has said “oh, it’s no bother” but then acted flustered or put-off.

            OP feels disconnected from her manager, and that might be 100% her problem, but especially if this isn’t an office where remote work hasn’t been the norm, the manager may need to be more proactive about creating a culture where it’s easy for his employees to reach out to him and feel like they have an ongoing conversation. Just saying “oh, I’m available” isn’t always enough.

          2. a tester, not a developer*

            I suspect that OP has gotten to the BGV stage with the whole organization, and this is the final straw.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah I’m really confused as it doesn’t sounds like anything has actually changed. What is the difference between your boss working remotely from Texas and him working remotely from North Dakota? It sounds like OP is fed up with a lot of other things about the job but I’m honestly just not following how that is the piece pushing her over the edge…

        2. Colette*

          I’ve had jobs where I went into the office every day and worked with people in other countries. The OP’s concern is not that she’s remote, it’s that she’s working with a boss who is remote – which eliminates more just fully remote jobs.

        3. Observer*

          Why does she need to adapt? Perfectly reasonable to job search if remote isn’t for OP.

          They don’t HAVE to adapt. But if they cite this when searching for a job, it’s likely to work against them, even at an employer that doesn’t do a lot of WFH. Because “WFH is not my preferred job environment” is OK. “My manager is unavailable when needed” is an excellent reason to leave (if that’s ACTUALLY the case.) But “I want only want to communicate with my manager in persona (and won’t try to make anything else work)” which is what this sounds like is going to make the OP look rigid and generally un-adaptable. And it’s actively going to limit them from jobs at organizations with multiple sites.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I actually think it’s really good feedback for the manager. Not all remote set-ups are created equal and even if the manager is paying lip service to being available, they might have a set-up that isn’t as supportive as they hope.

        For example, if they have a set-up where they only touch base for problems (and no informal or regular check-ins) then that can make reaching out feel higher stakes than it should. Or lots of questions are small and email/phone/meeting would be overkill — maybe an informal chat function would reduce friction for those types of issues.

        1. Smithy*

          Another point on this, it may be that doing all check-ins via email/chat don’t best suit the OP’s work style and actually asking for a 10-15 minute chat would better suit. Or vise versa.

          If the OP truly does not know why they are struggling to connect to their manager remotely, and if the OP has access to an EAP – I think it might really be worth reaching out for some kind of support to better identify why. Not to diagnose or problematize the OP, but rather if the OP is struggling with a work set up and doesn’t know why, it may be difficult to avoid in future. Would a future manager who is in the same physical place but prefers all communication via email/chat be a similar problem?

          I’m fairly extroverted and have had very isolated jobs in the past – but being aware of why and how I like to work has made me mitigate and adjust to not just COVID remote work but also feel comfortable accepting a job that will be largely remote post COVID. The reason the OP wants to leave may ultimately have nothing to do with their boss, but I do think it’s worth taking a bit of time to identify why it’s an issue just so that the OP doesn’t work really hard to find a new job and then end up with similar issues.

      3. OP #4*

        Hi Loz, thanks for your feedback. I shared some reasons in another reply about how my manager doesn’t respond to my messages and doesn’t make time for meetings. We used to meet in-person once every 2 weeks for half an hour, now I’m lucky if I get a zoom call for 15 minutes every two months.

        In terms of remote working being a done deal, in my line of work it really isn’t. Since September 2020, everyone other than my manager has been working at least 3 days a week in-person, if not 4 or 5 days a week. We’ve even been told by my manager that we shouldn’t expect to telework at all and that it’s just a temporary situation. Personally, I prefer working in-person (as I said in my original question, I work in a library, so it’s just easier and I’m far more productive), but having the head of the library be the only one teleworking full-time makes them the outlier in this situation.

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          I would focus on his lack of availability specifically. My manager moved to another state, has taken on more high-level projects than ever, and has made it a point to be consistently present with her team. I feel as supported as ever. But she realized this was necessary to make this accommodation work. It sounds like your manager isn’t as willing or able to do this, which is more about him than remote work.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I agree – I had a standing biweekly with my boss before remote work, and I have a standing biweekly with my boss in remote work. They’re actually more accessible now because they adopted the internal IM system to stay connected whereas in the office, they never used it. But I get timely replies to my emails and IMs, so it is more about availability and responsiveness rather than where we’re physically located.

        2. Artemesia*

          It sounds like the boss transitioned to this remote work without thinking about structures to continue to provide support and oversight to his staff. I would definitely mention this on exit.

        3. Observer*

          my manager doesn’t respond to my messages and doesn’t make time for meetings. We used to meet in-person once every 2 weeks for half an hour, now I’m lucky if I get a zoom call for 15 minutes every two months.

          So, that’s a very different problem to what you describe in your letter. If the jog is otherwise salvageable, I’d address this explicitly with your manager. Tell him that you’d like to reinstate the bi-weekly 1/2 hour meetings, and ask how to insure that you get timely responses to your questions.

          It may not help, of course. But it might make your once great boss realize that what they are SAYING about being available is not what’s really happening and he might change.

          Whether or not you have that conversation, what you want to tell your employer and prospective employers is not “I don’t like that my boss is remote” but “My boss is not sufficiently available. He doesn’t respond to messages in a timely fashion, and sometimes not at all. We don’t have the kinds of planning meeting we should have.” etc.

          1. Loz*

            Thank you Observer for saving me the trouble of typing exactly this!
            Thanks OP for reading & replying.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        This may be an introvert thing. We hate being interrupted so we hate interrupting. I would wait for my colleague to come back with her cup of tea to ask her a question, knowing that she’s interrupted her own train of thought to do so.
        The boss might have been the type to offer sympathetic looks or remarks when noticing that OP was struggling with something, that she now misses.
        Also, OP might be the type who needs to voice her question in order to find the answer. She’d ask her boss who’d just raise an eyebrow, and she’d say “maybe I’ll find the answer in last week’s report?” and he’d say well of course.
        These are all just small interactions, but they can be like oil for machinery.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I had a remote boss at a prior job (way before COVID) and I understand OP4’s hesitation. It’s not that I wasn’t uncomfortable reaching out to him. It was having to explain context for every single little question. It made small things – the quick questions that you used to stick your head in the boss’s door to ask – seem huge. So when you had to talk to him about a really big problem, it seemed the same scale as the little problem.

      I think this is one of the drawbacks of permanent remote work. There’s an undercurrent of awareness to being physically present in the same space that you just can’t get in a Zoom meeting or chat box. Not that remote jobs can’t work – I’m permanently teleworking now – but I ignore some problems now simply because I fear being perceived as whiny.

      1. Colette*

        I think regular one-on-ones can mitigate that, to some extent, although it isn’t the same as being in the same place. If the OP doesn’t have regular one-on-ones with her boss, that would be something worth trying.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        Slack, email, and regular meetings are how my partner’s office deals with this. But they’re a huge company and multiple people on a team are always remote. You just learn that you ask small things on way (slack, email, phone, whatever works for your team) and big things another way (schedule a meeting maybe)

      3. OP #4*

        Hi Mockingjay, thanks for your feedback! I think you hit the nail on the head– I don’t feel comfortable reaching out to my boss about small things because he doesn’t like using Skype messaging, his calendar is always full, and he’s very slow to respond to emails or texts. Since he’s the head of our libraries, and my questions for him always seem small, I don’t feel like my questions are ever important enough to try to set up a whole meeting over.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is why there ought to be regular one on ones — weekly or biweekly — where you have a punch list of things to talk about and he gets used to giving broader direction. It is touching base, not you having to reach out for small things. I totally can see where contacting him for what is a small but important question could seem off —

        2. Koalafied*

          When I reported up to a very busy executive, I would save up all my small questions and requests for our regular check-ins if I didn’t feel they warranted their own meeting. Definitely press your manager to reinstate the regular check-ins!

    3. OP #4*

      Hi august, thanks for your feedback! From all the comments and Alison’s response, it’s clear that I should bring it up more directly with my boss. However, I think that there are still enough reasons that I have that I’ll still continue job hunting.

      I didn’t want my original letter to get too long, but I will add that it does seem like my manager is just paying lip service when he says he’s always available. He doesn’t like using Skype, and is very slow to respond to emails. He’s also told me I can text him if needed, but he doesn’t respond for days, and his outlook calendar is always filled up so it’s difficult to set up other times to meet over phone or video-call.

      I think from what some other commenters have touched on, what I’m really feeling at the core is “Is it okay to leave this job,” which I hadn’t really realized before.

      1. Smithy*

        This makes so much more sense in terms of your frustrations with getting support, when it may have been that in the past all of that remained the same but could regularly pop your head into your boss’s office.

        All of this to say, in looking for a new job I do recommend not lumping all remote supervisor structures to be this inaccessible. Saying that you’re looking for a collaborative team and management structure is not the same as asking to be micromanaged or needing to be in the same physical office.

        1. TC*

          Having worked remotely for several years after slowly transitioning to that, I can completely concur, all remote supervisor structures are not like this. I know remote in OP’s industry isn’t common but things are changing quickly so, it’s a good idea to be prepared to ask in future interviews what types of communication are used frequently within the company, especially if there are any remote employees– Skype, Teams, Slack, etc. To kind of feel out how that’s approached.

          1. Smithy*

            Absolutely – I also think that it’s worth thinking through more broadly the type of support that the OP believes has been helpful in the past and how that looks. Because absentee managers, managers disinterested in people popping their heads in or even scheduling regular 1 on 1’s can happen even while being in the same building.

            Again, just so that the OP is properly bolstered for the job search to come and asking the questions that will actually illuminate the working environment they want. I think that we often get so much language about micromanagers being bad, that there isn’t quite as much language around the challenges that come from a lack of management support.

      2. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yeah definitely!! This is much bigger than just being remote. He’s not present and OP isn’t supported. Plus it’s always ok to leave a job that doesn’t work for you for any reason.

      3. Alexis Rosay*

        These issues seem totally valid. I have a remote coworker (thankfully not boss) who takes days to respond to the littlest inquiry. If my boss were responding that way it would be a huge drag.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Is it not possible to send your question over skype or whatever then follow up shortly after with a phone call? that way they’re not put on the spot, have had time to think about it, but have to give you an answer?

      4. Observer*

        I think from what some other commenters have touched on, what I’m really feeling at the core is “Is it okay to leave this job,” which I hadn’t really realized before.

        The other stuff has been covered, I think.

        It’s always OK to leave a job. But it’s always useful to think about WHY you are leaving, to see if things can be mitigated and / or to try to avoid walking into a similar bad job (to the extent possible.) And you also want to think about what you say when asked about this.

        I hope that the feedback you’ve gotten is useful in that respect.

      5. GraceRN*

        Yeah I can see how that’s frustrating for you! I agree with Alison and others, it’s worth discussing with your boss. It’s certainly possible that he’s isn’t doing a good job of managing his report. It’s also possible that in his mind, he has an expectation that you would be functioning much more independently, but never explicitly said so. In any case, he isn’t providing you with enough support as it is now.

        I know bosses who purposely don’t respond to texts or emails for days because they want to “train” their staff to figure things out on their own. (Just to be clear, I’m not endorsing this management technique). It is worth discussing with your boss. From your letter and comments, I got a sense that there is overall not enough communication and that’s not working well for you right now. So communicating mutual expectations might be the next step in figuring out what you should do as a next step.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Thing is, once I’ve emailed someone else about a problem, I won’t think about it again until I get a response. The ball is not in my court, I’m dealing with all the other balls in my court until it comes back. So that’s a crummy management technique.

          IRL, it may work. You ask a question, and don’t get an answer. You maybe get a raised eyebrow, or quizzical look, and you imagine that means “haven’t we had this convo before?” and finally remember where you can find the answer. Without the raised eyebrow though, no way does it work.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      I think the LW needs to be thoughtful in bringing this up to her manager. The lack of availability is tied to the manager’s new remote work set-up, and the new remote work set-up is tied to making do in a pandemic. This all makes the conversation more fraught than it would otherwise be. I can see the relationship souring if the manager gets into a defensive “I’m doing the best I can!!!!” mindset. Or, if the manager is super sensitive (and/or a jerk), suddenly a reference checker gets a story about LW’s lack of adaptability.

      Only the LW knows if the manager is likely to welcome this feedback or take it personally. If it’s the latter, and there are other good reasons for leaving, I do think there’s a case for not even bothering bringing it up.

    5. scmill*

      I worked remotely for years for assorted managers, and every manager had a weekly 1:1 with me. It really helped to keep me in sync with my manager.

  5. AKchic*

    I used to have so many plants in my old office, and became the company “plant rehabilitator”. Our c-suite and board would let friends and high-value donors donate expensive, dying plants to us just so I could rehab them (it 100% was not what the company did). At one point, I had orchids, bromeliads, Venus fly traps, coffee, lavender, random herbs, African violets, vining plants (ivy and another kind), aloe, bonsai trees, cacti, air plants, and a jade plant, among the standard “office” fare.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I would have adored being your office mate! I work with a woman now who has given over 2/3 of her desk space to various pots and propagation jars, and it’s like a mini-garden. Such a delight in an otherwise dreary and plain office!

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I once gifted my mother an African Violet since it would grow well in her office with fluorescent lighting. They propagate pretty easily and did very well there in that light. Pretty soon, everyone had at least one pot with a violet on their desk or filing cabinet. I remember going to her office once while I was home visiting from college and seeing…just so many clones of that one plant! It was a big open office space with at least 14 people and 30 or so violet plants. There were some other plants, too, but the violets were very prominent.

