coworker keeps interrupting my work and told me it’s “good practice” to keep myself focused

A reader writes:

I have a coworker (Jane) who is a very nice person, if a bit socially clueless. That’s not unusual in our industry, but in this case it’s beginning to encroach on my work. It’s made worse by the fact that she seems to have latched on to me as a work friend. It’s starting to impact my focus, and I don’t know how to get past it.

We have an open plan office and are seated close to each other. Every time she sees me conferring with a colleague, she eagerly interjects in what she seems to believe is a friendly chat. For example, I was talking with a coworker about finding alternative solutions to offer a client, saying that we needed to have a Plan B ready. Jane overheard and called out, “Not to mention Plans C, D, E and F! I’ll take Plan H, a vacation in Hawaii!” She then stood up and did a luau style dance. Another time I was talking with a colleague about work, and she came over and shoved her phone under my nose to ask me how old I thought a baby in a picture was. I said I didn’t know, and she insisted I guess. When I guessed a month, she told me I was wrong and sat down to show me more pictures, urging me to guess again. These kind of incidents happen at least five times a day.

I have ADHD, and this kind of thing is really harmful to my productivity. I find it very challenging to get back on track after this kind of derailment. I’ve tried explaining that to Jane, but she told me that it’s good practice for me to keep myself focused, and will even introduce herself to others as my “distraction buddy.”

I’m out of ideas for how to make this stop on my own, but I don’t know how I can possibly explain the problem to our manager. She’s friendly when I don’t want to be friendly? Is it even worth getting a manager involved? I’m also nervous about making it seem like my focus is the problem, as I work really hard and employ numerous techniques to help myself manage. I’m already worried that I’m looking scatterbrained to colleagues because it’s hard for me to refocus after the interruptions.

How direct were you when you talked to Jane? If you sugarcoated it at all — which is an understandable place to start — it’s worth trying a conversation with her where you’re very direct. I’m going to recommend that you be so direct that it might feel rude to you, but (a) it sounds like Jane doesn’t understand more polite messages, (b) it’s not rude to tell someone they need to let you work, and (c) you’d actually be doing her a favor by being very direct, because the next stop on this train is your boss.

So. Unless you have already tried this level of directness, say this to Jane: “I need you to stop interrupting me while I am working. I am not interested in a distraction buddy and I’m not looking for practice in staying focused. What I need is for you to not interrupt me while I am working.”

If she says anything other than “I’m sorry and I will stop interrupting your work,” you should also say this: “If you’re not able to do that, you’ll be forcing me to ask (manager) to tell you to cut it out and I’d rather not do that.”

You should also be very direct in the moment when Jane interferes with your work. For example:

Jane: How old do you think this baby is?
You: I can’t look right now, I’m busy.
Jane: Just take a look! Here — what do you think?
You (physically turning away): Please stop interrupting me. I am working.
Jane: Come on, I just want to show you this one photo.
You: I am busy and I need you to leave my work area.

(That last part should only be needed if Jane is pathologically persistent, which she might be.)

In doing this, you’re going to feel rude! But it’s not rude. She’s being rude, and she’s forcing your hand.

If you repeat this enough times and do it consistently, there’s a decent chance that it’ll train Jane to leave you alone. The consistency part is really important though, because if you let her interrupt you some of the time, she’ll learn that she should just keep trying. If you never let her, she’s more likely to eventually accept the boundary.

If that doesn’t work, then you should indeed talk to your boss. Frame it as, “I’m having an issue with Jane that I hoped you could help with. She interrupts me to socialize multiple times a day, when I’m trying to focus on work. I’ve asked her several times to stop and explained that I need to work, but it hasn’t helped.”

No good manager wants someone regularly distracting a team member from work they’re trying to do, let alone someone who ignores requests to stop, and there’s a high likelihood that she’ll speak to Jane, which should end up shutting it down. But even if your boss is problematically hands-off and does nothing, I promise you won’t look scatterbrained for explaining that you want to focus on your job!

Read an update to this letter here

{ 527 comments… read them below }

  1. WellRed*

    My coworker is very nice, except for when she disregards everything I say. A distraction buddy? WTF? To be clear, Jane is annoying AF and I’d probably have run screaming from her by now, ADHD or not.

    1. Homebody*

      I’d bet that by setting firm boundaries a lot of this will take care of itself.

      But yeah, if one of my coworkers made that Plan H joke to me, I would have instantly aged about 10000 years and turned to dust on the spot. OP’s willpower is strong.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I lost my shit reading this. OP. It is not you. Jane is a self absorbed ass. If she weren’t so dense, I’d say, “I’m glad I’m not allergic to peanuts, because you’d be throwing them at me every five minutes to help me “get over it.” But you know she’d start doing that.

        1. Sloanicot*

          Yeah I don’t think OP’s ADHD has any relevance here at all. Everyone would struggle in these circumstances.

          1. Former Young Lady*

            Diagnosed ADHD here. It would indeed be unacceptable directed at anybody, but it’s especially brutal on people like us, and it’s OK for people like us to talk about that.

            1. Somethingchronic*

              Yeah. I’m sure you all don’t mean this, but it’s invalidating for neurodivergent folks to be told X is a problem for everyone. We do know when our brains make things even harder for us, thanks.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Of course nobody means to invalidate anyone.
                It’s validating, because neurotypical people are saying, don’t worry, it’s not your ADHD that’s the problem, we’d find this tough too. Nobody is saying that it isn’t any harder for those with ADHD either, or minimising how difficult it is in any way. They’re just pointing out that OP doesn’t need to worry about people thinking she can’t do her job properly because of her condition.

                1. ND tutor*

                  I’m sorry, did you just tell a neurodivergent person that what they felt was invalidating was, in fact, actually validating? I understand you’re trying to come from a place of compassion and give more support, but if someone says something invalidates their experience, you need to listen to them. Even if neurotypical people have similar experiences, our neurodivergence can increase the severity of those from “an overcomeablem proble” to “catastrophic.” Mischa, commenting below, has an excellent take on this.

              2. AmAtTheBusStop*

                I am opposed to what you just said.
                What you said is equivalent to saying, do not say that X is a problem for people who are not Y, because this is invalidating people who are Y.
                If we pursue this logic, what is accomplished? We are creating the perception of “if you are not Y, deal with it”. That is marginalizing the problems of people who are not Y.
                What are we gaining? Not a recognition that X is a problem for people who are Y, but a recognition that people who are Y have needs that are special and outside the needs of people who are not Y.
                The over all is a loss. It is the pushing aside of the needs of many people not in order to serve the needs of people who are Y better, but to promote the visibility and “specialness” of people who are Y at the expense of every body else’s needs.
                This approach is uncompassionate and marginalizing.

            2. Mischa*

              Agreed! Also an ADHD person here. Of course Jane’s behavior is unacceptable here and of course it would annoy most people people. But ADHD is not just about being easily distracted–it’s SO MUCH MORE than that.

              When reading the letter I thought to myself, “wait…did I write in?” because I am dealing with the exact same situation as the OP. I’ve even explained to my interrupting coworker that when I’m distracted it’s not like starting and stopping the train. Instead, the train violently derails, requiring search and rescue, hazmat, and clean up crews to get everything functioning again.

              1. Lucy Skywalker*

                That’s a perfect way to describe it, with the derailing train! I used to explain it by saying it was like I have to be inside an invisible bubble in order to focus; and when someone interrupts me, they burst the bubble and I have to start all over again. But the train analogy works even better.

              2. Alice's Rabbit*

                That’s it exactly! And it’s not something that can be overcome with practice, either. It’s how the ADHD brain is fundamentally wired.

            3. London Ladd*

              To be sure, if OP wanted to flag that impact to their manager they should be able to, and this is clearly exacerbating the pressure on them.

              However, in practical terms, OP seems concerned that their difficulty concentrating after an interruption will look like it’s about them and the ADHD rather than being about Jane. And given that Jane’s behaviour would definitely have me looking for the nearest exit before I said something seriously unprofessional to her, I think they can very easily keep the focus on her and leave the ADHD out of it if they want to.

            4. LC*

              Agreed. I’m having a hard time articulating what’s rubbing me the wrong way about a lot of the comments on this post, but it’s something about this.

              Yes, this would be awful for like 99% of the population. Absolutely.

              Yes, Jane needs to knock it the eff off, regardless of OP’s ADHD. Jane should not behave that way to anyone (even if they explicitly requested the distraction buddy shit, which I’m having a hard time imagining, the second that someone tells her stop and she doesn’t, the behavior becomes unacceptable).

              And yes, OP, there is a ton of amazing advice here, and I think the knowledge that this would bother people without ADHD could be really helpful in reframing it in your mind (this does not reflect negatively on you, this is a Jane-issue, this is not a you-issue, full stop).

              But. I also want to acknowledge that it’s probably a lot harder for you than it might be for many of your NT colleagues. This type of situation is a particular kind of hell for those of us with ADHD.

              Thinking about being in a situation like this, day in and day out, is genuinely bringing me to the frustration-tears. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I hope you find some really helpful advice here that you can use. Please update us when you can!

            5. wordswords*

              Yes, completely agreed, and thank you for saying it.

              It’s true that Jane’s behavior (presumably) has nothing to do with OP’s ADHD. (I say presumably because that stuff about “good practice keeping yourself focused” does make me wonder if Jane knows about the ADHD and is justifying herself in this weird “I’m being helpful! like throwing spiders at somebody who’s arachnophobic as exposure therapy!” way, but that’s pure speculation that might or might not be correct.) And the fact that Jane’s behavior is completely unacceptable has nothing to do with OP’s ADHD — it would be unacceptable directed toward anyone, and would wreck almost anyone’s focus!

              I suspect that’s what well-meaning commenters have meant in saying that none of this has anything to do with ADHD — but it’s an especially awful focus-derailment for someone with ADHD. That matters a lot. I genuinely cannot imagine working with someone like this; I would be driven to tears of fury by day 3 at the latest. (And I’ve done jobs where I was interrupted all the time! But they were, crucially, jobs where I was mostly being paid to be there and interruptable and help people with whatever they needed, and do other stuff as that allowed, not jobs where I was supposed to use sustained focus on larger projects.)

              I do agree with some other commenters that OP might be feeling that the unbearableness of this is all about her ADHD, and that she can’t complain to her manager without disclosing about it and putting the focus on “because of my ADHD, I can’t deal with Jane’s behavior, which would be a minor irritation to someone else probably.” But that’s not the case! Everything Jane is doing is wildly unacceptable, and any manager worth their salt would leap to put a stop to it based on just a plain description of Jane’s actions in a few of these anecdotes. If OP doesn’t want to mention her ADHD here, she should feel under no obligation to do so, because it’s completely possible to explain the problems here without mentioning it.

              But it’s also extremely fair and justified to feel the extra weight of how hard focus-wrecking like this can hit folks like us, who are constantly wrangling an internal distraction buddy to start with.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                Yeah, this is the ADHD equivalent of when people grab my face to force me to make eye contact with them. On no planet is Jane’s behavior acceptable, but it’s going to absolutely delaminate someone with ADHD for the rest of the day, whereas the impacts of this behavior would be upsetting and distracting but not completely destructive for someone without ADHD.

              2. Mr. Shark*

                I think most of the people saying that it would be annoying to anyone, not just someone with ADHD, are trying to reassure the LW that the below is not an issue:
                I’m also nervous about making it seem like my focus is the problem, as I work really hard and employ numerous techniques to help myself manage. I’m already worried that I’m looking scatterbrained to colleagues because it’s hard for me to refocus after the interruptions.
                They are not trying to say it’s not worse for people with ADHD, just that no one should think that this type of annoyance is a failure on the LW’s part because of ADHD.

                1. wordswords*

                  I agree that it’s well-meaning and genuinely meant to reassure OP on that point!

                  The problem, I think, is that mostly people are just using a vague “this” when saying things like “I don’t have ADHD, and I can assure you that this isn’t about your ADHD at all.” I’m sure what they mean by “this” is something like “I don’t have ADHD, and I can assure you that [the fact that Jane’s behavior is inappropriate] isn’t about your ADHD at all [so you don’t need to worry that it’s just you or that making her stop is a special accommodation]”!

                  But because it’s not specified — and because people with ADHD have often spent a lot of time in their lives getting told that ADHD isn’t such a big deal, they just need to WORK at being on time or focusing or whatever — it’s very easy to read something like that as “I don’t have ADHD, and I can assure you that [every aspect of this situation, including how stressed you are and how thoroughly you’re derailed] isn’t about your ADHD at all [so you’re wrong in your own self-assessment, and having no more trouble than I would have in your place].” I understand that that’s not what the commenters mean! But I do think it’s worth noting that this many people with ADHD are pushing back against that genuinely well-meaning phrasing, you know?

              3. Boof*

                I agree this is /particularly/ bad for those with various levels of ADHD – that being said, I think the fact that it is just generally inappropriate is important, especially if OP needs to go to their boss. OP doesn’t even have to bring up ADHD if they have to tell their boss this is a problem; it is a problem period, not some kind of specific accommodation request for ADHD.

                1. wordswords*

                  Oh, I absolutely agree that it’s important that it’s inappropriate across the board — it means that OP doesn’t need to disclose even a hint about their ADHD if they don’t want to, and Jane should know (or, with maximum benefit of the doubt given how she’s doubled down, should be coached swiftly on recognizing) how deeply inappropriate this behavior is. But I did want to also join in the voices validating that ADHD makes it especially brutal to be on the receiving end of, even though shutting it down is a matter of basic work courtesy and decent managing rather than any special accommodation.

              4. Kim*

                I also wondered where Jane got the idea to adopt the “distraction buddy” persona. My recommendation would be to never disclose any health condition to coworkers because I have seen it used against people many times over the years. Jane sounds like a horrible person to be around . Allison’s advice is well taken. If you do go to your manager you don’t have to say you have ADHD. I can’t imagine any manager wanting an employee to be distracted.

          2. Ook*

            OP, this is so not about you. Jane is being incredibly annoying and disruptive, and this is nothing to do with you or your ADHD. It’s all on her.
            Either Jane can’t pick up from your previous gentler statements that she needs to stop with the interruptions, or she’s decided to continue on her merry way despite understanding those statements.
            You can’t tell, (unless you are a telepath, in which case, I must commend you for not using your superpower for evil) and it doesn’t matter which, because the solution is the same- absolute bluntness, no softening of the message, and a clear communication of the consequences if she does not stop now.
            The only thing I would add to everyone else’s advice is when you do shut her down, be as flat and unemotional as possible. If she gets a buzz out of annoying you, a flat affect gives her less fun. If she (somehow) thinks she’s being cute and friendly, she may get defensive or unpleasant when you show her that she really isn’t. In which case, a low emotion (but clear) response should lessen that.
            Kudos to you for not yeeting her down the nearest available staircase or lift shaft.

          3. Denver Gutierrez*

            I think even those palace guards in England who don’t move or react to anything would be running from Jane.

            1. Ook*

              They can react if some tourist gets too close or tries to touch them- usually they move their guns from parade position to point them and absolutely *bellow* STEP BACK FROM THE QUEEN’S GUARD!

              Maybe op could try that method? :)

          4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreed – everyone is going to struggle with Jane the attention suck around. But for anybody who has any attention challenges (ADD/ADHD being the most commonly known, but not only challenges), Jane is doubly hard to deal with.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I imagine if Jane dialed it back to 10% she would land as a cheery and unobjectionable fellow cube farmer.

      “Oh, hi! I’m Jane, OP’s distraction buddy!!!!!” is definitely the sign that you need to enforce hard boundaries with that stuff. (But I agree with Alison, it will feel mean.)

      1. LCH*

        I wish someone would introduce themself as that to me so I could really make them feel stupid (or at least try, who knows if it would take with someone like Jane). anyway, OP is not the one I would think is weird in this situation.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          “Wow. That sounds like an awful role for a co-worker to claim. Why do you want to hinder your teammates work instead of helping them?”

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, there’s a risk involved in that.

          Some people *do* externalize good but stressful work relationships this way. If you don’t know anything more you may end up in a conflict that doesn’t serve anyone. I had a co-worker once whose job entailed sometimes interrupting me – which I hated. But we were both aware of it and worked well. In that case, I *might* introduce myself to a new person at work as “hi, I’m T and I my job is to support the clients of people like A here in their technical projects” and A might say “hi, I’m A and my job is to interrupt T and make it impossible for her to concentrate”. We’d both know it’s a self-deprecating joke by way of acknowledging that she was aware that her legitimate need for a time-critical update was interfering with my bandwidth. If you had, not even knowing us, turned all sententious on A, I would have had to jump in and say “it’s a joke between us – her client is experiencing a problem and I’m simultaneously trying to fix it and giving her an update”. We’d both think that you’re going to be a pretty dour co-worker.

          However, it is what I call a proof-in-pudding situation: If both are on the same page and it works, fine – but if not, then it’s not ok. In the case at hand, they are not on the same page. Thus the diagnosis of “self-absorbed ass”.

          1. Miami Beachbum*

            It’s also not about work. Its look at the baby picture and tell me how old the baby is kind of stuff.

      2. GreenDoor*

        Definitely shut down the “distraction buddy” every time you hear it! The last thing you need is people assuming it’s some kind of fun inside joke between you to, or that you enjoy the distraction “comradery.”

      3. generic_username*

        “Distraction buddy” sounds like OP is goofing off with Jane and they distract each other (not just Jane annoying OP). Not a great look….

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yeahhh she’s definitely trying to make it sound way more mutual than it actually is. “LOL look at us distraction buddies! Always goofing off!” Like “No Jane I do not want to participate in that. I was in the middle of something. please don’t interrupt unless it’s urgent.”

    3. Threeve*

      Honestly, thinking of her to “socially clueless” and “distracting” is absurdly generous. She sounds unbearable.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        From somebody who was genuinely socially clueless for most of her life and is still not going to be taking over for Emily Post any time soon: Describing somebody as “socially clueless” is always a red flag for me. Everyone I know who was legitimately socially clueless was also eager to amend their ways and become less socially clueless. People who persist despite feedback that they should not are not clueless. Heedless, maybe, but not clueless.

          1. Boof*

            “Socially heedless” should be a new thing! It conveys something that isn’t exactly intentional malice, but is more selfish and less easily remedied than just clueless. Escalate social bluntness accordingly in return.

        1. Miami Beachbum*

          I have known people who were not. They combined awkwardness with…just not caring because they wanted to do what they wanted to do. But they weren’t successful at manipulation because they did lack social awareness.

        2. SeluciaMD*

          Thank you for making “socially heedless” a thing. You are absolutely spot on. The people I know that I would genuinely, and with great affection, describe as being “clueless” about something are also generally the first to be like “oh my gosh, I didn’t realize, you are right, I will stop doing that thing now.” That’s not what Jane is doing. She’s getting push-back and doubling-down.

        3. Worldwalker*

          I’m “socially clueless”. I have spent my entire life learning to be more clueful.

          This isn’t clueless; this is *mean*.

      2. Denver Gutierrez*

        That’s what I said. To me, Jane sounds immature and with an incessant need to be center of attention. She reminds of of a little kid trying to show off in front of Mom’s friends.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d have lost my cool with her ages ago and I am not even someone who is easily distracted

    5. Slipping The Leash*

      I’m thinking blast an airhorn in her face whenever she gets within 4 feet of you. This would push me right over the edge.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I have an air cannon at home, which shoots a large ball of air across the room. Much quieter for cube neighbors than an air horn. We use it to deter the cats from (being observed when they are) climbing the electronics.

    6. SMH*

      Distraction training is for dogs so they focus on you and not what’s going on around them. This is nuts to think of someone doing this in the workplace and more so to someone who has ADHD.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        That’s what stuck out at me. If you are training with distractions that means Jane wants you to practice ignoring her? Which is not what I think she wants, but that would be the route that would actually help OP with her distraction problem.

    7. Lacey*

      Yup. I don’t have ADHD, but I hate being interrupted while I’m trying to focus. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but to guess the age of a random baby? No. No and No and No.

    8. PT*

      The “distraction buddy” comment is the perfect hook to report this to the boss.

      “Boss, Jane keeps interrupting me when I am working. She will interrupt me midsentence to interject something unrelated. She will shove her phone into my face to show me pictures from her personal life and demand I comment on them before she takes it away. When I tell her I am busy and trying to work she says she is my ‘Distraction buddy’. This is making it hard for me to work.”

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Also, given that Jane now knows about OP’s ADHD, the persistent “distraction buddy” comments despite repeated requests to stop come across as veering into harassment territory, based on disability, which is a protected class.

        If Jane still won’t cut it out after a serious, to the point conversation about this, OP is absolutely in the right in taking this up with their boss or HR.

    9. Nanani*

      This. Jane’s not nice!
      You’re not beign rude by standing up for yourself against her even if her affect is “friendly” to an outsider.
      Jane, if you’re reading this, you don’t work on a sitcom. In the real world people actually need to work sometimes and there’s no audience reacting to your jokes on social media.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      So many questions begin with my cohort/boss/whatevs is very nice BUT. And then we find out, no they are not very nice. I think it would really help if people took a closer look at the definition of “nice”.

      For a reason in the past, I have very little patience for people jamming things right in front of my face. Luckily this almost never happens, as in WHO does this?!!!

      Nice people do NOT:
      Disregard what you say as WR points out.
      Shove things in your face.
      Make useless and unrelated remarks that having nothing to do with the serious conversation at hand.
      Barge into other people’s conversations.
      Annndd attempt to treat your MEDICAL condition. wth. she’s not a doc.

      As to “my distraction buddy” tell her this is a workplace not an adoption clinic for pets, and in reality you are her coworker, that’s it.

    11. Jennifer Juniper*

      Next time Jane shoves her phone in your face, LW, bat it away so hard it hits the floor. If it breaks, oh well. Repeat until Jane leaves you alone.

    12. allathian*

      I vastly prefer working in environments where I can focus without too many distractions, and my ability to do so seems to get worse the older I get. As a kid, I don’t remember having any trouble focusing at school, and I went to a small village school for 4 years in elementary, where the teacher was teaching 3 different grades in one room at the same time. But now, a person like Jane would drive me to distraction… I can’t even imagine how difficult this would be for someone with ADHD.

      Jane won’t understand polite or pleasant. It’s past time to set boundaries with her. The good news is that any decent manager would want their employees to be able to focus on their work. “I neither need nor want a distraction buddy, Jane. I need to get back to work.”

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Are you allowed to listen to music/podcasts/whatever while you work? Cause a big pair of headphones might be helpful.

    If you do end up going to your manager, I’d request a seat move away from Jane.

    1. Evonon*

      I was about to say I’m autistic and noise cancelling headphones are the only way I can work. I even keep loop earbuds on my purse just in case I forget them/they need to charge.

      It’s a very reasonable request to make especially since it doesn’t sound like you work as a receptionist or other person who needs to greet clients or keep an ear out.

    2. Evonon*

      Im autistic and my over the ear noise cancelling headphones are a life saver it’s the only way I can work. My coworkers don’t rudely interrupt me like Jane but the sound of typing is too much for me. I even have the loop ear plugs just in case I forget my headphones!

      It doesn’t sound like you have a greeter job (like answering phones or greeting clients) so Im sure this is a reasonable accommodation for your ADHD. And nothing says “don’t talk to me” like big head phones

    3. sacados*

      Tho that wouldn’t really help with the part where Jane jumps in the middle of OP’s conversations with other coworkers.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I’ve found some types of instrumental music are good for me to focus, but anything with lyrics in languages I can understand? Nope.

          1. sacados*

            Yeah I’m the kind of person who weirdly finds total silence kind of distracting? I just wind up staring off into space and daydreaming. I have to have some type of sound to… concentrate against… I guess. So I often listen to music.
            But I did learn when I was in college, if there was a midterm or a paper or something where I REALLY needed to focus, then the music had to be something instrumental or something I can’t sing along to.

            1. SongbirdT*

              I, too, am wildly distracted by silence! It’s a weird quirk, right?

              It’s like there’s some part of my brain that needs to be occupied by something, so that the other parts of my brain can function.

              My go-tos are instrumental music with a good beat or music with lyrics that I know so well that I don’t need to “listen” to it, or – perhaps oddly – Twitch streams where the steamer is playing a mellow game and just chitchatting with the audience.

              1. sb51*

                I’m like this when driving – music with lyrics, or low-attention talk radio (something that won’t infuriate me or take too much attention — news or sports fine, long-form storytelling or audiobooks not fine).

              2. Hunnybee*

                I totally get that, too.

                I stream Ocean Subliminal Focus aids, which sounds like the ocean and presumably helps me focus. It provides white noise, and may or may not help with focus. Jury is out on the subliminal part.

            2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

              I’m like that too – total silence just makes me nervous. Something Must Be Wrong level of nervous. And that was before I had a kid – post kid, it’s WORSE. Even when kid is in school and clearly not breaking things in the house.

              The worst for me, actually, is foreign language music – because I start TRYING to understand it, or noticing individual words here and there. /shudders/. I can listen to it fine if I’m not caring if I’m distracted, but I CANNOT focus through it!

              1. Sandman*

                I’ve never heard anyone else say that before, but I do the same thing! I’ve studied a couple languages, so I’ll hear a cognate and then start listening harder to see if I can understand any context, and before I know it I’m completely off the rails.

          2. penny dreadful analyzer*

            Same – I am an editor and anything with words in it gets mixed up in my head with the words I’m supposed to be focused on, so instrumental music is the only thing I can listen to during the work day unless I am doing some especially brainless admin task.

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        Jane sounds like a headphone-ignorer par excellence. Or, God help us, a headphone-*remover.*

        1. Autumnheart*

          That’s when you exercise the Eyes of Disapproval while deliberately placing the headphones back on your head. A good RBF can be an excellent defense against people who want to make a joke out of everything.

  3. Colette*

    One thing I’d add is to be visibly unhappy to be interrupted. Serious face, serious tone. You’re not joking, and it’s important that she’s aware of that. And then when you’re in a mode where interruptions don’t matter (e.g. you’re walking down the hall and run into Jane), do the opposite – warm tone, smile – and make some friendly conversation.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is a great suggestion! Use your nonverbal language along with your words to really drive the message home.

    2. Threeve*

      Jane has not reacted appropriately to the message of “being distracted is bad for my productivity.” Look at her behavior–she clearly just doesn’t value productivity.

      Time to try a very clear and unhappy “I do not want to be distracted.”

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      And maybe employ those clickers they use for dog/cat training. I’m kidding (maybe??), but this really is a great suggestion to train Jane.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        This is funny because Alison’s advice is pretty much exactly what animal trainers must do. You must be consistent always, especially to stop a bad habit. “The consistency part is really important though, because if you let her interrupt you some of the time, she’ll learn that she should just keep trying. If you never let her, she’s more likely to eventually accept the boundary.” Very much animal trainer. Yes, humans are animals and the techniques that good animal trainers use work with human animals as well.

        1. Aldabra*

          I am an actual animal trainer and this is true, paired with the suggestion above that OP is friendly at times when they’re willing to chat. Making the act of interrupting them neutral or unpleasant, and waiting until they’re free pleasant, is a good way to change the behavior. However, humans tend to be oddly persistent at doing certain things, even when the consequences are bad. Humans are way harder to train than animals.

          1. High Score!*

            This is not a person that I would be friendly with ever bc I’ve found that that types of people do not understand the difference between break time and work time. People like that do not like me bc I’m straight forward, I matter of factly demand that my boundaries be respected. People who respect boundaries find me agreeable.
            This is a person that you want a cold and cordial work only relationship with otherwise it looks bad on you too.

            1. The Rules are Made Up*

              Yes! People who don’t understand work time vs fun/break time (or worse, people who DO understand it and just think making everything fun joke goof off time is them being fun and cool and not cringey and annoying) always bring someone down with them. And Jane is already doing it. “We’re distraction buddies!” makes it sound like a silly thing they do together and not an annoying thing Jane does despite OP repeatedly telling her not to.

          2. quill*

            That’s because humans can rationalize their way out of cause and effect.

            Whereas your local raccoon quickly learns that knocking over the garbage results in food.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              His training worked but Cartman’s mom ruined it. Like most animal trainers say “It’s not the animal who really needs the training, it’s the human animal holding the leash/lead rope, etc.”

        2. Bob-White of the Glen*

          I think you need to train kids the same ways as dogs – consistent messaging and no allowance of unwanted behavior. Boy has that gotten me harsh responses from parents! Of course, they are usually the ones with ill behaved brats.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            This. Kind. positive training works for most animals. People hate when you say that about their kids–but it is the same technique for dogs, cats, kids, ponies, etc.

            1. Zelda*

              I am a teacher. I’m big on listening to my students and having two-way communication and respect. I… am also very glad that I had already raised a puppy before I ever had to do any classroom management.

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            I have raised dogs, cats and kids by pretty similar methods, except that I also taught my kids to understand why I was asking something, after which point I didn’t *need* to train them; I just talked to them. But it took a while, as it does with any young creature. :)

        3. Worldwalker*


          If you want to teach your cat not to jump on the table, then you have to be absolutely consistent with pushing that cat off the table every time it jumps up there. If you have to drag two broken legs across the floor to dump that cat off, you do that. Because otherwise, the cat will learn the rule isn’t “don’t get on the table” but “it’s okay to get on the table *sometimes* and forever keep testing to see if this time is one of those times.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            Tell me about my life without telling me about my life. Yes, we do have three cats, why do you ask?

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            Yep. This is how I taught my cat that it’s okay to jump on the futon as long as I’m not lying down in it, but not when I am. Kicked her unceremoniously out Every. Single. Time for about four months, and then kept doing it on the rare occasions when she tested it anymore. After another few months, she didn’t.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              I currently host 4 cats, and have hosted up to 10. (IMO, Humans do not own cats.) Each cat I’ve hosted has required very different amounts of repetition to get my requests acknowledged, but all reached the desired accommodation in the end. Eventually, persistence may work with Jane.

    4. Classic Rando*

      I’d love to know what the response to the Plan H interruption was. If I’d been there I probably would have just stared at her with a blank/annoyed expression as awkward silence descended on the room. And I have ADD too, but absolutely no patience for things like this. Let the bad jokes die painfully, OP, and that awkwardness might help train her out of them a bit faster

    5. Lenora Rose*

      And you can reinforce this with a verbal hint “I’m glad you caught me while we’re both on break. It’s so much easier to chat when I’m not working.”

    6. TootsNYC*

      the idea is to provide a negative feedback–behavior modification. You want it to be unrewarding for her to interrupt you. You don’t want to be completely mean, because you want to manage your own reputation with everyone else, but you can be short, annoyed, etc.

      But I might take it to your boss proactively to say, “Jane interrupts me a lot, and it’s really distracting. I’m about to have a talk with her and then just be far less friendly and see if that takes care of it, but I wanted you to know before I start.”
      Because I wouldn’t want Jane to complain to our boss first that I’m being mean.

  4. Alex the Alchemist*

    I have no helpful advice but I will say it’s totally valid if this situation ends up being your villain origin story. I got increasingly more and more stressed just reading this.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I did too! And I don’t have ADHD. This has nothing to do with OP’s ADHD and everything to do with Jane is My SOP is to give folks like this a look that would fry water

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Right?! I’m like the opposite of ADHD–too focused and I can be slow to switch my attention when necessary–and I would be livid at this woman.

        1. SongbirdT*

          Side note, but what you described is also a symptom of ADHD, and it’s called hyperfocus. Not saying this to imply that you may have an ADHD brain yourself, just more for general awareness. I missed my teenage son’s ADHD for years because I thought his hyperfocus on video games and math meant that he couldn’t possibly be ADHD. I wish I’d known a lot earlier that ADHD is more about attention disregulation rather than just being “unable to focus on anything”.

          1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

            I call it attention DIFFERENCE and really want that to become the language – it’s not a deficit. Hyperfocus was how I knew my son was ADHD – at age TWO. because toddlers don’t focus like that!

            Attention /difference/ is IMO a much better way to put it. The NT filters that tell us what to focus on aren’t installed. Doesn’t mean we can’t focus on something to the point that we can have an actual conversation with someone without ever noticing it … (why yes, I’ve done this, why do you ask?)

            1. Them Boots*

              And yes completely to the attention difference! I can focus. It’s what I focus on that can cause problems or praise and I’m still learning how to make better choices—I call it Filter Lite. Happily my job is 70% very clear on where my focus should be so it suits me. (& the other 30% has lists and phone alarms and colleagues who get me)

            2. Lucy Skywalker*

              That’s exactly what ADHD is- the lack of a filter. I envy neurotypical people who can filter out unwanted sounds and other sensory stimulation in crowded areas.

      1. paxfelis*

        I’d be really tempted to wait until the next time she called herself a “distraction buddy” and say “You’re not my buddy.” Completely flat tone, completely serious face.

        1. I Ship It*

          Channeling my (then) five year old when her puzzle time was interrupted by a boy at the library who called her “girlfriend”: “I am not your buddy (girlfriend) now leave me alone.” It was beautiful, and I think of it every time someone interrupts me at work for something minor.

  5. DC*

    Oof, as a fellow ADHD’er I feel your pain. This is terrible, and you shouldn’t feel bad for using Alison’s scripts or going to your boss. You definitely do not need a “distraction buddy” and her ignoring what you have stated you need is rude.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I was cringing as I read the headline and thinking “I would NOT deal with this well”. Then I saw you mentioned ADHD not helping matters and OOOF.

      I’d adopt as rude as I had to to get my point across.

    2. Anonym*

      Same. I would have SUCH a hard time not snapping at her. It gets hard enough dealing with legitimate interruptions that derail my focus, but for this persistent, rude, inconsiderate nonsense… I’m sorry, OP, and I wish you luck getting this to stop smoothly, easily and permanently.

    3. digitalnative-ish*

      Fellow adhd’er here too, and this is terrible. Not only her idea of “distraction buddy” (wtaf???), but introducing herself as one? Just what?

      I like Alison’s scripts, and you definitely should not feel guilty or rude for using them. This is untenable.

    4. Lynca*

      As someone with ADHD I have a 24/7 distraction buddy. It’s my brain. I don’t need another distraction buddy named Jane.

      1. Ampersand*

        Same. Anyone who offered to be my distraction buddy (nope, position is already filled, thanks!) would be on the receiving end of the most withering look I could muster.

    5. JLP*

      Like I don’t need a distraction buddy…I can find distractions all on my own. Now if you want to be my accountabilibuddy and help me get my stuff done, sign me up!

  6. Fiddlesticks*

    And I bet Jane is one of those people who just can’t understaaaaaand why there are coworkers who don’t want to give up remote work and come back to the office full-time… Try looking in a mirror, Jane, because people like you are a big part of the problem.

    1. Windchime*

      Exactly. My “distraction buddy” was a guy named Steve who never, ever shut up. He would move his chair from cubicle to cubicle and just yak at people for hours on end every day. I was so, so happy when our jobs went remote.

  7. TimesChange*

    I (normally) work in an open workspace and the “I’ll take Plan H, a vacation in Hawaii!” bit would probably be funny on occasion, but then standing up and dancing…I’m just imaging the nearly audible “blink, blink” of everyone staring and not sure what to say.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m feeling very sorry for Jane, because being socially clueless really is a burden. (Fully with OP in how annoying I would find this, and that it needs to be addressed.)

        Her colleagues don’t want to be rude. They don’t want to make her feel bad. If she would just pick up a social cue then the Right Amount of Interrupting could flow easily between coworkers, adjusted for personnel, overall busyness, and specific subtle opt in/out cues. (Collette has some good suggestions there.) But some people are like “I made someone guess the ages of cute baby pictures and we bonded!” and then that’s their hammer and the whole office is made of nails.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I don’t think she’s clueless. I think she’s just plain mean. She’s found a target she can pick on, and pick she does. No different from finding someone who jumps at loud noises and constantly accidentally-on-purpose making loud noises around them, or someone with a phobia of dogs and constantly insisting on showing them videos of dogs, maybe even bringing their puppy in to the office, etc. Or that person who put Snickers bars on the keyboard of someone they knew was allergic to nuts. That’s not “clueless”; that’s mean.