    2. A Person*

      Did you have to give them back? (I, too, have been the office plant rescuer. So many people get small potted orchids as gifts and just let them dry out and then toss them. They can be really withered-up looking and still be alive! I got a bunch once when a lot of people moved desks and their previous spot was empty for awhile before the reno started. I kept those puppies but then, I had collected them.)

      1. AKchic*

        Nope. I’d rehab them and get them healthy and thriving and then we’d transfer them to another office or building in town. With multiple buildings and many clients, it was something that was low-stakes for the clients to help with as a part of their treatment if they wanted to, and they could take plants with them to sober living or when they left on their own completely.

    3. Tiny Soprano*

      Nothing quite so impressive, but when I worked reception I had an African violet called Frank. Frank got his own name tag and became a bit of an office celebrity. Vendors who’d met Frank would ask after him when they rang. Eventually he got his own phone extension (which IT used to send telemarketers to – “Oh Frank handles these enquiries I’ll put you through to him.” Little did they know that, being a plant, Frank would never answer…)

  6. Kella*

    OP#4: I’m really wondering if there is something about the other reasons that you referenced that make you think they aren’t enough or you are otherwise downplaying to yourself. I think there’s nothing wrong with the reason you mentioned (because your boss moved), but if you have other significant ones, you wouldn’t even need to include that one. But instead you’re putting a lot of focus on a problem that *sounds* like you haven’t attempted to solve. I’m not trying to be judgemental at all. I’m just reflecting that it seems like there’s more going on under the surface here and I’m curious to find out what it is. I’m wondering if the real question behind what you wrote, is, “Is it okay for me to leave this job?”

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I also thought it was an odd letter for this reason. If there are plenty of other reasons to leave, why spend any time at all debating whether to bring this one up? The OP already knows, and said in the letter, that it’s not necessary to list a whole litany of reasons for leaving. So if there are other significant reasons, just stick with those. I wouldn’t bring this reason up at all in future interviews – it risks making the OP seem inflexible and unable to adapt to change.

  7. Cant remember my old name*

    LW4 – you can quit for what ever reason pleases you. For future interviews, I’d maybe frame it as a culture thing, or use another reason entirely, so they don’t think you can’t work independently .

    Should you say something to your boss? I’m leaning toward no, but Alison’s advice stands. I think ask yourself why you want to tell him.

    A) to see if you can work out a better work arrangement?

    Then go for it.

    B) because want to provide constructive feedback on his management style post-move AND you think he’d be open to it?

    Sure, but be incredibly thoughtful in your framing.

    C) because you want to express frustration because he made a personal life decision you don’t agree with?

    Hard no. He’s not going to move back, so how productive would that be?

    Hybrid work teams don’t work for everyone so it’s a perfectly fine reason to dip, but I am also super cautious when commenting on people’s personal life choices even if it impacts my work. You never know the full story behind those decisions.

    1. MK*

      He isn’t going to move back, but it would be useful to know that being 100% remote is causing at least one issue. Maybe that is the OP’s issue (Personally I would have zero hesitation is calling him; just because he is several states away doesn’t mean it’s no longer his job to answer questions. Also, the sooner people who wfh realize that it comes with constant emails and frequent calls about things that would take 2 seconds in the office, the better), maybe he needs to be doing things differently, but it’s not pointless to tell him.

      1. Forrest*

        It’s also possible that there might be a actual fix he can offer like, “more regular check-ins” or “office hours from 9-11 when you’re encouraged to call me, even if it’s just for a chat”. Some people respond much better to specific times when it’s definitely OK to call rather than a general, “you can all me any time!”

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, that was my thought. If he were to proactively call and check in once a day / twice a week / whatever it might solve a lot of issues..

          1. capedaisy127*

            One of my bosses is hybrid. On his WFH days we have a catch up Teams call, where I get my action points. We have a shared folder system for filing and a folders for sign offs.
            We communicate about our to do’s and I’m not shy about demanding time, so I can do my job. We keep it focussed and on time.
            Not what I’m used to, but I’m rolling with it

        2. BRR*

          That’s what I was thinking. I imagine there are a lot of reasons the lw wants to leave that were not included in the letter, but I do wonder if anything was done to try and remedy this particular point.

          It sounds like the lw might be searching for validation for leaving this job though and if that’s the case, you can leave any job at any time for any reason.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I think that’s what bugs me about this letter. It seems like the boss is being unfairly penalized for making a life choice that’s best for him. If OP wants more hands-on management, she can talk to her boss and set more regular check-ins, or just make the effort herself to contact him more often. Or maybe the boss can transfer her to someone on site if that’s really what she needs.

      1. Forrest*

        This goes both ways– if OP decides to leave because she doesn’t like being managed in another state, that is her making a life choice that’s best for her, not her boss being “unfairly penalised”.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Right, but if she hasn’t spoken up as to what she needs from him now that he’s remote, I feel it’s unfair to him. It seems from the letter she hasn’t reached out to him because she’s uncomfortable. At least give him a chance to see if it can change. But if she wants to move on, she can do that. Sounds like there are other reasons she wants to leave anyway.

          1. BRR*

            Yes. For this particular pain point it feels like “I’ve done nothing and it hasn’t worked, what else can I do?” But as you’re saying, sounds like the lw wants to leave anyways. There’s no need to justify every reason you’re leaving or try to fix them. You also don’t need to list them all when you resign.

        2. Colette*

          If the OP wants to leave, she can leave. The boss can feel however he wants to feel about it, but people are allowed to move on.

          But moving on without making any attempt to work with the situation (i.e. contact the boss as he has asked her to do, suggest an alternate method of staying in touch, etc.) doesn’t make the OP look great, and she shouldn’t mention it as a reason for leaving.

      2. Neptune*

        I think it’s a little silly for a manager to choose to interpret someone quitting as them being personally penalised, though. People quit for all kinds of reasons all the time; that’s part of the costs of doing business, even if it might be annoying or inconvenient for the manager. (OP even says that they have a long list of other reasons why they’re looking to move on, this is just one part of it.) I don’t think it’s helpful to take it personally.

      3. Artemesia*

        He gets to make his life change but makes no changes in how he manages. ‘He doesn’t like skype’; he doesn’t answer emails; texts get responded to in days not hours. Sounds like someone who has stopped managing but is still hauling down the management salary.

  8. staceyizme*

    LW 1- I think that you have to focus much less on her and much more on yourself. Instead of managing her behaviors, which is completely a losing battle, manage your response. Ignore the lurking. Talk around the interjections. (Not over, necessarily, which might seem hostile. Just give yourself some space to go around whatever conversational obstacle she lobs.) If you can be politely disengaged without tipping over into coldly disapproving, you’ll have it right. People do this all of the time in friend groups, at family reunions and in any context where you can’t really avoid the interloper, so you minimize the disruption to the conversation by managing your own sensibilities. If you’re also scrupulously polite in your dealings, you can probably also get away with some gray rocking, where you don’t address her random interjections one way or the other. So- you don’t react to her remarks. Don’t take the bait. When you’re tempted to become annoyed over how unjust it is that she’s so noisy and inconsiderate, remind yourself that every bit of energy that you engage her with is “sideways” energy. It’s not an investment in progress, it’s a swamp of irrelevance that you don’t want to get sucked into. I hope that helps a little bit. And I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t address objectionable behaviors, ever. Just that she derives some value, at least in her own mind, from looming large in the space. Whether it’s anxiety, awkwardness, ego or something else entirely, it’s probably counter-productive to become caught up in the dynamic in any way.

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      I love this advice so much, I am copying and pasting it in my iPhone notes to read every day for similar situations but also for reminders of energy sucks of the sideways persuasion. Thank you, staceyizme, Internet sage!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      It’s a good managerial skill too – how to deal with people who are just annoying you but aren’t actually offensive. There’s a few members of staff whose personalities clash with mine (generally I’m an introvert, but I can talk your ear off if I get going on a favoured subject) and I’ve learnt a few self-distraction methods to stop my annoyances from manifesting.

      Also, interesting side effect of being generally less pissed off when I get home later. It’s like the Bene Gesserit axiom of letting it wash through you and past you.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I think the OP has hit bitch eating crackers stage, which is why it’s impossible for them to separate the legitimate problems with everything else that is going on with this person. I’ve hit that place with coworkers before, where them just existing near you is enough to annoy you “Oh, there’s fricken Ken, I bet he’s gonna come over here and spray himself with cologne then say ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ or ‘Living the dream’ then he will ask to borrow my last set of safety glasses and never bring them back. Dammit Ken”. I usually combat BEC stage by being extra super nice and polite to that person, because otherwise I cannot trust my own face and voice to not betray my seething annoyance. So when calling them out on the most erroneous issues, like the music or phone calls, just be a few levels of nice above what you would with someone you are actually friends with. Then when there is an Ask a Manager letter about someone who does that thing that annoys you so much, read the comments and feel so validated.

    4. foolofgrace*

      >Talk around the interjections. (Not over, necessarily, which might seem hostile. Just give yourself some space to go around whatever conversational obstacle she lobs.)

      Can you give an example of what you mean? The picture I get in my brain is of two people conversing, who then notice the lurker, and they say to each other to agree to just ignore everything she says if she comes over to interlope. I must be misreading this. Sorry to be obtuse.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I’m guessing staceyizme meant something along the lines of:

        Person A: So I went to see the new Marvel movie this weekend, and–

        Interrupting Co-worker: Ugh, I hate Marvel movies! Superheroes just aren’t interesting to me. I’d much rather see a good rom-com.

        Person A and Person B: *wait for interrupting co-worker to finish, maybe acknowledge her with a nod*

        Person B: Sorry, Person A, what were you saying about the new Marvel movie?

      2. Joielle*

        I’m not staceyizme, but I’m imagining something like… OP and coworker are chatting and the lurker comes up and says something. The OP would just say “huh, interesting” and then turn back to the other coworker and say “anyways, like I was saying…” and continue the conversation. Not straight up ignoring the lurker, but not really inviting them into the conversation either.

  9. Stitching Away*


    That she has a fear of missing out is a big assumption you’re making.

    You’ve made it clear that she’s doing things that annoy you. Given you get along with many of your coworkers, I’m going to make a wild guess that she’s doing things that annoy them too, things that aren’t work problems, but that are rubbing you all the wrong way, like the vegetable plant.

    This leads to social exclusion. This leads to coworker feeling isolated. This leads to coworker trying to figure out how to be part of conversations, be they work or social, and maybe not knowing how, and then awkward lurking behavior you’re witnessing. Essentially, because you’re annoyed with her to begin with, you’ve excluded her, and then created the situation. This is why the idea of “culture fit” can create a problem, because it leads to situations like this, where if a person doesn’t fit the office norm, they get shunned.

    Your annoyance with having to put up with her oozes in the letter. Why else spend the first paragraph complaining about things that you say aren’t actually the problem you have? It’s not a secret to her, either.

    1. Pep*

      Thank you for this comment from a socially awkward person (major anxiety/hates being locked in a building with people/have found a job that specifically avoids that).

      1. Awkward*

        Me too! Maybe the person LW1 is complaining about should be trying to find a kinder workplace? Sometimes teams just fall in the habit of picking on one person. If she left it would be someone else’s turn. It’s a weird way to bond but it happens.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I’ve definitely been in situations where an annoying person left and the problem was solved. For instance, in a club in college — the person eventually lost interest and stopped coming. We didn’t promote someone else to be the official annoying person in their place, or something — this person was legitimately annoying. The same could be the case for the LW.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I worked with someone kind of like this and when she went on an extended medical leave due to an injury, it wasn’t like someone else became The Annoying One.

            Interestingly, this was at my bilingual job where everyone but me was from another, much more direct/blunt culture, and people would literally say “you don’t know the context of this, please don’t jump in.” Or even “you have no idea what we’re talking about now.” And she still did it regularly! I didn’t get the impression that it was FOMO with her, it seemed more like a complete lack of filter so that she just somehow couldn’t help blurting out words when she heard other people around her talking. And she never seemed embarrassed by giving totally wrong/irrelevant information because she hadn’t caught the whole conversation. (In some ways I wish she had done more lurking, maybe if she listened a little longer she would have actually been able to join in!)

            It annoyed me for a while and I definitely got to BEC level on certain things, but after a few years I just felt sorry for her becuase she clearly had such a social instinct while not being able to take feedback that she was going about it the wrong way. And that made it a little easier to be patient with the interruptions.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Our annoying person was annoying in several ways, but the most annoying thing she did was that she was both the sorest loser and sorest winner I’ve ever encountered in the post-elementary school world. (This was a club centered around a competitive activity.) She was sometimes known to berate teammates for mistakes they made during games.

              So, if anyone was picking on people, it was her — in contrast to the claim upthread that someone who’s perceived as annoying is just being picked on by the popular people. In fact, the rest of us reacted to her antics with responses like “wow, that’s not OK” but hesitated to be any blunter…because we worried that if we did escalate, we’d be bullying her out of the club, or something.

          2. Observer*

            this person was legitimately annoying. The same could be the case for the LW.

            Maybe. But what the OP tells us makes it clear that at least SOME of the behavior can hardly be called universally annoying. They also describe behavior on their part that could easily veer into (or already be) exclusion of a coworker and / or that is actually somewhat rude on their part.