          1. Midwest Teacher*

            There is no evidence from OP’s post that Jane is doing this maliciously. There are all kinds of reasons why someone may be unable to read social cues, and none of them make someone “mean.”

            1. Worldwalker*

              You don’t need to be able to read social cues to know that constantly distracting a co-worker at work is a bad thing to do. She *knows* it’s a bad thing to do. She’s choosing to do it anyway, for her own amusement. That’s on a par with pulling the puppy’s tail to make it yelp, and I still claim that’s mean.

          2. NeutralJanet*

            I don’t think she sounds mean! I guess you’re reading malicious intent into Jane’s teasing the OP, but to me it seems more like she thinks they’re friends who tease each other in a friendly way, and being as OP describes her as being very nice, I’m guessing that’s the vibe she gives off as well. Good for OP to keep in mind that she might be doing this to be mean and so might double down, but that that’s not definitely the case.

          3. Them Boots*

            From personal experience, this is what I got from reading the OP’s comments. The action to take is exactly what Alison suggested, but yeah. Jane has found a way to entertain herself by poking at OP. Op, please please follow Alison’s suggestions! Jane will either ramp it up (extinction burst) to the level that she disrupts others who complain OR she will find another target tone ridiculous with. Either way, it’s going to get her managed out eventually. Don’t lether take you down with her!

        2. Denver Gutierrez*

          She doesn’t seem that clueless. I think she just wants to be the center of attention. She probably acted like this as a kid, people thought it was “cute”, and she never grew out of it.

          That behavior isn’t really cute when a kid does it, but it is plain obnoxious when it comes from an adult.

          1. Epistemic Rant*

            Yup. She’s the child that performed for her family allll the time and just can’t stand not being the center of someone’s world. I have shut people down when in the middle of things with a creature of this sort. I deadpanned, “we don’t have the time or energy for you to absorb. If you can’t contribute, get out.”
            And lucky me, both my SIL’s are these constant attention vampires, so I’ve had practice.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, I don’t think she’s clueless either. Someone posted above that she sounds socially heedless, and I think that’s a fair description.

            That said, I don’t think she’s particularly nice, either. She sounds selfish and self-centered. She’d be annoying even if she stuck to work-related things, but the constant interruptions would annoy most people, especially if they’re working to a deadline.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, in the right context that remark by itself would be funny, or at least not objectionable – not as an interruption from someone across the room, but I can picture it fitting in at a meeting about the crisis du jour as people talked about plans B, C, and D.

      But not with the dancing! And not if it’s one of a long series of these kind of jokey silly things. A perky interruption about tropical vacations is really out of place if people are having a serious conversation about something going wrong. It’s different than if one of the participants who’s been working hard to address a problem says “ugh, this sucks, maybe plan H should be we shut down production and all go to Hawaii.”

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        Especially if the one interrupting wasn’t part of the conversation, but just happened to overhear it as they walked by.

    2. fposte*

      Right, this is Jane desperate to be the OP’s fun friend and failing/refusing to read the possibilities that Now Is Not the Time and Never May Be the Time. So she takes the slack you’d give a friend and keeps going, dragging the OP along behind her. Sorry, Jane, but you can’t just anoint yourself a friend.

    3. Meh*

      As someone from Hawaii, I would further have shut down the hula and ask her not to make a mockery of cultural and religious dancing.

      1. Happy Birthday Fanny Bryce!*

        Why go there? A simple “well that’s something I can never un-see” would be enough.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            It is, but why open up that can of worms at work, especially when there are more pressing work-related issues at hand? The objective here is to get everyone focused back on the work stuff, not to discuss cultural relations.

    4. Grey Coder*

      Indeed. In my recent open plan offices, this display would be met with silent, open-mouthed staring by everyone else in the room. I can imagine office cultures where that’s not the case. I don’t want to work there.

      But it does make me think a more unified front against interruptions might help — if all of the interrupted parties can shut it down, it’s less likely to appear to be a Jane-vs-OP issue.

    5. Little My*

      The line “She then stood up and did a luau style dance” absolutely killed me. Probably not in the way Jane intended, though.

  8. English Rose*

    Brilliant answer by Alison as usual. I would add that the colleagues you are speaking to when you get interrupted will also be grateful. In fact if you’re not what could feel rude to Jane, it may seem rude to your colleagues that you might appear to be valuing her interruptions when that isn’t the case.
    And a distraction buddy??? Huh???

    1. KateM*

      Yep, OP – if you feel bad abuot being rude to Jane, think of it as your choice of being rude to Jane who is distracting you or being rude to your other coworker who is being distracted like yourself. Why would you choose to be rude to the other coworker?
      (Or in other words: often when it is “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, you are damned by different sets of people in each case. Just choose by which set would you rather NOT be damned.)

    2. Krabby*

      So much this! At my first HR job I had a Jane and I always humored her because I didn’t want to seem unapproachable. When she left 4 months after I started, I found out that by doing that, I had made myself seem unapproachable to everyone else.

  9. else*

    This is horrifying. Use Alison’s advice, and be ready for her to try to make loud comments of confusion at your rejection, and/or to clutch and sob at you in an attempt to keep your attention. This kind of person is the noisy kind of Colin Robinson – an energy vampire.

      1. All the words*

        I keep trying to think of ways they could bring him back.

        It sounds like Distraction Buddy’s already aware that her behavior is a problem for the LW. Being very direct with the “I’m going to get back to work now so you need to go” messages won’t come as a big shock to her, as rude as it may feel to the LW at first.

        1. Hunnybee*

          Colin Robinson could be a ghost….

          ….or they could return to the necromancer, although that didn’t work well for Topher.

          …..or maybe there are other EVs out there and they all look exactly like Colin Robinson.

          I was always wondering about the way that he was turned into an EV. He didn’t seem to know anything about his own history. I wish they would explore that.

          I LOVE THAT SHOW.

    1. All The Birds*

      First I’d sit down with Jane and lay it out: “Jane, I’m here to work and be productive, and your constant chat and interruptions are keeping me from giving Company 100%. I need you to stop the non-work chat and not interrupt my conversations with others. Can you do that?”

      Look her in the eye, OP. It’s her, not you.

  10. animaniactoo*

    “Hi! I’m Jane’s teacher for respecting boundaries buddy!”

    Because, Jane… It is not up to YOU to decide what I need or what will help me. I farking told you what will help me. Respect it, or you will find my hot lava breath coming down on your head.

  11. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    “I’ll take Plan H, a vacation in Hawaii!”
    “Please warn us before you return.”

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I was debating between that and “Can anyone change the locks while she’s gone?”

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It’s a gift. It’s not the gift I’d have chosen if I had a choice, but on rare days it comes in handy.

            “I’ll take Plan H, a vacation in Hawaii!”
            “Why is Hawaii being punished, again?”

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        “I’ll take Plan H, a vacation in Hawaii!”
        “Are you sure it’s a good idea to be a Self-Appointed Distraction Buddy that close to live volcanoes?”

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      “Anyway I can convince you to make that permanent?”
      I’m feeling downright hostile toward Jane, and I don’t even know her.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I also thought my initial feeling of ire was inappropriate considering I am so far removed from this. But downright hostile is it. Does “I won a medal and you lost, ha ha” boss have a doppelganger?

  12. All Het Up About It*

    Also – if being direct does not work, as a manager if you came to me and said that Jane is calling herself your distraction buddy and had a story like the Hawaii hula one, I would not think you are the problem.

    You say that she’s doing this when you are talking to other team members. Do you have someone that you are close to that could help shut it down as well? If she tries to interrupt a conversation between you and someone else, if both of you tell her to cut it out, that could help drive home the message.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      OP, absolutely do not worry about your manager thinking the problem is your inability to focus through these distractions—I don’t think anyone would be able to, ADHD or not! If anything, not bringing up what seems like pretty blatant behavior is what might make you look less focused, as it might look like you’re enjoying Jane’s sidetracks and not trying to focus. She is definitely the problem, not you, and anyone reasonable hearing about this situation will agree.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, I wouldn’t bring up the ADHD, because ANYone would find this a massive productivity ding.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes, absolutely. If you come to me all “Jane is wearing green at me” then MAYBE you’re the problem. MAYBE. If Jane is getting in your face and actively distracting you from your work? Jane is busted, because I need y’all working, not hula dancing.

    3. Grey Coder*

      Came here to say this. Even if this “energy” is focussed on you, OP, it is almost certainly annoying to others as well. Enlist your colleagues so that there’s a unified response to interruptions.

    1. NotJane*

      Mine would go something like:

      Jane: “Hi! I’m NotJane’s distraction buddy!” [I cringed just typing that.]

      Me (cheerfully): “I don’t know about the ‘buddy’ part, but you’re definitely a distraction!”

      Also, I’m totally picturing Jane as that character from a Seinfeld episode, who was Elaine’s over-the-top-cheerful coworker (“I’m really, really great!”), heckled Jerry at one of his shows, and when Jerry went to the office to heckle her back, she got so upset, she went running out of the building and got run over by a bus, which severed her pinkie toe. And then she got promoted over Elaine because everyone felt so sorry for her.

  13. Morticia*

    Open office and ADHD sounds like hell to begin with. Maybe you could look into what accommodations you could get that might take you out of Jane’s reach?

    1. Anonym*

      I don’t think OP should have to disclose in this case. This would drive most anyone bonkers, and management should be concerned about disruptions to people’s ability to work.

      You are absolutely right about open offices and ADHD! My own last couple of years in office pre-pandemic were agonizing. The general noise and disruptions are bad enough without someone targeting you for unwelcome interactions.

    2. Observer*

      The OP doesn’t need “accommodations” for Jane. Because Jane’s behavior is a problem regardless of the OP’s ADHD. I just went back to re-read the letter because it’s SO bonkers that I wanted to make sure I didn’t mis-read. Jane needs to be shut down for the sake of anyone she sets her sights on.

      1. Alex*

        Yeah. I’m a fairly focused worker (and don’t have ADHD) but Jane would drive me up the wall fast. It’s just not appropriate office behavior

      2. Slipping The Leash*

        Agreed. I don’t have ADHD, but it would take me an hour to re-focus on work due to the time needed to talk myself out of throwing my coffee cup at her.

      3. Worldwalker*

        Yeah. No matter who Jane was doing that to, it would be a problem. And if the OP moved out of Jane’s reach, I think Jane would just fasten on another target, with similar effect. The problem is not that the OP is too easily distracted — it’s that Jane’s antics would distract a block of granite. Her MO is clearly “annoy people to get attention” and she will do that to someone, somehow, because she craves that attention.

        The problem isn’t the OP, so an accommodation won’t fix it. The problem is Jane, who is not only not working herself, but she is preventing at least one co-worker from working. (and we don’t even know if the OP is Jane’s only target)

        I know a Jane. He constantly waits until someone else isn’t paying attention, then pokes her or jumps on her to make her hiss. Yes, hiss … because he’s a *kitten*, who pesters my older cat just to make her react. Unlike Jane, he’ll grow out of it. (when she finally gets fed up and backhands him across the room, if nothing else) That’s what Jane is acting like: a bratty, half-grown kitten who’s looking for attention. That’s not a good look for a human.

    3. Freya*

      It’s honestly not that bad, if one’s coworkers are also focused on being productive. I find having my coworkers working in my vicinity acts to help keep me focused, instead of getting distracted by my phone. And they seem to appreciate that I get my fidgets out by distributing their printing (if I’m hyperfocusing, the printer doesn’t exist, if I’m distractible, dealing with the printer is a quick positive task that won’t suck me into a time vortex and then I can get back to work having done a small fidget)

  14. Rose*

    Reading this made my physically cringe. Please don’t feel mean or rude. Flouting boundaries and telling you it doesn’t matter if YOU like being interrupted because SHE has decided it’s a fun game for everyone is beyond obnoxious. She’s the kind of “nice” person who is actually kind of an arse.

      1. laser99*

        Yes, I noticed it that too. It’s so rare to come across anyone who realizes it is “flouting”, not “flaunting”.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Umm – I was taught rules are flouted, boundaries are crossed. But that was a long time ago.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Scratch “kind of”.

      It’s one thing to slack off and not do your own job. But to also deliberately interfere with a co-worker doing *their* job?

  15. Jennifer Strange*

    I have ADHD, and this kind of thing is really harmful to my productivity. I find it very challenging to get back on track after this kind of derailment. I’ve tried explaining that to Jane, but she told me that it’s good practice for me to keep myself focused,

    I’d ask her where she studied to become a certified expert on what is and isn’t good for someone with ADHD.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’ll caveat this by saying if OP hasn’t actually disclosed the ADHD to Jane, I would not suggest doing so now. It’s not super clear how OP tried to explain that distractions were bad.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I don’t have ADHD. But someone like Jane would completely throw off my concentration and I’d have to waste time getting back on track. Jane is a menace to any co-worker she fastens onto. She might pick ones she thinks are particularly vulnerable, because low-hanging fruit and all, but she’ll take any she can get.

          In online game terms, Jane is a griefer.

          She gets her enjoyment, not from accomplishing something, but by ruining other people’s accomplishments. She thrives on their impotent frustration. It’s a power thing: “I can do this bad thing to you and you can’t stop me, ha ha ha.”

          The only way to handle this is to not reward her with said impotent frustration — shut her down, go to her manager, whatever it takes to deny her the reward she’s seeking. There’s no worry about losing a friendship, because one never existed in the first place. She’s not the OP’s friend, she’s the OP’s tormentor. There’s nothing left to lose in taking any and all steps necessary to make her STOP. (within professional bounds, of course; no matter how good an idea defenestration sounds, it does tend to annoy the C-suite)

          1. nonegiven*

            >no matter how good an idea defenestration sounds, it does tend to annoy the C-suite

            The higher you go, the farther the fall.

          2. JustaTech*

            ” There’s no worry about losing a friendship, because one never existed in the first place.”

            I think this is a really important note: cheerful, bubbly an high energy can *feel* like friendship, but when it’s also a way to weasel around your very reasonable boundaries it’s not friendship at all.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Oh yeah Jane seems like the kind of person who thinks you can beat ADHD with positive thinking

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Have you tried yoga? I’ve got some essential oils I can sell you that will help!

          Jane’s got big #bossbabe energy.

        2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          hell, I can even see “distraction buddy” as “I’m teaching her how to manage ADHD!”

          “look how giving I am with my givingness!” … yeah, no.

          don’t explain, don’t excuse, don’t apologize – blank stare and refuse. no no no.

      2. Willis*

        This! The OP is on strong ground to insist this stops and to ask her manager for help if it continues, ADHD or not. And I’d bet the rest of my year’s pay other people are annoyed by Jane’s disruptions as well. I physically cringed at that Hawaii joke. I can’t imagine any manager thinking highly of someone who introduces themselves as a “distraction buddy.”

        If OP did disclose her ADHD to Jane and her response was to ramp up the distractions, at what point does this become harassing someone because of a disability? If I was OP’s manager I’d want to know so I could stomp it out asap. Like, seriously, I’m sorta furious at Jane after just reading this post.

        1. Employment Lawyer (Not Giving Legal Advice)*

          Came to the comments to say exactly this. It sounds like the OP has disclosed that she has ADHD and that Jane’s behavior is particularly harmful to her because of that condition, and Jane’s response has been to not only not stop but actually escalate the behavior (including the bizarre self-appointment as “distraction buddy”). That looks an awful lot like Jane is systematically targeting OP with behavior the OP has told her is unwelcome because of OP’s disability, which the employer certainly has an ethical and potentially a legal obligation to stop. Jane introducing herself to others as OP’s “distraction buddy” also makes me wonder whether Jane is also sharing OP’s diagnosis with others, when that information is not Jane’s to share.

          Jane’s behavior would be infuriating and unprofessional under any circumstances, but if she is aware that her behavior is particular harmful because of the OP’s ADHD, that’s an entirely different level.

          1. Velawciraptor*

            Yes, and that level is called “discrimination.” Manager (and likely HR) need to know so they can bring it to a stop yesterday.

        2. Worldwalker*

          If I was the person trying to talk with the OP about business and Jane interrupted for … stuff … like that? Let’s just say I would not worry about being nice to her. I could probably manage “civil”. But she would have no illusions as to what I thought about her deliberate distractions.

        3. Lucy Skywalker*

          I have ADHD, too, and that was my reaction as well. If someone did to me what Jane is doing, and continued to do so after I told her that she was interfering with my ability to be productive, I absolutely would report her for harassment. I’m not sure whether Jane is intentionally malicious or genuinely clueless, but either way, her behavior has got to stop.

      3. earl grey aficionado*

        And if OP *did* disclose their ADHD during that initial conversation, I’d recommend not bringing it up again, and redirecting the conversation if Jane tries to go there. Jane’s behavior would bother the vast majority of people, whether or not they have ADHD. Engaging with this further on an ADHD level will probably only make Jane more invested in her own boorish, BS idea of “exposure therapy.”

        I don’t have ADHD, but I do have other conditions that people love to believe that they can cure me of through this kind of selfish boundary-stomping. It’s hurtful and exhausting. OP shouldn’t have to put up with their ADHD being weaponized at work when what they are asking for is eminently reasonable and not in any way a disability accommodation.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          I think it’s worth noting that if Jane is behaving this way BECAUSE of OP’s ADHD, she’s engaging in disability related harassment, which merits not only a conversation with management, but HR.

        2. TM*

          I do have ADHD and my medical issues are absolutely no concern of anyone at work. Including my boss, unless I’m literally taking time off to go to a doctor (or unless I need a work-related accommodation, of course). I just think that unless it’s someone you like and trust, revealing something like that is often turned into ammo when it is about perceived work performance issues or as a target for bullies. And frankly, someone persisting with behaviour like this when they’ve been clearly asked to leave it the hell off is veering into bully territory.