            The OP needs to stop classifying “different than I would do it” as “actually a problem” (eg bringing things into the office); take a good hard look at their behavior (eg walking out of the room whenever CW walks in); and take reasonable action when CW worker does something actually problematic (eg interrupting someone who is talking.) Alison’s scripts are good for that.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oooooh I worked at a place like that! We had several rotating Annoying Guys (and I once stopped a whole plot to publicly humiliate one of them at an all-hands department meeting). Then a few of us changed jobs and ended up working together, and one day I was shocked to find out that I was now the Annoying Guy; because none of the previous Annoying Guys were working with us anymore and somebody had to take one for the team.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Want to add that the Annoying Guy that I defended at that workplace was legitimately annoying. I did not even like the man! I just hated the idea of my teammates going all Regina George on him. And from the business standpoint, I knew that it would kill whatever little productivity he had.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        I used to avoid someone in my friends group who would awkwardly blurt things out, and was slightly annoyed by her behavior. Then I thought about it, and came to this conclusion: What’s the best way for her to become less socially awkward? Would it help to have more social interaction with other people? Answer: YES. So why would I shun her instead of helping her by interacting with her more?

        I really turned the corner on that one and hate to think of my prior unkind thoughts. And she’s one of my favorite people now. She’s gotten slightly less awkward, but I now see her enthusiasm about things she loves as something I aspire to. Her awkwardness doesn’t bother me anymore, and it’s just part of her personality.

        I also know how awkward I used to be, and my self-policing sometimes turns outward, and I get uncomfortable when others display behaviors that seem all too familiar. Takes time to work through that, too.

    2. Roscoe*

      I’m going to push back here. You aren’t obligated to socially hang with people at work. You are obligated to be professional. But if I don’t want to discuss my weekend with you, or anything that is not work related, that is my right. Just because someone feels left out, doesn’t mean that its their right to be included. Saying “you created this by not wanting to hang out with her in the first place” isn’t really fair.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Both can be true. You don’t have to talk to someone you don’t like, but if everyone avoids the person you can’t be surprised that they then try harder to be included.

      2. twocents*

        I agree. It’s an interesting theory and it’s clear LW doesn’t care for her, but I know it wouldn’t go well in my office either if someone had a habit of lurking around whenever 2 other people are chatting and interjecting themselves into a conversation they knew nothing about.

        I think people have gotten too hung up on the plant (which I legit know bosses that haaaaate them, so I’m neither here nor there on it) and decided LW sucks.

      3. Me*

        Work is also not high school and being mean girls/boys is not where it’s at.

        No you don’t have to discuss your weekend with a person you find annoying. But ending the conversation and walking away when said person comes over? That behavior should have been left in middle school.

        You do have to be kind and considerate to your coworkers. Treating them starkly different than you treat everyone else is beyond immature.

        1. Colette*

          But ending the conversation and walking away when said person comes over? That behavior should have been left in middle school.

          People are allowed to end conversations and get back to work? No one has to have personal conversations with this coworker. (Should they greet her and occasionally ask how her weekend was? Sure. But they don’t have to involve her in every conversation and, if she joins a conversation and changes it to talk about herself, for example, people are allowed to decide they’re done.)

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Being annoying is not the same as being unkind.

            And yes, good people are baseline kind to everyone, not just their favorites.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              They’re not calling her names or making fun of her behind her back. I would consider this reaction neutral: Lurking coworker injecting herself is rude, but rather than snarking off they’re just closing the topic.

              I guess they could patronize her, though, if that would seem kinder? Nothing like finding out at some point that people only barely tolerated you.

            2. Colette*

              Taking loud personal phone calls and singing in an office environment is kind?
              Interupting people when they’re talking is kind?

              It’s not unkind to set boundaries, or to end a conversation to go back to work.

              1. andy*

                Most often they are un-self aware. My experience was that if you tell these people they should leave as they disturbing flatly and directly couple of times, they will start leaving for calls.

                Most of what college does is social awkwardness and lack of social rules. There is nothing malicious in the mix. The office is reacting in a passive aggressive way, so the collegue has no feedback on what is the problem.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            She should be. Everyone should. But she didn’t write in, so the advice is directed at the person who did.

        2. Roscoe*

          I mean, if I’m talking about something I don’t want to share with that person, I’m not obligated to continue the conversation. Just as if my boss walks out of their office, I may end it, or if the office gossip comes by, people are allowed to end conversations as they please, especially when another party enters the space.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            This is true. There’s a coworker here that if I’m discussing computer games with another coworker and I see her coming over I’ll have to end the conversation else I’ll get half an hour of her ranting about games stopped her son getting good grades in his exams etc. Generally I’ve got the patience for that maybe once a week.

        3. MsClaw*

          Everyone has to strike a balance here. No one should really be having *private* personal conversations in the breakroom or whatever anyway. If you’re talking about your weekend with Sally and annoying Jane comes in and throws in a comment about her weekend, you have a lot of options. “Sounds nice, Jane. Sally, I’ll catch up with you later” is probably fine if a little pointed. “Sounds nice, Jane. So Sally, you were talking about your hike?’ is also fine and makes the point that Jane interrupted without be douchey about it. Flouncing out of the breakroom without a word isn’t okay.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          Naw, they don’t owe it to her to continue a conversation where somebody is trying to interrupt. They don’t owe her more consideration than she’s showing them.

          If people keep avoiding you, it’s time to analyze your own behavior, not to pressure them into being nicer to you.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            As people have mentioned further up, it ight very well be that she is trying harder because she notices them reflexively excluding her. Since OP hasn’t mentioned actually saying anything to the colleague about what is bothering them, lurker is left to guess.

        5. James*

          “But ending the conversation and walking away when said person comes over? That behavior should have been left in middle school.”

          Replace “annoying” with “higher-up”. A few of us are around the same age, and share interests. The senior executives in the office are significantly older than us and do not share our interests. Think we play D&D together, the executive prefers golf. When we’re discussing an upcoming game night and he comes in, we take it as a cue to stop talking and get back to work. It’s not rude–we chat with him for a minute or two before going back to work–but he doesn’t care about our plans, and we don’t feel comfortable discussing them with him.

          Are we rude? No. We’re merely enforcing boundaries. The executive is not our friend–we’re on good terms with him, and we are friendly within the limits of an office environment, but we’re not friends.

          “You do have to be kind and considerate to your coworkers.”

          No. You need to be polite and courteous. There is a difference.

          This is the sort of attitude that’s always used to make those enforcing boundaries feel like they’re doing something wrong. I’m not saying YOU are doing this–there are conditions where this comment is appropriate or even necessary–but it’s waving, if not a red flag, a very dark orange flag. Boundaries are a healthy part of any relationship, from coworker to romantic to parent/child. The idea that you can’t have boundaries only ever benefits people looking to take advantage of you.

          You are not obliged to be friends with everyone you work with, and you ARE allowed to decide who you discuss what with and what your boundaries are in each relationship. The fact that our paychecks are signed by the same person doesn’t change that.

          1. Colette*

            And the thing is, it’s not actually kind to let the coworker interrupt conversations, carry on loud personal conversations, or sing in the office – because even if people are outwardly polite, she will miss out on professional opportunities, and possibly lose her job. This kind of stuff matters, and given a choice between laying off someone who is well-liked and someone who is actively alienating people, most of hte time the well-liked person will keep their job.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        This. And that’s from a socially awkward person who also definitely injected herself into conversations where she shouldn’t have. The LW doesn’t owe her inclusion where it is entirely unnecessary and, frankly, unreasonable of Lurking Coworker to expect it.

      5. Observer*

        You aren’t obligated to socially hang with people at work. . . . But if I don’t want to discuss my weekend with you, or anything that is not work related, that is my right. Just because someone feels left out, doesn’t mean that its their right to be included

        If you don’t want to discuss something with someone, don’t have that discussion in front of them / in a shared space that they legitimately occupy. That’s just incredibly rude.

        I get that this can be a real problem with open offices, because all of the spaces become shared space. It’s one of the reasons that boosters of the concept push it, but also one of the reasons that detractors HATE it. People need space to themselves sometimes!

        But none of that is the CW’s fault. The OP needs to find a way / place to have conversations not in the public spaces, and a way to stop being judgemental about a bunch of things that are seriously none of their business.

        1. Myrin*

          If you don’t want to discuss something with someone, don’t have that discussion in front of them / in a shared space that they legitimately occupy. That’s just incredibly rude.

          I feel like this attitude is the crux and at the heart of a lot of the arguments around this kind of thing whenever it comes up. Because the thing is, I know what you mean but I also simply don’t agree at all.

          Just because a space is public doesn’t mean that two people can’t have a conversation just between the two of them. If I’m standing in the middle of a busy marketplace and talk to my friend, I certainly don’t appreciate any random Joe butting into my conversation just because he could hear it from randomly waiting one stall over. Sure there are situations where it would be not-weird or even appropriate for someone to insert themselves into my conversation – maybe I’m agonising over something with my friend and Joe actually knows the answer, as such relieving all of my worries! – but I firmly reject the notion that it’s somehow rude to now welcome someone into a conversation just because they were in the general vicinity (nevermind that OP talks about “passing conversations” which sounds like little drive-by commentary, not full-blown, half-hour long deep disucssions).

          1. Observer*

            If I’m standing in the middle of a busy marketplace and talk to my friend, I certainly don’t appreciate any random Joe butting into my conversation just because he could hear it from randomly waiting one stall over

            But that’s not what the OP appears to be describing. The thing we DO know for absolutely certain is that CW is not just “some random Joe”- she’s an actual coworker, which means that there is an actual relationship.

            But also, this is not a “marketplace” or the like where things are most decidedly NOT private (if someone overhears a conversation there is nothing to keep them from using that information), but people / small groups are generally expected to be separate to some extent. In a break-room, hallway or shared area of a cubicle farm, that’s not the case. While someone being there should not be pressured into joining in whatever else is going on, these are spaces meant for group use not the exclusive use of a person or specific sub-group.

            1. Myrin*

              people / small groups are generally expected to be separate to some extent. In a break-room, hallway or shared area of a cubicle farm, that’s not the case.

              See, and I simply don’t agree with that. Of course people can still form separate groups even while standing in a hallway at their workplace? (Nevermind that there is no mention of a “specific sub-group”, like, the same clique of three always making a big show of their exclusive breakroom chat or something of that ilk. It’s just anyone talking to any one other person that doesn’t include OP’s coworker.) Like. I’m honestly having a hard time understanding where you’re coming from here. I don’t think we’ll be able to see eye to eye in this so I’m just gonna leave that here.

              1. Neptune*

                FWIW I completely agree with you on that. I think the idea that any workplace conversation being had in a public area is just open for any random person to join in because they happen to overhear it is quite weird.

                1. allathian*

                  Yeah, absolutely this. Because there’s no privacy in an open office environment, people need to learn to stay out of conversations that don’t directly concern them. But then, I’m from a very direct culture where it would be totally socially acceptable to turn your back on someone who keeps interrupting, and where interrupting others is nearly as socially unacceptable as yelling without a good reason, like mice in the kitchen or someone needing emergency care during the workday.

        2. Roscoe*

          I think that is a weird take.

          I’m I’m talking to a buddy in my open office plan, and its clearly us 2 talking, I just don’t see that as meaning that anyone should just feel free to jump right into our conversation. Even if its not “personal”, its still a conversation you aren’t a part of. I think its one thing is its everyone is sitting in the lunch room and someone kind of joins in the conversation. But this sounds like she moves over to the conversation area and just listens in until she decides to join. That is weird to me, and I find it hard to believe so many people would just be ok if that was constantly happening by someone in their office.

          1. Observer*

            I think it’s lot more weird that people think it’s ok to have a private conversation in front of someone who has a right to be in that space and then get on their high horse that their rudeness is not being respected.

            Given that the OP has made it clear that, in their estimation, this person just doesn’t belong and also that they are comfortable with being rude in other ways, I’m not going to jump onto the “CW is a horrible and intrusive nosy body.” Yes, there are some problematic issues that need to be addressed, but the OP’s letter goes well beyond that.

            1. Neptune*

              I don’t really understand why you are framing this as an issue of conversations brings entirely public and therefore apparently welcome to all comers, or entirely private. Firstly, it is possible for a few people to be having a conversation in a public area that is nonetheless clearly a conversation between that group – you can look at people’s body language, the way they’re speaking to each other, how absorbed they are or aren’t in the conversation. This is a social skills thing, it’s not black and white. It’s not “having a private conversation in front of her”, it’s having a public conversation that does not happen to include her.

              Secondly, I think the bigger issue is how she’s behaving during these conversations. She’s hovering awkwardly in the background constantly, interjecting with irrelevant comments and cutting other people off so they don’t get to finish what they’re saying. That’s all pretty graceless, annoying behaviour and would be so whether she was invited into the conversation or not. I think this strange “well why do you have conversations with your coworkers in your shared place of work if you DON’T want to be constantly interrupted? It’s public!” thing is kind of a red herring.

      6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I’m conflicted on this letter. There are several office busy bodies that I have very little to say to except nominal polite greetings and I would pointedly shut down any interrupting or lurking from them. But at the same time I once worked at a very small very not busy bank branch that just had a very weird unfriendly vibe. I worked there for over a year and no one but the branch manager would so say more then hello unless it was directly work related. However 2 tellers and a secretary would have long discussions near my work area about everything under the sun. And if I interjected any comment at any point (Oh that was a good movie, or I remember that book) they’d complain that I was “interrupting them and being rude” They made a big production of having hours long 3 way chats near me from across the lobby that I was supposed to never join? ( I was a head teller so above the 2 tellers and kind of equal to the branch manager secretary?) They complained that I was “fake” for trying to be friendly or polite to them and when I just stopped speaking to them unless I was asked a direct question they then complained that I drank to loud. Not like in slurping, just swallowing to loud apparently. (no one else in my entire life has ever said I’m a noisy drinker) I have worked a lot of places over my life and have a lot of good friends from many of the other jobs even decades later. I’ve never worked in such a weird unfriendly vibe as that one particular bank. The day I left I was still being treated the same as the “new person that gets ignored”. That one year caused more anxiety and stress then all my other jobs rolled together.

        1. Empress Ki*

          It seems you were bullied by this secretary and tellers. Good for you you left this place !

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, absolutely.

            In small work communities this can all too easily happen unless the top managers actively put a stop to it.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I am here shaking my head at “she has personal conversations in the office, *and* she listens in on everyone else’s personal conversations in the office!” So should personal conversations be allowed in the office or not? Make up your mind, OP. “Only if it’s the popular kids talking” is not a good answer.

      Also, as someone who used to sit in a 4-person cubicle next to a VERY talkative teammate, who had visitors all day (most of them my friends and people I knew), and had personal chats with them all day long, and yes I sometimes jumped into the conversations… If you have having your chats in her workspace, honestly I’m seeing it as fair game. She can’t work anyway. She’s got a chat going on right next to her. Might as well participate. Of course, mine was a healthy workplace and my contributions to the chats happening two feet from my literal desk were always welcome. And I’m still friends with most of those people 15 years after I left. But we did not have cliques and social hierarchies, so I get where that workplace was different from OP’s.

      PS. Team vegetable plant.

      1. BRR*

        I don’t think it’s about whether personal conversations are allowed. It sounds like the coworker is taking a lot of personal calls all day and the lw finds that irritating. I’m going to make an educated guess though that this is full on BEC and work calls would also irritate the lw (I am a full supporter though of being BEC with someone. It happens!). My standard advice in this situation is like Alison says, focus on the work issues. You don’t have to be best friends with your coworker but you have to be professional.

        Also team vegetable plant!

      2. Colette*

        She’s having personal phone calls in the office, which is not the same as a personal conversation with a coworker.

        It sounds like she’s interrupting people while they talk, and interjecting herself into conversations she doesn’t need to be part of. It sounds like a conversation between any two coworkers morphs to become a conversation about the interjecting coworker any time she shows up. I’d make an excuse and walk away, too.

        1. Roscoe*

          Yes. Its like being on a train or bus. If 2 people are talking, I don’t really care. If one person is having a long loud cell phone call its a very different situation. I’m not sure exactly why I can easily drown out a full conversation, but hear every word of a one way conversation that I’m hearing.

          1. A Person*

            Because psychology. This is something people have studied, as in, There Have Been Studies. At least part of it is just the fact that your brain is more engaged when you’re only hearing 1 side. (So, this isn’t just your quirk, it’s a people quirk.)

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Agree that it’s annoying. But if she’s excluded from everyone else’s personal conversations then to her, it’s like sitting next to two coworkers that are each having a personal phone call. I’d just be annoyed and try to tune it out. But she maybe cannot see the difference.

          Agree that, if she is hijacking other people’s personal chats and making them about herself, I’d have an issue with that, too.

          1. Colette*

            If the coworker were asking them to take their conversation elsewhere or to keep the volume down, that would be reasonable. But she’s not; she’s joining them and interrupting.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        It seems like this person has some genuinely annoying things going on, but also that OP is at “BEC” levels of finding every single thing they do annoying even if it’s reasonable (like bringing in personal items or plants from homes–unless those are explicitly forbidden I don’t know why it wouldn’t be fine and unless the plant is enormous or has a strong smell or something I don’t know why OP would care at all about that)

    4. Myrin*

      Or maybe the coworker being excluded – if that’s indeed what’s happening – is just a natural result of her being annoying.

      Maybe I’ve just known too many people who were eeriely similar to OP’s coworker to feel much sympathy for her but whenever I encountered such a situation, the person was always welcomed in an open and friendly way at first but soon alienated most others with their weird behaviour.

      1. Roscoe*

        Yeah. Sometimes people are just annoying, and when that happens, they have to deal with the fact that people might not want to be around them. Its sad, but its no ones responsibility. If your quirks are off putting to people, that is fine. As long as they are professional, you can’t make people be friends with you.

        1. Myrin*

          This is one of the letters where reading the comments honestly has me feeling like I must live in some sort of twilight zone.
          I don’t know a single person IRL who wouldn’t be incredibly put off by someone borderline-creepily standing there/lingering in the back waiting to say something while others are talking. But somehow a lot of commenters are talking like that is a totally normal thing to do and like OP is in the wrong for feeling the way she does. I can only assume that those who say that haven’t actually ever dealt with someone like that because in my experience, people like that always get avoided and no one wants to deal with them because it’s awkward and uncomfortable.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think its a weird sympathy thing. Like people are relating to being the odd man out, so they are justifying the, objectively, bad behavior because they feel sorry for her. But I agree. Most people would be totally weirded out by someone just lurking in earshot of your conversation and waiting to jump in.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              The part I am relating to is other people’s personal conversations happening within her earshot. But in my case, I was assumed to be included (to a reasonable degree), and they were happening right next to my desk. I couldn’t keep walking away from them even if I wanted to. If she’s crossing the whole office anytime she spots someone chatting, yes, weird. But it being a small nine-person office, I suspect that the conversations are just happening around her as she is at her desk working. Maybe she stops working and listens in while at her desk, and that counts as lurking to OP and OP’s colleagues.

              1. Roscoe*

                Yeah, I guess it depends on what the actual setup of the office is and what is happening. My office is open plan, but just because I can hear people’s conversation, it would take some effort for me to move over there and listen in and join. Whereas if it was just 2 people taking 5 feet from you, I get it a bit more. But the way OP described it, I don’t think it was like that.

                “If she sees other coworkers talking, she will just stand there/linger in the back waiting to say something, even if it makes no sense to the conversation.” This doesn’t sound like just sitting at a desk and joining in. Its sounds like she actively goes toward the conversation

              2. Colette*

                Part of working in an office – particularly an open office or one with cubicles – is that people will always be having conversations that don’t include you, and that’s just how it is. If my boss and my grand boss and talking about staffing or their weekend plans or the weather 2 desks away from me, that’s not an invitation to join them.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Don’t get me wrong, personally, if I worked in an office where everybody else chatted with each other and froze me out, I’d milk my invisibility to my coworkers to quietly accumulate a lot of valuable information that would help me navigate the politics in that office. I would probably also leave the first chance I could though. I’ve never worked at a place like that.

                2. Colette*

                  There’s nothing in the letter about the coworker being frozen out – that’s fanfic that people have been discussing here. They may be chatting with her at other times. But if she leaves, is that a bad thing? It sounds like she’s spending a lot of time not doing her job (personal calls, lurking at conversations that don’t involve her). It would be better for everyone if she found somewhere she fits better.

                3. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Ha, see I just commented basically the opposite. I think if you’re chatting about the weekend or the weather in an open office or cubical you should expect other people might chime in and that’s just how it is…

              3. MCMonkeyBean*

                Location matters a lot I think for me to form an opinion. It was fairly normal to jump into a conversation coworkers were having when I was in-office in cubicals. Like, obviously you couldn’t avoid hearing them and it’s not like they think it’s private. I am not enormously social so I didn’t do it often but I would chime in occasionally (though I sometimes would preface with like a “couldn’t help but overhear, and…” or “sorry for eavesdropping, but…” for sort of an illusion of politeness I guess lol)

                OP does seem to be describing a scenario where this person is physically standing in a place she doesn’t need to be for the express purpose of listening in and interrupting conversations, which is a bit further than usual. So I will take her at her word that that is the situation and agree it would be annoying if that were happening all the time… with the caveat that it sounds like she’s at the point where she is basically annoyed every time this other woman speaks at all (I get it, I’ve definitely been there!) so I feel like I should take the description with at least a tiny grain of salt.

          2. Super Duper*

            Agreed. She sounds really annoying, and I don’t see any evidence that there’s some campaign to ice her out. I’ve worked in some toxic places, but it’s literally never been my experience that the office selects one person to be the outcast and then bullies them. That’s extreme and there’s no indication it’s happening here. The coworker sounds rude, frankly! Loud personal calls, singing, interrupting work-related conversations – it’s not everyone else’s job to accommodate her just because she’s clueless about appropriate behavior. I think it’s easy to scold LW and act high-minded in the comments, when this isn’t a situation you have to deal with in real life.

          3. sb51*

            Might be demographics; there are a ton of neuroatypical commenters here (note: I am not assuming anything about the actual coworker). And parties with a high percentage of autistic/adhd folks have very different conversation rhythms—a random interjection is generally fine! It might be ignored as the conversation steamrolls on, or it might divert the whole thing to the new topic, but it’s not seen as annoying in the same way it is in other communities.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        We had an intern who always put herself in conversations and then said weird and sometimes inappropriate things. My workplace is generally very friendly and starts out with the expectation that we’ll like each other, but when her internship was ending we had people from other departments calling and begging us not to hire her. She’d managed to annoy pretty much everyone. Fortunately, her work was lackluster enough that we had clear grounds not to take her on without bringing her personality into it. Our supervisor had tried to coach her on thinking before she made comments but the woman just had no filter.

  10. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3, I say go for whatever clothing you’re comfortable in unless it becomes an issue for your manager. For example, I worked at a job with a business casual dress code. A few people dressed up more because they felt like it. One woman wore a business suit, pants not a skirt, every day to work the entire time we worked together. She was just more comfortable that way, explaining that she didn’t like having to figure out outfits and it was just easier. Another wore fancier colorful dresses because she just enjoyed fashionable clothes. What you’re wearing sounds fine if it’s what you feel best in.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Yup, there’s no hard fast rule for all companies.

      (I alternate between suits – I don’t need to wear them but I liken them to armor and feel safe in them – and full length medieval style dresses. IT can be weird like that)

      1. Marguerite*

        Not going to lie, I did a double take when you mentioned your industry! I’ve been in IT for over 15 years and the one constant is that people dress casual. SUPER casual. Shorts and flip flops, geek T-shirts, the works. Some of my employees would probably come to work in their underwear if I let them. But I love that you’re rocking the clothes that feel right for you! Maybe it’s a cultural thing? I’m in the UK.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Also in the UK! But I spent a long time working at HQ at a fairly high level where suits were mandatory at that grade so it just feels kinda normal to me now. Also, I’ve got about 10 of them.

          Got way more gothic clothing though! Don’t own a single pair of jeans. I think because most of my IT work has been providing internal support for a big company I’ve not had as much exposure to a true IT firm’s culture.

          1. Marguerite*

            Oh, sorry about that! I’ve seen a few of your posts and got a US vibe. Whoops me.

            Gothic clothing sounds so cool though! I guess I work with what you could describe as a “true IT firm” and suits, dresses, etc would be terrible out of place. Which is a shame, sometimes I would enjoy wearing a dress in pastel colours or such, but it’s a weird reality that as a woman in an IT field, you’re taken *less* seriously if you dress up too formally. This might be unique to IT firms though!

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              No worries mate, I don’t mention my excessive tea intake very often after all :p

              I worked, briefly, for a software firm but never really fitted in. Not only due to dress (I don’t own anything but fitted tops, long skirts or dresses – seriously you’ll never see me in trousers of any kind let alone jeans) but…I dunno, I think I just need a bit too much structure at work.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Make him female, not white, fat, disabled and give him the ability to out swear Malcolm Tucker and…yeah that’s pretty accurate! I love to hang out in the server room :)

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, I got teased when I came to my current job (programming, not IT) because I was “so formal” (I was wearing slacks and button-up shirts, but colorful ones, not suit style, and no jacket/jewelry/makeup). But they pretty quickly let it go because, as I commented, it was what I had due to the previous job’s dress code.

        …and today is my second day back in the office since the pandemic began. Yesterday I was in jeans and a red t-shirt. Today I am in slacks and a phoenix tie-dye t-shirt. I haven’t touched my more formal shirts in over a year….

      3. quill*

        Honestly there’s a bunch of times, even in summer, where I look back on my ren faire uniform with a certain wistfulness.

        Usually when I have managed to mess up the straps on my bra and am being stabbed in the armpit by the associated wiring, thinking that a bodice would be more comfortable at that moment. Especially if it meant back support that wasn’t dependent on how comfortable the office chairs are.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I really, really wish I could make any of my corsets work for the office. They’re so much nicer on my upper spinal injury than bras but I’m fat and the instant I sit down I get a load of steel shoved into my abdomen if I wear one. However, literally today I had to remove a misbehaving underwire from a bra that was giving me some really amateur acupuncture!

          1. quill*

            I’d personally suggest stays, or something else that would avoid the vertical boning of the average traditional corset. I used to do stage vaults in what we called a “moresca bodice” but I think that the name was very specific to a bodice maker at the local renfaire. I’ve certainly never been able to google it. The point was that some of the structuring was diagonal, so you didn’t stab yourself in the gut if you had to do some sudden acrobatics.

            Personally I always wore a half length set of light stays because I was on hauling-shit duty when I worked at faire. Granted I was also 15 and therefore smaller overall, so some experimentation would probably be necessary to find the right cut and structure for support that wasn’t creating a new location to be stabbed in these days.

            Also a thought, but cord stiffened bodices rather than wired ones? Might reduce the stabbing. There’s basically no way to get one other than making or having it made custom though.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              All good advice! I’m trying to learn making my own clothes (am an expert embroiderer but never made clothing before) and that might be the only way I can get something that’ll hold my 40h chest up without the Clifton Suspension Bridge feeling.

              1. quill*

                I only do alterations, because yeah, it’s a lot.