          This is in no way to blame the LW it they did reveal the info to get the coworker to desist. Sometimes – although it shouldn’t – knowing someone has a “reason” for asking them to stop will quell some individuals.

          But for others, it’s like the equivalent of queer woman going to a bar and trying to deter straight men trying to pick her up by saying she’s gay. It never works – learned that from experience, even in a gay bar – and for some, it’s a *challenge*.

          So my view is that when asking someone to lay off something that shouldn’t be an issue if they had common courtesy, revealing private information about yourself doesn’t help.

          The only time I might reveal it is if I finally went to the boss to complain and they said, “Eh, Jane’s not that bad”. First, I’d point out that I don’t have this problem with anyone else, and then, if the boss continued to dismiss it, I might say, “For ME it is, due to ADHD”. But it’d truly be a last resort and I’d probably start looking for another job.

          Again, though, absolutely not blaming the OP if they did the reveal – we all try explaining pertinent information first. And of course, info like that *should* wake up the so-called “socially clueless”, although they normally get woken up when told to knock it off the first time (plus occasional reminders if required).

    2. Evonon*

      Yeah if she can cure ADHD why is she working there and why is she going OP a free treatment? All kidding aside this is pretty ablelist and it’s unfortunately common with neurodivergent people/people without a visible disability.

    3. Gracely*

      You don’t need to have ADHD to be seriously annoyed or thrown off by that kind of crap. I would be livid if I had a coworker like this. I do not have ADHD.

    4. Ann Onymous*

      Also, as someone with ADHD, Jane’s comment is kind of offensive. I cannot change the way my brain is wired just by practicing any more than I can improve my vision by going around without my glasses on. It’s certainly possible to practice techniques that help you work within the way your brain is wired, but you don’t need someone intentionally distracting you to do that and definitely not someone you haven’t asked for help with your ADHD.

    5. The other Jane*

      I do have ADHD and am certified/qualified in a field working with ADHD. Jane’s ideas of distractibility as a treatment or some bizarre exposure therapy are not a thing. We don’t advise that for anyone.

  16. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP, you’ve told Jane to stop and that hasn’t worked. You’ve explained that you don’t want her distracting you and she doesn’t care. So tell her no.
    Just no.
    “Look at this.”
    “Just real quick!”
    I said no. That means I will not stop what I’m doing to do what you want.
    “But me, me, me.”
    You’ve answered her twice. You do not have to stay in a conversation.
    Good luck. And seriously, it’s not you. It’s not your ADHD. It is Jane. She found someone she can overwhelm and use for her own entertainment. You can resign from that role.

    1. CurrentlyBill*

      “And seriously, it’s not you. It’s not your ADHD. It is Jane. She found someone she can overwhelm and use for her own entertainment. You can resign from that role.”

      Just though this needed to be said twice. Or more.

    2. Just Another Zebra*


      As someone who doesn’t have ADHD, I would find Jane unbearable. OP, this is definitely a situation where it’s not you. It’s Jane.

      1. Windchime*

        Someone like Jane would take that as a challenge. Most people understand that headphones = “trying to work”. Jane would just escalate, I’m sure.

    3. Jane of all Trades*

      OP, I wonder if your feeling that part of your struggle with this situation is caused by your ADHD is what’s holding you back from pushing back harder against Jane here?
      As a person who does not have ADHD, I can tell you that these interruptions would be super disruptive for a lot of people. Jane needs to learn when it’s appropriate to interject and when it is not. That’s entirely on her, and she is behaving inappropriately by keeping you from doing your job.
      The next few times she does it do push back and say “I am working right now, please don’t interrupt”. If you are worried about coming across as rude you can always seek her out for a chat when it’s a better time.

    4. knitcrazybooknut*

      Also, if she touches you, visibly flinch and jump back. “Why are you touching me?” Alison has given some great advice in the past to anyone who is being touched or physically interacted with.

  17. Rey*

    Also, I don’t think any of Alison’s advice requires telling your manager about your ADHD, so I would leave it out of this conversation entirely. If they don’t already know, you don’t have to tell them now, and if they do already know, you don’t have to bring it up during this conversation. The focus is that you have asked your coworker to stop a particular behavior and your coworker is ignoring you.

    1. daffodil*

      agreed. I don’t have ADHD and have a pretty easy time getting back on task after interruption but I would still find this behavior really obnoxious, especially because she’s not just interrupting YOU, she’s interrupting your conversations about work with coworkers!

    2. Observer*

      I agree. I think that in this case, your ADHD is just going to be a potential distraction. Jane’s behavior is nuts for ANYONE who is trying to get work done.

      1. Worldwalker*

        And Jane herself isn’t working.

        She’s slacking off on her work to prevent at least one, and frequently more than one, co-worker from getting their own work done.

        Jane is a loose cannon in that office.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This, yes. Jane is acting inappropriately batshit banana-crackers whether you have ADHD or not.

    4. AnotherSarah*

      Agreed–Jane has made this about ADHD (saying OP will benefit from Jane’s antics) and the OP is worried about boss thinking about them as someone with ADHD (and the stigmas there), but it might not be relevant here at all. I don’t have ADHD and this would be horribly distracting for me as well.

    5. All The Birds*

      Honestly, I would have discussed the Hawaii cringe with Manager immediately after the episode. That and everything else = LAST STRAW.

  18. Former HR Staffer*

    i have a coworker like this, except she does this through skype. i know i can put myself of on BUSY or DO NOT DISTURB, but i don’t want to deter others who need to contact me about a legimate business issue vs “hey did you see xyz announcement? can you believe this? what do you think?”…

    at the office i started putting on headphones even if i’m not listening to anything to deter the in-person visits, but it’s frustrating when even that doesn’t deliver the hint.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I know in some office chat programs you can mute or hide a problem person. Take a look at your Skype (start by right-clicking her name) and see what your options are.

    2. sacados*

      Yup, if you click into the skype chat with the person, there’s a little gear next to their name. Click that, scroll down to “Chat settings” near the bottom, click into that and you should see an option to turn off notifications.
      That way you’re not blocking them, but nothing will ping or alert you and you won’t have to see it until you manually check the chat!

    3. Nanani*

      Mute or block them and tell them they can email you important things (if there are any important things you need from them ever).

  19. Mockingjay*

    “If you’re not able to do that, you’ll be forcing me to ask (manager) to tell you to cut it out and I’d rather not do that.”

    Leave off the last part. There are times when softening language helps convey the message to an unwilling recipient. This is not one of those instances. Jane is actively, frequently causing problems in the completion of your work. If Alison’s scripts don’t immediately work, please loop in your manager.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      As a general rule, DON’T threaten to escalate to the boss — just escalate. No warning needed (because “Please stop” WAS the warning).

  20. lyonite*

    I’m getting a strong sense of someone who uses work to fill in for her social life here. Not that it makes it okay AT ALL, but it might explain her desperation for non-stop socializing–she’s not at work, she’s hanging out with her friend!

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Right, and I think a lot of us have been in the position of feeling out of the social loop at work, but that does not make it our colleagues’ problem! Jane needs to get her social needs met on her own time.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Jane needs to go work for that letter writer the other day who is annoyed her employees don’t want to come back to the office.

      1. Jax*

        I’m guessing that over the next couple of years, this might naturally sort itself out? Unhappy employees (either wanting to return to an office or wanting to escape back home) will find companies that align with their needs.

        “The Great Resignation” might extend for a few more years as everyone resettles. Who knows!

      2. Expelliarmus*

        I don’t know about that; I imagine that OP still wants to focus on their work without a distraction buddy.

    3. The Smiling Pug*

      I got that vibe too. It’s so annoying when people do that. I don’t mind chatting with people, but I’m not your friend unless I’m not working there anymore.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This, with a side of “friends joke and tease with each other, so if I joke and tease this person that will make them my friend.”

      OP, you don’t have to be Jane’s friend just because she decided you should be.

  21. Evonon*

    OP, Jane is being incredibly rude to you and if you can’t wear headphones at work to block her out, I would definetly shut down her insistence on helping you practice your focus (!!!). Believing you can increase focus is a flavor of ableism and her being kooky does not give her a free pass. You’ve explained you have ADHD and she is continuing to distract you. She’s rude!

  22. Too Hip For the Room*

    Tell her if she wants to be your buddy she has to be a focus buddy. If she wants to be a distraction buddy she has to do it with someone who agrees to it and out of earshot. I’m saying this a natural— and easily distracted— ham. But I do have a learning curve and motivation to be professional in the workplace (thanks AAM). Jane might be lacking either or both.

    1. Observer*

      Don’t tell her anything of the sort. This is NOT someone who you can trust to respect even the most basic of boundaries, so why would you “invite” her to take a role, especially one that you don’t really need anyway?

  23. Haley*

    Is this person a Kristin Wiig character??? I’m dying. I have nothing helpful to add because Allison is as usual spot on but I can’t stop picturing her as Kristin Wiig.

    1. A Beth*

      I got such strong Linda Belcher vibes from the Plan H thing, or like, the mom from That 70s Show.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yes I definitely imagined Linda doing the hula! But Linda is actually cute and funny, probably because she’s a cartoon and I don’t have to work with her

  24. The Smiling Pug*

    I love Alison’s script for this. Jane is an asshole, but she masks it with a smile. Treat her as such.

  25. Cold Fish*

    When/If you speak with your manager, you might ask if you can switch desks with someone further away from Jane. If she has another distraction buddy she won’t be interrupting your day.

    1. Cold Fish*

      Oh, and be prepared for Jane to flip her switch after she knows you spoke with manager.
      I see two scenarios
      1. Act all hurt – “Well, you could have talked to me first” (sniff, sniff) After which she will be cold and distant and probably try and “warn” others that really do need to interrupt you. “Can help you? She doesn’t like being interrupted.”
      2. Act all upset – “Well, you have talked to me first” (pout, pout) After which she will be catty and try to “warn” others “Careful, if you interrupt her too much she’ll go to boss.”

      1. Sal*


        This is going to be deeply humiliating for Jane, who til now has convinced herself that you guys are friends and this is all part of the fun. The process of letting go of that narrative is going to be unpleasant and I would expect precisely the bad behavior above.

        Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, though.

      2. laser99*

        Third option: Jane will behave as if she is very, very hurt. You have DEEPLY wounded a pathetic, misunderstood soul who wants nothing more than to make friends…”and actually, the only reason I even TOOK this job in the first place was to make friends!!! It seems like everyone I ever meet is ‘too busy’ to spend time with me! Even my family won’t take my calls…”. Etc., etc.

      3. Allegra*

        Yep yep. If she tries the “but we’re friends” thing, I’d be prepared to with a script like “friends don’t ignore other friends’ requests for space and quiet time to work. You have not been acting like a friend to me.” and well…let her be upset about it.

  26. Mary*

    I hate the word “nice”. Usually I find with people who are “nice”, is that they are manipulative, passive-aggressive and have a layer underneath politeness that is seething in anger.

    Your coworker is not “nice”.

    1. retired2*

      My daughter (who is now 50) told me once that the most valuable thing she learned from me is that you don’t have to be nice.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        I’m slightly guilty of using these synonymously in some contexts, but I 100% agree with you!

  27. Leela*

    Oof I also have ADHD and like everything else about ADHD, people who don’t experience it *do not understand or believe us* when we say something is an ADHD-specific problem, and tend to wave it off like they’re doing us a favor by forcing us to do something that absolutely, thoroughly does not work for us.

    I also really struggle to pick up all the pieces of where I was and everything I was focusing on when my concentration gets shattered and I would absolutely hate this and have it ruin my workflow each and every time, there’s no way this is helping train you to be focused any more than screaming in your face is training you to start liking getting screamed in your face, sorry you’re dealing with this and honestly, I’d go to a manager. ADHD or no, I doubt a manager would be happy to learn that someone is constantly getting distracted in the middle of solving problems for the company to be forced to guess how old a baby is.

    1. Observer*

      Oof I also have ADHD and like everything else about ADHD, people who don’t experience it *do not understand or believe us* when we say something is an ADHD-specific problem, and tend to wave it off like they’re doing us a favor by forcing us to do something that absolutely, thoroughly does not work for us.

      The thing is that what is happening is actually NOT an ADHD specific problem. I know enough about ADHD to realize that it exacerbates the problem. But really, I can think of very, very few people who would be able to function at a reasonable level with this kind of nonsense going on.

      Which is good news for the OP, because it makes the conversation with the manager easier and faster.

      I DO totally agree with your second paragraph.

      1. Leela*

        I’m guessing that since you said “I know enough about ADHD to realize that it exacerbates the problem”, you don’t have ADHD? And if that’s the case…..please don’t drop in with stuff like that. You don’t know enough to tell us when we’re wrong about ourselves, or how something could be very specific to/land differently with us.

        And if you do, why show up when I share something that is commonly known in our circles just to say this? I mean, it’s fine to have a different experience, there are a lot of varities of experiences in ADHD groups, but there is much that’s common and being dismissed and informed that we are being “helped” by someone who doesn’t believe us when we say something is a problem comes up over and over.

        1. Observer*

          I think you are missing my point. What I am saying is not that you are wrong about yourself. What I am saying is that in THIS case you are wrong about the *rest of the world*. You seem to think that people who don’t have ADHD would not have much of a problem with Jane’s behavior. And THAT is completely incorrect.

          As another commenter put it, her behavior would distract granite.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            It’s not that Jane’s behavior wouldn’t be a problem for everyone. It’s that it’s exponentially worse for someone with ADHD. Leela’s first paragraph wasn’t saying that everyone without ADHD would be fine with Jane’s actions; Leela’s saying that *Jane* is waving off OP’s actual needs around ADHD, and that’s especially terrible of her.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              It is indeed especially terrible of her. But since LW has expressed explicit concern about bringing this to their boss in case they get stigmatized for the ADHD, it’s also important for them to hear, “You don’t have to out yourself as having ADHD in order to bring this to the boss if you don’t want to. If you bring it to the boss without mentioning a word about the ADHD, this is still the kind of problem that will be taken seriously by the neurotypicals.” That’s not handwaving the ADHD, it’s trying to give the LW information that may help them get outside assistance without telling more personal information than they’d like to.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                As someone with ADHD, I agree.

                This is something OP should absolutely be able to talk to their boss about without having to mention ADHD at all. This is a big enough problem that it would be an issue for literally anyone, and it is not dismissing people with ADHD to say that. OP does not need to ask for some kind of medical accommodation to ask for this person to leave her tf alone!

      2. Another ADDer*

        “what is happening is NOT an ADHD specific problem….”

        Yes it is.

        Suppose that, instead of constantly interrupting, Jane kept throwing peanuts at OP. That would annoy anyone, and probably make anyone unable to focus on their work. But if OP isn’t allergic to peanuts, that’s all it is.

        Now suppose the same thing, only OP is DEATHLY allergic to peanuts, and gets a reaction just by having peanuts in her space. And she’s told Jane that, and Jane keeps throwing peanuts at her and saying, you have to learn to live with peanuts.

        Is that a peanut allergy specific problem? Yes.

        It would be a problem either way, but the existence of the peanut allergy makes it a much more serious problem.

        Distraction may not literally kill those of us with ADHD, but it does kill our employment options/

        1. Boof*

          I don’t think this is a good analogy in this context because a peanut allergy is potentially deadly, so yes, management should come down on that immediately and extremely hard.

  28. kat*

    I always love that Alison will put a firm reminder about while this may feel rude, you are not the one being rude, Jane is being rude. I sometimes have this uncontrollable need to please people and it’s so helpful for me to be reminded that I am not the rude one.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        It depends on what kind of breach of manners we’re talking about. The old school Emily Post style advice of not pointing out someone else’s rudeness applies mostly to procedural manners like not knowing with fork to use or not knowing how to place your napkin. In that case, to point out another person’s breach of manners would be to insult them in front of other people, which is a higher order manners breach.

        This is different. This isn’t a “you didn’t follow the made up social niceties you didn’t know about in advance” moment, it’s a “you’re doing a thing that harms me and not stopping when I’ve asked you to,” moment.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        No, like Librarian said the Emily Post rule is about being a snob, not setting boundaries. Alison saying “you’re not the rude one” doesn’t mean LW should tell Jane she’s being rude, just that they shouldn’t feel bad for speaking up. All kinds of obnoxious or awful behavior happens because the person subjected to it doesn’t feel they’re “allowed” to speak up, so Alison is reassuring the LW that there’s nothing wrong with telling Jane to stop.

      3. Sea Anemone*

        Yes. When you respond to rudeness, you do so gracefully, without injecting your own rudeness.

        It is not rude to tell Jane that her distractions are unwelcome. Some of the wording that Alison and many of the commentors are advocating to tell Jane as much are quite rude.

        The message vs. the way you say it are distinctions that are lost here.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          If you re-read Alison’s answer, you will see that she said it may be necessary to be DIRECT with Jane, even if it feels rude not to soften the request, because Jane didn’t understand an indirect request that sounds politer. If Jane wants people to be gentle and indirect with her, she needs to RESPOND to gentle, indirect requests. Someone who shoves their phone in someone’s face while they’re working and demands a response about a personal photo doesn’t seem like someone, then insists they’re your “distraction buddy”, isn’t someone who will stop this behavior if you say things like “Aww, that’s so cute, but can you wait till lunchtime?”

          1. Lucy Skywalker*

            There are people who are genuinely unable to understand gentle and indirect communication. I am one of them, as I have nonverbal learning disability, or NVLD. NVLD, as its name suggests, is the inability to understand nonverbal language. I explain it by saying, “I only understand the words that I hear or that I read. I don’t always understand the words that are implied, so I need you to be as direct as possible when communicating with me.” I’m not necessarily saying that Jane has NVLD, because 1) I don’t know her and 2) there are reasons other than NVLD that one might have trouble understanding subtle cues (for instance, linguistic or cultural differences).
            No matter the reason, it is clear that Jane isn’t responding to the LW’s indirect requests, so the LW needs to come right out and be direct. It’s my understanding that being as direct as possible could be interpreted as impolite or disrespectful by some, as it suggests that the person you’re talking to doesn’t have the ability to understand indirect language. However, to someone like me, it’s not offensive, because I genuinely don’t have that ability.
            So, yeah. If someone doesn’t respond to your indirect requests, it’s highly unlikely that they are ignoring you on purpose. They’re ignoring you because you are not communicating with them in a way that they can understand.

        2. Observer*

          Some of the wording that Alison and many of the commentors are advocating to tell Jane as much are quite rude.

          What exactly is rude in Alison’s wording? I’m serious. There is no name calling, no statements about Jane herself, no characterizations of Jane’s behavior. All I see is a direct and clear request to stop engaging in a specific behavior and short version of why. So what’s the problem here?

        3. allathian*

          Direct is not the same thing as rude. Jane won’t hear polite redirects or take hints, so direct is the way to go. The fact that enforcing boundaries sometimes results in the boundary stomper’s feelings getting hurt is no reason to accept such behavior.

        4. Resident Cripple*

          You’ve done this fairly frequently in the comment. Complained that AAM’s / commentor’s “wording” or “tone” are rude or condescending or whatever. And yet, you never bother to explain what is so rude or condescending. Nor do you supply an acceptable alternative.

          What is the point of your comments in this vein? To snootily proclaim that you’re superior? (Assumes facts not in evidence.) To harangue everyone because it helps you deal with unresolved issues in your personal life? (Therapy is probably better for that.)

          Either explain what’s so wrong about the tone or the wording, or put a sock in it.

      4. Tisiphone*

        Every time I see any variant of that statement, it reads like giving the rude person a Rudeness License. How dare you call out my rudeness! Now *you’re* the rude one and I can go on my merry way continuing to annoy people.

  29. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Even in Bizarro World, where you [or some more patient coworker] actually wanted practice in keeping focused when there are distractions, you shouldn’t be looking at her phone, or answering her intrusive remarks. Because her alleged goal is for you to keep working when there are distractions. But she will not let you do what you want — to keep working, or talk to someone other than Jane — which is also what she claims to want.

    That’s a sideline, because you don’t want a “distraction buddy,” but even if there was such a thing, she has proven herself utterly unqualified for that role, by making it impossible for you to just ignore her intrusions.

  30. KHB*

    Taking blessings where we can find them: It seems promising that Jane’s self-aware enough to realize what she’s doing here. That, at least, gives you a starting point for talking to her about this. (Imagine, in contrast, a Jane who replied to everything you said with “What do you mean I’m distracting you? I’m not distracting you! Give me some examples of how I’m distracting you, because I don’t understand! No, not that example, give me more!”)

    1. Amaranth*

      I don’t know that she is really self-aware, she might just be using OP’s comment as a jumping off point to wrap herself up in the ‘special distraction friend’ identity. Like its a pet name not a condemnation.

  31. Cle*

    Ugh. I also have ADHD, and have also run up against people who think that the issue is like some kind of muscle is weak and I just need to exercise it. That’s not how this works. At all.

  32. Ann Onymous*

    Since the letter writer has ADHD, shouldn’t they be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the ADA? If Jane doesn’t stop and the manager isn’t initially helpful that might be another approach. Stopping Jane’s behavior seems like a very reasonable accommodation that would not cause undue hardship to the employer.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes, but that’s putting the cart before the horse – there hasn’t been any indication so far that the LW wants to disclose their ADHD if it isn’t necessary OR that the manager wouldn’t be helpful in shutting Jane down, because the LW has specifically avoided letting the manager know this issue is ongoing.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        Which is why I said IF the manager isn’t initially helpful. Not suggesting the LW disclose their ADHD if they don’t have to (I have ADHD myself and am very careful about who I disclose it to at work). Hopefully just talking to Jane more firmly or asking the manager for help without disclosing the ADHD will work, but if those fail, reframing it as a disability accommodation might get the problem solved.

        1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          I totally see your point (as another adhd person) but I think that talking about the effects of the disability will be just as effective, because everyone understands “having trouble concentrating in an open-plan office”. (It might be more effective, because just naming the condition lets people fill in whatever they think is true, whereas describing the actual problem with this specific situation keeps everything on-track.)

  33. Allegra*

    Five times a DAY. My mind, she is boggled.

    And calling herself your “distraction buddy” really pushes this for me from clueless to something more…deliberately uncaring. Most people I know who struggle reading social cues (for various neurodiverse reasons) are 99.9999% of the time mortified to realize they’ve read a situation wrong or are bothering someone they enjoy spending time with. Making it a point of pride that you’re bothering somebody? Making it part of your work identity to the point you’re INTRODUCING YOURSELF TO PEOPLE with it?? That pushes this into some other territory entirely.

    OP, I hope you feel empowered by this to just be as terse and professional as you want to be. Alison’s right–she’s the one being rude, not you.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a really good point. I was trying to put my finger on what the extra layer of ick was coming from. I think you got it.

    2. Raine*

      It smacks of desperation and attention-seeking, like nobody else can fill the role Jane has and she has appointed herself as The One with *The* Solution. Except nobody asked for what she’s doing.

      1. Windchime*

        It’s super immature, also. I remember when I was a little kid and my parents would come and pick me up from the swimming pool. I would shout and ask them to watch me, watch me! as I jumped off the diving board. In my defense, I was probably 7 or 8.

        Jane seems like the kind of person who thinks that attention for any reason is good attention. People like Jane don’t respond to gentle hints, pointed looks, or anything other than direct communication.

  34. RJ*

    Jane has issues. I feel your pain, OP, as I also need to concentrate to do my finance work and have encountered more than one Jane in my career. The direct approach Alison has laid out should work…as will going to your boss if this escalates.

  35. Mental Lentil*

    Spray bottle filled with water? It works for household pets.

    /s (But just barely—I would have defenestrated Jane by now.)

    1. All the words*

      And that’s why all our modern office windows are sealed! Too darned much defenestration.

    2. BookishMiss*

      That was my thought! I use them on my coworkers all the time when they’re breaking very sensible rules.

      Then again, my coworkers are cats…

  36. Just Another Zebra*

    I had an ex-coworker refer to me as the Ice Queen, because while he wanted to make jokes about EVERYTHING, I was multitasking to extremes and did not have time for it. He was remote, I was in the main office, so we’d only met in person once. At a social thing for work, he told someone he didn’t realize who I was because I was “smiling and happy and shiny”. He couldn’t fathom that Work Zebra and Social Zebra behave differently.

    OP, I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Firm corrections in the moment and just an overall message of “don’t bother me” are best. I promise you, it isn’t rude to say, “I need you to not bother me to socialize while I’m working. Can you do that?” Also, FWIW, I find the “distraction buddy” thing gross and infantilizing. Jane is probably trying to be friendly and warm, but it’s coming off really, really poorly.

  37. Liz*

    As a fellow ADHDer, this sounds like hell. There’s nothing more irritating to me than someone who lacks enough self-awareness to sense when they’re being a disturbance to someone else. I hope the LW follows up—I would be interested to hear how it all works out.

  38. Llellayena*

    It looks like this mostly (always?) happens when the OP is speaking with someone else at work about a work-related topic. Jane interrupts BOTH of them to try to re-focus the conversation on a non-work topic. Maybe saying “Jane, I’m speaking to Mary about Work Project A, are you involved in that project? No? Then I can’t talk to you now, I need to finish my conversation here.

    It almost sounds like Jane sees any set of people talking as people SOCIALIZING not as people discussing WORK. Emphasizing that you are actually WORKING, not just chatting, might (I hope) reset this?

    1. Raine*

      Which says a hell of a lot about Jane’s perceptions about how work gets done. Talking = fun in her book, not “someone needing clarification about points X and Y” or whatever the work subject is.

      But it also feels very much All About Jane and not the letter writer.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      I agree, and I think Jane also is possessive of OP and jealous when OP pays attention to anyone else, as I was when I was a small child trying to butt into Mommy’s conversations.
      Try saying sternly “Not now, Jane.”

  39. Penelope Pitstop*

    I think if this gets to the point that you have to go to your manager as soon as you mention Jane calling herself your ‘distraction buddy’ should be enough to signal that this is not a problem of Jane being friendly when you don’t want her to be. Having been in a supervisory position before, the only thing I would want to know is if you have asked Jane point blank to stop bothering you when you are trying to work. If you have already tried to solve this problem at your level and Jane is still actively distracting you from your work, this now a performance problem on Jane’s part – which is between Jane and the supervisor.

  40. Tin Cormorant*

    Is Jane a literal child? Because I don’t tolerate this from anyone other than my 5-year-old, and even then, the constant “hey mommy, look at this!” every 20 seconds while I’m trying to get absolutely anything done drives me up the wall and makes every task take twice as long because my train of thought is constantly getting derailed. I would have thought adults would have more… social awareness? Common decency?

  41. Amethystmoon*

    Good luck on that. I once had a coworker who constantly distracted me all the time when I was trying to focus on my work. Think at least once an hour, someone interrupting you either to chat or with questions that have already been covered in the training manual, which you had sent to him multiple times. This was also the guy who constantly followed me around for months, even if we were not going to the same meeting. The boss did not care. I eventually had to start looking for another job. It literally took me leaving my job to get this guy to leave.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Maybe but he was 20+ years younger than me, and I’m definitely very average looking for a Midwesterner.

  42. CatCat*

    She’s friendly when I don’t want to be friendly?

    No, she’s regularly interrupting your work. She’s being incredibly rude and disruptive. Definitely not friendly.

    1. Sedna*

      Yeah, this is not “let’s be friendly”, it’s “play with me no matter what you’re doing”. She may have trouble with recognizing boundaries, but that doesn’t mean you have to let her destroy yours.

    2. LizB*

      Exactly. Updated sentence: she’s [disruptive and demands my attention for non-work things] when I [am trying to focus on my tasks].

    3. Le Sigh*

      It’s really important OP reframe this in her head, especially if she has to go to her boss. She’s not whining because someone’s trying to be friendly. The issue is that her coworker isn’t respecting her boundaries and is crossing into unprofessional behavior, so she’s asking her boss to help resolve an issue with another teammate that is affecting her work, and all of that is directly within her boss’ responsibilities. Frankly, if I were the boss I would want OP to first try to resolve it on her own (which it sounds like OP is trying to do). If that didn’t work, I would want them to come to me, because it would tell me I needed to better coach her teammate about professional behavior and keep a closer eye on them. And there’s a decent chance this person is doing it to others in the office, which could be an even bigger issue.

  43. Jean*

    There’s a person like this in my office – she doesn’t work in my dept but she has a habit of wandering into our area braying about this or that. The other day she walked up behind me while I was on a call and asked to borrow my wall calendar. I just snatched it off the wall and handed it to her so she’d go away. She seems to think it’s cute to behave this way, and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care how annoying and unwelcome her visits are. If it were a daily thing instead of an every couple of weeks or so thing I would definitely make an issue out of it.

    Shut this down, OP. And don’t be swayed by the big hurt fee-fees production that Jane is guaranteed to put on when you do. Tough love is in order.

  44. Purple Cat*

    I don’t think Jane is actually a “very nice person”.
    Who calls themselves a “distraction buddy” as if that’s a good thing?
    This is definitely tough because you ARE going to have to seem ruder than Jane is, just to get her to lay off.

    1. Just So Tired*

      Yeah I think it’s easy to mistake “Nice” for “upbeat” or “uses a friendly tone of voice” or is or tries to be “engaging”. These can be characteristics of “Nice” people she is not “being” nice in these scenarios.

  45. bee*

    It’s hard to tell from the letter but it sounds like OP told Jane they had ADHD when asking her to stop, and what she heard was not “Please stop this, I don’t like it” but “I love socializing with my good pal Jane! But my ADHD makes it hard :(” and Jane thinks being your ‘distraction buddy’ is helping you. Obviously this isn’t correct, but it is why I tend to tell people just “I have trouble refocusing after an interruption” instead of “I have ADHD so I have trouble refocusing after a conversation.” Less baggage, and it doesn’t leave the door open for people to try to ‘fix’ you.

  46. Gracely*

    All I can think in reaction to reading about Jane is a series of expletives, so kudos to you for not snapping by now.

    And this has nothing to do with ADHD–Jane would be awful for just about anyone. Your coworkers are probably annoyed, too (just not as much because her focus isn’t on them).

    I just, wtf.

  47. Littorally*

    Great advice from Alison.

    What I’d add is when/if (probably when…) you talk to your boss, be very blunt that Jane is
    – Interrupting your work conversations
    – With non-work items
    – And has expressly stated that that is her deliberate intention.

    This is not ‘oh Jane is annoying’ this is Jane deliberately sabotaging your productivity.

  48. LondonLady*

    As others have said, IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S JANE I would have probably throttled her by now and I don’t have ADHD.

    Your ADHD is not the issue here. Her behaviour sounds incredibly annoying and unprofessional: what if you were on the phone to an important client? a senior manager? etc. In addition to Allison’s scripts, I’d practice holding up a hand and saying “Not now Jane”, followed if necesssary by “I’m serious, not now, I’m on the phone” or “Jane, stop, I don’t have time for this right now.” The ‘now’ means it’s not a blanket rejection but a reasonable colleague request.

    Headphones may also help.

    If you want to be kind, you can chat to her at times that suit you – and then wrap up those friendly checkins with “back to work now, I’m on a deadline so no more time to chat today but we’ll speak tomorrow/this afternoon/another time”. Put yourself in charge of managing the interaction as she is incapable.

    And then give her a ‘three strikes’ before you complain to your /her manager. Good luck!

  49. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [“In doing this, you’re going to feel rude! But it’s not rude. She’s being rude, and she’s forcing your hand.”]

    I have read etiquette columns in the past that disagree with this analysis. They would say that, no matter how rude Jane might be, calling her out on it would be a much, much worse offense.

    1. BethRA*

      Well, this is not Miss Manners or an olde time etiquette column. However I suspect Miss Manners would agree with Allison’s assessment: Jane is the one being rude, but simply being direct with her in asking her to stop is not. Etiquette does not require you to let someone stand on your foot, after all, only that you ask them to move rather than shoving them.

    2. mlem*

      Miss Manners would have said that saying, “Jane, you’re being rude,” is rude but that, “Jane, I need to work,” is not rude.

      1. Zelda*

        Miss Manners also has a fine sense of when an icy tone is entirely called for. There are plenty of ways to be firm and even express anger that are *not* rude.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Miss Manners these days has lost her edge. I think it is written by some young and clueless relatives who just come across as pompous and a bit clueless.

    3. Soup of the Day*

      I kind of agree, not that calling someone out is inherently rude but that this level of bluntness would be interpreted as rude, by Jane and probably by OP’s coworkers who might overhear. It might be justified rudeness at this point, but it’s still rude. I think you can have another conversation with her that is both direct and more gentle than the language above, especially since Jane doesn’t sound outwardly malicious, just… woefully misinformed about the nature of your relationship and professional norms.

      And you’re under no obligation to be gentle! Jane is definitely the one violating boundaries here. But I do think that being SO blunt will permanently damage your relationship with her. She probably thinks of you as a friend, while you don’t see her the same way. If you want to maintain a friendly (but not friends!) relationship with her, I would try one more time to be kind before going the super-blunt route.

      1. Observer*

        I think you can have another conversation with her that is both direct and more gentle than the language above, especially since Jane doesn’t sound outwardly malicious, just… woefully misinformed about the nature of your relationship and professional norms.

        Nope. When someone acts this way, you CANNOT use softening language. And this is totally not about being “misinformed” because there is no relationship in which her behavior is acceptable. If someone came to me asking about how to deal with a friend or SO, I would be saying much the same thing.

        Keep a crucial piece in mind – the OP has ALREADY asked Jane to cut it out and Jane has decided that the OP is wrong about what they need, and that SHE gets to decide how to go forward. Even if she’s not actually being malicious and is ignorant enough to think that this could be good for someone, it’s utterly and completely boundary stomping in ANY adult relationship to unilaterally decide handle SOMEONE ELSE’S issue in a way that you have been asked not to.

        But I do think that being SO blunt will permanently damage your relationship with her.

        And why is this a problem? The relationship as it stands is pretty toxic.

        1. Soup of the Day*

          Well, it’s a problem because they need to work together! In general it’s better to be on good terms with your coworkers, even ones you don’t like. As Alison’s response acknowledges, we don’t know if the OP had originally sugarcoated her requests for Jane to stop. Maybe the OP WAS already super direct, in which case there’s no hope for Jane. But if not, I don’t see the harm in one more try at politeness. I don’t think polite means dancing around the subject, it just means Jane isn’t as likely to cry in a bathroom stall after the conversation.

          And it’s exhausting to have to manage a coworker’s feelings, which is why I said OP has no obligation to do this! But I can easily see this being a situation where Jane is truly unaware of how unwelcome her interruptions really are, especially if the OP had taken a joking tone to telling her to cut it off before. It’s just something to consider.

          1. Observer*

            I see the harm, because the softening language obscures the issue and gives this person, who has a track record of doing this, another chance to argue and be even more rude.

            Yes, the OP may still need to continue to work with Jane, but the coldest relationship possible with Jane would be an improvement over what is happening now.

        2. BethRA*

          On the contrary, not being clear with someone that their behavior is causing problems is actually rude and unkind. Because you’re allowing them to continue unwittingly causing distress and possibly alienating them from their colleagues.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      (Some) etiquette says that telling someone else they’re being rude is rude — but not that setting boundaries and saying you need to work is rude! Those are two different things. Etiquette doesn’t require that you tolerate rudeness directed your way. Quite the contrary; it’s pro boundary setting.

      Source: large shelf of etiquette books covering decades

      That said, this is work, not a social situation and the rules are different anyway.

    5. Ocho*

      It would be rude to call her out for eating her salad with the wrong fork. It is not rude to ask her to stop deliberately interfering with the Letter Writer’s ability to perform her work.