                I haven’t done any tutorials because I don’t actually have time and disposable income for costuming, but you might want to try youtube channels like Morgan Donner and Bernadette Banner if you want to get into corsetry.

            2. Tiny Soprano*

              Also riding corsets. They’re intentionally shorter for sitting and movement, so they’re inherently less stabby.

    2. TimeTravlR*

      OP3 here! Thanks for this. In my case, I think this makes sense. My sister is in medical sales so goes to various doc’s offices and clinics regularly, and I should have been clear about that. I wonder if it’s different in her case.

      1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

        If she is successful in her job then I see no reason to change. If she is getting a colder reception more recently from clients etc then it might be worth a try, but unless there is something feeling off or wrong about her interactions, or a decline in business I don’t think she should feel o lighted to change.

        But maybe start with one outfit and see if she is more comfortable :-).

      2. Threeve*

        IMO when there are no colleagues to be compared to, you’re pretty much setting your own standard. (I had an IT contractor who I thought had to wear a uniform because he wore the same company polo whenever he came to the office. Then another colleague subbed in for him wearing regular clothes. The first guy apparently had gotten a bunch of free shirts from the company and just didn’t want to bother buying anything else.)

        For both of you, I agree with others–feel free to dress more comfortably if you’ve wanted to but been hesitant, but otherwise wear whatever you like.

      3. Juli G.*

        For your sister… I generally expect the sales reps that visit me to be more professionally dressed. Not that it’s my expectation of them but that I assume that they are moving through multiple calls a day and are dressing for the highest level of needed professionalism.

      4. Drago Cucina*

        I feel this issue. After a decade as a director of an organization I chose to move to a more casual environment. I’m looking at retirement in about 5 years. I’m going to be wearing those dresses, skirts, and jackets because I’m not buying a new wardrobe. I love my scarves. In over airconditioned offices they keep my neck warm.

        Fortunately my new work place has a “no heels over 2 inches” rule. So, those pumps that probably won’t fit my wide feet anymore will go. Flats are my friends.

      5. Hillary*

        I disagree with a lot of folks here – I think if someone’s in sales they should aim for one level higher than the clients they’re meeting with. A lot of success in sales is building a relationship with the customer, and it feels awkward/uncomfortable when we’re in jeans and a sales rep shows up overdressed. In our (corporate industrial) office the only people who wear suits are external auditors, even our CEO only wears suits when talking to the street.

        We have a few reps whose employers still require them to wear suits. We have a standing offer to tell their bosses we want them to relax that requirement. The most successful ones are still polished but they’ve dropped the formality with us.

        1. Marie*

          It depends so much on the industry and the message you are trying to convey. I work in a sales adjacent role in tech. We dress down to meet with customers. Still clean, still stylish, but something like nice jeans, a properly sized t-shirt, and clean converse. For whatever reason, developers don’t want to trust folks who are dressed nicely. Its dumb. But it seems to be the case. This seems to be more true for the women on the team.

          But expectations around dress vary a lot depending on industry, the level of the folks you are meeting with, and location. When I meet with C-Suite folks I’d throw a blazer over my nice jeans/t-shirt/converse combo. Or upgrade to a dress/blazer/boots.

    3. Mynona*

      Agree. I’ve noticed less concern about office dress codes as part of the rise in casual attire. Hopefully, this means we can dress according to our preferences and needs instead of conforming to a single definition of what is work appropriate. That would be nice.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        In terms of dress codes themselves, maybe, but in terms of attitudes I wouldn’t be surprised if people will start to low-key sideline people who prefer more formal attire. The mere fact that OP and sister are concerned about being perceived as “fuddy duddies” and comments like “thank dog you’ve stopped wearing pantyhose” seem to indicate we’re moving in that direction (or maybe I’m just being sensitive about this because I am so so done with people forcing their own opinions of what to wear on others).

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, we have a full range where I work, sort of depending on the status of your specific job. Assistants/clerk type positions are less visible and more casual; higher level positions tend to be dressier.

      I still wear pantyhose because I cannot stand the feel of shoes against bare feet and socks don’t always look right.

  11. Green great dragon*

    LW4 – Yeh, at the moment it does sound a bit like the issue is at your end, and I’d think it through a bit before quoting it as a reason. If it’s just that you much prefer discussions face to face that’s legitimate, but might restrict your job choices at this point. Otherwise, yes, what support do you feel you need? As Alison says, maybe schedule check-ins. Otherwise, are there other ways to contact him that feel less like bothering him? Instant message, email, dropping an ad hoc meeting in his calendar?

  12. oh no*

    LW1…oof, I used to do this. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she thinks this is how conversations normally work. Putting myself in her shoes, Alison’s scripts are probably the kindest way to let her know she’s not got it quite right. For me it was something I eventually learned as I got older and better at reading body language, but that was college-age…Some people never learn, though.

    1. Old Admin*

      I remember being annoying like that.
      I later learned to just attentively listen and smile a bit a the right places to find out if I was welcome. Or sometimes ask if I could listen in.

    2. oh no*

      the plant on the other hand is very funny and i would definitely still do that even if my coworkers found it weird

    3. UKDancer*

      Definitely, knowing how to join in conversations can be really hard.

      When I was fairly new in the workplace I thought it was fine to join in conversations in the office when I was coming back to my desk or people were gathered in discussion. I did it on one occasion and a more senior colleague turned to me and said if she wanted to talk to me she’d come and speak to me and she was talking to someone else and it was none of my business.

      While it was a fairly harsh thing to say and I’d have rather she not say it in front of everyone, I did think a lot harder about joining in conversations in future and adjusted my behaviour. I don’t recommend that particular approach as I certainly never trusted that colleague again after that.

      I do think Alison’s scripts are really helpful in this respect as being clear but not too harsh.

      1. katertot*

        Yep I had a similar thing happen- I was really trying to get to know people in a new department and kept popping into conversations until someone did something similar- she did it in a VERY rude way similar to what happened to you- thinking back I’m like WOW that was harsh but I will NEVER forget it. I’m super sensitive now to this kind of thing because I never want to be that person BUT I am also sensitive to those people who are new to the workforce or new to the team and just trying to get to know people. It’s hard! and you don’t know anyone! And there’s times when there is no reason why you can’t just include them in the conversation. To your point- there’s ways to do this without being so harsh, especially when a lot of these conversations are casual and there’s no reason you can’t have someone join in.

  13. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    #1 It sounds like a major case of BEC (Bitch Eating Crackers). OMG she had the nerve to bring in a plant! I like Alison’s advice, address the “lurking” if it’s a work conversation, but basically don’t sweat the rest. You could also try being kind to her occasionally. She might be doing the music to cheer herself up because her coworkers shut her out.

    1. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      Yeah, that was my thought. Some of the behaviors are very annoying, but the combination between listing things that aren’t actually all that annoying and thinking absolute rudeness toward the coworker is justified suggests that she annoys LW to the point that there is nothing she can do that won’t be read in the worst possible light.

  14. Forrest*

    LW3, what’s the most dressy end of your non-work clothes, and why don’t you try wearing that to work and seeing how it feels? A pair of less-dressy trousers, but still in a plain dark fabric, with a work blouse? Or a work suit / skirt, but with a jersey tunic instead of a fitted top or blouse? Loafers or another kind of plain, dark leather shoe, but flat?

    Perhaps you go to completely the other end of the spectrum and only wear cargo pants and 20 year old band tshirts out of work, but if you have a slightly dressier end of non-work clothes, I bet plenty of them would be find for soft businesswear.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      OP (One of the sisters anyway!) and for a second there I thought you were recommending cargo pants and my heart may have skipped a beat! LOL I once worked in a really casual office and they said we could wear shorts to work and I just couldn’t do it!
      But thank you for the idea on looking at my top end non-work clothes. That’s a good thought.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “what’s the most dressy end of your non-work clothes, and why don’t you try wearing that to work and seeing how it feels? ”

      This is a good approach to try.

    3. Dona Florinda*

      This is a very good advice. OP, you don’t have to buy new clothes, but it’s worth a shot experimenting with what you already have.
      Also, if do want to shop, go for clothes that you can wear outside of work as well. I have some dresses and blouses that go both with office meetings and dinner parties, so I just mix and match.

  15. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    OP 4 – I’ve said elsewhere in the thread, but I want to reiterate that I think it’s worth considering why it’s so hard to connect with your manager and perhaps raising that to him.

    I’ve done mixed-remote work now in a few different workplaces, and the department culture matters hugely, IMO. At one company, everyone used a low-key chat client. There was a fairly established protocol for encouraging small questions and small talk in the chat, and it was also normal to move larger topics to email or shared docs. Regular check-in meetings would happen even if there weren’t major problems.

    At another company, the chat client was never adopted by the managers and so it was never adopted by the team — everything was conducted via email. Cc’ and ‘reply all’ were used frequently by upper management to keep everyone in the loop. There was a real resistance to using the shared drive, since a lot of people didn’t know how to do it, so documents often lived on people’s computers and were only exchanged via email. There was a lot of institutional knowledge (many people had been with the team for YEARS) and it wasn’t documented or proactively shared so newbies were often confused.

    One of these offices retained a friendly, communicative culture for remote workers. The other really struggled with remote work. Both of them were lovely offices in-person: not toxic or majorly dysfunctional. But you can’t just send a bunch of people remote and expect the in-office culture you have to translate. If orgs are going to maintain remote structure, they need to be proactive about creating a work culture that continues to foster low-stakes communication despite distance.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      All this.

      Remote mainly based on email does not encourage informal communications – a combination of chat and/or message boards is so much better. Not using a share drive does not support collaboration. This is basic stuff. Resisting this in the 21st century is not good.

      I’d argue that over reliance on email even in an in-person office is not good.

  16. Guin*

    I don’t understand the problem with the boss moving “several states away.” Would the LW feel better if the boss lived five minutes from the office, but still worked from home 100% of the time? I work in [major East Coast city] and my 100% remote boss lives in [small town three states away.] Miraculously this doesn’t impede our relationship at all. LW needs to take advantage of whatever office instant message/chat function they have, or Zoom, or (gasp) the telephone.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I was wondering this too! Worth thinking about for the LW – are you maybe interpreting his move as meaning he’s checked out of work and that’s why you can’t bring yourself to contact him?

      Either way, if you do name this as a reason for quitting, I’d make sure to stay focused on the boss being remote/unavailable and not his physical location.

    2. doreen*

      I don’t understand the problem with “several states away” either – long before COVID, I had a job where 1) my manager worked in an office 150 miles away from me and 2) I managed people who were located in eight different offices in my city and I was obviously working out of only one on any given day . Nobody was working remotely and nobody was living several states away – but I can’t imagine the OP would have been any happier with that situation. And if the OP would be happier if the boss were working from home in the same state/city maybe s/he needs to think about why that is – it might have nothing to do with either the boss or the job.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think the LW mentioned that he moved several states away to show that there wouldnt be a way for him to come into the office, even if he was working 100% remote, and/or to show that because he moved he is now only remote where if he was more local he might still pop into the office occasionally. I don’t think the LW has a specific problem because he is in another state, just that he is not local and wont have the chance of face to face interaction.

      1. ecnaseener*

        LW did emphasize that they feel uncomfortable “bothering” the boss “now that he’s across the country.”

  17. OP3*

    I need to clarify something! I work in an office. My sister spends a lot of time on the road going to medical offices as she is in sales. That may impact some of the readers’ takes on this. I should have said that in the letter!

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think if your sister is going to lots of different offices, she might want to err more formal, since conservative offices may be biased against someone who seems undressed, but the reverse is less likely to be true (although it happens!)

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      For you, wear what you like! I have never worn a suit except to an interview or a funeral, and I would be miserable if I had to, but several women in my office do, and they always look so polished! Just make sure whatever you are wearing is in a current style – women’s suits tend to vary a lot over time, so suits that are a decade old may look really dated.

      Your sister’s case could be different. If she has well-established relationships, then wardrobe isn’t likely to matter much. If she would prefer to be more formal, that’s how her clients are used to seeing her, and why would they care. If she changed her look, they’d probably applaud that like you would a new haircut. If she is actively seeking new business though, she may look out-of-touch as compared to her younger competitors. She is the one who would have the best feel for that.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Or possibly a touch eccentric, which is maybe not a bad thing. Eccentric is memorable, especially in small doses. But I’ve never been in sales, so take my advice with a good grain of salt.

        2. Smithy*

          I’m in nonprofit fundraising – where there’s not a huge culture of monitoring/critiquing how people dress. However, there’s a large external component and it’s certainly an aspect of the job that people do think about.

          While it would take someone pushing rather extreme styles of dress for me to comment, if I was asked directly for a colleague for feedback on their dress and how they might modernize it – I’d be happy to engage more directly. Either to comment that I think the person looks great or to call out more directly aspects of dress that might be addressed. Hearing from someone in the same/similar field would likely be more helpful in focusing on which items (if any) read the most dated or if its a case where a more relaxed styling with the same items might be all that is needed.

    3. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Personally I would still er on the side of formality when it comes to sales (for the record, I am in my twenties but not in the US). If I were working in a medical office and the person selling me equipment showed up in too casual clothes or athleisure wear, I’d probably give a polite “thanks but no thanks”. If she is noticing a trend among younger colleagues/competitors towards slightly more casual AND these people still get sales, it may be worth trying the “find the most formal of your casual clothes and see if it works” advice Forrest gave above.

      1. Tech editor by day*

        Wow. On the heels of yesterday’s letter about not discriminating against people for being pregnant, it seems strange to be okay with discriminating against people for what they wear. It’s one thing to acknowledge that it happens; quite another to say it’s acceptable.

        1. Neptune*

          It does not seem at all strange to me because those two things are not at all comparable. It’s a little insulting that you would trivialise the discrimination that pregnant women face by comparing it to not wanting to purchase medical equipment from someone who showed up to your meeting in bike shorts and flip-flops.

        2. A.N. O'Nyme*

          I’m speaking specifically from a medical context, which in my experience isn’t the most progressive of industries, and as others mentioned people tend to expect salespeople to be more put together anyway. I never said it was acceptable, but let’s face it: that’s the way it is. I fully agree that people should be able to wear what they want, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            *for the record I’m not in a medical context myself, this is more of a thought experiment. Before anyone gets confused about that.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s not discrimination. Not by a long shot. It’s business. If I’m hiring an attorney, I’m not going to pick the one wearing Fabletics, because I want my first impression to be that she is serious. When I see clients, I don’t dress formally, but I would never show up in a t-shirt and leggings. If a client decided they wouldn’t work with me because they didn’t like my dress, that would be unfortunate but it’s DEFINITELY not discrimination.

        4. BigHairNoHeart*

          What? Refusing to buy optional products from someone wearing a sundress or sweatpants is, at worst, just displaying a biased point of view. It’s not the same as refusing to hire a pregnant person, which is actively discriminatory. Wearing casual clothes isn’t a protected class. Heck, change the sales vs. hiring part of these situations and it’s all the more obvious that these aren’t the same. Someone showing up to a job interview in too casual clothes will often get taken out of the running (and that’s completely legal) whereas if the same thing happened to a pregnant person just because they were pregnant, that would be a legal issue.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Oh I gotta get one of my old coworkers here – the famous time they were interviewing and one person showed up in paint-stained t shirt, ripped jeans and smelling like a brewery! Yeah, they didn’t hire that guy!

        5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Eh, not really. If I’m looking to buy some expensive software solutions and one person from firm A shows up to give their bid in shorts, baseball cap and flip flops and the the person from firm B shows up in professional attire I’m more likely to listen to firm B.

          It’s very much to do with the impression of the firm. Relaxed, very casual clothing will give the idea that their firm is more ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ which, for some projects, actually might be ideal. More professional clothing and a bit more time putting themselves together gives the impression of a firm that acts more structured and professional.

        6. Anonymous Hippo*

          Why? Clothes are literally a choice, and a choice of self expression at that. They are basically designed to be judged. They are you “first impression” to the world. It always confuses me when people get upset at the idea of being judged for their clothes. We are talking being upset because someone isn’t “on-trend” or wearing designer brands, levels of formality can be found at any price point.

      2. Perfectly Particular*

        Oh gosh yes! I did not mean like casual-casual, but maybe a flowy skirt and blouse, or even neat jeans with a blouse and dress shoes rather than a suit with a scarf. I do work in medical, and our reps do not generally wear suits, but the regional managers and anyone who comes to visit from the home office would.

    4. SaffyTaffy*

      OP3 drug reps dress to be attractive to their docs, not necessarily to look professional. Many reps do both, but it’s the norm in drug sales to be much more stylish/attractive than to be strictly professional.

    5. AY*

      Your sister might want to pay particular attention to her shoes! There’s a certain kind of low-heeled, full-coverage leather pump that just screams “dated” to me. Freshening up her shoes with a more casual or modern style might make her feel like she fits in more.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yes, these small touches can make a huge difference. Maybe some less formal accessories too (like a chunky necklace vs a gold chain)

      2. OP3*

        After reading some of the comments, but before getting to yours, this is almost exactly what I said to my sister. The shoes can make or break the outfit! You are so right!

        1. Smithy*

          New shoes and a new bag can do a lot of to change a look with items that can be worn regularly (ie minimal investment in new items). More unstructured bags in the style of the Telfar bag, I think can add a more casual touch to business dress as well.

    6. quill*

      Sales probably is still pretty formal or dressy compared to the people they’re meeting, so as long as your sister’s style doesn’t scream that she got teleported from another era (think 80’s shoulder pads…) it’s probably fine to be overdressed.

      When it comes to offices, I’d say just be aware that some aspects of being overdressed (heels, specifically, but also if you’re always taking off a suit jacket, etc,) will read as awkward if they’re either affecting your activities in the office or if they need constant adjustment. So if your colleagues want to power-walk across the office park to the taco truck at lunch, heels and a suit jacket may not fit very well.

  18. Binky101*

    OP #4: Would it make the job, and the relationship with remote-working boss, any easier if there were simply set times to check in? At my current job (adjunct professor for first year writing) I have to clearly post office hours, set and predictable times that I will be available to my students for consultation, feedback, encouragement. During the pandemic, I’ve been WFH, but I would log on to Zoom during those set, predictable office hours so that my students knew I was available to answer questions, read through and give feedback on their work, or just chat about things. Perhaps your boss would be open to “office hours” once a week/ twice a week/ “ev’ry mornin’ half past four,” so that you and they know when to expect a call or e-mail or teleconference. That would give more structure to the day, and also reassurance that you’re not potentially butting in or interrupting some other meeting or task that boss is doing remotely. There’s a kind of reassurance and ease with being able to visually see someone in a physical, on-site office, with the door open to indicate availability, but with remote work, there are ways to replicate that open door in various ways that can work for both of you.

  19. pleaset cheap rolls*

    On overdressing #3, for someone happy in their job and doing fine: “You don’t have to change anything if you’re happy with what you’re wearing.”

    On the boss moving #4, the OP has to get over this: “I feel more like I’m bothering him if I need to reach out.” He told you to reach out. He’s available, so avail yourself of him. I urge you to get an IM or chat system going with him – not just email (too long to reply) or calls (too intrusive if not scheduled). If you don’t like IM, you can also IM him “Can I call you for a moment.” Then do it if he says yes.

    This is a new normal – remote communications. We all have to get into it.

    I am not commenting on the OP missing other forms of support/engagement.

    1. OP3*

      I actually think it’s more nuanced than what makes me (or my sister) feel comfortable though. Especially in sales. But I appreciate where you’re coming from because it should be that easy.

      1. Allypopx*

        For your office job, what you’re comfortable in is likely fine (and may even give you an air of more seniority.) But even generally – comfort does matter because you’ll appear more confident when you’re comfortable. Body language and such communicate so much more than fabrics. So don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel here!

  20. moss*

    For the intern with Mondays off: I think you are way overestimating the benefit to this. As others have said, you being present more will benefit you more. As for the creative hobby, it seems obvious to me she’s not getting much done in that area if she’s napping instead of working on her hobby. I have a full time job and I’m also a serious painter (exhibiting in multiple galleries) and the structure of my job benefits the focus and discipline I bring to painting because I know I don’t have unlimited time. Every Monday off to work on your hobby sounds great but that unbroken stretch of leisure time does not actually lend itself to using it for work, even enjoyable creative work.

    In conclusion, I see the envy eating at you, try to stick to your own lane. You are doing a competitive internship which will be good for your career and you have a creative hobby which is good for your soul. Don’t compare your progress to other people’s. Walk your path.

    1. WellRed*

      I got a slight whiff of “ but it’s not faaaiir!” From this letter. OP look at the bright sides of all this. Also, in the real working world, it’s pretty unusual to have a day to devote to your art. At least you’ll be better equipped to adjust.

      1. Allypopx*

        If OP is an intern they’re likely young and haven’t learned that “fair” in the professional world often looks different, so that may be how they’re feeling! I think that’s valid but this is also a great opportunity to start thinking about fair differently. Equity vs equality comes up in offices a lot. Sometimes you get perks because you asked for them. Sometimes you earn special treatment. These are all concepts to wrap your head around.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yes , look at it this way OP. You will have more of a presence since you work 5 days a week where the other person only works 4 (assuming the Monday-Friday schedule). Also, if there is one spot available for full time I think they would be more apt to give it to you since you show good work ethic and have been coming in normal hours. Plus they may look at the other intern and figure that they may want Mondays off if they get hired, which most places probably wouldn’t be able to do for a full time employee.

  21. Bookworm*

    #4: I think unless there’s now an inability to do your job because of the move, it sounds like there’s more issues to the job without the moving. But it could also be a matter of the shift of telecommuting and he/you haven’t quite figured out how to work in a slightly different setup. Sounds like talking to your boss is a great first step, but also wouldn’t be surprised if whatever it is isn’t really helped despite whatever measures you/boss takes.

    Good luck!

  22. WellRed*

    I’m on my small very casual team we have one coworker who dresses up. Not suits, but nice dresses, accessories etc., rent the runway, etc. we are still remote but she WFO once a week and still dresses up though no one else to see her. I think she just works better that way.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Yeah, it may help her get into a work mindset. Some people work better when there is a clear line between “let’s get stuff done” and “time to relax”. Wouldn’t surprise me if clothes achieve that for your coworker.

  23. GarlicMicrowaver*

    OP 1- I’m sorry, but the bulk of your complaints have nothing to do with actual work productivity. You just really don’t like this person and it shows. Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle. How would you feel if your entire team gave you the cold shoulder or treated you differently? Do better. And I’ll take the plants, AND THE RAMEN.

    1. Colette*

      I disagree. Loud personal activities (singing, phone calls) is disruptive to people around you, and definitely affects their productivity. (It almost certainly affects hers as well; I wonder who is managing her.)

      Here’s the thing; this coworker is engaging in off-putting behaviour. Maybe she doesn’t know better; maybe she doesn’t care; maybe she thinks work should be more “fun”. Why doesn’t matter. But the OP is allowed to treat her more distantly than she does others – and that is a reasonable way thing for her to do. Boundaries are good!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This. Singing? I listen to music at work but a) quietly, and b) OMG no singing ever. Who sings along at work??

        I thought it was also pretty standard to both limit personal calls on work time and to take them somewhere away from your coworkers, if possible.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think there’s room for kindness as well. Once a month, maybe get coffee or lunch with her. Whatever you can stand. Her annoying behaviors may well decrease once she feels more accepted.

  24. Person from the Resume*

    LW4, you can quit for any reason you want. I would at least caution you to recognize that your boss is saying he’s making himself available, and YOU are the one choosing not to reach out. If you leave for this reason, I think a fairer explanation in that you prefer in person management and communication style and being able to pop into an office an talk to your boss and that changed. You are less comfortable with remote management and work. You are not reaching out to your boss to discuss this issue.

    IDK. Did he come to you much of the time when you both worked in person and he’s not reaching out now so it’s very different? Or did you go by his office or stop him in the hallway initiating your conversations because your comfortable with that. Do you have phone anxiety and hate to talk on the phone? If it’s just your preferred style, I think it’s worth acknowledging that while still being a valid reason to quit.

    If you have other reasons to move on this could be the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

    1. allathian*

      From the LW’s comments it sounds like the boss is talking the talk but isn’t walking the walk. He says he’s available but hates Skype messaging and doesn’t respond to texts or emails, and his calendar is booked all the time.

      I’d give it one last shot and try and schedule a 15-minute call once a week, but I do think that the problem lies with the manager being unapproachable rather than the LW having difficulties adjusting to a remote manager.

      Until now, I’ve always been managed by someone who works in the same office, but my new manager works at a branch office while I’m at HQ. Granted, we’re remote for the foreseeable future thanks to the delta variant, but even when going back to the office will be an option, I still won’t have unscheduled meetings with my manager. She’s planning to visit HQ at least once a month when that becomes an option, and no doubt we’ll have in-person meetings at those times.

  25. BellyButton*

    remote boss: Many employees struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication. In some cases, employees feel that remote managers are out of touch with their needs, and thereby are neither supportive nor helpful. Have a conversation with your boss and tell him you are feeling this way! Set up more regular phone calls and make some of the video.
    Your boss doesn’t know you are feeling this way unless you tell them. So speak up and advocate for what you need to feel connected and comfortable.

  26. BellyButton*

    Over dressing: I am in my mid-40s, I wore a suit for years, then switched to more casual jackets with skirts or slacks, then over the last 3-4 years it has gone even more casual. One of my clients told me before going to their offices for the first time that it is very casual and specifically told me not to wear a suit and to wear jeans so that I wouldn’t terrify the employees when they saw a consultant in a suit. LOL
    My go-to, like Alison described, is a pair of Ann Taylor or Loft slacks with a top and a cardigan. For offices that are more casual, I will wear trouser cut jeans or nice jeans (no de-stressed or holes) with a top I would wear with slacks and a cardigan. Or a nice heavy-weight t-shirt, with a casual blazer or cardigan, depending on who I am meeting with that day.
    I still wear scarves often because I have a pixie cut and my neck gets cold, but I do make sure they are more casual.
    I really like the flexibility of dressing more casually. I find it so much more fun and easier to express myself. I am still put together and polished, but I love wearing jeans, a cute top and my red platform mary jane shoes.
    Have some fun and thank dog you stopped wearing panty hose! ;)

    1. AthenaC*

      …. There was no armchair diagnosing in the removed comment, but whatever.