    6. Colette*

      There’s a significant difference between calling someone on their rudeness (e.g. “Jane, stop interrupting me, that’s rude”) and setting a boundary (e.g. “Jane, I need you to stop interrupting me while I’m working”)

    7. Not A Manager*

      “Calling someone out” in this context means correcting their behavior just to instruct them. That’s rude. Stopping someone else from encroaching on your boundaries is not rude. The original Miss Manners was very clear on that, and had some excellent scripts.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      Alison didn’t even say to “call Jane out” or tell her/anyone that her behavior is rude, though.

    9. Sea Anemone*

      It’s not that calling Jane out is worse, it’s that being on the end of rude behavior does not give you a free pass to be rude in response. You still have to be respectful in how you assert your boundaries, which is a distinction that is lost on this blog.

      1. Aj Crowley*

        I disagree that the advice given here ever borders on disrespectful. I think as a culture (US) and especially for folks with historically marginalized identities, we have adopted indirect communication such that assertive communication with a firm expression and tone can feel rude or disrespectful but it is neither. It does OP and ultimately Jane a disservice to communicate in softer tones because Jane clearly has not responded as intended to these softer approaches (hypothesized as we don’t actually know how OP approached this in the past). Firm and clear communication doesn’t leave any room for interpretation.

        Clear interpersonal communication is “When you X (ideally at the time X is happening), it impacts my Y. I need you to Z or I will need to LMNOP.”

        “Jane, when you interrupt. I cannot easily regain my focus and it impacts my ability to meet work expectations. I need you to stop interrupting me.” If she does it again, same words except add “I’ve already asked you to stop and if you can’t I will need to speak with our manager as this is impacting my work performance.” That is not rude. It is factual.

        Labeling firm assertive communication as rude does a disservice to women and other marginalized people in professional settings as we well know that women are more likely to be labeled as “difficult” or worse for adopting the same effective communication strategies of white men.

        1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          I think the point is that OP is going to need to be very, blunt in order to get through to Jane. Jane really, really wants to continue doing what she’s doing, and if OP softens the message at all, she’s going to find a way to rewrite it to mean what she wants it to mean. She’s hearing jokey or soft requests to stop as, like, fond exasperation. “Oh, that Jane, she’s so irrepressible.” I suspect she has an idea of herself as charming and quirky and she’s utterly convinced that she’s brightening everyone’s day, and OP needs to remove all plausible deniability. Nothing much short of “Jane, nothing about what you’re doing is likeable, I do not find you secretly charming, you are not a Manic Pixie Dream Coworker sent to teach me how to feel joy, and you need to stop or I will call in management to stop you,”* is going to get through.
          It’s not about what’s polite, it’s about what will *work.*

          * I mean, literally using those words would be a bit rude, if justified, but that’s the message that needs to get through.

          1. Aj Crowley*

            I want to push back on your “Jane, nothing about what you’re doing is likeable, I do not find you secretly charming, you are not a Manic Pixie Dream Coworker sent to teach me how to feel joy, and you need to stop or I will call in management to stop you,” I know it was probably written in some jest but this does tip the communication from assertive to aggressive. If OP has tried or goes on to try a direct firm approach and Jane does not respond, then it is time to escalate to a manager. A manager will ask what OP has tried already with Jane and OP wants to be able to say they tried to communicate in a direct and clear manner but what OP does not want is that when Jane is called to a meeting with the manager about OP’s behavior is for Jane to be able to say “Well OP called me Manic Pixie Dream Coworker.”

            It’s frustrating sure but effective because if OP comports themself professionally then the problem is clearly Jane’s and not a conflict between two coworkers each contributing to the problem.

            1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

              Oh yeah, OP should not actually use those words to Jane and I could have been clearer about that.
              I just mean that it may take OP being far blunter and less pleasant than she’s comfortable with to convince Jane that she really is not in any way enjoying Jane’s behaviour.

              1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

                For an actual script OP could use, rather than jokey venting, maybe something like, ” Jane, we’ve talked about this before but it doesn’t seem like I’ve managed to make myself clear enough, so let me be blunt. I know you just want to be friendly and fun, but I need you to understand that the constant distractions and the jokes about how it’s your job to distract me aren’t fun for me. They’re stressful and frustrating and making it really hard for me to do my job, and I really do need you to stop.”
                And yeah, OP doesn’t have to use management as a threat, she can give Jane one more chance to hear what she’s saying, but it might be useful to have a conversation with whoever the appropriate person is, just so she’s laid the ground in case Jane reacts badly. Something like, “I’ve been having some difficulty working with Jane because she constantly interrupts and distracts me. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, but she hasn’t taken me seriously and just makes a joke of it. I’m going to try having one more conversation with her, but if it doesn’t work this time, can you back me up?”

      2. Observer*

        which is a distinction that is lost on this blog.

        That’s a rather ironic statement coming from someone complaining about people being rude.

        In any case, it’s simply not true. And I have yet to see you come up with wording that is direct and clear, and which does not require the OP to essentially try to convince Jane that they need to be accommodated.

      3. Maid Dombegh*

        When you say “this blog” are you referring to AAM herself, or the commentariat? Allison’s script is not disrespectful to Jane, it is simply allowing her no wiggle room. That’s not rude.

        As for the comments section, people may jokingly make suggestions for things they *wish* they could say to Jane, because we have all experienced a Jane, and Jane is incredibly frustrating. That’s just blowing off steam in a way that the person you’re talking about won’t hear. No one is seriously suggesting that OP tell Jane she shouldn’t come back from “Hawaii”. But sometimes just imagining saying things like this can lessen your frustration.

  50. calonkat*

    Listen to the people saying this is nothing to do with your ADHD. That may be a factor in how long it takes you to refocus, but this is someone doing rude and disruptive things, which would bother anyone.

    She is not being “nice”, she is not being a “buddy”. She is interrupting your (and others) work and doing it deliberately. “Socially clueless” is how you are justifying letting her do these things, it is not a good reason. You owe co-workers civility, but “No” is a complete sentence and does not need further explanation for non-work things during work hours. “Do you want to go for a walk?” “No” “Guess how old this baby is” “No”

    Let her find another “work friend” and they can surf the ‘net together all day.

  51. BethRA*

    “I’m already worried that I’m looking scatterbrained to colleagues because it’s hard for me to refocus after the interruptions.”

    It would be hard for ANYONE to focus with these kind of interruptions – in fact the shenanigans you’ve described are probably disruptive to more than just you. Shouting about alternative plans and HULA (wtf?) dancing? Shoving phones in your face when I”m trying to have a conversation with you? It’s more than enough that it’s disruptive to you, but if it helps you feel ok being direct with Jane, or going to your manager if that doesn’t work, I honestly, you will be doing everyone in that office a favor by shutting this stuff down.

  52. OhNoYouDidn't*

    If you tell her a couple of times to go away and she doesn’t, do you have a conference room you could use? I’m thinking I’d start picking up my laptop and walking away from her and locking myself away for 30 minutes or so, with a do not disturb sign on the door. I’d do it every single time until she gets it.

  53. Oh Behave!*

    I am a very focused person. Sometimes I’m so involved with what I’m doing, I don’t hear a question. She would drive me BSC!
    You definitely need to be firmer with her. It’s annoying as hell. She’s the one in the wrong here.

  54. Dust Bunny*

    she told me that it’s good practice for me to keep myself focused, and will even introduce herself to others as my “distraction buddy.”

    Sorry, what?

    That doesn’t even make sense, never mind that it’s a terrible idea and Jane is ridiculous and possibly terrible. I am very definitely not ADHD and I would be thinking of ways to hide a body by now.

    You don’t have to be nice about this. This isn’t friendly–she’s undermining you! She’s deliberately doing things that make your job harder!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My dad does that no-impulse-control, you-must-look-at-this-now, I’m-an-overgrown-toddler thing, too, and if my mother ever kills him this will be why. It’s obnoxious and incredibly self-centered.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Sorry, I just can’t . . . “distraction buddy” who tells you that you need to focus? What the actual eff am I reading?

      I actually just Googled “ADHD distraction” to see if maybe Jane had read something about a counterintuitive new kind of therapy for ADHD that involved, I dunno, distracting people, but . . . no, it seems like she just pulled this idea out of her ear.

    3. Airy*

      Next time she introduces herself to another person that way, I think a Dakota Johnson Manoeuvre would be satisfying.
      “Actually, Jane, that’s not the truth. I don’t like you interrupting me while I work and I have repeatedly asked you to stop.”
      Will she feel horribly embarrassed in front of the new person? Yeah, probably, but she sounds insufferable so…

      1. Zona the Great*

        Good call. I might go with, “No, you’re just a distraction. My buddies let me work.”

  55. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    Alison is absolutely right that Jane needs to be shut down, like, YESTERDAY. And, OP, I completely understand how that can feel like you’re being rude. But think of it this way: Jane herself has actually given you full permission to be as rude as you need to be!

    Jane has appointed herself your “distraction buddy.” In order to help you “practice” staying focused. WHICH MEANS… the more you completely ignore her, the more you tell her to buzz off when she interrupts, the more you shut her down… the more it’s working! You’re not being rude, you’re just focusing better! You’re doing your part to get the most out of this whackadoodle training she’s decided you need. (Ugh, ew.)

    Now, I absolutely would not tell her that – seems like she’d probably just ramp up the obnoxiousness – but it might help to mentally reframe “being rude” as “taking her at her word.”

    Also, you’re a saint. I would already have lost my everloving MIND if I had to work with Jane.

  56. MsClaw*

    I think it’s possible you’re particularly sensitive to how you’ll come off here because of your ADHD, but this would be irritating to *anyone*. I’m not disputing your diagnosis or anything like that — I just mean you don’t need to be worried about how being bothered by this will reflect *on you* because any reasonable person would find this vexing.

    And yeah, if someone is interrupting your work conversations, it is not at all rude to say ‘Maybe later’ or ‘I’ll get back you when I’m finished with Greg here’ or even ‘No thank you. So as I was saying, Greg’.

    Good luck. My guess is Jane will fuss and pout for a while, and you may get labeled as ‘no fun’. As someone who is famously no fun, I promise one can live with that :)

  57. Soup of the Day*

    Oof. I’m very sympathetic to Jane here, just because I feel like the behaviors she’s exhibiting would not be weird, and might even be welcome, if she was friends with the OP and their coworkers. It sounds like she’s really misjudging the nature of the relationships she has with her coworkers.

    It’s not okay for her to keep going after you’ve asked her to stop, but I could see how if she thinks you’re closer than you really are, she might not have interpreted the ADHD thing as a serious request for her to stop bothering you. I don’t feel like Jane is actually a jerk or has bad intentions – she probably thinks she’s just having friendly conversations and doesn’t realize how unwelcome they are, and probably doesn’t realize how hard it is to struggle with ADHD.

    I think her feelings are going to be very hurt when she realizes the truth. And it’s not your job to manage your coworker’s feelings, for the record! But if you want to stay friendly with her, I think you can have another conversation that’s a little more gentle before going for the super direct, super blunt strategy. Jane might be annoying, but I really doubt she knows the effect she’s having.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      I’m not sympathetic to her even a little bit – she’s been told not to do it, and yet she persists. She’s ignorant. And it’s not even ok for her to take it on herself to ‘help’, even if she and the OP are friends. Unless the OP specifically asked for help, Jane needs to butt out.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Oh no. This is not even remotely acceptable from my friends either. I don’t let my friends shove their phones in my face when I’m in the middle of a conversation, I don’t let my husband interrupt and talk over my conversations when I’m chatting with someone else, I don’t let my dog get up in my face when I’m trying to focus on something, and I am very very fond of my friends and my husband and my dog. And that’s all without including the fact that LW is at work and trying to work, not “just” engaging in hobbies or personal frivolity.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      No, I would never, ever, do this to a friend, even in a social situation, never mind at work. If they asked me to, I guess test their ADHD by distracting them? OK, sure–tell me how you want this done. But I wouldn’t attempt that on my own. And in general I just stay out of work conversations unless they’re clearly wide-open and mostly social, or I’m invited to participate.

    4. Observer*

      ust because I feel like the behaviors she’s exhibiting would not be weird, and might even be welcome, if she was friends with the OP and their coworkers.

      Not at all. Interrupting someone’s conversations on a regular basis is just rude, even if you are friends. Going further and insisting on a response and then hijacking the conversation for several minutes? Doing this kind of thing several times a day? This is the kind of behavior that ends relationships.

      I could see how if she thinks you’re closer than you really are, she might not have interpreted the ADHD thing as a serious request for her to stop bothering you. I don’t feel like Jane is actually a jerk or has bad intentions – she probably thinks she’s just having friendly conversations

      Not really. She clearly DOES know that she’s over-riding a intentional request. She has just decided that she gets to decide for the OP how to go forward. Even if she really didn’t realize that it was a serious request, it would be bad. But in this case, she DOES know – she said that she is NOT going to stop because her interruptions are “good for OP”. And she even calls herself the person who makes it her job to distract the OP.

    5. Tuesday*

      If the request to stop wasn’t made clearly but instead just sort of hinted at, then I think the LW could try requesting again, clearly and kindly. But if she was already clear or if Jane blows her off again with nonsense about being a distraction buddy, I don’t think she has a choice but to be more blunt.

      Jane’s interruptions are also rude to the people the LW is talking to. Maybe it will make it easier for the LW to think of stopping the interruptions as being a kindness to her other coworkers.

    6. SnappinTerrapin*

      You’re mighty generous in your assessment of Jane’s behavior.

      But, it’s not your work she is so rudely interrupting, or your career she is undermining.

      If your personal boundaries are so generous, that’s your prerogative. But it’s also your responsibility if you allow your work buddies to prevent you from accomplishing your tasks.

      If I were your supervisor, and saw that you preferred socializing with your friends over getting your job done, I’d see that as a serious performance issue.

      The LW is in the right in asking for advice, and she has received sound advice. Her priorities are entirely appropriate for the workplace. As you can see, the vast majority of the commentariat see Jane’s behavior as highly disruptive.

      I try to be generous in my assessment of people’s motives, and try to attribute things to poor judgment rather than to malice, wherever it is reasonable to do so. Taking LW at her word, I’m having a hard time not seeing Jane as deliberately violating clearly established, reasonable boundaries, after being asked to stop interrupting LW’s work.

      But you are free to tolerate Jane, if you so choose, if she comes to be employed alongside you.

    7. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Yes I’m reading comments and wondering if I am reading a different OP from everyone else. Jane sounds a lot like someone who became a friend, and he cannot read social cues. Cannot. He’s worked hard at learning social cues but when you’re learning by rote you may not deploy accurately. These things all sound like someone who wants to be fun and connect, but lacks ability to judge when that is appropriate.

      I don’t see in the letter that actual explicit requests to stop have been given. Saying ‘I have adhd this is distracting’ if it doesn’t include the words ‘please stop’ and additional cues as someone else has said by being serious, etc. My experience as someone who is a) a woman and b) direct is that many women are socialised to not be direct, and that when you are actually direct people are surprised or offended. I would be wrong but I’m reading the letter writer as a woman and often what is considered to be ‘rude’ for people who can read social cues/ socialised in a certain way is actually about the level of directness required for someone like Jane.

      If my read is correct, Jane would want to know. If it’s not correct, good opportunity to enforce personal boundaries and ask annoying behaviour to stop.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        OP says they’ve tried explaining this to Jane, only to be told that the distractions will help with focus, I guess by training OP to push through the distractions and focus anyway? It’s not a muscle you develop by exercising it more.
        She’s not necessarily malicious, but she is *really* out of line, and needs to be told to cut it out.

        1. GL*

          Explaining is not saying ‘stop doing this’. Alison’s advice is good and would work, some people need very clear communication. I feel like people in the comments thread are giving room to the letter writers neurodiversity, whilst really judging Jane hard for not reading social cues. What may seem obvious to letter writer and the reader may not be obvious to Jane.

    8. allathian*

      I’ve ended friendships over boundary-crossing behavior like this, in spite of being a talkative person myself. I’ve told my friends (and asked my manager and coworkers) to interrupt me and tell me to get to the point when I start rambling too much, although I work on it myself as well, and have improved a lot during the last 10 years or so. I’m particularly prone to rambling when I’m nervous or excited. I feel more confident now and less anxious than I did when I was younger, so that’s probably got something to do with my calmer demeanor these days… FWIW, I’m from a culture where interruptions are pretty much always seen as rude, unless it’s an emergency.

  58. Suz*

    “If you repeat this enough times and do it consistently, there’s a decent chance that it’ll train Jane to leave you alone. The consistency part is really important though, because if you let her interrupt you some of the time, she’ll learn that she should just keep trying. If you never let her, she’s more likely to eventually accept the boundary.” Exactly what I learned in obedience school with my dog.

  59. Frally*

    OMG, just reading about the hula dance made me want to headbutt Jane. Jesus, she’s way beyond annoying. Good luck, OP.

  60. StellaBella*

    Perhaps I missed it, but is Jane’s manager the same as OP’s? If so then going to your manager to ask that this stop is good as is all of the above advice. If Jane has a different manager, one option, the next time she does this is to get up, walk with Jane to HER manager’s office and ask “why Jane has so much free time to interrupt you several times a day and could it please be remedied now?” or to your manager’s office if it is the same person maybe. Also be firm and cold and do not tolerate Jane. You have work to do so she she and this is stupidly childish on her part, so maybe she is not suited for office work?

  61. Carlie*

    Can you channel Jane? Give her a few specific minutes at the top or bottom of the day, or during lunch, as a “standard” meeting time? Then any time she comes over, you can tell her to save it for your meeting. That might get her the attention she wants from you, but in a controlled manner that works with how you need her to be compartmentalized.

  62. Observer*

    OP, I want to highlight something that a bunch of people have mentioned – that this is NOT about your ADHD.

    I don’t want to be dismissive of ADHD as I know how that can mess with your head. And I have no doubt that it’s making your life harder. But I think that in this case, there are some of solid benefits to putting that aside.