      My point was that the OP1 may get some mileage out of being direct that these behaviors are outside of the norm and so they aren’t landing well. Or if they feel that’s too much effort, they are free to ignore the “annoying” behaviors outside of very specific work-related impacts.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is the part that I’ve asked people not to do here because it’s stigmatizing to people who aren’t neurotypical (and there are so many other reasons for this behavior):
        “this sounds like someone that doesn’t know how to act, whether they are on the spectrum or what have you,”

  27. High Score!*

    Once I brought a tomato plant to work and put it in a sunny window. Everyone thought it was cool. Unfortunately, there was not enough sun for the plant and it grew too tall and leggy. I rigged up some string to support it. Unfortunately, some tiny bugs found the struggling plant, infested the office and no one thought the plant was cool anymore :(

  28. Imaginary Number*

    OP #1: I 100% used to be your coworker (well, not your specific coworker but you know what I mean) and probably still am a little bit … just older and with a lot more self-awareness and self-control when it comes to wanting to jump in on every conversation. Walking away every time she jumps in will do one of two things: a) make her think you didn’t even notice that she was trying to get involved in the conversation, making her try harder next time, or b) really hurt her feelings because it will probably feel like you don’t want to talk to her at all.

    I really like Allison’s advice about being direct. “Do you need something? I can come find you later.” But, also, when she interrupts: “I’d love to hear your story about your trip to Guatemala. Cecile was just telling me about her trip to London and I want to finish that before this meeting in five minutes, but come find me later?” In which case she will either find you later to tell her the thing, or forget all about it because she just wanted to feel included.

    Also, I think it’s important to separate “My coworker does something I find offputting that has no impact on me” (brings in a vegetable plant) and “My coworker has a habit that affects my work and/or my ability to have a conversation with my coworkers.” Only one of those is a problem. Unless it’s a super pungent plant or something like that.

  29. PeanutButter*

    LW3: I also struggle to figure out what to wear sometimes, because I’m a professional specialist who works in an academic lab, where often the grad students and post-docs are rolling in in their sweatpants. I want people who come in to immediately know I’m not a student, but I also need to be in “runnable clothing” just in case there’s a chemical spill or what not and I need to GTFO. Also for health and safety reasons I need to wear long pants and sturdy shoes, even though I don’t work IN the lab space. On a previous letter, someone linked the “Missionary Dress and Grooming” standards from the LDS church, and apparently my aesthetic is Mormon Sister! I found all of the clothing options presented on the website to look professional, functional/comfortable, and allowed for a wide variety of personal expression while not being so trendy that they’d be out in the next season. I’m not sure if we can post links, but if you google it I’m sure the site will come up.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Okay, that’s some seriously cute stuff pictured. I’m getting a Mod-Cloth vibe from some of it.

  30. SMH*

    OP1 I think I am in the minority today when I say I completely understand what you are getting at. I started working at an office and a person I’ll call Mary returned to the office and sat near me. She routinely interjected in other people’s conversations random information that had nothing to do with the topic at hand; she was borderline rude in the way she was constantly in other people’s business i.e. looking through other people’s paperwork or going through their mail and asking them questions about things that didn’t pertain to her.

    I didn’t have to do anything but others started addressing it. They called her out when she was off topic and she would say something like ‘Just go with it.’ They said no stop interrupting. Our company was larger so they had supervisors to discuss the issue with but it wasn’t quite to that level. Overall she was very negative about everything at work and in her personal life and didn’t seem to know or care how she impacted others. She ended up leaving and tried to come back and they chose not to bring her back.

    I hope it gets better but for now I would address a few things with her. If she interrupts say ‘Hold on I wasn’t finished or John was still speaking.’ If her comment isn’t relevant stop and blink a few times and say ‘That’s not what we’re talking about. Can you give us a few minutes to finish our conversation?’ You can also ask a few others if they have similar issues with her and ask how they deal with it. They may have found a way to combat it a bit more. Asking her to not play music or to step out in the hall for a personal call is totally reasonable.

    1. Generic Name*

      Wow, she said, “just go with it”? I have a real soft spot for some awkward people because often it’s because they just haven’t figure out social stuff. But this person just sounds incredibly self centered. I think it would be good for OP to reflect on of her coworker interrupts because she’s oblivious or because she’s a self-centered jerk. But really, I think Alison’s advice stands either way.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I have that sometimes where I read a letter and immediately understand 150% what they’re talking about because I’ve experienced basically the exact same thing only to come to the comments and find that apparently no one else has ever encountered anything like it and it’s nigh impossible to explain, apparently. It’s one of these things which if you know, you know, and there’s no further digging or hypootheticals or explanation necessary.

      1. Anonymous Esq*

        Eh I’ve experienced the same. There was a girl in my clinic in law school who acted like this. Everyone disliked her, she had no friends, people were rude and would stop talking when she walked past or came up to us while we were having lunch, etc. I found her awkward and annoying and frustrating, but it cost me absolutely nothing to be kind to her, to include her, to talk to her about cases we were dealing with. I judged my colleagues who were actively rude to her much more harshly than I judged her annoying behavior. They were malicious, she was annoying and awkward and lonely and kind of pathetic. Some people can have sympathy for someone like that particularly if they have experience dealing with it, not everyone who disagrees with your take is doing so out of ignorance of how annoying it is, they’re just offering a different perspective and hoping that some people will still choose kindness. I don’t think that’s so bad.

        1. Myrin*

          First, what you describe sounds pretty different to what OP is describing – there is no mention of anyone being rude or actively maliciously the the coworker, which would be outrageous and totally out of line!

          Secondly, I’m not referring to commenters who might offer suggestions along the lines of “try to not let yourself get so worked up over her” – staceyizme’s comment above, which encourages OP to focus more on herself and not give coworker that much space in her brain is excellent, for example. I’m talking about the numerous comments which accuse OP of clearly hating her coworker, being a nasty piece of work herself, talking like coworker’s behaviour is 100% normal and understandable and can’t possibly be that bad, and so on. I’m seeing a marked difference in both of these approaches and from reading the way these comments are written, it does indeed seem to me like they’re from people who have never had to deal with this kind of issue – I honestly can’t imagine anyone saying “she can’t be that bad and you are the rude one!” who has ever had to dealt with a person like that. Maybe I’m wrong, though, and people just have much more grace and magnanimity than I do which IS always a possibility.

        2. allathian*

          No, it’s not bad to choose kindness. That said, if you do, there’s a risk that the awkward and annoying person will cling to you desperately because you’re the only one who’s willing to engage with them. This happened to me in middle school with a very awkward kid who didn’t have any friends. I engaged with her because I could empathize with her, I switched schools in 7th grade in the middle of the school year, when the class cliques had been established. I was very lonely in 7th grade and only found my people in 8th, in a group of other “outsiders”. I guess I hoped the other girl wouldn’t have to face the same sort of loneliness that I faced.

          That said, at some point I could no longer tolerate her clinging and I’m afraid I really hurt her feelings when I disengaged. I spent months avoiding her until she finally got the message and stopped seeking me out (we didn’t share any classes, thank goodness).

          But this was middle school and thankfully it’s never happened to me as an adult, although I’m still very sensitive and react quite strongly if I feel I’m not accepted as a member of a group. Once I got really upset when I saw that my teammates were going to lunch together, and when I asked if I could join them, one of them said straight out that I wasn’t welcome because they were going to lunch with friends, rather than as teammates. I got upset and even talked to my then-manager about it, but she said that there was really nothing she could do about it, they were going to lunch on their own time and could go with whoever they wanted. I even explained my history of being excluded at school and gave that as a probable reason for my strong reaction. I apologized to my manager for involving her in my issues, although she was a people person and a relationship builder and was happy that I felt able to confide in her rather than annyoed with me and to my coworker for reacting so strongly, and she apologized for her unnecessarily cruel comment and acknowledged that she should have said something less excluding. Then and there we decided to schedule monthly team lunches that everyone was invited to, so it all ended well. Ironically, the coworker was later promoted and she was the best manager I’ve had at this organization so far and one of the best I’ve had anywhere.

          Shunning is an effective way to modify people’s behavior, although sometimes the change is even worse than the original behavior, because most people want to feel they’re a part of a group, and sometimes the actions they take to feel included alienate the shunners even further.

    3. Caraway*

      Also just jumping in with support for this LW! I had a coworker like this once, and it was incredibly hard to work with her. She grated on me so much personally that I know some totally normal things she did sent me off the deep end, when someone I liked doing the same thing wouldn’t have bothered me at all (like bringing in a vegetable plant!). I know I’m just a stranger on the internet, but I will mention that I have a strong reputation at work for being kind, reasonable, and easy to work with – so I don’t think I was in a situation where I was the one making her an outcast, like some are suggesting above, and the LW may not be either. Ultimately I solved the problem by getting a different job at the same company where I didn’t have to sit next to this coworker every day. That may be what the LW ends up having to do as well, if she’s truly at the end of her patience with her colleague (as I was).

  31. Sarahdactyl*

    About LW #1…

    As someone who is socially awkward and a step into “the spectrum”… I wonder if she’s either socially awkward for the sake of being socially awkward or on the spectrum. And she isn’t sure if or how to join in on a conversation. And wants to be part of things, not to be nosy– but to feel a sense of belonging.

    I know sometimes I feel like I do that and it’s not to be annoying. I’m just not sure what to do! I often feel like I am in a world that doesn’t understand me or want me around. The pandemic has made this worse with isolation and coming back into “the real word” has been a difficult transition. I feel more out of my element than ever– even in my office and with my colleagues. LW #1, please be more understanding and cut your colleague some slack. Our fear of missing out is more more than just a superficial thing– we’re afraid we’re missing out because we’re afraid we’re missing a social que! There may be factors more than just “annoying” there. Be understanding.

    And a vegetable plant is cool! How is that any different than a potted plant? (It could also be a way for her to try to start conversation!)

    1. annakarina1*

      I felt the same when I would try to join in a conversation at work that was casual and get a look from someone that meant “Stay out” even if it wasn’t a private conversation. And I did have some secondhand embarassment for this person, knowing how it feels to get iced out. I think the suggestions are good, though tone matters a lot, because “Do you need one of us” could easily come out sounding annoyed instead of helpful.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Well, do you play your music out loud, sing loudly while people are working, take personal calls all day, and hijack work conversations with irrelevant comments to the point that your coworkers have to go elsewhere to finish speaking?

      If not, you’re already way ahead of the annoying person in #1.

      I think a lot of commenters are making the same mistake as the LW, in conflating the very real problem behavior with the innocuous but awkward behavior. There are a lot of reasons that the co-worker’s social difficulties might be sympathetic, but it doesn’t change the fact that her work-related behavior is creating real barriers to her colleagues’ ability to function.

  32. Missy*

    Other than the plant, I would thing that I’m the person from LW1. I don’t hover, but if I hear two people in the hallway talking about something not work related that is interesting (new movie/tv last night/etc) I might pop out and join in. Most of my co-workers don’t mind, but a few really seem to be annoyed by it, so I don’t do it with them. But I also struggle with social interactions in general, something I’m working on in therapy.

    But also, a lot of these examples from LW1 are in the last month. The last year and a half has been rough on people, especially single people who live alone and maybe HAVEN’T had an in-person conversation with someone in over a year. For those of us who already didn’t have great natural social skills over a year without using them was really detrimental.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yes, this is a really normal thing to do if people are talking in public office spaces. But I really like your last point – I’m a pretty social person and I’m still relearning how to people right now, it’s hard!

  33. Jennifer Strange*

    OP#2 – You mention you’re in a creative field. Obviously that could mean many things, but I know in some creative fields evening and weekend work are necessary to the organization. Is it possible that she is also working some later hours/on the weekends in order to make up for being out on Mondays?

    Either way, I would just shrug it off as a lesson learned going forward.

  34. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Dumb small question about #3. The LW mentions opting for a “casual blazer rather than a suit jacket”. What’s the difference? I always thought a blazer and suit jacket were the same thing, except for maybe you buy a blazer by itself and a suit jacket comes as a suit set.

    1. Allypopx*

      For menswear the level of formality usually goes sportscoat – blazer – suit jacket. It’s roughly the same for women though you may find dressier blazers. It’s often about cut and material.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      There are cotton and linen blazers that are cut more casual. These fall more softly and are not as “starched” looking.

    3. londonedit*

      I would say ‘casual blazer’ would be something slightly less structured, maybe not black, probably single-breasted and worn with the button undone. Possibly even worn with the sleeves rolled up to 3/4 length. A ‘suit jacket’ would mean the most formal sort of blazer – structured and tailored, a stiffer fabric, more form-fitting, possibly worn with the button(s) done up.

    4. Joielle*

      I have blazers that didn’t come as part of a set that are structured and made of a formal suit-like material (which I would call a suit jacket if they came with pants), but I also have casual blazers that are made of sweatshirt-ish material. So I think “blazer” is just a broader term than “suit jacket,” for a very similar item of clothing.

      Also, I have structured blazers in patterns that would be ludicrous if they had matching pants (like some loud plaids) so even a “formal blazer” can dress an outfit down if it’s in a less formal pattern.

    5. Hillary*

      For womenswear, take a look at the Ann Taylor website’s jackets section. The ones in seasonless stretch and bi-stretch fabric are more formal – the cuts are closer, they’re more structured, and the buttons match. Although the double-breasted one reads more casual to me for 2021. I often look at how they’re styled on websites – if it’s styled as a suit it’s formal, if it’s styled with non-matching trousers/jeans it’s casual. The ones in stretch, twill, and other fabrics read casual to me. Multicolored accents, prints, or plaids/checks are less formal, as are asymmetrical designs, zippers, or loose/boyfriend fits.

      You can style a formal blazer to be less formal with the right accessories. It’s difficult to make an informal jacket look formal.

  35. QuinleyThorne*

    LW#3: Nothing substantial to add other than I think you should keep the scarf! Scarves are versatile, there’s one for every occasion. Scarves are always appropriate in my book :)

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Eh, if you’re working with someone who is in a sweatshirt or a plain t-shirt, you can feel very out of place. For myself, accessories are the first thing to go if I feel overdressed.

  36. Erin*

    LOL I was hoping for a ginormous corn stalk as well!

    I hope we get an update on this co-worker, and her office agricultural pursuits!

  37. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW #2, perks like that are super common, but they are also something to not really get annoyed by when someone else has it and you don’t. In my office, in normal times, I have a coworker who worked out a perk of working from home every day, even though the rest of us were in the office. That coworker lives about 10-20 miles away, easily close enough to commute every day, and would come in roughly once every two weeks. A different coworker has a perk of being able to leave at 2pm every day (he starts between 5am and 6am), which means if you want him in a meeting it needs to be over by 2. He also leaves earlier than that once a week to play golf. I don’t have those perks, but that’s fine because I didn’t ask for them. If I wanted them, I would ask for them. Would a three day weekend every week be nice? Sure, but it’s not vital. Any personal projects I have (which are plenty) simply get done during my two day weekends.

    Also, not every employer will approve perks like that, so just because this one approved it for the other intern doesn’t mean a different employer will approve it for you. It’s very case-by-case.

  38. Blaise*

    OP 5: Definitely make a website! I’m a teacher and use Weebly (the free version) for my online portfolio. It’s super easy, and at least in my field employers are super impressed that I’ve gone above and beyond to make it! I put a link to it on my resume right under my contact information, and I also include a QR code in the corner that links to it (which would very much depend on your field, but in teaching it shows that I’m hip with the times when it comes to technology lol- interviewers point out how cool it is almost every time haha).

  39. OrigCassandra*

    OP5, I just wanted to thank you for writing in with your question. Media interviews have been happening to me too lately (not COVID-related, as that’s not my area), and it didn’t even occur to me that they could be resume-worthy. Today I learned!

    1. Bob Loblaw*

      I work in a profession (private legal sector) where media appearances/quotes can be very much a plus, as that can be one signal of a person’s recognized expertise, contacts, and ability to drum up business by being a “thought leader” (a phrase that always makes me cringe, but it’s a thing in my profession).

    2. LW 5*

      OP 5 here. You are very welcome. I admit I’m very surprised by Allison’s answer. I was prepared for one of her, “yeah, no, don’t do that” responses!

  40. Mockingdragon*

    Ruh-roh…. I thought a blazer WAS a suit jacket…. what’s the difference beteween them?

    Also, are heels considered more formal than otherwise identical flats? I haven’t worn pumps in my entire 30 years of life so I’ve just never thought about it. I usually wear plain black mary-janes or flat sandals for fancier occasions.

    1. Allypopx*

      Material/cut are usually different – and yes heels are typically considered more formal than flats. Flats aren’t *inappropriate* for more formal occasions typically, but are less dressy.

      1. Mockingdragon*

        See, I also thought there was a difference between “dressy” and “formal”…I don’t know that I can put into words what I mean. Like two people can be wearing equally formal suits, but one is more tailored or with flashes of accent color and dressier. Except I think I also thought being dressier made you LESS formal. (Yeesh I’m bad at this!)

        1. Joielle*

          I don’t know that I’d necessarily call one “dressy” and one “formal,” but I think you might be talking about the difference between, like, a suit you’d wear to church on easter and a suit you’d wear to an interview. Both might be technically a suit, in that they are a jacket and pants/skirt set in matching fabrics, but the interview suit would be more structured and “plainer,” and therefore more appropriate for the office.

          1. Mockingdragon*

            Yeah, exactly…but would they both be an equal level of Formality, just for different occasions? Now this is just a thought exercise I’m interested in opinions about! :D

  41. James*

    We had a guy bring tomato and pepper plants into the field office. He’s someone who’s a bit annoying as well, but that part didn’t register as annoying. We all sort of looked after them, checking on them as we came in, making sure they had water, etc. We have an exterior patio at the office and they were usually out there (we brought them in during tornados), so they weren’t disruptive. Once they were ready to harvest he shared as much as he could (not much, but it was something).

    The rest of it….Sometimes you have to ask yourself if the value added by the person is worth the headaches. Sometimes they are–the person that I work with has specialized knowledge that is sometimes absolutely critical. You grit your teeth, accept that certain things are going to happen, and have a plan in place to mitigate it. Other times they’re not.

  42. Observer*

    #1 – I sounds like you just don’t like this person. Which is going to make it very hard to do or say anything without sounding petty.

    Alison’s advice is good. But also, think about why her bringing things into the office is such a big deal to you? Your example just has me scratching my head – what’s so terrible about bringing in a plant? Yes, even a vegetable plant!

    Yes, she sounds socially awkward. But, to be honest, this sounds like a fairly rude office. The idea that you expect to have conversations around people, but somehow it’s inappropriate for someone nearby to have any interest in the conversation? What’s that all about? It’s one thing if you are in a cubicle quietly discussing something and she sticks her head in. It’s another if you are standing in a public space discussing something. Of course, if she’s causing problems when she interrupts, you should still use the scripts that Alison provides. But really, if you want to have conversations that she won’t interrupt, start having those conversations not in shared spaces.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      She has a lot of personal phone calls, with complete disregard to everyone else in the room; sings or listens to music loudly

    2. quill*

      The plant seems like a red herring in terms of all the other legitimate noise complaints. Unless she’s taking up the whole office kitchen with a patio tomato the size of a sheep.

    3. Colette*

      Two scenarios.
      1. Sam and Pat are having a conversation about gardening. Chris is at her desk working. At one point, the conversation moves from gardening to hiking. Chris is an avid hiker, and turns around to join the conversation.

      2. Sam and Pat are having a conversation about gardening. Chris walks up, and interrupts to talk about the hike she took on the weekend. Eventually, Sam and Pat make excueses and go back to work.

      It sounds like the OP’s scenario is closer to #2 than #1. Sam and Pat aren’t out of line for having a personal conversation in an area; Chris is out of line for interrupting and talking about something else. She is looking for more of an audience than conversation.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It’s another if you are standing in a public space discussing something.

      Ohhh pet peeve! Back when we worked in the office at current job, my two-person office was in a high-traffic hallway next to a few conference rooms, and I lost count of how many times people picked the spot right in front of our office’s open door for an impromptu loud chat! just why? I’d usually get up and shut the door after a few minutes. Once, while closing the door, I also stared the chatters down as I told them, “I apologize for eavesdropping on your meeting” at least they had the good sense to say sorry after that, lol.

    5. Neptune*

      “The idea that you expect to have conversations around people, but somehow it’s inappropriate for someone nearby to have any interest in the conversation? What’s that all about?“

      I’m really quite confused about your confusion on this, to be honest. You can easily be having a conversation that is only really between a few people while in a public space. It’s a bit odd to just invite yourself into any conversation you happen to overhear in your workplace; sometimes you have to use your judgement to think “these people are speaking near me, but not to me”.

  43. tiny_strawberries*

    LW3: I’m actually the youngest person in my office, but often feel like I’m overdressed – my office tends toward casual, or just a ‘slacks + ann taylor blouse’ uniform. I like to buy vintage, and have a lot of hand-me-downs from my grandmother/mother, so I just own a lot of ‘nicer’ clothes. One way to dress it down is to mix with less formal items. So, I might wear a very nice black, knee length dress with cap sleeves over a long sleeve striped t-shirt. Or, I often wear a casual single-color linen shirt with the skirt from a skirtsuit, or a bright colored sweater with the pants from a pantsuit. The bonus is that I can also wear those items with my out-of-work clothing. There’s really no separation between the two for me.
    Also, wanted to add that I kind of appreciate the folks in my office who would get dressed up. I never thought they were ‘fuddy duddies,’ as long as I didn’t feel judged by them (and it doesn’t seem that you’re doing so).

  44. quill*

    “First, I think it’s awesome that she brought in a vegetable plant and I want to know what it is. I hope it’s something enormous like a corn stalk.”

    Seconded that the vegetable on it’s own sounds rather awesome.

    So according to family legend, my grandfather, a known prankster, got a new boss some time around ’70, who was a Chicago City Slicker who apparently couldn’t tell a fake plant from a real one. Due to a chain of events involving my grandpa being the only one at the factory who knew which end of a computer to put a punch card into, due to the fact that he’d started working in computers after he messed his back up, he ended up having to explain a lot of technical information to New Boss, and discovered that New Boss faithfully watered his office plant every day.

    Unfortunately, the office rubber plant was made of, well, rubber. The dirt surrounding it was real dirt though, so my grandpa had an idea.

    “That plant in my office is growing really well!” new boss told some of the country raised factory floor guys at one point, “The new shoot doesn’t look anything like the rest of it, but it’s already knee high!”

    Readers, one of the foremen walked in and saw that City Slicker Boss was proudly raising a stalk of corn.

    1. OyHiOh*

      That’s awesome!

      My partner – a big city/city slicker man if ever there was one, although he’s lived in my neck of the woods for a couple decades – very proudly took a photo of a plant on an outdoor café table last summer/early fall. Said it was pretty. The downtown association lines that block with window box style planters on the fencing, filled with petunias, so there were tons of little orchard bees and things flying around. A few landed on the plant, for curiosity’s sake.

      It was a plastic plant, of the sort sold at Hobby Lobby in a little metal pail. It’s one of our favorite cafes. I point out the plastic plants occasionally, just to remind him.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Eh, they just missed their mark by 12 inches or so. The petunia planters are truly glorious – solid walls of flowers three feet high and 18 inches deep.

  45. Shelly*

    When I was in law school, I accepted an unpaid summer internship at a big state government agency, and then got offered a more exciting paid internship at a big federal government agency. My career services told me I couldn’t back out of the unpaid one, but I was able to negotiate down from 6 weeks to 5 weeks, so I could still do the paid one afterwards.

    Then on the first day of my unpaid internship I was asked my hours and it clicked in me that I might be able to set my own hours. I told them I was there until 2 every day, and they said ok. The internship ended up being realllllly boring and there wasn’t much or me to so, so I was very pleased that I didn’t have to spend 40 hours a week twiddling my thumbs for free.

  46. DadSaidSo*

    1. but WHY wouldn’t you want a vegetable plant in your office? that sounds so cool! much like Alison, i hope it’s corn or maybe artichokes. as amusing as that is, you should take her advice and figure out how to separate the work annoyance from the personal annoyance. the minute you complained about the plant i felt like you were being unfairly salty (even though maybe you aren’t. that’s just the impression i get).

    3. if you like dressing up, go for it, but don’t feel weird about people who don’t. we all just came back to the office yesterday after working from home since march 2020. most of us wore jeans and sneakers. i wore my fake birkenstocks. my coworker is wearing a concert t-shirt. we are just as productive as we were when we were forced to wear dress slacks. (that said, we might be forced back into those clothes, but currently no is paying attention.)

      1. OyHiOh*

        This was my first thought on reading vegetable plant. Brussels sprout plants are amazing and alien looking. I have an interior office with a window on a hall, but if I had an exterior window, I’d definitely consider a brassica plant.

  47. Nicki Name*

    #5, everything that Alison said, x10 for being in a high-stakes field like healthcare. There are tons of people who are highly knowledgeable about their fields but terrible at presenting that information, especially when it’s for press consumption. Linking a few videos or articles would be demonstrating that you have a valuable skill.

  48. MCMonkeyBean*

    My thoughts on letter 2 depend entirely on what the pay situation is. If you guys are somehow being paid the same for her to be doing 20% less work, I would be extremely annoyed.

    But I’m thinking it’s more likely you are either unpaid or her pay reflects her Mondays off. If either of those are the case, I would look at this not as “Kate has a perk I don’t have” but rather as “Kate has a different schedule than I do.”

    And I agree with some other comments I saw here that unless you are being wildly burnt out, having more face time with your managers is something I would think would be more likely to be in your favor as far as trying to earn a full-time spot.

  49. Anon today*

    OP 3, please know that there are some of us who don’t give a hoot what you wear, and probably wouldn’t even be able to say what you wore yesterday. But it’s sadly clear many people here care deeply if your suit isn’t in line with this year’s fashion or your shoes are too boxy or whatever. So you’re wise to take that into account.

  50. IT pro*

    OP 3, please know that some of us don’t give a hoot what you wear if you’re good at your job and nice to be around. But clearly many people will look down on you if your suit is not in the style de jour or your shoes are too boxy or too pointy or whatever. So you’re wise to take them into account.

  51. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I do want to encourage #2 moving forward to not scrutinize what someone does in their off time. Unless the creative projects your fellow intern is working on are for the business employing you, it honestly doesn’t matter what she’s doing on Mondays. And when she negotiated, she could have had the best of intentions but then had life get in the way (I know I’ve had situations where I think I’m going to get SO MUCH DONE and then, surprise, my chronic illness flares and I spend days on my couch not doing anything) and hasn’t been able to accomplish as much. Either way, the thing to focus on is what Alison said: can you negotiate if your time with the company is extended and finding out the best way to go about that.

    Don’t get caught up in people’s personal lives and whether or not you think they deserve what they negotiated. When you’re judging what she’s doing on her Mondays off, it comes off as if you think she isn’t deserving of them. But she negotiated Mondays off, period. Getting caught up in anything beyond that will make you distracted and bitter.

  52. nozenfordaddy*

    OP3 – I’m back in the office two days a week and frankly at this point my company is lucky I’m wearing shoes and a bra all day. I commend you for your commitment to the businessy end of work attire, I might commit an atrocity if I had to wear a suit or blazer all the time but if you like it then I say wear it. Being over dressed doesn’t seem to be the faux pas that being under dressed might be. And really who cares if you’re on the more formal end of the spectrum if its how you like to dress.

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