    For yourself: Right now your having a hard time recognizing just how out of line Jane’s behavior is and you’re taking on some of the responsibility for the issue. Because you think that if you didn’t have ADHD it might not be a problem and her behavior might just look like friendliness, etc. But in fact, none of this is true. As you can see from the uniformly horrified responses, it’s not just that she’s being “friendly”, wanted or not. And it would be a problem even for someone who is the exact reverse of having ADHD or any similar symptoms EVER.

    Speaking to Jane: If you recognize that the issue her behavior, and only her behavior, it’s going to be easier to be direct. “Please do not interrupt me.” “I am in the middle of a work conversation now, please leave my cubicle” etc. Nothing for you to apologize for or explain. She might still try to bulldoze you, but at least you won’t spend the energy on trying to explain things that don’t need to be explained, there will be no ambiguity and she won’t have a chance to try to “explain” to you how what she’s doing is REALLY for your benefit.

    Speaking to your boss: You don’t want to distract your boss. Jane is interrupting you, INSISTING on getting your attention – pretty aggressively in some cases – multiple times a day, even when it is absolutely clear that you are busy with something work related. And her interruptions are generally more that a quick second that could be relatively simple for someone to bounce back from. Like if she asked you what time it is, you gave a glance at your clock and then went back to what you were doing that would be one thing. But insisting that pay attention to and think about something totally unrelated to what you are doing and the spending several more minutes on that subject? That is throwing ANYONE off. Just describe the shenanigans she’s pulling and let your boss put 2 and 2 together. If she’s got any sense, she’ll come up with 4.

    1. Another ADDer*

      “And her interruptions are generally more that a quick second that could be relatively simple for someone to bounce back from. Like if she asked you what time it is, you gave a glance at your clock and then went back to what you were doing that would be one thing…”

      Even that isn’t simple to bounce back from for people with ADHD. Any interruption at all can leave me unable to focus for at least the next 5-10 minutes, and that’s not at all unusual for us.

  63. Sharpieees*

    You’ve already told her that she needs to back off, but she still chooses not to. No words/converstations are even needed anymore when she does this. If she asks you a silly question like “what animal does this cloud look like?” just stare at her in silence. If she interrupts a conversation, don’t acknowledge her and keep talking to the person you were talking to – even if she’s still speaking. If she’s embarrassed, great! She should be embarrassed! She’s being rude! You aren’t.

    I don’t buy into the idea that these kinds of people are just scatterbrained and don’t know what they’re doing. I believe that they do. Just because their boundry-pushing is wrapped in “friendliness” doesn’t mean that it’s coming from a nice place. She’s quite literally trying to convert you into a buddy that she can slack off with everyday (I mean, she’s listening in on your conversations, she’s deciding when you need a work break, when IS she focusing on HER work?) Your professional reputation, your need for future references, your paycheck……….all more important than her need to have someone to waste time with.

  64. Daffy Duck*

    This is definitely a Jane problem! I don’t have ADHD and her behavior would drive me right up a wall. OP, please don’t think that her behavior would be acceptable to any serious worker.

  65. ZSD*

    Jane is obnoxious. I don’t have ADHD, but even so, if anyone ever described herself as my “distraction buddy,” I would be tempted to resort to physical violence.

  66. Aspyn*

    Please cut Jane a bit of slack! Coming from someone on the spectrum, I suspect Jane might be as well. She may not know what she’s doing isn’t helpful and is just trying very hard to fit in.

    I’ve been Jane before in my first few jobs. And the cruelty people showed me affected me even now. I’m much more withdrawn at jobs and stick to jobs where I have little to no social interaction– even if I would very much like to chat more with my work colleagues.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      My question is, did you continue with specific behaviours after someone asked you to stop them?

      1. Fiddlesticks*

        Exactly – and did you also celebrate your behaviors “I’m her distraction buddy!” after being asked to stop?

        If you quit acting inappropriately after being asked to stop, and you didn’t act like your inappropriate behaviors were actually good things, you’re really not like Jane at all.

      2. Rose*


        Many people on the spectrum respond very well to specific rules and boundaries for social interaction. The bottom line is OP needs to be able to get her work done and Jane needs to act like an adult and respect boundaries, on the spectrum or not.

    2. The Smiling Pug*

      I understand trying to be friendly, but what Jane is doing is the opposite of friendly. She’s trampling boundaries, inserting distractions and trying to forge an unwanted work-friendship.

    3. cryptid*

      Nope. Please do not armchair diagnose people here. It is irrelevant if Jane might be autistic or not, because her behaviour is unacceptable either way. Further, having inappropriate behaviour clearly explained is generally a net benefit for those of us on the spectrum, so we can understand and correct it going forward. I’m sorry it hurt your feelings but Jane still needs to be firmly corrected.

    4. Airy*

      If she’s on the spectrum them telling her clearly and directly – without any cruelty, just a calm statement that the interruptions are not welcome and OP needs to work without distractions – is doing her a favour. I’ve also felt humiliated when I learned someone I thought I was friendly with didn’t like me, but that doesn’t mean they just have to put up with the unwanted attention.

      1. Rose*

        Please remember someone might feel annoyed by your behavior but still like you as a person and understand you’re trying, or readjust opinions when they see you trying. I hope you don’t feel that way in the future, that sounds so hard.

        If you’re respecting boundaries when they’re set clearly (aka not a Jane), and letting people know you need clear boundaries when you realize it might need to be said, you’re doing your best!

    5. Soup of the Day*

      Even if Jane is not on the spectrum, she is clearly trying very hard to force a friendly relationship for one reason or another. We never know what someone else is going through. You don’t have to let yourself get walked on, but I really think that kindness and empathy are always the best option, no matter how annoying or unpleasant someone might be.

      I understand where everyone else is coming from – it’s healthy to set and enforce boundaries. But suddenly icing out Jane after mostly tolerating her behavior is going to seem abrupt, confusing, and hurtful to her. And that’s on her, but I just feel like there’s some middle ground between tolerating her without saying anything and being blunt and cold in all of your interactions with her.

      Maybe she really is hopeless and nothing short of outright ignoring her forever or skywriting “LEAVE ME ALONE” will get her to stop her behavior, but I don’t see what’s wrong with trying to be kind while explaining the problem to her in a serious sit-down conversation and seeing if that will work. We have no way of knowing how serious OP was when asking Jane to stop originally. If OP WAS serious and clear, then proceed however! OP doesn’t owe Jane anything. I just don’t see the harm in being gentle if it will maybe salvage her feelings.

      1. Rose*

        This isn’t about icing jane out. It’s about OPs right to work during her working hours. She isn’t obligated to work late/get a bad review/whatever the consequence of not getting her work done is, regardless of if Jane is lonely. We need to stop telling people, and esp women, that setting basic boundaries is somehow mean. This is why Alison gets so many questions where the answer is “tell the person what you want/need from them.”

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I don’t think that saying “I need you to stop interrupting me while I am working. I am not interested in a distraction buddy and I’m not looking for practice in staying focused. What I need is for you to not interrupt me while I am working.” is icing someone out.

        It’s very direct and would likely lead to some awkwardness, but her lack of response so far suggests that directness is needed.
        Could you describe how “trying to be kind while explaining the problem to her in a serious sit-down conversation” would differ?

        No one has suggested following that up by completely ignoring her. It means limiting interactions to times when you aren’t actively working.

        1. Soup of the Day*

          It’s just a matter of language. “Jane, I know I’ve mentioned my ADHD to you in the past. I’m not sure if you realize how much of a problem it is for me, but it really is very distracting when you interrupt me while I’m working. I just want you to know that those interruptions won’t be possible going forward, as I have a lot of work to do and I really need to focus. I’m going to put headphones in now, so I won’t be available to talk. We can catch up after work if you have something you want to show me!”

          Obviously omit that last part if you don’t want any sort of relationship with her, but do you see how that’s different than “I need you to stop interrupting me”? If I were Jane and I had the first conversation, I would realize how in the wrong I’d been and be embarrassed. If it was the second, I would think that I had done something to make the person dislike me. (And Jane has! But she doesn’t understand that her behavior is a problem, so she doesn’t see that!)

          1. I should really pick a name*

            I see the difference, but I actually don’t see a problem with either approach.

            In this particular case, we don’t know what the LW has said to Jane so far, so either version could be warranted.
            For that matter, I think that either version could be justified at this point based on the fact that the co-worker has not taken the LW’s earlier pushback seriously (by referring to herself as a “Distraction buddy”, Jane is clearly aware of what she’s doing, even if she may or may not be aware of the impact).

          2. Observer*

            “Jane, I know I’ve mentioned my ADHD to you in the past. I’m not sure if you realize how much of a problem it is for me, but it really is very distracting when you interrupt me while I’m working. I just want you to know that those interruptions won’t be possible going forward, as I have a lot of work to do and I really need to focus. I’m going to put headphones in now, so I won’t be available to talk. We can catch up after work if you have something you want to show me!”

            Waaay too much explaining to someone who has in the past used explanations against the OP. Also, it’s not an ADHD thing, it’s about basic courtesy. So, about the only softening I would suggest is “I know we’ve talked about this. You don’t seem to understand that this is really serious for me. I just want to let you know that . .. .”

          3. Daffy Duck*

            Leave out the sentence about ADHD and that is fine. The OP doesn’t need to apologize or act as if it is a “her” problem.

      3. fposte*

        I think it’s important to remember that Jane is actually human, and that it’s not appropriate to deliberately say hurtful things to her just because she’s annoying. But it’s also not necessary to preserve her feelings at the expense of the OP’s work. It’s okay for Jane to have hurt feelings, and it’s okay for Jane not to understand, since she already doesn’t understand.

        1. Observer*

          I agree that the OP should not be deliberately hurtful. But no one is suggesting that. It’s just that people are focusing on the last part – it’s not the OP’s job to worry so much about Jane’s feelings anymore.

          1. fposte*

            There are a few suggestions upthread of the snappy comeback variety that are actually pretty deliberately hurtful, which I suspect might be what’s driving responses like Soup’s.

            1. SnappinTerrapin*

              The snappy comebacks are definitely tempting.

              But I agree with you. Firmly and politely setting appropriate professional boundaries – and consistently enforcing them – is LW’s best path forward.

              But Jane needs to stop interrupting LW’s work, and star focusing on getting her own work done. If she doesn’t have enough work to keep herself engaged all day, she needs to either ask for more work, or learn to pretend to be busy working, so she doesn’t impede other employees’ work. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

            2. Observer*

              I agree, the snappy comebacks are not appropriate at all. Fun to think about, but really not something to deploy.

              But really Alison CERTAINLY didn’t suggest anything like that, nor have most of the commenters. I would say the same of most of the people responding to this comment.

    6. Aspyn*

      I always try to change my behavior when I know it’s a problem or when it’s mentioned to me.

      Reading these replies, I have to admit that maybe I am right in being withdrawn and stick to myself. Much easier. People are cruel.

      1. calonkat*

        Jane has not changed her behaviors, Jane has doubled down.

        If Jane had said, “oh, I’m so sorry” and not decided that distracting OP was part of her job (?) as a “distraction buddy”, then there would be no issue.

        OP is not the problem here, and OP has asked nicely and clearly for Jane to stop. Jane has not stopped, so OP can either: suffer until they are fired for poor performance and have loads of self doubt going forward or; take action to get Jane to stop deliberately distracting OP.

        If any “piling on” on Jane has occurred, it’s because OP has taken blame onto themselves due to their own issues, and that isn’t right. OP’s issues may cause a bit more problem in this situation, but none of us could work well with someone derailing our actions and thoughts regularly. I believe people have been trying to make it clear that the issue here is Jane and not the OP.

        Some people are jerks, some people are cruel. Most people aren’t, they just want to get through their day at work, do their best at their jobs, and go home.

        No one (other than comments in jest) has suggested being cruel to Jane, just being clear that this is not acceptable and escalating if needed to get the behavior stopped.

  67. Jennifer*

    Reading the description of Jane’s behavior, she sounds a whole lot like a person I love dearly who is highly functioning autistic. He does not reveal his diagnosis (see Alison’s earlier post about someone who responded to that info by treating their employee like a newborn and making faces at him), and also he would not recognize what’s weird and what’s just friendly, and he would definitely not get any body language or other physical cues, or subtle indications that he was not invited into this work conversation. He would, however, be able to hear and respond appropriately to “Do not do this thing. I do not like it and I am asking you to stop.”

    Actually the dominance of the responses that boil down to “Jane is an asshole” give me a stomachache. Maybe she is. Or maybe she’s a person like my family member. Good news is that the solution is the same – Alison’s advice is appropriate if Jane is autistic. Just want to encourage people to seek compassion in case Jane actually has not understood the feedback she has gotten so far through no real fault of her own.

    1. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Yes! The description also reminds me of someone I know who cannot read social cues. They have learnt how to but it feels off to be so enraged by description of behaviour when we don’t know how clear communication has been to stop.

      1. Dezzi*

        As an autistic person, I am begging you to stop infantilizing your friend. This attitude is just gross, and if they heard you say this post reminded you of them? They’d probably want to crawl into a hole and die. Believe it or not, being horrendously inappropriate, disruptive, and boundary-violating in the workplace isn’t actually a symptom of autism!

    2. Observer*

      I hear this. And you are right that Alison’s advice works either way.

      But here is the thing I want to ask you. If someone told your friend that they don’t want to be interrupted or distracted would he respond by telling them that it’s good practice for me to keep myself focused, and will even introduce himself to others as my “distraction buddy.” Because that’s what Jane is doing. That’s going well beyond not reading social cues.

      It could still be profound dysfunction rather than just nastiness, but the ONLY way forward for the OP is crystal clarity with no softening. No snark either. Just a straightforward statement and refusal to engage, escalating to the manager if necessary.

      1. Thegreatprevaricator*

        That’s it, clear communication with no snark. I guess I’m over sensitive to the snark. I also don’t see evidence that letter writer has been as explicit as the situation requires (explaining ‘this is interrupting my work’ is not saying ‘stop doing this’ if you don’t read cues well). I also think that we are raised, particularly if we’re raised female, to not be direct. So what a person might see as being rude is actually the level of clarity a person needs.

        Imagine that you are a person who doesn’t have a lot of friends, and struggle to read cues. You are told that it’s good practice to ‘make friends’. Society gives you cues that people like ‘fun’ people, you see how quirky behaviours are rewarded positively. You are told that friends are supportive of each other, your friend (because it sounds like that’s what letter writer has been designated by Jane) has a problem. You can help! (And still let letter writer be your friend because you like hanging out with letter writer and she’s so cool and fun).

        This is not appropriate for work, so clear boundaries need to set. All this ‘I want to punch Jane’ up thread just feels pretty mean tbh and makes it more charged than it needs to be.

        And what is being described is not ‘profound dysfunction’. It’s annoying, and is having a fairly significant impact on the letter writer. But it’s not profound dysfunction. Being unable to read social cues can be pretty lonely, ref the comments on this thread to see how people respond. If it changes nothing in how you solve the problem to give a bit of grace to Jane’s intentions, why not do that?

      2. Lucy Skywalker*

        Eh, I used to know someone on the spectrum who thought it was her personal job to give me unsolicited advice on how to manage my ADHD, and she wouldn’t back off even when I asked her to. Then again, she also had other issues beside her autism.

    3. Dezzi*

      Hi, autistic person here! Suggesting that Jane is acting like this because she’s autistic is ableist and gross. Continuing a behavior after someone has specifically stated it’s a problem is NOT a symptom of autism. Being autistic doesn’t make you act like a jerk, nor does it excuse being a jerk.

      If Jane *is* autistic? She’s still an asshole.

  68. Bob-White of the Glen*

    ADD here. Can’t reset quickly after an interruption like that. Alison is correct – you are not being rude and you have the right to protect your workspace and work productivity. And distractions don’t cure ADHD/ADD, they simply torment those of us with it. If need be, remind her that this is a neurodevelopmental disorder and she is not qualified to treat it.

  69. Ha2*

    Big suggestion to OP: when discussing this DO NOT mention your ADHD. Jane’s behavior is inappropriate and distracting as heck, and I would hate it (and I’m mostly neurotypical, I think). It needs to stop. Mentioning your ADHD could lead people to think this is a “you problem” of your ADHD rather than a “Jane problem” of Jane being inappropriate.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      I second this. Jane needs to be appropriate in the office so everyone can work. Baby photos and hula should be saved for the lunchroom.

  70. Eh*

    Not only is Jane not friendly, she sounds like a saboteur. You need to be rid of her OP, for you own reputation. People will notice she acts up around you and lump you together.

  71. SparklingBlue*

    I would have said (after repeated nos that are still not getting through) “What part of ‘no’ do you not understand? The N or the O?”

  72. Varthema*

    “Distracting me to help me focus is like giving a diabetic sugar to help their pancreas work better. I need you to stop.”

    1. Nea*

      Don’t make it about OP, hand the awkward right back to Jane. “Jane, do you not have enough work to do? Because I do and I’m trying to do it.”

  73. Alex*

    Not sure if someone has said this already, but if you go to your manager, be sure to mention that Jane is distracting you from work ON PURPOSE, so that your manager can’t brush it off like Jane is just being friendly and just missing cues that you are busy. As someone who also has ADD and struggles to stay on task consistently, I really hope you can find a resolution! Best of luck!

  74. Goody*

    It’s good practice to stay focused, but immagonna keep interrupting you so you can’t focus.

    *head desk*

    Or is Jane trying to claim that her interruptions and such are to give you opportunities to practice? I think that one hurts my brain even worse.

    Yep, you’re just going to have to be rude to Jane when you need to get stuff done. I also wonder if some sort of visual cue would help remind Jane that this is not a time for baby pictures and hula dancing.

  75. Renee Remains the Same*

    Jane sucks. I don’t care how well-meaning or insecure someone is. They do not get to insert themselves into your space like Jane has. It’s rude, insensitive, and entitled. Any personal conversations I might have with her would be limited to the following phrase: I’m sorry, I don’t have time to talk about this now. Rinse, lather, repeat

  76. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP, you sound like a very mature, patient and generous individual – as you can tell from the comments, plenty of us would have been snapping at “Jane” long before this! It’s very much in your favor that you have not snarled “Jeez, get outta my face already!” at this incredibly annoying pest.

    Alison’s advice is spot-on, and I’d add one suggestion if you do need to take it up with your manager (i.e., if telling Jane firmly that she needs to stop distracting you doesn’t work): frame your request for the manager to tell Jane to knock it off ENTIRELY in terms of your being able to get your work done rather than in terms of how irritating she’s being. As Alison noted, no boss will object to your wanting to focus on your work! Explain that you’ve already discussed this with Jane but that the distracting behaviors continue and you want to resolve this so that you can concentrate on doing the best possible job.

    And you deserve a medal for your patience! Here’s hoping that you won’t have to continue being patient with Jane for very much longer.

  77. ADHD*

    I’ve had mixed reactions disclosing ADHD to managers. I’d avoid including that unless you’re particularly certain this manager will not judge you for it. This type of thing seems like it’d be unacceptable regardless of having ADHD.

    1. Tuesday*

      That’s what I was thinking. I don’t think bringing ADHD into it is necessary, and doing so turns the focus on the letter writer rather than on Jane. No matter who you are, Jane’s antics would be disruptive, not to mention incredibly annoying.

  78. Rhodo*

    Ouch. On Mondays, when most people were out of the office, I used to have a coworker who would come over to gossip about other employees at me. There are many moving parts in event planning and inevitably something would go a little haywire. I repeatedly asked her if it was anything I did wrong that caused the problem, and she’d assure me it didn’t – and then proceed to go on and on about other people’s mistakes! I had to take this sort of approach by saying I needed to get back to what I was doing to make it STOP.

  79. Frenchie, too*

    Just reading this makes me want to scream. I don’t have any advice new or different from what’s already been offered.
    I do have a request, please send an update!!!

  80. Mischa*

    OP, you have my sympathies. Our situations are eerily similar except for the open office plan and the dancing. I have ADHD and find it hard to get back on track after being distracted. My coworker, Jamie, will regularly interrupt me to chat, even playing the “guess what” game. It doesn’t help that Jamie and I went to grad school together so we have lots of common friends and acquaintances. It’s been ten months and I am not sure how I’ve kept my sanity.

  81. Rick T*

    OP, Jane is NOT a nice person nor is she ‘friendly’, she is breaking in to conversations and repeatedly distracting you to keep you from doing your job AND ignoring your requests to leave you alone to work in peace.

    Take this to your manager, her manager, and HR if need be since this harassment by Jane is affecting your ability to do your job.

  82. A Kate*

    Jane sounds very annoying, and her behavior is unprofessional. There are lots of ways to be friendly and sociable at work, but she is not really being either of those things. I do feel for her, because she seems pretty insecure and awkward, and that can’t be easy for her, but it doesn’t mean the OP has to put up with it.

  83. ecnaseener*

    It may also help to set and communicate ground rules on when you *will* engage (assuming you’re not so completely sick of her that you never want to chat with her again). That could be “only when I’m very clearly taking a break, like at lunch” or “you can ask anytime whether or not I’m free to chat, but if I say no then you respect that and stop talking” or anything in between.

    This helps with the consistency issue Alison pointed out, and also can be your answer to “wow so I can’t talk to you ever again?!?!”

    1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Ecnaseener, I worry the “you can ask anytime whether or not I’m free to chat” bit might lead to the “Are you free now? What about now? Are you free yet? What about now” sort of persistence children have a lot of energy for!
      If it is possible to get more physical distance from Jane, that should help. Twenty feet should be sufficient. It is just too easy at the moment for Jane to access the OP and make herself part of the OP’s conversations. Maybe Jane could move to a nice desk outside the boss’s office.

  84. Lily of the Meadow*

    Alison’s approach is MUCH nicer than I would be; I would probably, by this point, have told Jane, fairly brutally, that I am TRYING to work, and she should LEAVE ME ALONE. What in the actual frick makes her think this is, in ANY way, okay?

  85. ESL*

    If you actually want to have that kind of friendly coworker relationship with her (or at least don’t mind it) you could consider spelling out for her when it is okay for her to talk to you. Something along the lines of: ”Jane, you cannot distract me while I’m focused on work, it ruins my flow and my productivity, but I would [love to/like to] chat with you [at lunch/coffee break/when we arrive/leave].”
    I think it’s easier for people, especially those who haven’t clued in already, to be told what to actually do, instead of just a list of things they’re not supposed to do, and it might soften the feeling of rejection she might feel (and lessen the chance of drama) once it get into her skull that you are serious in this completely reasonable boundary.

    Good luck!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I like this idea because it sets a clear, almost literally physical boundary. It’s ok to chit chat talk in the break room, cafeteria, lobby, etc., but not at my desk.

  86. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP, is Jane doing this with everyone in the office or only (or mostly) with you? If it’s the latter, then you’ve probably got a good case for her behavior being discriminatory; you have a diagnosed disability and she’s singling you out for distractions. Even if you don’t want to get that adversarial with her, your manager (and possibly HR) should be aware of this – THEY certainly won’t want the company in legal trouble because Jane is being obnoxious!

  87. Lady Pomona*

    OP, is Jane doing this with everyone in the office or only (or mostly) with you? If it’s the latter, then you’ve probably got a good case for her behavior being discriminatory; you have a diagnosed disability and she’s singling you out for distractions. Even if you don’t want to get that adversarial with her, your manager (and possibly HR) should be aware of this – THEY certainly won’t want the company in legal trouble because Jane is being obnoxious!

  88. Mtnchick*

    What if you tell her it’s being noticed and you were told to cut it out already. Similar thing happened to me with several Janes over the years. Used the old blame it on the boss trick. I got a new one now since we r back in the office. Loop your boss in that you’re using them as an excuse. Then if u like her, do a coffee break together once in a while.

  89. Lobsterman*

    Jane sounds like the kind of person you would have to be extremely direct with, and even then, maybe she would refuse to understand.

  90. Denver Gutierrez*

    Jane sounds very, very annoying. I don’t think it is “social cluelessness” as much as it sounds like she just has a constant need to be the center of attention. And possibly also has a fear of being left out, since it seems like she does this stuff when OP is talking to someone else.

    I’m also curious as to how much work Jane accomplishes each day if she has all this time to look at baby pictures and listen in on other people’s conversations.

  91. Anonymosity*

    OP, I used to be the Jane at a former job, where I worked all alone in my department and was desperately trying to connect with other coworkers. I didn’t have enough to do so I would get up and wander around sometimes to keep from dying of boredom. This led to conversations fueled by my anxiety that often went on too long. I wish my coworkers had said something to me.

    I’m not sharing this to drum up sympathy for her. She’s annoying you and affecting your work, as I’m sure I did to my coworkers. Please be direct with her, and if that doesn’t work, go to your manager.

  92. Berkeleyfarm*

    Oh wow, OP, it is annoying as all hell not just to ADHD people so please don’t feel the need to disclose to your boss.

    I am also totally borrowing “socially reckless” or whatever it was … definitely reminds me of people who could behave properly with people they thought were higher up on the food chain but were pests to me.

    I recommend the firm boundary and the occasional “well actually” when Jane introduces herself as your distraction buddy (really, you are hers, and you want out). BUT I recommend mentioning it to the boss first as a heads up. You have been given some nice neutral language.

    If you let Jane know you had ADD/ADHD and she is still doing this … that’s a paddlin’.

  93. Maxie's Mommy*

    Jane’s a productivity killer, not work “buddy”. I would keep responding by asking if Jane is totally caught up on her work. You can also tell her that completing tasks makes you happy. Guessing about babies and other interruptions make you UNhappy.

  94. hmmm*

    I have ADHD, too. I would find this absolutely excruciating, OP, and have had similar problems with a couple of coworkers…and a couple of managers, too. Ugh. I am very sorry you are experiencing this.

    I would strongly recommend seeing if it is possible to work from home, if your job allows it, at least some of the time. My ADHD is so, so much easier to manage when I’m working from home. Open-plan offices are a nightmare for many neurotypicals, let alone those of us who are neurodiverse.

    Another option might be to request a desk in either an office or a quieter location. Or even one further away from Jane.

    Definitely speak to your boss.

  95. Bear*

    I actually think you could just ask Jane to go for a walk and let her know that you need her help in creating a quiet and professional space. You’ve appreciated all her camaraderie but it’s time for you to really thrive in an environment that you work best in. The approach suggested here would make enemies in many workplaces and Jane seems destined for senior leadership.

  96. FJohnIV*

    I literally followed this exact script and it led directly to tears!

    The script is correct, of course. In my case, I was up against a hard deadline, had more to accomplish than it seemed possible. I seriously gave this person like 3 warnings that I did not have that particular moment to chitchat. Then I got very firm and directive.

    I later apologized, because saying sorry just seemed the easiest way forward.

    1. thelettermegan*

      The script is still correct – you can’t control how other people will react.

      If you’re worried about causing tears in the future, it might be helpful to lay the blame it all on a higher power – Management. Clarifying that client X or VP Bob is going to throw you into the gutter if you don’t Get The Thing Done reframes the situation as them doing you a favor as part of Team WorkDrone.

  97. Mr. Random Guy*

    I’m probably just reiterating what’s said above, but I cannot comprehend Jane’s thinking. Most people, upon hearing a coworker is easily distracted, would think “Okay, I’ll try hard not to distract her unless it’s important,” not “I’ll distract her on purpose so she gets better at it.” There might be some logic here that would work in a vastly different situation, but I can’t imagine what it is. The “plan H” and distraction buddy comments made me cringe. Also, is there a point where Jane stops and says “Good job not getting distracted this time, OP, you passed the test.”? Probably not, which proves that this is all about Jane and the veneer of “help” is just her excuse for going around your wishes and getting what she wants.

  98. Princess Deviant*

    Ughhhhhhhh to everyone saying that Jane sounds autistic.
    I thought we weren’t meant to armchair diagnose here? But regardless, if someone told me to stop doing something because it interrupted their work, I’m perfectly capable of changing my behaviour and rejecting other people’s boundaries.
    Autism does not equal boundary-violating.

    1. Lucy Skywalker*

      Yes, people with autism completely understand that it’s wrong to violate boundaries.
      However, sometimes they don’t understand that what they are doing is considered boundary-violating, and so they need to be told directly. If they are decent people, they will change their behavior when told to.

    2. Kit*

      Thank you! Jane may or may not be autistic, but that’s not germane – she has been told to stop interrupting OP and has registered that to the point of describing herself as a “distraction buddy.” A clear, firm request to stop, with no possible wiggle room, is the kindest option at this point; if Jane is on the spectrum, laying things out directly and unambiguously will make the boundary clear. If she’s not, it will still make the boundary clear! And either way, OP can then go to the boss if the behavior continues, and say “Hey, Jane keeps interrupting me and it’s disrupting my workflow. I have asked her to stop, but she keeps doing it. Can you please help me resolve this so I can be as productive as possible?” or whatever script OP is comfortable with.

      Jane’s hypothetical diagnosis is irrelevant to the point at hand! OP’s is relevant only insofar as it appears they’ve already disclosed it to Jane, and thus a theoretical case could be made to HR that Jane’s behavior is something for which the company could be held legally liable, if OP’s boss refuses to solve the problem. I wouldn’t start there, but it’s a card to hold in reserve in this case.

  99. Fluttervale*

    Are we not even going to address the part where this is unlawful discrimination based on the ADHD? Jane’s boss needs to address her choosing to harass someone based on a legal disability.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That seems like a stretch.
      Jane was doing this before the LW mentioned ADHD.

  100. Catabodua*

    This is a very interesting discussion for me! I have an 11 year old son with ADD and I’m so surprised by the commeters who state that they also have ADHD and would be annoyed over this. There is clearly a difference between how children respond and adults, but I worry that even as an adult, my son would be more likely to lean in to a Jane and enjoy the nonsense vs trying to shut it down.

    As for OP – it’s really hard for some people to do this, but it’s time to stop worrying about appearing rude to Jane. Try to flip it around in your mind – how rude Jane is being to the other coworkers who are interacting with you. I’d be PISSED at her trying to shove a phone under someone’s nose who I’m trying to solve a work issue with.

  101. thelettermegan*

    I cringe because I, in part, feel for Jane. A lot of this, to me, sounds like boredom and loneliness in the job. She probably also has ADHD.

    One big big thing you could do is make a habit of taking any off-the-cuff meetings to a secluded area. In an open office space, it’s a kindness to every co-worker to reduce distractions, even distractions that come from actual work.

    You might also point out some tricks you’ve found to manage your focus – pomodoro and binaural music would probably serve her well in her job.

    And maybe this is just me, but the plan H sounds kinda hilarious. I’d happily blow off some steam with Jane if she was in my office.

    1. Former Jane*

      Yeah, I used to be a bit of a Jane before and it was because 1) all the other staff in the office were men who would only talk to the other men and not to me (not a man) and 2) I was really annoyed and unable to focus when people were speaking near me. But I didn’t think I had the standing to ask them to stop or go elsewhere. So I tried to passive aggressively annoy them into going away, hoping they would realize that if I could hear every word they were saying they were definitely distracting me. That said, I understand the OP’s perspective and I hope a direct conversation with Jane leads to a good outcome for the both of them. I don’t have ADHD but I do basically have PTSD and am hypervigilant.

  102. Lucy Skywalker*

    I feel for both the LW and Jane, as I have both ADHD as well as nonverbal learning disability (NVLD).
    First, here’s my perspective as a person with ADHD. What Jane is doing is incredibly counterproductive. Others in the comments have said that they don’t have ADHD and that they, too, would be bothered by Jane’s perspective. Having ADHD makes it even worse. I’m the type of person who will jump up and lose focus even if someone merely opens the door when I’m trying to concentrate. I often say that it’s as if I have to build an invisible bubble around my head in order to concentrate. However, if someone interrupts me while I’m deep in concentration, it’s like the bubble was burst, even if they only interrupt me for a second and then leave me alone. Then, I have to start all over again because I’ve lost my train of thought. Having to work with someone like Jane would be a nightmare for me.
    I’m not sure if Jane genuinely thinks she’s being helpful to the LW or what.
    Now, here’s where my NVLD comes in. Having NVLD means that I only understand the words I hear or read, but I don’t always understand the words that are implied. Because of this, people have to be as direct as possible when speaking to me. I know that people are often hesitant to be as direct as I need them to be, especially in the workplace. They think that such directness is rude or impolite.
    That’s because most people are able to process nonverbal cues, and so if you were to speak to them as directly as possible, they might infer that you believe that they aren’t capable of understanding nonverbal communication, and probably would be insulted, right?
    However, I genuinely do not have the ability to process nonverbal cues. Therefore, I am not going to be offended at the implication that I don’t have a skill which I actually do not have! As long as you say it in a calm and respectful manner, I won’t think you’re being rude.
    As I said in reply to another comment above, there is no way to tell if Jane has NVLD or if there’s another reason why she isn’t picking up on the LW’s indirect communication. Sometimes, people have a tough time picking up on indirect cues due to cultural factors, for instance.
    Then, there’s always the possibility that Jane is just immature and thinks it’s funny, in which case, LW needs to put their foot down and be firm about how her behavior is not appreciated or appropriate.

    TL;DR: If Jane cannot process subtle cues and only understands direct verbal language, then she won’t be offended by such directness.
    If she’s doing it to be cute or funny, then that is inappropriate behavior for the workplace and she deserves to be called out on it.
    Either way, she needs to be told as directly as possible that it’s not okay.

    1. Juneybug*

      Thank you for sharing your situation with us! It is really helpful to hear how see a situation can be viewed different from others. Your advice was also very helpful. I hope you are able to comment more often about your NVLD and the skills you have developed.

  103. Calamity Janine*

    this is one of those times when the world breathes a sigh of relief that it is Alison writing the answers here, what with all her actually knowing good solutions, instead of me.

    because my advice would definitely be

    1. purchase air horn
    2. put up inspirational posters of horrible goose from untitled goose game
    3. initiate operation “punitive tootling”
    4. ???

  104. FiveWheels*

    In very late here, but as someone with ADHD I’d be mad as hell about this.

    Even if the conversation with the colleague goes well, I’d let management and HR know.

    Deliberately causing distractions to someone with ADHD is equivalent to deliberately kicking someone at an injury site. And having to explain your medical history to a colleague just to make them stop attacking you is extremely, extremely uncool.

    Even if this specific problem is solved, this colleague needs sensitivity training until she understands that “don’t distract me when I’m working” is a hard boundary, and that she MUST be aware that colleagues could have medical or neurodiversity issues that mean she can’t assume acting like this is ever okay.

  105. Hunnybee*

    Sorry for being late to the party, but I had a hauntingly similar situation a few years back (*I* have ADHD, struggle with it in open offices, and had a new and chatty colleague who would sometimes just stand behind me and watch me work and chatter the whole time because what I was doing was interesting).

    I was starting to get angry, and I think frustrations amplify my temper. So one day I asked her to meet with me in a conference room, explained that I have a hard time focusing on work in open office environments (and my work is very dependent on detail, ugh) and that I need her to know that while I appreciate her friendliness, I really just need to focus on my work and if I have my headphones on, that is the signal that I am in the zone.

    It was really uncomfortable for me and she didn’t say anything. I thought I would make her cry, which I *really* didn’t want to do. : ( For a few days, we didn’t talk. And on the third day, she asked to have a follow up.

    She said that she thought about what we said, and that I am a Cat Person. By that, she meant that I am like a cat (specifically, a tabby with green eyes), and that I need to come to people at my own time and because I decide to, but she is a Bunny person, and likes to hop around being social. But now that she understands me, she will give me the space I need, and that she will understand when I tell her I need quiet time.

    It was all very cute, and we’ve remained friends to this day (although we both left that job long ago). But I still appreciate that she made the effort to consider what I said and see and honor me as a person.

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